Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years - We Are The Mighty
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Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

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The Marine Corps is solving the problem of requiring pull-ups for women by adding a push-ups option for all troops on the physical fitness test, Military.com has learned.

On Friday, the Corps rolled out a series of sweeping changes to the PFT, combat fitness test, and body fat standards — the result of a review of existing policies that began last November. The new fitness standards go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, officials said, and the body composition standards take effect immediately.

New pull-up policy

Perhaps the most significant change is the elimination of the flexed-arm hang as an alternative to pull-ups for women on the PFT. Instead, both men and women will be able to opt for push-ups instead — an exercise that was not previously part of the test. To encourage troops to do the more demanding exercise, the new standards limit the number of points available to those who choose the push-ups option. While women can achieve the maximum 100 points for completing between seven and ten pull-ups, and men can meet their max at between 20 and 23 reps depending on age, the push-ups scoring chart maxes out at just 70 points.

Most female Marines will have to complete between 40 and 50 push-ups to earn those 70 points, while most men will have to do between 70 and 80.

“Push-ups become an option on the PFT, but Marines are incentivized toward pull-ups, as these are a better test of functional, dynamic upper body strength and correlate stronger to physically demanding tasks,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in an administrative message to the Corps released Friday. “Push-ups are also a valid exercise and good test; however maximum points can only be earned by executing pull-ups.”

Taken together, Neller said the changes to the PFT were the most significant updates to the program since 1972.

The hybrid pull-up option is the Marines’ solution to a four-year conundrum of how to promote pull-ups for all Marines without making it impossible for women to succeed. In 2012, the Corps announced it was doing away with the female flexed-arm hang in favor of pull-ups, with a minimum of three. Those plans were delayed multiple times, and in 2014, Marine officials admitted that half of women tested in boot camp couldn’t meet the three-pull-up minimum.

Brian McGuire, the deputy force fitness branch head for the standards division of Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told Military.com that push-ups, like pull-ups, could be completed in the field. But, he said, the pull-up is a more functional test and requires individuals to overcome their entire body weight, while push-ups only require them to overcome 75 to 80 percent of their body weight. But even with its limitations, the push-up is superior to the flexed-arm hang, he said.

“The flexed-arm hang, in many studies, has been shown to be an inadequate test of upper body strength,” McGuire said.

The high number of pull-up repetitions required of women in the new scoring standards reveal an optimism about how training will help them improve. Earlier this year, the Marine Corps promoted a training program piloted by Marine Maj. Misty Posey that promised to use strength and repetition pyramids to get female Marines from “zero to twenty-plus.”

The female pull-ups scoring chart maxes at 10 reps for women between the ages of 26 and 30, though most women will have to do at least seven reps to max their score.

Notably, all of the new standards will keep in place a gender-normed scoring system, which scores men and women differently on the same exercises in acknowledgment of different physical ability thresholds. While the Marine Corps introduced gender-neutral minimum standards for entry into an array of ground combat jobs last fall, McGuire said gender-neutral physical fitness standards for the Marine Corps were never ordered or considered.

Age-specific scoring

Marines may also find themselves doing more repetitions than in previous years to max out their score. The new scoring charts divide Marines into eight age groups, all with different maximum standards based on calculated peak ability. For men and women, the charts assume peak fitness between the ages of 21-25, and 26-30. While the previous PFT scoring chart maxed out pull-up repetitions at 20 for all ages, the new male scoring chart maxes at 23 for men between the ages of 21 and 35.

McGuire said the new age groups were added to meet Neller’s guidance to create relevant and challenging standards. Previously, the Marine Corps had only four fitness age groups, and they only dictated minimum allowable standards.

“We had a 27-39 age group, that’s 12 years,” McGuire said. “There’s some performance differences that happen during that time.”

For events requiring repetitions, such as pull-ups, crunches, and the ammunition can lift, McGuire and TECOM officials went to the fleet to gather real data on Marines’ performance thresholds. Between January and March, they tested around 2,000 Marines at bases around the Corps to chart maximum and median repetition levels. As a result, some repetition maximums are increasing significantly. Max reps for the two-minute ammunition can lift portion of the combat fitness test are going up for 91 to 120 for men and from 60 to 75 for women in some age categories.

For other events, such as running on the PFT and maneuver-to-contact on the CFT, TECOM looked at existing data from Marines who were taking the tests, creating scatter charts and graphs to determine the real distribution of times and scoring. As a result, some maximum times were increased and some minimum times shortened.

“By elevating the standard, which was based again on our data collection, this will allow for greater levels of distinction” among Marines taking the tests, McGuire said.

Male and female run times are getting relaxed for some of the new age categories. While run times for men continue to max at 18 minutes for three miles and for women at 21 minutes, the standards now allow more time for men and women over 40.

Younger Marines will have to work harder, though, to achieve their minimum run score. While the previous standards awarded points for a 33-minute run time for men, now male Marines under 30 will have to beat 28 minutes to pass the test.

Similarly, Marines in younger age groups will have to do more crunches — between 105 and 115, depending on age and gender — to max their score on the exercise. Previously, all charts maxed out at 100 crunches.

Under the new program, the Marines’ combat fitness test will continue to feature maneuver-under-fire, the ammunition can lift, and movement-to-contact. But all scores are now age-normed using the new eight age groups.

No body fat limits for PT studs

Beginning in January, Marines who can get close to maxing out their PFT and CFT scores, earning at least 285 points out of a possible 300, are exempt entirely from the hated tradition of body fat testing, Neller said in his message to the Corps. Those who can score at least 250 on the tests also receive a bonus: an extra allowable one percent body fat above existing standards.

However, he added, all Marines must still comply with the service’s professional appearance standards, ensuring troops look good in uniform.

For some, weight standards will become more relaxed, beginning immediately. The new standards increase weight maximums for women by five pounds across the board. A 5’3 female Marine who previously maxed out her weight at 141 pounds can now weigh 146 pounds and stay within regulations.

