All good things must come to an end — including deployments. While getting out-of-country is the only goal, troops have a checklist of tasks that must be completed before they’re finally allowed to reunite with their families back home.
No one likes doing any of these tasks, especially when they’re already checked-out mentally.
6. Training up your replacements.
Meeting the new unit that comes in-country is the first sign that your deployment is almost over.
Getting people who are busy preparing for departure to teach the newbies that are completely lost is never an easy task, but hey, that’s the military.
5. Cleaning gear
In the Ancient Greek legend of Sisyphus, the protagonist is cursed with the never-ending task of rolling a boulder up a mountain just for it to roll down the hill when he nears the top.
This is much like the never-ending struggle of troops trying to sweep all of the dirt out of the motor pool in the desert. Sweep as you might, it’ll never end. It’ll get just good enough for inspection until it’s time to finally get out of country.
4. Sending gear back stateside
All of the troubles of selecting what you need and don’t need happens all over again — but in reverse. You’ll be putting gear away that you won’t see for a few months. It’s a fine idea for the extra parts of your sleeping system, but people who bring or buy video game consoles while deployed now have to worry about bringing it back home.
Of course, if you really wanted to make things easier (and you have the money for it), you could always use the postal service to send a tough box or two with your useful stuff.
Traveling through customs in the civilian world is a cinch. Flash your passport, fill out a form, and don’t bring anything that’ll set off any alarms.
Did you know that gunpowder residue trips U.S. Customs’ sensors? Damn near every combat arms troop does, too — all of our gear is covered in gunpowder residue. Even though we’re carrying our weapons with us, they’ll still look at you funny for that gunpowder residue.
2. The flight
It’s like being a kid on Christmas Eve again. Just a few more hours and you get what you want. You know you should probably catch some sleep on the plane but your blood is pumping too much.
All of the “whatever amount ofdays and a wake-up” are now in hours. Minutes. Seconds. You watch the GPS tracker on the plane more than the actual in-flight movies. The anxiety builds; landing can’t come soon enough.
1. That. Last. Formation. Before. Freedom.
Quick show of hands: Out of the countless times commanders have given a passionate speech to the friends and families of returning troops, how many are remembered by the troops?
Those months kind of fly by, but the last speech — you know, the one that starts with, “these fine gentlemen before you…” — goes in one ear and out the other. The only thing troops are focusing on is if they can find their loved ones in the crowd.
The fake Cold War-era GIs will no longer be crowding the guardhouse recreation in Berlin where the actual Checkpoint Charlie once stood. In the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a group of actors stood dressed in faux-American uniforms to take photos with tourists for a voluntary donation – except it wasn’t voluntary. Now the German government stepped in to give them the boot.
The public order office in the central district of Mitte says the actors began to shake tourists down for money, harassing passersby and demanding fees for photos of them and the wooden Checkpoint Charlie guard hut. The soldiers demanded as much as €4 for anyone taking a photo and could pick up as much as €5,000 on a good day. But then the fake troops tried to shake down the wrong “tourist” – a Berlin cop. That’s not all.
One or more of the 10 in the acting troupe who work(ed) the checkpoint site for the past 17 years stand accused of verbally abusing and physically intimidating tourists who don’t volunteer any cash for taking photos. The troupe’s behavior found its way to the public order office, who quickly informed the actors a special permit has been required for the past 17 years, one they did not have. They were told to pack it up and go home.
The reverse side of the Checkpoint guard shack.
Checkpoint Charlie has long been a tourist destination since even before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was the only crossing point in a divided Berlin for Allied citizens who desired to visit East Germany and come back. Tourists who couldn’t cross the wall would sit in nearby Cafe Adler, whose view over the wall would accompany a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. The original Checkpoint Charlie guard shack is in the Allied Museum in Berlin, The metal one in the street is a recreation erected in the 1980s.
Critics of the move – namely, the actors involved – say the government of Mitte kicking the fake troops out is part of a plan to rebrand Berlin’s history, a process of “de-Disneyfication” of the tragic history of Cold War-era Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie is just one more tourist site where locals hawk cheap souvenirs and chunks of concrete claiming to be from the real Berlin Wall.
This may not go for everyone, but typical military life usually means being away for months at a time. Because of this unique schedule, members of the armed forces tend to move on different romantic timelines than the average Joe. Often, that equates to getting a lot more serious a lot more quickly.
Being in the military might run in the family.
There are plenty of young adults who opt to join the military all on their own. That said, it’s not uncommon for military life to be passed down through generations. Serving one’s country is a badge of pride in many families. What does that mean for you? If you decide to settle down with someone in the armed forces, be prepared for your own kids to follow a similar path.
