Marines qualify on the rifle range every year and train to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy. In October 2016, the Marine Corps has presented a new challenge for Marines on the range — a modification to the second half of the marksmanship program was implemented with hopes to better train Marines for combat.
Marines will still complete table one, which trains Marines on the basic fundamentals and techniques of rifle marksmanship.
According to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Luis Carrillo, the officer in charge on Camp Hansen ranges, table two takes the training to the next level. This table focuses more on combat and teaching Marines how to engage enemies in a combat related environment.
The following changes have been implemented for table two:
• Keeping up the heart rate: Instead of Marines staying stationary while shooting, they are required to start at the standing position and quickly get into the kneeling or prone position when the targets are ready to appear.
• Engaging the enemy: Marines begin qualifying at the 500-yard line then advance towards the 100-yard line, where previously they trained the other way around.
• Maintaining situational awareness in combat: New targets show both friendly and enemy forces and Marines must maintain awareness of the targets to determine when to shoot forcing them to make combat decisions.
This half of the marksmanship program focuses more on teaching Marines how to engage enemies in a combat-related environment, which Carrillo, a Janesville, Wisconsin native, said helps in real life scenarios.
“There are several situations this will come in handy,” said Carrillo. “When I was in Afghanistan there were several times we would get ambushed or we would respond to fires across the valley and a lot of those times the enemy wasn’t close. We had to move closer to the enemy and maneuver against them.”
The modification to table two allows Marines to experience the different types of ranges they may see in combat.
“The good thing about table two is it presents Marines with different ranges,” said Carrillo. “You have the long ranges, which I experienced in Afghanistan; and you have the short ranges, which I experienced in Iraq.”
Marines are America’s expeditionary force in readiness and need to be ready to move in a moment’s notice. Table two helps train Marines to respond quickly and aggressively in real-world scenarios, according to Carrillo.
“I think it gets the Marines more in a combat mindset while closing in on the enemy,” he said.
Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, says it has started checking the legality of the BBC World News channel’s Russian operations and its websites, following a statement by British media watchdog Ofcom that Russia’s RT television channel had violated impartiality rules.
Roskomnadzor said on Dec. 21, 2018, that the goal of the verification is to establish whether the content of the BBC operation is consistent with Russian laws.
The statement comes a day after Ofcom said it was considering sanctioning Russia’s state-financed RT, saying it had broken impartiality rules in seven programs in 2018, including coverage of the poisoning in Britain of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Britain blames the Russian government for the poisoning of the Skripals in the city of Salisbury in March 2018.
Russia has repeatedly denied that its agents were behind the poisoning and accused British intelligence agencies of staging the incident to stoke what they called “Russophobia.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Skripals survived the poisoning, in which a Soviet-made military nerve agent known as Novichok was used.
Two other British citizens were exposed to the same nerve agent in June 2018, apparently by accident; one of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.
Ofcom since 2012 has repeatedly found RT to have breached its rules on impartiality and of broadcasting “materially misleading” content.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Dec. 21, 2018, that Roskomnadzor’s move was in response to Ofcom’s announced checks of RT operations.
“Many have questions for the BBC regarding its biased coverage of some events, as they are covered not like a media outlet should do but in a preprogrammed and biased way,” Peskov said.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hailed Roskomnadzor’s move, writing on Facebook that “it is high time to do that.”
“…the British government’s blatant interference in the activities of Russian medias outlets (constant propaganda against the RT channel, attempts to defame our reporters and so on) leave us no choice but to give a tit-for-tat response,” Zakharova wrote.
The BBC said on Dec. 21, 2018, that it worked in full compliance with Russia’s laws and regulations to deliver independent news.
“As everywhere else in the world, the BBC works in Russia in full compliance with the country’s laws and regulations to deliver independent news and information to its audiences,” said a BBC spokesperson.
Russia is looking to expand its amphibious assault capability by building two ships comparable to the large-deck, amphibious vessels common in Western navies.
According to a report by NavyRecognition.com, the first of these vessels will begin construction in 2020, the second in 2022. The plan is for both ships to be in service by 2026. While the exact details of the ships are not yet available, this isn’t the first time that Russia has sought to add powerful amphibious assault capability to their arsenal.
Russia had hoped to acquire two such vessels from France, which built three Mistral-class amphibious assault ships in the 2000s. However, the deal was canceled when the ships were nearly ready for delivery in the wake of Russian aggression against Ukraine. The Egyptians later bought the vessels with some help from the Saudis.
