18 terms only soldiers will understand - We Are The Mighty
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18 terms only soldiers will understand

Soldier lingo has a tendency to reference things that only exist in the Army. Here are some terms outsiders probably don’t know.

1. Private News Network: The rumor mill or soldier gossip.

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith


2. Grab some real estate: This is a command to get on the ground and start exercising, usually with pushups. It’s issued as a punishment for a minor infraction. The command can also be stated as, “beat your face.”

Photo: US Army by Markus Rauchenberger

3. LEG/NAP: Acronyms for any soldier who is not trained to parachute from airplanes. LEG, or low-entry ground soldier, is considered offensive. Non-airborne personnel, or NAP, is the accepted term. Most NAP are quick to point out that airborne soldiers, once they reach the ground, are little different from their peers.

Photo: US Army Spc. Karen Kozub

4. Fister: An artillery observer. The term refers to the soldier being part of the Fire Support Team, or FiST. These soldiers direct cannon fire. The symbol of the observers is a fist clutching a lightning bolt.

Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. DeNoris A. Mickle

5. Beat feet: To move from your current location quickly.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Joseph Guenther

6. Don’t get wrapped around the axle: Refers to how vehicles can be halted or destroyed when something, like wire, wraps around the axle. It means a soldier needs to steer clear of the little problems and move on to the real issues.

Photo: US Army Spc. Daniel Herrera

7. Azimuth check: Azimuth checks are a procedure in land navigation when a soldier makes sure they haven’t wandered off course. Outside of patrols or land navigation courses, azimuth check means to stop and make sure the current task is being done right.

Photo: US Army

8. “Acquired” gear: Equipment that may have been, but probably wasn’t, obtained through proper channels.

Photo: US Navy HMC Josh Ives

9. Good Idea Fairy: Like the tooth fairy, except it creates work for junior soldiers. It suggests to officers and sergeants that they should grab the closest soldiers and make them do something like build new shelves, clean out a storage unit, or mow grass with office scissors.

Photo: Robert K. Baker

10. Why the sky is blue: Soldiers, even the noncombat ones, are trained starting in basic training that the sky is not blue because air particles transmit blue light. It’s blue because infantry soldiers are denoted by blue cords, discs, and badges, and God loves the infantry.

Photo: John Rives, Wikimedia Commons

11. Fourth point of contact: A butt. In Airborne Training, future paratroopers are trained to fall through five points of contact. First, they hit the balls of their feet, then they roll across the ground on their calf muscle, thigh, buttocks, and finally torso.

Photo: US Army Spc. Michael MacLeod

12. Come up on the net: Communicate with your unit what is going on with your personal life or the mission.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

13. Joes: Slang term for soldiers, usually referring to the junior enlisted personnel. Can also be used as “Private Joe Snuffy” to refer to a single soldier generically.

Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua

14. PX Ranger: A soldier who has a lot of unnecessary gear that they bought for themselves from a post exchange or other shop.

Photo: US Army Spc. Elisha Dawkins

15. CAB Chaser: Noncombat soldiers who try to get into a minor engagement to earn a combat action badge. They generally do this by volunteering for patrols and convoys where they aren’t needed.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Russell Gilchrest

16. Beat your boots: A physical exercise. A soldier stands with their legs shoulder-width apart, hands on hips. They then lower at the waist, hit their boots or shoes with their hands, return to the start position, and repeat. Generally used for punishing minor infractions.

Photo: US Military Academy by Mike Strasser

17. Dash ten: The user manual. Army publications are all assigned a number. Technical manuals, the closest thing to a civilian user/owner manual, are usually assigned a number that ends in “-10.”

Photo: US Army

18. Sham shield: Derogatory name for the rank of specialist. Specialists are expected to shirk some duties and the symbol for a specialist is shaped like a small shield.

Photo: US Army

Articles

These 6 men went from the military to throwing ‘upper-cuts’ in the ring

Having fast hands and quick feet are just a few of the skill sets boxers need to possess to survive in the ring.


This month, sports fans are eagerly anticipating the much-talked-about Mayweather versus McGregor fight, so check out our list of men who went from serving their country, to “duking-it-out” in the ring.

Related: This former NFL player started a gym to help wounded warriors

1. Joe Louis

During the early 1940s, Louis reportedly joined the Army after fighting in a Navy charity bout and was assigned to a segregated cavalry. He served proudly for the next fours years and earned himself the Legion of Merit medal for exceptionally meritorious conduct.

Nicknamed the “Brown Bomber,” Louis began professionally competing in the heavyweight class in 1934 and retired in 1951 with a winning record of 66-3.

Louis receiving a medal for his service by a senior officer.

2. Jack Dempsey

Fighting under the name “Kid Blackie” and “The Manassa Mauler,” Dempsey began his professional boxing career in 1914. During WWII, Dempsey joined the New York State National Guard before serving in the Coast Guard where he retired in 1953 reaching the rank of commander.

Dempsey as he trains.

3. Ken Norton Sr.

Norton joined the Marine Corps in 1963 where he began to develop his boxing skills. Shortly after his discharge in 1967, Norton turned pro and started fighting elite boxers like Muhammed Ali. He retired in the early ’80s with the outstanding winning record of 42-7.

Muhammad Ali (right) winces as Ken Norton (left) hits him with a left to the head during their re-match at the Forum in Inglewood. (AP Photo/File)

4. Rocky Marciano

Marciano was drafted into the Army in 1943 and discovered his boxing talent while stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. In 1946, he dominated an amateur armed forces boxing tournament taking first place. After a brief hiatus to pursue a baseball career, Marciano eventually returned to boxing where he began racking up knock outs.

He retired in 1956 with an undisputed fighting record of 49-0. 

Marciano punching the heavy bag.

 5. Leon Spinks

Spinks joined the Marine Corps in 1973, giving him an opportunity to develop his boxing skills. Spinks fought in the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal and squared off with the legendary Muhammed Ali who he beat after fighting for 15 brutal rounds.

Spinks retired from the sport of boxing in the mid-’90s with the record of 26-17.

Also Read: The 8 people you can’t avoid at the base gym

6. Jamel Herring

Nicknamed “Semper Fi,” Herring began his boxing training in the early 2000s before enlisting in the Marine Corps where he served two tours in Iraq. During his time in the Marines, Herring found himself on the All Marine Corps boxing team and competing on the national stage.

