Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it's a sweet gig - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Army Cyber Command plans to add more direct commissioned officers after its first two were recently sworn in as part of a five-year pilot to bolster the emerging force.

Since October 2017, almost 250 applicants have applied for the Cyber Direct Commissioning Program, which allows talented civilians a fast track to becoming an officer.

Those who qualify have the opportunity to join the Army as first lieutenant, with the possibility of a higher rank in the near future pending a decision by Congress. Up to $65,000 in student loan repayment over the course of an officer’s initial three-year term is also on the table to attract desired applicants.


“The cyber realm is developing at a speed really not seen in the traditional military career fields,” said Brig. Gen. Neil Hersey, commandant of the Army Cyber School here. “We, the Army, think it’s important to leverage the capability provided by the private sector to make our forces more ready and capable to combat the adversaries we’re going to face now and in the future.”

Most applicants have fallen into one of four categories, including prior-service enlisted military personnel, government employees and contractors, private sector workers, and academics.

Each category represents roughly a quarter of the applicants.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

First Lts. Timothy Hennessy, left, and James Gusman during the Cyber Direct Commissioning Ceremony May 9, 2018, at Fort Benning, Georgia.

(U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace)

Desired skills and qualifications include experience in cybersecurity, software or hardware engineering, or product management. A four-year degree or higher in a computer science or related field, such as data science or industrial control systems, is also required.

At least seven applicants have already been recommended by a board for the program. The board plans to convene again in a few weeks to consider additional applicants who may one day protect networks.

“We need to have a very technically adept workforce to be able to do that and stay ahead of what’s coming,” Hersey said.

First Lts. James Gusman and Timothy Hennessy, both former enlisted soldiers, were the first to be commissioned in early May 2018.

In 2008, Gusman left the Army after serving in military intelligence to pursue higher education, and to ultimately find work in information technology and cybersecurity fields at major U.S. and international companies. When he heard of the program, he decided to sign up and do something more meaningful to him.

“On the commercial side, you’re working for that one single organization and maybe helping their bottom line or keeping certain systems online,” he said. “With the Army, you’re keeping the United States online, you’re keeping its citizens safe and you’re creating something that’s really making a difference in this world.”

Those chosen for the program are commissioned upon arrival at the six-week direct commissioning course at Fort Benning, Georgia, which indoctrinates applicants into the Army.

Prospective officers typically go through Officer Candidate School, a 12-week-long course.

Once the direct commissioning course is completed, there is a 12-week Cyber Officer Basic Leadership Course here, which is more specialized to the career field. When a top-secret clearance is obtained, officers are then eligible for additional follow-on training.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Brig. Gen. Neil Hersey, commandant of the Army Cyber School, right, swears in 1st Lts. James Gusman, far left, and Timothy Hennessy during the Cyber Direct Commissioning Ceremony May 9, 2018, at Fort Benning, Georgia.

(U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace)

Both Gusman and Hennessy plan to start the leadership course in July 2018.

Hennessy, a former signals intelligence analyst who became a cryptologic network warfare operator in the Army, is currently working on his master’s degree in computer science.

“With the academic background I have, I would really like to help soldiers who might not have that same background,” he said. “I think that’s a part I really can help develop for the Army. And any opportunity I get to roll up my sleeves and write some code and build some algorithms would be one that I would enjoy [too].”

The cyber direct commissioning program is similar to those the Army has for lawyers, doctors and chaplains.

The newest program was developed amid a push to strengthen the Army’s role in the cyber domain, which senior leaders envision will be key in its future warfighting concept: multi-domain operations.

In early 2017, Army cyber also stood up a civilian cyberspace-effects career program for current and future government workers. The year before, Army leaders decided to move 29-series electronic warfare soldiers into Cyber’s 17-series career field by the end of this fiscal year.

“We have to be on our toes at all times,” Hersey said of the career field. “As we’ve learned, the attacker has the advantage in the cyber realm. They only have to be right once. Us, as defenders, have to be right every single time.

“To that end, the Army is working on initiatives like the direct commissioning pilot program to make ourselves better and more ready to answer the call when things like that happen.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s J-20 stealth fighter is gaining on America’s top jets

According to reports released through Chinese media, a modified version of their Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter, dubbed the J-20B, has just entered mass production. This new variant of their first fifth-generation fighter will continue to run dated Russian-built engines, but will utilize thrust vectoring control nozzles to grant the aircraft a significant boost in maneuverability.

“Mass production of the J-20B started on Wednesday. It has finally become a complete stealth fighter jet, with its agility meeting the original criteria,” the South China Morning Post credited to an unnamed source within the Government.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Chengdu J-20 (WikiMedia Commons)

“The most significant change to the fighter jet is that it is now equipped with thrust vector control.”
Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Thrust vectoring nozzle for a Eurojet EJ200 turbofan (WikiMedia Commons)

Thrust Vector Control

Thrust vector control, sometimes abbreviated to TVC, is a means of controlling a jet or rocket engine’s outward thrust. Thrust vectoring nozzles are used to literally move the outflow of exhaust in different directions to give an aircraft the ability to conduct acrobatics that a straight-forward nozzled jet simply couldn’t do.

When paired with an aircraft like Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, thrust vectoring control allows an aircraft to make sharper changes in direction, or even to continue traveling in one direction while pointing the nose, and weapons systems of the aircraft, down toward an enemy. Put simply, thrust vectoring nozzles let you point the engine one way, while the aircraft itself is pointed in another (to a certain extent).

In a jet like the F-22 (and soon in China’s J-20 stealth fighter), this technology gives fighter pilots a distinct advantage over non-thrust vectoring jets in a dogfight. You can see the thrust vector control surfaces on the F-22’s engine, which can direct the outflow of exhaust up to 20 degrees up or down, in this video clip:

F-22 thrust vectoring nozzles

www.youtube.com

Russia also employs thrust vector control technology in some of their more capable fighters, like the Sukhoi Su-35, which is widely considered to be among the most capable fourth generation fighters in service anywhere on the planet. While stealth and sensor fusion capabilities would give an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter the long range advantage against the non-stealth Su-35, the Russian jet would technically be capable of flying circles around America’s premier stealth fighter if stealth weren’t in the picture (luckily, however, it is).

