The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots - We Are The Mighty
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The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots

In the opening days of the 2003 Iraq War, automated Patriot Missile batteries downed a British Tornado fighter, killing both pilots. A few days later, another Patriot shot down an American F/A-18 over Southern Iraq, killing that pilot. The people manning the automated missile launchers trusted that the system would work as advertised. Why didn’t it?


Benjamin Lambeth wrote in his exhaustive Iraq memoir The Unseen War that “many allied pilots believed that the Patriot posed a greater threat to them than did any [surface-to-air missile] in Iraq’s inventory.”

“The Patriots scared the hell out of us,” one F-16 pilot remarked. In one case an Air Force pilot actually fired a HARM anti-radar missile at a Patriot battery, destroying its radar dish. No one in the Patriot crew was hurt, and the airman said, “they’re now down one radar. That’s one radar they can’t target us with any more.”

When asked if the error was human or mechanical, Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, then-director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said “I think it may be both.”

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots

A software malfunction in 2008 caused US. Army robots to aim at friendly targets. No one was killed because a human was at the trigger. Those robots were still in Iraq with troops as of 2009.

An analysis of the U.S. Navy’s own data on the development of automated weapons says “with hundreds of programmers working on millions of lines of code for a single war robot, no one has a clear understanding of what’s going on, at a small scale, across the entire code base.”

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots

An Air Force unit called the Human Trust and Interaction Branch — that interaction being between humans an automated equipment — based out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is looking to study this interaction to develop new types of recon and intelligence tools via a propose research contract called “Trust in Autonomy for Human Machine Teaming.”

On FedBizOpps (the official government contracting website with a domain name as trustworthy as any payday lender) the Air Force listed a contract for research in understanding “the most significant components driving trust and performance within human-robotic interaction. We need research on how to harness the socio-emotional elements of interpersonal team/trust dynamics and inject them into human-robot teams.”

The $7.5 million contract listing continues with this: “These human-machine teaming dynamics can involve research studying the interplay of individual differences, machine characteristics, robot design, robot interaction patterns, human-machine interaction, and contextual facets of human-machine teaming.”

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots

In plain language, the research is focused on how humans use machines, when they trust the machines and when they don’t. In the cases of when Patriot missiles shot down friendly pilots, an automated system notified the human crews via a popup that warned the machine would fire if no one stopped it. When no one did, the Patriot intercepted the allied aircraft, just as programmed.

The Air Force contract is another example of the military “not knowing what’s going on.” As the Air Force explores our trust issues with robots, the Navy is warning us that “early generations of such [automated] systems and robots will be making mistakes that may cost human lives.”

Humans do come to trust their machines. Previous studies found that humans will bond with machines. U.S. Army Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians have been found to form emotional attachments to their bomb-disposal robots. They are awarded homemade medals and given names, ranks, and sometimes funerals. This level of trust could be misplaced as the bots are armed and the stakes of malfunctioning become higher.

Other current automated units in the U.S. military arsenal include Air Force Predator and Reaper drones, the Navy’s Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, the Army’s tracked, unmanned ground vehicle called TALON (or SWORDS) and the Marines’ unmanned ground vehicle called the Gladiator.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
USMC Gladiator: Are you not entertained?

Recent news about the increased ability of machines to deceive their human masters and the warnings from the scientific and computing community about the overdevelopment of artificial intelligence (AI) as weapons don’t seem to be a concern, even though the Army is developing an automated RoboSniperCopter and is trying to remove humans from the battlefield altogether. This 2013 Gizmodo piece listed the robots debuted for the Army at a Fort Benning “Robotics Rodeo,” featuring an entry from the company who brought you the Roomba:

Major commercial and scientific computer experts believe AI weaponry would be the third revolution of warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms. An open letter from this community expressed the concern that unchecked arms races of automated death robots would result in drones becoming the new AK-47 (presumably meaning cheap, deadly and ubiquitous).

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots

The UN is urging the world’s nations to ban the development of automated weapons, citing the “legal and ethical questions” the use of such a weapon would raise.The aforementioned U.S. Navy report recommended building a “warrior’s code” into the weapons to keep them from killing us all once Skynet becomes self-aware.

 

NOW: 7 Ways Drones Are Ruining Everything

OR: The Use of Military Drone Aircraft Dates Back to WWI

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This huge Navy shipyard allegedly funded an illegal security militia for years

The Navy’s largest shipyard maintained a private, off-the-books, and illegal security force for more than a decade after the 9/11 terror attacks, costing taxpayers $21 million, the Navy inspector general reports.


The Norfolk ship yard in Portsmouth, VA established an unsanctioned security force with a glut of funding in the early 2000s, then purchased millions of dollars of high-tech security equipment and hid it from the Navy authorities for years, the IG said.

“These folks are not law enforcement, but they wanted to be, and all of their actions were done to become a law enforcement organization,” Peter Lintner, deputy director of investigations at Naval Sea Systems Command, told Federal News Radio. “The stunning thing is that this happened over the course of seven commanding officers, and not a single one of them put a stop to it or really even had any visibility on it. Everybody just thought, ‘Well, they’re the good guys. They’re the security department. They’re not going to do anything wrong.’ In actuality, they were doing everything wrong, and they knew it.”