As of July 2017, Herring has the distinguished record of 16-1 and plans to compete for years to come.

Jamel Herring, a Marine veteran poses for a photo with former teammate Sgt. Todd DeKinderen. (Photo by Sgt. Caleb Gomez)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran and the US trade escalating threats on Twitter

President Donald Trump shot down a veiled vision of peace offered by Iran’s president on July 22, 2018, to full-on threaten the Islamic Republic with historically epic confrontation — and it looks as if his administration could topple the country.

“To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Trump tweeted.

“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” he continued.


Trump was responding to statements from Rouhani, Iran’s elected political leader who serves at the pleasure of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s religious supreme leader.

In a meeting with Iranian diplomats, Rouhani offered a vision of peace with the US but also said a conflict between the two would be “the mother of all wars.”

According to Reuters, he said: “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

Rouhani’s statement, though balanced against the threat of massive war, actually represents a shift in Iranian foreign policy.

Iran has strongly opposed the US since its theocratic government took power in 1979, with officials chanting “death to America” in parliament. Iran’s navy has the explicit, though lofty, operational goal of destroying the US Navy.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Trump is coming for Iran’s leadership

Rouhani, in extending a veiled olive branch, may have been acting in anticipation of an onslaught by Trump.

A new report from Reuters suggests Trump’s administration has launched a campaign designed to topple Iran’s leaders.

Several officials told Reuters that Trump would pressure Iran’s leaders with tough sanctions and an information campaign meant to erode their support.

Recent statements from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicate this shift has already taken place, as the US expresses its hope for the Iranian people to install a more moderate, secular government.

An Iranian woman protesting the theocratic government’s rule that all women must wear headscarves in public.

(My Stealthy Freedom آزادی یواشکی زنان در ایران / Facebook)

It could actually work

Since late 2017, Iran has seen wave after wave of grassroots protests with citizens rejecting the regime’s economic, social, and foreign policies.

Iranian women rejecting the forced dress code of headscarves have become emblematic of the movement.

While European countries strongly opposed Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal, the threat of US sanctions has successfully made Tehran a pariah in the business world.

After Trump’s withdrawal, Iran’s currency ballooned and the government imposed a set of strict financial controls on its citizens, capping the amount of foreign currency they can hold and seizing overseas accounts.

As Iran’s working class rejects the government’s foreign-policy ambitions, the upper class has had its aspirations of foreign travel or education crushed by such financial restrictions. Iran’s government has responded to protests with security forces and violence time and time again, but the unrest has continued on a regular basis in 2018.

At the same time, Israel has proved adept at beating back Iran in its push toward the Mediterranean. In May 2018, after a rocket attack that Israel attributed to Iran, Israeli jets devastated a large swath of Iranian forces in Syria.

Russia, normally a powerful ally of Iran, swiftly turned its back on Tehran, refusing to sell it air defenses even when its forces were coming under heavy fire from Israel and telling Iran’s militias to leave Syria.

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, told Reuters that Trump’s strategy could produce one of two outcomes.

“Outcome one is capitulation, forcing Iran to further curtail not only its nuclear program but also its regional ambitions,” Sadjadpour said. “Outcome two is the implosion of the Islamic Republic.”

The US maintains it does not seek regime change for any country, even those as antagonistic as Iran and North Korea.

But the people of Iran have shown a genuine distaste for the theocracy’s policies, and the noted Iran hawks Pompeo and John Bolton, the national security adviser, may see the opportunity as too good to pass up.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The memo warning about ‘bad batch’ of Anthrax vaccine is a fake

U.S. Army officials in Korea announced April 18, 2018, that an Eighth Army memo warning soldiers about potentially “bad Anthrax” vaccinations given on a large scale is “completely without merit.”

The announcement follows an explosion of activity on social media after an April 10, 2018 memo from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment in Korea began circulating on Facebook. The memo was intended to advise soldiers who possibly received bad Anthrax vaccinations from Fort Campbell, Kentucky and Fort Drum, New York from 2001-2007 for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom that they may qualify for Veterans Affairs benefits.


“The purpose of this tasking informs soldiers who received bad Anthrax batches from Ft. Campbell and Ft. Drum from 2001-2007 for OEF/OIF IOT notify possible 100 percent VA disabilities due to bad Anthrax batches,” the memo states.

Military.com and other media organizations reached out to the Army on April 16, 2018, to verify the memo. Eighth Army officials in Korea sent out a statement at 9:33 p.m. on April 18, 2018.

“Second Battalion, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade recently published an internal memorandum with the intent of informing soldiers of the potential health risks associated with the anthrax vaccine based on information they believed was correct,” Christina Wright, a spokeswoman for Eighth Army said in an email statement.

U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Josh Ferrell, from Apache, Okla., fills a syringe with anthrax vaccine.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Leon Wong)

“Defense Health Agency representatives have verified the information is false and completely without merit. Once the brigade discovered the error, the correct information was published to their soldiers.”

The Eighth Army’s statement also stated that the “potential side effects of vaccines, including anthrax, are generally mild and temporary. While the risk of serious harm is extremely small, there is a remote chance of a vaccine causing serious injury or death.”

The author of the post — Dee Mkparu, a logistics specialist in U.S. Army Europe, said that it was not clear if the memo was authentic but thought it was important to make the information public.

“This information was gathered from other veterans through Facebook; the validity of this data has not been fully vetted but I felt it was more important to share this as a possibility that to let it go unknown,” Mkparu said.

Mkparu updated his post with 17 potentially bad batch numbers of Anthrax vaccine allegedly found at more than a dozen military installations across the United States as well as Kuwait and South Korea.

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class David Cano, from San Antonio, Texas, administers the anthrax vaccine to a Sailor.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Justin E. Yarborough)

“Please get with your VA representative and look into it. Even if it turns out to be false perhaps the Anthrax concerns from so [many] people will bring the issue into the light.”

Francisco Urena, the secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services secretary was quick to call the memo “a fake” in a recent Tweet, advising service members not to share their personal information.

“There is a fake memo circulating social media about a bad batch of anthrax vaccination for VA Compensation,” Urena tweeted. “This is a scam. Do not share your personal information. This is not how VA Claims are filed.”

VA disability benefits are granted for health conditions incurred in or caused by military service, according to the Eighth Army statement.

