US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching - We Are The Mighty
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US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

The sun has set over the scrubby Savannah. The moon is full. It is time for Ryan Tate and his men to go to work. In camouflage fatigues, they check their weapons and head to the vehicles.


Somewhere beyond the ring of light cast by the campfire, out in the vast dark expanse of thornbushes, baobab trees, rocks and grass, are the rhinos. Somewhere, too, may be the poachers who will kill them to get their precious horns.

The job of Tate, a 32-year-old former US Marine, and the group of US military veterans he has assembled in a remote private reserve in the far north of South Africa is simple: keep the rhinos and the rest of the game in the bush around their remote base alive.

The men are not mercenaries, or park rangers –they work for Tate’s Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife (Vetpaw), a US-based nonprofit organization funded by private donations. All have seen combat, often with elite military units, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Shejal Pulivarti

Though equipped with vehicles, trail bikes, assault rifles, sniper suits, and radios, the most important weapons in the war against poaching, Tate believes, are the skills and experiences his team gained on successive deployments in conflict zones over the last decade and a half.

“We are here for free. We are not going anywhere. Whether it is cold or hot, day or night… we want to work with anyone who needs help,” Tate says.

The initiative is not without controversy. Some experts fear “green militarization” and an arms race between poachers and gamekeepers. Others believe deploying American former soldiers to fight criminals in South Africa undermines the troubled country’s already fragile state.

But the scale of the challenge of protecting South Africa’s rhinos is clear to everyone, with a rise in poaching in recent years threatening to reverse conservation gains made over decades.

Though rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance as fingernails, a kilo is worth up to $65,000. The demand comes from East Asia, where rhino horn is seen as a potent natural medicine and status symbol, and is met by international networks linking dirt-poor villages in southern Africa with traffickers and eventually buyers. Patchy law enforcement, corruption and poverty combine to exacerbate the problem.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

In South Africa, home to 80% of the world’s wild rhinos, only 13 were poached in 2007. In 2015, the total was nearly 1,200, though losses have declined slightly since.

“These criminal gangs are armed to the teeth, well-funded and part of transnational syndicates who will stop at nothing,” a South African government spokesman said in February.

Tate founded Vetpaw after seeing a documentary about poaching and the deaths of park rangers in Africa. His team now works on a dozen private game reserves covering a total of around 200,000 hectares in Limpopo, the country’s northernmost province. One advantage for local landowners is the protection heavily armed combat veterans provide against the violent break-ins feared by so many South Africans, particularly on isolated rural farmsteads. The team has also run training courses for local guides and security staff.

But if one aim of Vetpaw is to counter poaching, another is to help combat veterans in the US, where former servicemen suffer high levels of unemployment and mental illness.

“Everyone gets PTSD when they come back from war … you are never going to get the brotherhood, the intensity again … [There are] all these veterans with billions of dollars of training and the government doesn’t use them. I saw a need in two places and just put them together,” says Tate.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Vetpaw operates primarily in Limpopo, the northern-most province of South Africa (in red). Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Vetpaw base in the bush in Limpopo, though considerably less spartan than most “forward operating bases”, is familiar to anyone who has spent time with US forces. There is a rack of helmets and body armor, a detailed map pinned to the wall, and banners with the insignia of US Special Forces hung above a dining table. There is the banter, and the jargon. The team talks of tactical missions, intel, and “bad guys”.

Despite lines on a whiteboard reading, “In the absence of a plan move towards the sound of gunfire and kill everything,” Tate says he has selected combat veterans because they will resist the temptation to use lethal force. Poachers are told to put down their arms, and then handed over to the police.

“This is textbook counterinsurgency here. It’s unconventional warfare,” says Kevin, a British-born veteran who quit US Elite Special Forces last year after a decade and a half largely on active duty, frequently in close quarter combat. “Shooting and killing is easy. The hardest thing is not shooting but figuring stuff out… if you kill someone do you turn a family, a village against you?” Like other members of Vetpaw, Kevin did not want to be identified by his full name.

The thinking is rooted in the “hearts and minds” approach developed by the US military a decade ago when senior officers realized their massive firepower was winning battles, but not campaigns.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Tate says poachers coerce local communities into providing safe houses or other support – much as US army officers once explained assistance given to insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Francois Meyer, who grew up in northern Limpopo and runs a local conservation NGO that works with Vetpaw, says villages vary. “In some, the poachers are seen as heroes. They give out money. There is a kind of Robin Hood syndrome. Taking from the rich white man to give to the poor. But in others, the poachers get the living shit kicked out of them,” Meyer said.

