Articles

Why tech execs want to ban robot weapons

Artificial intelligence experts shook up the tech world this month when they called for the United Nations to regulate and even consider banning autonomous weapons.


Attention quickly gravitated to the biggest celebrity in the group, Elon Musk, who set the Internet ablaze when he tweeted: “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

 

The group of 116 AI experts warned in an open letter to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons that “lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare.” Speaking on behalf of companies that make artificial intelligence and robotic systems that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, they wrote, “We feel especially responsible in raising this alarm.”

The blunt talk by leaders of the AI world has raised eyebrows. Musk has put AI in the category of existential threat and is demanding decisive and immediate regulation. But even some of the signatories of the letter now say Musk took the fear mongering too far.

What this means for the Pentagon and its massive efforts to merge intelligent machines into weapon systems is still unclear. The military sees a future of high-tech weapon systems powered by artificial intelligence and ubiquitous autonomous weapons in the air, at sea, on the ground, as well as in cyberspace.

The United Nations has scheduled a November meeting to discuss the implications of autonomous weapons. It has created a group of governmental experts on “lethal autonomous weapon systems.” The letter asked the group to “work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies.”

United Nations General Assembly hall in New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Avala.

Founder and CEO of the artificial intelligence company SparkCognition, Amir Husain, signed the letter but insists that he is against any ban or restrictions that would stifle progress and innovation. He pointed out that the campaign was organized by professor Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales in Australia, and was meant to highlight the “potential dangers of autonomous weapons absent an international debate on these issues.”

The industry wants a healthy debate on the benefits and risks of AI and autonomy, Amir told RealClearDefense in a statement. But a blanket ban is “unworkable and unenforceable.” Scientific progress is inevitable, “and for me that is not frightening,” he added. “I believe the solution — as much as one exists at this stage — is to redouble our investment in the development of safe, explainable, and transparent AI technologies.”

Wendy Anderson, general manager of SparkCognition’s defense business, said that to suggest a ban or even tight restrictions on the development of any technology is a “slippery slope” and would put the United States at a competitive disadvantage, as other countries will continue to pursue the technology. “We cannot afford to fall behind,” said Anderson. “Banning or restricting its development is not the answer. Having honest, in-depth discussions about how we create, develop, and deploy the technology is.”

USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

August Cole, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and writer at the consulting firm Avascent, said the concerns raised by tech leaders on autonomous weapons are valid, but a ban is unrealistic. “Given the proliferation of civilian machine learning and autonomy advances in everything from cars to finance to social media, a prohibition won’t work,” he said.

Setting limits on technology ultimately would hurt the military, which depends on commercial innovations, said Cole. “What needs to develop is an international legal, moral, and ethical framework. … But given the unrelenting speed of commercial breakthroughs in AI, robotics, and machine learning, this may be a taller order than asking for an outright ban on autonomous weapons.”

But while advances in commercial technology have benefited the military, analysts fear that the Pentagon has not fully grasped the risks of unfettered AI and the possibility that machines could become uncontrollable.

“AI is not just another technology,” said Andy Ilachinski, principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses. He authored a recent CNA study, “AI, Robots, and Swarms: Issues, Questions, and Recommended Studies.”

USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Defense has to be concerned about the implications of this debate, he said in an interview. AI is transforming the world “to the level of a Guttenberg press, to the level of the Internet,” he said. “This is a culture-shifting technology. And DoD is just a small part of that.”

Another troubling reality is that the Pentagon has yet to settle on the definition of autonomous weapons. In 2012, the Department of Defense published an instruction manual on the use of autonomous weapons. That 5-year-old document is the only existing policy on the books on how the US military uses these systems, Ilachinski said. According to that manual, a weapon is autonomous if “once activated, it can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human.”

Policies and directives are long overdue for an update, he said. “We need to know what AI is capable of, how to test it, evaluate it.”

He noted that the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, published two studies on the subject in 2012 and 2016 but provided “no good definition of autonomy or AI in either of them.” These are the Pentagon’s top experts and “they can’t even get it straight.”

USAF photo by Master Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.

Something about Musk’s warning strikes a chord with scientists that truly understand AI, Ilachinski observed. When Google’s Deepmind created a computer program in 2015 that beat the world’s Go champion, it was a landmark achievement for AI but also brought the realization that these algorithms truly have minds of their own. “This is an issue of great concern for DoD.”

There are areas within AI that scientists are still trying to wrap their heads around. In advanced systems like Deepmind’s AlphaGo, “you can’t reverse engineer why a certain behavior occurred,” Ilachinski said. “It is important for DoD to recognize that they may not able to understand completely why the system is doing what it’s doing.”

One reason to take Musk’s warning seriously is that much is still unknown about what happens within the brains of these AI systems once they are trained, said Ilachinski. “You may not be able to predict the overall behavior of the system,” he said. “So in that sense I share the angst that people like Elon Musk feel.”

On the other hand, it is too late to put the genie back in the bottle, Ilachinski added. The United States can’t let up because countries like China already are working to become the dominant power in AI. Further, the Pentagon has to worry that enemies will exploit AI in ways that can’t yet be imagined. Anyone can buy a couple of drones for less than a thousand dollars, go to the MIT or Harvard website, learn about AI, download snippets of code and implant them in the drones, he said. A swarm of smart drones is something “would have a hard time countering because we are not expecting it. It’s very cheap and easy to do.”

Articles

How playing the role of a SEAL Team 6 operator changed this actor’s life

When actor Kyle Schmid landed a role playing one of America’s most elite commandos in the new HISTORY drama “SIX,” he knew critics would be looking for every flaw in his portrayal — no matter how small.