“The level of disability is based on how a service-connected condition impacts daily life,” according to the statement. “In those rare cases, VA disability or death benefits may be granted.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Remains of Korean War dead could be Army killed at the Frozen Chosin

The remains returned by North Korea are possibly those of Army troops who fell in the brutal 1950 battle at the Chosin Reservoir, Pentagon POW/MIA officials said on Aug. 2, 2018.

The returned remains are associated with the fight at what was called the “Frozen Chosin” for the sub-zero temperatures in which Marine and Army units fought their way out of encirclement by Chinese forces and were evacuated by sea, said Dr. John Byrd, a forensic anthropologist.


Byrd, who went to Wonsan in North Korea late July 2018 as part of the team that brought back the remains, said he was told by North Korean officials that the remains were recovered from the village of Sin Hung-ri on the east side of the reservoir.

Marines fought on the west side of the reservoir, “and the east side — that’s where the Army was,” said Byrd, laboratory director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

At a Pentagon briefing with retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague, the DPAA director, Byrd said his initial examination of the remains, and his discussions with the North Koreans, led him to believe that further analysis will show that the remains are those of Americans.

Honor guard from NATO countries participate in a dignified transfer as part of a repatriation ceremony on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Aug. 1, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Benjamin Raughton)

In addition, the 55 transfer cases handed over by the North Koreans contained equipment associated with the American military, such as boots, canteens, buttons and buckles, Byrd said.

There also was one dog tag, he added. He declined to disclose the name on the tag but said two family members had been notified and are expected to be in the Washington, D.C., area with family groups for a detailed briefing from DPAA on the next steps in identifying the remains.

Byrd said the 55 transfer cases brought by two Air Force C-17s to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii could represent more than 55 individuals, due to remains possibly being mixed.

“You should not assume one box is one person,” he said. “We couldn’t be sure how many individuals were in each box.”

McKeague said that DPAA has a DNA database from 92 percent of the families of the estimated 7,700 U.S. service members still listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War and DNA comparisons with the remains from the 55 cases would begin shortly.

He said samples from the remains would be sent to the Armed Forces Identification Laboratories at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to begin the DNA process.

“Where we have compelling DNA matches, identifications could come quickly,” McKeague said, but he and Byrd also cautioned that the process could take years.

Identifications could also come quickly if teeth are found among the remains, McKeague said.

“We could immediately compare dental records,” he said.

Another method of identification was through chest x-rays that were on file for those who served in the Korean War, McKeague said. He said that DPAA has chest radiographs for about three-quarters of the missing from the Korean War.

The key to identifications from chest X-rays was the clavicle, or collarbone, said Chuck Prichard, a DPAA spokesman. Clavicles are unique to each individual, “as unique as a fingerprint,” he said.

McKeague said he was “guardedly optimistic” that North Korea would agree to the return of more remains and also to joint recovery operations with the U.S. at former battlefields and prison camps.

Byrd cautioned that, “at this point, at least, there’s no way to tell” how many more sets of remains the North Koreans might already have in their possession.

Featured image: This blown bridge blocked the only way out for U.S. forces withdrawing from Chosin Reservoir. Air Force C-119s dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm, allowing men and equipment to reach safety.

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

Articles

This ‘Air Tractor’ could be America’s next A-10

Another aircraft will fly at the Air Force’s OA-X light attack competition next week.


Air Tractor and L3 announced August 1 they will offer the AT-802L Longsword to participate in the fly-off at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, on August 8 and 9, according to a release.

Together, the companies developed the L variant off its predecessor, the AT-802U, the release said. The Longsword is a light attack and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft.

“We are proud of the Longsword and the opportunity to participate in OA-X. We are looking forward to flying at Holloman AFB and showcasing our capabilities to the Air Force and to our partner nations,” said Jim Hirsch, president of Air Tractor.

The AT-802L Longsword at Paris Air Show 2017. Wikimedia Commons photo by Mark Lacoste.

“The AT-802L Longsword provides a highly effective capability based on a rugged, proven platform that adds class-leading technologies integrated by L3 for a simple, yet powerful solution,” added Jim Gibson, president of L3 Platform Integration and the L3 Aircraft Systems sector.

L3 developed a “certified, state-of-the-art glass cockpit and the L3 Wescam MX-15 EO/IR Sensor,” ideal for medium-altitude ISR and search-and-rescue missions, according to the New York-based company.

Air Tractor, based in Texas, and L3 in March showed the aircraft during the Avalon Airshow in Australia, rebranding it the OA-8 with hopes of securing Asia-Pacific partners. Variants are operated by countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, and Kenya.

The Air Force distributed formal invitations to the fly-off in March.

Image courtesy of L3 Technologies.

Sierra Nevada in May announced the Super Tucano will participate in the event, pitching it as “A-29 for America.”

Textron and AirLand LLC will showcase the Scorpion jet, as well as the AT-6B Wolverine, an armed version of the T-6 Texan II made by Textron’s Beechcraft Corp. unit and Raytheon Co., according to an April release from Textron.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and other leaders have said the light attack plane will not replace the service’s beloved A-10 Warthog.

“We need to look and see if there are ways to save costs and do this in an efficient and effective manner … [and] it could create a building partnership capacity. Not every nation we want to build a partnership with needs an F-16 or an F-35,” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, said at the time of the invite announcement.

Bunch reiterated the light-attack concept — should the “experiment” prevail and the Air Force choose to fund it — is a needed platform for current manpower levels.

“Why are we even exploring this concept? The need is, we need to be able to absorb fighter pilots,” he said. “Another reason is we want to look at a concept so we could have a lower operating cost, a lower unit cost, for something to be able to operate in a permissive … environment than what I would require a fourth- or a fifth-gen aircraft to be able to operate in.”

Articles

Video shows just how operator AF Keanu Reeves can be

Seriously, as if the first viral video of actor Keanu Reeves slamming steel like a freaking Delta Force ninja wasn’t badass enough, now famed tactical firearms instructor and 3-Gun maestro Taran Butler has released more footage of the “John Wick” star getting his pew pew on.


Butler is a world champion 3-Gun competitor (a shooting sport that requires mastery of a shotgun, handgun and AR-style rifle) and frequently trains actors to properly handle weapons for Hollywood blockbusters.

