This comes after Kandahar police chief general Abdul Raziq said the week before that certain countries in the region were keeping the Taliban’s war machine operational as they believe conflict in Afghanistan protects their interests.
He said countries such as Pakistan, Russia, and Iran are funding and equipping the Taliban and other insurgent groups in order to fuel the war machine and pursue their own objectives.
Raziq said some countries in the region have a vested interest in the conflict in Afghanistan.
He claimed that there is sufficient evidence to show that Pakistan, Russia, and Iran are funding the Taliban and other militant groups in the country.
“The Russians have been in contact with the Taliban militants since 2004 or 2005. It is not correct to say that they (Russians) engaged in ties with the Taliban in recent times (only), but now these relations have been clarified. Pakistanis, Iranians and the Russians are jointly supporting the terrorists, however the Russians do their work through Iran, for instance sending the Taliban weapons and money,” said Raziq.
U.S director of defense intelligence Lieutenant General Vincent R. Stewart said in Congress that despite signs of Russia’s support for the Taliban, U.S officials have not found physical evidence to back these claims.
On May 24, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said the alliance had heard reports to this effect but they too did not have proof.
The Afghan government has also said on a number of occasions in the past that they do not have evidence to back these claims.
U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment patrol the fields in Marjeh, Afghanistan to seure the city of Marjeh from the Taliban. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Andres J. Lugo)
The Russian embassy’s statement further said that Moscow once again declares that allegations of its support to the Taliban “does not match the reality (of the situation) and are merely unsubstantiated claims.”
This coincides with the Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar’s meeting with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on the sidelines of a summit in Moscow, the national security council said in a statement.
The NSC said the two sides held talks on further expanding bilateral, political, and security relations.
The statement added that the two sides also held talks on the establishment of a comprehensive plan to support and strengthen the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
Atmar arrived in Moscow on May 23, heading a delegation of high-ranking Afghan officials.
Officials from 25 countries are meeting at the Russia Security Conference, which will focus on countering terrorism in the region.
My wife and I were watching TV and I received a phone call saying I will be going on a deployment, details will be given at a later date. Instantly, I thought, “finally, it’s here! Now it’s my turn!” What I didn’t think about was all the preparation to leave. I, like other many young soldiers, was in a naïve mindset where I believed the Army would handle everything down to the last piece of paper I have to touch.
I was very wrong. I had so many questions rise, and that went unanswered, that at times I felt more worried about the couple months before deploying than I did about the deployment itself.
I Googled long and hard to find some information that would help me out. To my surprise there wasn’t a lot online that was helping. Most of the time when I searched “pre-deployment help” I got information for spouses of a soldier who was deploying. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it didn’t help me any.
I eventually got my answers whether through calling around to friends, from my leadership, or figuring it out on the fly. So, now I would like to put this information out, in a very simple format, to where any other young soldier who is in the same boat I was, can get his/her mindset and ready for their mission.
Obviously, a huge focus point will be your gear. Are you getting new issued gear? Using what you have? What exactly do you need? Luckily this should get answered by your leadership, if not, just think about things you use now and what you need. Most of your training taking place in X-Y-Z? You should probably bring that then. Never used the blow up sleeping mat (yeah me neither)? You can probably do without that then.
The big idea I want to hit on for gear those is to pack early and not around your loved ones. It will make it harder for you as you’re packing for your big trip and see your wife/husband/kids watching you with a sad look on their face. Plus, if they are out of your way it’ll make it easier to spread your inventory out and visually see what you have and don’t have.
Packing early will make you feel at ease as you’re spending time with family and friends. You don’t want to be at dinner with your wife and the only thought in your head is about packing. It also gives you time to think about what you packed and double check it. If you have that, “I think I forgot something” feeling in your stomach, then you probably did. If you get that feeling early enough, you’ll remember what you forgot early enough too.
Pack early, and save yourself the headache.
2. Get your finances/documents together
Again, your leadership will most likely help with this, especially the paperwork side, but there’s a few things I didn’t hear about or fully get to finishing before I left that I wish I had.
First, look into all your payments. Most companies will lower, or I’ve even heard completely get rid of, interest fees for a deployed servicemember. This I didn’t hear about until I had already got to where I was going, so there wasn’t much I could do from there. Ask around and do some research see if you can save some extra money while you’re raking in the deployment money.
Next, set up automatic payments, too. I set that up last minute which wasn’t a smart idea because I didn’t have any test run months. My first month of being gone from home I realized I hadn’t set up one payment, and another I didn’t finish successfully but never read the notice telling me that. I ended up scrambling to get onto a crappy wifi connection and fixing it, but if it wasn’t for the wifi I would’ve had some extra headaches that weren’t needed.
3. Get your quality time in
This was preached to me a lot, and luckily, I listened. I’m listing this not because I didn’t know, but because it was definitely helpful and I’m glad I listened. Even if it’s just a friend or a few friends, take some time to sit down and relax with them. You will thank yourself for it.
