Here's how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
Intel

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

The battle against explosives and stemming civilian casualties in Afghanistan remains a top priority for U.S. forces there.


“For more than 40 years, Afghanistan has been bombed, shelled and mined,” according to the Alun Hill video below. “Old Soviet mines and shells still litter the countryside.”

Insurgents use these dangerous relics, innocuous household items and other explosive materials smuggled in from Pakistan to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which they use against American forces. Explosives that are undetonated can remain dormant for years before being uncovered by unsuspecting civilians. Most of the casualties now in Afghanistan come from these items, said Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) Manager Hukum Khan Rasooly.

Watch how these dangerous weapons are made and destroyed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bo7XsFwOaCY

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Tips and tricks to become a master PCS-er

As the spring showers fade, summer creeps in. You’ll know it’s here by the sights and smells before you. Things like classic backyard BBQs, the smells of sunblock, and fresh cut grass. But as a military family, summer looks a little different. That’s because every two to three years this season brings moving trucks, item stickers, and road trips.

Every summer between 420K and 450K military families PCS. That’s a whole lot of stickers. While many will stress themselves out over the process of moving, it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t approach this season with dread. Instead, live your best PCS season ever. Here’s how:


The internet can be your friend

Once you get your official orders, it’s time to dive into researching. Find the military Facebook groups for your new base and start asking your burning questions. Here you should discover the best schools, areas, and all the other things you want to know about your new home. If you are moving on base, your next step is to have your service member contact the housing office. From there you can also check out Military One Source where you can type in the name of your new base and get all of the information you need for base resources.

If you are moving onto the economy, you’ll find yourself utilizing that Facebook information you gleaned to settle on an area to rent or buy in. Once you’ve settled on your new home, take a deep breath – this will hopefully be the hardest part.

Organization is vital

There are so many amazing ways to stay organized for your upcoming move. Although Murphy’s Law will always find a way into your beautifully-crafted move, organizing it from the start will reduce your stress. Step one is always to make at least 10 copies of your official orders and create a moving binder. In it should be all of your family’s vitally important information like medical, social security cards, passports, etc. This will be where you start your moving bible, and from there you need an epic checklist.

  • Military One Source has a great Plan My Move webpage that actually creates a custom checklist for you based on the information you provide. This is a great interactive tool to utilize during your PCS planning.
  • My Ultimate PCS App is an amazing and free tool for your big move. It was created by two military spouses who have been there and done that.
  • Are you a fan of Pinterest? Check out their endless PCS checklists created by seasoned spouses who know all the tips and tricks for a smooth move.

Time to pack out

The day has come! Your moving company has already done their inventory and they are arriving to box up your life. Here are some tips and tricks for an easy pack out:

  • Pick a closet or bathroom where you can put all of the things you don’t want the movers to pack. This area should house all of your must-have PCS items like cleaning tools for after the pack out and what you’ll need to get to your new home. Things like your clothes/items for traveling, your moving binder, air mattresses, and coffee maker (don’t judge) all go in here. Anything that is priceless to you should really go with you on your move and therefore in this area too. When we say they will pack everything, we aren’t kidding. Stories of trash getting packed are a reality, cats too.
  • Keep your animals caged or at a kennel to prevent them from getting lost or put on the moving truck. If you can lean on a friend to keep them during the pack up and out, even better.
  • Do buy the movers a box of water bottles and lunch every day. They will be very appreciative and probably treat your stuff like gold because of your kindness.

If you find yourself struggling with the stress of moving, reach out to your support groups. Talk to people if you are feeling overwhelmed, we’ve all been there. Military One Source has 24/7 free and confidential counseling if you are a DOD spouse and CG SUPRT offers the same if you are a Coast Guard spouse. In the end, you’ve got this. The key things to remember are to lean on your community, be organized, and utilize all of your resources

Before you know it, you will be a master PCS-er.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The insane way Venezuela wants to fight a US invasion

It sometimes seems like military service grants you some sort of extra-sensory bullsh*t detection superpower. This is apparently true in Venezuela, where soldiers were forced to keep a close watch on one another to keep them from deserting as another sham election for the world’s sh*ttiest dictator drew nearer in 2018.


Desertions, rebellions, and treason were rife within its ranks as the army became less and less able to feed and pay its soldiers, much less fight a war with them. The world waited to see what this dumpster fire of a president would do about it.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

Nicolas Maduro always looks like he really needs an epi-pen.

When an army is deserting at a rate almost four times as high as previous years, not only does its leadership need to stop the bleeding, but they also need to figure out how to defend their homeland. Nicholas Maduro also needed to figure out how to use them to maintain his grip on power while rigging the 2018 election.

