In the wake of a recent spate of terrorist attacks in London, the government of Prime Minister Theresa May has turned to the country’s elite Special Air Service counter-terrorist forces to blend into the city’s landscape in hopes of stopping another attack before it starts.
While they’re reportedly deploying alongside police units wearing special uniforms and carrying the latest commando gear, the SAS troopers are also said to be disguising themselves as homeless people and sleeping on city streets.
“The threat level is still assessed by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre as severe and that means an attack is highly likely so we must be ready,” a military source told the Daily Mail. “These soldiers provide a very good layer of immediate response at least to minimize casualties or stop injuries or deaths if they react quickly.”
Other SAS operators posing as civilians are offering handouts to the “homeless” commandos to keep them fed and supplied, the paper said.
Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom doesn’t have a Posse Comitatus Act that prohibits the deployment of military forces within the country at the direction of the government. While this might have some scratching their heads, it has many feeling much safer in the wake of recent terrorist attacks which have left scores wounded and killed.
In order to diminish the threat to UK residents and citizens, May has not-so-subtly authorized the British military to turn the SAS loose throughout the country in an effort to prevent further attacks and to hunt down would-be terrorists before they can carry out their dastardly plans.
Soon after initial reports on the May 22 bombing in the lobby of the Manchester Arena surfaced, Blue Eurocopter Dauphins belonging to the British Army Air Corps’ 658 Squadron appeared on rooftops of the city, offloading kitted-out SAS troops, armed to the teeth with assault rifles and sub-machine guns.
In the days since, news media across the UK have noted that these SAS warfighters have been assisting British police teams in assaulting the hideouts of terrorists around the country, sweeping for accomplices who may have been involved in the planning and execution of various terror attacks this year.
According to The Mirror, troops from the SAS’s G-Squadron and Counter Revolutionary Warfare Wing have also been posted in the UK’s largest cities, walking among the general public without anybody the wiser in the hopes of catching terrorists unawares while they attempt to attack unassuming civilians going about their daily lives. These fully operational troops have been trained to blend in, only stepping out with their weapons drawn if the need arises.
The Special Air Service was formed during the Second World War in Africa, an asymmetric warfare detachment of the British Army equipped with jeeps and machine guns to harass German military units when they least expected it. First led by eccentric officer and adventurer, Sir David Stirling, the SAS proved its worth and began operating in the European theater during the war.
In the Cold War, its mission evolved along with the threats the rest of the world faced, and counter-terrorism became a priority, remaining its top directive to this very day.
Recruits vying for a shot at joining the SAS and earning its coveted beige beret face an arduous journey ahead, involving grueling physical tests, sleep and meal deprivation, and a long-distance forced march across a mountain in Wales which has to be accomplished within a time limit. The attrition rates have consistently been incredibly high throughout the selection course’s history and, controversially, the course has even claimed the lives of a few of its attendees.
Upon being selected to the SAS, candidates are trained to be master marksmen, expert drivers, free-fall skydivers and more in a diverse array of climates and environments.
By the end of their training, these soldiers stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of the very best special operations forces in the world.
This is not the first time the SAS has seen action inside British borders. In early 1980, the unit was deployed to London to take down the Iranian embassy after terrorists seized control of the diplomatic house, taking a number of civilians hostage. After negotiations failed, SAS teams assaulted the embassy, killing all but one of the perpetrators while arresting the sole survivor. This event is recounted in vivid detail in the upcoming movie “6 Days.”
In the years since the Iranian embassy siege, the SAS has been sent to a number of combat zones throughout the world, operating from the Falklands in the early 1980s to the Middle East in the present day. In Iraq, members of the SAS served as part of a joint multinational hunter-killer unit known as Task Force Black/Knight, systematically rooting out and eliminating terrorists in-country. More recently, it has been rumored that the SAS is once again active in the Middle East, functioning alongside allied partners with the goal of destroying ISIS through both pinpoint attacks and brute force.
While British citizens can sleep well at night, now knowing that their nations’ finest walk incognito in their midst, potential terrorists will likely quiver with the knowledge that these elite operators stand ready in the shadows to visit violence upon those who would do their countrymen harm.
A U.S. Huey helicopter sprays Agent Orange over Vietnam. The U.S. military used at least 11 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam from 1961 to 1972. (Wikimedia Commons)
Proposed amendments to the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act would add three diseases to the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ list of illnesses presumed to be linked to Agent Orange — measures that, if approved, would provide health care and disability benefits to roughly 22,000 affected veterans.
The House and Senate amendments, proposed by Rep. Josh Harder, D-California, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, would add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism to the VA’s list of 14 conditions considered related to herbicide exposure during the Vietnam War.
In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine deemed the three named diseases to be associated with exposure to defoliants used during the war.
But the proposals do not include hypertension, a condition that the Academies also linked to Agent Orange in 2018. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is common among the elderly and, if included, could add more than 2 million veterans to VA disability rolls in the next 10 years, at an estimated cost of $11.2 billion to $15.2 billion, according to department estimates.
Thirty veteran and military groups have backed the proposals and asked congressional leaders to do the same.
On Tuesday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America and 27 other groups wrote House and Senate leaders urging them to get behind the provisions.
