Recently, I spoke with the Sergeant Major of the Army about COVID-19 and the challenges and opportunities we are facing right now as an Army and a Nation. He highlighted that now is the time to reassess our goals and set new ones.
One of your goals might be to read a book or two during this time. Goals are important and they are even more important now, as we all deal with the necessary restrictions to stop the spread.
We spoke again this week and he shared his reading list with me. He found that reading has helped him grow professionally and as a person. SMA Grinston also shared that reading helps him take a mental break from the day-to-day stressors of life. He even says that if he wasn’t a reader, he wouldn’t be the Sergeant Major of the Army.
You will notice that most of the books on this list aren’t about military battles or written by people in the Army for people in the Army. For the SMA, he likes to read about things outside the military to get new and fresh ideas. We both hope you find something on here that interests you.
1. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard M. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
This is a controversial book –which is one of the reasons I like it. I read it when I was the FORSCOM Sergeant Major and it’s about choice architecture and how small changes to our environment can make a big difference. For example, the authors discuss an elementary school that placed food in different locations in the cafeteria to “nudge” the kids to make healthier choices…and it worked.
Since reading this book, I look at how I can make small changes to the placement of things in my personal life or in the Army to make it better.
2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek
I read this book as a brigade or division sergeant major, and it reminded me that sometimes in the Army we jump to the end first. When we ask our soldiers to do something, we focus on the how or the what and forget to explain the why.
Our enlisted Soldiers are smart, and when you explain the why to them, it increases their commitment to the mission. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time to explain why we are doing something, especially in the middle of a firefight, but most of the time we can. And as leaders, this is where we need to start.
3. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson and John David Mann
After I was nominated Sergeant Major of the Army, people asked me for the keys to my professional success. I struggled to answer this question until the commander of the Old Guard recommended this book. Slight Edge helped me define for others how to be successful in the Army and how I got to where I’m at today.
The authors of this book look at what happens when you do something that no one else is willing to do and continue to do it over a long period of time. I’ve been in the Army for 32 years and every morning I wake up and do physical fitness. I read books for self-development. Doing those small things over time, year after year, made a difference in the long run. It’s about developing the discipline and commitment over a long period of time to achieve your goals.
4. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
I think I was a Platoon Sergeant or Sergeant First Class when I read this book. Malcolm Gladwell discusses how it’s not only innate abilities that make people successful, other factors play a major role too –like timing.
One of the examples he uses in the book is Bill Gates. Growing up, Bill Gates had access to a computer early in his life which afforded him the opportunity to get 10,000 hours of practice with programming. Yes, he was born in the right place at the right time, but he also took advantage of the opportunity to make himself better.
This book has helped me focus on looking at the opportunities within assignments. I remember when I was nominated to be the brigade sergeant major of an infantry brigade. That job gave me the requisite skills and opened doors that led me down a path to where I am today. We all have the opportunity to be an outlier if we have the right mindset.
5. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
Since reading Mindset, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reference or think about it. She writes about two mindsets: Growth vs. Fixed. A growth mindset says that even though I’m not good at a certain skill, I can learn and get better over time. With a fixed mindset, we don’t even try because we think we can’t grow beyond our current skill set. This line of thinking becomes more dangerous the higher in rank and position that leaders go in the Army.
6. Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness by Annie McKee
I read this one as a corps sergeant major and this is probably my all-time favorite leadership book. Have you ever worked for someone and knew they weren’t listening to anything you said? As leaders, our level of emotional intelligence has a major impact on the morale of our Soldiers. We have to listen to our people and be mindful and show empathy.
This book made me a better leader, sergeant major, and follower. I started paying more attention to my own mindfulness.
I read this one around the time I was a sergeant first class or first sergeant and it taught me about the importance of managing talent. Welch writes that the top 5% of any organization needs to be identified and properly managed. He also writes that there is a large population of strong performers that will never be the top 5%, but are also important to the organization. He discusses how to identify, manage, and motivate both groups.
8. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
This is the hardest book to read on this list. It took me a while to get through but I found it beneficial to understand the psychology of decision-making. I gained a much greater understanding and appreciation for how the mind works.
It’s difficult to read, but it helps us better understand how the mind works. If you like sociology and psychology books, this is a great starting place. The higher I go in position in the Army, the more I realize how important it is to understand human behavior. I have a greater appreciation now for how logic and emotion work together in the decision-making process and I know I’m a better leader and person for it.
I read this one when I was a staff sergeant. I remember my battalion commander making all the officers read it and I wanted to learn something alongside them.
This was another controversial book when it was written. Heinlein uses science fiction to talk about what it means to be a citizen; he addresses the need for corrective training and several other issues that we see playing out today. This book is a fun read and makes for a great discussion between leaders in a unit.
I read this one when I was a brigade sergeant major. It’s a thick one so if you decide to tackle it, it might take you awhile. I like Once an Eagle because it covers an entire career of an individual, his commitment to the Army, and the lessons he learns along the way. I found that when I read it, I put myself in the shoes of the main character and reflected on my own career.
During our interview, Grinston said he hopes you will want to read and take the opportunity now to start the habit of reading for professional development.
“I know life is difficult right now for a lot of people. But we will get through this.”
IT jobs are some of the fastest growing, most secure jobs around today. Although they require a lot of education and experience, military veterans who held similar roles in the military tend to transfer extremely well. We did some research on the IT jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics say are growing the fastest, and these are the most in demand, and will be in the future.
1. Software Developer
What software developers do
Software developers are the technical and creative minds who design and develop software for computer programs and applications.
Duties of software developers:
Analyze users’ needs and then design, test, and develop software to meet those needs
Recommend software upgrades for customers’ existing programs and systems
Design each piece of an application or system and plan how the pieces will work together
Create a variety of models and diagrams (such as flowcharts) that show programmers the software code needed for an application
Document every aspect of an application or system as a reference for future maintenance and upgrades
Collaborate with other computer specialists to create optimum software
Software developers are responsible for overseeing the entire development process for computer systems and applications. One of their main responsibilities is to identify how the users of the software will interact with it. Software developers must also keep in mind the type of security that their software will need in order to protect users.
Developers design and write the instructions for a program, and then give the instructions to the programmers to actually write the code. Some developers, however, might even write the code for the software.
(Photo by Farzad Nazifi)
Work environment of software developer jobs
Software developers typically work in teams that also consist of programmers. They must be able to work together and exchange ideas freely in order for the product to work. Typically, software developers work in an office and work 40 or more hours per week.
How to become a software developer
Software developers usually have a bachelors degree in computer science, software engineering or a related field. If you are going to school for software development you can expect to take courses that focus more on building the software. Many students gain experience by completing an internship with a software company while they are in college.
Even though writing code is typically not the responsibility of the developer, they still must have a strong background in computer programming. Through the course of their career developers will need to stay familiar with the newest computer tools and languages.
Software developers must also have knowledge of the industry they work in. For example, a developer working on digital recruitment software should probably have some knowledge about how the recruiting industry works.
Looking closer, the employment of applications developers is expected to grow by 31%, while system developers is expected to grow by 11%. The need for new applications on smart phones and tablets contributes to the high demand for applications developers.
The insurance industry is expected to need new software to help their policy holders enroll. As the number of people who use this software grows over time, so will the demand for developers.
Growing concerns with cybersecurity will contribute to the demand for software developers to design security systems and programs.
Job applicants who are proficient in multiple computer programs and languages will have the best opportunity to secure employment.
2. Information Security Analyst
What information security analysts do
Information security analysts are responsible for creating and overseeing security measures to protect an organization’s computer systems and digital assets from cyberattacks.
