How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Over the last few years, the Air Force has been taking proactive approaches to prepare for a proverbial “sucker punch” via cyber-attack. In preparation for this assault, and to mitigate vulnerability, cyber resiliency is being ingrained into Air Force culture.

By military definition, cyber resiliency is the ability of a system to complete its objective regardless of the cyber conditions, in other words, how well it can take a cyber-punch and keep fighting.


Blue: Cyber in the Contested Domain

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To help lead these efforts, the Air Force, through Air Force Materiel Command’s Life Cycle Management Center, stood up the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems, or CROWS, in response to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016. The NDA instructed the military to analyze the cyber vulnerabilities of major weapons systems and report findings back to Congress. In 2018, the program was fully funded by Congress to begin its mission.

“It’s all about two things, making sure our warfighters are protected and making sure they are able to do their jobs,” said Joseph Bradley, director of CROWS.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Joseph Bradley is the director of the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems (CROWS) which ensures cybersecurity is integrated into the development of all new programs from the start, then maintains and validates the cyber resiliency of the system throughout its life cycle. (U.S. Air Force)

Initially CROWS was created to look at liabilities in legacy weapon systems, but now it is taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity is integrated into the development of all new programs from the start, rather than as an afterthought. Then CROWS maintains and validates the cyber resiliency of the system throughout its life cycle.

Cyber resiliency needs change constantly and impact all Air Force missions — new threats emerge regularly and require new approaches to improve mission assurance.

As an F-35 Lightning II pilot, Maj. Justin Lee flies one of the most advanced aircraft on the planet with systems that will be upgraded and enhanced well into the future.

“We’re passing off a tremendous amount of data and, just like your computer, you want that data to be correct,” Lee said. “If you go into an adversarial environment against a frontline threat, then they’re going to be trying to do their best to interfere with it.”

It’s not just his weapons system that is vulnerable; the data these systems take in and put out is just as vulnerable and critical to mission success.

“If a hacker is able to get into the GPS time and get it off sync just by a few nanoseconds, then it can cause the bomb to land in a place that we don’t want,” Lee said.

One key mission in the evolution of CROWS was to find ways to implement cyber resiliency in the acquisition process. This now includes embedding cyber professionals within a program’s executive offices. Also, an acquisitions guidebook was created to standardize cyber-related language for contract evaluations, reducing the burden on any future programs while also allowing better communication with industry partners.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

An Air Force pararescueman, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, communicates with an Army Task Force Brawler CH-47F Chinook during a training exercise at an undisclosed location in the mountains of Afghanistan, March 14, 2018. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. GREGORY BROOK)

CROWS allow cyber experts to join forces with the command responsible for the maintenance and development of a weapons system. Through testing and analysis, CROWS will then offer recommendations to make the system less vulnerable and ultimately safer.

Combat and training missions, weapons delivery and air drops are all put together using computer-based air-space mission planning systems. When the Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center wanted to overhaul their software to assist ground operations for aircraft, they called on the CROWS for help.

“As the challenges were identified we put together an engineering plan for how we would start to resolve or mitigate some of those cyber security vulnerabilities. The CROWS walked us through that analysis,” said Col. Jason Avram, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Airspace Mission Planning Division chief.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Tech. Sgt. Michael Vandenbosch, 22nd Space Operations Squadron defensive counter-space operator, uses software to identify interference to a specific satellite at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Dec. 16, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JONATHAN WHITELY)

“As that engineering plan came together, which looks specifically at how we’re going to deal with data integrity issues not only the data that we’re ingesting, but also how we’re processing that data through our software and then how we’re transferring that data to any platforms.”

According to Avram, CROWS funded the effort to develop an engineering plan on how to mitigate vulnerabilities over time.

Having cyber resiliency personnel inserted into a weapons system’s development and life-cycle management allows them to be at the tactical edge; fully understanding the system so they can detect if the obscured hand of an adversary is at play.

“They’re (CROWS) the cop on the beat that sort of knows what their neighborhood is supposed to look like. They’re the first ones that can see that window over there isn’t supposed to be open, let’s go investigate,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick Higby, director of DevOps and lethality. “So, they go in (figuratively) with the flashlight, they investigate and ‘holy cow’ there’s somebody in there, where do you go with that?”

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Initially created to look at legacy weapon systems, the Air Force CROWS office will be taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity concerns are taken into account from the start of new programs. (AIR NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO // KELLYANN NOVAK)

Higby asked, how does that cop who is on the beat, how do they get the right experts, engineers and PhDs involved who may have built or designed that system to facilitate an agile response to the threat?

He explained the responses to a threat could mean a number of repercussions to the Air Force. There could be a need to ground the asset and not fly the next sortie because the risk is too great. It may be a decision to still fly with the vulnerability in place because there may be other work arounds.

It all goes back to the resiliency; can the weapon system maintain a mission effective capability under adversary offensive cyber operations. The fix may be the deployment of code to quickly patch and shut the window and get the adversary out of the system. But in all responses, you need the expert that built that system originally to be in that discussion alongside the CROWS.

“We really want the CROWS to be that interface to the real expert of a given weapon system, whether it’s an aircraft, a missile, a helicopter or whatever,to understand, if you’re going to tweak this, it may have these other consequences to it. And then make that risk decision,” Higby said. “Grounding the asset is not always an option, we have to launch because we have other actors that are dependent on us striking a target.”

