The US military's 2017 New Years Resolutions - We Are The Mighty
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The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions

We all have a few things we need to work on. The U.S. military is no different. A new year is a new beginning, especially with a new Commander-in-Chief in control. It’s time to finally get around to doing all those things we said we were gonna do.


If sequestration is the household equivalent of cleaning out the garage, those old paint cans aren’t gonna move themselves. Here are some more of the military’s 2017 New Years resolutions.

1. Get in shape.

Ah fitness…the eternal struggle…as many of us veterans (whose old uniforms don’t fit as well as they used to) know.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
(20th Century Fox)

In 2016, an Associated Press piece asked if U.S. troops were “too fat to fight,” thanks to a study by the Army research center. The VA is addressing the issue with a standardized weight management program going into place at VA centers across America.

The Army is instituting a Combat Arms fitness test, as well as a fitness test for those changing their MOS. The Marines can now retake PFTs as much as they want while the Air Force re-measured their running tracks.

The bottom line is the military asks a lot of its troops, and physical fitness is a huge factor in readiness. Time to get get them gains..

2. Get our financial situation together.

There’s a new sheriff in town. And he’s not paying for a new Air Force One.

First Boeing, then Lockheed received the brunt of the Donald’s ire. Someone apparently told him about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s price tag, because that was his next defense contractor target on Twitter.

The military is going to have to play with the toys they have or hope the military-industrial complex bows to the incoming President’s demands.

3. Work on our relationships.

Let’s be honest. In the last few years, we have not been as good to our allies as we could have.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
She’s not celebrating her shoulder rub.

Nor have we been all that upfront with our competition.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Watch the world’s two most powerful men chat like they’re waiting for the bus. (Kremlin photo)

We can do better. We just have to be ourselves — the shining example to the rest of the world that we know we can be. That doesn’t mean we have to wear our heart on our sleeve. We’re the United States. Our military wears their heart on our sleeve.

From the very top of the chain of command to the very bottom, we need to be more upfront and less touchy-feely.

4. Finally finish our education.

We have one more history class before we can finally finish up that degree. Now…time to learn about this “graveyard of empires” we heard so much about…

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
A 120 mm mortar round flies out of the tube as U.S. Army soldiers take cover at Observation Post Mustang in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province on Jan. 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo)

It doesn’t need to be a literal graveyard, after all.

5. Spend more time with family.

Because together everyone achieves more!

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Members of 3rd Platoon, Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, work at dislodging their M-777 155mm howitzer from the three-foot deep hole it dug its spades into after firing several rocket-assisted projectiles. The huge weapon weighs 9,000 pounds and can launch projectiles over 30 kilometers. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)

Heavy deployment tempos, long tours, short tours, or just intense work schedules (especially at a less-than-ideal assignment) places a heavy burden on service members and their loved ones. Let’s focus on that in 2017 and keep in touch, even if it’s just via Skype.

Also, there are just some things your military buddies will do that your civilian BFFs won’t. It’s important to maintain those relationships.

6. Drink less.

Let’s be honest, unless we’re talking about Rip-Its, cutting down on booze is probably the first resolution out the window, but after alcohol related events (like that time Japan imposed prohibition on all U.S. sailors), it might be time to consider looking at our drinking habits.

Then again, Rip-Its are the unofficial fuel of the U.S. military, so that’s probably out too.

 

Long live Rip-Its.

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Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

Despite North Korea’s claim its intercontinental ballistic missile launch shows it can attack targets anywhere it wants, experts say it will probably be years before it could use such a weapon in a real-world scenario.


The July 4 test demonstrated the North is closer than ever before to reaching its final goal of developing a credible nuclear deterrent to what it sees as the hostile policy of its archenemies in Washington.

But even for an experienced superpower, getting an ICBM to work reliably can take a decade.

Launching a missile under test conditions is relatively easy. It can be planned and prepared for and carried out whenever everything is ready, which makes success more likely. The real game-changer would come when the missile is considered operational under any conditions — in other words, when it is credible for use as a weapon.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Image from Wikimedia Commons

For sure, the North’s Fourth of July fireworks were a major success.

Initial analyses indicate its new “Hwasong 14” could be capable of reaching most of Alaska or possibly Hawaii if fired in an attacking trajectory. It was instead shot at a very steep angle, a technique called lofting, and reached a height of more than 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean 930 kilometers (580 miles) away.

Hwasong means “Mars.”

“If a vague threat is enough for them, they could wait for another successful launch and declare operational deployment after that, and half the world will believe them,” said Markus Schiller, a leading expert on North Korea’s missile capabilities who is based in Germany. “But if they take it seriously, as the US or Russia do, it would take at least a dozen more launches and perhaps 10 years. Mind you, this is their first ICBM.”

Schiller noted the example of Russia’s latest submarine-launched missile, the Bulava.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
One of Russia’s SLBM-capable submarines, K-535 Yuriy Dolgorukiy. Photo by Schekinov Alexey Victorovich.

“They really have a lot experience in that field, but from first launch to service it took them almost 10 years (2004 to 2013),” he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “They still have troubles — one of their test launches just failed.”

The bar for having an operational ICBM is also higher for the North if the United States is its target.

An ICBM is usually defined as a land-based ballistic missile with a range in excess of 5,500 kilometers (3,420 miles). That comes from US-Soviet disarmament talks and in that context makes good sense. The distance between Moscow and New York is about 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles).