Most of these big-deck amphibious assault ships are capable of carrying a battalion of troops (usually marines) in addition to at least a dozen helicopters. In the case of the Russian vessels, the onboard helicopters will likely be a mix of Ka-52 Hokum attack helicopters as well as Ka-27 Helix anti-submarine helicopters, Ka-29 Helix troop-carrying helicopters, and Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning helicopters.
An aerial starboard bow view of the Soviet amphibious assault transport ship Ivan Rogov underway. (U.S. Navy photo)
During the Cold War, Russia did develop three unique amphibious vessels. However, these ships, Ivan Rogov-class amphibious vessels, have since been removed from active service. GlobalSecurity.org notes that these vessels could carry a battalion of Russian Naval Infantry and 25 tanks. We expect the new ship to have equal, if not greater capacities.
Watch the video below to learn more about Russia’s planned amphibious ship:
CBD is everywhere. From Target to grocery stores, it’s having a moment that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean the military is following this latest wellness trend. In fact, the Navy recently made it super clear that no one affiliated with the branch is allowed to use CBD products.
CBD was declared safe back in 2018 by the World Health Organization, but that hasn’t softened the Navy’s stance on the product. An updated Navy release bans lotion, shampoos, lip balms, and other topical products that contain CBD. This comes after the initial ban of CBD products in 2019 that didn’t explicitly apply to topical lotions and balms.
The Navy claims that sailor exposure to CBD products might negatively impact mission readiness and disqualify a sailor from service. Officials cited the potential for CBD mislabeling and the lack of regulation as reasons for the updated ban.
The FDA has no regulation guidelines created regarding CBD, and since it’s an unregulated market, there’s really no telling what a person is buying when they purchase a lotion or a salve. In order to be legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD has to have less than 0. 3 percent THC. Hemp that contains less than 0.3 percent THC is currently legal in fifty states. But that doesn’t mean that what a person buys actually contains only the legal amount of CBD. There are no checks or safeguards in place, putting service members at risk.
Research is ongoing to explore whether or not the benefits can be scientifically proven or if they’re largely anecdotal. Amid the veteran population, the use of CBD is definitely growing. But since most CBD products are sold in the form of teas, oils, and salves, there’s no federal jurisdiction about the purity of the product. That means that an unsuspecting sailor might purchase a CBD product for its purported benefits and end up failing a drug test because the product contained more than the legal amount of THC.
THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that makes it a psychoactive substance. Advocates for CBD claim that because there’s little to no THC, it has no psychoactive effects on the brain. But the Navy isn’t so sure.
The recent policy update includes language relating to sailors who currently hold a valid prescription for FDA-approved CBD products. These are still permissible, as are clothing products made from hemp. But sailors who test positive for THC or other banned substances for which they have no valid prescription will be administratively separated and face an “Other than Honorable” discharge.
The latest Navy update follows the House of Representatives’ approval on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow service members to use legalized CBD products. The amendment passed by a vote 336-71. It stipulates that the SecDef can’t prohibit based on a product containing hemp or any ingredient derived from help, the possession, use, and consumption of the product by a member of the military. That’s as long as the product meets the federal definition of hemp. It’s a step in the right direction for CBD advocates, but there’s still a long way to go.
Advocates for CBD are pushing for its inclusion in the military, and there’s no stronger voice than from the veteran community. Veteran owned CBD companies are cropping up all over the country, in part because of its lucrative business model and in part because CBD really does seem to be working. Specifically, for veterans who are suffering from combat stress, PTSD, or MST related mental health issues, CBD advocates think that it offers a non-pharmaceutical approach to treatment and wellness.
Army officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are rewriting the requirements infantry soldiers must meet when they test for the Expert Infantryman Badge.
Each year, infantry soldiers who have not earned the distinctive badge, consisting of a silver musket mounted on a blue field, must go through EIB testing, a series of 30 infantry tasks, ranging from land navigation to completing a 12-mile road march in under three hours.
Soon, EIB testing will feature more up-to-date tasks to reflect the modern battlefield, according to a recent Army news release.
Infantry officials recently conducted a modernized EIB pilot with multiple infantry soldiers, Master Sgt. Charles Evans, from the office of the Chief of the Infantry, said in the release.
“Their feedback was really essential to rolling out this new standard, making sure it was validated,” Evans said. “Just working out all the kinks and making sure that all the tasks were applicable, realistic and up-to-date with the latest doctrine.”