As the soldiers guarding polling places kept an eye out for any terrorists, saboteurs, or actual legal votes, what they probably really thought about is how to ditch that awful job and make more than the two dollars a day the Venezuelan government paid them.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

Three faces in this photo are screaming to be anywhere else.

One Sergeant Major who has served for 20 years told Business Insider he hasn’t had a full fridge for a long time. His old Christmas bonus used to buy furniture, clothes, and toys for his family but now can only afford three cartons of eggs and two kilos of sugar. With that kind of depreciation, it’s easy to see why Venezuela is losing more than just a few good men. “President” Maduro blames a conspiracy led by the United States for losing his army – He says the U.S. is planning to invade Venezuela.

If the U.S. intends to invade his country, how will he defend it with a poorly paid, fed, and equipped army? Ask his Grandma to help?

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

Um..

Maduro addressed the entire country, slamming President Donald Trump and the U.S. government for its use of economic force and military threats to force Maduro out of power. He launched a two-day military training exercise, encouraging civilians to enter the armed forces reserve or join civilian militias to help repel a military invasion.

Another means of control are another group of armed civilians, called colectivos. These are fervently pro-Maduro militias who have been trained to keep the local populace in line since the days of Hugo Chavez. Unlike soldiers of Venezuela’s regular Army, there’s nowhere they can defect to: It’s Maduro or death for them.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

These civilians are funded by the government and act as a paramilitary group and internal security service. If a military intervention from outside ever does come, they will be systematically hunted down and prosecuted by their fellow Venezuelans for their years of violent reprisals against dissidents and extra-judicial killings.

Intel

Russia may be using directed-energy weapons on US troops

At the end of April 2021, intelligence reports indicated the use of directed-energy attacks on American troops over the course of the previous year. Politico reported that two groups of lawmakers were briefed about an investigation into the use of the weapons, both in writing and in person. 

According to those intelligence briefings, the Pentagon believes intelligence points to the energy attacks on American service members in Syria and they believe that Russia is responsible. Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, later told Congress he had seen “no evidence” of the attack.

In the fall of 2020, a number of U.S. troops in Syria began presenting with flu-like symptoms, the Politico report says. Similar symptoms have affected American diplomatic officials in Havana, Cuba since 2016. The “Havana Syndrome,” as it’s come to be called, is believed to be caused by a kind of directed-energy weapon. 

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus delivers remarks during the 2015 Directed Energy Summit in McLean, Va. Mabus spoke about the role the Department of the Navy has in energy innovation, as well as the broader relationship between energy and national security. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Sam Shavers/Released)

The symptoms of those affected in Cuba not only include flu-like symptoms, but far-ranging and more severe symptoms. American diplomats have reported ringing and pressure in their ears, loss of equilibrium, and persistent headaches. The worst reports confirm long-term brain damage. 

When U.S. troops in the vicinity of Russians began to mysteriously develop the same early symptoms, the Pentagon allegedly set up a task force to investigate. Politico says the details about the attacks and the suspected weapons systems aren’t clear.

What is known is that the attack used concentrated beams of electromagnetic energy, high-frequency radio waves, particle beams, or microwaves to hit their targets.The attacks disrupt electronic equipment and cause neurological and other kinds of injuries. 

In Havana, researchers discovered the effects of the weapons can create air pockets in the fluids near the inner ear. Those bubbles float in the paths that carry blood to the brain. Once the cavities reach the brain, they can cause stroke-like effects.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has declined to comment about the reports but insiders told Politico that Congress has been briefed about Russia’s use of the weapons in Syria, but the only response from Congress came from Sen. Jim Inhofe, who only said that they would be talking about it and that discussion would be classified. 

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Dr. Chris Lloyd – a Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) engineer – briefs directed energy capabilities at the second DoD Lab Day held at the Pentagon. Innovations from 63 Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force laboratories and engineering centers were displayed during the collaborative event. Navy leaders have made directed-energy weapons a top priority to counter asymmetric threats.

Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, and without any direct intelligence of the weapons involved, it’s difficult to know for certain if the attacks on Americans in Syria are really directed-energy attacks or if they are in any way similar to the Cuba attacks. 

Not much is known about the energy attacks on the U.S. embassy in Havana. Without knowing for certain the weapon exists, it’s unlikely the United States would blame Russia for an attack that could just be an unrelated illness. 

Scientists and researchers conducted thorough tests on more than 100 other embassy personnel in Cuba. Since some of the embassy workers were attacked in their homes, they also tested other people living in their respective buildings. No one else appeared to have been the victim, as they displayed none of the neurological damage or symptoms associated with the mysterious “Havana Syndrome.” 

The team that investigated those attacks ruled out any kind of head injury, instead finding that 100 percent of those who claimed to be affected suddenly began suffering from acute onset balance disorders, cognitive issues, and other neurological problems.