“We call on you to lead and pass House Amendment 264 into law and end the waiting for many of our nation’s ill veterans so they can receive disability benefits,” stated letters sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“There is more work to be done to care for those who are ill from toxic exposures, including adopting hypertension as a presumptive disease … but with your leadership, tens of thousands of Vietnam War veterans will receive their benefits and justice,” they wrote.
A decision on whether to add the three conditions has been delayed since 2017, when then-VA Secretary David Shulkin expressed support for including them but never formally announced his decision.
According to internal VA documents, Shulkin had been on the verge of including the three conditions when the Office of Management and Budget and other White House officials objected, citing what they called “limited scientific evidence” and cost.
Meanwhile, thousands of veterans have waited.
“Vietnam vets have been waiting for this for decades, and it’s a national shame that it’s not fixed yet,” Harder told Military.com. “We have a real chance here to make this right after all this time, and we should seize the opportunity.”
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told lawmakers late last year he wants the results of two studies — the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study, or VE-HEROES, and the Vietnam Era Mortality Study — to be reviewed for publication before announcing a decision on whether to broaden the presumptives list.
But lawmakers and advocacy groups have balked at the delay.
“This is something we are still fighting after how many decades from the Vietnam War?” asked Corey Titus, director of veterans benefits and Guard/reserve affairs at MOAA. “We should be making sure there aren’t any service members with illnesses who aren’t getting the care and benefits they earned.”
In February, Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, penned a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to “take corrective action” and add all four diseases to the list, including hypertension.
“Your administration has the ability to add these conditions to the presumptive list and provide lifesaving benefits to more than 190,000 veterans. Without your action, tens of thousands of sick and aging veterans will continue to go without VA resources and health care in their time of need,” he wrote.
The letter was signed by 77 members, all Democrats.
While hypertension is not included in the proposed amendment, the coalition of veterans and military organizations pledged to continue working on adopting it as a “presumptive disease as linked by the National Academies.”
“This needs to be covered as well. This is not something that we will forget — hypertension,” Titus said.
The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have both passed their versions of the fiscal 2021 defense bill and forwarded them to their respective chambers for consideration. Currently, committees are weighing the rules for amending and deliberating the bills before they move ahead for debate.
Both Harder and Tester’s proposals must make it through that process before coming up for a vote.
A legislative source said Tester’s amendment has been identified for a vote.
“With a bipartisan team of lawmakers and the support of the entire veterans community, we have a strong chance to finally get this done,” Harder said.
1. The combatants from Little Big Horn are still fighting.
The U.S. Army’s “Soldier’s Creed” calls for troops to never quit, never accept defeat. Apparently Maj. Gen. George Armstrong Custer and his men got the message 127 years before the Soldier’s Creed was written, because they’re still fighting the lost Battle of Little Bighorn.
2. A Revolutionary War general rides through Pennsylvania trying to find his missing bones.
We’ve previously discussed Maj. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne and the fact that he’s buried in at least two places. Wayne died while touring military defenses in Pennsylvania and was buried near Lake Eerie. When his son came to recover the body twelve years later, he found that Lake Eerie had preserved the body.
Since the younger Wayne only had room for his dad’s skeleton, he had the flesh boiled off and then moved the bones across the state in a cart. The story goes that he lost a few pieces along the way. “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s ghost still rides the trail, trying to recover the bones his son scattered like some kind of sick Johnny Appleseed.
3. An Air Force base’s security headquarters has a helpful ghost nurse.
Look, few people particularly love military police and security forces, but they provide a needed service. It’s sort of rude to put their headquarters in a haunted building, but that’s what happened at Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.
Building 34 used to be the base hospital, and supposedly a nurse still roams the halls and tries to do her job. No word on how many sleeping staff runners have been woken up with ectoplasm IVs, so we have to assume more than 20.
4. A group of fiery monks protect the Alamo.
After Santa Anna’s forces finally captured the Alamo, Mexican forces had to decide what to do with it. They decided to raze it to the ground in an effort led by Gen. Juan Jose Andrade. Andrade sent a colonel who attempted to complete the mission, but came running back, babbling about ghost monks.
Andrade went to destroy the chapel and remaining fortifications himself with a cannon and torches. When the general and his men arrived, they took aim at the chapel doors. Six monks with flaming swords walked out of the walls of the chapel. As they and other spirits began hurling fireballs at the Mexican soldiers, the general ordered a tactical retreat.
5. USS Hornet is the most haunted ship in the Navy fleet.
The USS Hornet saw extensive service in World War II and the Vietnam War, and so it’s no surprise that a couple of ghosts may have decided to make it home.
It has a reputation as an extremely haunted place though. Visitors to the museum regularly report seeing officers in their blue uniforms or a sailor wearing his dress whites. (No one knows why an eternal spirit would decide to spend his time looking like the Cracker Jack mascot.)
The following is an interview with Sgt. 1st Class Robert Ford, one of the soldiers entrusted with maintaining the tank capabilities at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5.
Look through the pictures to see how Ford and a team of contractors reattach a turret on an Abrams M1A2. Ford also recently passed the board for entry into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, and he talks about what he learned.
With nine years of service, Ford is on his third overseas deployment, having served in both Afghanistan and South Korea. (The interview was edited for clarity and length.)