Parachute infantryman Spc. Sean Tighe, assigned to B Company 1st Battalion (Airborne) 501st Infantry Regiment, performs push-ups as 1SG Landon Sahagun, B Company 1st Battalion (Airborne) 501st Infantry Regiment, counts his repetitions during the Expert Infantryman Badge testing.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)
Many of the changes in the manual are designed to standardize options for units in how to conduct the testing, but “there will be significant changes to some of the tests themselves,” according to the release.
“Indirect fire, move under fire, grenades, CPR and care under fire are all being reworked,” the release states.
The results of the pilot will soon be put into an updated training manual for EIB testing.
“The reason we did this event was to make sure it wasn’t just written from a single perspective, that it had feedback from all the different types of units across the Army,” Evans said.
A top U.S. military technology company has announced that it’s working on new technology to give tank and armored vehicle crews a 360-degree view of the outside even when they’re buttoned up in armor with no windows.
Basically, crews will be able to see a virtual view of the world through the steel-plated sides of their tanks.
The new helmet technology being developed by Raytheon BBN Technologies is part of a project initiated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, to develop futuristic survivability tools for armored vehicles.
“Our team is developing a virtual experience that gives the crews of armored military vehicles greater awareness of what’s going on outside the vehicle, while also reducing their vulnerability to attack,” David Diller, a program manager for Raytheon BBN Technologies, said in a press release. “We’re creating a three-dimensional model of the environment in real time that gives users views of their outside environment that would not normally be possible from inside the vehicle.”
The team aims to incorporate trackers for friendly forces, hostile fire, and known threats into the crew’s displays so the troops can concentrate on maneuver and tactics.
The system aims to use lidar, the same laser-imaging science that is in Google’s self-driving cars, to create the map of the surroundings while high-definition video lets the crew see what is going on around them.
Pilots who fly the F-35 Lightning II currently have a system that uses that plane’s sensors to achieve a similar effect, allowing the pilot to “see” through the aircraft. While the F-35 program has come under fire for cost overruns and delays, pilots and program managers have pointed at the tactical awareness the helmet gives as a game-changer in future fights.
If tank crews can get similar awareness when they’re going toe-to-toe with enemy armor, that could tip the scales in their favor during a decisive battle.
Raytheon BBN Technologies is owned by the Raytheon Company and is working on DARPA’s Grond X-Vehicle Technologies program, which aims to improve America’s vehicles by enhancing mobility, agility, crew augmentation, and signature management.
About a mile from the Iraqi-Syrian border is a US military fire base where approximately 150 Marines and soldiers are still hammering ISIS in Syria with artillery.
“To get to the firebase, you fly by helicopter over Mosul,” NPR’s Jane Arraf reported on July 2, 2018.
“And then just a little more than a mile from the Syrian border, there’s a collection of tents and armored vehicles in the desert,” Arraf said, adding that the US troops have been at the remote, temporary base for about a month.
In early June 2018, the US Army released a dozen photos showing the base and the troops firing M777 howitzers and M109 Paladins to support the Syrian Democratic Forces clearing ISIS from the Euphrates River Valley.
Then a few weeks later, the Army released photos of the troops playing an improvised game of baseball as dusk sets in and smoke clouds billow in the background.
Check them out below:
(U.S. Army photo)
Here’s part of the base, which appears to be surrounded by a sand barrier for protection.
It’s about 100 degrees at the camp, and is crawling with scorpions and biting spiders, NPR reported.
U.S. Army Soldiers with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment fire artillery alongside Iraqi Security Force artillery at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 5, 2018.
Iraqi Security Forces fire at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border using an M109A6 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer, June 5, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo)
As well as M109 Paladins.
Read more about the Paladin here, and watch a demo video of it firing from inside here.
(U.S. Army photo)
Here’s a wide shot of how the M777s are set up.
But US troops are not alone at the base as they’re operating alongside Iraqi forces.
“Iraqi commanders normally select the targets,” NPR’s Arraf said. “The strikes are mostly in remote areas. The U.S. military says it takes care to avoid civilian casualties.”
Iraqi Security Forces are ready to fire at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border using an M109A6 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer, June 5, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo)
U.S. Army Soldiers with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment fire artillery alongside Iraqi Security Force artillery at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 5, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo)
(U.S. Army photo)
The 155mm rounds “weigh about a hundred pounds each,” Sgt. Jason Powell told NPR. “And sometimes we get up to 12-round fire missions. So with your gear on and hauling these rounds, these guys are fricking animals.”