But Narushige Michishita, a defense expert and professor at Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, pointed out that although the range required for North Korea to hit Alaska would be 5,700 kilometers (3,550 miles) and Hawaii 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles), reaching the other 48 states requires ranges of 8,000-12,000 kilometers (5,000-7,500 miles).

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Screenshot from Google Maps

“In the US-DPRK context, the 5,500 kilometer-range ICBM means nothing,” he said. “We must take a look at the range, not the title or name.”

Pyongyang made a point of trying to dispel two big questions about its missiles with the test: re-entry and accuracy.

It claims to have successfully addressed the problem of keeping a nuclear warhead intact during the descent to a target with a viable heatshield, which would mark a major step forward. The Hwasong 14 isn’t believed to be accurate enough to attack small targets despite Pyongyang’s claims otherwise, but that isn’t a major concern if it is intended to be a threat to large population areas, such as cities on the US West Coast.

The reliability problem, however, remains.

“These missiles are very complex machines, and if they’re launched again tomorrow it might blow up on the pad,” said David Wright, co-director and senior scientist at the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “You don’t want to do that with a nuclear warhead on top.”

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions

Wright said he believes Kim Jong Un decided to start a number of different development programs for different missile systems a couple of years ago and that the frequency of launches over the past 18 months suggests those programs have moved forward enough to reach the testing stages.

“I have been surprised by how quickly they have been advancing,” he said.

Wright said the North is believed by most analysts to have a nuclear device small and rugged enough to be put on a long-range missile, or to be very close to having one.

But he said it remains to be seen if its latest missile can be further modified to get the range it needs to threaten the contiguous US, or whether that would require a new system with a scaled-up missile and more powerful engine.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launch. USAF photo by Senior Airman Lael Huss.

“I suspect the latter, but don’t know yet,” he said.

The answer to that question matters because it has implications for how long it will take North Korea to really have an ICBM that could attack the US West Coast — and how long Washington has to take action to stop it.

What is Wright’s estimate?

“I would expect a couple years,” he said.

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Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi testimony started with a bang

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions


Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is testifying Thursday before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is investigating the 2012 attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

And before she even got a word in during the event, which is being televised live, the top Republican and top Democrat on the committee gave lengthy and passionate speeches about its work.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), the committee chairman, started with a fiery statement ripping into Clinton and rejecting her accusation that his investigation is a partisan sham to try and tear down her presidential campaign.

“Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods served our country with courage and with honor. They were killed under circumstances most of us could never imagine. Under cover of darkness, terrorists poured through the front gate of our facility and attacked our people and our property with machine guns, mortars and fire,” Gowdy began, according to his prepared remarks.

Gowdy called particular attention to Clinton’s controversial and exclusive use of a personal email server at the State Department, which he said had hindered previous investigations into the 2012 attack.

“This committee is the first committee, the only committee, to uncover the fact that Secretary Clinton exclusively used personal email on her own personal server for official business and kept the public record — including emails about Benghazi and Libya — in her own custody and control for almost two years after she left office,” he said.

“You made exclusive use of personal email and a personal server. When you left the State Department you kept those public records to yourself for almost two years. You and your attorneys decided what to return and what to delete. Those decisions were your decisions, not ours.”

Watch below:

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), the Benghazi committee’s ranking member, followed Gowdy’s remarks with a fiery speech of his own dismissing the committee as unnecessary and partisan.

“They set up this select committee with no rules, no deadline, and an unlimited budget. And they set them loose, Madam Secretary, because you’re running for president,” Cummings declared.

“Clearly, it is possible to conduct a serious, bipartisan investigation,” the Democrat added, according to his prepared remarks. “What is impossible is for any reasonable person to continue denying that Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”

Cummings pointed to the heated rhetoric of some Republican presidential candidates on the topic, including former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), and Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).

“Carly Fiorina has said that Secretary Clinton ‘has blood on her hands,’ Mike Huckabee accused her of ‘ignoring the warning calls from dying Americans in Benghazi,’ Senator Rand Paul said ‘Benghazi was a 3:00 a.m. phone call that she never picked up,’ and Senator Lindsay Graham tweeted, ‘Where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack?'” he recalled.

Clinton, who spoke next, took a more measured and soft-spoken approach in her opening statement.

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First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.


Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.

“The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process,” Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. “It’s a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
FILE – Soldiers participate in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika

The graduation of first 10 women from the infantry course comes a little more than a year after Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate Army Ranger School in August 2015. Maj. Lisa A. Jaster became the third woman to graduate from a gender-integrated Ranger course two months later.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.

Army officials maintain that it hasn’t taken long for gender integration to become the norm in training.

“We have been integrating women into the military for years; they have fought and bled beside us for years,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. “This is an important moment, but this is something that is in many ways business as usual.”

Fort Benning officials would not release the names of the 10 female graduates. Their next stop is Ranger School, Weber said.

Then, whether they are successful or not, they will go into other courses, including Airborne School, Striker Leader Course and then Mechanized Leader Course — a process that will take about a year to complete.

“Once they have completed all those courses, then we will have deemed them fit to lead whatever type formation out in [Forces Command] and they will depart Fort Benning,” Weber said.

Female infantry officers will leave Fort Benning and go to Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Wesley said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directed that gender-integration first focus on leaders at those two installations, Wesley said.

“We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations and then ultimately they will start to migrate out to other installations,” he said.