An earlier video of Reeves slinging lead like a boss exploded online last year, with the actor demonstrating some serious skills in weapons handling and accuracy. In the newest video made up of more clips from the training last year — and includes some help from WATM friend Jaqueline Carrizosa — Reeves displays skills and speed that would make any top-tier competitor (and even some of America’s elite special operators) smile.

His transitions are lightning fast, his shot placement is about as “down zero” as it gets, and his trigger speeds are borderline full-auto, with minuscule splits and solidly low stage times. He even executes difficult “with-retention” handgun shots and moves from a close-in optic to a distance shot with his AR and drops steel every time.

You’ve just got to see it to believe it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the most recent soldiers killed in Afghanistan was 5 when the war started

Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde’s short life spanned the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, from the euphoria over the fleeting early successes to the current doubts about the new strategy to break what U.S. commanders routinely call a “stalemate.”

When Conde was six years old, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the Taliban had been defeated and the Afghan people were now free “to create a better future.”


He was seven years old when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “We’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities.”

When Conde was 12, then-President George W. Bush was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to declare that “the Taliban is gone from power and it’s not coming back.”

In 2009, when Conde was 13, then-President Barack Obama said he would “make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”

He sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, with a timeline for their withdrawal.

Obama wanted the withdrawal to be complete by the time he left office, but he left behind about 8,500 U.S. troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban and a new enemy — an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria called Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or IS-K.

August 2017, when Conde was 21, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan that discarded “nation building” in favor of a plan to drive the Taliban into peace talks and a negotiated settlement.

Trump acknowledged that his initial impulse was to pull U.S. troops out completely, but he agreed to boost troop levels from 8,500 to about 14,000.

President Donald Trump

The presence of U.S. troops would now be conditions-based and not subject to artificial timelines. “We’re going to finish what we have to finish. What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it,” Trump said.

Late April, 2018, the Taliban announced the start of its 16th annual spring offensive.

On May 1, 2018, when Conde was 22, he was killed by small-arms fire in the Tagab District of Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. A second U.S. soldier was wounded.

Conde, of Loveland, Colorado, served with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), of 25th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. His unit was expected to return to Alaska at the end of May 2018.

Also on May 1, 2018, the Trump administration took official note of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan by granting political asylum to former Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force, who had been training in the U.S.

Through her lawyer, she had successfully argued to immigration authorities that the chaos in Afghanistan, and death threats against her and her family, made it impossible for her to return.

On the same day that Rahmani won asylum and Conde was killed, the latest in a wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks devastated the Shash Darak district of central Kabul in what Afghans call the “Green Zone.”

Two suicide bombers had slipped past the estimated 14 checkpoints surrounding the district, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews reported.

The first set off a blast and the second, reportedly disguised as a cameraman, joined a pack of reporters and photographers rushing to the scene and triggered a second explosion.

At least 30 people, including nine journalists, were killed. A 10th journalist was killed on the same day in an incident in Khost province. (Short biographies of the 10 journalists can be seen here.)

Mattis put on spot over attacks

In response to May 1, 2018’s events, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, echoed what other commanders and Pentagon officials have said so many times before during America’s longest war.

They mourned the loss of a valorous soldier and the victims of the bombings. They said the strategy of increased airpower and the buildup of Afghan special forces is showing progress. They pledged to stay the course.

At a session with Pentagon reporters May 1, 2018, Mattis said the Taliban are “on their back foot.”

The recent terror attacks show that they are desperate, he said.

“We anticipated they would do their best” to disrupt upcoming elections with a wave of bombings aimed at discouraging the Afghan people from voting, Mattis said.

“The Taliban realize the danger of the people being allowed to vote,” he added. “Their goal is to destabilize the elected government. This is the normal stuff by people who can’t win at the ballot box. They turn to bombs.”

At a welcoming ceremony on May 2, 2018, for the visiting Macedonian defense minister, Mattis was challenged on how he could point to progress amid the wave of bombings and a recent series of watchdog reports on widespread and continuing corruption in Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

“The message from this building has consistently been that the situation is turning around, that things are improving there,” Mattis was told. “How do you reconcile this difference?”

“First, I don’t know that that’s been the message from this building. I would not subscribe to that,” Mattis said. “We said last August NATO is going to hold the line. We knew there would be tough fighting going forward.

“The murder of journalists and other innocent people is a great testimony to what it is we stand for and more importantly what we stand against,” he added.

“The Afghan military is being made more capable. You’ll notice that more of the forces are special forces, advised and assisted, accompanied by NATO mentors. And these are the most effective forces,” Mattis said.

“We anticipated and are doing our best and have been successful at blocking many of these attacks on innocent people but, unfortunately, once in a while they get through because any terrorist organization that realizes it can’t win by ballots and turns to bombs — this is simply what they do. They murder innocent people,” he said.

For the long run, “We’ll stand by the Afghan people, we’ll stand by the Afghan government and the NATO mission will continue as we drive them to a political settlement,” Mattis said.

Nicholson’s two-year plan to end the ‘Forever War’

“Actions like this only strengthen our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” Nicholson, who doubles as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said after the bombings May 1, 2018, and the death of Conde.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, and we stand with our Afghan partners in defeating those who would threaten the people of this country, whose cries for peace are being ignored,” he said.

Like many of his troops, the 60-year-old Nicholson, a West Point graduate, has served multiple tours in Afghanistan. When he was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 to succeed Army Gen. John Campbell as commander, he would go back to Afghanistan for the sixth time.

Since 9/11, “the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has largely defined my service” in 36 years in uniform, he told the Senate.

Nicholson is the son of Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, also a West Point graduate, and is distantly related the legendary British Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (1821-1857), who fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War.

Early on in his command, Nicholson was at the forefront on the military advisers who convinced Obama to approve the expansion of the air campaign against the Taliban and IS-K. In February 2017, he began arguing for more troops to partner with the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.

Mattis later signed off on what was essentially Nicholson’s plan. And Trump, in coordination with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, authorized it in an address to the nation in August 2017.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

In a video conference from Kabul to the Pentagon in November 2017, Nicholson said it would take about two years to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan under government control and drive the Taliban into peace talks.

“Why 80 percent? Because we think that gives them [the Afghans] a critical mass where they control 80. The Taliban are driven to less than 10 percent of the population; maybe the rest is contested,” Nicholson said.

