It’s been a momentous year for Sgt. Elizabeth Marks.
The combat medic and U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program swimmer spent the summer garnering international headlines for a grand gesture while winning four gold medals in swimming at the Invictus Games. That led to an appearance at the ESPYs, the awards show that recognizes sports’ highest achievements, to receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service. She followed that up by smashing a world record and winning two medals during her first trip to the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The list of hardware is already impressive. But it received another addition earlier this week.
Marks was named to the ESPN Women’s Impact25 Athletes and Influencers list Tuesday. The list highlights the top 25 women who made the greatest impact in sports and the societies in which they live. Marks joined names such as Simone Biles, the Olympic gymnastics gold medalist who was also the magazine’s Woman of the Year; Kathryn Smith, the National Football League’s first female full-time coach; and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.
“It’s extremely special to even be mentioned,” Marks said on Twitter about being an Impact25 nominee.
Her unveiling as an honoree was marked by an essay written by Prince Harry. The British royal was at the center of the moment that opened the world’s eyes to Marks.
In May, she made international headlines for her gesture at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.
Marks was decorated with her fourth gold medal at the Games by Prince Harry, who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 26-year-old gave the award back.
Marks wanted Prince Harry to deliver the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff. Her request was honored June 1.
“This is an incredible achievement by any standards,” Prince Harry wrote about Marks’ appearance in the Impact25 list. “And I know this is how she wants to be defined, by her achievements and her abilities. But as an Army sergeant wounded in service to her country, her journey to get to this point has been remarkable. To me, she epitomizes the courage, resilience and determination of our servicemen and women. Using sport to fight back from injury in the most remarkable way, she sums up what the Invictus Games spirit is all about.”
For Marks, her ordeal in 2014 wasn’t the first time she had to endure an arduous hospital stay. In 2010, after suffering devastating injuries in Iraq, she grew nervous about the words being bandied about her such as “end of service” or “retirement.” Marks called her father to vent her frustrations. The former Marine told his daughter to write what was most important to her on a piece of paper. She scrawled “FFD” in pencil on a torn sheet of paper. The acronym stood for “fit for duty.” She was deemed fit for duty on July 3, 2012, after several painful surgeries and a grueling rehabilitation. Marks has not stopped trying to live up to the notion, resuming her job as a medic while also competing for WCAP.
She was back in the pool one month after her ordeal in England. Two months after leaving the hospital, she broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Fewer than two years later, she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division.
“I was told it’d be six months before I got into a pool again,” Marks told the audience at the ESPYs where she became the first active-duty Soldier to receive the Pat Tillman Award. “I got into a pool about a month out of my coma. Without those physicians, without their service, I would’ve died. I hope that my service could eventually mean that to someone.”
Marks received a standing ovation after accepting the award on the stage of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. She thanked her father and the Pat Tillman Foundation for turning an “absolute tragedy into a triumph.” She also thanked her fellow injured service members throughout the world for their support. She said any success she found at the Rio Paralympics would be because of them.
And find success she did. Marks broke her own world record in the breaststroke to win the gold medal. She then had a heroic swim in her leg of the 4×100 medley relay to help the Americans win a bronze medal after getting off to a difficult start.
The feat seemed to cap off a storied sports year for Marks. But this week proved otherwise. And that should suit her desire to inspire her fellow Soldiers just fine.
After the littoral combat ship USS Freedom sustained major engine damage July 11 because a seal malfunction allowed seawater to seep in, the commander of Naval Surface Forces quietly ordered all LCS crews to observe a stand-down, halting operations to review procedures and engineering standards.
“Due to the ongoing challenges with littoral combat ships, I ordered an engineering stand-down for LCS squadrons and the crews that fall under their command,” Vice Adm. Tom Rowden said in a statement. “These stands down allowed for time to review, evaluate and renew our commitment to ensuring our crews are fully prepared to operate these ships safely.”
The reviews were completed by Aug. 31, Navy officials announced Monday, adding that every sailor in each LCS crew with a role in engineering will observe retraining.
The training, officials said, will take place over the next 30 days. During that time, leadership of the Navy’s Surface Warfare Officer’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, will review the current LCS training program and recommend any other changes they see fit.
The school’s engineers will also supervise current and future training efforts. They will develop a knowledge test and specialized training for LCS engineers, to be deployed to them by Oct. 5. A separate, comprehensive LCS engineering review is being conducted by the commander of SWOS, Capt. David A. Welch, and is expected to take between 30 and 60 days.
“From there, more adjustments may be made to the engineering training pipeline,” officials with Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement.
The Freedom, the first of its class made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Marinette Marine, returned to its San Diego homeport Aug. 3 to address the damage it sustained to one of its diesel propulsion engines, which Navy officials said will require an engine rebuild or replacement.
It remains unclear what caused another LCS, the USS Coronado, to be sidelined with damage to one of its flexible couplings assemblies Aug. 29.
Upon its return to Pearl Harbor Sept. 4, the Coronado was met by a group of maintenance experts sent by Rowden to inspect the ship, officials said. The experts investigated the ship’s engineering program, but no information has been released about the cause of the problem or whether it might be related to previous engineering casualties.
“A preliminary investigation will provide an initial assessment and procedural review of the situation, and any shortfalls will be addressed quickly to get the ship fixed and back on deployment,” officials said.
The Coronado, so far the only trimaran-hulled Independence-variant LCS made by Austal USA to suffer an engineering casualty, had been just two months into its maiden deployment.
The Freedom and the Coronado are the third and fourth littoral combat ships to experience engineering casualties inside a 12-month span.
Last December, the LCS Milwaukee broke down during a transit from San Diego and Halifax, Nova Scotia when a clutch failed to disengage when the ship switched gears. The ship had to cut short the transit in order to be towed to Joint Base Little Creek, Virginia, for repairs.