Sukhoi Su-35S Extreme maneuverability

www.youtube.com

Of course, that’s not what the F-35 was built for, and in a real conflict, an F-35 would likely shoot down a Su-35 before the Russian pilot was even aware of an American presence in his airspace. China’s J-20 stealth fighter, however, would very likely be extremely difficult to detect on radar or by infrared signature as it closed with an opponent from head on, and the J-20B’s thrust vector control abilities combined with that inherent sneakiness could make this new J-20 a serious adversary for the F-35, and even a worthy opponent for the F-22.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

(WikiMedia Commons)

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter versus China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter

While the F-35 tends to garner the lion’s share of attention, it truly was not built to serve in an air superiority role against near-peer or peer level adversaries. The F-35’s strengths don’t come from its speed or maneuverability, but rather from the extremely effective one-two punch it can deliver via stealth technologies, sensor fusion, and communications.

Many F-35 pilots, including Sandboxx News’ own Justin “Hasard” Lee, will tell you that the F-35’s role in many dogfights isn’t that of an up-close dog fighter, but rather more like a quarterback in the sky, accumulating and processing data into an easy-to-manage interface, and relaying that information to aircraft and other weapons systems in the battle space.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

(U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Okula)

When it is up to the F-35 to take down an airborne opponent, the F-35’s speed and maneuverability limitations are usually not a significant concern, as the jet is designed to engage enemy aircraft more like a sniper than a boxer. The F-35’s data fusion capabilities make it easy for the pilot to identify enemy aircraft in their heads up display, and the fighter can even engage multiple targets from distances too far to see with the naked eye.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

J-20 (WikiMedia Commons)

However, the J-20 may be difficult to see for even the mighty F-35, which, when combined with the J-20B’s higher top end and superior mobility thanks to thrust vectoring nozzles, it could be a real threat to America’s top tier stealth fighter. The front canards on the J-20, however, are believed by some to compromise the aircraft’s stealth when approaching from angles other than head-on. Debate continues on this front, but it could give the F-35 the advantage it needs.

Of course, that is if the J-20B performs as China claims it will.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

USAF F-22 Raptor (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)

The F-22 Raptor vs China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter

This match up is a bit more appropriate, as the F-35 was built to be a jack of all stealthy trades and the F-22 was built specifically to dominate a sky full of enemy fighters. Unlike the F-35, which is largely limited to subsonic speeds in both the Navy and Marine Corps’ iterations, the F-22 is fast, mean, and acrobatic in addition to its stealth capabilities.

China’s stealth fighter, the J-20, was designed using stolen plans for Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, giving it a similar profile and potentially similar combat capabilities. However, it seems unlikely that China has managed to replicate the complex process of mass producing stealth aircraft to the same extent the United States has, as America’s stealth work dates back to the 1970s and the development of the “Hopeless Diamond” that would eventually become the F-117 Nighthawk.

As previously mentioned, the J-20’s front canards could potentially limit the aircraft’s stealth capabilities as well, making the plane difficult to detect from head on, but potentially easier from other angles.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Some content that these canards compromise some degree of the J-20’s stealth capabilities. (Chinese internet)

Although China has announced that their J-20B will come equipped with thrust vector controls, just how effective their system will be remains to be seen, meaning that, like China’s stealth capabilities, their execution may potentially fall behind their bluster.

Assuming, however, that the J-20B performs exactly as China says it will, the aircraft could likely be a worthy opponent for the F-22 in some circumstances, especially when flying in greater numbers than America’s top intercept fighter, which just may be a serious issue in the near future, as America simply can’t build any more F-22s.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Chinese J-20s flying in formation (Chinese internet)

China’s potential stealth fighter numbers advantage

While it remains to be seen if China’s J-20 stealth fighter and upgraded J-20B will be a real match for America’s F-35 or F-22 in a one-on-one fight, the truth is, very few fights actually shake out that way. Pilots spend tons of time planning their combat operations to limit their exposure to high risk situations and to maximize the effectiveness of their stealth profile.

Thus far, it’s believed that China has built fewer than 50 J-20s, though production may pick up as China now seems comfortable using dated Russian power plants in their new fighters, rather than waiting on their long troubled WS-15 engine that was designed specifically for this application. Using these engine platforms may limit the overall performance of the jet, but it will also allow for more rapid production–which may create China’s only actual advantage in an air-to-air conflict.

Lockheed Martin produced only 186 total F-22 Raptors before the program was shut down, and today, far fewer are actually operational. In other words, America may have the world’s most capable air intercept fighter in the F-22, but it also has an extremely limited supply of them. The supply chain established for F-22 production has been largely cannibalized for the F-35, so there’s no hope in building any more either.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

USAF F-22 Raptor (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Westin Warburton)

China’s J-20 stealth fighter, on the other hand, is still under production, and while Russian-sourced engines may make their fighter’s less capable than America’s stealth fighters, China may more than offset that disadvantage through sheer volume. Even if a J-20 doesn’t stand a chance in a scrap with an F-22, adding four or five more J-20s into the mix places the odds squarely in China’s favor.

Today, the United States maintains the largest fleet of stealth aircraft in service to any nation, but over time, that advantage could be eroded thanks to China’s massive industrial capabilities.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Two F-22 Raptors and a T-38 Talon from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, fly together during a 43rd Fighter Squadron Basic Course training mission Oct. 7, 2013 over Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. J. Wilcox)

America’s massive experience advantage in the skies

China’s J-20 stealth fighter may potentially end up a near competitor for America’s top stealth jets, and they may eventually overcome any advantage America’s fighters do have through volume, but there’s one integral place Chinese aviators still lag far behind American pilots: experience. America’s experience advantage manifests in two specific ways.

The first experiential advantage American pilots have on their side is practical flying time aboard their specific platforms. While the total number of required flight hours for pilots varies a bit from branch to branch, on average, a U.S. fighter pilot spends around 20 hours per month at the stick of their respective jets. That shakes out to around 240 flight hours per year devoted strictly to training for combat operations.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

(U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Chinese fighter pilots, on the other hand, average less than half of that per year, with most pilots logging between 100 and 120 hours flying their particular airframes. With more than double the annual flying experience to pull from, American fighter pilots across the board will be better prepared for the rigors of combat.

The second facet of America’s experience-advantage is in real combat operations. The United States has been embroiled in the Global War on Terror for nearly two straight decades, and while most of the flying American fighter pilots have done throughout has been for the purposes of ground attack or close air support missions, there’s no denying that American aviators have more experience flying in a combat zone than their Chinese competition.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

A formation of F-35A Lightning IIs (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Although there have been very few dog fights in recent years, it’s worth noting that one of the world’s more recent fighter-to-fighter shoot-downs took place over Syria and involved a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet engaging a Syrian military Su-22 Fitter. American pilots, and just as importantly, America’s military leadership, are no strangers to war, and that offers a unique insight into future conflicts.

China’s massive military has undergone a significant overhaul in recent years that still continues to this day, but their relative inexperience and likely inferior stealth technology keeps China at a disadvantage in a notional conflict with the United States, especially in the air.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Chengdu J-20 (Chinese internet)

So do the J-20B’s upgrades even matter?