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
A Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team crew, temporarily deployed from San Francisco, provides an escort for the USS Cole as the Navy destroyer returns to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. US Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Weydert.

The IG conducted the the investigation in 2014 after following a tip to the NAVSEA whistleblower hotline, but the report was only recently made available.

The security force acquired surplus equipment — including Berettas, ammunition, scopes, patrol boats, and vehicles — from the Defense Logistics Agency. Government Accountability Office investigators were able to purchase surplus military equipment for a fake law enforcement agency recently, proving that the process for purchasing military equipment is not very rigorous.

The IG estimates that the Navy spent $10.6 million on labor and payroll for the unsanctioned security force, and $10.4 million on the excess equipment.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tyrell K. Morris

The Norfolk security crews went to extreme lengths to keep their stockpile of equipment a secret. They created fake license plates for their vehicles, and would move their cache of weapons and tech off-base whenever the Navy’s asset manager came around to take inventory.

“They drove all the vehicles out, loaded everything on the flatbed and stashed it in one of the back parking lots on the local naval base,” Lintner said. “When the asset manager got there, it was literally an empty warehouse, but the day before it had been packed full of tools, vehicles, all types of material.”

When investigators confronted those in charge, “they admitted they hid it deliberately,” Lintner said. “That’s what they said every time: ‘If anybody found out what we had, they would have taken it away from us and we wanted to be ready for any contingency.’  Their motto was, ‘It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.'”

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Airman 1st Class Ian Wilkerson, a 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron communication navigation specialist, checks the radio systems of an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during a preflight inspection April 26, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Maintenance and inspections are conducted before and after every mission to ensure aircraft safety and longevity.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
U.S. Air Force photo/Naoto Anazawa

Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron use the Jaws of Life to tear apart a vehicle’s roof to remove a mock victim during a combat search and rescue demonstration at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 21, 2016. Pararescuemen and members of the 48th Security Forces Squadron demonstrated the rescue during a Chief of Staff of the Air Force Civic Leader Program visit.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez

ARMY:

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the US Army.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
US Army photo

A helicopter crew, assigned to 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, based at Fort Wainwright, transport supplies and equipment with a CH-47F Chinook helicopter during high-altitude mountain operations at Denali base camp, Alaska, April 24, 2016.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
U.S. Army Alaska photo by Lara Poirrier

NAVY:

FORT WORTH, Texas (April 22, 2016) U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, Solo pilots perform at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base Air Power Expo 2016. The Blue Angels are currently celebrating their 70th show season and are schedules to perform 66 demonstrations at 34 locations across the U.S. in 2016.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Howard

GULF OF ADEN (April 26, 2016) Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Levi Horn observes as Operations Specialist 3rd Class Monica Ruiz fires a 50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire qualification aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Caracci

MARINE CORPS:

A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion is staged during a Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command night raid exercise at Tactical Air Combat Training System Airfield, near Yuma, April 21, 2016. This exercise was conducted during Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 2-16. WTI is a seven week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary M. Ford

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christopher D. Robson, water purification specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 24 practice drills during a Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command night raid exercise at Tactical Air Combat Training System Airfield, near Yuma, Arizona, April 21, 2016. This exercise was conducted during Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 2-16. WTI is a seven week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary M. Ford

COAST GUARD:

A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Houston helicopter aircrewman looks out from an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter while conducting an overflight assessment and search for anyone in distress after recent flooding in southeast Texas, April 19, 2016.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jennifer Nease

Good Samaritans and U.S. Coast Guard Heartland crews rescued nine mariners after their boat rapidly began taking on water.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
US Coast Guard photo

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This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

The Russian-built MiG-29K “Fulcrum” multi-role fighters purchased for use off the Indian navy’s carrier, INS Vikramaditya, are breaking. This marks the latest hiccup for Russian naval aviation, going back to the Kuznetsov Follies of last year’s deployment, as Russia plans to replace its force of Su-33 Flankers with MiG-29Ks.


According to a report by the London Daily Mail, serviceability of the Fulcrums has dropped to below 16 percent in some cases. The Indian Navy had planned for the Fulcrums to last 25 years, and to also operate from the under-construction INS Vikrant, which is expected to enter service in 2023.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
An Indian MiG-29K purchased from Russia. (Photo: Indian Navy CC BY 2.5 IN)

The MiG-29K made its combat debut over Syria in 2016, primarily flying from land bases after being ferried over by the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. One MiG-29K made a splash landing during that deployment, which came to be called the Kuznetsov Follies. Land-based versions of the Fulcrum have turned out to be second-best in a number of conflicts, including Operation Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force, and the Eritrea-Ethiopia War.