Griest and Haver are following the same path.

Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, was granted transfer to the infantry branch April 25, 2016. Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, has been approved to transfer into the infantry, and “we are still awaiting final word on when that is going to come down,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, commandant of the Infantry School.

“Upfront, I will tell you this makes us a better Army and the reason it makes us a better Army is that this whole issue has driven us — it has been a forcing function, to ensure that we had the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said.

Establishing gender-neutral standards has been the “culmination of two years of different work done by Training and Doctrine Command, with physical scientists looking at what is the physiology of moving weight and what is the difference between infantrymen and field artillerymen?” Jones said.

“We have the scientific data that shows these are the propensity skills that you have to do and the physiology to do those.”

Benning officials maintain that gender integration has not lowered standards.

“There has been no change in the standards,” said Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course Command Sgt. Major Joe Davis. “There is no change in the course … we are in the business of producing leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are male or females.”

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The Marine Corps goes back to the future with new military strategy

QUANTICO, Va. — The Marine Corps has released a bold new operational document that projects a future fight against a high-end adversary that could nullify many of the advantages U.S. forces have enjoyed for decades, and proscribes an extensive series of actions the Marines must take to prepare for that conflict.


The Marine Corps Operating Concept is subtitled “How an Expeditionary Force Operates in the 21st Century,” and strongly reaffirms the Corps’ traditional ties with the Navy.

It also revitalizes the post-Vietnam concept of “maneuver warfare,” but modernizes it by adding cyber and information operations to the use of rapid movement around enemy strong points and employment of kinetic force to confound the adversary’s command and control.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
U.S. Marines with Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Europe laugh during down-time, after completing an M240B machine gun range as part of Exercise Platinum Lynx at Babadag Training Area, Romania, Sept. 27, 2016. Multiple nations from across Eastern Europe, and the U.S., participated in the exercise designed to enhance warfighting capabilities and build relationships from an international level, all the way down to a platoon level. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller ordered the new strategic look, which was released Sept. 28 at the 2016 Modern Day Marine Expo here, and said its primary goal was to assure that any future Marine “doesn’t have a fair fight,” but is dominant.

The MOC is a replacement for the Expeditionary Force 21 operational guide released in 2014 under then-Commandant Gen. James Amos. But the officers at the forward-looking Ellis Group who crafted it and those who will have to implement it said it goes far beyond EF21.

It envisions a Marine Corps that is able to operate in what Neller called the “six domains,” of land, sea, air, space, cyberspace and information, is prepared to help the Navy retain sea control and the ability to project power in contested littoral regions and makes extensive use of unmanned systems.

“My goal by next year is, every deployed infantry squad will have a quad copter” unmanned aircraft, Neller told a packed audience at the Modern Day Marine exposition.

Neller assured the assembled Marines that the new document does not mean they are “fixing something” or the Corps is “broken.”

But, he reminded them, since 2001 “we have been fighting an insurgency.” Although those insurgents were brave and tenacious, they did not have electronic warfare capabilities, or an air force or armor. And “they didn’t have the ability to take down our networks, to deny our comms” and they “didn’t have a sophisticated information operations plan to deceive not only us, but our citizens.”

“What we’re trying to do with the MOC,” Neller said, is to look at their organization, training and warfighting doctrine and make the changes so “if we’re going to fight somebody that has this capabilities set” the individual Marine has what is needed “to make sure it’s not a fair fight.”

The MOC contains a lengthy list of future capabilities the Corps is expected to require for that future high-end fight. It includes the ability to fight in “complex terrain,” which includes congested urban settings; can match the global technology proliferation; can use information as a weapon and can win the “battle of signatures,” which means controlling its own electronic emissions to avoid being detected and finding and countering the enemy’s.

The MOC supports a point Neller has stressed, that future Marines be prepared to operate without sophisticated long-range communications, intelligence support and navigation aids because a high-tech enemy could disrupt them.

That could complicate some of the missions the MOC, including distributed operations by small units, or using landing forces to seize and hold “expeditionary advanced bases” on an enemy’s coast line to disrupt the sensors and weapons that could deny naval forces access.

The document also emphasizes the need to integrate Marine capabilities and operations with the Navy, Special Operations Command and the joint force.

And it sets out a list of “critical tasks” required to prepare the Corps for the future.

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said his command, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, the training and education and acquisition commands all will have major challenges in executing the MOC’s vision.

Neller urged the Marines in the audience to read the MOC and provide feedback and criticism. He acknowledged that the document may not have all the right answers and he expects they will have to make changes to it.

But, he said: “What we won’t do is stay the same. The world is changing too fast.”

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SOCOM plans to test Iron Man suit by 2018

The top weapons buyer for U.S. Special Operations Command said Wednesday that the so-called Iron Man suit being developed for elite commandos may not end up being the exoskeleton armored ensemble popular in adventure movies.


It’s been four years since SOCOM leaders challenged the defense industry to come up with ideas for the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS — an ensemble that would provide operators with “more-efficient, full-body ballistics protection and beyond-optimal human performance” as well as embedded sensors and communications tech for heightened situational awareness.

Related: 5 awesome new technologies coming to the US military

Program officials are about “a year and a half” away from having a TALOS prototype that’s ready to put in the hands of operators for testing, James “Hondo” Geurts, acquisition executive and director for SOF ATl at USSOCOM, told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Photo: Youtube.com

When the program began, it captured the public’s imagination and conjured images of high-tech ensembles worn in movies such as “Man of Steel,” “Pacific Rim” and “Starship Troopers.”