Neller told Military.com in February that female troops had told him they struggled to get stronger in order to complete pull-ups and work to enter newly opened ground combat jobs while staying within existing height and weight standards.

“Whether women go into ground combat or not, they’re telling me they’re going to do pullups for the fitness test. They’re going to get stronger. You get stronger, normally you gain weight, you get thicker,” Neller said then. ‘[Female Marines are] wanting to know, ‘Hey, Commandant, make up your mind. What are you going to have us do and if we do this, understand that I’ll do it, but it’s going to cause me probably to have a physical change, so don’t penalize me for doing what you’re telling me to do.'”

The decision to ease the female weight requirements was also supported by data from the Marines Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, an experiment that tested the ability of female Marines to succeed in the infantry alongside men.

“Females who were performing better at the integrated tasks were heavier,” McGuire said.

In his message Friday, Neller said Marines would also use more precise measuring devices to measure body fat. While the “rope-and-choke” circumference method of measuring body fat isn’t going away, McGuire said the Marine Corps would start using self-tensioning tape measures designed to yield more accurate measurements.

“It does eliminate some of the error,” he said.

Also taking effect immediately is a new waiver authority governing troops who max out their weight and body fat limits and are assigned to the body composition program, which can stall career progression and promotion. If Marines cannot get within standards after six months in the program, they risk expulsion from the Corps.

Now, Neller said, the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command will have the authority to sign off on a waiver exempting him or her from the BCP on account of satisfactory fitness and military appearance.

While the new weight standards are not retroactive, Marine officials said, troops who are currently assigned to the BCP or in the process of administrative discharge because they can’t meet standards will be re-evaluated immediately in light of the new policy. If they fall in line with the new regulations, they will be removed from the BCP right away.

“We will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure our standards continue to contribute to the effectiveness of our force and enhance our ability to respond when our Nation calls,” Neller said.

Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, the commander of TECOM, said the new physical standards “raised the bar” for Marines’ fitness.

“Marines today are stronger, faster and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate,” he said in a statement. “In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”

Articles

The 6 worst things about being the junior soldier in your squad

Being the new guy in a squad is just something every soldier has to go through. They work hard, prove themselves, and earn a little respect and rank as fast as they can. Until they do, junior soldiers put up with these 6 problems.


1. Crappy roommates

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: Youtube.com

All enlisted soldiers start off with a random roommate in the barracks, but they get more say on roommates the longer they’re in the unit. If they get tight with the barracks noncommissioned officer, they may even have their own room.

The new guy to a unit has cultivated no relationships, and so can’t influence anyone. They are going to be roomed with whichever member of the squad is most disliked by the barracks NCO. This member is usually dirty, undisciplined, and annoying. Also, since the roommate is senior to the new guy, he can order the new guy around. Have fun in your new home, boot!

2. Literally everyone is in charge of them

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson

There’s an Army saying, “If there are two privates on a hill, one of them is in charge.” It’s meant to illustrate that soldiers are never without leadership, but it also means that even the young soldiers in the squad can give the younger guy a legal order. And what about the youngest guy?

Well, he’s in charge of nothing and every squad member is in charge of him. If he screws up, he’s hearing about it from everyone in the squad.

3. No respect

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

Taking orders from everyone is bad enough, but the junior soldier doesn’t get any respect even though they do all the work. It makes sense. The squad has endured combat together. They’ve cleared buildings, fought for ground, and buried friends as a unit. Then this new guy comes along and wants to be part of the group? Nope. Gotta earn your camaraderie, noob.

4. Most dangerous positions and assignments

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: US Army Sgt. Kimberly Lamb

The junior-most members will get plenty of chances to prove themselves, since they’re often in the most dangerous positions. For the infantry, he’s likely to be the first one in the door on a clearing mission, and he’s more likely to be assigned as gunner in a vehicle on a movement.

For the POGs, the junior squad member is the one most likely to get tasked out on a mission. Commander needs someone to pull a guard shift at the gate? It’s not like Pvt. Snuffy has anything going on. Gunny wants a volunteer for convoy security? Pfc. Schmuckatelli better grab his gear.

5. They’re the canaries in the coal mine

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

The most dangerous time to be the junior member is when there is a chemical or biological attack. The military dons protective gear when it’s hit with biological or chemical agents, and troops don’t take the gear off until their best detection kits say the threat is gone. But, the kits can’t detect everything and someone has to take the first unprotected breath.

And that’s where the junior soldier comes in. The unit takes away their weapon and has them unmask for a short period. If they don’t show signs of trouble, the rest of the unit unmasks. If the soldier does start reacting to a chemical compound, the unit keeps their masks on and sends the junior guy to a hospital. Get well soon!

6. Long hours and low pay

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: US Army Sgt. John Crosby

No one in the military is getting rich, and just about everyone works long hours. But, the junior guys usually work the same hours for even less pay than everyone else. A new E-2 in the military makes $1734 a month. They work an eight-hour day plus do an hour of mandatory physical training every morning. So, not counting any assignments, overnight guard duty, or additional physical training, an E-2 makes about $8.67 an hour before taxes.

They may get great benefits and education incentives, but the paychecks can be depressing.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines volunteer as crossing guards for school children

U.S. Marines hit the streets in the local community [Chatan, Okinawa, Japan] to assist as crossing guards for Chatan Elementary School July 18, 2019.

Three Marines on camp guard duty volunteered their morning to serve as crossing guards near the elementary school in support of the recent safety campaign.

“Today I’m pretty much just helping the little kids cross the street to go to school,” said Lance Cpl. Timothy Silva, with Combat Logistics Battalion-4, 3rd Marine Logistics Group.

Silva is currently serving camp duty on Camp Foster, Okinawa for the next twenty days.