There is little consensus on what response to the problem of poaching might work best, and fierce debate rages among conservationists, farmers, and officials.

A moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn in South Africa implemented in 2009 was controversially overturned by a court in April. Though there has been an increase in arrest of poachers, there are few convictions and “a lack of political will” means many of the “kingpins” remain untouched.

The complexities of the issue seem distant to the veterans out on patrol in remote northern Limpopo, high on a rocky crag, listening to the grunt of a leopard or the cough of the baboons in the gathering night.

“After what I’ve done, I couldn’t just go and do a nine to five. I’ve never had nightmares or flashbacks or anything … [but] after years of doing what I’ve done, this is good for the soul,” says Kevin, the former Green Beret. “It’s in a good cause and you get to watch the African sunset.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how many US troops would be wounded in a war with North Korea

US military leaders who attended a classified exercise in Hawaii learned that a war with North Korea could result in around 10,000 American combat-related casualties in the opening days, according to a New York Times report published on Feb.28, 2018.


The tabletop exercise (TTX), which tests hypothetical scenarios, lasted several days and included Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley and Special Operations Command commander Gen. Raymond Thomas.

Also read: North Korea warns that it’s ready for both war and diplomacy

While the number of troops who could potentially be wounded in such combat may be startling, civilian casualties were predicted to range from the thousands to the hundreds of thousands, according to The Times. The US stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea, while the capital of Seoul — which is in range of North Korea’s crude, yet devastating artillery fire — has a population of about 24 million.

Given the scope of a war, Milley said that “the brutality of this will be beyond the experience of any living soldier,” officials familiar with the TTX said in the report.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
(KCNA)

According to The Times, military leaders looked at various factors, including how many Special Operations forces could deploy to target nuclear sites in North Korea; whether the US Army’s conventional units could end up fighting in tunnels; and methods to destroy the country’s air defenses to pave the way for US aircraft.

Immediate tensions between North Korean and US-South Korean leaders appear to have subsided in recent weeks after the North’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. But US officials remain skeptical of North Korea’s diplomatic overtures.

Related: South Korea’s plan to convince President Trump to visit North Korea

Though various Trump administration officials have given conflicting statements on US policy, Trump said on Feb. 26, 2018 that he would be open to talks with North Korea “only under the right conditions.”

The US State Department also echoed Trump’s assertions: “Our condition is denuclearization,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

“Our policy has not changed. We have talked about this policy since day one of this administration; and that’s maximum pressure, but it’s also the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Commission on Military, National, and Public Service

Should every American Citizen serve in the military? Should women be required to register for the selective service (draft)? What should the future of the Selective Service look like?

Navy veteran Shawn Skelly and Marine Corps veteran Ed Allard are commissioners for the Commission on National, Military and Public Service. Their mission is to recommend answers to these and many more questions to Congress by March 2020. Shawn and Ed visited Borne the Battle to discuss the two years of data that the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service has gathered to answer those and many other questions.


Some of the goals of the National Commission are:

  • Reviewing the military selective service process.
  • Listening to the public to learn from those who serve.
  • Igniting a national conversation about service.
  • Developing recommendations that will encourage every American to be inspired and eager to serve.

According to their interim report, the Commission has learned:

  • Americans value service.
  • Americans are willing to consider a wide variety of options to encourage or require service.
  • Some Americans are aware of the details of the Selective Service System while many are not.

Some Barriers to Service include:

  • Military Service is a responsibility borne by few.
  • National Service is America’s best-kept secret.
  • Public Service personnel practices need an overhaul.
  • Civic knowledge is critical for our democracy, but too few Americans receive high quality education.

Finally, the commissioners came on Borne the Battle to let listeners know that they can provide input.

Click here to learn how – deadline is Dec. 31, 2019.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Army Corps finds ‘cremains’ among ashes is utterly fascinating

In November 2018, the Camp Fire decimated the rural town of Paradise, California, becoming the state’s most destructive and deadliest wildfire ever. The windswept wildfire razed more than 14,000 residences, and at least 86 people were killed.

While Sacramento District’s official involvement following the Camp Fire has been minimal, that hasn’t prevented district employees from getting involved.