“And this, we believe, is the critical mass necessary to drive the enemy to irrelevance, meaning they’re living in these remote, outlying areas, or they reconcile — or they die, of course, is the third choice,” he said.

Nicholson’s remarks contrasted with a simultaneous report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office.

In his foreword to the IG’s quarterly report, Acting IG Glenn Fine said, “During the quarter, Taliban insurgents continued to attack Afghan forces and fight for control of districts, and ISIS-K terrorists launched high-profile attacks across the country.”

Fine added, “Internal political tensions increased in Afghanistan, and corruption remained a key challenge to governance despite positive steps by Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption Justice Center.”

Fine also said that maintaining the accuracy of future IG reports made available to the public is becoming more difficult, since key statistical measures are now being classified.

“When producing this report, we were notified that information that was previously publicly released regarding attrition, casualties, readiness, and personnel strength of Afghan forces that we had included in prior Lead IG reports was now classified,” Fine said. “In addition, we were advised that ratings of Afghan government capabilities were now classified.”

The strategy — what strategy?

In announcing the strategy for Afghanistan in August 2017, Trump made clear that he was doing so with grave misgivings.

“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he said.

The skeptics are many. “Why would anybody call this a strategy? We declared we wanted to win, but we didn’t change anything fundamentally that we’re doing,” retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan, told Military.com.

The focus now, as it has been for years, is on building up the Afghan military into a more effective force capable of holding and administering territory retaken from the Taliban, he said, “but that army assumes the existence of a functioning government.”

“We are creating a military that assumes the existence of a state that does not exist,” said Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“What it boils down to is that we can’t decide what we want,” Dempsey said. “The only consensus we have on Afghanistan is that we don’t want to lose.”

In her analysis of the Trump administration’s strategy, Brookings Institution scholar Vanda Felbab-Brown wrote that the president basically had three options — “full military withdrawal, limited counterterrorism engagement, and staying in the country with slightly increased military deployments and intense political engagement.”

“The option the Trump administration chose — staying in Afghanistan with a somewhat enlarged military capacity — is the least bad option,” Felbab-Brown said.

“Thus, the Trump administration’s announced approach to Afghanistan is not a strategy for victory,” she said.

“Staying on militarily buys the United States hope that eventually the Taliban may make enough mistakes to seriously undermine its power,” she said. “However, that is unlikely unless Washington starts explicitly insisting on better governance and political processes in the Afghan government.”

Watchdog reports contrast with claims of progress

The goal of better governance is dependent on an Afghan military as the enabler, but the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said May 2, 2018, that the number of Afghan soldiers and police has declined sharply in the past year.

In a report, SIGAR said that the combined strength of the military and police dropped nearly 11 percent over the past year, from about 331,700 in January 2017 to about 296,400 this January, well below the total authorized strength of 334,000.

“Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told reporters.

At the end of January 2018, insurgents controlled or had influence over 14 percent of the Afghanistan’s 407 districts, SIGAR said, while the Afghan government controlled or influenced 56 percent. The remaining districts were contested, SIGAR said.

The report also noted the significant increase in the air campaign: “The total of 1,186 munitions dropped in the first quarter of 2018 is the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and is over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017.”

In addition, the report indicated that Nicholson’s plan to bomb drug production centers and have the Afghan military interdict shipments in an effort to cut off Taliban funding was having little effect.

“From 2008 through March 20, 2018, over 3,520 interdiction operations resulted in the seizure of 463,342 kilograms of opium. But the sum of these seizures over nearly a decade would account for less than 0.05% of the opium produced in Afghanistan in 2017 alone,” SIGAR said.

Since 9/11, the U.S. has invested more than $850 billion in the war and efforts to bolster the Afghan government, but a recent drumbeat of reports from SIGAR and the Pentagon Inspector General’s office have highlighted widespread and continuing corruption.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2018, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, called on Army Secretary Mark Esper to justify a $50 million contract that SIGAR charged was used to buy luxury cars such as Alfa Romeos and Bentleys for Afghan officials and pay for $400,000 salaries for no-show jobs.

“Please tell me that a senator 20 years from now is not going to be sitting here and going, ‘How in the world are taxpayers paying for Alfa Romeos and Bentleys?’ ” McCaskill said.

‘We’ve kind of been going about it wrong’

As of March 2018, there were roughly 14,000 U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, according to U.S. officials.

Of the 14,000, about 7,800 of these troops were assigned to NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.

The 7,800 number reflects an increase of 400 personnel from the deployment of the Army’s first Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, to Afghanistan.

In February 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a report on what those troops can be expected to accomplish this year that was at odds with the upbeat assessments of Mattis and Nicholson.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

“The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency” and the “unsteady” performance of the Afghan military performance, the DNI’s report said.

Afghan troops “probably will maintain control of most major population centers with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under continued strain,” the report said.

Mattis and Nicholson have singled out the SFAB as a key component in reforming and refining the operations of the Afghan security forces.

The SFAB concept takes specially selected non-commissioned and commissioned officers, preferably with experience in Afghanistan, and assigns them the train, advise and assist role in place of conventional Brigade Combat Team units.

Before the deployment, Army 1st Sgt. Shaun Morgan, a company senior enlisted leader with the SFAB, told Stars & Stripes that there were no illusions about the difficulty of the job ahead.

“So, we’ve been kind of going about it wrong for a while, I think,” Morgan said. “Maybe this is an opportunity to get on the right foot toward getting it right.”

Previously in Afghanistan, “we couldn’t get it through our heads that we weren’t the fighters,” Morgan told Stripes in a reference to the role of U.S. troops as partners and advisers to the Afghans who were to take the lead in combat.

“I think the bosses decided maybe this is the right shot, and it just makes sense to me,” Morgan said.

The Afghans also were under no illusions on the continuing threats posed by the Taliban and other insurgents, and the risks they take to go about their daily lives.

Shah Marai Faizi, the chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in the Kabul bureau, was among the nine journalists killed in May 1, 2018’s suicide bombings in Kabul. He was the father of six, including a newborn daughter.

In 2017, Shah Marai wrote an essay titled “When Hope Is Gone” that was read in part on the Democracy Now cable program.

“Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity,” he wrote. “I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five, and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. I have never felt life to have so little prospects, and I don’t see a way out.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the US raided a Soviet arctic base in the Cold War

The U.S. and Soviet militaries in the Cold War both understood the importance of the Arctic. Their submarines moved under it, their bombers moved over it, and both sides kept radar stations to track each other’s planes and potential missile launches. But after the U.S. figured out how to track Soviet submarines from drift stations, they wanted to know if the Soviets had figured out the same trick.


The problem was that drift stations were small bases built on floating ice islands. It’s hard to sneak onto such isolated and small installations. Luckily, drift stations are a bit dangerous. As the ice shifts on the island, it can crack and rupture. Drift station commanders had to keep firm eyes on their runways. Otherwise, the ice could crack too badly and make escape impossible.

So they had a tendency to get abandoned every once in a while, but only as they were becoming inaccessible. Well, inaccessible to the Russians, who couldn’t get personnel out of the remote areas without a runway. But America had a new trick up its sleeve in 1962 it wanted to try out.

That was the Skyhook, an ingenious but dangerous tool that allowed planes to scoop people off of the ground using a system of hooks, wires, and balloons. A famous Batman clip actually shows the concept in very exciting detail. And, Russian Station NP 9 had recently been abandoned.

An instruction comic for the Robert Fulton Skyhook.

(CIA)

But the mission would be dangerous. A small team would need to parachute into Arctic conditions, scrounge through the rubble of the rapidly breaking base, and then get extracted with a Skyhook before it all fell apart. This was Operation Coldfeet.

Two men were selected for the mission. Air Force Maj. James Smith was a Russian linguist with experience on American drift stations, and U.S. Navy Reserve Lt. Leonard LeSchack, an Antarctic geophysicist. LeSchack had to learn to jump out of planes, and both men had to train on the retrieval system.

But as the men trained, the target drift station was shifting further from their launch point at Thule Air Force Base, Greenland. Luckily, something even better came along.

Station NP 8 was a more modernized station, but its runway rapidly degraded and the Soviets abandoned it. America found out in March 1962 and shifted the planned operation to target NP 8.

But the operation was short on time. NP 8 wasn’t expected to last long. It was drifting quickly and would soon be crushed in the ice. And the training and the surveillance of NP 9 and then NP 8 had used up the funds allotted for the operation. So the military went shopping for partners, and the CIA was happy to help. They had their own questions about Soviet drift stations.

So an aviation company and CIA front, Intermountain Aviation, got a polar navigator and prepared to drop the men.

The insertion took place on May 28, and the two investigators got to work. They searched through piles of documents, technological equipment, and other artifacts to piece together what was happening at the drift station.

They discovered that, yes, the Soviets were tracking American subs. Worse, they were developing techniques to hunt them under the ice.

The Fulton Skyhook being used by the men of Operation Coldfeet in 1962.

(CIA)

Smith and LeSchack made a prioritized set of documents and items they needed to get out, and they carefully packed it into bags. Over six days and five nights, they cataloged, documented, and packed. Then they attached them to balloons, filled the balloons with helium, and sent them into the sky where the plane snagged them up.

Once they were sure the bags were safe, they sent their own balloons up and got pulled out by the plane.

The Soviets wouldn’t know for years that their secret was out.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Philippines want Russian subs because U.S. ones ‘implode’

The leader of a close US ally is turning to rival Russia for submarines, arguing that if his country were to buy American submarines, they would probably “implode.”

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte lashed out Aug. 17, 2018, after the US warned the Philippines against purchasing Russian Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines. He accused the US of selling its ally only hand-me-down weapons that endanger the lives of Filipino troops, according to local outlet Rappler.


“Why did you not stop the other countries in Asia? Why are you stopping us? Who are you to warn us?” Duterte asked Aug. 17, 2018, at an event in his hometown of Davao.”You give us submarines, it will implode.” He asserted that the US sent his country “used” and “rusted” North Atlantic Treaty Organization helicopters, claiming the poor condition of the platforms led to the deaths of local forces.

“Is that the way you treat an ally and you want us to stay with you for all time?” he asked. “You want us to remain backwards. Vietnam has 7 submarines, Malaysia has 2, Indonesia has 8. We alone don’t have one. You haven’t given us any.”

Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar.

Duterte’s latest outburst was triggered by a warning issued Aug. 16, 2018, by Randall Schriver, the US Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.

“I think they should think very carefully about that,” he said, referring to the Philippine government’s interest in acquiring Russian submarines. “If they were to proceed with purchasing major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to do [in our] alliance, and I think ultimately we can be a better partner than the Russians can be.”

“We have to understand the nature of this regime in Russia. I don’t need to go through the full laundry list: Crimea, Ukraine, the chemical attack in the UK,” he added, “So, you’re investing not only in the platforms, but you’re making a statement about a relationship.”

An interest in Russian weapons systems has strained relations between the US and a number of allies and international partners in recent months. As Duterte pursues an independent foreign policy often out of alignment with US interests, the Philippines has increasingly looked to develop defense ties with Russia. The country is looking to Russia for submarines as it looks to modernize its military.

“For a nation with maritime territory specially island nation, its national defense is incomplete without (a) submarine,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in early 2018, according to the Philippine Star.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

This is why cadets have shouted “Go Army! Beat Navy!” for over a century

The annual Army-Navy football game is intense. And though the players will be doing their best to out-maneuver and out-muscle the opposition, the competition extends well beyond the field. The fanbase of each service academy, which includes the troops and veterans of their respective branches, rally loudly behind their team with a single, unifying phrase: “Go Army! Beat Navy!” Or, for the sailors and Marines, “Go Navy! Beat Army!

As creative and ambitious as the smacktalk has become in recent years, the phrase never changes. And that’s because these rallying cries are nearly as old as the Army-Navy game itself.


Which I can only assume would cause confusion (and maybe a bit of jealousy) from the players of Notre Dame.

(Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point Public Affairs)

The tradition of military academy fans shouting out, “Go [us]! Beat [them]!” can be traced back to some of the earliest Army-Navy Games. It’s unclear which side started the tradition, but both teams were shouting their own versions of the simple phrase as early as second game, long before the sport of football became the mainstream cultural staple it is today.

Over the years, the phrase remained unchanged. The only variations come when a West Point or Naval Academy team faces off against the Air Force Academy or the Royal Military College of Canada. It doesn’t even matter if the team is facing off against a university unaffiliated with the Armed Forces — they’ll still add the “Beat Navy!” or “Beat Army!” to the end of their fight song.