In January, the LCS Fort Worth was sidelined in Singapore when it broke down in what officials said was a casualty caused by engineers failing to properly apply lubrication oil to the ship’s combining gears. After eight months in port in Singapore for repairs, the Fort Worth departed for its San Diego homeport in August.
While watching “Courage Under Fire” it was surprising how much they got right. Everyone was wearing branch insignia except for the general officer, just like it’s supposed to be. Most radio calls were about right, and helicopters and tanks worked about the way they should.
Still, Hollywood never gets it all right. We found 57 errors that we’ve listed below.
1. (3:30) Someone fires an illumination flare over a bunch of tankers as they’re preparing for a night fight. Better hope the enemy that is only a few kilometers away hasn’t crept closer in the darkness. Also, most of the soldiers look up at the light, something they’re trained not to do since it ruins their night vision. The light is bright enough to damage vision for minutes afterwards.
2. (5:20) Lt. Boylar has the call sign of “Cougar 6.” That call sign would typically mean he was the commander of an element. As a lieutenant, Boylar would most likely be the executive officer or a platoon leader. An executive officer wouldn’t use the number 6 and a platoon leader would have another number mixed in, “Cougar 2-6” or “2 Cougar 6.”
3. (5:26) Lt. Col. Serling allows a subordinate element to pull off from the planned route because they have “No joy over here.” He doesn’t ask why the tanks can’t move as planned or which alternate route Cougar element will use. He just tells them to meet up at Phase Line Hammer.
4. (5:31) Cool tank fight, but that guy with the flare at the beginning was doubly stupid if the Iraqi tanks were that close to the Americans. Enemy scouts could have been trying to get a glimpse of the tanks, and the illumination would’ve lit up the whole formation for them. The scouts would have seen the tankers getting ready and known the attack was coming.
5. (6:40) Serling is in an important discussion with the general, but leaves it to shoot at infantry his crew chief could easily kill instead.
6. (7:00) Surrendering Iraqis are allowed to move forward with their weapons.
7. (7:15) Iraqis apparently buried their mines with the entire upper quarter of the ordnance above ground. Aren’t mines supposed to be a secret?
8. (8:54) There’s a possible friendly fire incident, and suddenly every single tank in the battle quits firing. Pretty unrealistic, especially since it is later revealed that quite a few Iraqi tanks were still alive at this point.
9. (10:00) A medevac pilot lands, looks at Lt. Col. Serling significantly, and then leaves. The dialogue suggests that they’re picking up Boylar’s body, but no one is shown going to or from the helicopter.
10. (10:40) The investigating officer of a battalion commander suspected of killing his own tank crew would almost certainly outrank the officer he is investigating. The Army would choose a former battalion commander for this job, not a major.
11. (11:45) Serling isn’t wearing a unit patch. Even if he was removed from command, which would be a messed up decision from the general if an investigation was ongoing, he would still be in a unit.
12. (12:45) This captain is pretty casual with speaking to a superior officer. No one calls a superior officer by their rank.
13. (13:00) They have inquiries from press about a very sensitive incident and no one mentions the public affairs office that exists to deal with the press.
14. (15:10) Serling is assigned to be an investigating officer for an award, and only seconds later is in a room listening to testimony. He didn’t get a file, didn’t get background, and didn’t even get a chance to grab a notepad.
15. (15:15) Almost no one in the briefing is wearing a distinctive unit insignia (DUI) or regimental unit insignia (RUI). Soldiers are assigned DUIs when they graduate job school and can be given RUIs while they serve. They are always required to wear one in the dress uniform.
16. (16:05) The lieutenant is wearing his helmet with the chinstrap undone. The Army calls this John Wayne helmet and loses it when soldiers do it in training, let alone in a combat situation. The other guys at the crash site have their body armor open, even though they know they could take contact at any moment.
17. (16:07) The soldiers testify that they were flying in a Blackhawk, but this is a Huey wreck.
18. (16:35) The medevac bird shouldn’t be flying into enemy held territory on its own. If Walden did pilot into the area without an attack helicopter escort, it would prove she was brave and call later testimony against her into question.
20. (18:30) Everyone says “nothing else sounds like an M-16” But M16s aren’t all that distinct, especially when you’re in a helicopter booking it away from a fight.
21. (19:00) Why is there even such a push to give the Medal of Honor so fast? Medal of Honor investigations and deliberations take years. The White House aide keeps talking about how good the photo opportunity will help the president. Does he have an election coming up? An election that will rely on people being happy about a Medal of Honor?
22. (20:05) Serling imagines Cougar 6 going up in flames. American tank rounds generally kill the crews within milliseconds and Serling would know this.
23. (26:12) Monfriez yells, “We’re taking fire!” There are rounds ricocheting through the helicopter. Everyone knows they’re getting shot at. The information they could use is direction, distance, and description of the enemy, which is why you’re supposed to yell that.
24. (27:25) Even big Molotov cocktails with flares will not kill a tank, especially not in seconds.
25. (27:35) All of the crew should be tied off to the helicopter. They shouldn’t be sliding nearly out of the bird.
26. (33:45) Monfriez is from XVIII Airborne Corps, but the rest are from the 44th Medical Command. Monfries later says he was tasked out from another unit, but as a staff sergeant he wouldn’t have been tasked that way. He would’ve been busy working with his squad or platoon during the invasion, not hanging out near the helicopters looking for a side job as a door gunner.
27. (35:45) Seriously, why was no one wearing a helmet? Even keeping the standard crew helmet on would be preferable to not wearing one.
28. (36:00) Monfriez keeps firing his SAW the wrong way. It should be fired from a tri/bipod if possible, resting on the ground when not possible. He also should be firing controlled bursts, not sweeping the ridge. It makes the shooter more accurate and saves ammunition which will become important if you have to hold out without reinforcements or resupply.
29. (36:55) Ilario says that the night was pitch dark, but desert nights are famous for how bright the stars are.