Duties of information security analysts:
Monitor their organization’s networks for security breaches and investigate a violation when one occurs
Install and use software, such as firewalls and data encryption programs, to protect sensitive information
Prepare reports that document security breaches and the extent of the damage caused by the breaches
Conduct penetration testing, which is when analysts simulate attacks to look for vulnerabilities in their systems before they can be exploited
Research the latest information technology (IT) security trends
Develop security standards and best practices for their organization
Recommend security enhancements to management or senior IT staff
Help computer users when they need to install or learn about new security products and procedures
Information security analysts are heavily leaned upon to create their organization’s disaster recovery procedures, which allow an IT department to continue operating in the face of an emergency. Because cyberattacks are so common and dangerous now, these measures are extremely important to the stability of an organization.
Analysts must be familiar with how cyber attackers are operating, and be prepared for new ways they may infiltrate a computer system.
(Photo by Markus Spiske)
Work environment of information security analysts
The work environment of IT security analysts is typically set in the headquarters of a company so that they can monitor the computer systems, unless the company has a separate office strictly for their computer networks. As you can imagine, the majority of their work involves being on computers and monitoring for unusual activity.
Most IT security analysts work at least 40 hours per week, and some work more than that. They often work in teams and may even have specific people assigned to monitoring different aspects of a network.
How to become an information security analyst
To become an IT security analyst you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in a computer-focused field, and many employers prefer a masters degree and some work related experience. A Master of Business Administration in information systems is the preferred degree for upper level positions. This is where military experience comes into play. If you had experience in this field in the military, you will have a great edge over your competition.
Information security analysts are very well paid and will enjoy great job security and profession growth in the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of information security analysts was ,510 as of May 2017. Employment of information security analysts is expected to increase 28% by 2026, which is considerable faster than the average occupation is expected to grow over that same time period.
Because cyberattacks are so common now, information security analysts will see a high demand for their job in the future. They will be expected to come up with innovative solutions to combat cyberattacks. As banks and other financial institutions continue to increase their online presence, they will need to ensure the safety of their own data and that of their users. This is true for many organizations, which makes information security analysts valuable.
Prospects who have prior experience, such as military veterans, are expected to have the best chance at gaining employment. Additionally, having special certifications and advanced degrees will be preferred moving forward.
Companies hiring for information security jobs
AECOM: AECOM is built to deliver a better world. We design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries.
ORACLE: At Oracle, our vision is to foster an inclusive environment that leverages the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of all of our employees, suppliers, customers and partners to drive a sustainable global competitive advantage.
Oracle: At Oracle, our vision is to foster an inclusive environment that leverages the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of all of our employees, suppliers, customers and partners to drive a sustainable global competitive advantage.
Paratroopers are a force to be reckoned with. They can slip far behind enemy lines and wreak havoc against an enemy’s support units, making life easier for those in the main assault and striking fear into those who assumed they were safely behind defenses. What’s worse (for the enemy), after the initial airborne assault, you’re left with the famous “little groups of paratroopers” — small pockets of young men brave enough to jump out of an airplane, all armed to the teeth, ready to defend themselves, and devoid of supervision.
But for as daring and lethal as paratroopers are, they’re still, essentially, light infantry once they hit the ground. Light infantry can do a lot of things, but when they’re tasked with hitting prepared positions or facing off against enemy tanks, they tend to take heavy casualties.
So, how do you reinforce troops that drop from the sky? You drop armor out of the sky, too.
The BMD-1 was the Soviets’ answer to the question of bringing armored support to their paratroopers.
In 1965, the Russians began designing an infantry fighting vehicle that could be air-dropped. Eventually, this came to be known as the BMD-1. BMD stands for Boyevaya Mashina Desanta or, in English, “airborne combat vehicle.”
The BMD-1 packs some impressive firepower: it uses the same turret as the BMP-1, packing a 73mm gun, a launcher for the AT-3 Sagger missile, a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun, and a bow-mounted 7.62mm machine gun. This vehicle has a crew of two and carries five infantry. It has a top speed of 40 miles per hour and can go a little over 370 miles on a tank of gas.
The BMD-1 was widely exported. Saddam Hussein’s regime was one of the purchasers.