Plebes who don’t follow this would presumably do push-ups and add “Beat Navy!” after each one.

(Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point Public Affairs)

The plebes (or freshmen) of each academy are also expected to be fiercely loyal to their football team at every possible occasion. At the drop of a hat, a plebe is expected to know how many days are left until the next Army-Navy Game. They’re also only allowed to say a handful of accepted phrases: “Yes, sir/ma’am,” “No, sir/ma’am,” and, of course, “Beat Navy/Army.”

Plebes are also expected to finish every sentence or greeting with a “Beat Navy” in the same way that an Army private adds “Hooah” to pretty much everything. It doesn’t matter if it’s an in-person meeting, e-mail, phone call, or text message. They better add “Beat Navy” to the end of whatever point they’re trying to make.

Go team! Beat the other team!

(West Point)

In the end, it’s still a friendly game between the two academies. They’re only truly rivals for the 60 minutes of game time. The phrase is all about mutual respect and should never get twisted. Years down the line, when the cadets become full-fledged officers, they’ll meet shoulder-to-shoulder on the battlefield and joke about the games later.

The rivalry is tough — but isn’t it always that way between two siblings?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s tricky paths to 386 operational squadrons

The U.S. Air Force will soon need to make a decision on whether its plan to grow to 386 operational squadrons should focus on procuring top-of-the-line equipment and aircraft, or stretching the legs of some of its oldest warplanes even longer, experts say.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in September 2018 that the service wants at least 74 additional squadrons over the next decade. What service brass don’t yet know is what could fill those squadrons.


Some say the Air Force will have to choose between quantity — building up strength for additional missions around the globe — or quality, including investment in better and newer equipment and warfighting capabilities. It’s not likely the service will get the resources to pursue both.

“It’s quite a big bite of the elephant, so to speak,” said John “JV” Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.

Wilson’s Sept. 17, 2018 announcement mapped out a 25 percent increase in Air Force operational squadrons, with the bulk of the growth taking place in those that conduct command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and tanker refueling operations.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with members of the workforce during a town hall at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

She broke down the planned plus-up as follows:

  • 5 additional bomber squadrons
  • 7 more fighter squadrons
  • 7 additional space squadrons
  • 14 more tanker squadrons
  • 7 special operations squadrons
  • 9 combat search-and-rescue squadrons
  • 22 squadrons that conduct command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
  • 2 remotely piloted aircraft squadrons
  • 1 more airlift squadron

Venable, who flew F-16 Fighting Falcons throughout his 25-year Air Force career, estimated that buying new aircraft such KC-46 Pegasus tankers, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and newer C-17 Globemaster IIIs for the squadron build-up could set the Air Force back some billion on plane costs alone.

An additional 14 airlift squadrons using C-17s could cost roughly billion; five bomber squadrons of fifth-generation B-21 Raider bombers would cost roughly billion; and seven additional fighter squadrons of either F-22 Raptors or F-35s would be .5 billion, Venable said, citing his own research.

“Tanker aircraft, that was the biggest increase in squadron size, a significant amount of aircraft [that it would take for 14 squadrons] … comes out to .81 billion,” he said.

By Venable’s estimates, it would require a mix of nearly 500 new fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft to fill the additional units. That doesn’t include the purchase new helicopters for the combat-search-and-rescue mission, nor remotely piloted aircraft for the additional drone squadron the service wants.

And because the Air Force wants to build 386 squadrons in a 10-year stretch, new aircraft would require expedited production. For example, Boeing Co. would need to churn out 20 KC-46 tankers a year, up from the 15 per year the Air Force currently plans to buy, Venable said.

The service says it will need roughly 40,000 airmen and personnel to achieve these goals by the 2030 timeframe. Venable said the personnel that come with these missions would cost an additional billion over the next decade.

The Air Force thus would be spending closer to billion per year on these components of its 386-squadron plan, he said.

New vs. old

In light of recent Defense Department spending fiascos such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which cost billions more than estimated and faced unanticipated delays, some think the Air Force should focus on extending the life of its current aircraft, rather than buying new inventory.

The Air Force will not be able to afford such a buildup of scale along with the modernization programs it already has in the pipeline for some of its oldest fighters, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Harrison was first to estimate it would cost roughly billion a year to execute a 74-squadron buildup, tweeting the figure shortly after Wilson’s announcement.

F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight.

If the Air Force wants to increase squadrons quickly, buying new isn’t the way to go, Harrison told Military.com. The quickest way to grow the force the service wants would be to stop retiring the planes it already has, he said.

“I’m not advocating for this, but … as you acquire new aircraft and add to the inventory, don’t retire the planes you were supposed to be replacing,” said Harrison.

“That doesn’t necessarily give you the capabilities that you’re looking for,” he added, saying the service might have to forego investment in more fifth-generation power as a result.

By holding onto legacy aircraft, the Air Force might be able to achieve increased operational capacity while saving on upfront costs the delays associated with a new acquisition process, Harrison said.

The cost of sustaining older aircraft, or even a service-life extension program “is still going to be much less than the cost of buying brand-new, current-generation aircraft,” he said.

Just don’t throw hybrid versions or advanced versions of legacy aircraft into the mix.

It has been reported the Air Force is not only considering an advanced F-15X” fourth-plus generation fighter for its inventory, but is also open to an F-22/F-35 fifth-generation hybrid concept.

“That would just complicate the situation even more,” Harrison said.

Venable agreed.

“Why would you ever invest that much money and get a fourth-generation platform when you could up the volume and money into the F-35 pot?” Venable said.

Boeing is proposing a new version of its F-15 Eagle, the F-15X.

(Boeing)

Running the numbers

Focusing on squadron numbers as a measure of capability may not be the right move for the Air Force, Harrison said.

The Navy announced a similar strategy in 2016, calling for a fleet of 355 ships by the 2030s. But counting ships and counting squadrons are two different matters, he said.

“While it’s an imperfect metric, you can at least count ships,” Harrison said. “A squadron is not a distinct object. It’s an organization construct and [each] varies significantly, even within the same type of aircraft.”

Still less clear, he said, is what the Air Force will need in terms of logistics and support for its planned buildup.

Harrison estimates that the aircraft increase could be even more than anticipated, once support and backup is factored in.