30. (37:20) America had overwhelming air superiority in this war. But, apparently it left crashed helicopter crews on their own for hours and hours.
31. (38:00) Three members of the crew are hit in the firefight, but the medic doesn’t move to any of them.
32. (39:45) Helmets have specific sizes, and Ilario is wearing the helmet of another guy. It’s unlikely to fit him properly. On the other hand, at least he’s wearing one. He and Monfries are the only ones who think a crash site under fire is a good place to wear a helmet.
33. (41:30) It’s more likely the Army would’ve sent Apaches to try to rescue the survivors of the two helicopter crashes, though it’s not impossible Cobras would arrive instead.
34. (41:52) Capt. Walden, with no clear damage to her legs and her abdomen good enough to keep flipping to different firing positions, says she won’t leave the crash site until someone returns with a stretcher.
35. (41:40) Capt. Walden’s pistol kicks up dirt like it’s a .50-cal.
36. (42:00) Why is Monfriez not wearing armor and has his uniform top unbuttoned? Everyone in this scene should be wearing armor.
37. (42:05) Ilario uses the world’s lightest touch to assess Capt. Walden’s pulse.
38. (42:50) Why does everyone keep pulling their helmets off?
39. (44:20) Unit runs by in background in full winter physical training uniforms, even though it’s warm enough for families to swim in the outdoor base pool.
40. (51:00) Serling tells the general that the investigation isn’t a rubber stamp situation. No Medal of Honor investigation is ever a rubber stamp situation.
41. (51:25) Hershberg doesn’t care that testimony doesn’t line up, even though his ass will be on the line if he’s involved and doesn’t follow up.
42. (54:00) Everyone keeps discussing the death of Boylar, but not the rest of his crew, because screw the enlisted.
43. (55:21) None of the infantry drill sergeants are wearing their blue discs for the campaign hat. One instructor isn’t even wearing his drill sergeant hat.
44. (55:30) Recruit calls a drill sergeant “sir” and isn’t corrected.
45. (55:35) Monfriez sees a recruit run away from an obstacle, leaving a soldier trapped inside. Monfries yells at the soldier that he should never leave another soldier behind, then promptly allows the recruit to run off while the other guy is still trapped in the wire.
46. (57:51) Monfriez says he wouldn’t know what time the M16 ran out of ammo because he was on the SAW. He’s an infantryman and the senior noncommissioned officer and so should know that he needs to track the amount of ammunition for each weapons system.
47. (1:01:45) Monfriez keep complaining about not being able to hear movement with everyone speaking, but he isn’t even bothering to look out for enemies approaching.
48. (1:04:00) The crew leaves the M16 behind when they depart.
49. (1:05:50) This scene supposedly happens at a base with basic training on it, but every unit patch on the walls is from XVIII Airborne which is headquartered at Fort Bragg and has no basic training.
50. (1:11:00) Capt. Walden wears medical insignia, but she would’ve fallen under aviation branch as a pilot.
51. (1:13:00) Hershberg tells Serling that he could give a direct order to Serling to turn in the report. The first time Hershberg told Serling to turn in the report, that was a direct order. It doesn’t matter if he says, “This is a direct order.”
52. (1:21:00) Staff Sgt. Monfriez is wearing a patrol cap even though he’s a drill sergeant at this point.
53. (1:28:25) Monfriez says he doesn’t need Walden’s permission to run from the crash site, but he does. Since Walden is in command, anyone who leaves without her permission is committing desertion in the face of the enemy. Since Monfriez follows up the threat by committing mutiny, seems like he’s not too worried about it.
54. (1:33:50) Walden has Ilario leave her behind to cover their escape, but the Army trains its soldiers on how to drag someone so the injured person can provide cover fire.
55. (1:39:30) Recording of the Al-Bathra incident has interior tank comms as well as information from the battalion net and the signals coming in from the general. In the real world, these would have been on separate channels.
56. (1:46:45) Everyone is sitting at the Medal of Honor presentation. Awards are presented with all military in attendance at the position of attention.
57. (1:47:30) The Air Force conducts a missing man flyover for an Army pilot. First, Walden was in the Army which does a missing man roll call at memorial ceremonies, not a missing man flyover. Second, this isn’t a memorial ceremony so there wouldn’t be a missing man process at all.
Ra may be supplying the Taliban as they fight and NATO forces in Afghanistan, a top commander said Thay.
“We have seen the influence of Ra of late – an increased influence – in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander and General, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Scaparrotti did not elaborate on what kinds of supplies might be provided or how direct Ra’s involvement could be.
His comments are built on suspicions raised last month by General John Nicholson, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, who testified that Ra is giving the Taliban encouragement and diplomatic cover. Nicholson did not, however, address whether Ra was supplying the terrorist group.
“Ra has been legitimizing the Taliban and supporting the Taliban,” he told VOA’s Afghan service in an interview last month.
Ra, which had an ill-fated intervention in Afghanistan that started in 1979 and ended nearly a decade later, has been trying to exert influence in the region again and has set up six-country peace talks next week that exclude .