(USMC photo by LCPL Andrew P. Roufs)
Unlike its American contemporary, the M551 Sheridan, a vehicle designed to support American paratroopers in similar ways, the BMD was exported to a number of Soviet clients. The BMD saw action in the Angolan Civil War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, Desert Storm, and fought in the Second Chechen War and the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
Learn more about this 7.5-ton hunk of metal that’s designed to be dropped from the sky in the video below!
“By that time I was a trainer of heart surgeons for the Army,” Lough said in the video below. “I reached a point in my Army career where the future really held more and more administrative responsibilities and I really wanted to continue using my hands.”
He left the military to continue to do what he loved in a safe, private practice. He performed thousands of surgeries on his way to becoming director of his department at The George Washington University Hospital. He was living the definition of success in his second career.
But after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the call to service began to tug at him.
“I had always considered myself a soldier, and now there was a need for military surgeons, and so I engaged the reserves about joining,” he said.
He wasn’t taking no for an answer.
“You want me to carry water?” he said about a conversation with recruiters. “I’ll carry water.”
He joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps Reserves and returned to service in 2007 at age 58. He deployed to Afghanistan twice, saving hundreds of lives on the front lines before going full active in 2013.
Watch Lough deliver his incredible service story and powerful message about personal growth in this short AARP video:
A U.S. intelligence worker who pleaded guilty to sending a secret report on Russian election cyberattacks to a news website was sentenced on Aug. 23, 2018 to five years in prison by a federal court in Georgia.
Reality Winner, 26, a U.S. Air Force veteran with a top-secret clearance who was working for an intelligence contractor, admitted to leaking secrets to The Intercept, which published details of the National Security Agency document in June 2017.
The revelation dealt with Russian hacking targeting a company that supplies election technology.
The U.S. Justice Department said Winner printed out and mailed the report in May 2017 to the website, which specializes in investigative reporting on national security topics.
She was arrested in June 2017 and reached a plea agreement two months ago, admitting one count of unlawful retention and transmission of national defense information.
A federal judge in Augusta, Georgia, accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Winner to five years and three months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
The sentence is the longest ever given to someone for illegally disclosing government information, Winner’s attorneys said, and it comes amid efforts by the White House to crack down on leaks to the press.
John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said Winner’s leaks “put our nation’s security at risk” and he hoped that her jail sentence “will deter others from similar unlawful action in the future.”
Betsy Reed, editor in chief of The Intercept, said that Winner should be honored and that her sentencing and other prosecutions of whistle-blowers are attacks on freedom of speech and of the press.
“Instead of being recognized as a conscience-driven whistle-blower whose disclosure helped protect U.S. elections, Winner was prosecuted with vicious resolve by the Justice Department,” Reed said.
Featured image: Reality Winner is seen in a photo released by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in the U.S. state of Georgia.
This time of year, the subject of dieting is very popular with the promise of quick weight loss, but it’s important to carefully choose your weight-loss strategy. Doing so can help you can drop unwanted pounds safely and successfully — and boost your performance. The below info was provided by Ms. Carolyn Zisman, a nutritionist working at the Human Performance Resource Center.
Diets that are typically very low in carbs (less than five percent of calories or 50 grams daily) and high in fat (70–80 percent) can put you into ketosis. This means your body is producing ketones, which uses stored fat (instead of carbs) for energy. Aside from glucose from carbs, ketones from fat are the only fuel your brain can use. You might lose more weight on a moderate-protein, high-fat diet than a typical low-fat one.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd A. Schaffer)
Additionally, you can lower some risks for heart disease and type two diabetes. These diets also eliminate sugars and sweeteners, and they help you increase your intake of vegetables, omega three-rich seafood, nuts, and seeds. However, keto-type diets eliminate all grains, pastas, breads, beans, starchy vegetables, and nearly all fruit, which are critical sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Carb restriction also might lead to underfueling, hunger, fatigue, depression, irritability, constipation, headaches, and “brain fog,” which can affect your performance. Ketosis might make it harder to meet the extreme physical and mental challenges of your duties, too.