Joanne Goodsell was recently hired as a Cultural Resources Specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She is also an archaeologist, and wanted to find a way to use her skill-set to help victims of the fire. She would have been motivated to help regardless of where the fire took place, but this one hit home — literally. Goodsell grew up in Paradise.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

(Courtesy Photo)

“It was personal. I had wanted to do something to help, but there’s not much you really can do outside of donating. But sometimes you want to help firsthand, to find a way to do more,” said Goodsell.

She did donate money, but was still looking to find how she could do more. That’s when she came across a Facebook post leading her to a group called the Institute for Canine Forensics.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

(Courtesy Photo)

The ICF, in coordination with two Northern California archaeological consulting firms, was asking for archaeologists to come out and help with the unfortunate task of trying to find people’s ashes; not of those who perished in the fires, but the ashes (also called cremains) of previously deceased and cremated loved ones that were now intermingled with the ashes and debris of their burned out homes.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

(Courtesy Photo)

“A friend had posted a link where the ICF was asking for archaeologists to help with the recovery efforts,” said Goodsell. “So I got in contact with them and found this was a good fit for my skill set as an archaeologist.”

Goodsell’s involvement soon inspired other archaeologists in her section at the Corps to volunteer as well. Joe Griffin, Chief of the Cultural, Recreational, and Social Assessment Section soon got involved, as did archaeologists Hope Schear and Geneva Kraus.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

(Courtesy Photo)

Finding ashes among ashes would seem an impossible task, but the ICF brought in dogs that are specifically trained to locate human cremains. After a client has requested service, an ICF handler speaks to the client to determine the approximate location of the cremains and what kind of container they were in. The dogs then sniff through the debris field and either sit or lay down when they find a scent. From there it’s up to the teams of archaeologists.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

(Courtesy Photo)

Nature’s chemical reactions also provide some help in the archaeologists’ searches. First, the texture of the human ashes are different from ashes of say, burned drywall or wood. Second, when the cremains burn a second time, they turn a different color than the typical gray or white ash surrounding them, making them easier to see.

Dressed in protective clothing, the archaeologists would determine a search area, set up a perimeter and begin excavating down to ground level, removing layers of ash and debris as they worked toward where they believed the cremains to be.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

(Courtesy Photo)

Most often, they eventually found the cremains on the ground, surrounded or mixed in with other ash and debris. Original ceramic containers almost never survived the fire, and metal urns melted. It was helpful that sometimes the searchers also found the original metal medallion that stays with a cremated body, making recognition of the human ashes a bit easier.

“One set of cremains were in a fireproof safe, and even it burned, but we still found some cremains in there,” said Goodsell. “Our highest recovery rates were often for cremains that were in the original containers and had been sitting on the floor of a closet.”

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

(Courtesy Photo)

The loss of a loved one’s ashes can add a sense of guilt to the already heavy burden of losing a home, especially for those who had yet to fulfill a promise to spread a loved one’s cremains as requested in person or in a will. Fortunately, Goodsell said they had close to a 70 percent success rate in recovering and returning entire cremains and medallions.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

(Courtesy Photo)

The job of searching for cremains at the Camp Fire is finished, at least for now, but Goodsell hopes that in the near future cremains recovery will become standard operating procedure following wildfire disasters.

“This is not going to be the last time this is needed,” said Goodsell. “Finding and returning the cremains means a great deal to these family members. Even if it was a small, token amount, people were very, very grateful.”

popular

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

On Feb. 25, 1968, a patrol left the besieged Khe Sanh garrison — where U.S. Marines were outnumbered by North Vietnamese forces almost 4 to 1 — and was drawn into a well-executed ambush.


The patrol, conducted by two squads, was nearly wiped out and few survivors managed to crawl out of the jungle. It was later dubbed “The Ghost Patrol.”

One of the Marines listed as lost in the battle, Pfc. Ronald L. Ridgeway, actually spent the next five years in solitary confinement in a North Vietnamese prison camp before returning to the family that had “buried” him months after his disappearance.

 

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Marine Pfc. Ronald Ridgeway (Photo: YouTube/Vietnam Veteran News Podcast)

 

The Battle of Khe Sanh began when the North Vietnamese attacked one of America’s northernmost garrisons near the border between Vietnam and Laos. Army Gen. William Westmoreland had predicted the attack months before and reinforced the base with additional men and munitions and ordered repairs and upgrades to the base’s airfield.

When the North Vietnamese attacked on Jan. 21, 1968, it quickly became clear that the preparations weren’t enough. The 6,000 troops were attacked by an enemy force that would eventually grow to an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 enemies, and the carefully hoarded supply of artillery and mortar rounds were 90 percent destroyed by an enemy artillery attack that hit the ammo dump.