Generally, American presidents feel an obligation to see situations firsthand when they commit troops to war. To wit, here are 27 times commanders-in-chief left the White House and headed for combat zones:
1. FDR visits Casablanca as Allied forces assault Tripoli, January 1943
2. FDR visits the Mediterranean island of Malta to confer with Winston Churchill, February 1945
3. Roosevelt meets Stalin and Churchill at Yalta, February 1945
4. Ike goes to Korea, December 1952
5. LBJ stops in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, 1966
6. LBJ returns to Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, 1967
7. Nixon visits in Saigon, South Vietnam, July 1969
8. Reagan stops at the Korean DMZ for lunch, November 1983
President Reagan in the food line during his trip to the Republic of Korea and a visit to the DMZ Camp Liberty Bell and lunch with the troops (Reagan Library photo)
9. Bush 41 drops in for Thanksgiving with U.S. troops during Desert Shield, 1990
10. Clinton with U.S. troops at Camp Casey, South Korea, 1993
11. Clinton visits U.S. troops in Bosnia, January 1996
12. Clinton returns to Bosnia in December 1997 to visit NATO and U.S. troops
13. Bush 43 grabs chow with the troops in South Korea, 2002
14. Bush 43 surprises troops in Iraq, November 2003
15. Bush 43 returns to South Korea, Osan Air Base, 2005
16. Bush 43 visits Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, March 2006
17. Bush 43 visits troops in Baghdad, June 2006
18. Bush 43 visits Al-Anbar province, Iraq, September 2007
19. Bush 43 returns to South Korea, August 2008
20. Bush 43 makes one last stop in Iraq, December 2008
21. Obama stops in Iraq to see the troops, April 2009
22. Obama stops into Osan Air Base, South Korea, November 2009
23. Obama makes his first stop at Bagram Air Base, December 2010
24. Obama visits the DMZ, South Korea, March 2012
25. Obama makes his second trip to Afghanistan, May 2012
26. Obama visits Yongsan Garrison, South Korea 2014
27. Obama makes what could be his last trip to Afghanistan, May 2014
Over a period of several years, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer overseeing a radar development lab at a Soviet state-run defense institute, passed the US information and schematics related to the next generation of Soviet radar systems.
Tolkachev transformed the US’s understanding of Soviet radar capabilities. Prior to his cooperation with the CIA, US intelligence didn’t know that Soviet fighters had “look-down, shoot-down” radars that could detect targets flying beneath the aircraft.
This was vitally important information. Thanks to Tolkachev, the US could develop its fighter aircraft, and its nuclear-capable cruise missiles, to take advantage of the latest improvements in Soviet detection — and to exploit gaps in Soviet radar systems.
The Soviets had no idea that the US was so aware of the state of their technology. If a hot war had ever broken out between the US and the Soviet Union, Tolkachev’s information may have given the US a decisive advantage in the air and aided in guiding cruise missiles past Soviet detection systems. Tolkachev helped tip the US-Soviet military balance in Washington’s favor. And he’s part of the reason why, since the end of the Cold War, a Soviet-built plane has never shot down a US fighter aircraft in combat.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Hoffman’s newly published book “The Billion Dollar Spy” is the definitive story of the Tolkachev operation. It’s an extraordinary glimpse into how espionage works in reality, evoking the complex relationship between case officers and their sources, as well as the extraordinary methods that CIA agents use to exchange information right under the enemy’s nose. And it revisits a compelling example of the unexpected ways in which technology can effect intelligence collection.
In the 1960s, the CIA was attempting to develop a hand-held two-way communications system that would allow case officers to swap messages with sources without having to physically meet.
There were a few possible advantages to these early Short-Range Agent Communications devices (SRAC). SRAC systems could eliminate detection risks associated with face-to-face meetings. Messages could be sent directly to sources, rather than left in vulnerable “dead drops” or conveyed through risky “brush passes” in public. Agents could transmit instructions in text-form over short distances, using radio frequencies that were far more difficult to intercept than those used for long-range or telephonic communications.
Buster, an early version of SRAC, had “two portable base stations — each about the size of a shoe box — and one agent unit that could be concealed in a coat pocket,” Hoffman writes. “With a tiny keyboard one and a half inches square, the agent would first convert a text message into a cipher code, then peck the code into the keypad. Once the data were loaded — Buster could hold 1500 characters — the agent would go somewhere within a thousand feet of the base station and press a ‘send’ button.”
This “primitive text-messaging system” underwent a major upgrade in the late 1970s. The Discus, a greatly improved version of Buster, “eliminated the need for the bulky base station and could transmit to a case officer holding a second small unit hundreds of feet away.” The Discus consisted of just two devices that could send and receive messages, along with a keyboard larger and more user-friendly than Buster’s. The terminals were small enough to fit in an agent or source’s coat pocket.
In addition, the Discus automatically encrypted its messages, eliminating the cumbersome process of converting communications into cipher code. It could also transmit a larger data load than its predecessor.
As Hoffman puts it, the device was “way ahead of its time,” a hand-held personal messaging system in an era when there was “nothing remotely like the Blackberry or the iPhone” in existence — except for the Discus.
Although there are no open-source images of the Discus, the CIA has published images of early text-messaging systems used by rival agencies. This East German device from the mid-1960s could wirelessly send and transcribe morse code messages at a range of up to 300 miles. Its
At one point, the CIA considered giving Tolkachev a Discus that he could use to signal his handlers for meetings, since just relaying even basic messages in Cold War-era Moscow ran a a significant risk of exposure. Some hoped the Discus could eventually be used to send intelligence: “While the traditional method of dead drops usually took a day or longer to signal, place, and collect, the electronic communicator could transmit urgent intelligence almost instantly,” Hoffman writes.
The Discus could be “an invulnerable magic carpet that would soar over the heads fo the KGB.”
But there were a few drawbacks. In order to send and receive a message, both users had to remain still. A user would know that a message had arrived when a red light flashed on the device, but had to remain in place until they were positive it had been received. On top of that, even something as basic as checking for a flashing light on a concealed piece of complex electronics could give an operative away in a city swarming with counter-intelligence agents.
The Discus was also obvious spy equipment. There was no plausible cover story that a source could concoct if the device were ever spotted. It would almost necessarily compromise the source and expose the CIA’s work.
There was another, more fundamental problem with the technology. The Tolkachev operation was successful in large part because a succession of talented CIA case officers had built up trust with the radar researcher based on little more than hand-written notes and brief and infrequent face-to-face meetings. From that, the CIA was able to build a profile of Tolkachev, analyzing his motives and state of mind and ensuring that the Agency wouldn’t alienate, needlessly endanger, or psychologically break one of the most important intelligence assets in US history.