Keto-type diets are also tough to maintain because there are carbs in nearly all foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, and peanuts), dairy products, and grains. Since your body needs to sustain ketosis for weight loss, it might be especially hard in environments with limited food options.
High-protein, moderate-fat diets focus on foods that your hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, including fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, nuts and seeds. They’re also high in fiber and low in sodium and refined sugars. In addition, they’re generally healthy and not too hard to follow — whether you’re at home, the mess hall, or eating out.
Since these diets rely heavily on fresh food, it sometimes can take longer to plan meals. Fish and grass-fed meat can be expensive, too. Caveman-type diets also exclude entire food groups—such as whole grains, dairy, and legumes—and increase your risk for nutrient deficiencies. Also, there’s no difference in a high-protein, low-carb diet vs. a reduced-calorie diet for weight loss.
Vietnamese chefs teach Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) how to prepare local dishes.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tom Tonthat)
Carbs are your body’s preferred fuel source, and limiting them can lower your performance. While a low-carb diet is easier to do because you can eat carb-rich, starchy vegetables such as potatoes or squash, there might be times when this isn’t practical, especially if you’re on a mission with MREs or limited produce.
Intermittent fasting (IF) essentially involves skipping meals for partial or full days (12–24 hours), severely restricting calories for several days in a row, or eating under 500 calories on two non-consecutive days.
While some research from animal studies shows that restricted eating might benefit longevity, there’s no evidence that it affects longevity in humans. However, those diagnosed with type two diabetes might be able to manage their blood sugar with IF. Fasting also can be effective with an average weight loss of 7–11 pounds over 10 weeks.
Still, IF can be hard for someone who needs to eat every few hours to sustain energy for physical and mental performance. Some will overeat on non-fasting days, so IF isn’t recommended for those with disordered eating or type one diabetes — or if you take medications that require food.
Weight loss comes down to energy balance: Eat less or move more to burn extra calories. In terms of performance, you need to eat more often to ensure you’re always sufficiently fueled, so fasting can be a challenge.
Cleansing or detoxification
“Detox” diets — also called “cleanses” or “flushes” — claim to help remove toxins from your body, leading to weight loss. Cleanses includes diets, supplements, drinks, laxatives, enemas, or a combination of these strategies.
Non-laxative cleanses or juice fasts can jump-start quick weight loss, but you still need to follow up with a proper approach that is realistic and sustainable. Since your calorie intake is very low on these particular days, it also can affect your physical performance.
Fort Monroe’s Staff Sgt. Joshua Spiess prepares a head of garlic while competing for the Armed Forces Chef of the Year.
(U.S. Army photo)
Detox-related weight loss is often only temporary and likely results from water loss. You also might gain weight when you resume normal eating. Extreme low-calorie diets can lower your body’s basal metabolic rate (the number of calories needed to perform basic, life-sustaining functions) as it struggles to preserve energy. Detox diets, which often require some fasting and severely limit protein, also can cause fatigue. They can result in vitamin, mineral, and other essential nutrient deficiencies in the long term, too. And the jury’s still out on whether detox diets actually remove toxins from your body. Depending on the ingredients used, detox diets also can cause cramping, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and dehydration, so they aren’t recommended for healthy and safe weight loss.
What’s the best way to lose weight and keep it off?
Quick weight loss (more than two pounds per week) can backfire in terms of health and weight maintenance. If you eat too little, your body might use muscle for fuel, instead of carbs (primary fuel) or fat (secondary fuel). Muscle burns more calories than stored fat, so losing muscle can actually slow your metabolism and ultimately make it harder to lose weight and keep it off.
The best approach is one that provides enough fuel — fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy fats — to perform your duties and preserve muscle. Read HPRC’s “Warfighter Nutrition Guide” for tips to maintain your overall health and body weight.
For safe weight loss, make sure you are not causing harm and still have enough physical and mental strength to perform well. Work with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to create a healthy eating plan. You also want to make lifestyle changes that include exercise, so you can stay in warrior-athlete shape.