If you’re active duty, take whatever extra leave you can. Get home see you family, friends, and simply catch up. If you’re reserve, make your last day at your civilian work a couple weeks before you head out. If you have kids, take a night or two where you can sit down on a nice date and be romantic.
Also, take some time to yourself. Be alone with your thoughts for a bit, think them out. Personally, I got so caught up in my training, visiting friends/family, and other pre-deployment activities I never actually thought fully through how I felt. It didn’t hit me until I was on the plane what was going on, and that wasn’t a good time for that to sink in. This leads me to my next point…
4. Accept what is coming
This is a really deep one that takes some reflection and personal time to sort out in your head. Realize you’re about to be gone from home for a while, and things are going to be different while you’re at your designation and when you get home. You won’t be in the loop and in all the inside jokes, and you for sure will be missing out on something. From a birthday for a child or something as simple as your friends going out and having great nights. Just do your best to stay in touch and up-to-date so you don’t feel as out of touch.
The big one: you might make the ultimate sacrifice. Yeah, dying. For some, they don’t even worry about it, others it keeps them up at night. You don’t know what could happen, and you sure as hell have read/seen all the horror stories from those before you. The way I thought through it to help ease my mind was very strange, but very helpful, and I thank a good friend for this thought process.
“If, and IF, you die. You won’t even know it. Yeah it sucks, but you won’t feel it, you won’t be sad or mad, you’ll just be gone. As shitty as that is to think about, it’s the truth. And at least you died fighting and serving.”
So, if you worry all day about dying, and at the end of deployment you come home fine, then you wasted all that time and energy worrying about something that didn’t even happen, and if you do die, you won’t even know! I know, this sounds very straight to the point and too simple, but really this helps people out.
5. Missing home
This I came to learn from my time on deployment. At first the thought of being away from my wife, and home, would really hit me hard. Someone I spent every day with is now suddenly gone from me for over nine months. How do I do this? Then, I came across a weird realization.The time zone switch, and me being busy, was enough that it was too hard to talk that I ended up not talking a lot, and it felt better that way. Some troops can pull off calling home multiple times a day, and I don’t know how they do that. Besides scheduling it and finding the time, the more you call back home the more you’ll be reminded of what you’re missing.
Some soldiers that have deployed before will specifically tell you not to call every day to help your emotions and thoughts. Just remember to let your significant other, or whoever, know that you might not talk every day, and if you miss a day to not start worrying immediately. There’s so many variable that go into when you can get in contact don’t even fully plan on conversations happening.
Also, end your conversations on the most positive note you can. If you argued any, resolve it before you hang up, don’t let that simmer. This will just eat at your emotions, and you’re already all the way in another country, you don’t need the extra emotions.
That’s all I have for now. I hope this reaches someone who was in the same spot I was, and I really hope it helps answer some questions, and set some minds at ease.
Today, the Silver Star, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, and Air Force Cross are known as awards that recognize heroic actions by service members in combat.
But they were created on the heels of serious controversy over other awards.
During the Civil War, Congress created the Medal of Honor to recognize valor. But some of the awards were seen as questionable by some. Perhaps the most egregious of these was the case of the 27th Maine Regiment.
According to HomeofHeroes.com, the 864 men of this regiment were awarded the medal en masse due to a poorly-worded order by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and a bureaucratic snafu.
So, in 1917, there was an effort to clean up the mess that had been created. A total 911 Medals of Honor were revoked, including those from the 27th Maine. But there was also an effort to make sure that the Medal of Honor would not be so frivolously awarded in the future, while still recognizing gallantry in action.
As America entered World War I, it was obvious there would be acts of valor. So Congress created the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Citation Star (Which would later become the Silver Star Medal) in 1918, and the Navy Cross in 1919 to address valor that didn’t rise to the level of the Medal of Honor. It was the start of the “Pyramid of Honor,” which now has a host of decorations to recognize servicemen (and women) for valor or for other meritorious actions.
So, what sort of courageous actions warrant which medal? Perhaps one indicator of today’s standards can come from the sample citations in SECNAV Instruction 1650.1H.
Historically, though, it should be noted that in the Vietnam War, Randy “Duke” Cunningham received the Navy Cross for making ace (an Air University bio reports that he was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 10, 1972).
Or, one can look at the actions of Leigh Ann Hester to get a good idea of what would warrant a Silver Star.
The Army is fast-tracking an emerging technology for Abrams tanks designed to give combat vehicles an opportunity identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.
Called Active Protection Systems, or APS, the technology uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs. Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly test and develop APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks.