While China may still have a ways to go before they can claim the sort of stealth dominance the United States enjoys, the upgraded systems placed in China’s J-20B certainly do matter. As former Defense Secretary and famed Marine General James Mattis once said, America has no pre-ordained right to victory on the battlefield.

It’s absolutely essential that we take an objective look at China’s growing military threat and remember that they don’t need to match America’s broad capabilities to gain an advantage–they need only to counter them. Working to devise creative solutions that offset tactical advantages has been an integral part of warfare ever since humans first started sharpening sticks, and it remains essential today.

The J-20B doesn’t need to be a match for the F-22 Raptor if its leveraged properly and in sufficient numbers, and that alone warrants consideration.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY CULTURE

10 silly terms you’ll only hear on submarines

Submarines are a little world of their own. With little more than 100 people aboard and submerged, running silent for months at a time, the crews of these nuclear powered undersea monsters begin to develop an entirely new culture of their own. Even non-submarine sailors can get flummoxed at the vocabulary the silent service sailors are capable of slinging.


Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Freeloading oxygen breather

A person taking a ride on the sub or a submarine sailor who doesn’t pull his or her own weight.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Angles and dangles

When the sub takes a significant angle while submerging or surfacing, the boat is no longer moving horizontally. As a result, the ship’s crew will suddenly be walking uphill or downhill at a significant angle.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Emergency blow

This is when the sub has to surface for an emergency. There are even special handles the crew can pull to initiate an emergency blow.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Noise

This is what it sounds like, but minimizing noise is the responsibility of every crew member. Most of the time spent aboard a U.S. Navy nuclear sub, the crew is likely trying to go undetected or are somewhere they aren’t supposed to be. Slamming the toilet seat down at such a time could be very detrimental to one’s health.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Ahead flank cavitate

The submariner’s version of pulling chocks or popping smoke – also known as let’s get out of here as fast as possible. Cavitation (creating bubbles in the ocean caused by the screws that propel the sub) is usually something to be mitigated, but when this order is given, no one cares about cavitation.

Baffles

This is where an enemy sub can hide directly behind another while moving without being detected. In The Hunt For Red October, the USS Dallas hides behind Red October by hiding in the baffles.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Dolphins

The Submarine Warfare qualification pin worn on Navy uniforms. Sailors without their dolphins are nubs, useless.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Mail buoy

This is a fool’s errand perpetrated by saltier members of the crew on the newer guys, usually nubs. Similar to a Machinists’ Punch. If you’re in the Army, this would be like sending a soldier for Grid Squares or in the Air Force, prop wash. Except on a submarine, the new guy has to get in his foul weather gear, harness, and life jackets to go through the main hatch.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Portable air sample

This is another way to get at the new guys or the uninitiated submariner. Subs have little devices for testing the radiation in the air, but the sailors will still get nubs to take a trash bag full of air to the ship’s command.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

 Ramen fish and feet

According to submariners, this is what a submarine comes to smell like after just a few weeks.

Articles

Here are the meanings behind 19 classic sailor tattoos

These days, tattoos are so commonplace in the U.S. military that every branch has its own policy as part of its uniform regulations, but a few years ago that wasn’t the case. The U.S. Navy, however, has a long tradition of tattoos.


Here’s the meaning behind a few of the classics:

1. Fully-Rigged Ships

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

A tattoo of a fully-rigged ship from the age of sail means the sailor had been around Cape Horn, the rough, stormy waters around the southern tip of South America. A fully-rigged ship is one with three or more masts, square sails fully deployed.

2. Nautical Star

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

The star is a symbol of a sailor always to be able to find his way home. The nautical star is a five-pointed star in dark and light shades counterchanged to resemble a compass rose.

3. Shellback Turtle

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Sailors can wear the Shellback Turtle when they get initiated into King Neptune’s Court after crossing the equator. If you’re unsure what exactly this means, We Are The Mighty has an explainer for you:

RELATED: 8 Weird ‘off-the-books’ traditions in the US military

4. Crossed Cannons

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

The crossed cannons mean a veteran has seen military service as a sailor.

5. Swallows

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Sailors earn a new swallow tattoo for every 5,000 nautical miles traveled, which is about 5,754 regular miles, roughly the distance between New York City and Tel Aviv. The circumference of the earth is 21,639 nautical miles, just about 4.16 sparrows.

6. Anchor

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

A single anchor means the sailor crossed the Atlantic or has been a member of the merchant marine, a fleet of civilian ships that carries military cargo. In wartime, this fleet is mobilized to carry war materiel, including troops and supplies.

During World War II, the Merchant Marine took a beating with high casualties, entering the European war long before the United States itself. Since the U.S. was delivering war supplies to Britain through Lend-Lease, Nazi u-boats targeted U.S. shipping bound for the UK. The Merchant Marine casualty rate was 3.9 percent, whereas the Marine Corps’, the next highest, was only 2.94 percent.

7. Rope on the Wrist

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

A knot of rope on a sailors wrist identifies him as a deckhand, someone who maintains the hull, decks, superstructure, mooring, and cargo handling. Deckhands are still common in ocean-going vessels, though they’re far less likely to be maintaining wooden ships.

8. Hula Girl

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Hula girls signify the sailor has been to Hawaii.

9. Crossed Anchors

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Sailors wearing the crossed anchors on the webbing between their thumb and index finger are identifying themselves as boatswain’s mates, the guys who maintain the deck and take care of smaller boat operations and damage control parties.

10. HOLD and FAST

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

These words are a charm spelled out on the four front-facing fingers on each hand. Sailors hope it brings them good luck while gripping the rigging. Holding fast means the sailor isn’t going to let the line go, no matter what. Sailors were a superstitious bunch and life on a sailing ship was tough (to say the least). Anything that gave them the edge in saving their own lives was worth doing.

11. Pig and Rooster

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

The foot tattoos of pigs and roosters were worn by sailors in WWII in the hopes it would keep the sailor from drowning. The Navy shipped these animals in crates at the time. When ships went down, the crates floated, and the animals inside would sometimes be the only survivors

12. Compass Rose

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Another good luck charm that allows a sailor to find his way home.

13. Crosses

Worn on the soles of a sailor’s feet, these are thought to ward off sharks

14. Dagger through a Rose

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Sailors aboard the USS New Jersey (National Archives)

This tattoo means the sailor is loyal and willing to fight anything, even something as sweet and beautiful as a rose

15. Dragon

Wearing a dragon means the sailor has served in China.