Abrams M1A2 tanks stored at an Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 warehouse at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 10, 2019. APS-5 is a massive amount of ground force equipment positioned to provide strategic planners options to win in the US Central Command’s area of responsibility.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
What is the most important thing to know about maintaining the Abrams M1A2?
Ford: The most important thing to know about the maintenance of tanks is that they are very big and very expensive. Even the smallest components can cost a lot more than the average military vehicle, which means it’s that much more important to get the maintenance on them right.
For example, the operation we recently did to put a turret back on a tank had to be completed with extreme care and precision as not to damage the vehicle. The cost of error is one of those things you can’t help but to think about when planning maintenance on these.
Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, watches as contractors at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 work to lift a 30-ton turret at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
I noticed a huge team effort in putting the turret back on the tank. Is that a special event for people here?
Ford: We rarely pull turrets off or put them on, so every time it does happen it seems like it becomes a bit of a spectacle. That’s because we are lifting a 30-ton piece of equipment and moving it around with no room for error. It’s definitely something to see and experience.
It takes a lot of eyes to ensure that turret is coming out and going in straight. The turret is a machine fit — only just big enough to get into the hole of the tank. If anything is off to the left or right, there is a possibility of damaging equipment and that equipment is very expensive. In this case, the turret was level and fit well into its proper place.
Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, stands in front of an Abrams M1A2 tank at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Oct. 6, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
What is your role in a maintenance operation like this?
Ford: I fill the quality inspection role while [the contractors] are doing the majority of the work. As the contracting officer’s representative, I ensure the terms of the contract are fulfilled. I also verify and accept the completed work on behalf of the government.
As you can see there [in the third photo], the guy on the tank is in charge of the crane. I’m just there for safety reasons and then just to ensure it’s put together properly and safely. That’s all I’m looking for. But, if they need my advice as an expert on the vehicle, then I’ll interject when I feel it’s necessary. I try to stay back and let them do the job.
A contractor with Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 directs a crane operator to briefly stop lowering a 30-ton turret onto an Abrams M1A2 so others could check its alignment to the mount at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, September 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
I noticed you jumped in a few times to help give directions. Is that typical?
Ford: There were a couple instances where they were unsure on how to move forward on that operation and, you know, time is always of the essence. That’s when I stepped forward to provide another set of eyes. But this was their operation, and I was mostly just watching it come together.
Some of the contractors have more familiarity with older tank models because they used those when they served. Sometimes I have to help fill the knowledge gap they have to help things along. But they have familiarity with each other — using hand signals they worked out that I don’t know, and that’s important for working as a team.
Ernie Boyd, work center supervisor at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5, provides positioning guidance as a crew lowers a turret back on an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
Can you tell me a little about the team doing the work?
Ford: I think the team takes their role very seriously. Take Ernie Boyd for example. He is a retired Marine with 14 years of experience working on tanks. He is one of my go-to guys for tanks and for solving work center issues.
He definitely takes his work seriously — you can tell. He’s a supervisor for the work center, but during this turret operation, he was doing a lot more than supervising. He was extremely hands-on in ensuring that operation went according to plan.
Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, provides another set of eyes for a maintenance operation to place a turret back on an Abrams M1A2 tank at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
What is Army Prepositioned Stocks-5?
Ford: APS-5 is a massive set of equipment placed here to make rapidly deploying units faster. We give the warfighter the material capability they need to complete their missions.
Looking at the big picture, our job is to ensure APS-5 continues to provide viable strategic options to win.
All of our tanks are stored inside our warehouses ready for issue. They are configured for combat, meaning a unit can come in, hop in a tank, and drive it off the lot. They’re quick and ready to roll out for any mission.
This mission is important because there will come a day when a deploying unit will need this equipment, and if it’s not ready, then it could slow their mission down. It can be a life or death situation. Being able to provide the warfighter with the most ready equipment is our focus every day.
A maintenance crew at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 reattaches a 30-ton turret to an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
Tell me about the first time you saw Army Prepositioned Stocks-5.
Ford: I walked into one of our warehouses and saw an entire battalion worth of tanks. They were in lines all facing each other as far as I could see — 72-ton vehicles all the way down from wall to wall.
You don’t often get to see something like that. Usually tanks are scattered out in fragmented lines waiting for operations or maintenance.
When I first saw it, I definitely felt excited about our mission and my part in it because I am the only tank [quality assurance] soldier here. All those tanks sitting there embodied my reason for being in Kuwait.
Contractors with Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 watch closely as a crane lowers a 30-ton turret back onto an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019. The turret is machine-fit to the tank, and must be placed carefully to avoid costly damage.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
What do you think of DFAC food?
Ford: Um, keeps me alive. I haven’t died or anything yet (laughter). Dry chicken and rice are great — just be sure you have plenty of water so you can swallow the chicken.
Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in lots maintained by the 401st Field Support Brigade at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 22, 2016.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
I know you will soon be inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. Why did you decide to go to the board and what did you learn?
Ford: Sergeant Audie Murphy Club provides continuous opportunities to serve throughout a career and beyond. The club’s mission is to develop and build professional noncommissioned officers and to provide community service to every Army community. So every duty station I go to from here forward, I get to go out to do good things for people while representing the Army and the NCO corps.