Featured image: Image created for the Directed Energy Weapons section of the “Competing in Space” unclassified report, depicting threats that can temporarily impair or permanently damage space-based systems.

Articles

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked militants are quickly moving to drum up outrage over a sharp spike in civilian casualties said to have been caused by U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, posting photos online of a destroyed medical center and homes reduced to rubble. “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants,” the caption reads.


The propaganda points to the risk that rising death tolls and destruction could undermine the American-led campaign against the militants.

During the past two years of fighting to push back the Islamic State group, the U.S.-led coalition has faced little backlash over casualties, in part because civilian deaths have been seen as relatively low and there have been few cases of single strikes killing large numbers of people.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In Iraq — even though sensitivities run deep over past American abuses of civilians — the country’s prime minister and many Iraqis support the U.S. role in fighting the militants.

But for the first time, anger over lives lost is becoming a significant issue as Iraqi troops backed by U.S. special forces and coalition airstrikes wade into more densely populated districts of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and U.S. -backed Syrian fighters battle closer to the Islamic State group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

That has the potential to undercut victories against the militants and stoke resentments that play into their hands.

At least 300 civilians have been killed in the offensive against IS in the western half of Mosul since mid-February, according to the U.N. human rights office — including 140 killed in a single March 17 airstrike on a building. Dozens more are claimed to have been killed in another strike late March, according to Amnesty International, and by similar airstrikes in neighboring Syria since Trump took office.

In Syria, as fighting around Raqqa intensified, civilian fatalities from coalition airstrikes rose to 198 in March — including 32 children and 31 women — compared to 56 in February, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which documents Syria’s war. Over the course of the air campaign, from September 2014 through February, an average of 30 civilians were killed a month, according to the Observatory.

The U.S. military is investigating what role the U.S. played in the March 17 airstrike in Mosul, and American and Iraqi officials have said militants may have deliberately gathered civilians there and planted explosives in the building. The blast left an entire residential block flattened, reducing buildings to mangled concrete.

Among those who lost loved ones, resentment appears to be building toward the U.S.-led coalition and the ground forces it supports.

“How could they have used this much artillery on civilian locations?” asked Bashar Abdullah, a resident of the neighborhood known as New Mosul, who lost more than a dozen family members in the March 17 attack. “Iraqi and American forces both assured us that it will be an easy battle, that’s why people didn’t leave their houses. They felt safe.”

U.S. officials have said they are investigating other claims of casualties in Syria and Iraq.

Islamic State group fighters have overtly used civilians as human shields, including firing from homes where people are sheltering or forcing people to move alongside them as they withdraw. The group has imposed a reign of terror across territories it holds in Syria and Iraq, taking women as sex slaves, decapitating or shooting suspected opponents, and destroying archaeological sites.

Mass graves are unearthed nearly every day in former IS territory.

Now, the group is using the civilian deaths purportedly as a result of U.S.-led airstrikes in its propaganda machine.

Photos recently posted online on militant websites showed the destruction at the Mosul Medical College with a caption describing the Americans as the “Mongols of the modern era” who kill and destroy under the pretext of liberation. A series of pictures showing destroyed homes carried the comment: “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants under the rubble of houses bombed by American warplanes to claim victory. Who would dare say this is a war crime?”

In Syria, IS and other extremist factions have pushed the line that the U.S. and Russia, which is backing President Bashar Assad’s regime, are equal in their disregard for civilian lives.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist, advises Iraqi Army soldiers on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs)

U.S. “crimes are clear evidence of the ‘murderous friendship’ that America claims to have with the Syrian people, along with its claimed concern for their future and interests,” said the Levant Liberation Committee, an al-Qaida-led insurgent alliance.

Some Syrian opposition factions allied with the U.S. have also criticized the strikes, describing them as potential war crimes.

An analysis by the Soufan Group consultancy warned that rumors and accusations of coalition atrocities “will certainly help shape popular opinion once Mosul and Raqqa are retaken, thus serving a purpose for the next phase of the Islamic State’s existence.”

Criticism has also come from Russian officials, whose military has been accused of killing civilians on a large scale in its air campaign in Syria, particularly during the offensive that recaptured eastern Aleppo from rebels late last year.

“I’m greatly surprised with such action of the U.S. military, which has all the necessary equipment and yet were unable to figure out for several hours that they weren’t striking the designated targets,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, speaking at the U.N. Security Council about the March 17 strike.

Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, acknowledged the spike in civilian casualty reports could change the way the coalition is conducting the war. He said it was a “very valid” concern that loss of life and destruction could play into the hands of IS or cause some coalition members to waver.