The MiG-29K is a single-seat multi-role fighter designed by the Mikoyan design bureau. According to GlobalSecurity.org, it carries a variety of air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons, including the AA-11 Archer, the Kh-35 anti-ship missile, and bombs. It has a top speed of 2,200 kilometers per hour, and a range of up to 3,000 kilometers. India has purchased a total of 45 MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB fighters.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
The INS Vikramaditya has the ability to carry over 30 aircraft comprising an assortment of MiG 29K/Sea Harrier, Kamov 31, Kamov 28, Sea King, ALH-Dhruv and Chetak helicopters. The MiG 29K swing role fighter is the main offensive platform and provides a quantum jump for the Indian Navy’s maritime strike capability.

INS Vikramaditya started out as a modified Kiev-class carrier known as the Baku. The vessel was re-named the Admiral Gorshkov in 1991 before being placed up for sale in 1996. When in Russian service, the vessel was armed with six twin launchers for the SS-N-12 Sandbox anti-ship missile, 24 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 Gauntlet surface-to-air missile, two 100mm guns, eight AK-630 Gatling Guns, and ten 533mm torpedo tubes.

For Indian service, many of those weapons were removed, and a ski-jump ramp was added. The vessel can fire Israeli-designed Barak surface-to-air missiles, and still has four AK-630s.

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These high-tech Long Johns could protect you from a mustard gas attack

With threats of a mustard gas attack on U.S. troops re-emerging in ISIS-infested Iraq, a leading clothing technology company has developed an ingenious way to protect troops from the horrors of chem-bio warfare.


Known more for its waterproof and breathable coating for rainwear and other outdoor equipment, W.L. Gore — the folks who make Gore-Tex — has developed a next-to-skin clothing system that protects against both chemical and biological warfare agents with just a thin layer of its so-called “Chempak” material.

So, say goodbye to that hot, bulky, carbon-impregnated MOPP suit.

“The big thing you think about with chem-bio suits is the thermal burden,” said Gore’s Mike Merrick. “You want to make sure you’re keeping that user as effective as possible which means you have to relieve heat stress and reduce that mobility restriction. That’s how we’ve designed this garment — to address that mobility restriction and range of motion and thermal burden.”

The new Chemical/Biological Protective Clothing System developed by Gore is light, stretchy and thin, so it allows the operator unrestricted movement when things go kinetic. Gore also claims it 20 percent cooler than the current chem-bio suit.

The best part is most observers would have no idea a soldier is wearing it, so for public events where security is worried about a potential terrorist attacks, the crowd won’t freak out seeing troops or police wearing bulky chem-bio space suits.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
The two-piece chem-bio protection system developed by Gore gives troops a high level of protection from attack while remaining covert. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

“The benefits of this is it’s very concealable you could be wearing it under your clothes right now and I’d have no idea,” Merrick said during an interview at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.

“Think of something like the Olympics where you don’t want to alert a stadium full of people that their could be a threat — you don’t want to walk around there in a big chem-bio suit,” he added. “But in the event something happens, you have a backpack, you pull a mask on you put gloves on and you’re good to go.”

Another advantage of the Chempak material, Merrick says, is that it protects against both vapor-based chemical warfare agents as well as liquid-based biological weapons which the current MOPP suit does a poor job repelling.

Gore has also developed a more robust system that includes a one-piece Union-Suit-like undergarment and a thin coverall. The advantage with this option is that it can be doffed and donned over a trooper’s uniform and can be configured for different missions depending on the environment. The inner protective layer can be worn under a coverall that matches the camo pattern of the service or agency, for example, rather than forcing units to buy entire suits in one color or pattern.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
The CPSU-2 developed by Gore allows operators to tailor their outer garment to a specific mission while delivering both chemical and biological protection at a fraction of the bulk and heat of today’s MOPP suit. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

“The benefit is that it’s got this removable outer shell. So that’s good for tailorability to the unit,” Merrick said. “If they want to change that outer garment for a jungle uniform or you’re Coast Guard and you’re doing a drug interdiction mission — its’ one chem-bio suit with two different outer garment coveralls, so the logistics burden is reduced and you don’t have to carry two different chem-bio suits.”

American special operations units are already wearing the two-piece chem-bio undergarment on some missions, but Gore is gunning for the Pentagon’s replacement for the dreaded MOPP suit.

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NYFA hosts panel on WATM-produced docuseries following Army recruits through Basic Combat Training

WATM’s very own Chief Content Officer and veteran Chase Millsap just wrapped up filming and producing the incredible docuseries, Ten Weeks, that takes you inside the Army’s basic combat training. 

Millsap worked alongside David Gale (WATM’s founder) and retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs, Chair of NYFA’s Veterans Advancement Program a Medal of Honor Recipient, to bring viewers deep within the life of five potential soldiers during their boot camp journey. The series offers a stunning and raw look at the humanity of these everyday citizens and their extraordinary rise to becoming one of America’s protectors. 

To celebrate the project, they’ll be hosted by the New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts on January 26, 2021, for a virtual event open to students, military members and veterans. The team will share an exclusive trailer and then host a live discussion on the making of the series. Leading the panel event is Tova Laiter, Director of NYFA Q&A Series. She has interviewed hundreds of Hollywood luminaries including Adam Driver, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese and industry professionals at NYFA’s theaters in Los Angeles and New York City. We spoke with Eric Brown, Sr. Veterans Outreach & Recruitment Advisor, who has been instrumental in staging the January 26 panel event.