I learned it’s a big challenge, and with big challenges like that you don’t succeed on your own. I had to seek out a lot of mentorship and leadership scenarios from my leaders and all the way up through brigade. I had to expose my flaws and weaknesses; that way, they could help me correct those weaknesses. It’s just not enough to go in having read a book. You have to have real-life application of regulations and policies.
Trucks bring in APS-5 equipment from Camp Buehring back to Camp Arifjan during the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team turn-in, Feb. 5, 2019.
(US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Veronica McNabb)
Of the Army values, which stand out most to you?
Ford: I think loyalty is a big one for me. Your loyalty is always being tested. You have to constantly be loyal to your seniors, your peers, your subordinates, your unit, the Army, and the nation. You have to buy into that mission to really give it all that you have – you can’t waver on that.
Respect is another huge value for me. Without respect, you can’t have trust. Without trust, you can’t be a leader and you can’t be led. That’s our primary job, and you can’t be a good leader without first being a good follower.
Soldiers assigned to the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team prepare to move 22 M1A2 Abrams Tanks from an Army Prepositioned Stock-5 warehouse to a remote staging lot during a large-scale equipment issue at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, June 29, 2019.
(US Army photo by Justin Graff)
What advice would you give to young soldiers?
Ford: Don’t be afraid to fail, just put yourself out there. You never really know how much support you have until you are out there asking for support, so put yourself out there and allow people to help you.
We have a lot of good leaders in the military. They see you taking initiative and they see your desire to better yourself, they’re going to pick you up and provide you with what you need.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Naval Institute completed a poll of its readers to determine the best warships of all time. The Naval Institute urged readers to consider vessels from ancient times to now, and with more than 2,600 votes and almost 900 written responses, they’ve developed a diverse list spanning hundreds of years.
In some cases, readers wrote in recommending whole classes of ships, like aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines, but the list below will only reflect the five specific ships that made the grade.
5. USS Nautilus
Congress authorized the construction of the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine in 1951, and in 1954 first lady Mamie Eisenhower christened it.
The Nautilus changed the game when it came to naval warfare, and it ushered in an entirely new era for submarines. This nearly silent sub could hide among the ocean floor undetected, while offering up substantial contributions to surface warfare with cruise, or even nuclear, missiles.
The nuclear sub would go on to form one-third of the US’s nuclear triad.
4. HMS Dreadnought
The HMS Dreadnought ushered in a new era of “all big-gun ships.” Unlike battleships before it, the Dreadnought only had 12-inch cannons aided by electronic range-finding equipment. For defensive, the ship was completely encased in steel.
The Dreadnought presented a suite of technologies so cutting edge that it is often said that it rendered all battleships before it obsolete.
Though the Dreadnought did not have a distinguished service record, it did become the only surface battleship to sink a submarine. It is remembered largely for shifting the paradigm of naval warfare, as opposed to its victories in battle.
3. USS Enterprise
Unlike the Dreadnought, the historians remember the USS Enterprise for its outstanding record in combat.
As the sixth aircraft carrier to join the US Navy in 1936, the Enterprise was one of the first craft to respond after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it survived major battles in Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, and the “Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo during World War II.
Korean Turtle Ships served with the Korean navy for centuries, first coming into play in the Seven Years’ War (1592-1598) between Korea and Japan.
The idea behind the Turtle Ship was to provide an impenetrable floating fortress optimized for boarding enemy craft. The side of the ship is dotted with holes from which the crew can fire cannons and other artillery, while the top of the ship is covered in iron spikes, making it especially dangerous for enemy sailors to board the vessel.
With up to 80 rowers pulling along the heavy craft, the Turtle Ships were brutal but effective.
1. USS Constitution
The USS Constitution, or “Old Ironsides,” as it is affectionately known, first hit the seas as one of the first six frigates in the newly formed US Navy of 1797.
The Constitution had both 30 24-pound cannons and also speed. Not only was it technologically sound for its time, but it was also simply unparalleled and undefeated in battle.
Famously, in 1812, the Constitution fought against the HMS Guerriere, whose guns could not pierce the heavily armored sides of the Constitution.
We Are The Mighty recently had the opportunity to sit down with the principals behind “13 Hours” and chat with them about the film, including their sense of how accurate it is. And while the past three years have been full of rumor and innuendo around what happened that fateful night in 2012 in Benghazi, the CIA security contractors who rescued the the Americans and defended the annex want the world to know what’s in the movie “13 Hours” is what really happened on the ground.
Director Michael Bay has always been more than a vocal supporter of the military. No matter what his detractors might say, on his film sets, he always makes a concerted effort to get the reality of modern-day U.S. military personnel right. He believes this might be his most realistic movie ever.
The film stars John Krasinski as Jack Silva, a CIA contractor and former Navy SEAL who joins a security team already based in Benghazi.
Other members of the team include James Badge Dale (“Rone”), Pablo Schreiber (“Tanto”), David Denman (“Boon”), Max Martini (“Oz”), and Dominic Fumusa (“Tig”). To a man, each one told We Are The Mighty how important the realism of the movie was to their performance.
