A simple glance at a map would tell you all you need to know. Camp Pendleton is on the southern California coast with San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County just a short drive away. By contrast, Twentynine Palms is in a remote desert location akin to being stuck on Tattooine.
But there’s more to like about Camp Pendleton than fun outside the base.
Recently, the Navy announced that the expeditionary fast transport USNS Brunswick (T EPF 6) completed Pacific Partnership 2018 in Thailand. If you’re out of the know, you may be asking yourself why this operation is such a big deal. Well, believe it or not, this annual exercise has been going on for a dozen years now and it’s an essential part of being ready for the worst.
After the 2004 tsunami ravaged Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and several other neighboring countries in one of history’s worst-ever natural disasters, the United States deployed relief ships to provide humanitarian aid. This generated generated a lot of good will among affected nations and their allies. This matters a great deal — when you have a reservoir of good will among a population, you’re much less likely to find yourself embroiled in war.
USNS Mercy (T AH 19) taking part in Pacific Partnership 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey L. Adams)
At the time, the United States had a pair of hospital ships, USNS Mercy (T AH 19) and USNS Comfort (T AH 20), that hadn’t seen much use. Although these ships are slated for replacement, they still house much more advanced medical facilities than most countries can offer. Those aboard USNS Mercy rendered care for 108,000 patients between 2004 and 2005.
After supplying aid in the wake of a terrible disaster, the Navy began to make annual deployments. The Navy has also used the big-deck amphibious assault ships of the Tarawa and Wasp classes in these deployments.
A Navy corpsman gives a tour of the medical facilities on board USNS Mercy (T AH 19) during Pacific Partnership 2015.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mayra A. Conde)
During Pacific Partnership, not only does the Navy provide a lot of medical aid, they host disaster relief training exercises with partner nations, like Thailand. As the old saying goes, “you fight like you train.” The same can be said of providing disaster relief.
This exercise is not entirely a one-way street, however. During Pacific Partnership, in exchange for advanced training, the Navy gets a lot of knowledge about the terrain and personnel are given the opportunity to build relationships with their local counterparts.
Big-deck amphibious ships, like USS Essex (LHD 2), have also been used in Pacific Partnership deployments.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Brock)
The operation isn’t exclusively for governments. Representatives from various non-governmental organizations also take part. These aren’t the normal passengers on Navy vessels, and having them aboard allows the Navy to practice operating as part of grand-scale, disaster-relief efforts.
At the end of the day, Pacific Partnership is one of the U.S. Military’s greatest chances to practice responding to a disaster. The fact that it generates good will and gets some nice press is just a bonus.
According to DARPA researchers at the University of Maryland, funded by the agency’s Mathematics of Sensing, Exploitation and Execution (MSEE) program, recently developed a system that enabled robots to process visual data from a series of “how to” cooking videos on YouTube. “Based on what was shown on a video, robots were able to recognize, grab and manipulate the correct kitchen utensil or object and perform the demonstrated task with high accuracy – without additional human input or programming,” DARPA said.
These scientists throwing the calculus of “cooking is as much of an art as it is a science” way off. Perhaps one day having a personal robot chef will be as commonplace as having a toaster, microwave or blender.
“If we have robots that are humanoid and they have hands, that will be the next industrial revolution,” said Yiannis Aloimonos, University of Maryland computer scientist. “I am particularly very happy to be participating in this revolution because it will change fundamentally our societies.”
Still, it’s hard to imagine Chef Ramsay getting any satisfaction out of yelling at a robot on an episode of Hell’s Kitchen . . .
“I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family,” reads the Spartan Pledge, a new initiative started by Cutler.
The pledge started between Cutler and his battle buddy Nacho who served in Iraq with him. They lost touch after the military, but were brought together after Nacho’s friend – who was also a veteran – committed suicide.
The Spartan pledge was created after they both admitted to each other of having suicidal thoughts and not talking about it. Realizing the disproportional suicide rate among veterans, Cutler started engaging other war buddies with his pledge starting a viral effect.
According to Boone, the pledge ensures that veterans take care of themselves, take care of their own, and maintain a mission focus.
Here’s Boone’s video. He requests that you please pass it along.
NOW: This disabled veteran describes his scars of war with incredible slam poetry. Watch the video
The Confederate flag’s dark and nuanced history has long made the rebel banner an uncomfortable topic of conversation. In the minds of many Americans, it is a symbol of slavery and institutionalized racism – an emblem on par with the Nazi swastika. For others, it’s simply an expression of regional pride.