In short, the Air Force has to be ready and able to take a punch.

“That’s the idea behind resiliency; you are going to fight to get the mission done no matter what happens,” Higby said.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 20 years of PCS, milspouse navigates ‘staying put’

I’ve developed an itch.

No, not like that time in college.

The itch to pull up stakes, un-circle the wagons and head West…or East…or…ok you get it.

It’s time to move again. PCS.

It’s a familiar feeling to most military spouses. Birds have an innate sense when it’s time to migrate, and I think military families develop something like that. Every few years it’s time to fly.

It starts as a faint tingling on the back of your neck. Then you see dust bunnies frolicking on top of the refrigerator and decide to ignore them because you’re moving soon, so who cares? Those little freaks start to get it on everywhere — under the bed, the couch, that weird piece that was your grandfather’s that you feel compelled to keep, but have no real place for.


You say to yourself “Go on, spawn away, little humping dust bunnies. Soon a moving van will magically appear and nice men wearing low-slung pants will lift off your illicit hideaways and expose your obscene way of life…along with their butt-cracks.”

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

You download the assignment lists from the BUPERS website and fantasize about the possibilities. You prowl through Zillow, drooling over granite countertops and in-ground pools, and measure the distance to the nearest Target (i.e. bar). When your spouse walks in, you slap the laptop shut like a teenager caught in the act, knowing you’ll be chastised for getting your hopes up too early about one duty station or another.

You start challenging yourself to cook with nothing, but the ingredients in the pantry (coconut milk and chickpea casserole is surprisingly tasty — said no one ever). You stop going to the stock-up sales at the commissary. You secretly purge bags of old clothes and toys from your kids’ rooms while they’re at school and then fake concern over the missing items.

“What?? You can’t find that t-shirt with the torn sleeve and the kool-aid stain that you outgrew two summers ago? Oh no!! Wherever could it be?!” Parenthood Fakery should be an Oscar category…

It’s that time again for our family. We’ve been in China Lake, CA for nearly three years and are scheduled to PCS this summer. Our days wandering in the desert are supposed to be over. I came, I bloomed where I was planted, and now it’s time to go find a new adventure.

Actually, I shriveled up like a California raisin and could plant corn in the furrows that have developed on my forehead.

Regardless — it’s time to go.

Except it’s not.

We’ve been extended.

For an indeterminate amount of time.

What the hell am I supposed to do now?

I find myself more upset about this than I should be. It’s not that I don’t like China Lake. We’ve had a good tour here and I’ll have fond memories and lasting friendships.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

(Photo by Arnel Hasanovic)

It’s that I feel like something is wrong. The routine is off.

Have I become addicted to moving? After nearly 20 years married to the Navy, it’s become part of my DNA.

Neither my husband nor I had ever moved until we left home for college. And once we started regularly relocating, I started to crave the fresh feeling that comes with it. The removal of baggage, so to speak. The cleaning out of cobwebs — mostly from beneath my furniture, but also from the corners of my mind. A wanderlust that says “this place was fine, but what’s around the next corner?”

One would think that I would have resisted such a nomadic life, having never experienced it as a child. But then again, perhaps if I had gotten to escape my surroundings as a kid I wouldn’t have pretended to be a popular cheerleader named Anastasia on my 8th grade trip to Washington DC. Even then I was desperate for reinvention…

And moving every few years gives me that fresh start. I find it very freeing. If I’m not satisfied with my surroundings, I know it’s only temporary. I don’t have the heavy burden of forever (well, I suppose in theory, marriage is forever, but a few more years of stumbling over boots left in the floor will probably take care of that…)

Now I find myself sitting here with the realization that not only am I not moving…but I don’t know when I will. And now I have to reinvent myself right where I am.

But forget about me having to stop obsessing over the future and concentrate on the present. There’s something way more concerning about staying put.

The only fate that is FAR WORSE than having to move.

Now I have to clean my damn house.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make good coffee in bad places, according to Evan Hafer

Making coffee isn’t strictly relegated to your kitchen or the local coffee shop. People around the world find ways to enjoy a hot brew in high-altitude mountains to the middle of the ocean, and everywhere in-between. A good cup of coffee can make inhospitable conditions more tolerable, but the quality in your cup often suffers without the trappings of your home coffee kit.

Evan Hafer, the CEO of Black Rifle Coffee Company, found a way to make great coffee in one of the most extreme environments on earth: war.


Hafer served as both a U.S. Army Special Forces non-commissioned officer (NCO) and a contractor for the CIA, with assignments that took him to combat zones around the world. Even during the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, he found a way to grind and brew his daily dose of caffeine — without sacrificing quality.

Coffee or Die Magazine caught up with Hafer recently to find out about his battle-tested methods for making good coffee in bad places.

It’s Who We Are: Evan Hafer

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Take good coffee beans with you.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Hafer took premium coffee with him, and his fellow Special Forces teammates often woke up to the sound of a coffee grinder on the back of their gun truck. “I think we were probably the only ODA to take whole bean, good coffee with us. In the mornings, we would always start the day by grinding fresh coffee,” Hafer said. He recommends finding single-origin, high-altitude beans — he prefers Panamanian or Colombian.

Roast your own beans.

By 2006, Hafer was deploying with the CIA but was surprised to find that the coffee options left a bit to be desired: “You’d think the agency, especially with their kind of gucci reputation, would have amazing coffee. But they didn’t.” So he started roasting in his garage and bringing a duffel bag’s worth of beans overseas with him for his 60-day deployments.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Hafer while deployed.