“But the coalition is not going to back down when (the fight) gets hard or there’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “That’s what ISIS wants.”

In Syria, the deadliest recent strike occurred earlier this month in a rebel-held area in the north. Opposition activists said a mosque was hit during evening prayers, killing around 40 people, mostly civilians, and wounding dozens of others. The U.S. said it struck an al-Qaida gathering across the street from the mosque, killing dozens of militants, adding they found no basis for reports that civilians were killed.

In Mosul, the scale of destruction wrought by increased artillery and airstrikes is immense in some areas.

Abdullah, the resident of New Mosul, buried 13 members of his family in a single day.

Standing in a field now being used as a graveyard, he said: “This was not a liberation. It was destruction.”

Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Mstyslav Chernov in Mosul, Iraq, contributed to this report.

Articles

This is why Trump’s Afghanistan strategy is controversial

In keeping with his elevation of military leaders to roles in policymaking, President Donald Trump has delegated the authority to set US troop levels in Afghanistan to Defense Secretary James Mattis, though that power reportedly comes with limits.


But the administration has yet to settle on an overarching strategy for the US’ nearly 16-year-long campaign in the war-torn country.

And, according to The New York Times, Trump’s advisers have turned to a controversial set of consultants to help develop their new Afghanistan policy.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, called in Erik Prince, who founded the Blackwater private-security firm, and Stephen Feinberg, a billionaire who owns military contractor DynCorp, to create proposals to use contractors in Afghanistan rather than US troops.

According to the Times, Bannon was able to track down Mattis at the Pentagon on July 8 and brought in Prince and Feinberg to describe their proposal to the defense secretary.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
President Donald J. Trump, right, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. DoD Photo by Army Sgt. James K. McCann

Mattis, whom the Times said “listened politely,” ultimately declined to include their ideas in his review of the war in Afghanistan, which he and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster are set to deliver to Trump this month.

Prince’s proposal reportedly adhered to what he outlined in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this year. In that editorial, he said the war in Afghanistan was “an expensive disaster” and called for “an American viceroy” in whom authority for the war would be consolidated. He also said the effort should take an “East India Company approach” using private military units working with local partners.

Prince and Feinberg’s inclusion in the administration’s Afghanistan policy-proposal process is of a piece with Trump’s advisers’ efforts to bring a wider array of options to the president’s attention. While their proposal looks unlikely to be included in the final plan, their inclusion by Trump aides raised alarm among observers — and not only because of Blackwater’s sordid record in Iraq.

Deborah Avant, a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, pointed out a number of shortcomings in the plan Prince outlined in The Journal.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq. USAF photo by Master Sgt. Michael E. Best

Contractors would still be required to work with the Afghan government, just like US and NATO forces, she writes, who may not be receptive to their expanded presence.

Contractors also don’t integrate well with local political goals and forces, which is essential in counterinsurgency operations.

Avant also noted that empowering local partners in environments like Afghanistan had been shown to facilitate the rise of warlords — as generally happened under the East India Company when it worked in there in the 19th century.

Privatizing the war effort in Afghanistan would likely reduce some of the costs, however — a point that White House assistant Sebastian Gorka emphasized when he defended consultations with Prince in a CNN interview with Jake Tapper.

“If you look at Erik Prince’s track record, it’s not about bilking the government. It’s about the opposite,” Gorka said. “It’s about saving the US taxpayer money. It’s about creating indigenous capacity … This is a cost-cutting venture.”

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Sebastian Gorka. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Despite that fact that Prince and Blackwater secured extensive and lucrative contracts under both former President George W. Bush and former President Barack Obama, Gorka described consultations with the Blackwater founder as a break with the tired, uninformed thinking inculcated by Beltway insularity.

“We open the door here at the White House to outside ideas. Why?” Gorka said, adding, “Because the last eight years, in fact the last 16 years, Jake, to be honest, disastrous. The policies that were born in the beltway by people who’ve never worn a uniform, the people that were in the White House like Ben Rhodes, Colin Kahl, they helped create the firestorm that is the Middle East, that is ISIS today. So we are open to new ideas, because the last 16 years have failed American national interest and the American taxpayer.”

When Tapper defended the qualifications of the people advising Obama, Gorka objected, calling Rhodes’ master’s degree in creative writing — “fictional writing,” he said — “disastrous.”

“I think Gorka spends more time following Twitter and prepping his media appearances than he does thinking seriously about critical national-security issues,” Kahl, who was deputy assistant to the president and national security adviser to the vice president from October 2014 to January 2017, told Business Insider.

“No US administration has had all the answers to the Middle East,” continued Kahl, who is now a professor in the Security Studies program at Georgetown University.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Petty Officer 1st Class Carmichael Yepez, a combat camera photojournalist, from Fresno, Calif., assigned to Joint Combat Camera-Iraq, in Army combat uniform, poses with a group of British security contractors at Forward Operating Base, Marez, in Mosul. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Carmichael Yepez.)