“The reason I am at this spot particularly is because there is a hill to my right, and what I was told was that, the cars, they just come speeding up here and can’t really see the kids when they are crossing, so I’m just here making sure that the kids that do come here, cross safely .”
— Lance Cpl. Timothy Silva, with Combat Logistics Battalion-4, 3rd Marine Logistics Group
Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Brusseau)

The elementary school personnel and Marine volunteers made an effective team working together to ensure student safety.

“I volunteered myself for this duty, it is fun,” Silva also stated standing on a street corner helping children attend their second to last day of the school year.

School will resume in September 2019.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Brusseau)

Silva went on to say that this duty has given him the best look into Okinawan culture.

“You get to see all the little kids, the local kids, you say hello to them and see how they interact with each other in the morning when they are tired and on their way to school.”

Marine volunteers participate in activities island-wide to enhance the relationship with the local community.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Lying to medical might not be such a bad idea.

“Don’t tell medical sh*t!” That’s the advice I got before I went to Marine Corps OCS in the summer of 2011.

“If you tell them you’re jacked up in any way they will DQ you before you even get started.” I wanted to become a Marine, I wanted to be at the school, but I did not want to be there any longer than I needed to be. Fessing up to any old injuries or conditions would be one way to end up in Quantico longer than I wanted or having to come back again next summer.

This was a common trend I witnessed throughout my entire career. Marines hiding injuries and other medical issues so they could keep their job and achieve mission accomplishment.

As it turns out, there is actually some evidence to suggest that this isn’t as stupid as I used to think it was.


Allow me to walk you through the three most common ways people deal with injuries to get a little deeper into this sh*t.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

You’re not gonna get out of Fallujah if you can’t get over some chapped lips

(Marine Corps Times)

The mentally weak

We all know “that guy,” the one who always had a chit from medical explaining why they couldn’t PT. This is the guy who would turn chapped lips into a week of light duty on doctor’s orders.

When you stop all movement, training, and physical output because of a rolled ankle or some nonspecific lower back pain, a few things are guaranteed to happen.

You become more deconditioned than necessary. You get in worse shape than you were previously in. For those of you who are barely scraping by as it is this could be the last nail in your coffin for getting accepted to an elite program or finishing a difficult school.

You develop a fear of movement. If you roll your ankle running on a trail and then you cease running altogether, you will become afraid of the trail that supposedly injured you and of running. This may translate to a shorter or slower stride, which will both cause you to be slower in general. Again, this is not good.

Lastly, you will become less resilient. By folding due to a minor injury your mental toughness takes a major blow. Learning to overcome the small stuff is what gives you the strength to overcome the big sh*t. Resiliency is a muscle that must be trained.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

At least get a band-aid you ninny.

(https://youtu.be/zKhEw7nD9C4)

The mentally stubborn

The guy who could be bleeding from both ears and keeps on swinging. Dude your brain is bleeding, stop and reassess the situation.

Similarly, this is the person who ignores the doctor’s orders altogether and goes right back to the same activity that caused the injury at the same intensity as before.

When you suffer an injury, even something as simple as a minor ankle roll (I know I keep talking about ankles, but it’s the most common injury among otherwise capable military personnel) you are no longer operating at 100%. That’s okay.

By smartly reducing your training load to an amount that doesn’t cause more pain, you can live to train another day. The stubborn mind doesn’t do this though. Often the stubborn mind increases training volume in order to beat the weakness out of them.

Statistically, this is stupid. If you continue to blast your body into oblivion, you will be of no use to anyone. Knowing when to dial it back is an art that this individual has yet to master.
Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

Don’t take time off from this place, just adjust your training.

(Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash)

The Goldilocks zone

This is a bit of a baby bear, poppa bear, mamma bear situation. The middle of the road (mamma bear) is where the most survivability and quickest recovery is found.

When you get injured, you are by definition deconditioned. You are slightly less capable than you were before the injury.

The smartest thing to do is to dial things back as little as possible so that you can still train but aren’t making the issue worse. In this training Goldilocks zone, you risk neither becoming a baby-backed-b*tch like the mentally weak do nor an armless-legless-fool like the stubborn mind does.

Military doctors take the most conservative route possible to hedge their positions. If you continue training and get injured further, the doc may get chewed out or lose their position. BUT if doc says do nothing and you fail out of your school due to missed training days or overall mental weakness…well it’s a lot harder to blame medical personnel for your lack of tenacity.

You know what doc is gonna say, and you can pretty much assume that your SNCO is going to say the exact opposite, choose the more measured approach. This may mean reducing your running pace, lowering the weight on the bar, or slightly modifying the exercise you are training. The less you change things, the easier it will be to get back to where you previously were.

Be as mentally strong as possible without being stupid. Add that to your list of adages to live by.

MIGHTY FIT is making big moves to put out content that you not only want to read but also want to live. Take 2 minutes and let us know here what you’d like to see from MIGHTY FIT.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian weapons get between the US and India

Lawyers and policy and technical experts from the US Defense Department are in New Delhi, meeting with Indian officials to discuss a military-communications agreement that would boost the interoperability of the two countries’ armed forces.

The discussions — part of preparations for the 2+2 dialogue between the two countries’ foreign and defense secretaries, to take place in Washington in July 2018 — are a step forward, according to The Indian Express, as Delhi has been reluctant to sign the agreement, known as Comcasa, since it signed a military logistics agreement with the US in 2016, when the US named India a “major defense partner.”


India’s reservations stem in part from a lingering issue in the growing US-India military relationship: Delhi’s use of Russia-made weapons platforms.

Russia has long been India’s main weapons supplier. Delhi worked with Moscow to develop the BrahMos anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile, and India also fields Russia’s S-300 air-defense system.

India’s operational aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, is a Russian Kiev-class carrier-cruiser overhauled by Moscow for the Indian navy that carries Russian-made aircraft. India also operates squadrons of Russia-made MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter aircraft.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Indian Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya

India signed a $6 billion deal with Moscow in late 2016, agreeing to lease a Russian-made nuclear submarine, to buy four Russian frigates, to purchase the advanced S-400 air-defense missile system, and to set up a joint venture with a Russian firm to produce military helicopters.