Seriously? It was the elite operators from SEAL Team 6 that executed the daring raid that killed terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. And a Canadian-born actor who’d never played a role like this was supposed to pull off a convincing performance of one of the world’s best warriors?

(Photo courtesy of HISTORY)

It was a daunting task, but one Schmid took very seriously.

“The entire reason we did this show, and why we all wanted to do it so badly, is we wanted to do something that had integrity at the end of the day,” Schmid said in an exclusive interview with We Are The Mighty. “It’s incredibly important to get all those little things right.”

“We’ll be under the microscope of anyone that’s been in the military who served and is going to pick out the little things that we do wrong — that’s just going to happen,” he added. “But we tried our damnedest to do everything right as we possibly could; we spent a lot of time and energy doing that.”

“SIX” is a new drama series produced by the HISTORY cable channel that takes a deep look into what it’s like to be a member of one of the world’s most elite military units. The show goes well beyond a shoot-em-up (though there’s plenty of door kicking and explosive entries to satisfy any action junky) and explores the toll the high OPTEMPO job of a DevGru operator takes on personal relationships.

What’s more, “SIX” tackles some of the ethical issues these commandos face on each and every mission, and explores how the elite team members deal with lapses of judgement and tactics among themselves.

Schmid plays SEAL Team 6 operator Alex Caulder, a seemingly free-spirit sailor who’d rather be chasing skirts and riding tubes than jumping out of airplanes and shooting bad guys. But under the hedonistic exterior, the unit’s “point man” is warrior philosopher, acting as his team’s conscience when ops go bad.

“I’ve always been a morally driven and ethical person as a human being,” Schmid said, adding he used the help of military consultants and his own personality to “get in Caulder’s head.”

“It’s all about the choices you make in your life and whether you’re able to stand behind them with the integrity that you want to,” Schmid said.

“There’s a joke the guys were saying on set: ‘You’re too Caulder for Caulder,’ ” Schmid added.

Schmid rocks the MP7 like he was born with one in his hand. (Photo courtesy HISTORY)

But Caulder is more than a thinker — he’s one of the SEAL team’s best assaulters, flowing through rooms and popping up on tangos like he was born to it. And it’s no accident that the action looks so good on the screen.

Working with tactical trainer and former SEAL Mitch Hall of Trident Focus, the actors on “SIX” spent two weeks learning how to shoot and move like real-world operators.

Schmid recalled that in one of the fight scenes in the first episode, “as point man, I’m pieing these corners and I’ve got my feet wrong and I’m still trying to gauge the depth with my MP7 around the corner so I’m not sticking my head out and getting it blown off and I asked Mitch, ‘let’s do it again to get it right.’ ”

It was an intensive course that Schmid took seriously, even taking days off to work at the range and practice his tactics. And when the filming was done for HISTORY’s “SIX,” the actor emerged a changed man.

“This [role] really allowed me to look at life from a different perspective. I learned to turn down my dial — to realize what was important and what was worth worrying about,” Schmid says. “On the other side … I’m much more aware of my surroundings, constantly living in the ‘yellow’ — and I gotta tell you, it’s a pretty good way to be living.”

HISTORY’s “SIX” runs for eight episodes and airs on Thursdays at 10pm Eastern.

 

Articles

Meet the ‘Ripsaw,’ one extreme badass tank

U.S. Army RDECOM, Flickr


If an M1 Abrams tank and a Baja race truck had a baby, it would be the Ripsaw. This extreme tank can go faster than anything on tracks. The only downside — lack of armor.

Related: Here is the smallest manned tank ever made

There are two versions of the vehicle. The military version has an open top while the newer one, the Ripsaw EV2 (Extreme Vehicle 2) has a hard top and closely resembles the Batmobile in The Dark Knight. The EV-2 is being touted as a “high-end luxury super tank” and sold to the public. It comes with gull-wing doors, a high-end racing suspension, and a diesel engine that cranks out over 600 hp.

Howe and Howe Technologies makes some of the most extreme vehicles and robotics. Their creations have attracted police departments, the U.S. military, and Hollywood. There’s a good chance you’ve seen a modified version of the vehicle if you saw Mad Max: Fury Road or G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

Scene from G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Fresh Movie Trailers, YouTube

The company even had a reality show on the Discovery Channel hosted by its founders, twin brothers Michael “Mike” and Geoffrey “Geoff” Howe.

This video shows how the Ripsaw’s speed and handling compares to the M113 armored personnel carrier, which many consider to be the quickest tracked vehicle in the military, and a Baja-style Dodge truck.

Watch:

Offroadzilla, YouTube

Articles

That time a Marine had a live RPG stuck in his leg

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Winder Perez was fighting in Afghanistan in January 2012 when he was shot with a rocket-propelled grenade that pierced his leg and remained stuck there without detonating.


A medical evacuation crew ignored regulations against moving unexploded ordnance, picked him up, and flew him to medical care where an explosives technician removed the RPG so a Navy medical officer could operate on him.

Specialist Mark Edens was the first member of the MEDEVAC crew to see the Marine. The flight had originally been briefed that they were receiving an injured little girl as a patient, but they arrived to find the lance corporal with a large wound and an approximately 2-foot long rocket protruding from his leg.

When Army pilot Capt. Kevin Doo was told about the embedded RPG, he asked his entire crew to vote on whether to evacuate the patient. They unanimously voted yes despite the dangers.

“There was no doubt to anyone that we were going to take this Marine and get him the medical attention needed to save his life,” Doo told Army journalists. “When dealing with this — not knowing that any moment could be your last — 18 inches from the patient’s legs was about 360 gallons of aviation fuel.”