“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
The idea is to arm armored combat vehicles and tactical wheeled vehicles with additional protective technology to secure platforms and soldiers from enemy fire; vehicles slated for use of APS systems are infantry fighting vehicles such as Bradleys along with Stykers, Abrams tanks and even tactical vehicles such as transport trucks and the emerging Humvee replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
“The Army’s expedited APS effort is being managed by a coordinated team of Tank Automotive Research, Development Engineering Center engineers, acquisition professionals, and industry; and is intended to assess current APS state-of-the art by installing and characterizing some existing non-developmental APS systems on Army combat vehicles,” the Army official said.
General Dynamics Land Systems, maker of Abrams tanks, is working with the Army to better integrate APS into the subsystems of the Abrams tank, as opposed to merely using an applique system, Mike Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Peck said General Dynamics plans to test an APS system called Trophy on the Abrams tank next year.
Being engineered as among the most survivable and heavily armored vehicles in existence, the Abrams tank is built to withstand a high degree of enemy fire, such some enemy tank rounds, RPGs, rockets and missiles. Abrams tanks can also carry reactive armor, material used to explode incoming enemy fire in a matter that protects the chassis and crew of the vehicle itself. However, depending upon the range, speed and impact location of enemy fire, there are some weapons which still pose a substantial threat to Abrams tanks. Therefore, having an APS system which could knock out enemy rounds before they hit the tank, without question, adds an additional layer of protection for the tank and crew. A particular threat area for Abrams tanks is the need the possibility of having enemy rounds hit its ammunition compartment, thereby causing a damaging secondary explosion.
APS on Abrams tanks, quite naturally, is the kind of protective technology which could help US Army tanks in tank-on-tank mechanized warfare against near-peer adversary tanks, such as a high-tech Russian T-14 Armata tank. According to a report in The National Interest from Dave Majumdar (Click Here for Story), Russian T-14s are engineered with an unmanned turret, reactive armor and Active Protection Systems.
A challenge with the technology is to develop the proper protocol or tactics, techniques and procedures such that soldiers walking in proximity to a vehicle are not vulnerable to shrapnel, debris or fragments from the explosion between an interceptor and approaching enemy fire.
“The expedited activity will inform future decisions and trade-space for the Army’s overarching APS strategy which uses the MAPS program to develop a modular capability that can be integrated on any platform,” the Army official said.
Rafael’s Trophy system, Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain, Israeli Military Industry’s Iron Fist, UBT/Rheinmetall’s ADS system, and others.
DRS Technologies and Israeli-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are asking the U.S. Army to consider acquiring their recently combat-tested Trophy Active Protection System, a vehicle-mounted technology engineered to instantly locate and destroy incoming enemy fire.
Using a 360-degree radar, processor and on-board computer, Trophy is designed to locate, track and destroy approaching fire coming from a range of weapons such as Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles, or ATGMs, or Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs.
The interceptor consists of a series of small, shaped charges attached to a gimbal on top of the vehicle. The small explosives are sent to a precise point in space to intercept and destroy the approaching round, he added.
Radar scans the entire perimeter of the platform out to a known range. When a threat penetrates that range, the system then detects and classifies that threat and tells the on-board computer which determines the optical kill point in space, a DRS official said.
Trophy was recently deployed in combat in Gaza on Israeli Defense Forces’ Merkava tanks. A brigade’s worth of tanks used Trophy to destroy approaching enemy fire such as RPGs in a high-clutter urban environment, he added.
“Dozens of threats were launched at these platforms, many of which would have been lethal to these vehicles. Trophy engaged those threats and defeated them in all cases with no collateral injury and no danger to the dismounts and no false engagement,” the DRS official said.
While the Trophy system was primarily designed to track and destroy approaching enemy fire, it also provides the additional benefit of locating the position of an enemy shooter.
“Trophy will not only knock an RPG out of the sky but it will also calculate the shooter’s location. It will enable what we call slew-to-cue. At the same time that the system is defeating the threat that is coming at it, it will enable the main gun or sensor or weapons station to vector with sights to where the threat came from and engage, identify or call in fire. At very least you will get an early warning to enable you to take some kind of action,” the DRS official explained. “I am no longer on the defensive with Trophy. Israeli commanders will tell you ‘I am taking the fight to the enemy.’
The Israelis developed Trophy upon realizing that tanks could not simply be given more armor without greatly minimizing their maneuverability and deployability, DRS officials said.
Trophy APS was selected by the Israel Defense Forces as the Active Protection System designed to protect the Namer heavy infantry fighting vehicle.
Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain
A Virginia-based defense firm known as Artis, developer of the Iron Curtain APS system, uses two independent sensors, radar and optical, along with high-speed computing and counter munitions to detect and intercept approaching fire, according to multiple reports.
Iron Curtain began in 2005 with the Pentagon’s research arm known as DARPA; the APS system is engineered to defeat enemy fire at extremely close ranges.