Five decades after being shot in Vietnam and almost losing his leg, former Army Spc. John Fogle will make good on a promise he made to the surgeons at the 22nd Surgical Hospital in Vietnam who saved his life.
Before he was transported to a general hospital in Japan, Fogle told his surgeons he would drop them a line and let them know how he was doing. He never did write, but instead, in May, he will fulfill his promise of reconnecting — in person.
Fogle was injured in combat on July 25, 1969. Although over time he forgot their names, he never forgot the doctors who saved him and when he learned of a reunion planned for the surviving members of the 22nd Surgical Hospital staff, Fogle decided to seek them out in hopes of inviting them to the event.
One of his first stops in his search was the Vietnam Vascular Registry, developed by Dr. Norman Rich, chair emeritus of the surgery department at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
In 1966, the Vietnam Vascular Registry was developed by Rich at the Walter Reed General Hospital based on cases he had seen while serving in Vietnam along with hundreds of other cases added by colleagues. The registry documented and analyzed blood vessel injuries in Vietnam, resulting in documentation of more than 10,000 injuries from about 7,500 American casualties in Southeast Asia. Each patient entered into the registry was assigned a consecutive number and given a vascular registry card stating the registry’s purpose.
Rich has maintained the registry for more than 50 years. If stretched out completely, the entire registry itself would be about 114 linear feet, he noted. In 2016, the registry was digitized by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, making it much easier to search and find records from vascular patients seen during Vietnam. The originals were sent to the National Archives and Records Center in St. Louis.
Fogle had held onto his registry card, sent by Rich from the Vietnam Vascular Registry, for more than 50 years. Once he connected with Rich, he was able to reference his assigned registry card number, making it relatively easy for Rich to access his medical records from the 22nd Surgical Hospital. The records provided the names of Fogle’s doctors, among them Dr. Monroe Levine, who assisted in the surgery on his right leg and arm.
‘They performed miracles’
Fogle has foggy memories of the day he was injured, so over the years, it was hard for him to remember the names of those doctors who first operated on him in the 22nd Surgical Hospital. However, he will never forget being shot while flying in an observation helicopter.
He was on the lookout for signs of enemy activity, as the crew chief, and as they flew over a canyon, they surprised the Viet Cong, who began firing at their helicopter. Fogle was shot three times down his right side, leaving him with a severed femoral artery and a compound fracture in his femur. He remained conscious, though, and continued firing back to suppress the enemy’s fire and protect his crew, which included the pilot, who sat just two feet away. They were able to get out of there quickly and landed safely, arriving at the 22nd Surgical Hospital which was only 12 miles away. Fogle’s actions later earned him an Air Medal.
About 10 minutes after he had been shot, Fogle was being pulled into the 22nd Surgical Hospital, which he recalls had four fully equipped operating rooms, totally air-conditioned. The unit’s mission was to help stabilize the wounded before transporting them to the 249th General Hospital at Camp Drake in Japan.
“They performed miracles in there,” Fogle said. At the time, he said, his leg was a big “question mark.” Surgeons in that unit prepared him for transport to Japan, and told him he “wasn’t out of the woods just yet.” He made it to the general hospital, where he underwent more surgeries. His recovery, over the years, was smooth and he has not had any other major issues.
“I was very fortunate,” Fogle added. “I could’ve easily lost my leg.”
He added that many surgeries were performed at the 22nd Surgical Hospital, over a long period of time, so it would have been hard for the doctors to remember each patient. In looking through his records obtained through the registry, Fogle said he learned that Levine had seen four other patients that same day.
“That’s why these notes [in my records] are so important,” he said.
After learning Levine’s full name, it didn’t take long for Fogle to find that the doctor is still practicing medicine in Colorado. The two connected over the phone, and are now looking forward to meeting again, after all these years, at the reunion, which will take place in Florida. Fogle sent his records to Levine to look through, hoping to help jog his memory before they meet in May, 2018.
Fogle considers himself very lucky. After leaving the military, he’s really only had to limit himself to certain sports and activities because he did suffer muscle loss, which throws off his balance to this day. He was able to go back to school after his military service and became an electrical engineer. A few years ago, he retired after a fulfilling, 38-year career.
Had it not been for the work of Levine, as well as the others in that unit and throughout his care and recovery, Fogle might not be where he is today.
“I’m looking forward to meeting him again in person,” Fogle said.