That was only possible because of masterful case officer handling of Tolkachev. “Human intelligence” methods that would still be essential to espionage regardless of how far technology advanced — as Hoffman writes, some of the agents involved in handling Tolkachev realized that in spite of the the Discus’s impressive technology, “they still needed to look the agent in the eye, and Tolkachev needed to shake the hand of a case officer he could trust.”
Tolkachev was eventually given a Discus, but never successfully used it to contact the CIA. Other, less technically sophisticated methods proved more effective in his case.
Hand-held communication devices are now ubiquitous around the world. The Discus represented a huge step forward, and it’s a virtually unknown fore-runner of smart phone technology. But it’s still an example of how even the most vaunted technology doesn’t automatically solve every problem in intelligence and national security. The human element will always be decisive — no matter how good the technology may look.
In the not-too-distant future, Marine Corps 7-ton trucks may be able to diagnose worn-out parts before they go bad, put in an order for a relevant replacement, and get the part 3D printed and shipped to their location to be installed — all without a human in the loop.
It’s an aspiration that illustrates the possibilities of smart logistics, said Lt. Gen. Michael Dana, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for Installations and Logistics. And the process has already begun to make it a reality.
In the fall of 2016, Marines at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri equipped about 20 military vehicles, including Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements, known as MTVRs or 7-tons, and massive tractor-trailers known as Logistics Vehicle System Replacements, or LVSRs, with engine sensors designed to anticipate and identify key parts failures.
It’s a commercially available technology that some civilian vehicles already use, but it’s a new capability for Marine Corps trucks. Testing on those sensors will wrap-up this summer, and officials with IL will assess how accurately and thoroughly the sensors captured and transmitted maintenance data.
If all goes well, the Marines then will work to connect the sensors with an automatic system that can order parts that will then be 3D printed on demand and delivered to the vehicle’s unit.
“How do we use that data and how do we link that back to our fabrication or supply network to make the system operate in theory without a person in the loop, to make sure we’re doing push logistics [versus] pull logistics,” said Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, a senior member of the Marine Corps’ logistics innovation team and the service’s additive manufacturing lead.
“Now we have the part there waiting when the vehicle gets back in from the convoy, or it’s already there a week in advance before we know we need to change it out. So that’s the concept and that’s what we’re going to try to prove with that.”
Dana, who spoke with Military.com in June, is eager to bypass maintenance supply chains that sometimes have gear traveling thousands of miles to get to a unit downrange, and inefficient logistics systems that create lag while maintainers wait for parts to arrive.
“If we had the ability to print a part far forward, which we have that capability, that reduces your order-to-ship time. And you then combine that with what we call sense-and-respond logistics, or smart logistics, which is … it can tell you with a predictive capability that this part is going to fail in the next 20 hours or the next ten hours,” Dana said.
The goal of having trucks that can do everything but self-install repair parts is in keeping with the Marine Corps’ newfound love affair with innovative technology. The Corps recently became the first military service to send 3D printers to combat zones with conventional troops, so that maintainers could print everything from 81mm mortar parts to pieces of radios in hours, instead of waiting days or longer for factory-made parts to arrive.
For Dana, it’s simply time for the Marine Corps to cash in on technologies that industry is already using to its advantage.
“You look at Tesla, their vehicles literally get automatic upgrades; it’s almost like a vehicle computer that’s driving around,” he said. “My wife’s [2006 Lexus] will tell you when it’s due for an oil change. That predictive capability exists in the private sector. Hopefully we can incorporate it on the military side.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis yesterday completed his first trip to the Middle East, where he gained valuable insight as he prepares to make key policy decisions, including submitting the results of a review of the department’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to the White House, Pentagon press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.
In a memorandum signed Jan. 28, President Donald Trump ordered the Defense Department to come up with a new plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS. Davis said the review is due early next week, and added, “we’re on track to deliver it on time.”
The captain called the review a comprehensive, whole-of-government plan.
“It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.”
Davis said the White House memorandum “puts the bull’s eye of the target squarely on DoD to lead it, but it is absolutely being done with the input of other agencies. We chair it. We’re developing the strategy, but we’re doing it together with other departments.”
Review Involves Many Countries
The review will be an outline of a strategy that encompasses numerous issues surrounding the defeat of ISIS, he said. “We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments.”
The captain said that the proposed plan will go to the president, who will make decisions based on the recommendations contained in the review.
Countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya and others in the Southeast Asia region are included in the review, he said, “in the sense that this is going to explore the strategy for how we combat ISIS outside of Iraq and Syria, where we’ve seen ISIS spring up in other places.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)
Carl Gustav’s name is associated in most militaries with the recoilless rifle that bears his name, a weapon typically used in anti-armor/anti-personnel applications that is known for its range and lethality. But another weapon, a submachine gun that was reliable enough to serve special operators in the jungles of Vietnam, claims the name as well.
The Carl Gustav M-45 is a design originally ordered by the Swedish Army in World War II. They wanted new weapons to preserve Swiss neutrality and as potential exports to the warring nations.
The weapon used a simple blowback procedure to cycle the weapon. The operator would pull the trigger, the first round would fire and the force of the explosion would propel the bullet forward while also ejecting a spent casing and allowing a new round to enter the chamber.
But it could churn through those rounds in seconds. It had a firing rate of 600 rounds per minute and could only fire on full auto. The operator had to preserve ammo by shooting controlled bursts.
America never officially adopted the M-45, but U.S. special operators carried it in Vietnam because it was more reliable in the jungle environment than the M-16 that was standard-issued U.S. weapon. Special Forces soldiers and SEALs fought Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces on jungle trails with the little guns, spraying rounds at close range.
In Vietnam, the U.S. operators often carried the weapon with an American-made Sionics silencer and with new magazines that held up to 71 rounds.