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

A french press is good, but pour over is better.

“I did the french press for a long time, until I had broken so many,” Hafer said. “I eventually found a double-walled, stainless steel one and went through quite a few of those because people would literally steal them, they were in such high demand.” These days, Hafer doesn’t leave home without a custom travel pour-over system that he invented that is much more compact than a french press and has simple, durable components.

How to Make Coffee with BRCC Collapsible Pour Over Coffee Device

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Know the boiling point for the altitude you’ll be at.

You typically want your water to be about 200 degrees Fahrenheit before pouring it over the ground coffee, but deciphering water temperature might seem tricky if you don’t have a thermometer. “I know roughly what temperature water is going to boil at based on the elevation; it’s either going to boil faster or slower,” Hafer said. “You don’t have to put a thermometer in it because you’ll know exactly what the temperature is based on the boiling point.” When planning your next trip, go to omnicalculator.com to quickly find the boiling point for your intended elevation.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Hafer while deployed.

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Get the right coffee-to-water ratio.

According to Hafer, you want approximately a 1:16 ratio of coffee to water. This roughly breaks down to 1 tablespoon of ground coffee for every one cup of coffee (8 ounces). “I know that by eye because I’ve been doing it for so many years. It’s what you do every day [at home] that will allow you to master making coffee in the field,” Hafer said. “All that skill translates to when you’re in shitty places.”

Don’t be intimidated by the process.

As much as the science and logistics of making a great cup of coffee might deter the average person from going through the effort in austere environments, Hafer emphasized that it’s all very doable — and will only take 10 minutes of your time. “At the end of the day, if you have a hand grinder or maybe you’ve pre-ground some coffee, you got an indestructible pour-over and a means to boil water, you’re gonna make a great cup of coffee.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII vet surprised with 50,000 birthday cards

It feels like anything you get in your mailbox nowadays are bills, grocery store ads (wow, $3 raspberries. Thanks, Albertsons), and reminders from your dentist (I know I’m late for my cleaning Dr. Cruz, please stop guilting me). But a very special American hero received a whole lot more than that in his mailbox…


Sue Morse and Duane Sherman (96)

(Kevin Sullivan/The Orange County Register via AP)

Duane Sherman, a World War II veteran from California, recently had quite a big birthday surprise. His daughter, Sue Morse, posted on social media asking for letters to be sent to him for his 96th birthday. She expected maybe a hundred or so cards–but after her social media post went viral, they received over 50,000 hand mailed cards for Duane.

(Kevin Sullivan/The Orange County Register via AP)

Duane Sherman enlisted in the Navy following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He saw combat aboard the U.S.S. Lamson. He was struck by shrapnel from kamikaze pilots aboard the Lamson on December 7th, 1944–exactly 3 years after the Pearl Harbor attacks. The outpouring of support for the WWII veteran came from all walks of life: elementary school kids, prison inmates, Ohio State, and even the Pittsburgh Steelers. Letters were sent from all 50 states, and 10 different countries. The popular forum website “Reddit” reposted the request for letters–and it took the site by storm. Hundreds of thousands of users commented and shared the request, sending in their own handwritten love to the American vet.

Because Duane is legally blind, Sue has taken to reading the cards aloud to him. She’s read over a thousand letters and, according to Fox News, has enlisted the help of friends to complete the task.

In a world wrought with bad news, it’s refreshing to see such a massive gentle act of kindness affect so many people. Perhaps he will get 50,001 on his 97th birthday.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Inside the 8,000-mile race to save a wounded soldier’s life

It all had to sync up perfectly.

As the heavy C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft departed Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, and raced to its first aerial refueling point off the coast of England, more than a dozen U.S. airmen watched the clock, knowing the life of a badly wounded U.S. soldier hung in the balance.

The circumstances were dire. The special operations soldier, unidentified for privacy reasons, had been hit when an improvised explosive device detonated, fracturing his pelvis and gravely injuring his abdomen, arms and legs. It took three aircraft, 24,000 gallons of fuel and about two dozen gallons of blood to sustain the soldier during the 8,000-mile non-stop journey back to the U.S., where he required specialized care.


Nearly a month after the mission, the troops who participated in it are still in awe they were able to get the soldier home alive.

Also amazed is Asia, the special operator’s wife, who is eternally grateful at the way the military mobilized not for combat, but for her husband.

“I knew that they flew straight over, and I knew that they weren’t gonna stop — unless they absolutely had to,” Asia said in an interview with Military.com on Sept. 25, 2019. “They commit 110%.”

A Bona fide bloodline

Early on a Friday morning, Asia was getting ready to take her son to school in Savannah, Georgia, when she got a phone call.

For a moment, time stood still, she said.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, 59th Medical Wing trauma surgeon, and Lt. Col. Scott King, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron critical care air transport team physician, perform an ultrasound on a critically wounded service member during a flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

“At first, I just stood there, and then I started crying,” said Asia, who asked to be identified by only her first name. “You’re not prepared for this, if you understand what I’m saying. You’re more prepared for a death.”

She snapped back to reality, knowing she’d be waiting for any type of answers the military could provide for the next few days until her husband was back on U.S. soil.

Asia had been with her husband for nine years and married to him for seven. Eight of those years, he had been in the Army.