“But the two biggest sources of the ‘firestorm’ Gorka refers to were the invasion of Iraq, which gave birth to the forerunner of ISIS and created a vacuum filled by Iran, and the 2011 Arab Spring that upended the state system across the Middle East and set in motion a series of bloody proxy wars,” he added. “Neither of these key events were a consequence of Obama’s policies.”

Kahl also cited specific accomplishments of the Obama administration, among them eroding Al Qaeda leadership, securing the Iran nuclear deal, and setting the stage for the destruction of ISIS.

Blaming Obama for the rise of ISIS has become prominent Republican talking point since the US withdrew from Iraq at the end 2011.

Trump himself has attributed the group’s emergence to both Obama and Hillary Clinton, who was Obama’s secretary of state and Trump’s opponent in the presidential election.

The withdrawal date had been set by the Bush administration, but conservatives have criticized Obama for not making a deal with Baghdad to keep US troops on the ground there, which they say could’ve kept ISIS from gaining traction with Iraq’s Sunni minority.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
President Barack Obama meets with Gen. Stanley McChrystal in May 2009. (Photo by White House photographer Pete Souza)

Defenders have pointed to the US’ inability to quell insurgency in the country prior to its withdrawal, as well as Iraqi officials’ refusal to let US troops stay, as evidence that a protracted deployment was impossible and would have changed little. (Others attribute ISIS’ appearance to Bush’s dissolution of the Iraqi military.)

Since taking office, Trump appears to have embraced a more aggressive policy in the Middle East, underscored by several military engagements with pro-Syrian government forces in that country and by his hearty embrace of Saudi Arabia to the apparent detriment of unity among Gulf countries.

Kahl invoked these developments as reason for concern going forward.

“It is difficult to see how Trump’s approach, which combines a shoot-first mentality and an instinct to give regional autocrats a blank check to drag us into their sectarian conflicts, will make the region more secure or America safer,” he told Business Insider in an email.

“And the fact that Gorka and others in the White House are seriously contemplating turning America’s longest war in Afghanistan over to private military contractors who prioritize profit over the national interest is very troubling.”

Articles

Robo-mule canned for being louder than real mule

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Sgt. Michael Walters | U.S. Marine Corps


After years of being featured at trade shows and trotted out for high-ranking Marine Corps officials, the Marines’ barrel-chested Legged Squad Support System — known affectionately as the robotic mule — has been put out to pasture.

The machine, which resembles a headless pack mule made of metal, came about through a $32 million, two-and-a-half year contract between the Pentagon’s research arm, known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Google Inc.’s Boston Dynamics, of Waltham, Massachusetts.

DARPA teamed up with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to create an autonomous four-legged creature that could lighten troops’ load by carrying 400 or more pounds of weight, according to reports about the 2010 contract.

A second contract worth almost $10 million was awarded in 2013 for an additional phase of the LS3 program that would demonstrate how the legged robot would work by following troops on foot through rugged terrain, carrying their gear, and interpreting verbal and visual commands. The contract also provided for the construction of an enhanced version of LS3 that featured a quieter power supply and better survivability against small arms fire.

In 2012, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos attended a demonstration of the prototype’s capabilities at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. At the time, Amos expressed pride in the developing technology and said it was getting close to something the Marines might use, according to reports.

The robo-mule had its big moment in summer 2014 at Rim of the Pacific, the largest military exercise in the Pacific region. It was featured in high-profile field tests with Marines who put it through its paces on patrols and demonstrated its ability to respond to commands and cross rugged ground.

But the experiment also exhibited the shortcomings of the prototype, Kyle Olson, a spokesman for the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.

“As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself,” Olson said. “They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.”

In addition to the lawnmower-like noise of the mule’s gas-powered engine, there were other challenges without clear solutions, including how to repair the hulking robot if it breaks and how to integrate it into a traditional Marine patrol.

With the final funds remaining in the second Boston Dynamics contract, the DARPA-Warfighting Lab team built “Spot,” a robotic quadruped the size of a large dog that functioned on quieter electric power. Last September, Marines put the smaller robot to the test in the woods of Quantico, Virginia.

But while Spot eliminated the noise problem, its slighter frame could only carry loads of 40 pounds or so and didn’t display the advanced autonomous technology that LS3 had.

“I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset,” said Capt. James Pineiro, the Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab. “The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn’t have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it’s completely controller-driven.”

For now, both Spot and LS3 are in storage, with no future experiments or upgrades planned. Pineiro said it would take a new contract and some new interest from Marine Corps top brass to resurrect the program.