Brown enlisted at just 18 years old. With a laugh, he told WATM that his first choice had actually been the Marine Corps. His mother talked him out of it, too afraid of him being at the forefront of the war. “I served in the Navy for about seven years and deployed for efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Brown shared. “I like what the Navy stood for and loved the opportunities I had as a Gas Turbine Technician.” After leaving the service in 2010, he attended the NYFA for a degree in fine arts and has been working for them over the past eight years. Working in support of this docuseries was an honor, according to Brown. 

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
Eric Brown

NYFA is a frequent partner with WATM and Brown shared that the school often involves their students in these types of collaborative projects. When the opportunity to showcase Ten Weeks came about, he jumped on it immediately. “Within the Division of Veteran Services, we host multiple events to connect with the veteran community,” Brown explained. Delivering good content to veterans is important to him, he said.

Another passion of his is getting more veterans involved in filmmaking. “I think there are a lot of stories out there that should be told … veterans are a very unique breed. We are civilians but we’ve transformed,” Brown shared.  

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
Brown interviewing Stephen Lang

When asked if watching the trailer for Ten Weeks brought back any fond memories of his own bootcamp experience, he laughed. Brown grew up in Miami and was a first generation American whose family immigrated from the Caribbean islands. Snow was not a word he was familiar with using. His basic training for the Navy took him to the Great Lakes in the middle of winter. “I caught pneumonia twice and I still had to go out there and PT. It was a pretty brutal experience,” he shared. 

Although nothing as harsh as what he went through happens in the docuseries, Brown said the entire process for the prospective soldiers was completely relatable. Despite the hardship of training, he loved it. “I thought it was a very unique challenge and something I’d never be able to replicate again,” Brown said. This response is similar to what viewers will see from soldiers at the end of Ten Weeks. An incredible transformation and experience that changes them all, forever.

What does Brown hope the viewers of this docuseries take away from the project? The understanding of the weight and meaning of service. “I would like the audience to walk away with understanding the honor and commitment it takes. The integrity and courage for these service members to give up four years or 20 years or even ultimately … unfortunately those who may make the ultimate sacrifice for this country,” Brown said. “I want them to have an understanding of that and what it means, to serve. It isn’t just an incredible education. It’s about giving of yourself wholeheartedly to a cause that like-minded individuals believe in and to honor that.”

Those who watch Ten Weeks get a window view into the making of United States soldiers. The often young and bright-eyed graduates will head off to fight, for you and everyone else in this nation. They don’t do it for accolades or money, but for love. Brown’s last words are poignant and should be ingrained in every citizen of this country: “The uniform is not just an article of clothing, it’s a rite of passage and something that echoes through eternity.”

If you are a military member or veteran, sign up to take part in the virtual event to premiere the WATM-produced Ten Weeks trailer and join the discussion on the implications of service.

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There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program

The head of US oversight for Afghanistan told lawmakers July 25 that the Pentagon’s wasteful purchase of untested camouflage uniforms for Afghan forces is under criminal investigation.


Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said the Defense Department spent $94 million on a proprietary camouflage pattern — known as HyperStealth Spec4ce Forest — for Afghan army forces “without determining the pattern’s effectiveness in Afghanistan compared to other available patterns.”

The effort resulted in $28 million in excess costs to the US taxpayer and, if unmodified, Sopko said, this procurement “will needlessly cost the taxpayer an additional $72 million over the next 10 years.”

Sopko’s investigation also found that the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, or CSTC-A, could not identify the total amount of direct assistance spent on Afghan uniforms — nor could it account for the total amount of uniforms actually purchased due to poor oversight and poor recordkeeping.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
John Sopko. Photo from Special IG for Afghanistan Reconstruction via Flickr

“These problems, Madam Chairwoman, are serious. They are so serious that we started a criminal investigation related to the procurement of the [Afghan National Army] uniforms,” Sopko told the committee.

As a result of the investigation, he added, “I am going to announce today that we believe it is prudent to review all of CSTC-A’s contracts related to the procurement of organizational clothing and individual equipment in Afghanistan.”

The investigation’s embarrassing findings recently prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to scold the Pentagon bureaucracy, describing the episode as emblematic of an attitude in the Pentagon that allows poor spending decisions to be excused, overlooked, or minimized.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, the Missouri Republican chairwoman for the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, asked how the forest camouflage pattern was selected over other more economical patterns that are owned by the Defense Department.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
Afghan National Army soldiers standing out against their environment. Army photo by Pfc. David Devich.

Sopko said Afghanistan’s minister of defense was never shown any Defense Department-owned camouflage patterns.

“He was basically shown only the patterns owned by one company,” Sopko said. “The only options we gave the minister of defense were the proprietary patterns. The bigger problem is no one ever did an assessment as to what type of camouflage is best in Afghanistan.

“Basically, what we were told by CSTC-A, and we are researching this right now, is the minister of defense liked this color, so he picked it,” he said.