Troops to Teachers, a Department of Defense funded program, has been working to help service members transition to careers in education since 1993. The program is part of the Defense-Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, or “DANTES,” which assists service members in acquiring degrees or certifications (or both), during and after their obligated service.
Through DANTES, service members can apply for scholarships, grants, loans, and tuition assistance, as well as get help understanding their VA education benefits.
Eligible DANTES users who utilize the Troops to Teachers program may qualify for additional funding — up to a $5,000 stipend or a $10,000 bonus.
Stipends may be used to pay for certifications, classes, or teaching license fees. Bonuses are awarded to those who’ve already completed their education and received certification and licensure; they are designed to be an incentive for teaching in high need or certain eligible schools.
“High need schools”, according to TTT, are schools in areas where 50 percent of the elementary or middle school or 40 percent of the high school receives free or reduced lunch. “Eligible” schools will have at least 30 percent of its students receiving free or reduced lunch, have an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 13 percent or more, or be a Bureau of Indian Affairs funded school.
Service members awarded stipends or bonuses must either agree to teach full time in an eligible or high need school for three years, or must commit an additional three years to the military.
The Troops to Teachers program has several goals:
Reduce veteran unemployment.
Improve American education by providing motivated, experienced, and dedicated personnel for the nation’s classrooms.
Increase the number of male and minority teachers in today’s classrooms.
Address teacher shortage issues in K-12 schools that serve low-income families and in the critical subjects – math, science, special education, foreign language, and career-technical education.
TTT actively recruits service members from its program to teach in Native American “school[s] residing on or near a designated reservation, nation, village, Rancheria, pueblo, or community with a high population of indigenous students.”
In addition to financial assistance and job placement, TTT offers support to its participants through counseling and mentorship programs.
To date, TTT has awarded over $325,000 in stipends, nearly $2.5 million in bonuses, and helped place over 20,000 veterans into jobs.
The term “Broken Arrow” refers to more than a bad John Travolta movie. In military terminology, a Broken Arrow refers to a significant nuclear event — one that won’t trigger a nuclear war — but is a danger to the public through an accidental or unexplained nuclear detonation, a non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon, radioactive contamination from a nuclear weapon, the loss in transit of a nuclear asset (but not from theft), and/or the jettisoning of a nuclear weapon.
In 1980, the Department of Defense issued a report titled “Narrative Summaries of Accidents Involving U.S. Nuclear Weapons.” Keep in mind, this details eventsonly before 1980. There have been other incidents and scandals since then, not covered here.
The DoD report was released after public outcry following the 1980 Damascus Incident, covered in detail by Eric Schlosser’s 2014 book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety. In this instance, DoD defined an “accident involving nuclear weapons” as:
An unexpected event involving nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons components that results in any of the following:
•Accidental or unauthorized launching or firing, or use by U.S. forces or supported allied forces of a nuclear-capable weapon system which could create the risk of an outbreak of war
• Nuclear detonation
• Non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon or radioactive weapon component, including a fully-assembled nuclear weapon, an unassembled nuclear weapon component, or a radioactive nuclear weapon component
• Radioactive contamination
• Seizure, theft, or loss of a nuclear weapon or radioactive nuclear weapon component, including jettisoning
• Public hazard, actual or implied
If the event occurred overseas, the location was not disclosed, except for the Thule, Greenland and Palomares, Spain incidents. There were no unintended nuclear explosions. The report included incidents from the Air Force and Navy, but not the Marine Corps, as they didn’t have nuclear weapons in peace time and not from the Army because they “never experienced an event serious enough to warrant inclusion.”
Somehow, the Army — of all branches — was the only branch not to lose a nuclear weapon over the course of 30 years.
1. February 13, 1950 – Pacific Ocean off the coast of British Columbia, Canada
A B-36 en route from Eielson AFB (near Moose Creek, Alaska) to Carswell AFB (Fort Worth, Texas) on a simulated combat profile mission developed serious mechanical difficulties six hours into the flight, forcing the crew to shut down three engines at 12,000 feet. Level flight could not be maintained due to icing, so the crew dumped the weapon from 8,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean. A bright flash occurred on impact, followed by the sound and shock wave. Only the high explosives on the weapon detonated. The crew flew over Princess Royal Island, where they bailed out. The plane’s wreckage was later found on Vancouver Island.
2. April 11, 1950 – Manzano Base, New Mexico
After leaving Kirtland AFB (Albuquerque, New Mexico) at 9:38 pm, a B-29 bomber crashed into a mountain three minutes later on Manzano Base, killing the crew. The bomb case for the weapon was demolished and some of the high explosive (HE) burned in the subsequent gasoline fire. Other HE was recovered undamaged, as well as four detonators for the nuclear asset. There was no contamination and the recovered components of the nuclear weapon were returned to the Atomic Energy Commission. The nuclear capsule was on board the aircraft, but was not inserted, as per Strategic Air Command (SAC) regulations, so a nuclear detonation was not possible.
3. July 13, 1950 – Lebanon, Ohio
A B-50 on a training mission from Biggs AFB, Texas flying at 7,000 feet on a clear day suddenly nosed down and flew into the ground near Mrs. Martha Bishop’s farm on Old Hamilton Road, killing four officers and twelve Airmen. The HE detonated on impact, but there was no nuclear capsule aboard the aircraft.
4. August 5, 1950 – Fairfield Suisun AFB, California
A B-29 carrying a weapon but no capsule experienced two runway propellers and landing gear retraction difficulties on takeoff from the base. The crew attempted an emergency landing and crashed an burned. The fire was fought for 12-15 minutes before the weapon’s high explosive detonated, killing 19 crew members and rescue personnel — including Brig. Gen. Robert F. Travis — who was flying the weapon to Guam at the request of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The base was renamed Travis AFB in his honor.