India’s Defense Ministry is concerned that many of its Russian-made weapons, as well as its indigenous weapons systems, will not be compatible with Comcasa, according to The Indian Express, which also reports that defense officials are wary of US intrusions into their military communications systems.

The US has been seeking deeper relations with India for years. Delhi has bought $15 billion worth of US arms since 2008, and the US recently renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command in recognition of India’s growing role in the region.

India sees the S-400 as a way to increase its air defenses, especially amid its growing rivalry with China. But its purchase has been an issue for Washington.

Delhi has said it will go ahead with the purchase of the missile system, despite the recent Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which aims to deter foreign individuals and entities from doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
(Russian Ministry of Defense)

“In all our engagements with the US, we have clearly explained how India and Russia’s defence cooperation has been going on for a long time and that it is a time-tested relationship,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said early June 2018. “We have mentioned that CAATSA cannot impact the India-Russia defence cooperation.”

India reportedly wants an exception to CAATSA for its defense deals with Russia and plans to raise the issue during the 2+2 dialogue meeting.

“The S-400 deal has been on for a very long time, and we have reached the final stage of negotiations,” Sitharaman added. “That explains it.”

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has told Congress that “national security exceptions” must be made to CAATSA, which went into effect in January 2018.

Mattis said that while some countries with which the US is seeking stronger ties are looking “to turn away” from Russian-made weapons, those countries also need to keep doing business with Moscow for the time being.

“We only need to look at India, Vietnam and some others to recognize that eventually we’re going to penalize ourselves” by pursuing strict adherence to CAATSA, Mattis told senators in April 2018.

“Indonesia, for example, is in the same situation — trying to shift to more of our airplanes, our systems, but they’ve got to do something to keep their legacy military going,” Mattis added.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
President Donald J. Trump departs from the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

China was the first foreign country to receive the S-400, but Turkey has also acquired it, adding to tensions with its NATO partners, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar also reportedly considering purchasing it.

Despite India’s commitment to the S-400 deal and Mattis’ emphasis on logistical considerations, the US is still cautioning India and other US allies about doing business with Russia.

US officials have indicated to India that not signing the Comcasa agreement could preclude India from getting high-end military equipment, like Predator drones, the sale of which the US approved in May 2018.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, head of the House Armed Services Committee, told Indian broadcaster NDTV in late May 2018, that the US was disappointed with India’s deals with Moscow, particularly the S-400 purchase, which he said “threatens our ability to work interoperably in the future.”

While there would be some “flexibility” in the law for countries with traditional defense ties to Moscow and sanctions on Delhi were unlikely, Thornberry said, the “acquisition of this technology will limit, I am afraid, the degree with which the United States will feel comfortable in bringing additional technology into whatever country we are talking about.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Army will revolutionize long-range precision fires

In kick-starting its efforts to prepare for future high-end conflicts, in late 2017, the U.S. Army identified six modernization priorities: Long-Range Precision Fires, Next Generation Combat Vehicles, Future Vertical Lift, the Network, Air and Missile Defense, and Soldier Lethality. To support this plan, the Army stood up Cross-Functional Teams (CFTs) for each of these areas focused on speeding up the process of developing requirements and ensuring that the programs in each of these areas are achievable, affordable and effective. The bulk of the Army’s Science and Technology resources were refocused on these six priorities.


But not all priorities are equal. In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Secretary Mark Esper revealed that Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) is his service’s top priority. The criticality of LRPF to the future of the Army’s future ability to dominate in a high-end conflict was made clear by Brigadier General Stephen Maranian, the leader of the CFT for long-range fires:

The Army has got to modernize our surface-to-surface fire capabilities at echelon to guarantee that we have clear overmatch in the close fight, in the deep fight, in the strategic fight. If we are unable to do that we will not be able to do for the joint force what it is that surface-to-surface fires do; which is to open those windows of opportunities to allow our joint and Army aviation forces to exploit deep.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
German soldiers assigned to Surface Air and Missile Defense Wing 1 fire the Patriot weapons system at the NATO Missile Firing Installation.

Creating overmatch in long-range fire is about more than merely increasing the range of artillery and surface-to-surface rockets and missiles. Dr. Thomas Russell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, defined the key elements of a plan for LRPF: “The Army’s top modernization priority is to regain dominance in artillery and missile system range, lethality, and target acquisition with respect to strategic competitors.” Success in these areas could well return the artillery to its erstwhile status of queen of the battlefield.

Currently, the Army has a multi-phased program designed to first improve and then transform the capabilities of its artillery, rocket and missile systems. The need for volume fires, particularly in the close battle, makes it vitally important to modernize the Army’s artillery systems.

In the near-term, this means increasing the supply of precision rounds such as Excalibur and providing jamming-resistant precision-guidance kits for 155 mm artillery projectiles. It also requires the rapid completion of the program to upgrade the Army’s fleet of Paladin self-propelled howitzers.

The Army should consider ways of expanding its inventory of mobile artillery tubes, regardless of what kinds of rounds they fire. One option is to equip infantry and Stryker brigade combat teams with the Hawkeye, a version of the widely deployed Humvee, carrying a modified version of the M20 105 mm howitzer designed by the Mandus Group.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Humvee-Mounted Howitzer

The Army hopes that by the early 2020s it can substantially increase both the range and lethality of tube artillery with the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) program involving the Army’s Picatinny and Watervliet Arsenals. ERCA involves both a new projectile, the rocket-assisted XM1113 and a longer barrel for existing 155mm artillery pieces.

Together these improvements could increase the system’s range to as much as 70 km. The Navy has a program, the Multi Service-Standard Guided Projectile (MS-SGP), which is expected to extend the range of five-inch naval guns and Army and Marine Corps 155 mm howitzers out to a range similar to that of the ERCA.