They’ll love you, but they also love their country. A lot.
Even if military life is completely new to you (or even seems a little crazy), respecting their decision to serve their country is non-negotiable. They’re doing it to protect not just you, but everyone else, too. That’s a lot of love!
You might have to move, more than once.
The military brat title exists for a reason. It’s not uncommon for military families to have to hop from base to base over the years, so prepare yourself for that possibility.
They’ll be gone often.
This goes without saying, but their schedules won’t be predictable. They’ll be gone for major holidays and life events, and you won’t have a say. If you can’t roll with the punches, stay out of the military dating game.
Their squad will be their second family.
Seriously. Whether they’re in the Army, the Navy, the Marines, or the Air Force, they learn right off the bat to stand by their team. They have each other’s backs, for better or worse. They’re responsible for getting each other home safely. When your partner’s battle buddies (brothers and sisters, really), are around, embrace it and give them time to catch up.
They may keep a few secrets.
The harsh reality is that veterans have seen a lot more than most civilians can imagine. They’ve seen pain, made tough calls, and experienced a different kind of heartbreak. When they return, they may not want to talk about it. If they seem like a closed door, don’t take it personally. They probably don’t want to burden you with difficult memories, and they may not be ready to relive them. It can take time to open up! At the end of the day, some secrets might just stay secret…and you have to be okay with that.
Complete strangers will take over your lives.
In a way, the government will dictate where you live. Where your kids go to school. When you can take that family vacation. People you’ve never met will decide whether your partner is home for the holidays. Flexibility is a must, as is loyalty. Starting a life with someone in the military means that you, too, will live a military lifestyle. Before you take that leap, make sure you can handle it!
Being a military spouse is scary.
When your partner is deployed, nothing is guaranteed. You can pray they are safe, but you can’t always be sure. It’s scary, but it also makes their return home so much sweeter. You really learn to cherish every moment together.
The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge in 1951 was supposed to be a quick win by U.S. and U.N. forces in Korea. They had just pushed the North Koreans and Chinese off of the nearby “Bloody Ridge,” and they believed the communist forces could be pushed off the ridge quickly as they’d had a limited time to dig in, but it turned into a month-long slugfest that would leave almost 30,000 dead.
Here are six heroes who ensured most of those deaths came from North Korea and China:
Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau
(Military Sealift Command)
Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau
Infantryman Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau’s company was holding a key position at Pia-ri on the ridge when, after repeated attacks, the platoon was nearly out of ammo. They needed to withdraw temporarily, but the near-continuous attacks made that challenging. Pililaau volunteered to stay in position as the men near him withdrew.
Communist forces charged the lines as the rest of the company withdrew, and Pililaau fired through his automatic weapon ammo, threw hand grenades until he ran out, and then fought hand-to-hand with his fists and trench knife until he was overwhelmed. He is thought to have killed more than 40 before dying and later received a posthumous Medal of Honor.
Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris was part of the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea.
(Pfc. James Cox, U.S. Army)
Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris
Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris was part of a series of attacks near Mundung-Ri from October 8-9, 1951. They hit an entrenched force and the attack stalled, except for Burris. Burris charged forward and hurled grenade after grenade, killing 15 and creating an opening. The next day, he spearheaded an assault on the next position.
He was hit by machine gun fire, but pressed the attack anyway. He took a second hit, but remained forward, directing a 57mm recoilless rifle team to come up. He drew fire from the enemy machine gun, allowing the team to take it out. Then, he refused medical evacuation and attacked again, taking out more machine gun emplacements before taking a mortal wound. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor.
Corpsmen assist wounded from the 7th Division at the Battle of Triangle Hill in 1952. May was from the 7th Division.
Sgt. Homer I. May
On September 1, 1951, Sgt. Homer May helped lead an assault squad against enemy positions, but the attackers encountered withering machine gun fire. The sergeant sent his men into cover and maneuvered against the guns himself and got eyes on three bunkers, and took one out with grenades.
He doubled back for more grenades and made his way back forward, taking out the other bunkers. The attack was successful, and May received the Distinguished Service Cross for his efforts. He tragically died the next day while helping fend off an enemy counterattack against the hill.
U.S. infantrymen from the 27th Infantry Regiment defend a position near Heartbreak Ridge in August, 1952.
(National Archives Records Administration)
Cpl. James E. Smith
Army Cpl. James E. Smith was manning a defensive position on September 17 as waves of enemy forces attacked. His company was able to repulse attack after attack, but ammunition dwindled and the attacking waves got closer and closer to the American lines. As it became clear that the unit would need to pull back, Smith stayed in position to cover the withdrawal.