 

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
And the Marines needed that ammo. They went through it at a prodigious rate while trying to beat back the siege. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Westmoreland convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson that the base should be held at all costs, triggering a 77-day siege that required planes to constantly land supplies on the improved airfield.

The Marines and other troops on the base sought continuously to knock the North Vietnamese off balance and to relieve the pressure on the base. The February 25 patrol aimed to find North Vietnamese and either kill them or take them captive to collect intelligence.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
F-100 strikes close to the lines while supporting the Marines at Khe Sanh on March 15, 1968. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

 

It was led by an inexperienced lieutenant who, after his men spotted three enemy fighters who quickly fled, ordered a full-speed chase to capture or kill them despite advice to the contrary from others.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
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The three enemies turned out to be bait, and they drew the Marines into a nearly perfect crescent-shaped ambush.

The Marines fought valiantly, but they were taking machine gun and other small arms fire from three sides mere moments after the fight began. Grenades rained down on their position as they sought cover, concealment, and fire superiority.

 

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Infantry Sgt. Kregg Jorgenson is rushed behind friendly lines during a firefight in the Vietnamese jungle.(Image: YouTube/CBS Evening News)

Under increasing fire, Ridgeway and another Marine attempted to break contact and return to the base, but they came across a wounded Marine on their way. Unwilling to leave an injured brother, they stopped to render aid and carry him out.

As they stopped, bursts of machine gun fire hit the three Marines, wounding all three. One was killed by a grenade moments later, another died of wounds that night, and only Ridgeway survived despite the enemy shooting him in the helmet and shoulder. He was later captured when a Vietnamese soldier tried to steal his wristwatch and realized the body was still breathing.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

That September, his family was part of a ceremony to bury unidentified remains from the battle and memorialize the nine Marines presumed dead whose bodies were only partially recovered.

But for five years after the battle, Ridgeway was an unidentified resident of the Hanoi Hilton, undergoing regular torture at the hands of his captors.

It wasn’t until the North Vietnamese agreed to a prisoner transfer as part of the peace process in 1973 that they released his name to American authorities, leading to Ridgeway’s mother getting an alert that her son was alive.

Five years after the battle and four years after his burial, Ridgeway returned to America and was reunited with his family. He later visited the grave and mourned the eight Marines whose names shared the list with his. A new memorial was later raised with Ridgeway’s name removed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-35 just made its combat debut in Syria

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has made its combat debut in the Middle East.

Israeli Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin announced that its F-35 aircraft, known as Adir, “are already operational and flying in operational missions.”


“We are the first in the world to use the F-35 in operational activity,” Norkin said via the official Israel Defense Forces’ Twitter account on May 22, 2018.

In an interview with the Haaretz newspaper, Norkin said F-35s had been used in two recent strikes, but it was unclear if the aircraft supported the missions by providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance or conducted the strikes.

Early May 2018, Iranian forces “fired 32 rockets, we intercepted 4 of them & the rest fell outside Israeli territory,” Norkin tweeted, referring to a counterattack in the Golan Heights.

Israel responded by attacking multiple Iranian weapons and logistics sites in Syria. “In our response attack, more than 100 ground-to-air missiles were fired at our planes,” he said.

Israel declared initial operating capability of its Lockheed Martin-made F-35I in December 2017. Middle Eastern outlets have said the fifth-generation stealth aircraft has likely made flights before for reconnaissance missions over or near Syrian territory, but those reports are unconfirmed.

In February 2018, Israel launched a counterattack on Iranian targets in Syria in response to an Iranian drone’s intrusion into its airspace. During the mission, an Israeli F-16 was targeted and crash landed back in Israeli territory.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
F-16 Fighting Falcon

Critics at the time wondered why the F-35 wasn’t used, since the aircraft would have been better able to evade enemy radar. But pilots and former members of the Israeli Air Force said use of the F-35 would have been risky so early in its operational lifespan.

“If they thought that the targets were so strategically important, I’m sure they’d consider using them. But they weren’t. So why risk use of the F-35s at such an early point in their operational maturity?” retired Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Abraham Assael told Defense News at the time.

Israel in August 2017, signed a new contract with Lockheed for its next batch of 17 aircraft, following two previous contracts for 33 aircraft.

IAF officials have expressed interest in buying up to 30 additional aircraft.