However, after the racially-motivated church slayings in South Carolina last week – committed by a man who was a proud flyer of the stars and bars – state governments have begun to remove the Confederate flag from their federal buildings. The United States military, on the other hand, has yet to address the issue officially.
South Carolina’s Army Guard still flies 16 streamers that were created under the Confederacy, and servicemen and women are allowed to sport the Confederate flag on clothing and tattoos — something the Defense Department does not consider offensive material. Still, some military officials have decided to retire the flag after the shootings, including The Citadel, South Carolina’s famous military academy, which removed the Confederate Naval Jack from its chapel.
Gen. Daniel Allyn, vice chief of the U.S. Army, spoke to the The Military Times about the rebel flag’s importance within the American military:
“I think that, when you are a student of military history, let’s face it: One of our greatest military generals in the history of our nation was Robert E. Lee,” Allyn said, referring to the legendary Confederate commander.
At Army posts throughout the country, there are “thousands of battle pictorials of Grant and Lee going up against each other with their requisite flags,” he added, noting Lee’s Union counterpart, Gen. Ulysses Grant, who later became America’s 18th president. “So yes, you will find those resident. And if those are offensive to people, I’m sure that our commanders will deal with that.”
“We swear our allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” Allyn said, “… and we will protect and defend that flag.”
Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) boarding team member sits atop an interdicted low-profile vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean after crews seized 3,439 pounds of cocaine from the LPV, Jan. 27, 2021. Munro is one of two Alameda, California-based cutters who's crews interdicted a combined three suspected drug smuggling vessels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean between Jan. 26 and Feb. 1 resulting in the seizure of more than 9,000 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $156 million. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Cutter Munro.
The Coast Guard Cutters Munro and Bertholf out of Alameda, California seized over $156 million worth of cocaine from January 26 through February 1, 2021.
The Coast Guard is the first line of defense against cartels and narcotics. On January 26, 2020, the crew of the Munro boarded a fishing vessel that was suspected of carrying narcotics. After creating a bilateral agreement with a partnering nation, they seized over 1,300 pounds of cocaine that had been concealed. Only a few hours later, a maritime patrol aircraft spotted another one.
The Munro launched their helicopter crew and boarding team to intercept the potential drug smugglers. Working in tandem, they were able to stop what was called a low-profile vessel. It is a boat that cartels are specifically designing to evade detection, by riding low in the water but able to carry large amounts of illicit drugs and contraband. The Munro crew caught them and discovered the vessel was carrying 3,439 pounds of cocaine.
“Having back-to-back cases lasting 31 hours pushed our limits, but our crew took on the challenge,” said Capt. Blake Novak, Commanding Officer of the Munro said in a press release. “Cartels are cunning and sophisticated, and this is a dynamic environment, which required interagency and international coordination which yielded results. I am proud of our crew, but these successes would not be possible without our Central and South American partnerships.”
On February 1 the crew of the Bertholf intercepted a suspected smuggling vessel on the pacific. They seized over 4,380 pounds of cocaine.
“The crew continues to impress me as they rise above challenges, stand a taut watch, and conduct themselves in a professional manner as we go about our business of stemming the flow of narcotics in the Eastern Pacific,” said Capt. Brian Anderson, Commanding Officer of the Bertholf in a press release. “I could not be more pleased with the overall teamwork between the aircraft, our small boats, and my crew in the interdiction of this drug laden vessel. Together we are making a difference.”
With the three separate seizures, nine drug smugglers were taken into custody.
Both cutters are 418-foot National Security cutters which are able to operate globally in a variety of missions. The largest and most sophisticated of Coast Guard cutters, they boast crews of 150 or more. Counter narcotic operations are conducted with the Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, DEA, ICE and international partnerships. The law enforcement operations are led under the command of the 11th District of the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard is the only military branch with the power to make arrests, because they are under the Department of Homeland Security. They also don’t need reasonable cause to stop any vessels under United States jurisdiction. This is why you will find coasties aboard many U.S. Navy ships.
Each year, the Coast Guard accounts for over half of all U.S. government drug seizures. In 2019, they removed 207.9 metric tons of cocaine from smuggling vessels. It was the equivalent of 4.16 billion individual doses which is valued at $6.14 billion.
The Coast Guard conducts counter-narcotic missions throughout the globe, every single day.
In 1967, the Space Race was in full swing. The Soviet Union had made a number of historic firsts, but the United States was racing to catch up while making a few firsts of its own.