He fired through all of his ammunition and then fought with bayonet and his bare fists until he was killed. He is thought to have downed 35 of the enemy before succumbing, earning him a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.
French Sgt. Louis Misseri
French Army Sgt. Louis Misseri was part of an assault on September 29 against a hill that was part of Heartbreak Ridge. The French Battalion came under artillery and mortar attack but kept pressing forward. Misseri split his squad into two sections and led one of them against enemy bunkers on the hill, taking them out.
When the communist forces launched a counterattack, Misseri led the defense and, despite suffering a serious wound, hit 15 enemy soldiers with his rifle fire. He was able to reach the top of Heartbreak Ridge and remained in position until the rest of his force had withdrawn. He would later receive a Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S.
Infantrymen move to the firing line in July 1950 during fighting in Korea.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps)
Sgt. George R. Deemer
On October 10, Company F of the 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, was attacking Hill 800 as mortar and artillery fire rained down. Sgt. George R. Deemer went into the battle carrying a 57mm recoilless rifle. A companion helped him load and he advanced with the skirmish line, knocking out one enemy emplacement after another.
When the company took the Hill, he used the weapon to aid in the defense until he ammunition ran out. Then, he organized two machine gun teams and made three trips under fire to keep them supplied with ammunition. During the third trip, he was mortally wounded by mortar fire. He received a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.
For the last 227 years, the U.S. Coast Guard has remained always ready to defend and secure our nation’s coastlines. For the last couple decades, however, the Coast Guard has pushed its boundaries out further, taking more aggressive stabs at the flow of South American drugs that, eventually, make their way into the U.S.
The fact is that narcotics will make their way to wherever people will buy them and, in the case of cocaine, the U.S. is happy to spend. According to The Washington Post, just shy of a million people tried cocaine for the first time in 2015.
Couple that stat with the fact that 90% of cocaine used in the U.S. comes from Colombia, and you’ve got yourself a bustling drug railroad.
The problem is that international borders are tricky for smugglers and there are quite a few between Colombia and the U.S. So, cartels often opt to take the path of least resistance, which extends out into the Pacific Ocean.
Cartels moving product north go to sea, trying to sail under the radar of the U.S. Coast Guard—and the odds of getting through aren’t so bad. Despite the fact that the Coast Guard has seized almost 500,000lbs of cocaine over the past year, it’s logistically impossible to keep all 6 million square miles of patrolled sea clean.
“I simply sit and watch it go by,” lamented Gen. John Kelly in 2014, then head of the Southern Command. Despite the fact that the U.S. Coast Guard seizes hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the drug, Gen. Kelly estimated that, because of resource limitations, the USCG stops just a quarter of trafficking.
So, who’s moving these mountains of coke? In many cases, they’re men from small fishing villages looking to support their families when times are tough. In their regular lives, they have little to do with drugs, but moving product makes a lot more money than selling the day’s catch. These fisherman are approached by cartel representatives and asked to do a week’s worth of work to pull in three or four times their normal annual salary—high risk, high reward.
Unfortunately for these men, the U.S. Coast Guard has played a huge role in the ongoing war on drugs. In 1986, the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act was passed, which defined smuggling drugs through international waters as a crime against the United States. This enabled the Coast Guard, the only branch of the US military that doubles as a law enforcement agency, to take the battle into foreign waters—and it’s been a winning strategy.
In the 1990s, the USCG detained roughly 200 men per year in waters beyond the U.S. Between Sept. 2016 and Sept. 2017, the USCG detained more than 700.
Drug cartels are notoriously elusive, so every fragment of intel against them is important. This means that every trafficker is to be charged, sentenced, and questioned on U.S. soil, no matter how small their involvement.
For these captives, due process doesn’t start until they’re formally arrested, which doesn’t happen until the ship makes port. Some challenge these practices, citing violation of human rights, but the U.S. Coast Guard stands firm in their belief that anyone detained is being adequately fed and sheltered during their lengthy transfers.
Fighting the war on drugs can be an ugly business and, sometimes, those caught in the crossfire are just looking to make a buck for their families. But, as Gen. Kelly said, “we are a nation under attack” from these cartels and defending our coasts is exactly what the Coast Guard does best.
While everyone talks about D-Day, what’s often forgotten is that getting past the Atlantic Wall was only the first step. The Allies had to fight their way out of Normandy and into the rest of France — not to mention across Germany.
This wasn’t easy. Germany had some very well-trained troops who were determined to put up a fight. One of the places where the Nazis held up the Allies was Villers-Bocage — a village to the southwest of Caen, a major objective of the initial staged.