Israel’s declaration comes a few short months after the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing fighter embarked on its first deployment aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp for patrols in the Pacific.

The U.S. Air Force similarly deployed its F-35A variant to Asia in November 2017.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

Articles

This is what a $17 million investment in laser technology gets the US military

The US Defense Department is making another multi-million dollar investment in high-energy lasers that have the potential to destroy enemy drones and mortars, disrupt communication systems, and provide military forces with other portable, less costly options on the battlefield.


US Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and longtime supporter of directed energy research, announced the $17 million investment during a news conference Wednesday inside a Boeing lab where many of the innovations were developed.

The US already has the ability to shoot down enemy rockets and take out other threats with traditional weapons, but Heinrich said it’s expensive.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
The Sodium Guidestar at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Starfire Optical Range resides on a 6,240 foot hilltop at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. The Army and Navy is developing its own laser weapons systems. Photo from USAF.

High-energy lasers and microwave systems represent a shift to weapons with essentially endless ammunition and the ability to wipe out multiple threats in a short amount of time, he said.

“This is ready for prime time and getting people to just wrap their head around the fact that you can put a laser on something moving really fast and destroy it … has been the biggest challenge,” said Heinrich, who has an engineering degree.

Boeing has been working on high-energy laser and microwave weapons systems for years. The effort included a billion-dollar project to outfit a 747 with a laser cannon that could shoot down missiles while airborne. The system was complex and filled the entire back half of the massive plane.

With advancements over the past two decades, high-powered laser weapons systems can now fit into a large suitcase for transport across the battlefield or be mounted to a vehicle for targeting something as small as the device that controls the wings of a military drone.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

“Laser technology has moved from science fiction to real life,” said Ron Dauk, head of Boeing’s Albuquerque site.

The company’s compact laser system has undergone testing by the military and engineers are working on a higher-powered version for testing next year.

While the technology has matured, Dauk and Heinrich said the exciting part is that it’s on the verge of moving from the lab to the battlefield.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
A target truck disabled by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

Another $200 million has been requested in this year’s defense appropriations bill that would establish a program within the Pentagon for accelerating the transition of directed-energy research to real applications.

Heinrich said continued investment in such projects will help solidify New Mexico’s position as a leading site of directed-energy research and bring more money and high-tech jobs to the state.

Boeing already contributes about $120 million to the state’s economy through its contracts with vendors.

Articles

The Air Force is getting rid of ‘up or out’ for some enlisted jobs

The Air Force is offering high year of tenure extensions to active-duty Airmen in certain shortage Air Force Specialty Codes and grades effective August 1.


High year of tenure, or HYT, refers to the maximum number of years enlisted Airmen in each grade may remain on active duty.

This voluntary extension opportunity focuses on retaining experienced Airmen in shortage specialties such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, maintenance, nuclear, cyber, and special operations to help improve readiness.

“Squadron commanders may approve extensions for qualified Airmen, which reinforces the Air Force Chief of Staff’s efforts to revitalize squadrons,” said Col. Erik Bovasso, Military Sustainment and Transitions Programs division chief at the Air Force’s Personnel Center. “This purposeful empowerment places the approval authority and responsibility at the right level, with commanders who know their mission and Airmen best.”

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Staff Sgt. Leland Hastings, 919th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, monitors the Raven-B, a four-by-four foot unmanned aerial system, through a laptop computer at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., Aug. 4. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sam King)

The HYT program allows eligible senior airmen, staff sergeants, technical sergeants, and master sergeants in targeted AFSCs and grades to apply for a high year of tenure extension between 12 and 24 months in order for the Air Force to retain experience and enhance mission effectiveness and readiness.

“Although retention is high in some career fields and FY16 and 17 retention programs were successful, the Air Force needs to ensure experienced Airmen are available to complete the mission as well as train new Airmen,” Bovasso said. “HYT extensions will help improve mission capability in key areas where readiness is currently strained.”

Eligibility for HYT is limited to those AFSCs and grades posted on the matrix on myPers, and is based on the Airman’s control AFSC as listed in the Military Personnel Data System on July 21.

“The Air Force will notify Airmen via email of their eligibility to request an extension,” Bovasso said. “Airmen must have a HYT date of Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2018, to be eligible under this program.”

Airmen with a previous HYT extension approved for a period of less than 24 months may, if otherwise eligible, request an extension under the FY17/18 program. However, the total number of months of HYT extension for their approved AFSC and grade cannot exceed 24 months.