“We are on our fifth prototype,” Geurts said. “Will we get everything we want? Probably not. That was never the intent.”

SOCOM officials envisioned TALOS would feature integrated heaters and coolers to regulate the temperature inside the suit. Embedded sensors would monitor the operator’s core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels. In the event that the operator is wounded, the suit could feasibly start administering the first life-saving oxygen or hemorrhage controls.

This is not the first time the U.S. military has embarked on an effort to perfect smart-soldier technology. The Army is now equipping combat units with a secure, smartphone-based kit — known as Nett Warrior — that allows a leader to track subordinates’ locations in relation to his own position via icons on a digital map. The unit leaders can view satellite imagery and send text messages.

The technology has seen combat and given leaders a precise view of their tactical environment, empowering units to operate more decisively than ever before.

But the program’s success did not come easily. Land Warrior, the first generation of this computerized command-and-control ensemble, was plagued by failure. From its launch in 1996, the Army spent $500 million on three major contract awards before the system’s reliability problems were solved in 2006.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
US Army photo

When TALOS began, SOCOM said it planned to funnel $80 million into research and development over a four-year timeline. Geurts did not say how much money SOCOM has spent so far on TALOS.

One of the biggest challenges is powering the suit, but also a type of control theory and deep learning, Geurts said.

In just walking, “we take for granted that when we put our arm out, that our foot is behind us to balance it,” he said.

Geurts said the program has had “tremendous hurdles” working with these technologies, but said the effort will likely result in spin-off technologies that can be fielded to operators before TALOS is operationally ready.

“So in TALOS, don’t just think exoskeleton and armor — think of the whole equation,” he said. “Survivability is part of what armor you are carrying, but it’s also a big part of whatever information you have, what is your situational awareness, how do you communicate. So as we are going down all those paths, we can leverage quickly some of the stuff that is ready to go right now.”

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This is the most powerful sidearm ever issued by the US military

In 1846, American firearms legend Samuel Colt teamed with Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker to produce the most powerful sidearm ever issued to the U.S. military – the Colt Walker 1847.


Walker, a Texas Ranger (no joke) and officer in the militaries of both the Republic of Texas and the United States when Texas entered the Union, served in the American West’s many armed conflicts. He fought the Indian Wars and the Texian War of Independence as well as the Mexican-American War.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions

After he was discharged from the Texas Rangers, Walker self-funded a trip to New York to meet Colt. The duo based their design on the five-round Colt Paterson revolver. Walker and Colt would add a sixth round to the chamber, along with a stationary trigger and guard. With that, they created the most powerful black powder handgun ever made.

With a 9-inch barrel and .44 caliber round, this weapon had an effective range of 100 yards and the muzzle energy of a .357 Magnum. At only 4.5 pounds, the Colt Walker 1847 was the most powerful U.S. military sidearm ever issued and the most powerful pistol until the introduction of the Magnum .357 in 1935. Walker himself carried two of his own pistols into Mexico during the war with the U.S. mounted rifles.

When one of his troops killed a Mexican soldier with the pistol at Veracruz, a medical officer reportedly remarked that the hand cannon shot hit with equal force and range as a .54-caliber Mississippi Rifle.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
(Warner Bros.)

There were some drawbacks to the design, including that sometimes the cylinders blew up in the shooter’s hand due to the amount of powder used — which was twice the amount used in similar weapons of the time. Colt recommended using 50 grains of powder, instead of the prescribed 60. Lard was sometimes used to keep all the cylinders from exploding at once.

Walker was killed leading troops through Huamantla, Mexico, during the Mexican-American War. Colt, who was bankrupt when he met Walker, rebuilt his business and reputation beginning with the Colt Walker 1847.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions

The Colt Walker’s legacy lives on in the hearts of firearms enthusiasts and American historians. In 2008, an original model, with original powder flask, fetched $920,000 at auction. That model was sold by Montana’s John McBride, whose great-great uncle was a Mexican War veteran.

Watch below as two European enthusiasts load and shoot a reproduction of the Colt Walker 1847.

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Here are the issues to watch for during NBC and IAVA’s Commander-in-Chief Forum

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions


Tonight NBC and IAVA are hosting the first-ever “Commander-in-Chief Forum” in the hangar bay of the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that’s now a museum docked at Pier 86 in midtown Manhattan. The forum will not be a debate, but rather a hybrid “town hall” event, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appearing separately in back-to-back 30-minute segments to answer questions posed by NBC personality Matt Lauer. The forum airs tonight at 8 PM EDT. (Check local listings for the NBC/MSNBC station in your area.)

The military community — particularly the active duty community — has a unique stake in the outcome of this election since the Constitution makes the President of the United States the Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s military and give him or her the power to take the nation to war. As a result, servicemembers would be well advised to exercise their right to vote and to be as informed as possible while doing so.