The Air Force and DARPA are now testing new hardware and software configured to enable 4th and 5th Generation aircraft to command drones from the cockpit in the air, bringing new levels of autonomy, more attack options, and a host of new reconnaissance advantages to air warfare.
Working with BAE Systems at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Air Force test pilots are combining ground-based simulators with airborne learjets to demonstrate how 4th generation cockpit avionics can direct drones from the air, BAE Systems developers said.
“The airplane was structurally configured to allow us to take our autonomy hardware and connect it directly to the flight control system of the airplane,” Skip Stolz, Director of Strategic Development for Autonomy Control, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Demonstrations with specially configured learjets are intended as an interim step on route to integrating this kind of system into an operational F-15, F-16 or even F-35, developers said.
Using standard data-link technology, the jets operate with a semi-autonomous software called Distributed Battle Management, which enables new levels of compressed airborne data transfer, weapons integration, and sensor operations, Stolz explained.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.
A recent Mitchell Institute paper, titled “Manned-Unmanned Aircraft Teaming: Taking Combat Airpower to the Next Level,” cites Distributed Battle Management software as a “system-of-systems future landscape for warfare, in which networks of manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors, and electronic warfare systems interact.”
The paper adds that DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory successfully tested DBM in 2017.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators, Global Hawks and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations. However, due at least in part to rapid advances in autonomy, the concept of an autonomous or “semi-autonomous” wingman – is arriving even faster than expected.
DARPA, Air Force Research Laboratory and industry have been developing this concept for quite some time now. The current trajectory, or rapid evolution of processing speed and advanced algorithms is enabling rapid acceleration. A fighter-jet aircraft will be able to provide a drone with tasks and objectives, manage sensor payload and direct flight-path from the air.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-15, F-22 or F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
A pilot peers up from his F-22 Raptor while in-flight.
The Mitchell Institute essay also points to a less-frequently discussed, yet highly significant advantage offered by manned-unmanned teaming. Simply put, it could massively help mitigate the current Air Force bomber and fighter jet shortage. It is often mentioned that there simply are not enough Air Force assets available to meet current demand. As a result, having a massive fleet of fighter-jet operated drones could radically increase the operational scope of Air Force missions.
In particular, the Mitchell Institute paper mentions that ever since B-2 and F-22 production were cut well short of the initial intent years ago – the Air Force has since been forced to operate with insufficient air assets.
“A resource of 185 fighters (F-22s) and 20 bombers (B-2s) is fundamentally limited in world where their capabilities are in high demand. Airmen and their aircraft, no matter how well trained or technologically advanced, cannot be in two places at once,” the paper writes.
Fighter-jet controlled drones could also be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots. Furthermore, given the fast-evolving efficacy of modern air-defenses, drones could fly into high-threat or heavily contested areas to conduct ISR, scout enemy assets and even function as a weapons truck to attack enemy targets.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and AI are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Air Force scientists describe as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“Different people have different views. We believe in a control-based approach that leverages AI but does not relinquish control to AI. As a pilot develops trust, he knows what that aircraft can do and tells it to do something,” Stolz said.
U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.
Currently, there is widespread consensus that, according to DoD doctrine, decisions regarding the use of lethal force should always be made by a “human-in-the-loop,” despite advances in autonomy which now enable unmanned systems to track, acquire and destroy targets without needing human intervention.
Nevertheless, the Mitchell Institute paper introduces a way to maintain this key doctrinal premise, yet also improve unmanned enemy attacks through what DARPA and the Air Force Research Lab call “adaptive kill webs.”
“DARPA and AFRL will form adaptive kill webs in which autonomous aircraft flying in collaboration with manned aircraft could receive inputs from a range of actors… such as a pilot of a manned aircraft,” the paper says.