She knew he’d been hurt, and doctors in Afghanistan called or sent a text message any time they had an update.

Maj. Charlie Srivilasa, a trauma surgeon with the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group at Craig Joint Theater Hospital in Bagram, had already had a busy morning with multiple casualties coming in when the soldier arrived at the facility.

Grievously injured, the operator immediately became a priority.

“We probably had about five or six surgeons working on him at any given time,” Srivilasa said. In the three days before the soldier was transported, Srivilasa and his team performed four operations, including amputations of his right arm and lower right leg.

The frequent surgeries meant the patient needed a steady supply of fresh blood.

Roughly 100 troops stood in line to donate blood outside the hospital quarters.

Over the course of treatment at Bagram, the soldier received more than 195 units of transfused blood, including whole blood and plasma — some 16 times the volume of blood in the average person’s body.

A side effect of the massive transfusions was the possibility that his lungs could fail, said Srivilasa. The soldier also could have succumbed to infection from his wounds, he said.

“He was by far the most critically ill patient [we’ve] seen here in theater [in my] four months,” he said. Doctors knew the best thing was to put him on a plane to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where specialized care would be waiting for him.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Service members wait in line to donate blood at Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Aug. 18, 2019, as part of a “walking blood bank” for a fellow service member being transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

Up in the air

Maj. Dan Kudlacz, a C-17 evaluator pilot with the 436th Airlift Wing out of Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, was at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, with a planned stop at Bagram that August weekend when he got word the mission would no longer mean picking up basic cargo. Kudlacz was the commander of REACH 797, the call sign for the mission, and one of four pilots and three loadmasters. One of the pilots in the group was also in training, meaning Kudlacz was working on certifying his fellow pilot in addition to keeping the aircraft steady.

At Ramstein, 18 medical professionals came on board, including personnel from Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) and Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT), as well as a team out of San Antonio’s 59th Medical Wing. Members of the 59th specialize in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, known as ECMO.

ECMO machines oxygenate the blood and simultaneously removed carbon dioxide, explained Air Force Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, a trauma surgeon and one of the specialists dispatched for the flight.

“The ECMO team here in San Antonio is the only DoD team,” she said.

By the time the specialists arrived, fortunately, ECMO was no longer needed, she said. But kidney dialysis was.

“His kidneys did not recover immediately, so in order to stabilize him … we had to have dialysis continuously,” Sams said. The teams borrowed one of Craig Joint Theater Hospital’s dialysis machines for the return home.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Capt. Natasha Cardinal, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron critical care nurse, monitors her patient during a flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

Finishing up their necessary crew rest in Afghanistan, the personnel geared up for the 19-hour flight. Another patient also came on board; that service member was ambulatory, able to move about for the duration of the flight, Sams said.

Kudlacz said the aircrew consistently monitored speed and altitude, knowing there were sensitive medical machines on board keeping the soldier alive. The pilots kept a cruise altitude of 28,000 feet, a few thousand feet lower than expected. “Over a 19-hour flight, [that] can make a considerable change in your total fuel,” he said.

He added that, had the critical soldier taken a turn for the worse, the plan was to divert back to Germany.

Asia, the soldier’s wife, was praying that wouldn’t happen.

“I was told that, if they would have had to stop in Germany, it was because something medically was going wrong,” she said. Air Mobility Command’s 618th Air Operations Center, also known as the Tanker Airlift Control Center (TACC), stood by to provide backup assistance.

During the first refuel near England, there was a close call.

Connecting the C-17 to the KC-135 Stratotanker refueling boom almost sent the two aircraft bobbing and weaving. The KC-135, flying on autopilot — which controls the trajectory of the aircraft — started to change the plane’s pitch, which moves the nose up or down.

Kudlacz and his co-pilot disconnected, backed off and tried again.

“To make the situation even more challenging, it was at night, so you don’t have all the visual cues of a horizon. And then we just happened to be right at the top of a cloud layer,” he said.

In the back of the aircraft, the medical teams were monitoring the soldier’s oxygen level, ventilation, blood pressure and kidney function.

“Regular AE and CCATT [teams] cannot do renal replacement therapy; maybe there are some that have just isolated familiarity with the renal replacement machine,” said Lt. Col. Scott King, CCATT physician with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight at Ramstein.

With the help of the ECMO team, “I think it was a coordinated and collaborative effort among all of the members that brought in different pieces together to allow this mission to be accomplished,” King said.

The C-17 had eight hours until its next refuel near Bangor, Maine. Meanwhile, maintenance crew chiefs with the second KC-135 hurried to get the aircraft, which had a gauge problem on one of the engines, ready to fly, said Maj. Jeffery Osgood, chief of 6th Operations Group training and the aerial refueling mission commander from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

“Adapting to the mission is probably the biggest takeaway. It’s just making sure you have everything ready to go with all the people that you need and all the support from leadership,” Osgood said. A backup tanker was on standby just in case, AMC officials said.

The second tanker caught the C-17 around 2 a.m. Monday morning. Together, the two tankers offloaded 24,000 gallons of fuel.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, 59th Medical Wing trauma surgeon, performs an ultrasound to monitor a patient during a direct flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

“I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and this [is] not something I’ve ever experienced,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Smith, an AE member with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight. The duration and double refuel was not an easy task for the parties involved, he said.

With the amount of equipment and coordination needed, “rarely does it ever work out so perfectly,” he said.