Here’s a quick look at some of the issues that will likely come up during the event:

1. Defense budget

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry drafted a bill last year that would have stopped the Air Force from using funds in their 2017 budget to retire or reduce the use of the A-10 Warthog until the Pentagon’s weapons tester completed comparative tests between the A-10 and the F-35 Lightning II. (The tests never happened.) (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth)

The defense budget is a complex beast, worth over $600 billion in annual spending (as measured by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act). Wrapped into that are the costs of fighting the wars in Afghanistan and against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the acquisition programs for defense systems (aka “program of record”), manpower funding, and ancillary items like child care and spouse employment. But look for tonight’s discussion to be centered around the issue of “sequestration,” the law passed in 2012 as a deficit reduction measure that wound up targeting the Pentagon more than any other part of the government as a way to yield the desired outcome. The result, which threatens to cut DoD’s budget by nearly 25 percent over the next eight years, has been blamed for harming military readiness in myriad ways, including gutting the number of troops on active duty and creating the need for squadrons to “cannibalize” scrapped airplanes in order to stay airworthy.

Watch for Trump to call for an end to sequestration with the assertion that the necessary deficit reductions can be met by elimination of government waste. For her part, Clinton is likely to avoid committing to ending sequestration, instead focusing on how America needs to be more judicious about when and where troops should be deployed.

2. Vet healthcare

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Hospital corpsmen help Lt. Cmdr. Franklin Margaron, a surgeon, into his scrubs during a Pacific Partnership. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam)

This has been a hot-button topic during the campaign season to date and is sure to dominate a large portion of the discussion tonight. The VA has been plaqued by scandals in recent years — everything from long wait times that resulted in vet patient deaths to claims backlogs in the hundred of thousands — and Secretary Bob McDonald, who was brought in because of his corporate business experience, has been frustrated by the slow pace of change within the agency even as he touts the accomplishments that have occured on his watch.

Solutions for the VA’s woes are incredibly complex and don’t make for good television, so watch for Lauer to admininster the litmus test to the candidates in the form of a question around how each of them feels about privatization, which is basically a plan to outsource many if not all of the functions to private medical entities. (A “Commission on Care” recently released a report that said privatization was a bad idea cost-wise and that vets who tried it hated it because they felt lost in the system.) Trump initially said he supported privatization but has since softened that position, favoring it only “when it makes sense.” Clinton is against privatization.

A possible x-factor on this topic is that Trump recently called VA Secretary McDonald “a political hack.” While Lauer probably won’t directly ask him whether he stands by that, watch for a more-cryptic version of that question.

3. Vet suicides

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions

This topic is a subset of the one above. The latest statistics released by DoD are that 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Last year the Clay Hunt Act was passed by Congress to combat this trend, and it aims to do so in 3 major ways: Improve the quality of mental health care, improve access to quality mental health care, and to increase the number of mental health care providers.

4. Foreign policy (and war against ISIS)

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions

Trump has used the threat of ISIS as a centerpiece of his campaign, claiming that the group’s rise is a function of President Obama’s perceived weakness across the world stage. Clinton, on the other hand, primarily as a function of her recent experience as Secretary of State, tends to be very granular in her answers when asked what the U.S. should do to combat the Islamic State.

This topic as much as any other illustrates the contrast between the candidates. Watch for Trump to avoid details and instead state in general terms how we have to be tougher and how he’ll take care of the problem very quickly and Clinton to get into the weeds, which, in turn, will give Trump fuel for his thesis that, for all of her knowledge, she’s failed to keep America safer during her time in government. Trump has stated that he’s unwilling to topple Syrian president Assad, while Clinton has said she is willing to do that.

The other threat Lauer might introduce is the one posed by China, especially in light of recent saber rattling in the western Pacific and President Obama’s poor treatment, protocol-wise, at the G-8 Summit. Trump has been very aggressive with his anti-China rhetoric on the campaign trail, particularly around trade practices and currency devaluation, so expect him to be similarly oriented tonight.

5. Vet education

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
(Photo: U.S. Army, Capt. Kyle Key)

This topic will most certainly take the form of a question about how the candidates feel about the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the comprehensive education benefit made into law in 2009 that was expanded to cover spouses and dependents and has proved to be expensive as a result. As lawmakers continue to fight budget battles on the Hill, some have recently made feints toward narrowing the extent of the GI Bill, and those efforts have been met with stiff resistance from IAVA and other veteran service organizations.

If the subject comes up, and it certainly should, watch for both candidates to strongly support the GI Bill.

6. Vet employment

As important as getting vets the education opportunities they deserve is providing them with rewarding jobs in keeping with their experience and talents. Michele Obama and Jill Biden founded “Hire Our Heroes,” an intiative sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that has created awareness if not actual jobs. Clinton has said she supports government programs aimed at assisting veterans, and Trump generally answers questions on the subject with the claim that he will bring jobs back from overseas, which will benefit all Americans, including veterans.

7. Homeland defense/immigration

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
With the help of an interpreter, Capt. Jason Brezler addresses a group of schoolchildren in Now Zad, Afghanistan in 2009. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Immigration isn’t necessarily a veteran topic, except as it deals with the 6,000 Afghan interpreters who worked closely with our troops during the war and now would like to immigrate to the United States with their families because they fear for their safety in their homeland. These Afghans — supported by the veterans who fought alongside them — have faced roadblocks in obtaining visas to enter America.

While this topic most likely won’t come up tonight during the CiC Forum, it would be interesting to see how each candidate responds between now and the election.

Wildcards:

Clinton: Benghazi, private email server and classified documents, smashed Blackberrys . . .

Trump: McCain “not a hero,” Purple Heart gaff, Khan (Gold Star) family kerfuffle, Saddam the awesome terrorist fighter . . .

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions

urther CiC Forum prep reading here.