Rich was pleased to hear Fogle reconnected with one of the surgeons who saved his leg.
“This is what makes it valuable,” he said, referring to the extensive Vietnam Vascular Registry. “It is really reassuring that what we were doing has merit.”
But missile interceptors are far from a guarantee, Lauren Grego, the senior scientist in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said on Twitter last week.
The “single shot kill probability” of an ICBM is unknown, according to Grego, but is unlikely to be higher than a 50% even in “optimistic conditions.”
Of course, the US wouldn’t fire a single interceptor. Missile Defense Agency previously told Business Insider that in a real-world combat scenario, the US would fire multiple interceptors at a single threat.
Grego further calculated that, assuming that 50% probability, if the US shot 4 interceptors at a single threat, it would have a 94 percent chance of taking down the missile.
But North Korea would be foolish to commence nuclear war with the world’s foremost nuclear power by firing a single missile. Grego said that if North Korea fired 5 missiles, the probability that the US can defend against them all shrinks to 72 percent, even in a best-case scenario, which she called “uncomfortably high.”
Multiple missiles aren’t the only issue. North Korea could send decoys or employ countermeasures, which could confuse or disrupt US missile defenses by presenting multiple, false targets for each launch. This would effectively make missile defenses useless and allow all warheads to hit US targets unhindered.
Increasing the US’s number of interceptors beyond 44 does little to erase the fundamental problems with hit-to-kill missile defense.
“Discrimination of warheads from decoys is an unsolved but clearly fundamental issue,” wrote Grego, who sees “little point” in spending more on the already $40 billion ground-based midcourse defense before addressing its clear, conceptual limitations.
So while missile interception doesn’t promise much by way of defense yet, the best defense in nuclear war remains a good offense.
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM launches during an operational test Feb. 20, 2016, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (USAF photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford)
By the time the US detected the launches and verified their origin and bearing, a salvo of more reliable, more powerful missiles would streak across the sky towards North Korea before its missiles even landed.
Moments after US cities rose into mushroom clouds, the entirety of North Korea would do the same. North Korea has no missile defenses, and could do nothing to stop the US from flattening every inch of its sovereign territory.
This assured destruction of the entirety of North Korea has a deterrent effect, making it far less likely that North Korea would ever strike the US.
Not only would the US bomb North Korea into oblivion, the US would hunt down North Korea’s leadership from hidden bunkers and caves before bringing them to justice.
For these reasons, a North Korean missile attack on the US remains unlikely, but nearly impossible to stop.
The VA 3D printing community leads the effort to see how 3D printing can solve potential supply chain deficiencies. It shares 3D printed designs on the NIH 3D Printing Exchange and tests submitted designs for rapid FDA approval. Meanwhile, America Makes is connecting medical facilities that need 3D-printed supplies with the manufacturers who are best equipped to make them. The result is a relationship between the manufacturers who make supplies and the health care providers who need them.
VA and its partners are developing a responsive network of 3D printing manufacturers who use effective, validated PPE designs. They determine which PPE designs are safe and useful and establish the industry standard. They use their knowledge of 3D printing, human-centered design and front line medicine.
“VA has been at the forefront of using 3D printing technology to benefit our patients,” said Dr. Beth Ripely, chair of the VHA 3D Printing Advisory Committee. “With the collective actions of our partners, we’re bringing our medical expertise and 3D printing experience to the front line of the fight against COVID-19. We’re helping health care providers and patients stay safe.”
You can help, too
If you are interested in getting involved and have a 3D-printed PPE design, you can submit it to the NIH 3D Print Exchange. If you have the ability to help test designs, head here. If you are able to donate 3D printing services, get in touch with America Makes. Together, through collaboration and innovation, we can tackle this challenge.
Until this week, the Vietnamese government has remained silent about the release of The Vietnam War, which premiered in the U.S. after a big buildup.
In Vietnam’s lively online sphere, many commentators speculated that authorities had remained silent about the series because it presented what the government considered sensitive material about towering Communist Party figures, such as Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap.
The 10-part documentary film series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, which premiered September 17, covers the war’s main events and focuses on the experiences of Americans and Vietnamese during the war. American broadcaster PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) is streaming it online with Vietnamese subtitles.
On Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang issued a statement saying, “The Anti-America War of the Vietnamese people was a righteous revolution that mobilized the entire nation, and was supported wholeheartedly by friends and people worldwide.