The systems developers and multiple reports – such as an account from Defense Review — say that Iron Curtain defeats threats inches from their target, which separates the system from many others which intercept threats several meters out. The aim is to engineer a dependable system with minimal risk of collateral damage to dismounted troops or civilians.
The Defense Review report also says that Iron Curtain’s sensors can target destroy approaching RPG fire to within one-meter of accuracy.
Iron Curtain’s radar was developed by the Mustang Technology Group in Plano, Texas.
“Iron Curtain has already been successfully demonstrated in the field. They installed the system on an up-armored HMMWV (Humvee), and Iron Curtain protected the vehicle against an RPG. Apparently, the countermeasure deflagrates the RPG’s warhead without detonating it, leaving the “dudded” RPG fragments to just bounce off the vehicle’s side. Iron Curtain is supposed to be low weight and low cost, with a minimal false alarm rate and minimal internal footprint,” the Defense Review report states.
Israel’s IRON FIST
Israel’s IMISystems has also developed an APS system which uses a multi-sensor early warning system with both infrared and radar sensors.
“Electro-optical jammers, Instantaneous smoke screens and, if necessary, an interceptor-based hard kill Active Protection System,” IMISystems officials state.
IRON FIST capability demonstrators underwent full end-to-end interception tests, against all threat types, operating on the move and in urban scenarios. These tests included both heavy and lightly armored vehicles.
“In these installations, IRON FIST proved highly effective, with its wide angle protection, minimal weight penalty and modest integration requirements,” company officials said.
UBT/Rheinmetall’s Active Defense System
German defense firms called Rheinmetall and IBD Deisenroth, Germany, joined forces to develop active vehicle protection systems; Rheinmetall AG owns a 74% share, with the remainder held by IBD Deisenroth GmbH.
Described as a system which operates on the “hard kill” principle, the ADS is engineered for vehicles of every weight class; it purports to defend against light antitank weapons, guided missiles and certain improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“The sensor system detects an incoming projectile as it draws close to the vehicle, e.g. a shaped charge or antitank missile. Then, in a matter of microseconds, the system activates a protection sector, applying directed pyrotechnic energy to destroy the projectile in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle. Owing to its downward trajectory, ADS minimizes collateral damage in the zone surrounding the vehicle,” the company’s website states.
After observing Memorial Day 2018, we thought it would be appropriate to draw attention to a unique series in our Still-Picture Branch, RG 117-KDS, which covers a competition that took place in the 1980’s to design the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
In 1986, the American Battle Monuments Commission was authorized to build a war memorial honoring United States veterans of the Korean War, which took place between 1950 and 1953. A competition to design the war memorial, to be located in Washington D.C., was established in collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers, and saw over 500 submissions sent in for deliberation. Out of those 500+ submissions, three submissions were awarded a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place designation. Reflecting upon the National holiday, I decided it would be interesting to highlight those submissions, as well as another I found particularly powerful.
While going through each of the color slides, I came across a design submitted by Pamela Humbert. This design is based around a reflecting pool, featuring bronze maps of major phases of the Korean War, and is flanked with four rectangular monuments and four statues of veterans. I felt the organization of the monument was fluid, meaningful, and an effective way to memorialize and honor the sacrifice of our veterans. Kudos to Pamela!
Now for the official place winners.
The submission that took 3rd place was submitted by Mark P. Fondersmith, and features a design centered around the charge of the South Korean flag, called the Taeguk, which symbolizes balance. Surrounding the Taeguk centerpiece, in the memorial, are other symbols and statues meant to honor and remember the veterans who fought in Korea.
The 2nd place submission was designed by Ronald C. Nims and uses the 48-star flag (remember, Alaska and Hawaii weren’t states until 1959!), as well as a curving stone structure, as the focal point of the memorial. The curving stone structure was designed to “symbolize the tremendous struggle against overwhelming odds.” The memorial design also features three reflecting pools and a plaza allowing for large gatherings.
The 1st place designation was awarded to the team of John Paul Lucas, Veronica Burns Lucas, Don Alvero Leon, and Eliza Pennypack Oberholtzer. Originally projected to feature 38 soldiers adorning the path between the entrance and the plaza, the final product created controversy, as the designing group claimed their original submission was significantly altered by the company that was awarded the building contract — As it stands today, the memorial features 19 stainless steel statues representing two columns of ground troops, advancing in a triangular pattern, including 14 Army, 3 Marine, 1 Navy and 1 Air Force members. It’s located at the National Mall, across from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and near the Lincoln Memorial.
That said, the military’s got gear that might give Zordon (played by Bryan Cranston) some inspiration.
1. M1A2 Abrams tank
This is one tough vehicle. In “Armored Cav,” Tom Clancy related the tale of how one Abrams tank survived being hit multiple times by T-72 main gun rounds from as close as 400 yards!
The Abrams also has superb firepower in the form of its 120mm main gun, a M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and two M240 7.62mm machine guns. In essence, this tank is already a Zord in many respects.