“After Lance Cpl. Perez was loaded on the Black Hawk, it was a total of 11.2 minutes of flight time where every minute felt like an hour,” Doo added. “During that time, we were on the radio coordinating with our escorts, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and medical personnel who were going to treat Perez.”

Army Staff Sgt. Ben Summerfield attempts to remove a rocket-propelled grenade from Lance Cpl. Winder Perez as Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari keeps Perez’s airway stable. (Photo: US Navy)

When the helicopter landed, Perez was met by Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari, the head of the surgical company at Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, and Army EOD Staff Sgt. Ben Summerfield. Summerfield quickly tugged the RPG free of Perez and Gennari worked to stabilize the patient.

Gennari later said that the Perez’s wounds were so severe that he would’ve died without the quick MEDEVAC. Edens, Doo, and the rest of the Army MEDEVAC team then transported Perez to Camp Bastion where he began the long road to recovery.

(H/t to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs who wrote about this incident in May 2012.)

Articles

‘Transpecos’ offers a gritty, detailed look inside the world of Border Patrol agents

“Transpecos,” winner of the SXSW Film Festival’s Audience Award, deals with what happens to a Border Patrol agent when he gets dragged to the other side by a drug cartel. It’s an impressive directorial debut from independent filmmaker Greg Kwedar.


Kwedar, whose work includes commercials, documentaries, and short films, took six years to make “Transpecos.” To research the film, he worked with the U.S. Border Patrol, an agency that’s reluctant to share its methods – for good reason.  Their mission isn’t just keeping illegal immigrants out of the United States, they’re also fighting a massive, brutal enemy with unlimited funding and firepower, and no rules.

“Transpecos” is the story of three Border Patrol agents, a rookie named Davis (played by Johnny Simmons), a seasoned professional, Flores (Gabriel Luna), and salty veteran Hobbs (Clifton Collins, Jr.). They man a remote checkpoint somewhere near the U.S.-Mexican border. When one stop goes from routine to nightmarish, all three end up fighting for their lives.

“There’s this famous Western line: ‘silver or lead?,'” says Greg Kwedar, the director who co-wrote the script with Clint Bentley. “Money’s not a vulnerability for everyone. They [Border Patrol] have higher standards to live by. The leverage can be their own personal safety or that of their family. If an agent can rise above that then the cartel might say, “Who do you care about? We’ll use them.”

That’s exactly what happens in the film. Drug cartels use an agent’s family to force him to allow shipments of cocaine across the border. The Border Patrol agents find themselves torn between duty and family, between fulfilling their mission and protecting their own.

(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

To get access to the real Border Patrol agents Kwedar and his team went out into the desert and got lost (or pretended to be) in the hopes of finding agents who were on the job — a highly unorthodox and potentially dangerous process.

“Once they realized we weren’t antagonistic, that we really wanted to know more about them and their work, they really opened up to us,” Kwedar says. “They invited us into their world and from that we found real friendships, running the gamut from grabbing a beer in a one-stoplight town to sitting down with their families at dinner.”

The characters – Davis, Flores, and Hobbs – are the heart of the film. The Border Patrol depicted in “Transpecos” could just as well be any military checkpoint or remote combat outpost anywhere in the world. It’s hot and desolate. The guys manning the checkpoint can be just as bored as any troops on deployment at any given time. They even have to go out on foot patrols.

“It was 110 degrees Fahrenheit on some of those days,” says Johnny Simmons, who portrays the green Agent Davis. “Our boots were melting, we were covered in sweat at the end of the day when we took off our Kevlar. My brother is a Marine and working on this film brought me a little closer to what it must be like for him … only he and so many others do it every day.”

(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

The credit for this realism goes to the film’s technical advisor, Sam Sadler. Sadler is a retired Border Patrol agent who joined the service at age 17. Before he retired, he was the second in command at Deming Station, New Mexico, the area where “Transpecos” was filmed. He rode ATVs; he rode horseback. He tracked people through the desert by their footprints, the way Native American tribes used to – a practice still in use by agents today. By the end of his 25 years on the border, Sadler was the go-to guy.

“[Kwedar and Sadler] gave us a great roadmap to the script,” said Clifton Collins, Jr., who plays the experienced, by-the-book Agent Hobbs. “They took us off the leash in regards to the research and I really brought a lot of that to the table.”

At heart, Kwedar made the film for Border Patrol agents and their families. Sadler taught the actors the protocol and search methods to make sure they got the details right.

“These guys are so isolated, and it takes a special person to be able to do that,” Gabriel Luna, who plays Agent Flores, said. “Working on this film really cleared up my view of the Border Patrol. These men and women are just regular people. They’re human, they’re doing this job day in and day out, and it’s such an incredible thing.”

“Transpecos” is now available nationwide on demand and digital including Comcast, DirecTV and iTunes. It will be released on DVD September 27, 2016.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

The United States has welcomed Japan’s planned introduction of a land-based variant of the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, but there are growing calls in Washington for Tokyo to acquire strike capability to further boost deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat.


American experts say the deployment of Aegis Ashore will be a significant step in strengthening Japan’s missile defense, but that even such an advanced platform is not perfect for interception, especially because North Korea is stepping up its ability to launch multiple missiles simultaneously.

“With North Korea demonstrating increasingly sophisticated missiles and threatening to sink Japan with nuclear weapons, Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe should consider making strike capability a top priority,” said Jeffrey Hornung, a Washington-based political scientist at the Rand Corporation, a US think tank.