16. Golden Dragon

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

When a sailor crossed the International Date Line, he earns the right to wear the Golden Dragon tattoo. The International Date Line is the imaginary line of longitude that separates two calendar dates. When someone sails from East to West, they set their clock back one hour for every 15 degrees of longitude they pass. When they pass the date line, they’ve gained a full 24 hours.

17. Harpoon

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Sailors tattooed with harpoons were serving or had served in a whaling or fishing fleet.

18. King Neptune

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Another badge of honor earned for crossing the Equator.

19. Palm Tree

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

The palm tree has two meanings, depending on your navy. Sailors in the Royal Navy during World War II could wear it after sailing on Mediterranean cruises. It can also be worn by U.S. sailors who served in Hawaii.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Decorated Marine and purple heart recipient begins new battle

Justin Constantine knows all about being challenged. In 2006, he survived an almost fatal gunshot to the head by a sniper in Iraq. It didn’t stop him. Instead, this now retired, Purple Heart recipient and decorated Marine fought through endless surgeries and therapy to become a successful entrepreneur and renowned motivational speaker.

President George W. Bush painted Constantine for his book, “Portraits of Courage,” and Constantine has received multiple awards for his work with veterans and advocacy efforts for those with disabilities. Constantine even gave a TEDx talk on being strong, which has transformed countless lives. Just as COVID-19 started igniting fear and anxiety throughout the world, he received a phone call from a doctor that would challenge his own strength.


Stage 4 cancer.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Constantine was told it was very severe and had spread from his prostate to his bones. Rather than let the currently incurable diagnosis stop him, Constantine is using it to motivate him to become an even better version of himself.

Constantine overhauled his diet completely, cutting out anything that could be harmful or “feed” his cancer. He exercises every day and implemented daily meditation into his routine. He shared that he’s lost 35 pounds since his diagnosis and is the healthiest he’s ever been. “I focus on why today was a good day and why tomorrow will be great too. I look at how I can infuse positivity in my life. It doesn’t mean unicorns and rainbows all the time, it means I make my glass half full,” Constantine shared.

Receiving his diagnosis during a world pandemic has been difficult, but Constantine has decided to continue to utilize his own past and current challenges to help motivate and encourage others. “I’m not saying it’s easy because you have to look at what your challenge is and choose to push past it. It takes effort,” he explained.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Constantine emboldens people to examine their lives and determine how they can have more purpose and happiness. “COVID is going to cast a long shadow over our lives. Things are a lot more complicated than they were a few months ago but with that comes time to think about what’s really important,” he shared.

Reports of increased suicide among veterans during COVID-19 has been present in the media, something that weighs heavily on Constantine. Despite dealing with his own significant medical challenges, he still remains focused on supporting veterans and encouraging them to seek support. “That’s so sad that someone has something that they are going through right now and it means life isn’t worth living. If they could step up and look down, they may see how many people care about them and want them to be here,” he said.

Constantine referenced his own experience of healing from his gunshot wound and then developing post-traumatic stress disorder. He sought counseling without hesitation for his PTSD, despite working for the FBI. He was very open about receiving services and it didn’t impede his continuing career. “I saw my counselor for 18 months for an hour each week. You could tell the difference in me if I missed a session. I encourage veterans to get the help they need and deserve for themselves and for their families,” he said.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Constantine often credits his wife, Dahlia, with being his rock. He shared that he knows how lucky he is to have her as his constant support and partner through life, especially since many people may not have that kind of presence in their own lives. To that he encourages all people and especially veterans who may be struggling to know they aren’t alone. “Together we are stronger; help is just a phone call away. There is always someone waiting to support you,” he said.

Throughout the past five months of the pandemic, Constantine has been consistently recording public motivational videos on his social media. He’s also been reaching out to veterans he identifies that may need support and doing his best to be an encouraging voice for them.

All while facing his own deeply personal challenge.

The effort Constantine exhibits may be born from his own experiences of recovering from his gunshot wound. When asked if he thinks surviving his near fatal wound made him more prepared to receive his current diagnosis, Constantine said yes. He explained that the experience definitely contributed to his commitment to overcoming cancer. “I think it was poignant. I feel that knowing that I overcame such a significant challenge before, makes me very confident that this too shall pass and I will push past this too,” he said.

Although Constantine may be facing the fight of his life, he continues to make the active choice not to fall into despair or spend his days thinking about his diagnosis. Instead, he’s doing what he’s always done: motivating others and living with purpose.


Articles

Here’s when the F-15 outperforms the F-22 or an F-35

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, revealed why the F-15, originally introduced four decades ago, is still more useful than either the F-22 or the F-35 in certain situations.


The F-15 is a traditional air-superiority fighter of the fourth generation. It’s big, fast, agile, and carriers lots of weapons under the wing where everyone can see them. For that last reason, it’s terrible at stealth, but the other side of the coin is that it’s perfect for intercepting enemy aircraft.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
An air-to-air view of two F-15 Eagle aircraft armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles. | McDonnell Douglas, St. Louis

Bronk says that when it comes to interception, a plane must “get up right next to the aircraft, fly alongside, show weapons, go on guard frequency, tell them they’re being intercepted, that they’re on course to violate airspace, and to turn back immediately.”

An F-22 or F-35 shouldn’t, and in some cases, can’t do that.

The major advantage of fifth-generation aircraft is their stealth abilities and situational awareness. Even the best aircraft in the world would be lucky to lay eyes on any fifth-generation fighter, which means they can set up and control the engagement entirely on their terms.

But while this paradigm lends itself ideally to fighting and killing, interception is a different beast.

The advantages of the F-22, and particularly of the F-35, diminish greatly once planes get within visual range of one another. Also, fifth-gens usually carry their munitions inside internal bomb bays, which is great for stealth but doesn’t really strike the same note that staring down an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile on the side of an F-15 would.

Simply put, a fifth-gen revealing itself to a legacy fighter would be akin to a hunter laying down his gun before confronting a wild beast.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
An F-22 Raptor | US Air Force photo

“Fifth-gen fighters are not really necessary for that … other, cheaper interceptors can do the job,” Bronk said.

Furthermore, interception happens way more frequently than air-to-air combat. A US Air Force fighter most recently shot down an enemy plane in 2009 — and it was the Air Force’s own wayward drone over Afghanistan. Interceptions happen all the time, with the Baltics and the South China Sea being particular hot spots.

The fifth-gens, however, make sense for entering contested airspace. If the US wanted to enter North Korean or Iranian airspace, it wouldn’t just be to show off, and according to Bronk, the aircraft’s stealth and situational awareness would afford them the opportunity to slip in, hit their marks, and slip out undetected, unlike an F-15.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
F-35s are incredible aircraft, but within visual range confrontations are not their fight. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall

In interception situations, it makes no sense to offer up an F-22 or an F-35 as a handicapped target to an older legacy plane. F-15s are more than capable of delivering the message themselves, and whoever they intercept will know that the full force of the US Air Force, including fifth-gens, stands behind them.