For the longer-term, the Army is looking at the possibilities for land-based extremely high-velocity artillery systems. There are several paths being explored including hypervelocity or ramjet rounds fired from ERCA artillery or a rail gun. Not only would such systems fire shells out to ranges of 100 km or more, but their high velocities also make them potential candidates for engaging air-breathing and even short-range ballistic targets.

With respect to guided rockets and missiles in the near-term, the Army is seeking an extended range variant of its currently deployed, highly effective Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) that would provide an area strike capability out to 150 km. This would cover some of the targets now the responsibility of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) which has a range of up to 300 km. The Army is considering upgrading the ATACMS with a new seeker and warhead thereby expanding its capabilities to include a land-based anti-ship capability.

Finally, the Army has initiated the Precision Strike Missile (PRSM) program as a longer-range replacement for the ATACMS. The desire is for a missile smaller than the ATACMs so that two can be carried in a single GMLRS launch cell but with a range approaching 500 km and a precision targeting capability.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
The Army’s new Long-Range Precision Fires modernization effort is looking at how to increase the range of cannon artillery among a variety of other efforts.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gabrielle Weaver)

The Army is currently planning to test prototype PRSMs designed by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin in 2019 with plans to deploy an initial version in the mid-2020s. There have been suggestions that a PRSM program also will look at longer-range options, so-called strategic fires, in the event the U.S. withdraws from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

An issue the Army needs to address is the high-quality targeting information needed by these new long-range, precision strike systems. The Air Force wants to cancel the Joint Surveillance Targeting Attack Radar replacement program. Neither the Air Force nor the Army has an unmanned aerial vehicle that can survive in a high threat air defense environment. It makes no sense to develop long-range fires that can strike deep if the Army cannot see that far.

The Army vision for LRPF would fundamentally transform land-based fires and counter Russian and Chinese efforts to achieve dominance in indirect fires. The question is how rapidly the Army can implement this vision. While the CFT is suggesting that new capabilities could be rolled out in as little as five years, the Army is only asking for $1.6 billion over the Future Years Defense Program for its number one modernization priority, well below the amounts requested for next-generation combat vehicles or improvements to the network. One way to save money is by speeding up the acquisition process.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

13 Hilarious suggestions for the US Navy’s new slogan

The Navy has dumped its unpopular recruiting slogan and we came up with some funnier replacements the service definitely won’t use.


Gone is the “Global force for good,” a five-year-old slogan that hasn’t been popular with many sailors, admirals, or the public at large, reported the Navy Times.

To fill the void, The Times created a contest allowing people to submit their slogans. While people submitting to the contest are expected to offer serious entries, the WATM team thought up some lighthearted versions, along with a little help from this Reddit thread and from the S–t My LPO Says Facebook page.

Sure galley food is not the best food, but it’s better than MREs.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: Chris_Harkins28/Instagram

Prepare to see a lot of grey.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: Lil_rp/Instagram

Like prison, sailors can get a little nutty being cooped up on a boat for long stretches of time.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: vera-24/Instagram

You can’t have fun trolling the Navy without a Top Gun reference. Here’s Ice Man:

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: YouTube, Slogan: Knightsof-Ni/Reddit

There’s ugly, then there’s Army ugly.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: US Army

The Navy is notorious for having long lines for everything.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: USNavy/Instagram

Sailors have the most uniforms and the least amount of space to store them in.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: ladyblutbad8/Instagram

Well, they didn’t say it was glamorous.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: neenee_bean87/Instagram, Slogan: Richard Vansteeland/Facebook

Add a little alcohol and things can escalate very quickly.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: Equatic/Instagram, Slogan: Benjamin Summers/Facebook

This is a play on midrats, you know, the food they serve between dinner and breakfast.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: US Navy

Before joining, stop to consider that the world is 75 percent water.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: austinjen/Instagram

The struggle is real.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: adrea_sara_gallo/Instagram

Always, always, avoid working parties.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: US Navy

While these are, of course, all tongue-in-cheek suggestions, if you’d like to submit a real slogan for consideration, click here to go to the Navy Times contest.

NOW: 37 Awesome Photos Of Life On A US Navy Carrier

AND: 27 Incredible Photos Of Life On A US Navy Submarine

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the sad legacy of land mines continues to haunt the Balkans

It’s been more than two decades since the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina ended, but Plamenko Priganica knows the enemy still lurks in the Majevica hills near his home in Tuzla.


Priganica is one of the thousands to have become a victim of land mines planted during the 1992-95 conflict that tore the country — and the former Yugoslavia — apart at its ethnic seams.

“The killer is still waiting 25 years after the war,” the 57-year-old, who lost his left leg below the knee, told RFE/RL from his home.

The Bosnian government’s Mine Action Strategy for 2009-19 was supposed to put an end to the fears of Priganica and the half a million other Bosnians who live in or around areas where leftover mines remain. Instead, the fields and forests where many still scavenge for wild strawberries and mushrooms are still littered with explosives.

The 2019 target set out in the strategy for clearing all remaining ordnance will be missed by several years, according to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC), amid a funding shortfall and political inaction.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Photo: Wikipedia/Werner Anderson of Norsk Folkehjelp Norwegian Peoples Aid

By 2013, the center estimates that less than half of the funding needed for projects was realized, a percentage that has fallen since then. While part of the problem, BHMAC says, is a decrease in donor funding, the greater issue is with government contributions to the program.

“In looking at the 2009-19 strategy, we are lagging behind by about four years. There is a new strategy and under this strategy Bosnia and Herzegovina will be clean from mines by 2025,” says Miodrag Gajic, an information officer at the center.

BHMAC estimates that while around 2,900 square kilometers of land have been cleared of explosive materials, just over 1,000 square kilometers of Bosnia — or about 2.2 percent of the country — is still polluted by mines. Nearly 600 people have been killed by mines or unexploded bombs since the war ended and more than 1,100 others have been injured, according to the center.

The highest-risk zones are often forests where the front lines that separated warring factions once ran. These include municipalities such as Velika Kladusa, Orasje, and Doboj.