In a meeting Nov. 6 with Abe in Tokyo, President Donald Trump underscored the “unwavering” commitment of the United States to the defense of Japan, including extended deterrence backed by the full range of US nuclear and conventional defense capabilities, according to the White House. Trump urged Abe to purchase more defense equipment from the United States.

Japan’s Prime Minister Abe (left) shakes hands with President Donald Trump during a visit Nov. 6, 2017. (Photo from White House Flickr.)

But it was not known if Abe and Trump discussed Japan’s potential adoption of strike capability, or what some refer to as “counterattack capability,” as the US envisages Tokyo acquiring the ability to undertake retaliatory strikes against an opponent’s missile facilities and supporting infrastructure, as opposed to first-strike capability.

Such capability would surely bolster security cooperation, intelligence exchange, and alliance management between the United States and Japan, a development that security experts say would be effective in deterring any kind of attack against the two countries.

Some argue the resounding victory by Abe’s ruling coalition in the Oct. 22 general election could stimulate debate in Japan about the possible pursuit of strike capability, especially as the Defense Ministry plans to draw up its next five-year plan for defense procurement and update the National Defense Program Guidelines in late 2018.

“Prime Minister Abe has the political capital and the reasoning to begin to talk more specifically about the need to prepare or consider counterattack capability,” said James Schoff, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank, citing the rising nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence the Kantei, in Tokyo, Aug. 18, 2017. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

“I think the chance of that happening or that becoming a more high profile issue is greater now as a result of the election,” Schoff said.

Referring to the political stability in Japan after Abe’s victory, Hornung said, “Now the Abe administration can have a more long-term view about defense policies and what capabilities they want to acquire in the years ahead.”

Also Read: Here’s the kind of damage North Korea could do if it went to war

Debate about Japan adopting strike capability gathered steam in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party following the simultaneous firing on March 6 by North Korea of four ballistic missiles — three of which landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan — and Pyongyang’s announcement that the action was a drill simulating a strike on US military bases in Japan.

On Aug. 6, Abe said in a news conference that “at this point,” he was not considering acquiring such capability. North Korea, however, has continued to increase its bellicose threats and provocative acts against the United States, Japan, and South Korea.

(Photo from Rodong Sinmun.)

Pyongyang conducted intermediate-range ballistic missile launches over northern Japan into the Pacific on Aug. 29 and Sept. 15, as well as its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, with the detonation of what it said was a hydrogen bomb that can be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

On Sept. 13, Pyongyang’s Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said, “The four islands of the (Japanese) archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb” launched by North Korea, and that “Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.” The committee issued a similar warning on Oct. 28.

With North Korea accelerating development of deliverable nuclear weapons that could reach as far as the United States, Pyongyang has suggested it could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean — a threat that prompted Japanese defense officials to speculate that a nuclear-tipped missile may fly over Japan.

Schoff and Hornung recommend that Japan pursue strike capability in “a modest form” so that it will not become too expensive. They also stress the need to make sure that such capability falls within Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented policy, because the issue would be politically sensitive not only domestically, but to neighboring countries such as South Korea and China.

Maj. Toru Tsuchiya (right), Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Japanese F-35A foreign liaison officer and Lt. Col. Todd Lafortune, Defense Contract Management Agency Lockheed Martin, F-35 acceptance pilot, shake hands Nov. 28 during the arrival of the first Foreign Military Sales F-35 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

Schoff said the proposed measure, therefore, should not involve hardware such as long-range strategic bombers and attack aircraft carriers, but equipment like Tomahawk cruise missiles for Aegis-equipped destroyers and air-to-surface missiles that can be loaded onto new F-35 stealth fighter jets of the Air Self-Defense Force.

“You don’t want to spend your whole defense budget on this capability that you hopefully will never have to use,” he said.

Despite the likelihood that Seoul and Beijing would criticize Tokyo for “re-militarizing” itself with the proposed capability, Hornung said Pyongyang’s advancing military capabilities have “drastically changed the threat environment.”

“If the existing ballistic missile defense system has gaps, any means for Japan to strengthen its deterrence capabilities should be welcomed,” he said. “Japan no longer has the luxury to be complacent about its security threats.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army veterinarians help wounded dog after suicide blast

Military Working Dogs, or MWDs, play a huge role in the defense of the United States — and when one of them is injured, the Veterinary Medical Center Europe plays a huge role in getting them back in the fight.

Recently, while on patrol with his handler in Afghanistan, MWD Alex, assigned to the 8th MWD Detachment, 91st Military Police Battalion, Fort Drum, New York, was injured in an attack by a suicide bomber. Following care in Bagram, Afghanistan, Alex was medically evacuated to VMCE for further treatment.


Like many of their human counterparts, when an MWD is injured while deployed, they are often medically evacuated to Germany. Service members are transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for care, and MWDs are transported to VMCE for comprehensive veterinary care.

According to Maj. Renee Krebs, VMCE deputy director and veterinary surgeon, when Alex arrived in Germany, he had a fractured left tibia, shrapnel wounds, and multiple other fractures below and above his shin bone.

On the day he arrived, Krebs performed surgery to stabilize Alex’s leg, “which worked pretty well,” she said. “But his other wound, particularly the one over his ankle, started to get worse and worse every day despite appropriate medical therapy and pain management.”

Maj Renee Krebs, Veterinary Medical Center Europe Deputy Director and Veterinary Surgeon, greets Alex, Military Working Dog from the 91st Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade, prior to surgery.

(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )

Alex’s wound over his ankle was getting so bad that it would likely require up to six months of reconstructive and orthopedic surgery. And because of bone and tissue loss, he was also at a very high risk for infection.