Peter Velz, director for Afghanistan Resources and Transition for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, agreed with Sopko’s report, saying that a “DoD organization with expertise in military uniforms should conduct an analysis of whether there might be a more cost-effective uniform design and camouflage pattern that meets operational requirements.”

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Roger S. Duncan

“We believe this is the best way to determine the merits of the report’s claim that DoD may have spent as much as $28 million over 10 years on uniforms that may be inappropriate for Afghanistan’s operational environment,” Velz said.

The appropriate Pentagon experts have begun developing a plan for the study, which is expected to begin in the coming weeks, he added.

It’s unclear if Velz’ office is aware that the US Army conducted an exhaustive camouflage study, which featured an operational evaluation of multiple camouflage patterns — including HyperStealth, in Afghanistan. The effort resulted in the Army selecting Crye Precision’s MultiCam pattern in 2010 as the service’s official pattern for Afghanistan.

Since then, the Army has adopted its new Operational Camouflage Pattern, a government-owned pattern that closely resembles MultiCam.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
Afghan National Army Sgt. Sarajadin, an instructor at Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest. Photo from Special IG for Afghanistan Reconstruction via Flickr

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., asked what else the subcommittee can do to help prevent these types of mishandled contracts.

Sopko said that holding these types of hearing is important, but so is making sure “tough, hard questions are asked.”

“One question you could ask, and I think the full committee should ask, is how many people identified by my office, by the DoD office, or by [the Government Accountability Office] have actually lost their jobs because of wasting taxpayers’ dollars,” Sopko said.

“Send that letter to the Department of Defense … I bet you no one. We identify these problems; no one is held accountable,” he said.

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WWI’s deadliest sniper was from Canada

Clear eyesight, pinpoint accuracy, and having overwhelming patience are just some of the key factors of being an effective sniper in the battlefield.


Nine days after Britain declared war on Germany, Francis Pegahmagabow of the Shawanaga First Nation enlisted in the Algonquin Regiment of the Canadian Army, and shortly after left for basic training in Valcartier, Quebec.

Within just a few months, Francis and his unit were transported to the trenches of WWI and began enduring the war’s hardships, including exposure to the first of many German gas attacks.

Related: These 3 snipers had more kills than Carlos Hathcock in Vietnam

During his first few engagements, Francis began making a productive name for himself serving as an effective sniper and taking missions alone into “no man’s land,” surprising his commanders.

Climbing in rank and earning respect amongst his peers, Francis found himself in the vital role of the battalion sniper, collecting a variety of intel like enemy machine gun posts, patrol routes, and defensive position locations.

Francis would even sneak his way through enemy lines and cut souvenirs off of German uniforms while they slept, which eventually earned him a promotion to corporal. In 1916, he reverted back to the rank of private at his own petition.

Also read: The 6 best Hollywood sniper shots ever

He was wounded in the leg and later caught a case of pneumonia, but hit the ground running upon his return to the front lines, racking up medals for bravery by improving his kill count numbers and running messages back and forth to Allied troop units.

The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots
Francis Pegahmagabow in June 1945, (Canadian Museum of History/CBC/Screenshot)

Francis Pegahmagabow passed away on Aug. 5, 1952, but was credited with 378 kills and aiding in the capture of approximately 300 enemy combatants — making him the deadliest sniper of the Great War.

Check out The Great War‘s channel for a more in-depth look at Canada’s most prized sniper of WWI.

(The Great War, YouTube)
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10 things that will change the way you look at grunt officers




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Grunt officers get a bad wrap when they arrive to their first unit. Like any newbie, “Butter Bars” — military slang for 2nd Lieutenants — have to earn the respect of their men despite their rank.

Related: These legendary military officers were brilliant (and certainly crazy)

But it doesn’t stop there, there’s added pressure from the other officers higher in the chain. When Chase Millsap a veteran officer of both the Army and Marine Corps infantry got to his first unit, he received a warning call from the other Os.

 

“There wasn’t even like a welcome to the unit,” said Millsap. “It was like, ‘you are a liability, you are going to screw this up for the rest of us. If you think you have a question, don’t ask it.’ ”

 

It was a well timed warning and every new officer needs that grounding advice. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure coming out of the infantry officers course and these guys are ready to fight — “they are gung-ho,” according to Millsap.

 

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast Tim and I ask Millsap everything we ever wanted to know about Grunt officers.
Here are 10 questions we asked:
  1. How do you get into the Naval Academy? How do you get your congressman to vouch for you?
  2. What are some popular tattoos with grunt officers? Do you guys also get moto tattoos?
  3. What kinds of nicknames do officers give each other?
  4. Do experienced officers mess with new officers? Do you haze each other? Spill the dirt.
  5. How did you know when you’ve earned the respect from the men you lead?
  6. Do officers make stupid purchases after deployment?
  7. What is it with officers and safety briefs?
  8. Do officers get extra attention from the enlisted troops at the base gate?
  9. Do officers rely on the intelligence of the Lance Corporal Underground — the E4 Mafia?
  10. What’s the Lieutenant Protection Association (LPA)? Is that like the officer version of the E4 Mafia?