According to Battle of Normandy Tours, on June 13, 1944, a force of British tanks from the famous 7th Armoured Division — also known as the “Desert Rats” — headed towards Villers-Bocage. At that village, a company of German Tiger tanks, under the command of Michael Wittman, fought the British force of Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks.
When all was said and done, Wittman’s force had destroyed 27 Allied tanks, according to WarfareHistoryNetwork.com. The Germans had also killed, wounded, or captured 188 Allied troops.
This video shows some of the fighting that took place during the Battle of Villers-Bocage. Warning: It does show some of the consequences of when armored vehicles are destroyed.
European researchers have concluded that a radioactive cloud that drifted over Europe in 2017 likely originated in Russia, possibly from a plant that was the site of an infamous nuclear disaster.
Meteorologists and researchers detected the burst of radioactive isotopes in October 2017, and have struggled to determine its origins.
At the time, prevailing winds and other evidence pointed to Russia, but authorities denied responsibility for the release of the ruthenium-106 isotopes. The dispersed isotopes were harmless to human health, but noticeable by monitoring equipment.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his resignation from the Trump administration on Dec. 20, 2018, setting in motion the end of what has been a tumultuous tenure working with President Donald Trump.
In his resignation letter, Mattis told Trump, without saying his name, that the president has a “right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned” with his own.
But it was the outgoing defense secretary’s warning about the shifting nature of great-power relations he hopes his successor will study closely.
Under Mattis’ watch, the administration has drawn an unambiguous line in the sand. Beginning with Russia and, historically, moving out of engagement with China, and into confrontation.
Members of the 5th Special Forces Group conducting weapons training during counter-ISIS operations at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria.
(US Marine Corps photo)
“I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly at odds with our own,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter.
“It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies.”
Russia, under its President Vladimir Putin, has already shown its capacity and willingness to reach into the heart of US democracy.
The latest twin reports to front the Senate show in excruciating detail how even the smallest manipulation of social media platforms can meddle in US public life with just a single troll farm — the unit called the Internet Research Agency — tucked away somewhere in a Moscow warehouse.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Opaque and unsettling
While the Trump administration has appeared in an unflattering light amid what US policy expert believe is an unsettling relationship with Russia, Putin has been steadily picking at the edges of Crimea, presenting the greatest military threat to Ukraine in years.
That confrontation has been encouraged by the Trump administration itself, with the tearing down of so many aspects of the rules-based order that has governed global politics in the post-World War II era.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear eyed about malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter to Trump.
Speaking at the Hudson Institute in October 2018, US Vice President Mike Pence delivered a landmark address signaling the US’s intent to challenge an increasingly assertive and belligerent China, directly accusing it of “meddling in America’s democracy.”
Pence accused China of stealing American intellectual property, eroding US military positions, and driving the US out of the Western Pacific.
It was only on Dec. 18, 2018, when China’s President Xi Jinping, the country’s strongest autocratic leader since Mao Zedong, made a gloating speech marking China’s furious economic progress, with more daunting promises of “miracles that will impress the world.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Delivered with slumped shoulders in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi spoke for 90 minutes before touching momentarily on a vision for a new kind of Chinese expansion aimed at exporting its model of technocratic dictatorship to other like-minded nations.
“The past 40 years eloquently prove that China’s development provides a successful experience and offers a bright prospect to other developing countries, as they strive for modernization,” Xi said, about 40 minutes into his speech.
This is exactly where China is now placed as it looks across the Pacific and into Central Asia to covertly or overtly use the One Belt One Road initiative to expand its industrial, technical, and digital prowess into developing neighbors that are vulnerable to the authoritarian siren song of, for example, surveillance techniques now being rolled out in the beleaguered western province of Xinjiang.
China’s vast data-collection platforms — WeChat alone has more than a billion users, and are harvesting ever-deeper data on behalf of the state — would be happy to do the same for other nations.
In December 2018 Danielle Cave, a senior analyst at the Australian Security Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, told Business Insider that developing nations that do not share the US’s aversion to unreliable actors like the embattled telecommunications giant Huawei, are ready and willing to marry into China’s cheap, buy-now-pay-later model of total autocratic technocracy.
The person Trump chooses to replace Mattis will need to see, with the same clarity that “Mad Dog” could, the chasm between the words of America’s strategic adversaries and their actions in this new, dangerous, fragmented — and increasingly lonely — global theater.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade deployed in March 2018 to Afghanistan to carry out the inaugural mission for the newly-created SFAB concept. The brigade returned in November 2018, and leaders say their experience there has proven successful what the Army hoped to accomplish with the new kind of training unit.