In addition to this, Krebs said that Alex was “not using the limb as well as he had been the first week or so after surgery — it was getting more painful. And he began to develop some behavioral problems, centered on some of the things we had to do when we were treating him.”

Krebs said some of the behavioral problems included aggression and snapping when the team would move him to the table to do treatments.

“I spoke to a behaviorist about it and she thought he was having some post-traumatic stress disorder-type acute episodes,” Krebs said. “So we changed the way we were managing him, but he was still getting worse, so in the interest of allowing him to move on with his life and improve his quality of life, we went with amputation.”

Krebs said that had they not performed the amputation, it was likely that Alex would have still ended up losing his leg if they had gone with the option of three to six months’ of wound management.

“The risk was very high. It was a very guarded prognosis to begin with that he would ever have normal return of function to the leg, and I knew if I amputated his leg he would be functional as a pet or regular dog probably within a week — so it seemed like the best option for him.”

Alex was described as relatively calm by Krebs, and during his time at the VMCE, the staff learned more about him, enabling them to cater to his needs and ensure he was comfortable.

“MWDs run the gamut from very high strung, very nervous and needing to be restrained because they have so much energy and are so anxious, to being very mellow,” Krebs said. “Alex was sort of a strange combination — he was relatively calm, but there were things that you knew if you did them he was going to get angry, like touching his tail.”

At Alex’s home unit, Sgt. First Class David Harrison, kennel master for the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, said Alex always felt like an old soul to him.

“[Alex has] the experience of a career soldier, and always carried himself in a way which always made trainers and handlers just believe he was focused on the mission at hand,” Harrison said. “He carries the ability to simply be a fun-loving dog who values his rapport with his handler as much as he enjoys executing his duties.”

Military Working Dog Alex is recovering well following leg amputation surgery, after suffering extensive wounds in a suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )

Even while recovering from his injury and going through surgery, Alex was teaching those around him some important lessons.

“It’s tragic what happened,” said Spc. Landon DeFonde, MWD handler with the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, who has been with Alex for his recovery in Germany. “But it just goes to show how selfless and resilient these animals are. For him to go through that blast and still be as strong as he is and kind and gentle towards people, it really amazes me that what they are capable of living through and surviving through. It definitely teaches me resiliency.”

But these lessons don’t just come when an injury happens, as the relationship between MWD and handler is one that both benefit from over the course of their pairing.

“The relationship between handlers and their partners is a relationship I’ve always found difficult to put into words,” Harrison said. “It’s a familial bond, but it almost goes deeper in some ways. The co-dependent nature of the business puts handlers in a position where they have to give more trust to their canine than most put in fellow humans. It’s not always a comfortable or easy process, but once they reach the point where they independently trust each other while working in tandem, the connection the team develops is unparalleled.”

DeFonde, who has been a MWD handler for three years, shares similar sentiments.

“It is truly incredible how selfless one can be and I think it shows the true side and caring side of humans — how much compassion and care we can show another living being — it is really special,” said DeFonde. “It is really amazing how we interact and how we can combine to create such a strong and powerful team.”

Alex will head back to the states at the end of August 2018 where he will continue his recovery. Due to his injury, his home station kennel will submit a medical disposition packet to allow Alex to retire and be adopted.

“I’ve built a bond with Alex—- not as deep as his handler’s,” DeFonde said. “But it is always hard to say goodbye. Dogs do come and go — that is part of the job, but I am just really happy I was able to come over here and help him recover and then get him back to the states and get him to see his handler.

“I’ve always heard the saying, humans don’t deserve dogs because of how kind they are, and I 100 percent agree. You could not ask for a more selfless companion.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

5 military technologies that are way older than people think

Modern wars are defined by a number of technologies like guided missiles, helicopters, and submarines.


Except all three of those technologies have been in service for hundreds of years. Here’s the story behind 5 modern weapons that have been in service for hundreds of years.

1. Submarines

Photo: Wikipedia/Kyriaki

The ink had barely dried on the U.S. Declaration of Independence when an American launched the first submarine attack in history. Ezra Lee piloted the submarine, dubbed the Turtle, against the HMS Eagle but failed to sink it.

The Turtle was sent against a number of other ships but never claimed a kill before sinking in 1776.

2. Drones

A BQ-8 takes off. Photo: US Army Air Force

The first drone missions were conducted in World War II and President John F. Kennedy’s older brother was killed in one. These early drones were modified bombers taken into the air by a pilot who then bailed out. The plane would then be remotely operated by a pilot in another bomber.

The drones were all suicide vehicles that would be steered into enemy targets. The program had its roots in a World War I program that created the first guided missiles.

3. Guided missiles

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

That’s right, the first guided missiles were tested in World War I. Orville Wright and Charles F. Kettering invented the Kettering Bug, a modified plane that used gyroscopes to monitor and adjust its flight to a pre-designated target.

Once the Kettering reached it’s target, its wings would fall off, the engine would stop, and the craft would fall to the ground with a 180-pound explosive. But the missile had a lot issues and the war ended before it saw combat.

4. Hand grenades

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Daderot

When grenades became a staple of World War I trench warfare, it was actually a revival of the weapon. They had already made a big splash in the 700s when soldiers in the Byzantine Empire figured out they could pack Greek Fire into stone, glass, and ceramic jars.

5. Helicopters

Photo: US Coast Guard

An iconic weapon of the Vietnam War actually saw combat in World War II. The first helicopter rescue was in Burma in Word War II and the Germans flew a number of helicopter designs. The British had flying cars that used helicopter-type rotor blades to stay in the air.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why this generation’s Lance Corporals are different

If noncommissioned officers are the backbone of the Marine Corps, then lance corporals are the muscles that keep it moving. As all enlisted Marines and warrant officers know — not to mention the Mustang officers who ascended the enlisted ranks before earning a commission — lance corporals hold a special place in the heart of the Corps.