For example, if it’s assumed the squadrons will stay about the same size they are today, with between 10 and 24 aircraft, “you’re looking at an increase [in] total inventory of about 1,100 to 1,200” planes when keeping test and backup aircraft in mind, he said.

A squadron typically has 500 to 600 personnel, including not just pilots, but also support members needed to execute the unit’s designated mission, he said. Add in all those jobs, and it’s easy to reach the 40,000 personnel the Air Force wants to add by the 2030 timeframe.

“It’s difficult to say what is achievable here, or what the Air Force’s real endstate is,” said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian who has written two books: “The Air Force Way of War” and “Architect of Air Power.”

“[But] I also think the senior leaders look at the current administration and see a time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak,” Laslie told Military.com. “Bottom line: there are not enough squadrons across the board to execute all the missions … [and] for the first time in decades, the time might be right to ask for more in future budgets.”

The way forward

Air Force leaders are having ongoing meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of a full report, due to Congress in 2019, about the service’s strategy for growth.

So far, they seem to be gaining slow and steady backing.

Following the service’s announcement of plans for a plus-up to 386 operational squadrons, members of the Senate’s Air Force Caucus signaled their support.

“The Air Force believes this future force will enable them to deter aggression in three regions (Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East), degrade terrorist and Weapons of Mass Destruction threats, defeat aggression by a major power, and deter attacks on the homeland,” the caucus said in a letter authored by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “We are encouraged by the Air Force’s clear articulation of its vision to best posture the service to execute our National Defense Strategy.”

For Air Force leadership, the impact of the pace of operations on current and future airmen must also be taken into account.

“Every airman can tell you they are overstretched,” Wilson said in late September during an address at The National Press Club.

The secretary said the new plan is not intended to influence the fiscal 2020 budget, but instead to offer “more of a long-term view” on how airmen are going to meet future threats.

“I think we’ve all known this for some time. The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking it to do. The Air Force has declined significantly in size … and it’s driving the difficulty in retention of aircrew,” Wilson said.

There will be much to consider in the months ahead as the Air Force draws up its blueprint for growth, Laslie said.

“I think the Air Force looks at several things with regard to the operations side of the house: contingency operations, training requirements, and other deploymentsF-22s in Poland, for example — and there is just not enough aircraft and aircrews to do all that is required,” Laslie said. “When you couple this with the demands that are placed on existing global plans, there is just not enough to go around.”

It’s clear, Laslie said, that the Air Force does need to expand in order to respond to current global threats and demands. The question that remains, though, is how best to go about that expansion.

“There is a recognition amongst senior leaders that ‘Do more with less’ has reached its limit, and the only way to do more … is with more,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army-funded technology wins Oscar for technical acheivement

Creative geniuses behind digital humans and human-like characters in Hollywood blockbusters Avatar, Blade Runner 2049, Maleficent, Furious 7, The Jungle Book, Ready Player One, and others have U.S. Army-funded technology to thank for visual effects.

That technology was developed at the U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California. The ICT is funded by the RDECOM Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory (ARL).

Developers of that technology were recently announced winners of one of nine scientific and technical achievements by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


A Technical Achievement Award will be presented at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills on Feb. 9, 2019, to Paul Debevec, Tim Hawkins, and Wan-Chun Ma for the invention of the Polarized Spherical Gradient Illumination facial appearance capture method, and to Xueming Yu for the design and engineering of the Light Stage X capture system during the Academy’s annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation.

Creative geniuses behind digital humans and human-like characters in Hollywood blockbusters have U.S. Army-funded technology to thank for visual effects. Pictured here, engineers work on the Light Stage X capture system’s recording process.

(U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies)

The Scientific and Technical Academy Awards demonstrate a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures.

The Academy Certificate reads: “Polarized Spherical Gradient Illumination was a breakthrough in facial capture technology allowing shape and reflectance capture of an actor’s face with sub-millimeter detail, enabling the faithful recreation of hero character faces. The Light Stage X structure was the foundation for all subsequent innovation and has been the keystone of the method’s evolution into a production system.”

The new high-resolution facial scanning process uses a custom sphere of computer-controllable LED light sources to illuminate an actor’s face with special polarized gradient lighting patterns which allow digital cameras to digitize every detail of every facial expression at a resolution down to a tenth of a millimeter.

A Soldier demonstrates the Light Stage X capture system technology.

(U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies)

The technology has been used by the visual effects industry to help create digital human and human-like characters in a number of movies and has scanned over one hundred actors including Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Zoe Saldana, Hugh Jackman, Brad Pitt, and Dwayne Johnson at University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies.

Additionally, the Light Stage technology assists the military in facilitating recordings for its Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program through a system called the Digital Survivor of Sexual Assault (DS2A). DS2A leverages research technologies previous created for the Department of Defense under the direction of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and allows for Soldiers to interact with a digital guest speaker and hear their stories. As part of the ongoing SHARP training, this technology enables new SHARP personnel, as well as selected Army leaders, to participate in conversations on SHARP topics through the lens of a survivor’s firsthand account. It is the first system of its kind to be used in an Army classroom.

All four awardees were members of USC ICT’s Graphics Laboratory during the development of the technology from 2006 through 2016.

Paul Debevec is one of the designers and engineers of the Light Stage X capture system.

(U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies)

Paul Debevec continues as an Adjunct Research Professor at USC Viterbi and at the USC ICT Vision Graphics Lab. Wan-Chun “Alex” Ma was Paul Debevec’s first Ph.D student at USC ICT and Xueming Yu joined the USC ICT Graphics Lab in 2008 as a USC Viterbi Master’s student. Tim Hawkins now runs a commercial light stage scanning service in Burbank for OTOY, who licensed the light stage technology through USC Stevens in 2008.

This is the second Academy Sci-Tech award being given to the Light Stage technology developed at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. The first, given nine years ago, was for the earliest light stage capture devices and the “image-based facial rendering system developed for character relighting in motion pictures” and was awarded to Paul Debevec, Tim Hawkins, John Monos, and Mark Sagar.

Established in 1999, the Army’s ICT is a DOD-sponsored University Affiliated Research Center working in collaboration with the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Research Laboratory’s UARCs are aligned with prestigious institutions conducting research at the forefront of science and innovation.

The RDECOM Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

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