President Kennedy had challenged America to put a man on the moon within the decade. Long after his death, the memory of that challenge was fresh in the minds of everyone, especially those in the U.S. government who were working hard to make that happen. These include agencies such as NASA, the U.S. military and, not surprisingly, the Central Intelligence Agency.
But the United States wasn’t always so close to winning. In fact, for a time, it appeared to be behind — way behind. So far behind, in fact, the Americans were willing to do anything to catch up, even if that meant stealing the Soviet technology.
Declassified CIA documents describe their initial efforts to do just that. While they never conclusively stole Soviet space technology outright, they did have to make a huge effort to get some time alone with the tech.
Many people know about Sputnik, the first man-made satellite in orbit. Not many others know about Luna (sometimes called Lunik), the first man-made satellite to hit the moon’s surface. Both successful missions took place in 1959. And the Soviets did what any superpower looking to dunk on their Cold War rival would do: they took a victory lap.
The USSR sent Sputnik and Luna on a world tour that included stops in the United States. The U.S. was losing the Space Race because the Soviets had better booster and rocket technology than they did. So the CIA decided it would learn everything it could about Soviet space tech through the traveling showcase.
Specifically, the U.S. wanted a detailed look at the USSR’s upper stage. Most in the CIA assumed the Soviets weren’t bold enough to bring an actual Luna on a world tour for everyone to see, but there were some who realized the USSR really had brought the real thing. One night, after the traveling exhibition was closed, CIA operatives gained access to the room. They discovered it really was an actual Luna module and the lone Soviet guard had disappeared.
The CIA spent a full 24 hours with the Luna, taking what information they could with them, but they wanted more. They wanted to get inside of it. That’s when they concocted a complex, almost absurd scheme that would have been stupid – if it hadn’t worked.
That’s when they hatched a plan to steal Luna, get into it, and return the device before it could be found. They knew it usually had a large guard force posted as sentries at almost all times. They needed to get to it when the guard force was at its lowest number and find a way to get to it when no one would miss it.
The operatives discovered that the Luna went unguarded when moving by train. A guard checked its crate in at the platform, but he didn’t know what was in each of the crates and there was no expected delivery time for its arrival at the show’s next stop.
CIA agents arranged for the Luna to be on the last truck out of an exhibition. When it was on the way, other CIA operatives tailed the truck, looking for when the Soviet guards rejoined their precious cargo. But the Soviets never came. The CIA stopped the truck driver and “held him in a hotel overnight” (the documents don’t mention how he was enticed (booze, guns or prostitutes were likely involved).
With the driver safely dispatched, the truck was parked in a salvage yard and covered up. At the rail yard, the lone guard there didn’t even know the last truck was expected and he knocked off for the night, none the wiser. The CIA kept a tail on him too, just to make sure he didn’t come to work early.
Back at the truck, CIA officers dismantled and photographed the Luna in detail, working through the night to get everything documented so that the Soviet booster technology could be analyzed.
They sealed everything back together, closed the crate and put the original truck driver back on the job. When the rail yard guard checked the crate onto the train in the morning, he suspected nothing and the secret Soviet space technology was on its way to the next stop.
Aerial dogfights are less likely to happen nowadays than in previous decades, and it’s especially true as drones have begun to takeover the battlefield.
Still, the exploits of legendary flying aces like Manfred von Richthofen “Red Baron,” Randy Cunningham “Showtime 112,” and Robin Olds “Wolf 01” have continued to spark the imagination of Hollywood. The following video shows ten of the most memorable aerial dogfights in movies. The list includes any aircraft or spaceship.
In the last few years, the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been increasingly investing in Artificial Intelligence capabilities in an attempt to secure an edge over near-peer competitors.
During the Yale Special Operations Conference that took place in March, US special operations leaders offered some insight on how SOCOM has been approaching artificial intelligence. SOCOM’s chief technology officer Snehal Antani stated that they want data scientists and technical experts to be as close to the warfighters as possible to ensure a better and quicker research and development and implementation process.
SOCOM isn’t new to artificial intelligence. In 2019, the Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), the Marine component of SOCOM, began experimenting with artificial intelligence to improve its selection process and ensure that more candidates pass and go on to become operators.
“It’s not just about tech, it’s about the process, it’s about the function,” Lieutenant Mike Groen, the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) said during the Yale Special Operations Conference. “It’s enormously educational when you really start asking folks, ‘Okay, how do you actually make that decision. What data do you use? What data should you be using? How is that data presented to you? Could it be presented in a different way? Who actually owns that data? It is a huge leap to bring somebody in from the outside, into those types of organizations. So step one is, keep your mouth shut and learn, listen, earn the right to be part of the team.”