Articles

That time US soldiers pretended to be vampires and ghosts to scare the hell out of the enemy

Psychological operations is known mostly for their leaflets and posters designed to demoralize the enemy or convince local populations to stay away from combat areas. But sometimes, those troops go full “spook” and complete crazy missions — like when they became vampires and ghosts to scare America’s enemies.


The vampire mission was led by Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale. He was sent to the Philippines in September 1950 to help dislodge Communist rebels in the area. The rebels, known as Huks, were known to be superstitious so Lansdale had his men study their local legends.

After an early mission to convince locals they would be cursed if they supported the communists helped force the surrender of some Huk units, Lansdale knew he was in business. He then turned his attention to a local vampire legend, the “asuang.”

Lansdale and his men circulated a rumor in a village that an asuang lived in the hills nearby. They waited for the rumor to make its way up the hill, and then swooped into action. A covert team snuck into the hills and waited for a patrol. When it was nearly past them, they snatched up the last man, poked two holes in his neck, and drained him of his blood. Seriously.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Artist’s rendition of an asuang. No thanks.

They then put the body back on the trail. When the Huks found it, they believed the rumors of the asuang and fled from the area, allowing government forces to take the region.

Soldiers tried a similar trick in Vietnam by capitalizing on the belief that the souls of dead people not buried are forced to wander the world. Soldiers made a series of “Ghost Tapes” that were commonly called “Wandering Soul.”

The audio tapes began with Buddhist funeral music followed by a girl’s cries for her father. A wandering ghost then responds, crying with regret that he chose to die on a far off battlefield rather than staying with his family.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Psychological operators broadcast messages during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo: Defense Visual Information Center

Soldiers with backpacks, ships, and aircraft all broadcasted the message at different times. There is little evidence that anyone believed they were hearing actual ghosts and the tapes seemed to have mixed effects.

While there were reports of Communist forces surrendering or deserting after hearing the tapes, sailors and soldiers who broadcast the messages reported coming under increased fire when they started playing the tapes.

Friendly forces used this hatred to their advantage. After a C-47 came under extreme fire while broadcasting the tape, the commanding officer of the plane swore he’d never play it again. He was sent back the next night to play it anyway, but this time with an AC-130 flying in support, targeting everything that fired at the C-47. One of the more widely known versions of the tape, “Ghost Tape Number 10,” can be heard here.

(h/t i09.com)

NOW: A bunch of U.S. troops think they saw Bigfoot in Vietnam

MIGHTY CULTURE

This website will help you find old service-friends

The United States military is a brotherhood and sisterhood like no other. Those who serve together form a common sense of purpose and devotion to duty. It’s a level of trust not commonly found in civilian life. Those military friendships last forever. But as life moves, and when people leave the military, they often lose touch with those friends, some of whom they would have given their life for.

Tracking down old friends, particularly if you have been out of the service many years, is not always easy. But there is one company that can help. Together We Served (TWS) is a veteran-only website, launched in 2003. It provides veterans a highly-effective means to reconnect with old service-friends by simply entering their service history on their TWS Military Service Page.


TWS built an individual website for each branch of service and, with over 1.9 million veteran members, the chances of finding people you served with is high.

The secret behind TWS’s ability to connect more veterans is the depth of its databases. Over the past 16 years, TWS has built one of the most comprehensive databases of U.S. Military training and operating units in existence. Its databases span from WW2 to present day.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Military Service Page.

Sample Together We Served Military Service Page

By creating your Military Service Page on Together We Served, you can not only find veterans who went to the same basic training as you, or served in the same units or duty stations, but also those who participated in the same combat or non-combat operations. TWS’s search engine automatically matches the service information you enter on your Military Service Page with the service information on the Military Service Pages of all other TWS members. Those members, whose entries could match yours, get listed on your Service Page. That is what enables you to make contact with those you may know. This powerful feature helps veterans remember forgotten names.

Finding key people on TWS can be very helpful, especially if you need or can provide witness account to support a potential VA claim.

Take this opportunity to reconnect with the servicemen and women you shared some of the most important times of your life with. In recognition of your service, Together We Served provides all VA veterans with a FREE one year premium membership, providing unlimited people searches, when you join TWS via the following link:

Free one-year premium Together We Served membership

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

The first man killed in the Vietnam War was murdered by a fellow airman

On June 8, 1956, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon died of gunshot wounds sustained in South Vietnam. He was the first casualty of what would be known to history as the Vietnam War.


Except it wasn’t a Viet Cong bullet that killed Fitzgibbon — it was a fellow airman.

Fitzgibbon was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, training South Vietnamese airmen in Saigon. A crew chief, he confronted the plane’s radio operator when they came under fire mid-flight, making sure the operator did his job.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
An early aircrew patch from MAAG Vietnam.

After the mission, the radio operator stewed over the altercation, heading to a bar to have a few drinks and loosen up. Except he drank heavily, and the incident only intensified his anger.

Later that day, the man approached Fitzgibbon on the porch of his barracks room as he handed out candy to Vietnamese children and shot the crew chief to death.

Fitzgibbon was a Navy veteran of World War II who later joined the Air Force. His son Richard joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He was killed in combat near Quang Tin in 1965.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Richard Fitzgibbon Jr., left, and Richard Fitzgibbon III. The father was killed in Vietnam in 1956, while the son died there in 1965. (Photo from Sen. Ed Markey)

Technical Sergeant Fitzgibbon’s name wasn’t added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall until 1999, after a lobbying campaign from his family, with the help of Senator Ed Markey. The Department of Defense had to first change the criteria for adding a name — specifically identifying the start of the war.

The DoD now recognizes the date the MAAG was set up, Nov. 1, 1955, as the start of the conflict in Vietnam — the earliest date to qualify for having a casualty’s name added to the memorial wall.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Richard Fitzgibbon’s name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

The Fitzgibbons were one of three father-son pairs who died in the Vietnam War.

MIGHTY CULTURE

U.S. Department of Education proposes big changes to distance learning

If you have ever run into a situation in which you asked yourself, “What rule? How could someone think that was a good idea? Why was I not told?” you can now offer your comments for an upcoming rule.

You may have experienced distance learning during your military service or know someone who has. As such, you can provide valuable insight into a proposed rule, Distance Education and Innovation, which will likely affect service members’ online schooling worldwide.