Might as well make it official.
2. B-1B Lancer
This plane carries a lot of firepower – 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs – and that is considering that its external weapons carriage was disabled as a result of the United States signing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The plane is also fast, and capable of flying at treetop level.
3. A-10 Thunderbolt
There is no reason why the A-10 – and its ability to BRRRRRT the bad guys with the GAU-8 — shouldn’t be a Zord. It is very tough (remember how Kim Campbell brought back a busted-up A-10?). It also carries a lot of bombs.
Put it this way — even a skyscraper-sized minion of Rita’s would be hard-pressed to stand up against a squadron of baseline Warthogs, but against an A-10 Thunderbolt Zord?
4. M270 MLRS
This vehicle gets the nod for its firepower. The various rockets it fires can spread bomblets or a unitary charge. That ruins the day for infantry and enemy vehicles, but when it uses the MGM-140 ATACMS – or the Army Tactical Missile System – it could probably put the hurt on one of the skyscraper-sized monsters as well.
5. M50 Ontos
This is more a blast from the past. That said, the six 106mm recoilless rifles provide a huge punch. The rifles could fire anti-personnel or anti-tank rounds.
In Vietnam, the Ontos was deadly against enemy infantry – and given that the fighting against Rita’s minions is likely to involve a lot of hand-to-hand fighting (until she calls in her big guns), the Ontos makes sense.
6. M1097 Avenger
A lot of this has been focused on the air-to-ground aspect. But it never hurts to be ready for some ground-to-air action. DefenseNews.com notes that Boeing is proposing some upgrades to the baseline Avenger, notably the AIM-9X Sidewinder and the Longbow version of the AGM-114 Hellfire.
Now, we have no idea what any Megazord from these vehicles would look like, but given their firepower – would they need a Megazord configuration? We doubt it. We’d also like to know, what military vehicles do you think Zordon should use as the basis for his next generation of Zords?
Lockheed Martin, the leading manufacturer of stealth aircraft in the world, proposed a new hybrid between the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning on April 22, 2018, for Japan to purchase, and it could easily outclass the US Air Force.
Japan has, for decades, wanted in on the US Air Force’s F-22, a long-range, high-capacity stealth fighter that perfectly suits its defense needs, except for one problem — the US won’t sell it.
While completing the F-22, the US ruled out its sale to allies as the technology involved in the plane was too advanced for export. But this decision took place 11 years ago in 2007.
Today, the US is in the process of selling Japan the F-35 multi-role strike aircraft, but according to Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, the plane’s design makes it less than ideal for Tokyo.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)
“The F-35 is primarily a strike aircraft, intended to hit well defended targets on the ground, and is limited in air-to-air combat because of its size, its single engine, and way it was designed,” Bronk said.
The F-22 can cruise at 60,000 feet going about 1.5 times the speed of sound without igniting the afterburners, meaning it can maintain its stealth while covering incredible distances in short times. The F-35 is a capable fighter, but can’t touch those numbers.
“Along with a bigger missile load out, it’s a much much more capable for air superiority tasks,” Bronk said of the F-22. “The strike role that Japan really really cares about is not really the one that the F-35 is designed for.”
He added that Japan would love a jet that can fire anti-ship missiles, but that the F-35 is just too small to hold them inside its stealthy weapons bays.
Beast of both worlds
(U.S. Air Force photo)
President Donald Trump has moved to loosen up restrictions on foreign military sales, and could potentially revisit the decade-old ruling on selling the F-22, as the sensitive technology it uses has aged and become less cutting-edge, but that same advancement in technology has likely doomed the F-22’s restart.
Bronk said the costs of restarting F-22 production were “not trivial,” and even if Japan offered to pay, “a lot of the electronic components, computer chips and things, are not built anymore.” The F-22 had a decades-long development that started off with 1980s-era technology.
“If you were going to put the F-22 into production now, it’s hard to justify doing without updating the electronics,” Bronk said. Once the electronics become updated, and take up less space and throw off the balance of the jet, the flight software would need an update. Once the flight software starts getting updated, “it starts to look like a new fighter program,” Bronk said.
This would create a serious headache for the US Air Force
In the end, Lockheed’s proposal looks like an F-22 airframe jammed with F-35 era technology, essentially stripping the best part of each jet and combining them in a plane that would outclass either.
“If it can stomach the costs, then not only would Japan have a fantastic fighter on its hands, but perhaps problematically it would be more capable than anything the US Air Force is flying,” Bronk explained.
In the end, the US Air Force would end up in a very difficult position — having to live with Japan getting a better fighter, or spending money earmarked for F-35s, which the US sees as the future of its force, on another aircraft it didn’t come up with.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Fort Carson’s newest weapon is also its most revolutionary, allowing ground-pounding units to strike targets hundreds of miles behind enemy lines and giving commanders an unprecedented view of enemy movements.