5. November 10, 1950 – “Over Water, outside United States”
Because of an in-flight emergency, a weapon with no capsule of nuclear material was jettisoned over water from an altitude of 10,500 feet. A high explosive detonation was observed.
6. March 10, 1956 – Mediterranean Sea
A B-47 was one of four scheduled non-stop deployment aircraft sent from MacDill AFB, Florida to an overseas air base. Take off and its first refueling went as expected. The second refueling point was over the Mediterranean at 14,000 feet. Visibility was poor at 14,500 but the aircraft — carrying two nuclear capsules — never made contact with the tanker. An extensive search was mounted but no trace of the missing aircraft or its crew were ever found.
7. July 27, 1956 – “Overseas Base”
A B-47 with no weapons aboard was making “touch and go” landings during a training exercise when it suddenly lost control and slid off the runway, crashing into a storage igloo containing several nuclear weapons. No bombs burned or detonated and there was no contamination.
8. May 22, 1957 – Kirtland AFB, New Mexico
A B-36 ferrying a weapon from Biggs AFB, Texas to Kirtland AFB approached Kirtland at 1,700 feet when a weapon dropped from the bomb bay, taking the bomb bay doors with it. The weapon’s parachutes deployed but did not fully stop the fall because of the plane’s low altitude. The bomb hit 4.5 miles South of the Kirtland AFB control tower, detonating the high explosive on the weapon, making a crater 25 feet in diameter and 12 feet deep. Debris from the explosion scattered up to a mile away. Radiological surveys found no radiation except at the crater’s lip, where it was .5 milliroentgens (normal cosmic background radiation humans are exposed to every year is 200 milliroentgens).
9. July 28, 1957 – Atlantic Ocean
Two weapons were jettisoned off the East coast of the U.S. from a C-124 en route to Dover AFB, Delaware. Though three weapons and one nuclear capsule were aboard at the time, nuclear components were not installed on board. The craft experienced a loss of power from engines one and two and could not maintain level flight. The weapons were jettisoned at 4,500 feet and 2,500 feet – both are presumed to have hit the ocean and to have sunk immediately. The plane landed near Atlantic City, New Jersey with its remaining cargo. The two lost weapons were never recovered.
10. October 11, 1957 – Homestead AFB, Florida
A B-47 leaving Homestead AFB blew its tires during takeoff, crashing the plane into an uninhabited area only 3,800 feet from the end of the runway. The B-47 was ferrying a weapon and nuclear capsule. The weapon burned for five hours before it was cooled with water, but the weapon was intact. Even after two low intensity explosions, half the weapon was still intact. Everything was recovered and accounted for.
11. January 31, 1958 – “Overseas Base”
A B-47 with a weapon in strike configuration was making a simulated takeoff during an exercise when its rear wheel casting failed, causing the tail to hit the runway and a rupture to the fuel tank. The resulting fire burned for seven hours. Firemen fought the fire for ten minutes, then had to evacuate the area. There was no high explosive detonation but the area was contaminated after the crash, which was cleared after the wreckage was cleared.
12. February 5, 1958 – Savannah River, Georgia
A B-47 on a simulated combat mission out of Homestead AFB, Florida collided in mid-air with an F-86 Sabre near Savannah, Georgia at 3:30 am. The bomber tried three times to land at Hunter AFB, Georgia with the weapon on board but could not slow down enough to land safely. A nuclear detonation wasn’t possible because the nuclear capsule wasn’t on board the aircraft, but the high explosive detonation would still have done a lot of damage to the base. The weapon was instead jettisoned into nearby Wassaw Sound from 7,200 feet. it didn’t detonate and the weapon was never found.
13. March 11, 1958 – Florence, South Carolina
In late afternoon, four B-47s took off from Hunter AFB, GA en route to an overseas base. When they leveled off at 15,000 feet, one of them accidentally dropped its nuclear weapon into a field 6.5 miles from Florence, South Carolina — detonating the high explosive on impact — then returned to base. The nuclear capsule was not aboard the aircraft.
14. November 4, 1958 – Dyess AFB, Texas
A B-47 caught fire on takeoff, with three crew members successfully ejecting and one killed on impact from 1,500 feet. The high explosive detonated on impact, creating a crater 35 feet in diameter and six feet deep. Nuclear material was recovered near the crash site.
15. November 26, 1958 – Chennault AFB, Louisiana
A B-47 caught fire on the ground with a nuclear weapon on board. The fire destroyed the weapon and contaminated the aircraft wreckage.
16. January 18, 1959 – “Pacific Base”
An F-100 Super Sabre carrying a nuclear weapon in ground alert configuration caught fire after an explosion rocked its external fuel tanks on startup. A fire team put the fire out in seven minutes, with no contamination or cleanup problems.
17. July 6, 1959 – Barksdale AFB, Louisiana
A C-124 on a nuclear logistics mission crashed on take-off and it destroyed by a fire which also destroys the nuclear weapon. No detonation occurred but the ground beneath the weapon was contaminated with radioactivity.
18. September 25, 1959 – Off Whidbey Island, Washington
A U.S. Naby P-5M was abandoned in Puget Sound, Washington carrying an unarmed nuclear antisubmarine weapon, but the weapon was not carrying nuclear material. The weapon was not recovered.
19. October 15, 1959 – Hardinsberg, Kentucky
A B-52 left Columbus AFB, Mississippi and 2:30 pm CST as the the second position in a flight of two. A KC-135 tanker left Columbus AFB at 5:33 pn CST as the second tanker in flight of two, scheduled to refuel the B-52s. On a clear night near Hardinsberg, Kentucky at 32,000 feet, the two aircraft collided. Four crewmen on the B-52 were killed and the two nuclear weapons were recovered intact.
20. June 7, 1960 – McGuire AFB, New Jersey
A BOMARC supersonic ramjet missile in ready storage condition was destroyed after a high pressure helium tank exploded and ruptured the missile’s fuel tanks. The warhead was destroyed by the fire but the high explosive did not detonate and contamination was limited to the area beneath the weapon and the area where firefighting water drained off.