The U.S. Department of Education, led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, has published a proposed set of rules that will significantly affect distance learning for service members and their families enrolled in post-secondary educational programs. The public comment period for your valuable insight closes May 4, 2020, at 11:59 PM ET. If, after reading, you feel you would like to share your thoughts, you can do so here. Following the comment period, the Department will publish a final regulation before November 1, 2020.

In its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Distance Education and Innovation, the Department has proffered many changes to current educational policies from how universities define their curricula to how regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors is defined. Most importantly, educational institutions with proven track records will benefit from a streamlined approval from the Secretary for the first direct assessment program offered by the school.
Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

What this means for service members

In the coming months, service members will likely see a rapid expansion of new online schools and online programs — also, advertisements for newly G.I. Bill-approved schools will appear on social media platforms everywhere. Also, a more comprehensive array of applications will be made accessible to members of the military and veterans. This is excellent news for members of the military bouncing from state to state and country to country, where some traditional universities’ programs cannot follow due to their accreditors’ archaic and arguably avaricious policies.

For example, in response to one of its student’s military-related mobilization, a servicemember’s military friendly school may state, “You want us to record your classes? That’s too much of a burden. You volunteered to deploy, that is not the university’s problem.” Thus, the traditional university, under the guise of its federal and state regulations, may deny a student-soldier’s request for accommodation and defer to its accreditation standards in its defense.

Conversely, the non-traditional university, better equipped, may see a mobilization of a Reserve or National Guard soldier as a straightforward situation to accommodate because, fundamentally, the online university is best positioned to handle the unique circumstances that affect service members and civilians alike. As an example, the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is forcing traditional students to stay at home, has driven student-soldiers nationwide to temporarily drop their textbooks and, instead, get into their uniforms. Thus, student-soldiers’ statuses and VA-payments may be negatively affected.

Despite the proposed set of rules accommodations for non-traditional students, the rapid development of the rule itself – the process – may be cause for concern.

Criticism of the Rule

According to William J. Zee, partner and chair of the Education Law group at Barley Snyder, LLC., a strategically focused, full-service law firm representing businesses, organizations, and individuals in all major areas of civil law, “Critics believe it is worrisome that these regulations were proposed at the same time the biggest commentators – namely higher education institutions – are busy trying to institute distance learning in the face of COVID-19 and do not have enough time to fully digest and comment on the proposed regulations.”

Critics’ concerns about the rapidity of this Rule’s development are supported by a seemingly absent involvement of traditional universities within the Department’s “months-long negotiated rulemaking effort” that constituted public hearings and engagement from education-subject matter. See generally Notice, DoED, 2020 at 1.

Also, Sharon L. Dunn, PT, Ph.D., president, American Physical Therapy Association, stated publicly, “. . . changing the accreditation requirements, process, or standards for purely programmatic accreditors could cause lasting damaging effects.” See Public Comment, APTA, September 14, 2018.

Thus, the Department’s shift towards programmatic accreditation standards may mean damaging effects on educational institutions relying more on institutional accreditation, and an outcome possibly welcomed by some in the military community.

Support for the Rule

Mr. Zee, continued, “On the other hand, the proposed distance learning regulations could prove positive for current active military servicemen and women who have the possibility of being deployed while obtaining some sort of degree. These regulations propose to broaden the ability for institutions to better use technology and serve the classes of people who may not be in a traditional school setting. These regulations call for more use of technology, a broader acceptance of distance learning, and a recognition that the method of obtaining credentialing isn’t as important as the end result.”

In addition, Blake Johnson, a first-year law student, stated publicly, “This is a very important move toward protecting the student . . . First year itself is difficult and presents an educational challenge unlike any I’ve faced before. That being said, I was getting used to the in-person socratic lectures. That’s all gone. The ABA (American Bar Association) is stringent on their allowance of distance learning. This current situation has seen an unprecedented move in which the ABA allowed for students to not only go ‘online’ but also allowed for a trend towards Pass/Fail type grading. This proposed rule allows for a relaxed and more accommodative approach to education and factors in the issues associated with the current [COVID-19] pandemic.” See Public Comment, April 15, 2020.

Thus, more significant innovation in distance learning could prove beneficial to members of the military.

Author’s Public Comment and Concerns

This author will be specifically addressing administrative remedies in his public comment to the Federal Register.

Because of the extraordinary degree of speed by which the Department has rollbacked regulations in its Proposed Rule, student-soldiers could be at higher risk of exposure to misrepresentation and fraud.

Addressing this author’s concern, the Department generally states, “These proposed regulations attempt to limit risks to students and taxpayers resulting from innovation by delegating various oversight functions to the bodies best suited to conduct that oversight—States and accreditors. This delegation of authority through the higher education regulatory triad entrusts oversight of most consumer protections to States, assurance of academic quality to accrediting agencies, and protection of taxpayer funds to the Department.” See Proposed Rule, DoED.

In laymen’s terms, the Department is passing the buck to State regulators such as the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, for example, a state agency charged with the duty of assuring academic quality in Massachusetts.

The problem with such delegation is (1) many state regulators are hyper-focused on targeting for-profit institutions and politically incentivized to protect non-profits, and (2) there are very few remedies for student-soldiers facing disputes with their universities, regardless of the school’s tax status. Frequently, military commanders cite the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, USERRA, a federal employment law, in response to their student-soldiers’ concerns with missing classes due to drill or deployments.

Expect to see a Public Comment from this author very soon that will advocate for the inclusion of protective language to the Department’s Proposed Rule modifying eligibility to ensure student-soldiers are given big sticks to augment their respectful, soft voices in the classroom.

The metaphorical equivalent of a student-soldier’s attempt to resolve a dispute with their non-profit university would be like an attempt to sue God. The cards are stacked unfairly in favor of universities nationwide, and, in closing, for those who believe non-profit universities to be a fragile, delicate butterflies, worthy of extraordinary deference by state regulators, please research universities’ publicly available Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990(s).

Call to Action

After reviewing the Department’s Tips for Submitting Comments, submit your comments through the Department’s Rulemaking Portal or via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. The Department will not accept comments submitted by fax or by email or those submitted after the comment period. To ensure that the Department does not receive duplicate copies, please submit your comments only once. In addition, please include the Docket ID [ED-2018-OPE-0076-0845] at the top of your comments. If you are submitting comments electronically, the Department strongly encourages you to submit any comments or attachments in Microsoft Word format.

If you must submit a comment in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF), the Department strongly encourages you to convert the PDF to print-to-PDF format or to use some other commonly used searchable text format. Please do not submit the PDF in a scanned format. Using a print-to-PDF format allows the Department to electronically search and copy certain portions of your submissions.