“For example, an Airman approved for a Hardship HYT extension for a period of 12 months, who meets the eligibility criteria, may request an additional extension of up to 12 months under the FY 17/18 program,” Bovasso said.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen

The window for submitting a HYT extension request via the application on myPers is August 1, 2017, through May 31, 2018. Qualified Airmen should check with the Career Development element at the local Force Support Squadron for details, as specific timelines depend on the Airman’s current HYT date.

Find additional information about eligibility criteria, application process and other specifics on myPers. Select “Active Duty Enlisted” from the dropdown menu and search “HYT.”

For more information about Air Force personnel programs, go to myPers. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following instructions at http://www.afpc.af.mil/myPers/.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Marines are cutting the Infantry Assaultman specialty

The Marine Corps is doing away with its 0351 infantry assaultman military occupational specialty and phasing out the assault section of Marine rifle companies in an effort to build up communities such as cyber and electronic warfare, Military.com has learned.


Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, who confirmed planning in December while on an annual tour of deployed Marine elements around the world, said he expects the move to happen in the next three to five years as part of a slate of changes designed to help the Corps prepare for future fights.

The 0351 infantry assaultman, one of the Marine Corps’ five core infantry positions, is tasked with breaching, demolition, and rocket fire against fortified positions. Assaultmen carry the MK-153 shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon, or SMAW.

But Neller said he’s making changes that will ensure those roles are filled by other members of a rifle company.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian J. Slaght)

Each future rifle company will have an element of combat engineers aligned with it to take on breaching and demolition duties. The engineers will carry the SMAW, but they may not be the only ones.

“Can you shoot a SMAW?” Neller asked a Marine infantryman during a brief visit to elements of the Corps’ crisis response task force for Africa in Moron, Spain.

The Marine responded that he could not.

“Yes, you can,” Neller shot back. “I could teach you in five seconds.”

Neller also confirmed that the Marine Corps plans to replace the SMAW in its breaching mission with the Carl Gustaf 84mm recoilless rifle, a possibility first reported exclusively by Military.com in November. That move will likely take place in the next four years.

“It’s a little more sporty [than the SMAW], but it has 10 different kinds of ammunition,” Neller said. ” … Do I like the SMAW? Yes, I do. But we had to give up something to get something else.”

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Gen. Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps. (Photo from USMC)

In an interview with Military.com, Neller explained that the plan to end the 0351 MOS and the assault section is a numbers game.

Marine Corps leaders made clear in early 2017 that they wanted a significant increase in end strength: 12,000 additional troops to resource fields such as cyber, information operations, and counter-drone efforts.

The service would add 3,000 Marines in 2017 and now expects an additional 1,000, thanks to the recently signed 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. But in the absence of a major plus-up, planners are looking for trade-offs.

“We had to create some trades to buy other Marines to do other things,” Neller said.

At seven Marines in a company assault section, three companies in a battalion, and 24 battalions in the Marine Corps, the move will leave more than 500 spots available in the service to fill other jobs.

In addition to cyber, Neller said he’s looking to build up intelligence analysis, air defense, and maintenance for ground vehicles and aviation.

It makes sense to cut the infantry assaultman MOS in part because it contains Marines of more junior ranks — private to sergeant — and its training overlaps with that of the other infantry MOSs, he said.

Also Read: These small rockets can bring down buildings

“The curriculum for 0311 [rifleman], 0331 [machine gunner], 0341 [mortarman], 0351 — the first 28 days is exactly the same,” Neller said. “So I don’t think those Marines would have a whole lot of difficulty transitioning to another MOS.”

Assaultmen who re-enlist have to transition to MOS 0369, platoon sergeant, anyway, he added.

If the Marine Corps eventually does get the larger plus-up it’s after, Neller said, it could always bring the assault section back. Unlike more technologically sophisticated jobs such as cyber and electronic warfare that measure professional training in years, new assaultmen take a few months to train.

“It’s part of the calculus on anything you do, is how hard is it to bring it back if you cadre it,” Neller said.

Maximilian Uriarte, creator of the Terminal Lance webcomic that is hugely popular within the Marine Corps, has written in the past about his time as an infantry assaultman.

“It is kind of the oddball of the infantry; no one really knows what we do or how to properly employ us,” he wrote in 2010. “As a result, we are often just turned into a rifle squad or divided to be machine gunners.”