Have your opinion thrown into the mix tonight by taking the #MilitaryVotesMatter poll. #MilitaryVotesMatter is powered by MilitaryOneClick teamed up with We Are The Mighty, Doctrine Man, Got Your Six and a handful of influencers who want to provide a non-partisan confidential opportunity for the military and veteran community to have their voices heard by sharing where they currently stand in the presidential election.  The poll is short and straightforward collecting information about which state they will vote in, what branch of service they are affiliated with, their current military status, and the candidate they intend to vote for.

Go to militaryvotesmatter.com/poll to take the poll now.
Further CiC Forum prep reading here.
And stay informed all the way to the election by regularly checking out WATM’s #DefendYourVote page here.
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The 7 biggest ‘Blue Falcons’ in US Military history

Blue falcons, or buddy f-ckers, are a fixture of military life. Typically, they satisfy themselves with ratting other troops out for minor offenses or being overly strict on physical training tests. Some blue falcons take the art form to a whole other level, affecting full military operations or giving away needed equipment. Here are seven instances of blue falconism that literally made history.


1. One Confederate general routinely trolls another by sending away troops during key engagements.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Photo: US Naval Historical Center

Lt. Gen. Edmund Smith was in charge of Confederate troops in Louisiana, Arkansas, and some of the surrounding area. He was much more cautious than a politically connected general under his command, Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor. The two butted heads and Smith would routinely take troops away from Taylor just before Taylor committed forces to seize an objective.

The worst example was in the Spring of 1864. The Union Army was moving up the Red River in Louisiana, taking territory and confiscating cotton. Taylor saw the stretched Union forces and sent his troops south to attack their weak points, ignoring orders from Smith to fall back to Shreveport.

Taylor’s advance was successful, defeating Union forces at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill before pinning them in at Alexandria. Everything was in position for Smith and Taylor to defeat the remaining enemy forces in the region. Instead Smith ordered most of Taylor’s army away, allowing 30,000 Union soldiers to escape. These troops would link up with Gen. William Sherman during his march to the sea at the end of that year.

2. George Washington tricks Congress into drastically overpaying him.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions

Washington famously denied a salary as commanding general of the Continental Army, telling Congress that he would do the job if America would just cover his expenses. Not so famously, he then promptly racked up a bill of expenses worth nearly $450,000, over 28 times what a major general would have made in the same period. He even staged a massive birthday bash while his army was starving in the snow. (In Washington’s defense on this count, he was trying to get food from local sources for the men.)

Of course, some of the other generals were fine with this since they dined with Washington. His close friends tipped the scales at war’s end at over 200 pounds each. Gen. Henry Knox led the way at 280. Washington himself gained 30 pounds.

3. Eisenhower’s chief of staff places a losing $230,000 bet on his boss’s behalf without permission.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions

After Operation Torch drastically increased the number of Allied forces in North Africa, Allied generals Bernard Montgomery and George Patton were racing each other to take key cities from the Germans. Eisenhower was still pressuring them to go faster and his chief of staff visited Montgomery at his headquarters. There, Montgomery asked if he could get a B-17 if he took Sfax quickly. Maj. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith told him that Eisenhower would give Montgomery whatever he wanted if he took Sfax by April 15.

Smith reportedly thought it was a joke. but Montgomery was famous for his gambling so this was a reckless assumption. Montgomery took the city on April 10 and immediately began demanding payment from the confused Eisenhower who was just learning of the wager. Eisenhower was screwed by Smith’s promise and gave up the bomber. But, Montgomery was being a bit of a blue falcon himself by demanding payment. It soured relations between him and Eisenhower and Montgomery’s boss would go on to berate Montgomery for the “crass stupidity” of his actions.

4. MacArthur continues to attack U.S. veterans even after ordered by the president to stop.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions

In 1924, Congress put together a bonus package for veterans of World War I to be paid in 1945. When the Great Depression throttled the economy, veterans got antsy for the money. 15,000 of them descended on Washington, D.C. in 1932 to demand early payment. A bill to pay out early passed the House but was soundly defeated in the Senate in a 62 to 18 vote.

The veterans continued to camp and march in the city until July 28 when the police tried to force them out. The police failed to take the camp but killed two veterans in the attempt. President Herbert Hoover then ordered the Army to evict the veterans. Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his chief of staff, Maj. Dwight D. Eisenhower, worked with cavalry commander Maj. George Patton to push the marchers and campers across the Anacostia River.

Hoover ordered the Army to halt the advance, but MacArthur pushed his force forwards anyway and attacked until a fire broke out. All 10,000 people in the main camp were pushed out and two babies died. Local hospitals were overwhelmed with the injured from the camps.

5. The Continental Army gets together to blue falcon Benedict Arnold.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Thomas Hart

Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold was, by all accounts, an outstanding general for most of his time in American service. He won a bloodless victory at Fort Ticonderoga, got France to openly support the Americans through his victory at the Battle of Saratoga, and even once won a decisive naval battle. Throughout all this, he endured multiple wounds for his country.

The whole time though, he was being passed over for promotion due to the political connections of other generals. Also, while Arnold was clinging to life in a New York hospital bed, his boss claimed credit for a surrender that belonged to Arnold. When Arnold complained to Congress that veterans and their families weren’t being fairly treated, he was brought up on charges. A court martial acquitted him of most, but he was found guilty of two counts of dereliction of duty.