While it may seem as though years of work with the robot quadrupeds has wrapped up without a tangible result, Warfighting Lab officials said the Marine Corps did gain important insights about autonomous technology and its potential.

“We tend to play with things that are fanciful and strange,” Olson said. “Learning from it was a big part, and we’re still learning.”

Meanwhile, the lab has ongoing experiments featuring drones and other unmanned vehicles and are exploring uses for them including medical resupply and reconnaissance.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Thanking those who served is always appreciated. Nearly every single veteran signed on the dotted line to contribute to something bigger than themselves and, when civilians extend their gratitude, the good will is reciprocated — that is, on any day outside of the last Monday in May.

Yes, the gratitude is always welcomed, but Memorial Day isn’t the time. If prompted, nearly every veteran will give a polite response along the lines of, “thank you for your sentiment, but today is not my day.”


Memorial Day is a day that’s often confused with Veteran’s Day (November 11th) and Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May). While most countries around the world remember their fallen troops on Armistice Day (which commemorates the signing of the treaty that ended World War I — also November 11th), the United States of America began its tradition of taking a day to remember the fallen shortly after the end of the American Civil War.

In its infancy, the holiday was also called “Decoration Day” and generally fell on or around May 30th — depending on where you lived. It was a time when troops, civilians, family, friends, and loved ones would visit the graves of fallen Civil War troops and decorate them with flowers in remembrance.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
It was expanded after WWI to include all fallen troops from all wars.

The date was chosen because no major battles had taken place on that day — instead of honoring those died in a single battle, mourners could remember all who fell. It was also around the time most flowers started to bloom in North America.

After World War I, the country gradually transitioned to using Memorial Day as a way to honor fallen troops from every conflict. The celebration was kept around the same date and, on this day, the nation still decorates the graves of fallen troops with flags and flowers.

The final Monday in May became a federal holiday with the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and was chosen out of convenience. It gave every American a federally recognized, three-day weekend in order to continue the tradition of honoring those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
As pleasant as it is to enjoyu00a0time off and au00a0cookouts are, it turned into a double-edged sword.
(Photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The convenience of this three-day weekend was noted in a 2002 speech by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said the change undermined the meaning of the day to the general public. To many, it also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, a time filled with barbecues and trips to the lake.

Now, that’s not to say that these pleasantries should ever stop — Americans enjoying their freedoms is what many troops fought to uphold. It’s important to remember, however, that day has, and always will be, in remembrance of the fallen. It’s a day of solemn reflection most troops and veterans spend thinking of their fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
If a veteran can make it there, this is generally how they spend their three-day weekend. If they can’t, this is where their head is at.
(Photo by Senior Airman Phillip Houk)

To properly thank a veteran this Memorial Day, visit one of the many national cemeteries and join them in placing flags, flowers, and wreaths on the graves of those who deserve our thanks. To find a national cemetery near you, please click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s why the Russian navy just took a Philippine vacation

Three Russian navy ships have arrived in the Philippines and two others are expected over the weekend to deliver donated military equipment, officials say.


It is Russia’s third naval visit since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office vowing to diversify the country’s ties away from the United States and toward China and Russia.

Three Russian antisubmarine ships docked in Manila on October 20 in time for Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s upcoming visit to the country, said Rear Admiral E. Mikhailov, the task force commander.

Two other vessels will be arriving on October 21 at the port of Subic Bay northwest of Manila to unload donated military equipment, the Philippine Navy said in a statement.

Shoigu will be attending next week’s meeting of 10 Southeast Asian defense ministers with counterparts from other countries, including the United States and China.

The navy said the donated equipment would be handed over to Duterte, who earlier said Russia would provide 5,000 assault rifles.

“I am assuring you that we will do our best to make this port call a significant contribution to the strengthening of friendly ties and cooperation between our two nations in the interest of security and stability in the region,” Mikhailov said.

Russian news agency TASS reported that the Russian Navy will allow local residents of Manila to take tours of the large antisubmarine vessel Admiral Panteleyev during its stay in Manila.

MIGHTY MOVIES

What this Navy vet turned PI discovered at Area 51

With the upcoming ‘Area 51 raid’ this month, the question on everyone’s mind is whether we’re all gonna see them aliens.

I’m too lazy to head out to Alienchella or whatever, so I caught up with Navy vet turned Private Investigator Jennifer Marshall who, in addition to being an exceptionally talented actor (Stranger Things, Hawaii Five-0) and a huge supporter of the veteran community, is also the host of the CW’s new summer show Mysteries Decoded.