Army Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson, 1st SFAB commander, spoke May 8, 2019, at the Pentagon as part of an Army Current Operations Engagement Tour. He said the Army’s concept for the new unit — one earmarked exclusively for advise and assist missions — was spot on.
During their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, Jackson said the 800-person brigade ran 58 advisory teams and partnered with more than 30 Afghan battalions, 15 brigades, multiple regional training centers, a corps headquarters and a capital division headquarters.
“That’s nearly half of the Afghan National Army,” he said. “I believe we could only accomplish our mission and reach these milestones and validate the effectiveness of an SFAB because the Army got it right — the Army issued us the right equipment, and provided us the right training to be successful. But most importantly, we selected the people for this mission . . . the key to our success is the talented, adaptable, and experienced volunteers who served in this brigade.”
Jackson outlined two key lessons learned from the unit’s time in Afghanistan. First, they learned their ability to affect change within those they advise and assist was greater than they thought.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, interacts with Afghan Command Sgt. Maj. Abdul Rahman Rangakhil, left, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Kandak, 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps, during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“As our Afghan partners began to understand the value of 1st SFAB advisors, they asked us for more,” Jackson said. “So our teams partnered with more and more Afghan units as the deployment progressed.”
Another lesson, he said, was that persistent presence with partners pays off.
“Units with persistent partners made more progress in planning and conducting offensive operations and in integrating organic Afghan enablers like field artillery and the Afghan air force than unpersistent partnered units,” Jackson said.
Those lessons and others were passed to the follow-on unit, the 2nd SFAB, as well as to the Security Force Assistance Command.
Another observation: the Afghan military is doing just fine. They’re in charge of their own operations. And while U.S. presence can provide guidance when needed — and it is asked for — the Afghans were proving successful at doing their own security missions without U.S. soldiers running alongside them. It turns out that just having an SFAB advise and assist presence has emboldened Afghan security to success.
“We saw enormous offensive maneuver generated, and not just at the brigade level,” said Army Lt. Col. Brain Ducote, commander of the 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB. “They weren’t overdependent. They were able to execute offensive operations themselves. It was a huge confidence builder when we were sometimes just present. Even if we didn’t support them, just us being there gave them the confidence to execute on independent offensive operations.”
Confidence is contagious
Ducote said that the confidence moved from brigade level down to battalion, or “kandak” level. Commanders there also began running their own offensive operations, he said.
“They believe in themselves,” the lieutenant colonel said. “The Afghan army has tremendous freedom of maneuver and access to areas where they want to go. If they put their mind to it and they say we’re going to move to this area to clear it . . . they are good at it. And they can do it. Would they, given the choice, want advisors with them? Absolutely. Why not? But let there be no mistake: the Afghans are in the lead, and the Afghans can do this.”
Advisors with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron and their 3rd Infantry Division security element exit UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Ducote said Afghan success is evident by their expansion of the footprint they protect, such as in Kunar and Kapisa provinces, for instance.
“[There are] all sorts of provinces where they expanded their footprint and influence,” he said. “And the people absolutely support their security forces.”
Also a critical takeaway from Afghanistan and an indicator of the value of the SFAB mission there is the authenticity of relationships between SFAB advisors and Afghans.
Building real relationships
During their nine months in theater, the 1st SFAB lost two soldiers to insider threats. Army Capt. Gerard T. Spinney, team leader for 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB, said that what happened after the attacks revealed the strength and sincerity of the relationship between Afghan leadership and SFAB leadership.
Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel was working for Spinney in Tarin Kowt District, Afghanistan. He was killed there by an Afghan soldier in July 2018 — a “green on blue” threat.
“His sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Spinney said. “But we still had to continue advising afterward. That day, my partner, a kandak commander . . . wanted to come see me.”
Spinney said the Afghan soldier who had killed Maciel didn’t belong to this commander — but that commander still wanted to meet with him.
Afghan soldiers listen to a map reading class taught by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, Sept. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“He was very adamant coming to see me,” Spinney said. “He was angry. He was embarrassed. He was determined to rid [his own] unit of anything like this. And it was sincere. During the deployment he lost many soldiers. I had to sit with him and almost echo the same sympathies. I think the relationship got stronger.”
“You have to be there with them, good times and bad times, successes and failures,” the captain said. “That’s how you build trust, that’s how you show you care. He was there for us that day. Our relationship survived. And I’d say from that point on he wanted to make us feel safer. From that point on we saw differences in security . . . they took care of us because they wanted us there.”