Dale, who has portrayed military personnel before in HBO’s World War II epic miniseries The Pacific, found his preparation for this film different than anything he’s done before. (This time he’s also portraying a former Navy SEAL.)
Pablo Schreiber and David Denman play a Marine veteran and Army Ranger veteran who assist with the rescue. Their experiences getting to know the real operators they play onscreen gave them a deep appreciation of the men and what happened there.
Max Martini and Dominic Fumusa trained with former Navy SEALs and contractors throughout the filming of the movie. The real defenders of Benghazi watched them as they brought the events of that day back to life.
The US military is unquestionably the world’s strongest force with the world’s largest defense budget.
But throughout the 2000s, the Pentagon spent $51.2 billion on 15 major programs “without any fielded systems to show for it,” according to a new Center for Strategic and International Studies report.
The abandoned projects are largely due to a lack of funding attributed to the Budget Control Act and sequestration.
Sequestration, which is indiscriminate budget cuts across the board that affect every portion of the military equally, is the greatest threat to the US military currently, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Business Insider.
Below are a series of the military’s modernization projects that were canceled partially due to a lack of funds.
Future Combat Systems
A prototype of the Non-Line-of-Sight-Cannon, a component of the Future Combat Systems.
Sunk Costs: $18.1 billion
Follow-On: The project was ultimately superseded by the Ground Combat Vehicle Program. This program was also ultimately canceled.
In its journey to improve the lives of veterans through health care research and innovation, VA recently reached a major milestone with enrollment of its 750,000th veteran partner in the Million Veteran Program (MVP) — a national, voluntary research initiative that helps VA study how genes affect the health of veterans.
The milestone, which was reached April 18, 2019, is the result of years of outreach, recruitment and enrollment efforts to help to bring precision medicine to the forefront of VA health care.
“While having 750,000 Veteran partners is a momentous achievement, there is still much work to be done,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “MVP is on track to continue the march to 1 million veteran partners and beyond in the next few years.”
From its first enrollees in 2011, the program has successfully expanded into one of the largest, most robust research cohorts of its kind in the world. MVP was designed to help researchers understand how genes affect health and illness. Having a better knowledge of a person’s genetic makeup may help to prevent illness and improve treatment of disease.
The enrollment milestone is significant because as more participants enroll, researchers have a more representative sample of the entire veteran population to help improve health care for everyone. Enrollees in the program include veterans from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. MVP also has the largest representation of minorities of any genomic cohort in the U.S.
Research using MVP data is already underway with several studies, including efforts focused on understanding the genetics of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), diabetes, heart disease, suicide prevention and other topics. Several significant research findings have already been published in high-impact scientific journals. The knowledge gained from research can eventually lead to better treatments and preventive measures for many common illnesses, especially those common among combat veterans, such as PTSD.
MVP will continue to grow its informatics infrastructure and expand its partner base, to include veterans beyond those enrolled in VA care. VA is also working on a collaboration with the Department of Defense (DoD) to make MVP enrollment available to DoD beneficiaries, including active-duty service members.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
A video story produced by VA focusing on a veteran boxing training program at Gleason’s Gym – America’s oldest active boxing gym – received an Emmy Award at a ceremony June 22, 2019, in Bethesda, Maryland.
The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized the segment produced for VA’s “The American Veteran” video series, and honored the series with its second Emmy since the show was relaunched in 2017 after a three-year hiatus.
The recognition was announced at the 61st annual regional Emmy Awards ceremony and was presented in the Health/Science – Program Feature/Segment category. The segment, titled “The American Veteran: Veteran Boxing Training,” was produced, shot and edited by VA’s digital team, which is part of the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA).
The production team included lead producer/photographer/editor Ben Pekkanen, co-producer Timothy Lawson, executive producer Lyndon Johnson, and VA NY Harbor Healthcare System Adaptive Sports Program’s developer, Jonathan Glasberg.
Historic New York boxing gym opens its doors to Veterans
Located on the banks of the East River in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood of Brooklyn, Gleason’s Gym is owned and operated by Vietnam veteran Bruce Silverglade. Silverglade, who has owned the gym since 1983, had long been interested in creating a training program for veterans, but wasn’t sure he could do it on his own. “I got a call from the VA hospital in Manhattan, from a fella by the name of Jonathan,” said Silverglade. “He came over to talk to me about a program they had.”
In the following weeks, Silverglade and VA’s New York Harbor Healthcare System’s clinical coordinator for prosthetics, Dr. Jonathan Glasberg, developed the framework for the veterans in the Ring boxing training program offered at Gleason’s Gym.
The video is one part of VA’s ongoing effort to engage and reach out to the veteran community directly. The VA digital portfolio includes: more than 150 Facebook pages, most of which belong to individual VA medical centers; the VAntage Point blog; nearly 100 Twitter feeds; Instagram; a Flickr photo library; and a YouTube channel. The department also distributes the “Borne the Battle” podcast.
“The American Veteran” was produced by VA for more than a decade before going on hiatus in 2014. During its active season, the show garnered numerous Telly, CINE and Aurora awards, as well as multiple Emmy awards and nominations.
According to its website, the National Academy of Television Arts Sciences (NATAS) is dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. NATAS recognizes excellence in television with the coveted Emmy Award; regional Emmys are given in 19 markets across the United States.