The next journey

Sams, the trauma surgeon, said she’s hopeful the soldier — who has required orthopedic treatment as well as treatment in the burn unit — will be out of intensive care soon. He has months of physical therapy ahead, she said.

Asia is relocating her family to Texas to be closer to her husband as he goes through treatment.

This “is a new normal,” she said. “It’s about four to five months inside the hospital, and then, after that, I would say it’s another six months. So I would say it’s [going to be] a year total.”

Their son will stay with family and friends in Illinois for the next few weeks until Asia and her husband feel he’s ready.

“It’s just a process,” she said. “[But] I feel as though his determination to live and to fight, to come back home, to see me and to see his son has been the number one thing that has kept him alive; and then the good Lord and all the doctors and the medical team.”

She’ll never forget their persistence to save his life.

“They literally put their whole heart in it, their body and soul, and they do what they need to do to get loved ones back [home],” Asia said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 missions of the military working dog

“The relationship between a military working dog and a military dog handler is about as close as a man and dog can become. You see this loyalty, a devotion unlike any other, and the protectiveness.”
– Robert Crais


The United States military has utilized working dogs since the Revolutionary war. They were originally used as pack animals, carrying as much as forty pounds of supplies between units, including food, guns and ammo. Then during World War I, they were used for more innovative purposes, like killing rats in the trenches. However, it was during World War II that there was a surge in the use of military working dogs. The U.S. military deployed more than 10,000 working dogs throughout WWII. These specially trained dogs were used as sentries, scouts, messengers, and mine detectors. It is estimated that there are approximately 2,300 military working dogs deployed worldwide today.

The military working dogs of today are utilized in many different missions and specialties. After intensive training, each dog is then assigned to a specific specialty based on their strengths and abilities. Once the military working dogs are assigned their specialty, they are shipped out to military installations worldwide.

A few of the possible specialties these dogs can be selected for are:

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Sentry dogs

Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers with a growl, bark, or other alert when danger or strangers are nearby. These dogs are valuable assets, especially for working in the dark when attacks from the rear or from cover are the most likely. Sentry dogs are often used on patrols, as well as guarding supply dumps, airports, war plants, and other vital installations.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Scout/Patrol dogs

Scout and patrol dogs are trained with the same skills that sentry dogs are. However, in addition, these dogs are trained to work in silence. Their job is to aid in the detection of ambushes, snipers, and other enemy forces. These particular dogs are somewhat elite among the military working dogs, because only dogs with both superior intelligence and a quiet disposition can be selected for this specialty. Scout and patrol dogs are generally sent out with their handlers to walk point during combat patrols, well ahead of the Infantry patrol.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Casualty dogs

Casualty dogs are trained in much the same way search and rescue dogs are. They are utilized to search for and report casualties in obscure areas, and casualties who are difficult for parties to locate. The time these dogs save in finding severely injured persons can often mean the difference between life and death.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Explosive detection

With the current war on terrorism, explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or in a roadside location is a common threat. Explosive detection dogs are trained to alert their handlers to the scent of the chemicals that are commonly used in explosives. These dogs have such a superior sense of smell that it is nearly impossible to package explosives in a way that they cannot detect.

No matter what their specialty or their mission, the reality is these highly trained K9s are an invaluable part of today’s military. There has yet to be a technology created that can match the ability and heart that military working dogs sustain every day. These dogs are the unsung heroes of the U.S. military, and it is only in recent years that there has been a movement to make sure they are given the appreciation and benefits they deserve. There is constant research going into the best ways to protect them in combat. And along with a push to make K9 Veterans Day an official holiday, there is also a movement to make sure these four-legged heroes are taken care of when their time in service comes to an end.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This new series examines what it’s like to serve during peacetime

There is a very robust veteran community within the entertainment industry. Veterans in Media and Entertainment is a nonprofit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in the film and television industry. The Writers Guild Foundation has a year-long writing program for veterans. And hey, We Are The Mighty is a company founded on a mission to capture, empower, and celebrate the voice of today’s military community.

The military community makes up a small percentage of Americans, but plays a global — and exceptionally challenging — role. It makes sense that many veterans have stories to tell. Not all of those stories are about their military experiences, but many are. Hollywood loves a good hero story, but there’s more to the military than those few moments of bravery.

The military is a mind f*** unique lifestyle, one that does involve war and sacrifice, but also really weird laws and random adventures — and in a Post-9/11 world, we are now seeing an influx of veterans ready to dissect that world.

Enter Xanthe Pajarillo.


How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Xanthe Pajarillo.

“Veteran narratives are begging for more diversity. When our representation in the media is limited to war heroes or trauma victims, it creates a skewed portrait of who service members are,” said Pajarillo, the creator of Airmen, a web series that explores the dynamics of queerness, romantic/workplace relationships, and being a person of color in the Air Force during peacetime operations. It emphasizes the unshakable bonds and relationships that veterans make during their time in service.

Airmen was awarded an “Honorable Mention” from the Tim Disney Prize for Excellence in the Storytelling Arts in 2017. The prize celebrates the courage and commitment to make the world a better place — and the originality to do it through the unique powers of gifted storytelling.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Chloe Mondesir, who will play Airman 1st Class Mercedes Magat.

It’s important to recognize that there is much more to military service than what is traditionally portrayed in film and television (which tends to be the rare stories of heroism in battle and/or the traumatic effects of war).