Jackson said that insider threat might have derailed the 1st SFAB mission. In fact, he said, he suspects that was the intent of the enemy that carried out those threats. But it didn’t happen that way, he said.
“It didn’t derail the mission,” Jackson said. “Despite a brief pause maybe, as we reassessed what happened and what we needed to do both on the Afghan side and the American side, in the end our relationship was stronger.”
The SFAB concept was first proposed by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley. And since then, Jackson said, the Army has put a lot of effort into ensuring the success of the SFAB mission. That includes, among other things, training, people and gear.
Ducote said the equipment provided to 1st SFAB was critical to its success in Afghanistan.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, teaches a map reading class to Afghan soldiers Sept. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“These teams are operating at distance, in austere environments,” Ducote said. “In some cases without electricity. We need the right equipment to be able to extend the trust that we give to them, and the trust that we extend to them. We want that to be manifested through the right equipment — communications specifically.”
He said the gear that proved essential to SFAB success included medical, communications and vehicles — and all were adequately provided for by the Army.
“The Army got it right what they gave us,” Ducote said. “We were able to do that mission, at distance.”
Back home now for six months, Jackson said the brigade is back to repairing equipment, replacing teammates and conducting individual and small-unit training to prepare for its next mission. He said their goal is to provide the Army a unit ready for the next deployment, though orders for that next mission have not yet come down.
The advise and assist mission is one the Army has done for years, but it’s something the Army had previously done in an ad hoc fashion. Brigade combat teams, for instance, had in the past been tasked to send some of their own overseas as part of security transition teams or security force assistance teams to conduct training missions with foreign militaries. Sometimes, however, the manner in which these teams were created may not have consistently facilitated the highest quality of preparation.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, flies in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on his way to Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
The SFAB units, on the other hand, are exclusively designated to conduct advise and assist missions overseas. And they are extensively trained to conduct those missions before they go. Additionally, the new SFABs mean regular BCTs will no longer need to conduct advise and assist missions.
The Army plans to have one National Guard and five active-duty SFABs. The 1st SFAB stood up at Fort Benning, Georgia, in early 2018. The 2nd SFAB is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but is now deployed to Afghanistan. The 3rd SFAB, based at Fort Hood, Texas, is now gearing up for its own first deployment. The 4th SFAB, based at Fort Carson, Colorado, is standing up, as is the 54th SFAB, a National Guard unit that will be spread across six states. The 5th SFAB, to be based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, is still being planned.
“As subsequent SFABs come online, it creates a huge capacity for the rest of the combatant commands in the world,” Jackson said. “I would be confident to say that there are assessments ongoing to see where else you could apply SFABs besides Afghanistan.”
A Marine scout sniper with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division adjusts his scope at 29 Palms
A recent shortage of snipers has prompted a new “proof of concept” sniper position in the Marine Corps, according to “Marine Times.”
(Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)
In mid-2018, the Marines announced the start of a new course for the specialized sniper position that was slotted to take place at SOI-West. The class was going to redistribute military personnel from the School of Infantry-West and the Basic Reconnaissance Course.
Although original plans were set for February of 2020, it has been moved to May to “provide sufficient staffing, and when resources would be available,” according to a “Marine Times” interview with Training and Education Command Official 1st Lt. Samuel Stephenson. Only Marines who hold the rank of Lance Corporal or above are eligible to take the scout sniper training course.
Candidates for Scout Sniper Platoon (2015)
(Sgt. Austin Long)
The new MOS is going to be “0315” and is a specialized scouting sniper position. The new MOS is guided towards Marine snipers with advanced patrolling ability. The core track will remain in the same vein as other “03” MOSs.
In fact, the 0315 MOS is essentially an abridged path for scout Marines in the 0317 MOS. According to “Marine Times” the training for 0317 would, “…divide the course, providing a shortened version for the initial 0315 MOS before that individual would then be shipped back to a unit to perform scout duties and guidance from unit 0317 snipers.”
(Robert B. Brown Jr., USMC)
The news of the upcoming course comes hot on the heels of recent deficiencies in sniper success rates. The “Marine Times” reported the significant failure rate led to the Marines producing only 226 snipers from 2013-2018. This figure is down approximately 25% from years past.
The same report also found that “less than half” of all Marines who took the sniper courses in 2017 passed, even though the eligibility and training requirements had remained static.
The new 0315 seeks to help remedy the need for more total snipers in the Marine arsenal by supplying a scout sniper course, while still creating an environment for upward mobility should Marines pass the more specialized advanced sniper courses.