In March, a farmer in Tulic, near the city of Tuzla, was dragging firewood from a forest when his tractor hit a mine. The blast killed the driver.

Nizam Cancar, a deminer who lost his leg to an explosive device in 1994 during the war, says it’s easy for such accidents to happen.

Years of harsh weather conditions have muddled what few maps authorities have of mined areas. Devices, he says, can shift under such conditions, making a dangerous situation even more treacherous.

“It’s very difficult to find them. If you put them in a particular place 20 years ago, they are no longer there. It could move a meter or two in any direction,” he says.

The problem of land mines in Bosnia once attracted international attention.

This past summer marked the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s visit to Bosnia as part of her crusade against land mines. In her last overseas trip before she died in a Paris car crash in 1997, Diana met with victims in the small village of Dobrnja, near Tuzla.

One of those Diana met was Mirzeta Gabeljic.

In 1997, Gabeljic was a 15-year-old schoolgirl returning home when she stepped on a land mine. The blast took her right leg below the knee.

Like many victims, she has struggled since her accident, given the limited resources available from the state for amputees, although now she is looking to start the country’s first sitting volleyball club for women.

According to Priganica, the provision of orthopedic supplies have not improved in the 25 years since the war.

“They can be purchased abroad, but they are very expensive,” he says.

Adding to the problem is that the large number of humanitarian organizations that worked here after the war have left, he claims, “because the focus of their interest has moved somewhere else.”

Bosnia emerged from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia as Europe’s poorest country, with gross domestic product per capita at 28 percent of the European average. Unemployment is high and corruption rampant, stunting the development of social services for large swaths of the country.

Considering the tough economic times Bosnia currently faces, BHMAC’s Gajic hopes that help from other countries will once again increase.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Members of the Kosovo Police Bomb Squad prepare their ordnance for a demolition range in Orahovac, Kosovo, April 4. The demolition was part of the International Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action Day, this day represented the start of the humanitarian demining Season in Kosovo. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)

“Within our new strategy, we plan to have a donor conference in mid-November. This is a date where I hope we will have more bountiful donor funds,” he says.

Time is also of the essence for a task that is painstakingly slow.

Deminers try to work eight-hour shifts, but the task is so intense and angst-ridden that they must take breaks every 30 minutes to remain focused.

Squatting and searching the ground while wearing protective suits that can weigh up to 25 kilograms, deminers probe about 2,500 times just to check just 1 square meter of ground. On a good day, they will cover 50 square meters, according to Nail Hujic, a technical director at INTERSOS, a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization.

The deminers, he says, must constantly assess the type of munition they may have to deal with, how it is placed in the ground, and even the possibility of deliberate traps laid by whoever planted the land mine.

“The result of all this, as well as of inadequate equipment and mental and physical fatigue among deminers, is frequent accidents,” Hujic says. “Unfortunately, we have to say that accidents are common in this line of work. They usually leave deminers severely physically disabled, although fatalities are less frequent.”

Even if foreign donors pony up the funds needed to jump-start the clearing program, the money will come too late for Asim Kudra, who lost his uncle to a land mine when he returned home after the war to Zlatiste, near Sarajevo.

Kudra says the area was demined, but residents still live in fear.

“You cannot say that it is safe for certain, because it isn’t,” he says.

Articles

How SEALs were caught in ‘ferocious’ firefight during Yemen counter-terrorism raid

New details have emerged about the Jan. 28 raid on a compound used by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and the loss of an MV-22 Osprey.


According to a report by the Washington Post, the raid had been intended to nab Yemeni tribal leaders and get intelligence on their ties with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The snatch operation turned into a firefight when terrorists launched a counter-attack.

Among the militants firing at the SEALs were women, an several were believed to have been among the 14 terrorists killed in the raid. The SEALs were forced to call in air support from AH-1Z Cobras and AV-8B+ Harriers based on the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) as the firefight went on, the Post report says.

Additionally, officials with Central Command said Feb. 1 that investigators are looking into allegations that among the dead were civilians in the compound targeted by the SEALs. Officials said in a release that civilians were “likely” killed and “may include children.”

“The ongoing credibility assessment seeks to determine whether any still-undetected civilian casualties took place in the ferocious firefight,” CENTCOM said. “The known possible civilian casualties appear to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire that was called in to assist U.S. forces in contact against a determined enemy that included armed women firing from prepared fighting positions and U.S. special operations members receiving fire from all sides, including from houses and other buildings.”

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
An AH-1Z Cobra helicopter assigned to Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron (HX) 21, based in Patuxent River, Md., Approaches the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler)

To get the SEALs out, elements of what the report called “an elite Special Operations air regiment,” likely referring to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also called the Nightstalkers. After retrieving the SEALs, the Nightstalkers intended to meet up with a Marine quick reaction force on MV-22 Ospreys to transfer the SEALs to the Makin Island, where the wounded could receive medical treatment.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
A group of U.S. Navy SEALs clear a room during a no-light live-fire drill near San Diego. Naval Special Warfare reservists from a Combat Service Support unit attached to a West Coast-based Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) Team conducted a field training exercise based on principles from the expeditionary warfare community. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Stevenson/Released)

That meet-up went wrong. One of the V-22s made a “hard landing” – more akin to a crash – which ended up leaving three Marines injured.

In an interview with reporters Feb. 1, Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. John Davis said officials are still investigating what went wrong with the Osprey, adding his suspicion was that brown-out conditions might have played a role.

“They were going into a firefight at night.  … But what’s the good news? A lot of people don’t walk away from hard landings, and everybody walked away from this one,” Davis said. “There’s a Marine who kind of bumped his head, but everyone walked away.”

After evacuating the wounded, the inoperable tilt-rotor was destroyed by an AV-8B using a Joint Direct Attack Munition, according to officials who spoke with the Post. During that time, Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens died from his wounds.

A Department of Defense release noted that the operation was “one in a series of aggressive moves against terrorist planners in Yemen and worldwide. Similar operations have produced intelligence on al-Qa’ida logistics, recruiting and financing efforts.”