This week’s episode dives into the conspiracies and rumors surrounding Area 51. Here’s what Marshall had to say about it:


Mysteries Decoded | Area 51 Scene | CW Seed

www.youtube.com

Mysteries Decoded | Area 51 Scene | CW Seed

Tell us a little about your background, from your service in the Navy to your career as a Private Investigator and finally to hosting Mysteries Decoded.

I graduated from high school in a town with one stoplight and really wanted to get out and see the world! The Navy recruiter was the first to call me and try to pitch the military. I told him he was wasting his breath and that I wanted to enlist…I might have been the easiest recruit he ever enlisted! I served in the Navy for five years and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and then separated honorably to attend college.

In 2014, after working in the entertainment industry for a few years, I went to Private Investigation school and opened my own company this year. The show came about because they were looking for a Private Investigator who ideally understood the world of television…and bam! Here we are. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to combine my two careers.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

How did you feel about looking into a military establishment (Area 51)? Where is the boundary between military secrets and the people’s right to know? Or maybe even in this case, military secrets and Planet Earth’s right to know?

Area 51 was admittedly a difficult episode for me. My co-host on the show, Ryan, is a UFOlogist and a journalist without a military background (although very appreciative of veterans and their service). He heavily advocates for transparency. I understand the importance of keeping certain things under wraps for national security purposes.

There were also a few issues brought up in the context of the show that I was quiet about. I came across a few things during my service that are not common knowledge and it’s not my place to put them out for everyone to know. With that being said, if it is something outside of what I experienced while in the service, it’s fair game.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

Area 51 is getting a lot of attention right now with the upcoming “raid” — what do you think people will learn if/when they show up to Groom Lake?

Honestly, I think most people will just chalk it up as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Most people are not planning to raid. I fear for those who do intend on crossing that gate because it’s undeniable the military is prepared. Tear gas, rubber bullets, and unfortunately, if necessary, lethal methods as well.

To be fair, people have been warned to not cross into the base. I hope everything stays calm and people abide by the law, but my feeling is you’ll always have a few people who either don’t understand the consequences or don’t care.

Related: The Air Force is ready to kill you if you storm Area 51

What is something you learned when shooting this episode?

I learned a lot more about Bob Lazar, the whistleblower who claims to have worked at S-4. When I first read his claims and his background, I was inclined to dismiss him. The more I learned and the deeper I dug, I realized there was much more going on than most people knew. He is perplexing and his story is one of a kind.

Mysteries Decoded | Cases And Cover-Ups Trailer | CW Seed

www.youtube.com

Mysteries Decoded | Cases And Cover-Ups Trailer | CW Seed

You’ve been investigating a lot of mysteries for this show. Have any of them given you second thoughts? What are some of the biggest insights you’ve gleaned?

I went into Lizzie Borden based off the research I conducted believing she did kill her parents and through the investigation, came to the conclusion it absolutely was her. In my opinion, it is the oldest documented case of affluenza. She killed her parents and moved to an estate in a more upscale part of town. The only thing that did surprise me was the paranormal things we experienced while in the house. I was not a huge believer in that, but there were too many things that happened for me to look the other way or explain it away — as much as I wanted to.

An upcoming episode, The Bermuda Triangle, was fascinating for me. I loved the scientific aspect of it. We spoke to physicists, Navy officials, historians, pilots, you name it. What we uncovered made me understand why certain things may have happened there. Other things, however, still remain a mystery. It was fascinating delving into the science behind the disappearance of ships and aircraft.

Also read: 11 scary ghost stories, legends, and haunted military bases

Anything else you want us to know?

Often times with a few of these cases, someone coming forward could have led to an earlier resolution. I see this in day-to-day life as well and especially in my practice. It takes courage to be transparent and do the right thing, but too many people don’t want to get involved. Definitely come forward, whether it’s something that would shed more light on a subject, or in other scenarios — help right a wrong.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Area 51

One last questions: are there aliens at Area 51?

I don’t believe there are aliens walking around at the base, no. But have they ever been here? Not sure. Are their bodies at Area 51? Can’t say that either. But I think it’s pretty odd to believe we are the only intelligent beings that exist in the universe…there are a septillion planets. Statistically, the odds are not that we are alone… 🙂

THEATRICAL REEL – JENNIFER MARSHALL

www.youtube.com

Check out Mysteries Decoded Tuesdays at 9:00PM (10:00PM Central) or streaming on CW Seed.

Articles

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

A US patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf July 25 after it came startlingly close to to the vessel.


The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone class patrol ship, was forced to fire warning shots from its .50 caliber machine gun after the Iranian boat closed to 150 yards, ignoring radio calls and warning flares along the way, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson.