Victor Medina has an actual video of the moment that changed his life forever. One day, his unit in Iraq was forced to take a detour around its planned patrol route. It was June 29, 2009, and Sgt. 1st Class Medina was the convoy commander that day. After winding through alleyways and small villages around Nasiriyah, his convoy came to a long stretch of open road. That’s when an explosive foreign projectile struck the side of his Humvee.
He was evacuated from the scene and diagnosed with moderate traumatic brain injury, along with the other physical injuries he sustained in the attack. It took him three years of rehabilitation, and his wife Roxana became a caregiver – a role that is only now receiving the attention it deserves.
The footage of the attack in the first 30 seconds of the above video is the moment Sgt. 1st Class Medina was hit by the EFP, a rocket-propelled grenade. There just happened to be a camera rolling on his Humvee in that moment. The TBI that hit Medina affected his balance, his speech, and his ability to walk, among other things.
“It’s referred to as an invisible wound,” Victor says, referring to his traumatic brain injury. “In my case, you can’t see it, but I feel it every day.”
Since 2000, the Department of Defense estimates more than 383,000 service members have suffered from some form of traumatic brain injury. These injuries range in severity from ones caused by day-to-day training activities to more severe injuries like the one suffered by Sgt. 1st Class Medina. An overwhelming number of those come from Army personnel. Of the 225,144 traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers, most are mild. But even a moderate injury like Victor’s can require a caregiver for the veteran.
This video is part of a series created by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, highlighting veteran caregivers and the vets they care for. AARP wants to let families of wounded veterans know there are resources and support available through AARP’s Military Caregiving Guide, an incredible work designed to start your family off on the right foot. Some of you reading may not even realize you’re a veteran’s caregiver. Like Victor Medina’s wife Roxana, you may think you’re just doing your part, taking care of a sick loved one.
But like Roxana Delgado, the constant care and support for a veteran suffering from a debilitating injury while caring for the rest of a household, supporting the household through work and school, and potentially caring for children, can cause a caregiver to burn out before they even recognize it’s happening. It took Roxana eight months to realize she was Victor’s full-time caregiver – on top of everything else she does. It began to wear on her emotionally and strain their relationship.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Roxana Delgado and Victor Medina before his deployment to Iraq in 2009.
With AARP’s Prepare to Care guide, veteran caregivers don’t have to figure out their new lives on their own. The guide has vital checklists, charts, a database of federal resources, including the VA’s Caregiver Program. The rest is up to the caregiver. Roxana Delgado challenged her husband at every turn, and he soon rose to the challenge. He wanted to get his wife’s love back.
Before long, Victor was able to clean the house, make coffee in the morning, and generally alleviate some of the burdens of running their home. After 10 years in recovery, Victor Medina has achieved a remarkable level of independence, and together they started the TBI Warrior Foundation to help others with traumatic brain injuries. Roxana is now a health scientist and an Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow. AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation are teaming up to tell these deeply personal stories of caregivers like Roxana because veteran caregivers need support and need to know they aren’t alone.
There have been a few developments in the stealth world in February 2018 with Russia deploying its Su-57 to Syria and China announcing its J-20 is combat ready.
With more countries now fielding and trying to market stealth jets, Business Insider spoke to Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at the thinktank CNA and fellow at the Wilson Center focusing on Russia’s military and defense, about how the Su-57 and the J-20 match up with the US’s stealth planes.
The partial transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.
Daniel Brown: What are your general thoughts on the recent deployment of the Su-57 to Syria?
Michael Kofman: They deployed them to Syria really for two reasons. One is to change the narrative that’s been going on in Syria for the last couple weeks and take a lot of media attention to the Su-57. And second is to actually demo it in the hope that there might be interested buyers, as they have deployed a number of weapons systems to Syria.
They’re always looking for more investors in that technology. Fifth-generation aircraft are expensive.
Kofman: I think it’s a stealthier aircraft than your typical fourth-generation design. I don’t think it matches the stealth capability of the F-22 or F-35, nor does it match the price tag of them. I think it’s a poor man’s stealth aircraft. I think it’ll be a very capable platform. I don’t think it’ll match or compete in the low-observation rules that US aircraft do.
On the other hand, it will definitely be a step above a fourth-generation aircraft — in terms of how maneuverable it is, Russian aircraft are always very capable, very maneuverable.
The F-22 is actually really good in maneuverability, too. The F-35 not so much, but the F-22 is actually a brilliant aircraft. We still have a lot of them. But the Su-57 is not meant to be a direct competitor to the F-22 or F-35.
Brown: That’s how Russia seems to be marketing it.