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Seen through the greenish glow of night vision goggles, Navy SEALs prepare to breach a locked door in Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Columbia Pictures’ hyper-realistic new action thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow, ZERO DARK THIRTY.

According to a report by FoxNews.com, President Trump attended the return of the remains of Chief Owens and had a private meeting with the fallen SEAL’s family during a two-hour visit.

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 23rd

The good news is that the government isn’t getting shut down and the military is getting a 2.4 percent pay raise.


The bad news is that the military now has to literally fight everyone everywhere.

But, before you deploy, check out these memes.

1. When your E-3 friends have an opinion. (via Decelerate Your Life)

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

2.  “They don’t even have a salad bar!” (via Pop Smoke)

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

3. But what about all those Army wives? (via Untied Status Marin Crops)

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Life finds a way.

4. That’s why she’s a teacher and you’re… you. (via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Small victories.

5. He should get closer to some coast.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

6. Everyone is turned on by A-10s.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

7. That’s what “Rescue Swimmer” aftershave is for. (via Coast Guard Memes)

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Stay turnt.

8. The Coast Guard will be first to say… (via The Claw of Knowledge)

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Space Guard BMs will learn to fight in zero-G.

9. Don’t ask questions if you don’t want the answer.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
The white also means no.

10. With MREs, it took a lot to get there. (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Now let me tell you what we did with them…

 

11. Too bad there can only be one.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
And it outranks you.

 

12. Depends on your definition of “wrecking,” but ok.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Too bad their kids’ kids will try to kill you.

 

13. When your heart isn’t at war with your head. (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
You saw this coming.

Articles

These 21 American Forces Network commercials are entertaining for all the wrong reasons

The American Forces Network (AFN) is the brand name used by the U.S. Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS). It’s a worldwide network designed to be entertaining and informational for U.S. troops and their families while deployed or stationed overseas (aka OCONUS), or for Navy ships at sea. Broadcasting from Fort George G. Meade in Maryland, the network shows American programming from all major U.S. networks.


Since AFN is a nonprofit enterprise owned by the U.S. government, it does not and cannot air commercials during its programs, to avoid the image of endorsement by or sponsorship of the Department of Defense. In their place, AFN runs public service announcements from the Ad Council, charities, and — most interestingly — informational spots created by military members working in AFRTS. These spots can be “command information” or address a number of issues facing military members and their families. They vary in production value and efficacy and can be unintentionally ridiculous… few are as entertaining as AFN Afghanistan’s Bagram Batman.

1. Recycle

Always be yourself, even on Okinawa.

2. Maintain Operations Security

“Cats cannot be trusted.” – OPSEC Officer Squeakers

3. Don’t be an a-hole in Europe

Because Europeans never talk smack about sporting events or play loud music.

4. Shop at the Commissary!

This is really an avant-garde art film.

5. Prevent theft by slapping your friends around

It’s always a good idea to slap people at the base gym locker room.

6. Don’t forget your CAC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC4yBMCKWww

7. Don’t just give anyone general power of attorney

This entire PSA is an excuse for a pun.

8. Your new foreign-born wife will probably need a passport

Worst. Proposal. Ever.

8. What to know about legal residency, presented by Cowboys

No PSA is more memorable than one about legal residency.

9. Creepy strangers can overhear your travel plans

Cargo shorts, flip-flops, and wraparound sunglasses complete the creeper uniform.

10. The perfect neighbor doesn’t exist

If you want the perfect neighbor, build one from leftover body parts.

11. Having a baby is the end of the world

“Who wants to pay child support in high school?” WHO WANTS TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT EVER?

12. Get to know your skin sores

Listening to this gave me ear cancer.

13. This guy needs a shower

No concern about the invisible voice in your bathroom?

14. Don’t be an a-hole in Europe, part II

“You’ve brought great joy to this old Italian stereotype.”

15. Don’t be an a-hole in your dorm room

Who is the real a-hole in this PSA?

16. This guy needs a time management PSA

Maybe don’t wait until right before formation to run by the post office.

17. An identity crisis can hit you at any time

Does Stars and Stripes have a self-help section?

18. Eating lunch alone leads to disaster

Where the hell is this lunchroom anyway?

19. “Something about jurisdiction”

Call those legal people at the legal place when you have a run-in with the police-y people while doing your boozy stuff.

20. Smokers are Blue Falcons

Maybe we should talk about the guy putting out cigarettes on his co-workers’ faces?

21. Bird Flu is comical

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EyZ6z9dTQg

Try sneezing in a Marine’s face. Go on, I’ll wait.

Articles

The F-35 may be ready for prime time

After achieving an awesome air-to-air kill ratio of 15-to-one, the F-35 trounced ground targets at the US Air Force’s Red Flag exercise — and now the world’s most expensive weapons system may finally be ready for the front lines.


For the first time ever, the F-35 competed against legacy aircraft and simulated surface-to-air missile batteries at “the highest level threats we know exist,” according to a statement from Lt. Col. George Watkins, an F-53 squadron commander.

“Just as we’re getting new systems and technology, the adversary’s threats are becoming more sophisticated and capable,” said Watkins, nodding to the expansive counter-stealth and anti-air capabilities built up by the Russians and Chinese over the years.

Also read: The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

But the F-35 program has long carried the promise of delivering a plane that can outsmart, outgun, and out-stealth enemy systems, and the latest run at Red Flag seems to have vindicated the troubled 16-year long program. Not only can the F-35 operate in heavily contested airspace, which render F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s as sitting ducks, but it can get more done with fewer planes.

“I flew a mission the other day where our four-ship formation of F-35As destroyed five surface-to-air threats in a 15-minute period without being targeted once,” said Maj. James Schmidt, a former A-10 pilot now flying F-35s.