American society has placed heroes on a pedestal, which is a very high standard to meet for our troops — and one that often involves a life-threatening circumstance. Not every troop will see combat (this is a good thing… but we don’t always feel that way when other members of our team are shouldering the burdens of war), and even those who do engage in battle but live when others die experience survivor’s guilt and symptoms of trauma.

It’s time to tell the reality of military service: the warrior’s tale, yes, but more importantly, the stories of the humans living their lives while wearing the uniform.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

“Ultimately, I created Airmen to help bridge the gap between civilians and veterans. The characters are active duty, but their experiences are universal. We are complex individuals with successes, failures, and insecurities just like everyone else. I hope when someone watches the show – civilian or veteran – they’ll feel less alone in the world,” says Pajarillo.

Which is exactly what Airmen is setting out to do — and now the series is ready for the next stage of production, beginning with a campaign at SeedSpark, a platform designed to change the entertainment industry to reflect the world we actually live in.

The campaign will launch on July 16 and run for 30 days to reach a ,750 goal. Contributions will be used towards production and post-production of nine episodes, each running 5-7 minutes long. Upon completion, the episodes will be released weekly and made available to view on a streaming platform, such as Vimeo or YouTube.

The series stars U.S. Marine Corps veteran (and We Are The Mighty favorite) Chloe Mondesir and U.S. Navy veterans Blu Lindsey and Brandon Elonzae, with many other vets in the cast and crew.

The most authentic way to get military stories is from the people who lived them. Check out the series page and consider contributing to their campaign — it’s a perfect way to thank an artist for their service.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Only a few have gone through the extensive background checks needed to access Plum Island — where a secretive branch of the US government runs exercises to prepare for all-out cyber war.

The speck of land in the Long Island Sound, owned by the Department of Homeland Security is largely deserted. The main attractions are a defunct lighthouse and a center that studies infectious animal diseases.

It is also the perfect setting for the US government to stage mock cyber attacks on the power grid.


Every six months, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — part of the Pentagon — ferries over experts who work to jumpstart a dead grid, while warding off a series of cyber threats.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

A map showing the location of Plum Island, New York.

(Google maps)

The exercise prepares them for a worst case scenario: if hackers succeed in taking the US electric system offline.

In Ukraine people have already seen the consequences of such an attack. Hackers plunged thousands of people into darkness when they compromised parts of the electric grid in 2015 and 2016.

The country’s security services blamed Russia, which had occupied Crimea shortly before, and would ultimately annex it from Ukraine.

The US has not yet seen an attack on its grid. But the FBI and DHS warned that Russian government hackers have in the past managed to access other critical infrastructure like the energy, nuclear, and manufacturing sectors.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

DARPA staged what a cyber attack on the US power grid could look like in November 2018.

(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

Walter Weiss, the program manager overseeing the DARPA exercises, told Business Insider that his team is one of many studying how to defend the grid.

Weiss also sent Business Insider images of the site where DARPA carries out its operations.

“What we do that’s different is that we start from the assumption that an attack would be successful,” Weiss said.

“What scares us is that once you lose power it’s tough to bring it back online… Doing that during a cyber attack is even harder because you can’t trust the devices you need to restore power for that grid.”

Without electricity, the experts cannot count on light, phone service, or access to the computer networks they need to restart the grid. Their only source of power are old-fashioned generators which need to be refueled constantly.

That means the the specialists cannot focus solely on fighting off cyber attacks, Weiss said, because so much of their focus is taken up with other things.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Experts have to jumpstart a dead grid during the exercise.

(DARPA)

Without being able to communicate, the tiniest misstep can set the team back dramatically.

Practicing on Plum Island in particular is useful, Weiss said, because it mimics the isolation that could come with a full-scale cyber attack on the mainland.

“That’s something we like about the island: You have what you brought with you,” he said.

With the exercise, DARPA hopes to reduce how interdependent the different teams are, because it is so hard to coordinate. The less time they need to waste trying to stay in contact, the quicker they can get power back to a population waiting in darkness.

Especially in a developed country like the US, every aspect that citizens consider a basic necessity would be affected — from light, to communication, to running water, to transportation.

“I’m trying to think through whose life would still be normal in the US or in England without power,” Weiss said. “I’m having a really hard time.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam – part one

Richard Rice did two tours in the Vietnam War and went on to have the kind of 30 year career in Special Forces that spanned every major conflict and mission of his generation. And in 2017, he went back to Vietnam for the first time since “Vietnam.”

In this episode, Rich visits the Maison Centrale in Hanoi aka “The Hanoi Hilton.”

I could feel Rich going back in time – planning how his MACV-SOG team could rescue the POW’s trapped behind these walls some 45 years ago.

The approach was beautiful. Wide sidewalks around a lake with a floating ancient temple, past a white tulip garden down a tree-lined street full of Sunday revelers and coffee shops and the excitement of abandon. It felt like Paris.


How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

We turned a corner and then became now deep in our guts and the prison doors were wide open, the scrolled Maison Centrale almost luring us in. We’d been all over Vietnam to date, retracing so many of Rich’s steps of yesteryears and yet here, in this moment, his tension was my tension and we felt trapped. We were just standing there on a sidewalk in front of the Hanoi Hilton beneath the high-rises and the rooftop bars, surrounded by the din of motorbikes and indifference.