Hosted by:

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

  • Twitter: @tkirk35

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

  • Twitter/Instagram: @orvelinvalle

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Chase Millsap: Army and Marine Corps infantry veteran turned Director of Impact Strategy at We Are The Mighty

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Articles

USS Cole steams back to site of deadly 2000 suicide attack

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) probably wouldn’t be blamed for not wanting to sail off the coast of Yemen. But in the wake of an attack on a Saudi frigate, the Cole is patrolling the waters near the war-torn country where she was attacked by a suicide boat in 2000.


That attack killed 17 sailors, wounded 39 and tore a hole in the hull that measured 40 feet by 60 feet. A 2010 Navy release noted that the Cole took 14 months to repair. That release also noted that the Cole’s return to Norfolk came through the Bab el Mandab, near the location where the Saudi frigate was attacked.

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160710-N-CS953-375
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Mahan (DDG 72) and USS Cole (DDG 67) maneuver into position behind three Japanese destroyers during a photo exercise. USS Cole is in the center of the photograph. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/Released)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Cole’s mission is to maintain “freedom of navigation” in the region. In the past, things have gotten rough during the innocuous-sounding “freedom of navigation” missions.

The region has already seen some shots taken at the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) on three occasions, prompting a retaliatory Tomahawk strike from the destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94). The attacks on the Mason, the Saudi frigate, and the former US Navy vessel HSV-2 Swift were blamed on Iranian-sponsored Houthi rebels. The attacks on USS Mason used Iranian-made Noor anti-ship missiles, a copy of the Chinese C-802.

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More than 100 midshipmen man the rails for a photo on the foícísle of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) during the 2016 Professional Training for Midshipmen (PROTRAMID) Surface week. USS Cole has deployed off the coast of Yemen, where the ship was attacked in 2000. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)

Iran has been quite aggressive in recent months, making threats to American aircraft in the Persian Gulf. There have been a number of close encounters between American ships and Iranian speedboats as well. In one case this past August, the Cyclone-class patrol ship USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at Iranian vessels. Last month, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) also was forced to fire warning shots at Iranian speedboats.

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Here are 10 things everyone experiences in jump school

The U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia is where U.S. military members of all branches go to become military parachutists. The school is three weeks of intense physical drills, training on towers, and of course, “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane” five times to earn the coveted silver parachute badge (also known as “jump wings”).


Here are 10 things Airborne students will encounter when going through Jump School:

1. Black Hats

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Airborne Instructors in 1977

An Airborne instructor’s nametag may read “Jones” but students will address him or her as “Sergeant Airborne.” New Airborne trainees are received by the school’s instructors known as “Black Hats,” because of their headgear, a simple black baseball cap with their rank and wings display on the cap.

The instructors are mostly Army personnel, but the Marine Corps Air Force, and Navy also provide instructors since the school is open to all eligible DOD service members. Black Hats are skilled parachutists who are responsible for training Airborne students, and they do with ‘tough love. They will make their students repeat physical drills and exercises over and over until they get it right.

No matter how exhausting, they won’t stop until a student gets it right. They are doing it for the trainees own well-being.

2. The Airborne Shuffle

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Army 2nd Lt. Nelson Lalli runs with an Airborne School classmate to report in after his first jump.

Not to be confused with the popular dance the ‘Cupid shuffle’ or the Chicago Bears Super Bowl shuffle, the Airborne shuffle is not a dance nor is it fun. This shuffle refers to the pace or speed of a formation run during Airborne school. It is typically about a 9-minute mile.

The shuffle is meant to build stamina, not speed. At Airborne School, trainees run everywhere especially in combat boots or with their equipment. The Airborne shuffle is also commonly known for the short choppy steps students take on the aircraft before the jump out, just like the cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door.”

3. Wearing Helmets all day

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At Jump School, aspiring paratroopers will wear their helmet everywhere they go. Students will run and train with it on every day. The chin strip and helmet pads will reek so bad after the first week of training that a squirt of Febreze is simply not enough to contain the smell of sweat and bacteria.

4. Falling all day

Airborne students will spend a lot of time hitting the ground during Jump School. Learning how to properly fall during a parachute landing is a core fundamental taught at the Basic Airborne Course. This is especially true when doing parachute landing fall (PLF) drills. Trainees will jump off platforms of different heights into large pits over and over until they get it right. Airborne students can expect to do hundreds of PLFs before they leave the school.

Along with PLFs, trainees will jump from tall towers like the 34-foot tower to learn proper aircraft exiting techniques and the iconic 250-foot tower, although not all Airborne class get to do the tower.

Just remember to “keep your feet and knees together!”

5. The smell of Bengay in the morning

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Week one, ground week, focuses on the proper landing fall techniques, emphasizing the importance of keeping feet and knees together during a landing to prevent injuries. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kuande Hall)

Before long, the smell of Bengay, the over-the-counter analgesic cream used to relieve muscle and joint pain, will fill the barracks each morning to help students with their joint and muscle pain.

6. Swing Landing Trainer

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A student practices proper landing techniques on the Swing Landing Trainer.