Four planes taking out five SAM sites in 15 minutes represents nothing less than a quantum leap in capability for the Air Force, which prior to the F-35 would have to target threats with long-range missiles before getting close to the battle.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. | US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

“We would shoot everything we had at that one threat just to take it out. Now between us and the (F-22) Raptor, we are able to geo-locate them and precision target them,” Watkins said, adding that F-35s are so stealthy, “we can get close enough to put a bomb right on them.”

But that’s only one of the multi-role F-35’s jobs. After obliterating ground threats, F-35 pilots said they turned right around and started hammering air threats.

The F-35 came out of Red Flag such a ringing success that Defense News reports that the strike aircraft is now being considered at the highest levels for overseas deployments.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
Airmen load a bomb into the F-35A’s internal bomb bay. | US Air Force

“I think based on the data that we’re hearing right now for kill ratios, hit rates with bombs, maintenance effectiveness … those things tell me that the airplane itself is performing extremely well from a mechanical standpoint and … that the proficiency and skills of the pilots is at a level that would lead them into any combat situation as required,” Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, head of the Air Force’s F-35 integration office told Defense News.

With that success on record, Pleus will now consider deploying a small group of six to eight F-35s overseas as part of a “theater security package” to help train and integrate with US allies.

UK and Australian contingents participated in this installment of Red Flag. Both countries plan to buy and operate the F-35 in the near future.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines see a ‘big-ass fight’ looming and may redeploy to meet it

During a meeting this week with the Marine Corps rotational force stationed in Norway, the Corps’ commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, told Marines that war could be looming and that his command may soon adjust its deployments to meet rising threats.


Neller said he saw a “big-ass fight” in the future, telling members of the U.S. force in the Nordic country to be ready at all times.

“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller said, according to Military.com. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
U.S Marines install cleats on M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks for cold weather driver training in Setermoen, Norway, 7 to 9 Nov., 2016, to improve their ability to operate in mountainous and extreme cold weather environments. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy J. Lutz)

Marines have been in Norway since January, when a rotation from the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines arrived. The rotation was extended during the summer, and a replacement from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines arrived in August. The rotation is the first time a foreign force had been stationed in Norway since World War II.

Neller told Marines in Norway that he expects focus to shift from the Middle East to Russia and the Pacific — areas highlighted by President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy and home to three parts of the Defense Department’s “4+1” framework: Russia, North Korea, and China (along with Iran and global terrorism).

Marines in Norway have trained with Norwegian and other partner forces for cold-weather operations. Earlier this year, the Marines carried out a timed strategic mobility exercise, organizing the vehicles and equipment that would be needed to outfit a ground combat force.

Also Read: The Marines arrive in Norway

Norway and the Marine Corps have jointly managed weapons and equipment stored in well-maintained caves in the central part of the country since the Cold War. The commander of Marine Corps Europe and Africa told Military.com this summer that Norway could become the service’s hub in Europe.

Places like Norway would become more of a focal point for the Marine Corps, according to Neller, deemphasizing the Middle East after two decades of combat operations there.

“I think probably the focus, the intended focus is not on the Middle East,” Neller said in Norway, when asked by a Marine about where the force saw itself fighting in the future. “The focus is more on the Pacific and Russia.”

A Marine artillery unit recently left Syria after several months supporting the fight against ISIS there (burning out two howitzers in the process), but Marines remain in the region — including 450 training and advising partner forces in Afghanistan and hundreds more in Iraq, where they recently returned to “old stomping grounds” in western Anbar province to support anti-ISIS efforts.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Codey Underwood)

While Neller admitted that U.S. forces would remain in the Middle East for some time to come, he predicted “a slight pullback” from that region and a reorientation toward Russia and the Pacific.

“So I believe we’ll turn our attention there,” he said,according to Military.com.

‘We’ve got them right where we wanted’

Countries throughout Europe have grown wary of an increasingly assertive Russia, especially the Baltic states and others in Eastern Europe.

But Norway and others in Western Europe are concerned as well. Norway has publicly discussed ways to counter Russian armor and boosted its defense spending.

Earlier this year, Oslo decided to buy five P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft — a move that tied it closer to the U.S. and UK, with whom it maintained a surveillance network during the Cold War. In February, Norway decided to shift funds from cost-savings programs into military acquisitions. That same month, Norway teamed up with Germany to buy four new submarines — two for each. (None of Germany’s subs are currently operational.)

Now Read: Norway wants the U.S. Marines to stay another year in their country

In November, Norway accepted the first three F-35A fighters to be permanently stationed in the country, joining the seven Norway has stationed in Arizona for training. This month, Norway signed a contract for 24 South Korean-made K9 self-propelled howitzers and ammunition resupply vehicles.

U.S. forces have also moved throughout Europe in recent months for training and deployments to bolster partners in the region, but the rotational force in Norway has been particularly irksome for Russia, which shares a 120-mile border with Norway.

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years
US Marines with Black Sea Rotational Force 17.1 prepare to board a bus after arriving in Vaernes, Norway, Jan. 16, 2017. The Marines are part of the newly established Marine Rotational Force-Europe, and will be training with the Norwegian Armed Forces to improve interoperability and enhance their ability to conduct operations in Arctic conditions. (USMC photo by Sgt. Erik Estrada.)

U.S. Marines in Norway have been hesitant to link their deployment directly to Russia — going as far as to avoid saying “Russia” in public — but Moscow has still expressed displeasure with their presence.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said relations between Oslo and Moscow were “put to a test” when Marines arrived in January. Moscow warned its neighbor in June that the Marines’ deployment could “escalate tensions and lead to destabilization” in the region.

Norwegian officials themselves have also questioned their government about what the Marines are doing there, out of concern that the country’s leadership could be shifting its defense policy without debate.

For some of the Marines, Moscow’s displeasure appears to be a point of pride.

“They don’t like the fact that we oppose them, and we like the fact that they don’t like the fact that we oppose them,” Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green told Military.com. “Three hundred of us, surrounded by them. We’ve got them right where we wanted, right? We’ve done this before.”

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