Gone are the days of “Lance Corporal don’t know,” and the “Lance Corporal salute.” Today’s Marine Corps E-3s are smarter, faster, stronger, and more tech savvy than the old salts from years gone by. They are the iGeneration, seemingly raised with a cell-phone fused to their fingers at birth. They are more familiar with Snapchat and Instagram than cable TV and VHS tapes. They are a digital generation, and they fit uniquely and seamlessly with the Marine Corps’ vision of a connected ‘strategic corporal,’ ready to fight and win America’s battles as much with technology and ingenuity as with bullets and pure grit. The bedrock for tomorrow’s Marine leaders is the ability to make sound and ethical decisions in a world flipped on its head during the past two decades.


Enter the “Lance Corporal Leadership and Ethics Seminar.”

The weeklong training is required for all lance corporals vying for a blood-stripe and much-coveted place in the NCO ranks. The Marine Corps’ Enlisted Professional Military Education branch instituted the program in 2014 to “bridge the gap between the initial training pipeline and resident Professional Military Education,” according to the seminar’s Leader Guide. The seminar prepares junior Marines to face the challenges of an evolving, uncertain and dangerous world 19 years into the 21st Century.

Lance Cpl. Antonio C. Deleon, an aircraft ordnance technician with Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

“Our lance corporals are the gears that keep this machine moving,” said Sgt. Maj. Edwin A. Mota, the senior enlisted Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan. “The Lance Corporal Seminar is vital to their success this early in their careers. Whether an enlisted Marine stays in for four years or 30, they will never forget the leadership lessons they learned — both good and bad — as a lance corporal.”

Each seminar has a cadre of NCO and staff NCO volunteers who lead small groups through physical training, guided discussions and scenario-based training. The idea is to get lance corporals to think critically, both on and off duty, to help prepare them for a leadership role as a corporal, sergeant and beyond.

Lance Cpl. Celestin Wikenson, an airframer with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), maintains the skin of a MV-22B Osprey helicopter Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

“As a lance corporal in the infantry during the 90s, it was a completely different Marine Corps than it is today,” said Mota. “We took orders and we carried them out without a lot of questions. Our NCOs, staff NCOs and officers didn’t expect us, as lance corporals, to understand the strategic-level significance of our training and operations back then. But today, the Marine Corps cannot afford for our lance corporals to not know how they affect our mission at the tactical, operational, strategic, and diplomatic levels.”

Enlisted PME is a central component for measuring an enlisted Marine’s leadership potential and their fitness for promotion, regardless of rank. The seminar is usually a first term Marine’s introduction to formal military education and sets the tone for future PME courses as NCOs and staff NCOs. The guided discussions and scenario-based training is designed to help junior Marines to think critically before acting instinctively, according to 19 year old Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess, a mass communication specialist with the 31st MEU and a student in a recent seminar.

Lance Cpl. Richard T. Henz, a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crewman with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit sits alongside a CH-53E helicopter at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

“As a lance corporal, we are expected to follow orders and get the job done, regardless of our job,” said Hess, a native of Vacaville, California who enlisted in September 2017 after graduating from Will C. Wood High School. “During the seminar, we were challenged to rethink our role as junior Marines. In today’s Marine Corps, especially here in Japan, everything we do is a representation of all American’s stationed here and the seminar helped us better understand why the decisions we make, on and off duty, are so important as ambassadors to our hosts here in Okinawa.”

The lessons learned during the seminar will help tomorrow’s leaders refine their leadership ability, according to Hess.

“Today’s generation joins the Marine Corps for many different reasons, but our commitment to the Marine Corps is the same as any other Marine from past generations. Many of the junior Marines today don’t remember 9/11, don’t remember the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re still committed to always being prepared for our next battle, and the Lance Corporal Seminar definitely gives us a better understanding of leadership challenges and opportunities as we grow into the NCO ranks.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why Rob Riggle is the best part of any NFL show

There’s no better way to do sports analysis than by covering the league like a fan. And if that’s actually true, then there’s no better NFL analyst than comedian and Marine Corps veteran Rob Riggle.


Every week, Riggle does a sketch comedy segment as part of Fox Sports’ NFL Sunday, where he competes with Fox Sports’ Curt Menefee, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan, Jimmy Johnson, and Jay Glazer in picking their favorite teams to win that week. Unlike his Fox Sports colleagues, Riggle isn’t a sportcaster, former professional player, coach, or insider.

He’s a fan – but offers a lot more than sports knowledge.

He doesn’t hide his bias

Like any true NFL fan, Riggle remains fiercely loyal to his team. You won’t ever catch him in a jersey that doesn’t belong to a Kansas City Chiefs player. He joins Brad Pitt, David Koechner, Paul Rudd, and Jason Sudeikis in KC fandom and never picks against them.

He doesn’t pull punches on the NFL

The video above isn’t one of Riggle’s Picks, but rather from when he was chosen to open the 2018 NFL Honors Ceremony before Super Bowl LII. He used it as an opportunity to roast a room full of millionaires, billionaires, team owners, players, entire teams, host cities, and even fans.

“Hey, 31 arrests this offseason… things are improving!”

Riggle knows America

When you watch Riggle every Sunday in the fall, it becomes obvious that Riggle doesn’t just know football, NFL teams, and their fans, Rob Riggle knows America. Accents, food, pop culture, and news events are all part of each Riggle’s Picks segment. He even merges pop music and musical theater with sports references.