All without risking lives.
Meet the Gray Eagle, a hulking drone with a 56-foot wingspan that packs four Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and can stay aloft for a full 24-hours with its thrumming diesel power plant. Fort Carson has authorization for a dozen of the drones and they will soon be ready for war.
“We are reaching full-operational capability,” said Col. Scott Gallaway, who commands the post’s 4th Combat Aviation Brigade.
The Gray Eagle is similar to drones in use by U.S. intelligence agencies and the Air Force. But how they’re used by the Army will be different.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, armed drones have targeted insurgents and been flown by operators half a world away.
The Army envisions its drones as a way to give combat commanders the capability of striking deep, with drone operators sticking close to the battlefield. While the Air Force relies heavily on officers to fly drones, the Army will lean on its enlisted corps to do most of the flying.
Gallaway said the drones are a tool for a “near-peer competitive environment” – a battle against a well-armed and organized enemy.
The Army has gone to war with drones for nearly two decades. But those drones have been toys compared to the Gray Eagle.
The biggest was the Shadow – with 14-foot wings. It had a range of 68 miles, compared to the Gray Eagle’s more than 1,500 mile range. The small one was the Raven – with a 4-foot wingspan and a range of 6 miles.
Those drones gave commanders a limited view of the battlefield for short periods of time. They’re unarmed, but tactically useful when confronting nearby enemies.
The Gray Eagle, with sophisticated cameras and other intelligence sensors aboard, is strategic, Gallaway said.
“It gives us reconnaissance and security,” he said.
Training with the Gray Eagle at Fort Carson, though, is challenging.
The 135,000-acre post has limited room to use the drones, and it is difficult to simulate how they would be used in war without vast tracts of land. On Fort Carson, the drones look inward to the post’s training area and aren’t used to spy on the neighbors, Gallaway said. The drones, though armed in battle, don’t carry missiles in training.
The small training area denies operators experience that will prepare them for combat.
To overcome that, the post is asking the Federal Aeronautics Administration to create a corridor between Fort Carson and the 235,000-acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site east of Trinidad. That would give the drone’s operators experience with long-distance flights while keeping the drones safely separated from other aircraft with a dedicated flight path.
“We want to be able to operate out of Piñon Canyon,” Gallaway said. “We see it as fundamentally important to our readiness.”
The need for that kind of room to fly also speaks to the Gray Eagle’s game-changing battlefield role.
The drone can sneak behind the lines and gather intelligence on enemy movements, sharing the enemy’s precise location with computers mounted on American vehicles across the battlefield.
It can also be used to target enemy commanders, throwing their units into chaos with a precision strike.
“We see them as a combat multiplier,” Gallaway said.
The drones can also be used in new ways the Army is beginning to explore. Pilots aboard the aviation brigade’s AH-64E attack helicopters can view the drone feed in their cockpit and control the Gray Eagle in flight.
“Manned-unmanned teaming brings synergy to the battlefield where each platform, ground or air, uses its combat systems in the most efficient mode to supplement each team member’s capabilities in missions such as overwatch of troops in combat engagements, route reconnaissance, and convoy security,” Lt. Col. Fernando Guadalupe Jr. wrote in the Army’s Aviation Digest.
Translated: Using drones, the Army can overwhelm an enemy like the Martians in War of The Worlds.
Gallaway, an attack helicopter pilot, said he’s been watching the rise of drones in warfare for years.
It will change warfare. And America is in the lead.
While speaking to US Marines in San Diego on March 13, 2018, President Donald Trump suggested creating a branch of the military for space.
“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said at Miramar Air Station. “We may even have a Space Force.”
“You know, I was saying it the other day cause we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space,” Trump said. “I said ‘maybe we need a new force, we’ll call it the space force.’ And I was not really serious, and then I said ‘what a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.'”
“That could happen, that could be the big breaking story,” Trump said. “Look at all those people back there,” Trump said, pointing to the media in the background. “Look at them… Ohhhh, that fake news.”
While Trump appears to have wandered into the issue in his speech, the idea is not new.
The Congressional Strategic Forces Subcommittee even proposed creating such a branch in July 2017, which they called Space Corps. But the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that passed in November 2017 actually banned it.
Every Memorial Day we remember those veterans who have departed or paid the full measure. But how do they want to be remembered? I believe I know.
Assigning meaning to Memorial Day can be more difficult than Veteran’s Day. On Veteran’s Day, we can shake a hand (bump an elbow) and thank them for their service. Memorial Day, on the other hand, is much more introspective. Fresh flowers and flags on the rows are designed not only to honor, but to remind us of the awesome sacrifices that come with freedoms we enjoy. These concepts are noble, but to be honest, I usually found myself thinking much more locally. I often recall my great uncle who bore a tremendous sense of guilt over his younger brother’s ultimate sacrifice on “The Rock”, Corrigedor toward the end of World War II.