6. Benedict Arnold returns the favor by screwing over America.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Of course, Arnold’s response to this treatment set the bar for blue falcons and set it high. Arnold continued correspondence with his friend George Washington, leveraging him for appointments and preferential treatment. Meanwhile, Arnold was preparing to hand as much as he could to the enemy through British Maj. John Andre. Washington gave Arnold command of the forces at West Point, key to the defense of New York.

Arnold promptly tried to sell the fort to Andre for about $3 million in modern dollars, but the plot was discovered. Washington was personally embarrassed, the Army was shaken by the turning of a key general, and much of Arnold’s history was erased from U.S. records. Still, Arnold did get away and join the British Army as a general.

7. Bowe Bergdahl triggers massive searches.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Photo: US Army

The exact nature of what happened in the desert will probably be known to no one but Bergdahl himself. But even if Bergdahl did just want to walk away from the war and didn’t give any information to the Taliban after his capture, he was still a blue falcon in the eyes of his fellow soldiers.

His departure caused his unit to have to go on increased patrols and missions that soldiers died on. Every operation after that had to include the additional objective of “see if you can find Bergdahl” no matter what the primary objective was. Resources needed in other fights were sent to that patch of desert to search for him.

Sure, he would’ve been hazed a little if he had refused to fight and claimed conscientious objector status, but that’s still preferable to capture by the Taliban, years of imprisonment, and putting your unit in greater danger.

NOW: 11 spies who did the worst damage to the US military

OR: That one time the Army drugged three soldiers and locked them in a room

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Al-Qaeda leader tells Iraqi Sunnis to prepare for long guerilla war

On the heels of Turkey’s entry into the war against ISIS in Syria, its precipitous loss of territory, and the death of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani — the group’s spokesman and frontman for “lone wolf” attacks abroad — al-Qaeda is already planning its resurgence in war-torn Iraq.


The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Abu Muhammad al-Adnani (Photo from France 24 via YouTube)

According to Reuters reporter Maher Chmaytelli, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called on Iraq’s Sunni population – who (nominally) share the sect of Islam with ISIS and al-Qaeda – to prepare for what he called a “long guerilla war.”

Within the last 18 months, the Islamic State has lost half its territory in 2016 to various groups in Iraq and Syria. Syrian government forces are poised to capture the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa. Kurdish and U.S.-backed Syrian rebels are at the gates of Aleppo, and now the Turkish army is squeezing the terrorist movement from the North.

In Iraq, security forces and Peshmerga units have recaptured the key cities of Ramadi and Fallujah in June, and are poised to recapture the major Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State. Many strategists and U.S. officials say when Mosul falls, so too does ISIS.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahri in a still taken from a distributed video.

“The Sunnis of Iraq should not just surrender upon the fall of (their) cities into the hand of the Shi’ite Safavid army,” Zawahiri said in a video on social media. “Rather they should reorganize themselves in a long guerrilla war in order to defeat the new Crusader-Safavid occupation of their areas as they defeated them before.”

“Safavid” is a derogatory comment for Iraq’s Shia-led government. You can probably guess what he means by “Crusaders.”

He also implored Syrian “mujahideen” to help those in Iraq because they are “fighting the same battle.”

It’s unclear which group he was addressing. The Syrian rebel al-Nusra Front cut ties with al-Qaeda and rebranded, just as ISIS did when it stopped being known as al-Qaeda in Iraq. And there’s friction between the terror groups, since ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi doesn’t recognize Zawahiri as the successor to Osama bin Laden.

Some believe Iraq’s Sunni minority may be forever changed by its experience under occupation and may not respond to the al-Qaeda leader’s video.

After the liberation of Fallujah by Iraq’s security forces in June 2016, Vocativ’s Gilad Shiloach reported its citizens celebrating “a Fallujah without terror,” and residents tweeting things like, “From today on, Fallujah will never send explosives to Baghdad and the Shiite provinces.”

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
An Iraqi T-72 tank during the Liberation of Fallujah by Iraqi

Some Iraqis think ISIS was somehow a creation of the U.S. Even so, they’re glad when the terrorists leave.

“The legend that was created by America has been smashed in Fallujah today,” wrote an Iraqi Twitter user. “It has appeared as a paper tiger in front of the strikes of our army and militias.”

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6 military jobs with the best perks

Military jobs all seem pretty similar from the outside. Everyone shoots at the range, everyone gets compensated according to the same pay tables, and everyone gets yelled at by the people with fancier symbols on their uniforms.


But some military jobs have hidden perks that just come with the territory. For example, if the mission requires that a soldier have access to the internet, then that soldier can usually use the internet for other stuff as long as they don’t abuse the privilege. So here are six jobs with hidden perks that help make life a little more bearable:

1. Corpsmen/medics usually have fridge access for medicines.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Cory Grogan)

There are only a few groups of people who regularly had access to refrigeration during a deployment to the burning hot desert. The cooks (more on them later) and the medical folks — at smaller bases, this means Navy corpsmen and Army and Air Force medics.

The medical personnel need refrigeration to keep certain medicines from going bad. But whatever area of the fridge that’s left over is usually divvied up by the medics to keep drinks cold, a rare luxury on some bases.

2. The cooks also have refrigerators … and spare food.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Corey Foreman)

The cooks have even greater access to fridges than the medics, and they can sometimes grab extra food and energy drinks to trade or share. Most forward operating bases with dining facilities feed hundreds of soldiers and Army recipes are usually written for batches of 100 servings.