The media’s craze surrounding possible Russian interference with the US election through hacking isn’t going away anytime soon. Though the hype is primarily political, it’s important to separate fact from fantasy.
Tangibly, the overarching processes that corporations and nation-states use to gain advantage over a competitor or adversary are quite common. It’s important to evaluate how these attacks are used in the world today. The two main vectors used to attempt to exploit our election were Spear-Phishing and Spoofing.
Spear-phishing targets select groups of people that share common traits. In the event of the Russian hack, the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, and affiliated non-governmental organizations (companies, organizations, or individuals loyal to Russia), sent phishing emails to members of local US governments, and the companies that developed the voting-registration systems.
Their intent was to establish a foothold on a victim’s computer, so as to perpetrate further exploitation. The end-result of that exploitation could allow manipulation and exfiltration of records, the establishment of a permanent connection to the computer, or to pivot to other internal systems.
Spoofing is an act in which one person or program successfully masquerades as another by falsifying data, thus gaining an illicit benefit. Most people understand spoofing in terms of email, whereby an attacker spoofs, or mimics, a legitimate email in order to solicit information, or deploy an exploit.
As it relates to the Russian situation, spoofing a computer’s internet protocol (IP) address, system name, and more, could have allowed a successful spear-phisher to bypass defenses and pivot to other internal systems. This kind of act is so trivial, some techniques are taught in basic hacking courses.
Ignore the Hype
What we know from reporting, as backed by unauthorized disclosures, is that defense mechanisms appear to have caught each of the spear-phishing and spoof attempts. Simply put, there is no information to suggest Russia had success.
For political reasons, politicians have worked hard to make this a major talking-point. However, these same politicos cannot speak in absolutes, because there simply wasn’t a successful breach—let alone one able to compromise the integrity of our national election.
One piece of information to note: these attacks are some of the most common seen in the cyber world. There is nothing revolutionary about these vectors, or how they are employed against government, commercial, and financial targets. This isn’t to suggest it is a moral or acceptable practice, rather the reality of life in the Information Age.
I would be remiss if I didn’t make a note about the way Hollywood (and media in general) portrays hacking in a way that is mystical and comical. The portrayals only serve to conflate an issue that is easily managed with thoughtful consideration and implementation of best-practices.
Another week in isolation, another week of memes. We’re grateful for the people of the internet who are using their creative energy to make us laugh. From Tiger King to overindulging on our quarantine snacks, these are our 50 favorite memes for the week.
1. Shelf sustainable and so delicious
Plus, so, so cheap.
2. We miss sports
To be fair, I think that’s a little more than six feet. Go Chiefs!
3. You’re open?
I’ve probably done this.
4. Higher power + slushies
While this wasn’t original to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been retweeted lately since it’s so appropriate now.
5. The Cure
Hahahaha. Sorry, not sorry.
6. Ok, actually sorry
2020: Hold my beer.
7. Need some new hobbies
Bonus points if you like to touch your face in restaurants.
8. Poor Ernie
I wonder if he and Bert are social distancing?
Live footage of me at Costco.
10. Beauty and the Beast
Excited to be singing this for the next three months.
11. Love in the time of COVID-19
The honeymoon is definitely over.
12. Dolly has the truth
Also 11:00pm – 2:00am.
13. No expert needed
These are a relic!
14. Groundhog Day
Hard to see your shadow if you’re not allowed outside…
15. SMWP&L ISO SWTP
Polish up on your conversation skills since ya’ll aren’t going to meet in person for awhile.
16. Mr. Rogers
Also, carry the one.
17. Baby Yoda knows
Seriously, why hasn’t soap always been anecessity?
18. World’s Best Boss
The Michael Scott cringe is real.
19. Rainy days
At this point, my kids would prefer a paper bag.
20. Get it, Sheryl
Like a good neighbor, a She Shed is there.
21. Lenten sacrifice
Friends, family, parks, dining in public, the list goes on…
22. The force be with you
You’re on mute, Luke!
23. April Fools
Spoiler alert: It didn’t happen.
24. Refund requested
Unsubscribe us from this year, please.
25. Spider pun
You know you’re going to repeat this one.
Oh how the little things seem so big now!
27. The windows to the walls
Raise the roof, my friends.
28. When you’re digging deep in the freezer
Quarantine doesn’t necessarily bring out the best in us. And kids are learning allll sorts of new vocab words.
29. The Last Supper
Holy Week is definitely a little different this year…
But if there’s a taco eat-a-long, I’m in.
31. Brady Bunch
Pretty much every zoom classroom meeting.
32. Oh Dwight
Stanley knows what’s up.
33. The days
^^^ All the times I haven’t worn real pants.
34. It all runs together
Fridays have never been so obsolete.
Baths are the new big event.
36. Carol for the win
You cool cats and kittens.
37. Arts and crafts for the win
It’s a big stress relief.
She’s definitely aging better than most of us.
39. The hand off
Not pictured: the wine glass handing the baton to the bourbon.
40. Life skills
Make sure your selfie shows some sort of self-preservation ability.
41. Joe Exotic
Or RC Cola.
42. Mattress games
Also excellent for sledding down stairs.