By extension, the paper explains that – in the event that a pilot is shot down – drone command and control operations could shift to a larger manned “battle manager” aircraft such as an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System or E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities, the former Air Force Chief Scientist told Warrior Maven in a previous interview.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Air Force scientists have explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable. Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet — successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan. Army program managers have told Warrior Maven that manned-unmanned teaming enables Apache pilots to find and identify enemy targets, before they even take off.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, the B-21 Raider, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
Interestingly, the Mitchell Institute paper references a current Air Force-Boeing effort to engineer older F-16s so that they could function as drones.
“In 2017, Boeing, the prime contractor for the QF-16 charged with reactivating the legacy fighters from their desert storage and making necessary modifications, was awarded a .6 million contract to convert 18 F-16s into QF-16 target drones,” the paper writes.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed — given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
“When it comes to certain kinds of decision making and things requiring an intuitive contextual understanding, machines are not yet able to do those things. Computers can process huge amounts of data,” Stolz said
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to make more subjective determinations or respond quickly to a host of interwoven, fast-changing variables.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly, the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
There’s an extraordinary brotherhood that exists among us but few will ever actually meet these honored members. Like our sacred flag, woven together by humility, valor and extreme courage, this is a community of men who never sought recognition — rather earned it — through their own strength, service and sacrifice. These incredible heroes are the recipients of the Medal of Honor.
In the military community, these men are treated with an indescribable reverence; a gratitude that runs deep because of the understanding of the gravity of the citation. Most of these men shouldn’t be alive and many who have earned the Medal never lived to see it. But in the civilian community, the awards often blend together, confusing hearts with crosses, silver with purple.
Now, a major motion picture is closing that information gap, educating the public on the Medal of Honor while pulling at your heartstrings. The Last Full Measure, in theaters nationwide on January 24, has an all star cast that tells the incredible, true story of William H. Pitsenbarger. Pitsenbarger was a U.S. Air Force Pararescueman credited with saving over 60 men after an ambush on the Army’s 1st Infantry Division during a battle in Vietnam. The story couples his heroic actions with the relentless efforts, spanning three decades, made by the men he saved to ensure he was posthumously honored.
Following the Washington, D.C. premiere screening of The Last Full Measure, We Are The Mighty had the opportunity to sit with Medal of Honor recipient First Lieutenant Brian M. Thacker and Medal of Honor Foundation Vice President of External Affairs Dan Smith, to get their take on the movie.
WATM: Tell me your thoughts on the movie.
Thacker: This fills in so many blanks. I knew the Pitsenbarger story and then all of a sudden it kind of happened. In the story, it becomes very clear. The question you have is what was the Air Force guy doing with a leg unit in the first place? And then you think about it and yeah, it’s exactly how it works: the guys closest respond to the call. They were doing joint operations back then and they didn’t even know it. The movie is no frills, a straight story of not just Pitsenbarger, but the whole unit that kept the dream of the award moving forward. It’s a story that needs to be told. There’s a story like that behind every Medal of Honor ever presented.
If you were over there, you know there are many other stories that deserve to be recognized. For a long time, Pitsenbarger was one of them.
WATM: I understand why this story is so important for the Medal of Honor brotherhood and to the veteran population. Why do you think it’s critical for civilians to see as well?
Thacker: First of all, they need to learn what the Medal means. It’s not a me award. Pitsenbarger is the medic with the award, but it really goes to all of the men in that company that were put in an untenable situation. The stories that came out of what happens as a result are equally as important. It’s not over when the shooting stops. The camaraderie and the close bond of serving together is what gets us through.
WATM: There’s a great line in the movie about how the medal means so much more than a battle; it’s the story behind it that connects us all. What story does your medal tell?
Thacker: The other half of the story behind mine is that of a Recon Sergeant that got an assignment he didn’t want but came out with a DSC. My guess is that his citation, like mine, was written at the highest level. But our unit was a Joe six pack, a bunch of people from all over the country that didn’t realize how untenable our situation was really going to be until the first shot was fired. Then it was, ‘Oh Lord, just let us hang on. We just need to get through this day.’ It all comes down to everyone just trying to help each other get through the day. Certainly you don’t do it by yourself.
WATM to Smith: What does having a MOH recipient in the audience tonight mean to you?