Uriarte told Military.com on Monday that rumors of the coming demise of the 0351 MOS had floated around the infantry for the entirety of his career.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Because of the specific, niche nature of the job, he said, 0351s end up doing other jobs on deployment. When he deployed to Iraq, he said, he ended up filling the always in-demand role of machine gunner.

“The whole idea of the job is to breach and blow open doors, and how often do you need to do that? Do you need a whole MOS for that?” he said.

But despite all that, Uriarte expressed nostalgia for the job.

“I am sad,” he said. “I loved my MOS.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

US military brings stability to villages near Air Base 201

Growing trust between the local community and U.S. service members, and fostering good relationships with the government in the area surrounding a new base increases the chance of local support for airmen deployed there in an effort to bring stability to the region.

The U.S. Army’s 411th Civil Affairs Battalion are experts in nurturing relationships in host countries. Partnering with local community groups and base groups, civil affairs specialists have donated food, supplies, built classrooms and built solar powered wells in the communities surrounding Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger. They also trained technicians on how to maintain the solar panels.


This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Air Force will get more enlisted drone pilots

The second annual enlisted remotely piloted aircraft pilot selection board met last week to decide on the next enlisted airmen who will attend training and soon fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk.


The Air Force Personnel Center will decide on 40 new airmen — an increase from last year’s pool — out of 134 applicants by February, officials said.

“The board was held to select 40 Airmen total, including 30 primaries (same as last year) and 10 alternates (an increase of 5 from last year),” personnel center spokesman Mike Dickerson told Military.com.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
An RQ-4 Global Hawk landed at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. May 24. The arrival of the unmanned aerial vehicle marks the first time an aircraft of this type has flown to an Air Force Air Logistics Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Leach)

“We increased the number of alternates to provide greater flexibility for covering any future contingencies,” Dickerson said in a statement.

Whether or not this leads to a gradual, annual expansion of airmen selected for RPA training isn’t definite right now, Dickerson said.

Last year, the board picked two senior master sergeants, five master sergeants, nine technical sergeants, 14 staff sergeants and five alternates from about 200 active-duty applicants from various job assignments.

“The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years,” according to a service release at the time.

There first 30 airmen and five alternates selected are currently scattered throughout the training pipeline, Capt. Beau Downey, spokesman for Air Education and Training Command, told Military.com.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
An RQ-4 Global Hawk landed at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. May 24. The arrival of the unmanned aerial vehicle marks the first time an aircraft of this type has flown to an Air Force Air Logistics Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Leach)

“AETC currently has 15 RPA pilots in training. Eight are in RPA Instrument Qualification and seven are in RPA Fundamentals Course, both a part of the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas,” Downey said in an email.

Meanwhile, there are 15 enlisted pilots who have attended or are in the process of completing the RQ-4 Formal Training Unit, or FTU, at Beale Air Force Base, California.

Downey said the program at Beale, under Air Combat Command, is broken into two phases: The first is Basic Qualification Training (BQT) and the second is Mission Qualification Training (MQT). Both phases culminate in a Form 8, or how one performs in his or her check ride.

Also Read: Enlisted pilots could fly in combat for the first time since WWII

“Students remaining at Beale for their operational assignment will complete both BQT and MQT at the Beale FTU,” he said.

There is also a segment at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota.

“Those students who will be assigned to Grand Forks [will] complete BQT at Beale and then move to the Grand Forks…for MQT,” Downey said.

ACC has graduated four enlisted pilots from the full program at the Beale unit. Another four completed Basic Qualification Training at the Beale FTU and have moved to the Grand Forks unit.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
An RQ-4 Global Hawk landed at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. May 24. The arrival of the unmanned aerial vehicle marks the first time an aircraft of this type has flown to an Air Force Air Logistics Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Leach)

There are three currently in MQT at the Beale training unit and four in BQT. Of those four, two will remain at Beale and two will move to Grand Forks.

Another four enlisted airmen are scheduled to arrive at Beale at the beginning of February, Downey said.

The Air Force has expanded its RPA reach since it began training enlisted airmen on the RQ-4 Global Hawk. The service announced in 2015 it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmed high-altitude reconnaissance drone.

Articles

Pentagon concerned that Arab allies have shifted focus away from ISIS threat

When the coalition of Western and Arab allies banded together to fight ISIS, the idea of fighting the good fight was met with a lot of zeal. When Jordanian fighter pilot First Lieutenant Muadh al-Kasasbeh was captured and burned alive by the terror organization, Jordan’s King Abdullah vowed “punishment and revenge” and led to the Jordanian King, an accomplished fighter pilot himself, releasing a photo of himself in his flight suit, geared for battle.