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov to submit your comments electronically. Information on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket is available on the site under ”Help.” See 18638 Federal Register Vol. 85, No. 64. Thursday, April 2, 2020, Proposed Rules. at 1.

Attending a Non-Profit vs. For-Profit Educational Institution 

A common misconception about non-profit educational institutions is that they cannot, by definition, be predatory. In an online document concerning non-profits, last updated February 2018 by Pasadena City College (PCC), a non-profit educational institution, PCC states, “None are predatory, but have varying success rates – students should research institutions carefully applying.” See Document at 2. In its blanket immunity declaration, PCC also highlights the importance of carefully researching educational institutions’ successes, which can be intentionally elusive to some consumers.

A more in-depth article addressing the logical fallacy behind blanket immunity granted to non-profits is discussed further in These Colleges Say They’re Non-profit—But Are They?, written by Robert Shireman, Director of Higher Education Excellence and Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation. If further clarification is needed on what it means for an educational institution to be predatory, the Federal Trade Commission, in concert with many State Attorneys General, maintains publicly available reports and cases that define bad actors’ deceptions of consumers in areas ranging from aviation to wine and beer.

According to Mr. Zee, “For-profit institutions have been preying on the education of current soldiers and veterans because their GI Bill does not go toward the for-profit institutions’ 90/10 limit of federal funding. For-profit institutions have been caught deceiving prospects into believing they are actually non-profit institutions, and many soldiers have been negatively impacted, as they are seeking a non-traditional method of schooling.”

In deciding whether to attend a non-profit or for-profit educational institution consider this, enrolling at an institution of higher learning through an online portal provided by the bursar’s office may not feel the same as removing a wrinkled dollar bill from a tired, leather wallet, handing it to a cashier across a counter, and receiving a delicious chocolate candy bar unwrapped in return. Still, it is a financial transaction just the same. Students are consumers of educational services provided by companies, whether the U.S. Internal Revenue Service sees them as 501c3 or not.

Measure of a Post-Secondary Educational Institution’s Success

It is generally easy to discern the success of teaching a child to play catch, the child either catches the ball, or they do not catch the ball. However, some may take the view that the measure of success is instead the child reaching to catch it. The attempt itself is worthy of some admiration, an ideal not lost to many.

However, an attempt to catch the ball is categorically not a success, determined by many programmatic-accreditation bodies, an example of which would be the American Bar Association. One either passes the bar exam or does not pass. Likewise, one either passes their State’s medical board or they do not. The ramifications of either determine whether one will be permitted to practice law or medicine, an ideal we value for the professionals charged with the duties of either keeping us out of prison or alive on the operating table.

Conversely, to an institutional-accreditation body, a child may be the next Jason Varitek despite missing the ball and landing on his or her face. An institutional-accreditation authority is not so concerned whether the child catches the ball, it is concerned with what the ball is made of, how fast it was thrown, and whether the child was the intended recipient. In other words, institutional-accreditation bodies are more concerned with the educational process, the number of students per class, than the result, the number of students working in their desired field. An accredited university can retain its accreditation by solely focusing its business decision-making process on an extensive gamut of unique gradable metrics, rather than merely one: whether its graduates obtained jobs.

In its Notice, the Department “call[s] for institutions, educators, and policymakers to ‘rethink higher education’ and find new ways to expand educational opportunity, demonstrate the value of a post-secondary credential and lifelong learning, and reduce costs for students, schools, and taxpayers. See Factsheet (emphasis added).

What is a CFR?

CFR is short for a Code of Federal Regulation, more amicably known as administrative law by members of the legal community. Administrative law is unique because it is technologically complicated. For example, Lawyers and Judges typically do not enjoy defining what is or is not the correct way to fly an airplane.

Hence, a federal agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, filled to the seams with aviation experts, defines the technical means to fly an aircraft correctly. Likewise, other areas of specialization like immigration or education are governed by administrative rules, ultimately guided by the federal, executive branch of government.

In this instance, the Department’s change to the CFR will result in a cascading effect on how the education sector conducts its education-business – or for the FAA, flies a plane. However, unlike flying a plane, which arguably has a clear right and wrong way of doing it – up or down, education has its unique nuance. For example, a law student, activated for a combat military deployment – yet with access to computers, may

As a valued reader of We Are the Mighty, you may know or be a Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, Marine, or Coast Guardsman who balanced online, distance learning with their military service. Please, share your insight on what you think of the Department of Education’s proposed rules.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan security forces killed during attacks on checkpoints

Taliban militants have killed several Afghan security forces in fresh attacks on several security checkpoints in the northern Sar-e-Pul Province, according to officials.

In one of the Jan. 1, 2019 attacks in the Sayyad district of the province, local police chief Khalil Khan was killed along with four other officers, a source told RFE/RL.


The dpa news agency quoted provincial council member Mohammad Asif Sadiqi as saying a high-ranking provincial official with an Afghan spy agency and an army company commander were also killed in the attacks on two security posts, which it said left 23 Afghan security forces dead.

Gunbattles raged for several hours in the Sayyad district as heavy artillery fire by Afghan troops trying to beat back the insurgents sent locals fleeing for safety.

AP quoted Taliban spokesman Qari Yousof Ahmadi as claiming responsibility for both attacks.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Sar-e Pul Province in Afghanistan.

The violence comes a day after Iran said a Taliban delegation made a rare visit to Tehran for talks with a senior Iranian official on efforts to end Afghanistan’s 17-year-long war.

It also occurred just over a week after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of 7,000 American troops deployed in Afghanistan, about half of the U.S. contingent in the country.

Many observers warned that the partial withdrawal could further degrade security and jeopardize possible peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending its insurgency.

U.S. forces make up the bulk of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission that is training and advising Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban and Islamic State militants.

The U.S. military also has some 7,000 troops deployed in a separate U.S. counterterrorism mission.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

It was a beautiful June day in Contra Pria, Italy. Families enjoyed a picnic together, and the refreshing water served as a welcome refuge from the heat and humidity of the last weekend leading into summer.

It was Father’s Day in America, and Army Lt. Col. John Hall, a public affairs officer with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, decided to take advantage of the weather to bring his grandsons to a popular nearby swimming hole.


The tiny hamlet of Contra Pria is made up of a few houses that appear lost in the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains. The half-dozen houses follow the course of the Astico, a small river created by the melting snow of the mountains that flow down into the rocky valley creating deep chasms with frigid still waters that invite adventure seekers escaping the summer heat.

When Hall and his family arrived early on June 17, 2018, they were surprisingly greeted by Army Lt. Col. Jim Keirsey, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, and his family, who were picnicking and swimming with some friends in the remote swimming area. They introduced their children to each other who then played in the beach areas together.