He makes fun of bandwagon fans

Ever meet a Seahawks fan outside of Washington state before 2005? No? Me neither. It’s not hard to figure out who jumped on a bandwagon when a team started to get good. Riggle shows what we all already know about every team’s fan base — and a city’s sports culture.

He’s not afraid of making fun of anything

Old TV, new TV, networks, sports, teams, fans, rivalries, personalities, players, history, politics, and Jay Glazer – they’re all targets for Rob Riggle.

Catch Riggle’s Picks every week in the fall on Fox NFL Sunday, usually about twenty minutes before the NFL games air.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker took a frigid beating

The U.S. Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, recently completed a mission to cut a resupply channel through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea, but the ship’s 150-strong crew grappled with engine failure and flooding during the trip.


The Seattle-based Polar Star left port in December for Antarctica to support Operation Deep Freeze 2018, the U.S. military’s contribution to the U.S. Antarctic Program, which is run by the National Science Foundation. The Polar Star was charged with clearing a path through 15 miles of ice — some of it up to 10-feet thick.

The Polar Star traveled through nearly 300 miles of pack ice before it reached fast ice, which is ice that’s actually connected to Antarctica, on Jan. 8, the Coast Guard said. After passing through the fast ice, the Polar Star reversed course to break the ice up further, clearing a channel for resupply ships.

McMurdo Station, opened in December 1955, is the largest Antarctic station, located on the solid ground farthest south that is accessible by ship. (Christopher Woody/Google Maps)

“Although we had less ice this year than last year, we had several engineering challenges to overcome to get to the point where we could position ourselves to moor in McMurdo,” Polar Star commanding officer Capt. Michael Davanzo told Maritime Executive.

On Jan. 11 2018, there was a failure in one of the ship’s three main gas turbines, which produce the power needed for the ship’s propellers to break up thick, multi-year accumulations of ice. The Polar Star’s crew traced the problem to a programming error between the engine and the ship’s electrical system — which, like much of the ship, dates back to the 1970s.

Also read: The Coast Guard warns that Russia is moving in on the Arctic

Five days later, a shaft seal failed, allowing 20 gallons of frigid seawater a minute to flood the engine room. The crew responded quickly, stanching the flow with an emergency shaft seal. Afterward, they were able to remove the water from the ship’s engineering space and perform more permanent repairs on the faulty seal.

“The crewmembers aboard Polar Star not only accomplished their mission, but they did so despite extreme weather and numerous engineering challenges. This is a testament to their dedication and devotion to duty,” Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Pacific Area, told Maritime Executive.

Members of the Coast Guard cutter Polar Star’s engineering department make repairs in the ship’s motor room while in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, Jan. 16, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen)

McMurdo Station, opened in 1955, is one of three stations operated year-round by the National Science Foundation and acts as a staging area for teams headed to the South Pole and other research stations deeper in Antarctica. It is built on the southernmost patch of solid ground that is still accessible by ship. Its average temperature in January, which is a summer month, is 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Summertime supply deliveries allow the station to stay open.

Related: The US is ‘late to the game’ in militarizing the Arctic

In addition to the Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Army, and National Guard personnel contribute to Operation Deep Freeze, which is led by Pacific Air Forces.

The Polar Star, which was commissioned in 1976, is the Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, and it can break ice up to 21 feet thick. (It has one medium icebreaker, the Healy, which mainly does scientific work.) The Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea, was commissioned the same year but left service in 2010 because of repeated failures in its main engines.

The Coast Guard cutter Polar Star breaks ice in McMurdo Sound near Antarctica, January 10, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen)

In 2017, the Coast Guard determined that the Polar Sea would be too expensive to refurbish, even though its hull remains sound. The Polar Star was refurbished in 2012.

Many of the parts needed to keep the Polar Star running are no longer in production. Coast Guard personnel pull needed gear from the Polar Sea, but they’ve also had to order secondhand parts from eBay. The ship sails with a year’s supply of food in case it gets stuck.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has said the Polar Star is “literally on life support,” and the service plans to build at least three heavy and three medium icebreakers to fill out the fleet. The first one is expected by 2023.

More reading: The Coast Guard wants heavy firepower on their new icebreakers

The harsh conditions in the polar regions take a toll on the 41-year-old Polar Star. It is scheduled to return to the U.S. in March, at which point it will go into drydock for repairs. It is the only Coast Guard cutter to go into drydock every year.

“If the Polar Star were to suffer a catastrophic mechanical failure, the nation would not be able to support heavy icebreaker missions like Operation Deep Freeze, and our nation has no vessel capable of rescuing the crew if the icebreakers were to fail in the ice,” Midgette told Maritime Executive.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 veterans making great television

Stories of heroism have been a fascination for humans for as far back as we can trace our sentient history. From ancient tales like The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Iliad to modern blockbusters like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, war stories permeate our culture and entertainment.

It’s especially poignant when warfighters themselves share their own experiences. As military veterans transition from their service to a career in the arts, so too do the military stories themselves begin to morph, adding insight into the warrior that hasn’t always been associated with the archetype.

It can be easy to place the hero on a pedestal, but it is critical to remember that every war story is, at its core, a story about mankind. With this in mind, stories told from the perspectives of the veterans themselves carry with them the authenticity and the humanity of the military.

These are five veteran storytellers to watch in the coming months:


“SEAL Team” partners with former special forces for guidance

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Tyler Grey, U.S. Army Ranger

“What we’re trying to do as a group is make something that’s not real, obviously, but to make something that’s authentic and feels authentic,” said Tyler Grey about SEAL Team on CBS. Former Army Ranger Tyler Grey was, in his own words, “blown up on a nighttime raid in Sadr City, Baghdad, in 2005.” He was medically retired after sustaining a critical injury to his arm, which still bears the scars from that attack.