SOCOM has also been looking into developing multisensory data fusion and processing technology that would offer special operators an advantage on the battlefield. More specifically, SOCOM has been working with the industry to develop ways to quickly fuse different data, such as temperature, elevation, visibility, humidity, overhead imagery, and create an accurate picture of the battlefield and provide it to commandos.
As with many other initiatives and projects, artificial intelligence first designed for SOCOM often trickles down to their conventional brethren. There is a reason why SEAL Team 6’s official name is Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU). It’s just not a cover name but a reflection of the unit’s and indeed of the rest of the special operations community’s research and development aspect. Now, the 18th Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne Division are looking to get their hands on some of the artificial intelligence projects used by their special operations colleagues.
Hitler’s engineers developed some of the most ambitious projects and produced sophisticated technology decades ahead of its time. But not everything was a tank, airplane, or some other heavy machinery. Nazi scientists also tinkered with biological weapons, super soldiers, mind control and even finance.
Here are 10 of craziest Nazi plans for world domination, according to Alltime10s.
Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills is one of only five quadruple amputees of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now recovered and continuing to live his life despite the physical barriers of having no arms or legs, Mills’ story is an inspiration to all. Especially when he has a philosophy of “Never give up. Never quit.”
“I woke up for the first time on my 25th birthday to find out that I had no arms or legs anymore, and I was a quadruple amputee,” Mills says in this video from NowThis News.
“You’re gonna fall down, but don’t be embarrassed about it. Just get out there and keep going at it,” he says. Mills himself has lived by this advice, keeping positive and even joking about his injuries, while serving other wounded warriors through his non-profit The Travis Mills Foundation.
Armed forces across the planet and throughout history have used leaflets for any number of reasons, from psychological operations to warning civilians about an upcoming attack. For most of this time, this kind of messaging has come in the form of slips of paper dropped in enemy territory from the air for the widest possible dissemination.
But times are changing, and the technology of psychological operations, along with the way humans can communicate to mass audiences are changing with it. These days, the kinds of propaganda we use can be sent between audiences who aren’t even technically at war with each other.
One side of this communication may not even know they’re using propaganda. That’s where a new study from the University of Maryland says internet memes are being used as a psychological Trojan horse. Author Joshua Troy Nieubuurt says the meme is the latest in the evolution of leaflet propaganda. It’s easy to get a message across, easy to spread that message and plays into existing biases.
Memes are an easy way to share an idea, a fast way to convey a message and, in some cases, a way for the idea to propagate itself and spread in a viral way, whether the idea or message has any real basis in reality.
They are also readily accepted by those with existing cognitive biases. Humans embrace information that already confirms their view of the world, a phenomenon known as confirmation bias. When someone sees a meme with a message that shares their views, they are more apt to share it.
People are also more likely to accept ideas shared by official sources and famous people, a phenomenon known as popularity bias. In general terms, everyone wants to be associated with a popular idea, and internet memes are no different.
Nieubuurt argues that internet memes and their easy shareability are an ideal tool for disseminating ideas to a wide audience across various social media platforms. Since they can be created, used, disseminated and remixed by anyone with internet access, state actors will naturally have an interest in using memes as part of any psy-op plan.
But perhaps the best reason for using memes as a tool of propaganda is the relative anonymity of its creator. The more viral a meme gets, the further and further away it gets from its origin. So whether or not the information in the meme is true or if its source lacks credibility, it soon becomes so far removed from the creator, that the sources become almost irrelevant.
In these ways, memes can be used to create and reinforce the legitimacy of certain ideas or policies to the benefit or detriment of political or geopolitical friends and enemies. Whether it aids a political candidate or undermines the government’s coronavirus response, there is always an intended goal in mind for any psychological operations campaign. Memes are just a cheap, easy way to reach those goals.
So the next time you’re considering sharing that viral meme, consider that you might be aiding a foreign intelligence service – and wonder what their goal could be.
The Fighting Season is a six part documentary series that captures what ending a war looks like. The film, which is out now, shows the sacrifices of the men and women who fought for the freedom and security of Afghanistan as America’s longest war drew to an end. Producer Ricky Schroder put himself in harm’s way as an embedded cameramen to deliver the best account possible.
In this edition of “At The Mighty,” Schroder discusses his motivations for filming this series and his experience with the troops in Afghanistan.