21. January 24, 1961 – Goldsboro, North Carolina
A B-52 on an airborne alert mission experienced structural failure of its right wing, resulting in two weapons separating from the aircraft during breakup between 2,000 and 10,000 feet and the deaths of three crewmembers. The parachute of the first bomb deployed successfully, and it was lightly damaged when it hit the ground. They hit the ground full force and broke apart. One of the weapons fell into “waterlogged farmland to a depth of 50 feet” and was not recovered. The Air Force later purchased land in this area and requires permission before digging nearby.
22. March 14, 1961 – Yuba City, California
A suddenly depressurized B-52 forced to descend to 10,000 feet and caused the bomber to run out of fuel. The crew bailed out, except for the aircraft commander, who steered it away from populated areas and bailed out at 4,000 feet. The two weapons aboard were torn from the aircraft upon ground impact with no explosive or nuclear detonation or contamination.
23. November 16, 1963 – Medina Base, Texas
123,000 pounds of high explosives from disassembled obsolete nuclear assets exploded at an Atomic Energy Commission storage facility. Since the nuclear components were elsewhere, there was no contamination and, amazingly, only three employees were injured.
24. January 13, 1964 – Cumberland, Maryland
A B-52 flying from Massachusetts to Turner AFB, Georgia crashed 17 miles southwest of Cumberland, Maryland carrying two nuclear weapons in tactical ferry configuration, but without electrical connections to the aircraft and the safeties turned on. Trying to climb to 33,000 feet to avoid severe turbulence, the bomber hit more turbulence, destroying the aircraft. Only the pilot and co-pilot survived the event, as the gunner and navigator ejected but were killed by exposure to sub-zero temperatures on the ground. The radar navigator went down with the bird. The weapons were found intact, but under inches of snow.
25. December 5, 1964 – Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota
Two Airmen respond to a security repair issue on a Minuteman I missile on strategic alert. During their work, a retrorocket below the missile’s re-entry vehicle fired, causing the vehicle to fall 75 feet to the floor of the silo, causing considerable damage to the vehicle structure and ripping it from the electronics on the missile. There was no detonation or contamination.
26. December 8, 1964 – Bunker Hill (now Grissom Air Reserve Base), Indiana
An SAC B-58 taxiing during an alert exercise lost control because of the jet blast from the aircraft in front of it combined with an icy runway. The B-58 slid off the runway, hitting runway fixtures, and caught fire as all three crew members began to abandon the aircraft. The navigator ejected but didn’t survive, and five nuclear weapons on board burned and the crash site was contaminated.
27. October 11, 1965 – Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
A C-124 being refueled caught fire, damaging the fuselage and the nuclear components the aircraft was hauling, contaminating the aircraft and the disaster response crews.
28. December 5, 1965 – “At Sea – Pacific”
An A-4 loaded with one nuclear weapon rolled off the elevator of an aircraft carrier and rolled into the sea. The pilot, aircraft and nuclear weapon were all lost more than 500 miles from land.
29. January 17, 1966 – Palomares, Spain
A B-52 bomber and KC-135 tanker collided during a routine high altitude air refueling operation, killing seven of the eleven crew members. The bomber carried four nuclear assets. One was recovered on land, another at sea, while the high explosive on other two exploded on impact with the ground, spreading radioactive material. 1400 tons of contaminated soil and vegetation were moved to the U.S. for storage as Spanish authorities monitored the cleanup operation. Palomares is still the most radioactive town in Europe.
30. January 21, 1968 – Thule, Greenland
A B-52 from Plattsburgh AFB, New York crashed and burned seven miles southwest of the runway while on approach to Thule AB, Greenland, killing one of its crew members. All four nuclear weapons carried by the bomber were destroyed by fire, contaminating the sea ice. 237,000 cubic feet of contaminated snow, ice, water, and crash debris were moved to the U.S. for storage over a four month cleanup operation as Danish authorities monitored the effort.
31. “Spring, 1968” – “At Sea, Atlantic”
“Details remain classified.”
32. September 19, 1980 – Damascus, Arkansas
During routine maintenance of a Titan II missile silo, an Airman dropped a tool, which fell and struck the missile, causing a leak in a pressurized fuel tank. The entire missile complex and surrounding area were evacuated with a team of specialists from Little Rock AFB called in for assessment. 8 1/2 hours after the initial damage, the fuel vapors exploded, killing one member of the team and injuring 21 other Air Force personnel. Somehow, the missile’s re-entry vehicle (and the warhead) was found intact, with no contamination.
Stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the global “Nuclear Club” of the U.S., Russia, the UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea number 15,600.
Below is a video detailing every nuclear blast ever detonated on Earth:
The largest infantry regiment in the British army, The Rifles are made up largely of straight infantrymen and are organized into five active-duty battalions and two reserve ones. It was established in 2007 under a larger reorganization of the British army and has deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Not only are The Rifles Britain’s primary ground troops, the unit also plays an important role in ceremonial marches and events. And as the recruiting video below shows, the unit gets to do a lot of overseas training with plenty of bang bang mixed in. Mortar support, sniper ops and full-on trench warfare make up just a fraction of what The Rifles get into — not to mention rugby tournaments in the U.S. and climbing expeditions to the Alps.
“It’s hard graft, but it’s worth it,” one Rifle officer says in the video. “We work hard, and we get to play hard as well.”
The Rifles deployed for training operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, counterinsurgency in Basra, Iraq, and were involved in the tough fight in Sangin, Afghanistan, alongside U.S. Marines.
During a live fire training exercise in Kenya, the Brits were storming trenches, advancing on objectives and sniping targets — all with mortars flying over their heads.
“The life is definitely full-on and full of action,” another Rifleman says.