The Swing Landing Trainer is not fun. Students are strapped into a harness to step off a platform and swing back and forth. The discomfort experienced on this device when swinging, especially for male students, is terrible. Students will continue to swing on the harness until they are released by the Black Hats. Trainees must perform several proper PLFs to pass this stage of training.

Most hit the ground like a stack of potatoes.

7. “Hurry up and wait” goes to a whole new level

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Airborne Students wait to board an aircraft.

Finally, it’s jump week… but the wait isn’t over. Students will wake up early, run to the chute shed, rig up, and just wait and wait for many hours. Students are not allowed to sleep or talk as they wait. It’s the ultimate example of “hurry up and wait.”

8. A mix of emotions

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Time to jump! There’s certainly level of excitement and fear at this point, as jumpers hook up to the static line and prepare to jump. Some people question their judgement at this point, as butterflies flutter in their stomachs and thoughts of “why the hell am I doing this” circle in their head. For others, this is the best moment of their life!

9. Jumping Out

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Paratroopers with 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade), exit a C-130 aircraft Feb. 12, 2010, at Al Asad Airbase, Iraq, as part of the largest airborne training exercise conducted by U.S. forces in Iraq since the beginning of the war. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

Probably the two most common reactions: “This is awesome” or “Holy Shit!”

10. Pinning of the Wings

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After completing five parachute jumps, Lt. Col. Kay Wakatake has her wings pinned on by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Richardson at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo by Captain Greg Peterson)

The pinning of parachute wings is the crowning achievement of three weeks of training. The badge is pinned (or slammed) on the graduate’s chest. This rite of passage solidifies an individual as a member of the Airborne family. The best part of all of this: You’re no longer a leg!

Articles

4 military disguises that were just crazy enough to actually work

1. That time French soldiers hid inside papier-mâché horse carcasses

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Looking back, trench warfare has to be one of the most insane methods of warfare ever carried out. Between the torrential mud, staggering levels of trench foot, and other diseases that ran rampant, it’s a wonder that everyone didn’t just give up and get the hell out of the ground.

But World War I was still, in some respects, a gentleman’s war. And gentlemen don’t let mud get them down. Gentlemen also don’t complain about their lack of protective cover — at least not if you’re France. While other platoons were bemoaning the crumbling, barren landscape that made up infamous “No Man’s Land” — a stretch of charred earth, tangled barbed wire and broken bodies between opposing trenches — a few French soldiers set up camp right in the middle of it.

They weren’t alone, though. They were using a very special kind of shelter … the hooved kind. Don’t worry, no one was actually crawling inside of dead horse bodies to hide from enemy artillery fire. Though a dead horse is what started this whole thing.

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Maybe it was this one

Horses were a huge part of combat in WWI. They pulled ambulances, carried soldiers into cavalry charges, and were the primary means of transporting weapons, ammunition and food supplies for each nation involved. They were also large, bulky and loud, making them primary targets for enemy scopes.

This, as you can imagine, left a lot of dead horses everywhere. Eventually, someone searching for shelter in No Man’s Land probably cuddled up next to one in what he thought were his final moments, only to realize that this decaying Seabiscuit actually made for a pretty awesome barrier.

Enter France’s big idea: hollow, papier-mâché horses large enough for a man to crawl inside and aim his gun through.

Once night fell, the French drug away the dead horses that lay right in front of the German trenches and replaced them with the dummies. Then they ran a telephone wire from inside the horse back to the French trenches, so the sniper who would hide inside the horse would be able to report back on German movements.

This worked for a few days. Then a German soldier spotted a French sniper climbing out of one of the dead horses, and the jig was up. The method quickly became popular though, and “dummy horses” would appear on battlefields throughout Europe for the duration of the war.

2. The sailors who cross-dressed and pretended their warship was a cruise liner

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World War II had its share of out-of-the-box camouflage as well. While a Dutch warship was busy disguising itself as an island to hide from Japanese bombers, the British fleet was brainstorming its own method of deception.

German U-boats were becoming more and more of a problem for the Allied merchant fleet. With little means of fighting back, the small ships were sitting ducks for the German watercraft, who could pluck them off easily with their superior weapons and speed. This gave England an idea: if the King’s warships disguised themselves as merchant boats, they could lure them into an ambush, destroying the German U-boats and the submarines that surfaced alongside them during their attacks.

But England wasn’t about to do this deception halfway. If they were going to pull this off, their disguise would have to be elaborate, reflective of the other (hijinks) they had pulled off earlier in the war. So the sailors got creative, and boy did they deliver.

Not only did the British officers don civilian costumes, some dressed in drag, pretending to be ladies sunning themselves on the deck of a cruise liner. When the Germans looked through their periscopes to take in the ship, they would see men and “women” flirting aboard a civilian ocean liner, walking around the deck and taking in the views over the rail.

They would also have to act the part. When a German U-boat was spotted, some ships went as far as pretending to panic, running around the deck and tripping over themselves for the benefit of the German’s view. There are even accounts of sailors haphazardly deploying their lifeboats and “accidentally” leaving one of their own behind, then scrambling to retrieve them as the unlucky “civilian” screamed for help.