Now, he gets to use his training and experience to help tell the stories of U.S. Navy SEALs. His role on SEAL Team has ranged from consultant to actor to producer. This season, Grey tackled another title: Director. He helmed Season 3 Episode 10, which will mark his first foray into television directing.

Also: We need to talk about this week’s ‘SEAL Team’ death

How Amazon’s ‘Jack Ryan’ series will stay true to Tom Clancy’s books | Comic-Con

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Graham Roland, U.S. Marine Corps

After his military service, U.S. Marine Graham Roland started his writing career working for iconic projects like LOST, Fringe, and Prison Break. In 2018, he released Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan on Amazon with co-Showrunner Carlton Cuse.

“I may never do a show that big again, in terms of budget,” he told We Are The Mighty. “We shot all over the world, on five continents. It was awesome and a huge learning experience. It was a huge property and there were a lot of people involved with a lot at stake.”

After creating a second season of the successful show, Roland has now shifted his focus to a new project with HBO that is based on the Navajo Nation in the 1970s.

Related: This Marine’s epic journey from service to ‘LOST’ to ‘Jack Ryan’

Fox has given a put pilot commitment to #ChainOfCommand, a one-hour drama from writer April Fitzsimmons, @jamieleecurtis, Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. TVhttps://deadline.com/2019/10/fox-drama-chain-of-command-april-fitzsimmons-jamie-lee-curtis-greg-berlanti-put-pilot-1202766505/ …

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April Fitzsimmons, U.S. Air Force

U.S. Air Force veteran April Fitzsimmons is writing Chain of Command, a Fox pilot that will tell the story of “a young Air Force investigator with radical crime-solving methodology who returns to her hometown to join a military task force that doesn’t want her, a family who has traumatized her, and must confront the secrets that drove her away,” reports Deadline.

This isn’t the first adventure into military storytelling for Fitzsimmons, whose credits also include Doom Patrol, Valor, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Justice. She is also the director of the Veterans Workshop at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, where she mentors veterans as they write and perform original monologues that deconstruct the idea of a hero.

She’s also a mentor for the Veterans Writing Workshop at the Writers Guild Foundation, paying it forward to a community of future writers who served.

ABC Developing Navy Flight School Drama Produced By Freddie Highmore http://dlvr.it/RFmSGy pic.twitter.com/0iDHPb6V4n

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David Daitch, U.S. Navy

After his active duty service in the United States Navy, David Daitch joined the Naval Reserves and started working as a technical advisor and a writer. Together with his writing partner, Katie J. Stone, Daitch’s writing credits include USA’s Shooter and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered. In October 2019, Deadline announced that Daitch’s next endeavor will be Adversaries, a drama that centers on the leader of the Navy’s Top Gun fighter pilot school in Key West.

Daitch and Stone have teamed up with Sean Finegan to write and executive produce the pilot, with Freddie Highmore producing. Adversaries will tackle the intensity of the male-dominated pilot training environment.

Our writer for the finale…. Brian Anthony and our very own @monty11bravo who was an actor this evening @NBCNightShift #NightShiftpic.twitter.com/3RHTsnFxKj

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Brian Anthony, U.S. Army

U.S. Army vet Brian Anthony has a steady career in service of adding authenticity to film and television’s portrayal of the military. Most notably, he has been a producer and writer for series like FBI and The Night Shift, the latter of which notably created an episode that was both written and directed by military veterans and featured them in multiple guest roles on camera.

Anthony also serves as a mentor for the Writers Guild Foundation Veterans Writing Workshop, where he helps his fellow vets develop their writing careers.

Featured Image: David Boreanaz and Tyler Grey in SEAL Team (CBS Image)

Articles

Russia is making a big push to militarize the Arctic

The Arctic could become the location of the next phase of an arms race between the United States and Russia – and the Russians have taken an early lead.


According to a report by Reuters, Russian military assets, including Cold War-era bases in the Arctic, are being brought back into service as Vladimir Putin makes a play to control what could be massive reserves of oil. The Russian build-up reportedly includes effort to winterize modern weapons, like the Su-34 “Fullback” strike aircraft and the MiG-31 “Foxhound” interceptor.

Photo: Wikimedia

According to Globalsecurity.org, the Su-34 is capable of carrying up to eight tons of weapons or a dozen air-to-air missiles, has a crew of two, and saw some combat action over Syria. The Fullback is slated to replace Su-24 Fencers currently serving with the Russian Air Force and Russian Naval Aviation. That site also notes that the MiG-31, an improved development of the MiG-25 Foxbat interceptor, also has a two-person crew, and is capable of firing the AA-9 “Amos” air-to-air missile, which has a range of just under 100 miles. The Foxhound has been upgraded with a new radar.

Ranker.com

Also included in the buildup are new icebreakers – including three nuclear-powered icebreakers according to a 2014 World Nuclear News report. In 2015, Port News reported that construction had started on two conventionally-powered icebreakers, while the Barents Observer reported in 2014 that the LK-25 would be delayed by up to two years from a planned delivery date of 2015.

Port News reported in December 2016 that the vessel, now named Viktor Chernomyrdin, wouldn’t be completed until sometime in 2018.

The Russian nuclear icebreaker ’50 let Pobedy’ in the Arctic. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The British news agency noted that the push comes even though a combination of economic sanctions and low oil prices have shelved Russian plans to explore for some of the massive oil and natural gas reserves in the Arctic.