“We noticed a few people jumping from the 20-30 foot cliffs that formed a small canyon along the stream,” said Hall’s wife, Laura Hall. “Jumpers would often pause for scuba divers in wet suits exploring the glacial waters that feed into the chasm below.”

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

U.S. Army Paratrooper Lt. Col. John Hall

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander C Henninger)

Deep, Frigid Water

This peaceful scene completely changed in the blink of an eye.

“The boys were taking a break from the cold water when I decided I would climb up on the cliff to see what the divers were exploring,” Hall said. “Just as they swam away, four Italian men, probably somewhere in their twenties, appeared above the river on the opposite cliff. They seemed to be daring each other to jump. Two immediately jumped and then challenged their friends. One chose not to jump at all, while the other hesitated, but after a few minutes I saw him falling through the air.”

Hall said that when the man hit the deep, frigid water, he began to thrash about, yelling for his friends to help as he repeatedly went under water. The two men who jumped in earlier leapt from the cliff to attempt a rescue, but as they swam up to him, the scene turned into what appeared to be a fight or wrestling match in the water.

Hall could see from his vantage point on the opposite cliff that the struggling man was drowning, and would possibly drown his companions, as they all began to go under water together.

“I jumped from the cliff,” Hall said.

‘That’s Just John’

“I swam over to the three men, firmly wrapped my arm around the chin of the drowning man and pulled him onto my hip. The other men briefly continued pulling at us and one another. Once we broke free, I swam the man to the cliff, pulled him around, and placed his hands on the rocks.”

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Army Lt. Col. John Hall, a public affairs officer for the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, saves a man from drowning in the frigid waters of Pria Park.

(Army photo by Spc. Josselyn Fuentes)

One of the man’s friends swam over to help Hall hold him in place while he caught his breath. The men swam toward the water’s edge, but the group was still in deep water without a foothold. Exhausted and in shock, the man was unable to work his way along the rocky face to reach the shallow waters. As they both clung to the rock face, Hall indicated to him that he would help him climb and push him up to safety.

“Once he was safe, I swam over to a rocky outcropping and climbed to verify that he was ok,” Hall said. “Still shaking from the experience, the man turned and gave me a hug.”

“John Hall will claim he was just in the right place at the right time to save that guy’s life, and that may be partially true,” Keirsey said. “But it really takes the right person to recognize somebody is in jeopardy and then have the courage to do something about it.”

“At first, I thought he was just jumping to amuse our grandsons who were watching. When I saw him swim into a group of splashing men and pull one out, it was then that I realized that he was saving the man,” Laura said.

“I was surprised that someone who couldn’t swim well would jump into those waters, but I wasn’t surprised that John helped him,” she said. “That’s just John.”

“I am just so glad that someone was there to help him. After it was over, I couldn’t help thinking it was Father’s Day,” Hall said. “No man should lose his son on Father’s Day.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

popular

7 things you didn’t know about Marcus Aurelius

General James Mattis once called Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations the one book every American should read. Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher, but he was also a Roman emperor, who bore trials and tribulations throughout his life with a quiet strength that continues to inspire us.

Here are seven things to know about the life of Marcus Aurelius.


1. He was adopted into the imperial family

In the Roman Empire, it was common for the emperor to adopt the man who would later become his heir. At just seventeen years old, the philosophically-minded Marcus Annius Verus was adopted by Antoninus Pius, himself the adoptive son of then-emperor Hadrian. Marcus was renamed Marcus Aurelius, or Marcus the Golden. After Hadrian died and Pius became the emperor, Marcus and his adoptive brother Lucius became successors to the throne. During his time as the imperial heir, the emperor taught Marcus the importance of self-discipline and civic virtue, qualities he would later come to exemplify.

2. He was a co-emperor with his brother

When Antoninus Pius died in 161 AD, Marcus and Lucius became co-emperors. Marcus was an impressive man of impeccable character, who shared his power with Lucius and the Roman Senate and used his power for the benefit of the empire. He was keen on administration but naive in war, having never commanded his own army or province during Pius’ long and peaceful reign. But when war came to Rome, Marcus did not fail in his duty.

3. He faced threats from all directions

In the same year Marcus and Lucius became emperors, the king of Parthia invaded the Roman-controlled Kingdom of Armenia, and replaced its king with a puppet. Despite the presence of hostile German tribes across the Danube River, Marcus withdrew three legions from the Danube front and sent them to Armenia under Lucius’ command. Lucius defeated the Parthians and pushed them out of Roman territory for the next thirty years. Only five years later Rome was invaded by the Marcomanni, a confederation of German tribes. Marcus raised two legions for war, but an epidemic in the empire forced him to wait an entire year before advancing.

4. He was forced to fight Rome’s enemies alone

In 168 Marcus and Lucius finally left for the German front, but were forced back due to the spread of the disease. One year later, Lucius was dead of smallpox and Marcus was the sole emperor of Rome. He never took this responsibility lightly. Now alone, Marcus marched to push the Germans back across the Danube. After a rocky start, the Romans were able to turn the tide of the invasion. Marcus and his legions crossed the Danube, fighting some tribes and negotiating with others to turn the Marcomanni against one another. In 175 he negotiated a peace that allowed thousands of Roman soldiers to return home along with many Germanic warriors to serve in Rome’s legions.

5. He never had the chance to relax

Just as Marcus made his peace with the Germans, there was a rebellion in Syria. Marcus started the journey east to quell the rebellion, only for it to be suppressed before he arrived. Nevertheless he continued his tour of the east to provide the people with an image of strength. He would need his own strength when on the tour his wife Faustina died in 175. Their relationship had been difficult, but he faithfully mourned her death. For the first time in eight years, and now completely alone, Marcus returned to the city of Rome. He could enjoy a brief respite, but it would not last.

6. He spent the rest of his life at war

In the year 177 there was another Germanic rebellion which forced Marcus Aurelius to leave Rome. He would never step foot in the city again. For the next few years, the Romans fought the rebellious tribes in their own territory. The war seemed to be going well until March 17, 180, when Marcus Aurelius died from a mysterious illness in the military outpost of Vindobona. His years of warfare brought him no pleasure, but his sacrifices bought time for an empire that in the coming years would descend into chaos.

7. He is still remembered today

Marcus Aurelius is known as the last of the Five Good Emperors. Even in his own time he was considered an ideal philosopher-king, who always placed his duty above himself. Today he is most famous for his Meditations, the modern name for the private journal he kept during his time on the German front. In this journal he shared his deepest thoughts, on the challenges he faced as an emperor and as a man, and how he struggled to overcome them. Marcus’ Meditations was written to himself, but is really a universal letter to humanity about life and holding one’s head up despite it all.