“Positive developments in the comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and the United States are the results of great efforts by the two counties,” Hang continued. “The policy of Vietnam is to put the past behind us, overcome differences, promote our mutual interests and look forward to the future.”
She added, “I personally hope that American people and filmmakers understand the righteousness of the revolution as well as Vietnam’s goodwill.”
Like the government, the Vietnamese press has remained muted in its response to the well-reviewed documentary that has been a major event in the United States.
Only the Thanh Nien newspaper has covered the effort by Burns and Novick, reporting last month that the “U.S. consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City would hold a screening and discussion session” based on a 90-minute synopsis of the documentary. Vietnam’s top daily added that “film director and producer Lynn Novick is here in Vietnam to meet and discuss with the guests and the audience during the screening.”
One of the people who attended the screening, a former journalist, wrote on Facebook that after the screening, another attendee, a young woman, asked Novick why in the excerpts “do I only see characters from North Vietnam being interviewed? Will people from the South be interviewed?”
The journalist noted that Novick said people from the South had been interviewed and “that will be evident when you see the complete documentary being shown on the PBS website.”
The former journalist, who once worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), added on Facebook, “Lynn’s answer raised an uneasy suspicion about whether the shown clip was heavily censored before it was screened to young people, who really wanted to understand the Vietnam War beyond the simple division over red and yellow flags [of the current and former regime respectively].”
About 70 percent of Vietnam’s 96.1 million citizens were born after the April 1975 fall of Saigon.
Brian Moriarty, the press spokesman for the filmmaking team, told VOA Vietnamese, “There have been two successful screenings in Vietnam, and the clips can be shown to those interviewed in the movie.”
Moriarty added he “could not comment” on the Facebook posts in Vietnam that Hanoi’s Central Department of Propaganda, the media watchdog, has forbidden “media coverage” because The Vietnam War documentary has “sensitive details about the 1968 Tet Offensive, about Ho Chi Minh, Le Duan or Vo Nguyen Giap.”
The Tet Offensive is widely considered to be the turning point of the Vietnam War. While communist forces ultimately lost the Tet Offensive, they won a propaganda victory that prompted Americans to lose support for the conflict.
Revered CBS-TV anchorman Walter Cronkite, after reporting on one of the Tet Offensive battles, in Hue, broadcast an editorial calling for a negotiated end to the war.
Vietnam’s Central Propaganda Department could not be reached for comment.
Moriarty added that people in Vietnam “can still watch the Vietnamese documentary film with Vietnamese subtitles” on the PBS website. He also said they have “people in Vietnam [who] have checked and confirmed this.”
But there have been hiccups, according to Facebook posts speculating that the sensitive material in the work makes the current Vietnamese government uncomfortable.
Ho, a founding member of the Indo-Chinese Communist Party, was president of North Vietnam from 1954 until his death in 1969. He abstained from a Politburo vote to approve the Tet Offensive, widely seen as the bloody turning point in growing U.S. opposition to the war.
Le Duan, head of the Vietnamese Communist Party, presided over a severe postwar economic slump, and took an anti-Chinese stance that included border clashes as well as the expulsion of ethnic Chinese-Vietnamese citizens, before his death in 1986.
Lê Duẩn. Wikipedia image.
Vietnam today looks to China as its primary trading partner, even though the two communist countries have a long-running dispute over the South China Sea that has pushed their relationship to a new low.
Giap, a general who defeated the French and the U.S. in Vietnam, came to support economic reform before his death in 2013. He “fell into disfavor and became sensitive to the Communist Party of Vietnam because of his anti-China point of view and the disapproval of an all-in attack [on] the South in 1968,” said Bui Tin, a former party member and colonel in the People’s Army of Vietnam who is now a dissident living in France.
Giap presided over the 1968 Tet Offensive and at least 2,800 Vietnamese civilians were believed to have been massacred by communist troops during the battle fought over Hue.
On Facebook on September 17, the day the film was shown on public television in the U.S. and available for streaming in Vietnam, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius wrote: “In order to build a just and bright future, we must acknowledge and be honest about the past. While many of you will not agree with all that is featured in the film, it’s important to consider that, as the film says, ‘There is no single truth in war.’ Once we accept this, we can move forward from the past, deepen ties between our two peoples, and build a brighter future for all.”
According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.
Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.
Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.
“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”
In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.
Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.
“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”
The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”
The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”
Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.
Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.
“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.
“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”
The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.
Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.
Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.
“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.
“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”
Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.
“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.
“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”
Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.
“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.
Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.
“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”
As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.