43. Homeschool geometry
10 in 10 chance there are at least 14 Tupperware without lids or 14 extra lids. Either way, 0% likelihood it’s a one to one ratio.
44. Roll Tide
45. The quarantine 15 (or 60)
But there are just so many snacks.
46. Bobby Boucher
This education brought to you by day drinking.
47. Dexter approved
And going into a bank with a bandana over your face is expected…
48. Apocalypse wear
49. Nemo knows
We’ve come so far… but seriously, now what?
50. Every remote employee
And yet we’ll keep doing it every day…
Stay safe, keep your sense of humor and wash your hands!
The Pentagon is making a massive push to accelerate the application of artificial intelligence to ships, tanks, aircraft, drones, weapons, and large networks as part of a sweeping strategy to more quickly harness and integrate the latest innovations.
Many forms of AI are already well-underway with US military combat systems, yet new technologies and applications are emerging so quickly that Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has directed the immediate creation of a new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.
“The Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the DoD Chief Information Officer to standup the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center in order to enable teams across DoD to swiftly deliver new AI-enabled capabilities and effectively experiment with new operating concepts in support of DoD’s military missions and business functions.” DoD spokeswoman Heather Babb told Warrior Maven.
Pentagon officials intend for the new effort to connect otherwise disparate AI developments across the services. The key concept, naturally, is to capitalize upon the newest and most efficient kinds of autonomy, automation, and specific ways in which AI can develop for the long term — yet also have an immediate impact upon current military operations.
AI performs a wide range of functions not purely restricted to conventional notions of IT or cyberspace; computer algorithms are increasingly able to almost instantaneously access vast pools of data, compare and organize information and perform automated procedural and analytical functions for human decision-makers in a role of command and control. While AI can of course massively expedite data consolidation, cloud migration and various kinds much-needed cybersecurity functions, it is increasingly being applied more broadly across weapons systems, large platforms and combat networks as well.
Rapid data-base access, organizing information and performing high-volume procedural functions are all decided advantages of AI applications. Algorithms, for example, are increasingly able to scan, view and organize ISR input such as images or video – to identify points of combat relevance of potential interest to a commander.
AI enabled technology can perform these kinds of procedural functions exponentially faster than humans can, massively shortening the crucial decision-making timeframe for combat decision makers. At the same time, many experts, developers, and military leaders recognize that the certain problem-solving faculties and subjective determinations unique to human cognition – are still indispensable to decision making in war.
For this reason, advanced AI relies upon what developers refer to as “human-machine” interface or “easing the cognitive burden” wherein humans function in a command and control capacity while computer automation rapidly performs a range of key procedural functions.
AI & IT
This AI-driven phenomenon is of particular relevance when it comes to data systems, IT as a whole and advances in cybersecurity. For instance, Air Force developers are using advanced computer automation to replicate human behavior online – for the specific purpose of luring and tracking potential intruders. Also, AI can be used to perform real-time analytics on incoming traffic potentially containing malware, viruses or any kind of attempted intrusion. If the source, characteristics or discernable pattern of an attempted intrusion are identified quickly, cyber defenders are better positioned to respond.
When high-volume, redundant tasks are performed through computer automation, humans are freed up to expend energy pursuing a wider range of interpretive or conceptual work.
For example, the Army is working with a private firm called NCI to establish a certification of worthiness for a specific AI-enabled program designed to streamline a number of key tasks.
The NCI-developed program enables account creation, account deletion, background checks and other kind of high-volume data analysis.
“You can log into 10 different websites simultaneously, rather than having a person do that. A machine can go through and gather all the information for a person,” Brad Mascho Chief AI Officer, NCI, told Warrior Maven in an interview. “Humans can focus on higher priority threats.”
At the same time, big data analytics can quickly present new challenges for a variety of key reasons; a larger data flow can make it difficult for servers to “flex” as needed to accommodate rapid jumps in data coming through. Therefore, AI-empowered algorithms such as those engineered by NCI are needed to organize incoming data and identify anomalies or potential intrusions.
There is also a growing need for more real-time monitoring of activity on a message “bus,” because standard analytics methods based on probability and statistical probability often detect intrusions after the fact and are not always reliable or 100-percent accurate, cybersecurity experts and analysts explain.
AI & cyber defense
Algorithms calling upon advanced AI are being used to quickly access vast pools of data to perform real-time analytics designed to detect patterns and anomalies associated with malware.
“Every day, the Defense Department thwarts an estimated 36 million e-mails containing malware, viruses and phishing schemes from hackers, terrorists and foreign adversaries trying to gain unauthorized access to military systems,” Babb told Warrior Maven earlier this year.
Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.
One particular technique, now being developed by CISCO systems, seeks to address a particular irony or cybersecurity paradox; namely, while much DoD network traffic is encrypted for additional safety, encryption can also make it more difficult for cyber defenders to see hidden malware in the traffic.
CISCO is now prototyping new detection methods as part of an effort to introduce their technology to the US military services.
“We have the ability to read and detect malware in encrypted web traffic. Even though the data is encrypted there is still a pattern to malware,” Kelly Jones, Systems Engineer for CISCO Navy programs, told Warrior Maven.