There’s nowhere to go, really, if you just want to stand there and feel what it feels like to remember something you wish you could have done, but never did. Five minutes, ten minutes, I can’t remember. But there we stayed. I had a few beers in my ruck and we cracked them open and began another journey back to 2018.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Rich looked around and said, “You know, I’m gonna chalk this up to an impossible mission. I would have happily volunteered to try to get our guys out, but this is impossible.” And he shook his head once and took a deep breath and his consolation prize was seeing it with his own two eyes.

It’s the only time I’ve ever heard him say the word impossible.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

We raised a toast to those who had sacrificed so much inside those walls, and beyond.

The doors were still open but we didn’t want to go in, but we didn’t want to leave. We took a few pictures, Rich said he couldn’t believe he was standing in front of the Hanoi Hilton, drinking a beer. “Of all the things I ever thought I’d do in life, I never thought I’d be doing this. This is crazy.”

And then there was a family next to us and their young boy, whose shirt said “If I was a bird, I know who I’d shit on,” and he kept making peace signs and goofy faces, just like my son does back home. How do you not laugh?

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

The mom said with a big smile, “Are you from America?”
Rich said, “Yes ma’am we are. Are you from here?”

“Yes, Hanoi,” she said, pointing to the ground we were standing on.

So many worlds collided in that moment, and all of them were better for it. It was never and will never be the time to forget, but it was time to move on, to close a circle. A couple pictures with our new friends, one final toast to the fallen, and we were on our way.

A few years back, Rich and I had an immediate connection because we both served in Special Forces. But we became friends as we experienced Vietnam together – the kind of friends you can count on one hand how many you’ll have in your whole life, if you’re lucky.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

He did two tours in the war and went on to have the kind of 30 year career in Special Forces that spanned every major conflict and mission of his generation. A lot of people would call him a hero, a warrior, an American badass, the list goes on.

But all he ever wanted to do was serve America honorably, and earn the respect of the men to his left and right. And he describes himself as lucky to be alive, and then he smiles and says nobody owes him a damn thing. So if you meet him, just call him Rich.

Also read: After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

It is not uncommon to stumble upon live videos while scrolling through Facebook. And for the hundreds of people who follow Army wife Sofia de Falco — who is an adjunct professor of Italian language and literature — it is not uncommon to come across her videos where she is smiling and dancing, uplifting them with a joyful and serene expression on her face. As the hundreds of comments on her posts highlight, Sofia is a source of inspiration and a true beacon of light to many.


But in those videos, Sofia is in a hospital room, wearing a shirt that lightly uncovers the right side of her chest, revealing the central venous catheter that feeds her chemotherapy medicine directly into her bloodstream.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

In February 2019, Sofia was diagnosed with lymphoma. “I found a lump in my groin,” Sofia said. “But I didn’t give it much thought because it wasn’t the first time. I always had them removed and nothing suspicious ever came of it.”

During her Christmas vacation in Naples, Italy — where she is originally from — Sofia developed a dry and irritating cough. “I decided to go to a local doctor and see if there was anything he could do.” After the doctor dismissed her because he couldn’t find anything wrong, Sofia made a follow-up appointment with her PCM in Virginia, where she and her family are stationed.

“As I was leaving my PCM’s office,” Sofia said, “I turned around and told him about the lump in my groin, which had grown in size by then.” The doctor had Sofia lie down, checked the lump and told her to see a hematologist and a surgeon. Although he didn’t explicitly verbalize it at the time, the doctor suspected Sofia had lymphoma.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

He was right. “Since February 2019, I have been going through countless tests and surgical procedures,” Sofia revealed. After being told the first round of chemotherapy — which she faced in “warrior mode,” she said — had worked and she was clear, in November 2019 Sofia’s positive attitude and bright outlook on life was put to the test again. “The cancer came back,” she said. “And this time, I have to fight even harder.” Sofia will have to undergo a stem cell transplant and several rounds of high-dose chemotherapy.

Yet, she dances. As if those tubes were not attached to her body. As if the machine next to her was not feeding her chemo medicine. As if she didn’t suffer from nausea and migraines. She dances as if she were by the beach in downtown Naples, with a bright sun glittering over the Mediterranean Sea in the background, its warm rays caressing her exposed skin.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

“I dance on it,” she said. “Dancing makes me happy, so I know it’s what I’m supposed to do. My body feels so much better after I get up and start dancing, just like one, two, three, four,” she said snapping her fingers as if following the rhythm of an imaginary song.

“Dancing is a way for me to keep away the pain, the sorrow and the negative thoughts,” she admitted. “I believe that it is possible to defeat this beast because I believe in the power of hope.”

And as her hundreds of followers are inspired by her inner strength that shines through her smile, and as the stunned nurses watch her from outside her hospital room while she dances through chemo, she laughs out loud confessing, “You know, I’m actually really bad at dancing!”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Female sailors will get a lot of new hairstyle options

Female sailors can soon sport several new hairstyles including locks, ponytails and options that fall below the collar in certain uniforms, according to new approved regulations announced July 10, 2018.

Lock, or loc, hairstyles and buns that span the width of the back of a female sailor’s head will now be authorized for women in all uniforms. Ponytails will be OK in service, working or physical-training uniforms — provided there’s no operational safety concern. And hairstyles that hit beneath shirt, dress or jacket collars will be approved in dinner-dress uniforms.


The changes were approved by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bob Burke, and announced by six members of a working group during a Navy Facebook Live event.