Like so many stories of that time, three brothers – my grandfather Frank and his two younger brothers Emanuel “Mindy” and Maurice “Morsie” all served in combat in the Army during WWII. At the start of the war in Europe, Frank was already an ROTC grad, and an officer with the Corps of Engineers. Mindy was back home in Ohio running the family hardware store. When the clouds of war began to gather and it became clear America’s involvement was inevitable, he convinced himself and his friends that the best thing to do was to enlist together and get into “parachute school” so they could all make a higher rate of pay than your basic GI. (PS: There was no question why Mindy was chosen to run the family business.) In this posse who made their way to the recruiter’s office that day (seven in all) was Mindy’s younger brother Morsie, then just barely 18, still in high school.
Of all those men that day, all but one washed out of jump school: Morsie. He took Mindy’s advice even further by training to become a combat medic and went to war an SP5. Having jumped his way into combat all the way down the South Pacific, on his fateful day (in fulfillment of MacArther’s promise), the planes faced tricky winds – they jumped too low, and many – including Morsie – did not survive the landing. His older brother Mindy never forgave himself. His only consolation was to admit so much every time he told us Morsie’s heroic story.
This year, for the first time, I figured out how Morsie wants to be remembered. On April 6, 2020, the most decorated officer of the 82d Airborne and Medal of Honor nominee Lt. Col. James “Maggie” Magellas died at age 103. I had the good fortune in 2014 to have interviewed him for an article I wrote in US Veteran’s Magazine that same year. Maggie had left such an impression on me that we stayed in touch over the years. Upon his passing, I went back to his interview and reflected on his brand of leadership philosophy. However, what caught my attention was the part of the interview where he discusses how veterans want to be remembered. Like a voice from beyond, Maggie was telling me first hand how he saw his legacy. It spoke directly to us all in 2021.
On this first Memorial Day since his passing, here is that transcript:
“What was it we were fighting against (in WWII)? It threatened those things that we hold dear: rule of law, anti-discrimination, respect for others. We were against violence … instead of hatred, we believed in tolerance. The enemy embodied all those things, and that’s what we fought.”
“When I was with the guys, I never knew whether they were Republicans or Democrats or where they came from. It made no difference; that was never a factor, ever or since. What held us together was the adversity we were facing together and looking out for each other.” Maggie said, pointing at me for emphasis.
“Respect the other guy.” He paused for effect. “We are not all the same; diversity is what makes us great … [the Allies] were against gangs and against violence and bullying,” Maggie said, voice animated.
Off record Maggie told me that he decided at some point to stop speaking and taking questions about his battlefield experiences and leadership decisions. He understood the interest in it but thought there was something far more important that he wanted to talk about. He was afraid that we were losing our respect for one another. When asked about the war his stock answer became “it’s all in my book.” (His book All the Way to Berlin is considered one of the best accounts of the American European campaign, and was source material for the film and series Band of Brothers.)
He then decided to go to schools and military bases and speak to youth about integrity and leadership. By 2014, when I interviewed him, he had done more than 250 speeches, ranging from high school students in Phoenix, Arizona, to active 82nd Airborne troops in Afghanistan. With a razor sharp mind at 97, he spoke like a philosophy professor to those who he believed are the true “legacy of every veteran”. Here is an excerpt from one of his speeches to high school students:
“You are in a beautiful school because someone paid the price. If you want to honor me, and you want to honor veterans, then you will bide your lives along those principles for which we fought … I’ve left a lot of buddies that I buried over there who lost their lives so you could come to this beautiful school … we fought to preserve our way of life.”
It’s as if Maggie is speaking to us all this Memorial Day 2021, as we emerge into a post-COVID world of separation, with so many things designed to bring out our worst nature, tribalism and partisanship. We must use this day for its purpose to let their sacrifice bring us together and refresh our resolve to care for each other, respect one another, one and all.
So on this Memorial Day, I have decided to remember my uncle Morsie – not by lamenting where he fell, but by celebrating where he rose. Taking his brother’s sage advice, he challenged and educated himself to excellence in all his actions in service to our way of life, and moreover in service to his brethren as a combat medic. I also thank Maggie for recalibrating how we should all be remembering our veterans, and the character we should bring as a country in their honor. Defense of our way of life does not refer to the maintenance of a prosperous economy, but truly a nation of citizens who strive to accept and respect everyone equally, and who can celebrate in its own diversity.
In closing, I send Maggie’s message to our students and their parents who struggled through a hard year, and need to hear his words more now than ever. Maggie said, “I always speak to students, because if [veterans] have a legacy to leave, it’s got to be with the students. If our service changes the life of one child, it was worth it.”
Yes, Maggie, it was worth it. Thank you and God Bless your soul.