The ship, of course, was actually outfitted with plenty of hidden weapons. When the U-boats would close in, the ruse would be over, and they would destroy the enemy ships and submarines as they began to close in.

3. The German soldier who hid inside of a fake tree

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Man-sized horse piñatas weren’t the only thing soldiers were hiding inside of during WWI. In 1917, a platoon of German soldiers in Belgium needed to find a way to gain visibility through a small patch of dead trees that blocked their view of the Allies on the other side.

The cluster of dry wood was optimistically named the Oosttaverne Wood, one of the last clumps of nature left in the battlegrounds near Messines. It actually looked like a bunch post-apacolyptic metal posts, which gave the Germans an idea. They couldn’t send a sniper in to hide amongst the trees because there weren’t enough branches to cover him, but they could send them inside their own tree.

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A plan was set into motion. The Germans would build a 25-foot-tall tree out of steel pipe, painting it so it looked like it had bark. Then a solider would hide inside, using a small hidden window to spy on the British forces in what was probably one of the most cramped snipers’ nests ever.

Just like the French horse-creators did, the Germans waited until nightfall to get things moving. With artillery fire ringing out to disguise the sounds of sawing and chopping wood, they cut down the real tree and set up their new steel lookout, hoping it wouldn’t draw any unwanted attention.

It didn’t. For several months the Germans were able to spy from their wartime treehouse, with the tree-spy crawling out of his post under cover of darkness each evening to report on his findings. It wasn’t until the British tunneled under the German lines and destroyed their trenches from the ground up in the Battle of Messines  that the tree was abandoned. Once they had captured the trenches, the British lived and worked alongside the fake tree for several months before discovering it was a fake. The steel tree can now be found in The Australian War Memorial.

4. Israeli special forces used fake boobs to trick the PLO

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Wonder where they got the idea from… (Photo: Variety)

Thus far, all of our disguise contenders have been relatively believable. When you have shells exploding next to your trench and artillery fire screaming in your ears, you’re probably not going to spend much time debating the validity of a slightly iron-looking tree, or a particularly limp dead horse. No one has time for that kind of daydream. And even though the cross-dressing sailors were doubly ridiculous, they had the advantage of distance from enemy scopes.

This story, however, is just plain insane. In 1973, a group of Israeli special forces commandos entered Beirut on a mission to take out three key leaders of the [Palestine Liberation Organization] who were responsible for the Munich massacre of the 1972 Olympics. The mission, dubbed “The Spring of Youth,” was incredibly risky, and the operatives knew that some deception would be in order if they were to get in and out of the area safely.

So, the Israeli commandos did the logical thing — they dressed up as women. Besides being confident in their ability to infiltrate the PLO, they were also apparently confident that their enemies had never seen a woman before. Or that they could really rock a pair of heels, who knows.

With wigs, fake boobs and matching shoes all in place, the muscled members of the Israeli special forces strolled down the street on the arms of other members of their secret group, who were normally-dressed men.

The fake couples were able to pass right by bodyguards and police without inciting any suspicions, and the hidden team was able to walk up to the apartment building of the PLO leaders and wait right outside their doors. Once safely inside, the men and “women” burst through the doors and pulled out their hidden guns and explosives, shooting and killing the stunned PLO members and avenging the deaths of their murdered countrymen.

The story gets even crazier from here. One of the femme fatales who carried out the high stakes mission was Ehud Barak, who would eventually serve as Prime Minister of Israel and currently serves as Defense Minister. Just goes to show you that dressing in drag could help you make it to the top.

Articles

Missing radioactive material sparks fears of an ISIS dirty bomb

In November 2015, a laptop-sized container of Iridium-192 disappeared from a storage facility near the Iraqi city of Basra. Iridium-192 is a highly radioactive and dangerous material used to detect flaws in metal and to treat some cancers. It’s also one of the main potential sources of radioactive material that could be used in a “dirty bomb.”


Its potential for misuse and the the location of the theft worries Iraqi officials that the material could be in the hands of ISIS (Daesh) militants. The fears sparked a nationwide hunt for the material.

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A U.S. oil company, the Houston-based Weatherford, is the alleged owner of the storage facility where the material was lost, but the company denied it. The material itself is owned by a Turkish company, whom Weatherford says had control of the bunker.

“We do not own, operate or control sources or the bunker where the sources are stored,” Weatherford told Reuters. “SGS is the owner and operator of the bunker and sources and solely responsible for addressing this matter.”

The iridium isotope loses its potency relatively easily, when compared to other potential sources of radioactive material, and ir-192 cases seem to go missing much more frequently than one might expect, especially in the United States.

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Iridium-192 containers in Georgia (Georgia government photo)

Iridium-192 emits high energy gamma radiation and exposure to the isotope can cause burns, radiation sickness, and death. It also exponentially increases risks of developing cancer.

Ryan Mauro, an adjunct professor at Clarion Project, a think tank that tracks terrorism, downplayed the danger to Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

“Shaping headlines is essential to ISIS’ jihad … beheadings, explosions and most brutal acts have become stale,” Mauro told Fox News. “A dirty bomb attack would be major news, regardless of how many immediate casualties occur.”

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