US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

The Western world was wowed once more when a female pilot from the United Arab Emirates, Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri, led that country’s air war against Daesh. Many in the West aren’t familiar with the customs of each individual Arab country, especially when it comes to their views on the rights of women.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

“She is a fully qualified, highly trained, combat ready pilot, and she led the mission,” Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE’s ambassador to the U.S., told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.

“We are in a hot area so that we have to prepare every citizen,” Al Mansouri said. “Of course, everybody is responsible of defending their country — male or female. When the time will come, everybody will jump in.”

The allies still allow U.S. planes to use their bases, but now the Gulf states who spearheaded the effort against ISIS are focused elsewhere. Emirati forces joined Saudi Arabia in fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan also joined in the effort in Yemen. Qatar limited its sorties to reconnaissance missions.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
The before and after of an American F-22 air strike on a target in Syria.

Bahrain last struck targets in Syria in February, the UAE in March, Jordan in August, and Saudi Arabia in September.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter criticized local allies efforts, saying the Gulf states, known as the GCC or Gulf Cooperation Council, saying “some of the Gulf states are up there at 30,000 feet. If you look at where the Iranians are able to wield influence, they are in the game, on the ground.”

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
(DoD Photo)

“The reason they lack influence, and feel they lack influence in circumstances like Iraq and Syria, with [ISIS],” Carter continued, “is that they have weighted having high-end air-force fighter jets and so forth over the hard business of training and disciplining ground forces and special-operations forces.”

According to the Atlantic, the Obama Administration consistently complains about local allies, notably Turkey and the Gulf, expecting the U.S. to fight their regional enemies more than U.S. national security.

Articles

This is the competition for special operations experts

Who are the best commandos in the Western Hemisphere? Throw Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Rangers, Marine Force Recon, the Marine Special Operations Command, or even Air Force Special Tactics airmen into a ring and find out. Sort of.


Which is kind of what happens during an annual competition called Fuerzas Commandos. It’s been held 13 times. In 2017, Honduras took the trophy from Colombia, an eight-time winner of the 11-day event.

So, what, exactly goes down at these commando Olympics?

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Team Colombia, winners of Fuerzas Comando 2016, return the trophy to Paraguayan Brig. Gen. Hector Limenza at the opening ceremony for Fuerzas Comando 2017 in Mariano Roque Alonso, Paraguay, on July 17, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christine Lorenz)

First, there is an opening ceremony during which the trophy is returned to an officer of the host nation.

This year, 20 countries (Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and Uruguay) competed, sending over 700 commandos.

Participants take part in both an Assault Team Competition and a Sniper Team Competition.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
A member from Team Uruguay during the physical fitness test, which includes push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a 4-mile run. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elizabeth Williams)

The Assault Team Competition features a number of challenges. One is a physical fitness test.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Colombian competitors sprint through the finish line of the obstacle course event, taking a step closer to securing the Fuerzas Comando 2017 championship, July 24, 2017 in Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Menegay)

There is a “confidence course” and an obstacle course is run as well.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Peruvian competitors run the 14-kilometer ruck march while picking up and moving various objects, ending with team marksmanship at a firing range. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class James Brown)

Close-quarters combat skills are tested and there is a rucksack march.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Costa Rican competitors clear a room in a live-fire shoot house where they must clear a building and rescue a simulated hostage as efficiently as possible. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class James Brown)

Don’t forget the aquatic events or the hostage rescue events.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
A Guyanese sniper loads a round into his rifle while his teammate scans the range for targets. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elizabeth Williams)

The Sniper Team Competition features marksmanship.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
A Mexican soldier looks over his ghillie suit before the beginning of a stalk-and-shoot event July 20, 2017 during Fuerzas Comando in Ñu Guazú, Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tonya Deardorf)

Then there is concealment.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Competitors drag litters 100 meters then work together to haul them onto a platform. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class James Brown)

They also have a physical fitness test and there’s a mobility event.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Honduran, Colombian, and U.S. Soldiers commemorate a successful Fuerzas Comando on July 27, 2017, in Mariano Roque Alonso, Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joanna Bradshaw)

This year, Honduras won the title, Colombia finished second, and the USA took third place. Next year, Panama will host Fuerzes Commandos. Will Honduras defend their title, will the Colombians make it nine out of fourteen, or will there be a surprise winner?

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