It’s basically impossible to make and order the exact amount of food needed for any meal, so there’s always some spare servings of something left over — sometimes cooked and sometimes waiting to be cooked. Cooks will trade away those unused 15 servings of ribs or chicken to others for special favors.

3. Public Affairs has usually has Facebook access even when the rest of the base is on blackout.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Sean Carnes)

The gatekeepers of the unit Facebook page, meanwhile, have their own great perk. When the rest of the base is put on communications blackout, public affairs troops are still required to keep the unit’s social media pages going to reassure family members back home and to keep up normal appearances.

This requires that the PA shop always has access to Facebook and Twitter, meaning its soldiers can exchange messages with family and update their own pages even when the base was otherwise blacked out.

4. Pilots and flight line folks have the best trading opportunities.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Anyone who is intimately involved in flight operations knows how to trade with people from other bases, ships, whatever, and they’ll take advantage of it. See, the economy on a deployment is limited to what goods are actually useful on the base. Pay sits in bank accounts while most people are trading the limited supply of available chewing tobacco and Girl Scout cookies.

But flight operations people have access to goods and services that are housed in another Navy ship or on another base. That means that they can trade items that only Kandahar Air Field or Sigonella has.

5. Combat camera is basically military tourism.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
This photo was taken by a combat cameraman. (Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jodson B. Graves)

Look, combat camera is full of brave people who wade into battle to document it and share stories with the American public and military leaders. This isn’t to disparage them or the work they do, but they’re basically military tourists.

If some unit is doing a cool training operation on the beaches of Italy or special operators are breaking into a Taliban fortress, there’s a decent chance that some combat cameraman is getting flown out there to document it. And they leave the service with their own collection of unclassified photos, making them some of the only people with multimedia support for their war stories.

6. Signal guys get admin access to the computers.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
(Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor)

This one may sound less than impressive, but it’s actually amazing. See, military computer networks have a lot of user restrictions, but the IT guys within the communications shops are in charge of implementing those user restrictions, so they get admin logins.

That means that they have more access to whatever they want on the internet even when deployed, provided that they don’t abuse the privilege. So, they’ll have Facebook access even when public affairs is locked out and can set their own internet to have priority access when bandwidth gets tight.

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This SEAL Team 6 vet idolizes ‘Rough Rider’ Teddy Roosevelt

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
Official portrait of Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) (Photo by United States Congress)


Inter-service rivalry is very common in the military. But one Navy SEAL Team 6 vet with a long service record is openly admiring an Army hero.

According to the blog of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Interior, applauding the values former President Theodore Roosevelt brought to conservation and land management.

“I am an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt and believe he had it right when he placed under federal protection millions of acres of federal lands and set aside much of it as National forests,” Zinke said during his confirmation hearing.

Zinke, who spent 23 years in the Navy, was the first SEAL to win a seat in the  House of Representatives according to law360.com. The San Diego Union-Tribune noted when his nomination was announced that he would also be the first SEAL to hold a Cabinet position. According to his official biography on his congressional web page, Zinke’s decorations include two awards of the Bronze Star for service during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which included a stint as acting commander of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula. Among the SEALs who served under him were Marcus Luttrell (of “Lone Survivor” fame), Rob O’Neill (who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden), and Brandon Webb (founder of SOFREP.com).

Like Zinke, Teddy Roosevelt was an avid hunter and outdoorsman, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Association. Roosevelt was also a military badass, receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions on San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War.

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions

Roosevelt, though, also had a keen interest in naval affairs before serving with the Army. Prior to becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, the Theodore Roosevelt Association noted that he wrote a history of the War of 1812, publishing it at age 24. Roosevelt would help turn the United States Navy into the global instrument of power projection it is today.

So, yeah, while inter-service rivalry has its place, in this case, we can understand – and approve – of a SEAL admiring a soldier like Teddy Roosevelt.

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This Marine Corps vet’s swift actions saved lives during the Orlando shooting

The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions
(Photo: Imran Yousuf)


Marine Corps veteran Imran Yousuf was working as a bouncer at Pulse nightclub in Orlando when he heard a rapid-fire series of gunshots crack across the venue.

“You could just tell it was a high caliber,” Yousuf told CBS. He saw the patrons were frozen in fear and that no one was moving to open a nearby door.

“There was only one choice — either we all stay there and we all die, or I could take the chance,” Yousuf said, “and I jumped over to open that latch and we got everyone that we can out of there.”

Orlando law enforcement officials credit Yousuf with saving about 70 lives with his unflinching action. “I wish I could’ve saved more,” he told CBS. “There’s a lot of people that are dead.”

Yousuf’s six-year stint as an electrical systems tech included a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 according to records. His last command was the 3rd Marine Logistics Group in Okinawa, Japan. He left active duty at the rank of sergeant.

Yousuf posted the following message on his Facebook page:

There are a lot of people naming me a hero and as a former Marine and Afghan veteran. I honestly believe I reacted by instinct. I have lost a few of my friends that night which I am just finding out about right now and while it might seem that my actions are heroic I decided that the others around me needed to be saved as well and so I just reacted.

We need to show our love and profound efforts to the families and friends who have lost someone and help them cope with what happened and turn our efforts to those who truly need it. Once again I sincerely thank everyone and bless all those who are recovering and trying to make sense of it all.