Kofman: Yeah, I’m sure some guy thinks his Honda Civic is better than my BMW.
Here’s the thing you’ve got to understand: There is a fifth-generation market out there. Where can you go to get a fifth-generation aircraft? The US is very tight on technology with the F-35. The only other people that have one in development is the Chinese.
So, here’s the real question: Is the Su-57 better than the J-20?
Kofman: Well, it’s certainly far — if not further — along in technology design.
Here’s what it’s important: At the core of every plane is the engine — it’s all about the engine. Everything else is super cool, but it’s all about the engine.
The Su-57 is not in serial production because they’ve not finished the engine for it. It is flying on an upgraded engine from the Su-35S, so it cannot be a fifth-generation aircraft yet.
Now, is it low-observable relative to the Su-35? Yes. Is it low-observable relative to F-35? No. But you know what, if it was, probably no one would be able to afford it, least of all Russia. Don’t let the best be the enemy of the affordable.
Brown: What do you think about the J-20 compared to the F-22 or the Su-57? Where does it stand?
Kofman: I suspect that the J-20 probably has great avionics and software but, as always, has terrible engine design. In fact, early Chinese low-observation aircraft designs are all based on ancient Russian Klimov engines because the Chinese can’t make an engine.
That’s where I think it stands. In terms of observation, when I look at it, I suspect it also has a lot of stealth issues.
Troops train year-round to maintain the high standard of readiness essential to the preservation and defense of democracy. However, none of us are machines that can operate under constant pressure over an infinite amount of time. And enlisted professions, infantry, in particular, are among the most stressful jobs available. That’s why leave (or ‘vacation days’ in civilian terms) is a crucial component to blowing off steam and keeping morale high.
Homesick troops will often use their leave days to go and visit the family. However, those who have leave days burning a hole in their pocket should consider visiting these party cities if they’re looking for something new. Plus, there’s a good chance that someone from your platoon/squad is from the city you’re visiting and may even offer to be your guide.
In no particular order, these are the 10 best places to party on leave.
New York, New York
New York City has earned the reputation of being the city that never sleeps and defends its title vigorously. In the Big Apple, you can party until the small hours of the morning and still find a place serving piping hot, fresh, New York-style pizza. As the economic crown jewel of the U.S. you can find the best brands of any product imported from around the world.
Can’t answer SSGT’s call in another country.
Parties here start at 1 a.m. and last all night long, which means you’ll have enough time to do touristy things, go to the hotel to change, pregame, and invade Spain like a Roman Legionnaire. The theme parties here can get out of control, so definitely bring a battle buddy or two.
I’m ready for my close up.
Los Angeles, California
Music labels, film studios, and conglomerates have built empires on keeping you entertained. Los Angeles offers media from every medium, genre, and artist on an unparalleled scale. LA Weekly and Ticketmaster provide information on upcoming events to plan your trip around.
Home of the original libo risk.
A classic destination on every bucket list but you might want to wait until you have your DD-214 to fully toke take in the culture. If your agenda doesn’t include visiting its coffee shops, there’s plenty else to do — Europeans party hard AF.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Sin city, a single Marine’s paradise — and other branches, too. The casinos offer free booze while you gamble, gentlemen’s clubs offer the perfect location to blow away your bonus, and many hotels have venues and clubs built into the location. Excellent for post-deployment debauchery relaxation.
Berlin is another city that never sleeps, and it is home to tons of DJs. The mainstream venues are good, but the underground parties are unbeatable. Bring someone who speaks German so you can have your finger on the pulse of this city.
The parties are year round.
Miami has arguably the best club scene; one that can compete with LA and New York. Florida’s beaches are often featured on top ten lists and are capable of dethroning Hawaii. Every troop must storm these beaches at least once in their career.
(Air Forces Central Command)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
U.A.E. is home to the Burj Al Arab, the Palm Islands, and an indoor ski resort in the mall, but make sure you read up on the local laws. As a conservative Islamic country, it has many restrictions — unless you’re wealthy. Remember the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.
The famous bar crawls of Austin
Austin has been earning a reputation as a must-visit spot for partygoers at a steady rate in recent years. The city offers pub crawls, ghost tours, historic landmarks, and lounges. It is common to see Austin on lists of top places to live for both liberals and conservatives. This growing metropolis with a southern twang should not be underestimated.
New Years Eve in Iceland!
Vikings are still drinking and celebrating in both Valhalla and Reykjavik. Although Iceland is small, their festivals aren’t. Reykjavik is LGBTQ+ friendly and accepting of all types, but don’t wander off into the inland — the wilderness here is dangerous as hell.