Frank Connelly serves as producer for ‘Those Who Serve,’a feature-length documentary, that gives a compelling and personal look at three psychologically wounded American combat veterans who committed crimes and now struggle to find a just outcome in our nation’s courtrooms.
Two female officers will make history on Friday by becoming the first women to graduate from the traditionally all-male U.S. Army Ranger School, officials said.
The West Point graduates, who have not been identified, are in their final days of the grueling two-month leadership training program. Two separate sources told Military.com that they will receive the highly coveted Ranger tab on Friday.
The service later confirmed in a press release that two women and 94 men completed the 62-day course, which includes everything from PT and swim tests, to land navigation exercises and a 12-mile foot march, to obstsacle courses and parachute jumps, to mountaineering tests and mock patrols.
“Congratulations to all of our new Rangers,” Army Secretary John McHugh said in the release. “Each Ranger School graduate has shown the physical and mental toughness to successfully lead organizations at any level.”
He added, “This course has proven that every Soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential. We owe Soldiers the opportunity to serve successfully in any position where they are qualified and capable, and we continue to look for ways to select, train, and retain the best Soldiers to meet our Nation’s needs.”
The Army had already sent out invitations to more than 30 media outlets, including Military.com, to attend the ceremony. The female candidates and their male Ranger buddies plan to sit down for an interview the day before the event.
The two were among a trio of women who since April have been participating in the physically and mentally exhausting leadership course held in three phases at Fort Benning in Georgia and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The third woman is currently repeating the second or “mountain” phase of the program.
Fort Benning began its first co-ed Ranger course on April 20. Nineteen women and 380 men were pre-screened for the program. Eight women made it through the first week, called Ranger Assessment Phase, but didn’t pass the subsequent Benning Phase. They were “recycled,” or allowed to attempt the Benning Phase a second time, but failed. Five women were then dropped from the program and three were invited to start over from day one, along with five male candidates.
The Army said more than a third — or 34 percent — of students who enter Ranger School recycle at least one phase of the course, adding to the student’s physical and mental fatigue.
The integration of women at Ranger School is a key part of the Army’s effort to study how to open direct-action combat jobs such as infantry to women. Under a 2013 directive from then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the military services must open all combat jobs to women by next year or explain why any must stay closed.
While the female Army officers will be entitled to wear the Ranger tab, they still won’t be allowed to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment, the special operations forces unit, or receive the special skill identifier code added to the end of their military occupational specialty — unless existing rules and regulations are changed.
Christopher Roybal, one of the 59 people who died in the horrific shooting on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday night, posted a harrowing message on his Facebook account, months before his death.
The public Facebook post, dated July 18, began with the ominous question that many war-time veterans dread: “‘What’s it like being shot at?'”
“A question people ask because it’s something that less that 1% of our American population will ever experience,” Roybal’s post said. “Especially one on a daily basis. My response has always been the same, not one filled with a sense of pride or ego, but an answer filled with truth and genuine fear/anger.”
Based on photos, the 28-year-old US Navy veteran appeared to have served in Kandahar, Afghanistan, with the 25th Infantry Division, a US Army division that has seen heavy fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Roybal then goes on describing his first firefight and the lingering effects that appeared to resonate — long after his return home:
“Finishing up what was supposed to be a quick 4-hour foot patrol, I remember placing my hand on the [armored vehicle] and telling [“Bella”] how well she did. Hearing the most distinct sounds of a whip cracking and pinging of metal off of the vehicle I just had my hand resting on is something that most see in movies.
I remember that first day, not sure how to feel. It was never fear, to be honest, mass confusion. Sensory overload…followed by the most amount of natural adrenaline that could never be duplicated through a needle. I was excited, angry and manic. Ready to take on what became normal everyday life in the months to follow. Taking on the fight head on, grabbing the figurative “Bull by the horns”.
Unfortunately, as the fights continue and as they as increase in numbers and violence, that excitement fades and the anger is all that’s left. The anger stays, long after your friends have died, the lives you’ve taken are buried and your boots are placed neatly in a box in some storage unit. Still covered in the dirt you’ve refused to wash off for fear of forgetting the most raw emotions you as a human being will ever feel again.”
So far, his post has received nearly 900 likes.
“What’s it like to be shot at? It’s a nightmare no amount of drugs, no amount of therapy and no amount of drunk talks with your war veteran buddies will ever be able to escape,” Roybal’s post said. “Cheers boys.”
Roybal was at the country music festival celebrating his birthday with his mother, Debby Allen, when he was shot in the chest. The two were separated amid the chaos, according to KABC.
Although a fireman was present after Roybal was shot, he was unable to revive him due to the sustained rate of fire from the shooter, Allen said.
“He saw Christopher take his last breath,” Allen said.
“Today is the saddest day of my life,” Allen wrote in a Facebook post. “My son Christopher Roybal was murdered last night in Las Vegas. My heart is broken in a billion pieces.”