AI & large combat platforms, tanks & fighter jets
Real-time analytics, informed by AI, has already had much success with both Army and Air Force Conditioned-Based Maintenance initiatives. The Army used IBMs Watson computer to perform real-time analytics on sensor information from Stryker vehicles and tactical trucks.
Drawing upon seemingly limitless databases of historical data, Watson was able to analyze information related to potential engine failures and other key vehicular systems. Properly identifying when a given combat-vehicle system might malfunction or need repairs helps both combat and logistical operations. Furthermore, the Army-IBM Stryker “proof of principle” exercise was able to wirelessly transmit sensor data, enabling AI to compare new information gathered against a historical database in seconds.
The Army is also working with IBM to test AI-enabled “autonomy kits” on tactical trucks designed to enable much greater degrees of autonomous navigation.
Advanced computer algorithms, enhanced in some instances through machine learning, enable systems such as Watson to instantly draw upon vast volumes of historical data as a way to expedite analysis of key mechanical indicators. Real-time analytics, drawing upon documented pools of established data through computer automation, can integrate otherwise disconnected sensors and other on-board vehicle systems.
“We identified some of the challenges in how you harmonize sensor data that is delivered from different solutions. Kevin Aven, partner and co-account lead, Army and Marine Corps, IBM Global Business Services, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.
Watson, for example, can take unstructured information from maintenance manuals, reports, safety materials, vehicle history information and other vehicle technologies – and use AI to analyze data and draw informed conclusions of great significance to military operators, Aven explained.
When created, IBM stated that, “more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses,” according to IBM Systems and Technology.
Working with a firm called C3IoT, the Air Force is doing something similar with F-16s. On board avionics and other technologies are monitored and analyzed using AI-enabled computers to discern when repairs or replacement parts are needed.
Applications of AI are also credited with enabling the F-35s “sensor fusion” technology which uses computer algorithms to autonomously gather and organize a wide-range of sensor data for the pilot.
U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
It goes without saying that targeting data is of critical importance when it comes to mechanized ground warfare. With this in mind, Army combat vehicle developers are prototyping AI-enabled sensors intended to combine sensor information essential to identifying targets. If long-range EO/IR or thermal imaging sensors are able to both collect and organize combat data, vehicle crews can attack enemy targets much more quickly.
Some near-term applications, senior officials with the Army Research Laboratory say, include increased air and ground drone autonomy. It is an example of an area where AI is already having a large impact and is anticipated to figure prominently over the long-term as well.
“We know there is going to be unmanned systems for the future, and we want to look at unmanned systems and working with teams of manned systems. This involves AI-enabled machine learning in high priority areas we know are going to be long term as well as near term applications,” Karl Kappra, Chief of the Office of Strategy Management for the Army Research Lab, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview. “We also know we are going to be operating in complex environments, including electromagnetic and cyber areas.”
For instance, Kappra explained that sensor-equipped micro-autonomous drones could be programed with advanced algorithms to send back combat-relevant images or provide attacking forces with key interior dimensions to a target location.
“We are looking at micro-electrical mechanical systems and image-based systems to fly through a building autonomously and show you where walls and threats are inside the buildings,” Kappra said.
Also, Army combat vehicle developers consistently emphasize manned-unmanned teaming with “wing man” drone robots operating in tandem with manned vehicles to carry ammunition, test enemy defenses, identify targets and potentially fire weapons. Some senior Army weapons and technology developers have said that most future combat vehicles will be engineered with some level of autonomous ability or manned-unmanned teaming technology.
Increased computer automation also performs a large function on the Navy’s emerging Ford-Class aircraft carriers. The new carriers use advanced algorithms to perform diagnostics and other on-board maintenance and procedural tasks independently. This, Navy developers say, allows the service to reduce its crew size by as many as 900 sailors per carrier and save up to billion dollars over the life of a ship.
Warfare, ethics & AI
Interestingly, debates about the future of AI, especially when it comes to autonomy, continues to spark significant controversy. Current Pentagon doctrine specifies that there must always be a “human-in-the-loop” when it comes to making decisions about the use of lethal force. However, the technology enabling an autonomous system to track, acquire and destroy a target by itself without needing human intervention – is already here.
In a previous interview with Warrior Maven, an Air Force scientist made the point that the current doctrine is of course related to offensive strikes of any kind, however there may be some instances where weapons are used autonomously in a purely defensive fashion. For instance, AI-enabled interceptors could be programmed to knock out incoming enemy missile attacks – without themselves destroying anything other than an approaching enemy weapon. In this instance, AI could serve an enormously valuable defensive function by performing intercepts exponentially faster than having a human decision maker involved.
Naturally, this kind of technology raises ethical questions, and some have made the point that even though the US military may intend to maintain a certain ethical stance – there is of course substantial concern that potential adversaries will not do the same.
Also, while often heralded as the “future” of warfare and technology, AI does have some limitations. For example, problems presented in combat, less-discernable nuances informing certain decisions, determining causation and the analysis of a range of different interwoven variables – are arguably things best performed by the human mind.
Many things in warfare, naturally, are often a complex byproduct of a range of more subjectively determined factors – impacted by concepts, personalities, individual psychology, historical nuances and larger sociological phenomena. This naturally raises the question as to how much even the most advanced computer programs could account for these and other somewhat less “tangible” factors.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.