The Thunderbolt fired five short bursts into the water due to concerns that there may be a collision, according to a CNN report. The ship ceased its actions but stayed in the area for several hours.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are believed to have operated the vessel. The IRGC is Iran’s paramilitary wing that is known to have close ties to the country’s extremist, conservative theocratic leadership. It is primarily responsible for Iran’s operation in the Persian Gulf area and is known to act with hostility toward US forces.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution commandos and missile boats in the Strait of Hormuz. Wikimedia Commons photo by Sayyed Shahab-o-din Vajedi

Encounters with Iranian vessels have become commonplace for US forces patrolling in the Persian Gulf.

“Unfortunately, par for the course with Iran,” said Michael Singh, former senior director at the National Security Council and current managing director at the Washington Institute, in a tweet July 25.

Similar close encounters with Iranian vessels have taken an upswing in recent months, but the July 25 confrontation was one of the closer calls.

Articles

Veterans clap back at those demanding Starbucks hire 10,000 vets

Starbucks Armed Forces Network, a private group within the company of Starbucks, released a statement yesterday asking that those calling for Starbucks to hire 10,000 veterans instead of refugees check their facts.


Recently, Starbucks came under fire for announcing that they would hire 10,000 refugees. The general reaction was anger and calls for boycotts of Starbucks until they vowed to also hire 10,000 veterans.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Devin Craig (second from right), a district manager for Starbucks Coffee Company, Wash., and his team talk to Soldiers and Veterans during the Boots 2 Work Military Career Fair at Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Wash., Aug. 27. The career fair gave Soldiers the opportunity to meet with local businesses and learn job hunting skills. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, 28th Public Affairs Detachment/Released)

The problem with that? Starbucks vowed to hire 10,000 veterans in 5 years way back in 2013. And they’re ahead of schedule.

One of the many internal groups at the coffee giant, Starbucks Armed Forces Network, penned a note to their customers to explain why the anger at the refugee program was misdirected.

The note, simply signed by The Men and Women of Starbucks Armed Forces Network (AFN), began, “We write to you today as representatives of the thousands of veterans and spouses who currently work for Starbucks Coffee Company.”

The writers went on to express their gratitude to their customers and then they moved right into addressing the refugee and veteran initiatives.

“The false and inaccurate statements [about the veteran hiring initiative were] deeply troubling to those of us who’ve served,” the group wrote.

The statement described how the CEO and his wife, Howard and Sheri Schultz, had visited military installations around the country to learn more about how they could advocate better for veterans and military spouses after announcing the veteran hiring initiative in November 2013. The couple invested their own personal funds into “plans for transitioning service members,” according to the group.

“We respect honest debate and freedom of expression,” the statement read. “But to those who would suggest Starbucks is not committed to hiring veterans, we are here to say: check your facts. Starbucks is already there.”

The 5 year initiative has only used about 60 percent of its time, but has met 88 percent of its goal. This means that, if they continue at this rate, Starbucks will surpass their initial goal of hiring 10,000 veterans by 2018 by 4,600 veterans.

Starbucks operates 32 Military Family Stores near several major installations. Owned by veterans, military spouses, or family members, the stores participate in “Military Mondays.” Weekly, Starbucks partners with local Veteran Service Organizations to provide space for the organizations to offer pro-bono legal support and other services to the military community.

The company also offers Military Service Pay to employees who have to report for National Guard or Reserve assignments. Eligible partners can receive up to 80 hours of paid time to fulfill their reserve service obligations yearly.

Starbucks provides a Military Allowance to eligible employees that are called to active duty, as well.

Starbucks has made a name for themselves as a veteran friendly company, even being awarded Gold status by G.I. Jobs in this year’s annual “Military Friendly” list.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US’ fresh Iran sanctions aim for the Revolutionary Guards

The US has imposed new sanctions on Iran, the first since President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

The new measures target six individuals and three companies said to be funneling millions of dollars towards an elite unite of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.


The US Treasury Department, acting jointly with the UAE, also accused Iran’s central bank of helping the IRGC access hundreds of millions in US currency which it held in foreign banks to avoid crippling sanctions.

“The Iranian regime and its central bank have abused access to entities in the UAE to acquire US dollars to fund the IRGC’s malign activities, including to fund and arm its regional proxy groups, by concealing the purpose for which the US dollars were acquired,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Steven Mnuchin, United States Secretary of the Treasury

Iran’s central bank was not formally sanctioned in the action, but the Treasury has recently said it will reimpose a number of widespread sanctions aimed at crippling oil and banking sectors in the coming months.

The IRGC is a powerful arm of Iran’s armed forces, established after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The sanctions specifically take aim at the IRGC’s Quds Forces, which operate the groups overseas operations, including in Syria. They are said to have been behind recent rocket attacks launched against Israel in the Golan heights.

The move came just says after Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. The agreement — signed with the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Germany, and the European Union — promised Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information