Richardson credited the working group, which took feedback from the fleet, with coming up with and presenting the new grooming recommendations.

“We just demonstrated that a recommendation can make things happen, so I want to hear from you,” he said.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zane Ecklund)

If a female sailor’s hair falls beneath the collar now, she’s limited to buns, braids or cornrows. Ponytails were only previously authorized in PT uniforms.

In 2017, Richardson approved a move to allow female sailors wearing ball caps to wear their bun through the hat’s opening rather than underneath it.

The Marine Corps was the first service to approve locks for women in 2015. The Army also authorized dreadlocks for women in early 2018

Some black female service members have complained that they’ve been forced to wear wigs in uniform in order for their hairstyles to meet military standards. Hairstyles like locks give those women more options for styling their natural hair.

Richardson said policies and regulations shouldn’t just make the Navy more lethal toward its adversaries, but should also make the service more inclusive.

Full details, including a timeline on the changes and implementation guideline, will be announced in an upcoming service-wide administrative message.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Petition for Fort Hood ‘Hug Lady’ goes viral

For 12 years, she was there for Fort Hood, Texas, troops going to and coming from deployments to combat zones with her engaging smile, words of comfort and, always, that great big hug — maybe a half million of them.

Now, an online petition has been started requesting the Defense Department to rename the place that served as her second home — the Fort Hood Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group terminal (A/DACG) — for Elizabeth Corrine Laird, aka the “Hug Lady.”

The petition, launched May 25, 2019, on the Change.org for-profit petition platform, had gathered more than 63,000 signatures through mid-morning May 30, 2019.


Laird, an Air Force veteran who enlisted in 1950, was a volunteer with the Salvation Army and began coming to the A/DACG in 2003 during the big deployments to Iraq. She continued until her death in 2015 at age 83, after a long battle with breast cancer.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

From left to right: Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Elizabeth Laird, and Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield Sept. 13, 2015.

(36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)

At first, she offered handshakes, but that quickly progressed to hugs from “Miss Elizabeth,” of Copperas Cove, Texas. She would also hand out cards printed with Psalm 91, which says in part: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day.”

Christopher Peckham, of Savannah, Georgia, started the petition. He posted to the Change.org site, “I am honestly shocked that this took off so fast in the last 48 hours. I am going to do further research so we can make this happen!”

Some of those signing the petition also wrote that they had been hugged by Laird.

Jonathan Glessner of Somerset, Pennsylvania, wrote: “3 deployments from Ft. Hood and at least 6 hugs from her. My last deployment, she sat with me and some friends and told jokes and stories. She was truly a wonderful person.”

Matthew McCann of Maryneal, Texas, wrote: “She was there to say goodbye and give a hug when we left. She was a welcoming sight and a hug when we got home. She was a very special lady and she is sorely missed.”

Fort Hood’s “hug lady” loses battle with breast cancer

www.youtube.com

A month before she died, Laird told Today.com about how she approached her mission.

“When they enter the room, they give me a hug, and then we talk about anything from their family to what it was like overseas or if they got a civilian job upon returning,” she said.

“My hugs tell the soldiers that I appreciate what they’re doing for us,” she added.

Her funeral in Killeen, Texas, was attended by hundreds of troops, including generals, and Cecilia Abbott, wife of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Former III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey, who spoke at the funeral, admonished the troops in attendance, “You do not let her legacy die,” the Killeen Daily Herald reported.

Gainey said he was certain that Laird had taken her mission to another venue in heaven.

“Miss Elizabeth is there now, hugging my scouts,” he said, according to the Daily Herald.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why veterans make great artists

It might be easy to assume that military veterans get out and do something similar to what they did in the military, but that’s not always true. In fact, if you do a little research, you’ll find that plenty of us get out and become artists. We’re not just talking about painting and drawing; we’re talking about music and film as well. Either way, veterans can make some damn good art.


Service members may not always be seen as the artistic types, especially not those who served in the infantry, but the truth is that we go through the military and acquire all sorts of knowledge and experience that give us the tools we need to draw d*cks everywhere make great art.

Could it be that we all have stories to tell? Perhaps, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

The things that made our life tough are great for telling stories.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Life experience

We spend lots of time going places and collecting all sorts of experiences that one might not otherwise gain from sitting around their hometown. We get to experience life from a new perspective, and it helps us go from dumb, crayon-eating 18-year-olds to dumb, crayon-eating 22-year-olds with life experience.

This gives us a lot to say and the courage and wisdom to say it.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Even this photo is a great example.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesse Stence)

Attention to detail

In the military, if you don’t notice even the smallest details, people can get hurt. That same quality contributes to making great art — attention to even the smallest of brush strokes.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

We know how to stand almost completely still for hours.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damon Mclean)

Discipline

We can sit down and force ourselves to focus on anything and continuously find ways to get better at it.

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Standing in lines for hours is a great way to build this quality.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Walter D. Marino II)

Patience

Veterans know that good things come with patience. Creating art is no exception to this rule. You simply can’t rush great work. Those that do end up with something like Justice League, and we all know how that turned out (terrible — it was terrible).

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Learning to never quit is your first lesson in the military.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Emmanuel Necoechea)

Persistence 

We don’t give up. We refuse to quit. Ask any artist and they’ll tell you that they’ve dealt with a good amount of rejection.

We’ve been trained to keep attacking an objective until we succeed.

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