Smith: It’s beyond special. Young airman Pitsenbarger’s story is inspiring and remarkable. What we try to do and what our mission is, is to raise resources to let recipients tell their stories and to bring that and the legacy of the Medal to the communities. The most senior leaders in our military and our government talk about the less than one percent who serve and this growing civilian and military divide.
For these gentlemen to be able to tell their stories, not just to the military but to the community will close this gap. I’m hopeful that everyday people will see this movie, hear these heroic stories and change the ambivalence that often comes without knowing the impact of the award. So many men came home from Vietnam and weren’t able to tell their stories. I’m hopeful this will reach not just veterans of that generation but the younger generations as well.
WATM: What do you think this film teaches the next generation?
Thacker: We did everything we could to bury Vietnam. The young people that were born after the war grew up in the dark, unless you were living with a Vietnam veteran and you were living it right with your dad. It’s very symbolic. We see the same thing with young people who volunteered after 9/11; this mentality that I need to be a part of this. It’s 50 years later but it’s the same ethic that bubbles up.
You can take that notion of service far beyond the military. It’s in the fire departments, police departments and even the teaching community; this sense of service above self. You see bits and pieces of that in this movie and I hope it’s one the kids will watch because it’s living history.
WATM: Was there any particular scene in this movie that really resonated with you?
Thacker: When Pitsenbarger realized he had to go down to help them to teach them how to use the litter. Being in that position does something to your pucker factor. People who have been there, you can ask them: ‘Do you remember what it felt like?’ They’ll tell you they were very afraid. Knowing you are in over your head and wondering who you turn to for help, that happens all the time. There will be a lot of people who understand that feeling of all of a sudden being in charge.
WATM: As a MOH recipient, I imagine you’re invited to events like this all of the time. Is there a particular event you have been a part of that has had a profound impact on your life?
Thacker: Being able to attend an Inauguration and to witness the peaceful transfer of power was an incredible experience. I don’t think people understand how truly special and uniquely American that is.
WATM: Is there anything else you want people to know about either you or the Medal of Honor Foundation?
Thacker: We still have something to say. I remember when the Baby Boom generation wasn’t going to amount to much. Now we’re saying the same thing about Millenials, and I promise you, we’ll be as wrong about them as our parents were about us. That willingness to stand up and take the risk is fairly common.
Smith: These men have incredible stories to tell. My hope is that through films like The Last Full Measure we’ll be able to connect communities with this heroism.
The Last Full Measure will be in theaters January 24. These stories deserve to be told and the valor of The Medal of Honor should live on through all of us. Perpetuating the legacy should be our collective Last Full Measure.
A Chinese warship threatened a US Navy destroyer during a tense showdown in the South China Sea in late September 2018, according to new details of the encounter.
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 052C Luyang II-class destroyer challenged the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese warship sailed within 45 yards of the American vessel, nearly colliding with the US destroyer.
The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to change course to avoid a collision.
A transcript of the radio exchange between the two naval vessels obtained by the South China Morning Post from the British Ministry of Defense shows that the Chinese ship threatened the Decatur, warning that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not move.
“You are on [a] dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio. “If you don’t change course, [you] will suffer consequences.”
“We are conducting innocent passage,” the Decatur reportedly replied.
In a video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying that the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”
The video is a little unclear, but there appear to be ship fenders deployed off deck, Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, noted on Twitter. He explained that “fenders are designed to mitigate the kinetic impact of a collision,” adding that the deployment is “clearly an indication of preparedness for such an eventuality.”
Ankit Panda, a foreign-policy expert who is a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”
Unsafe or unprofessional encounters between the US Navy and the Chinese military are, however, not particularly uncommon. “We have found records of 19 unsafe and/or unprofessional interactions with China and Russia since 2016 (18 with China and one with Russia),” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, recently told CNN.
A number of these incidents involved dangerous Chinese intercepts of US Navy aircraft. In August 2018, the Chinese military sent a total of six warnings to a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, warning it to “leave immediately and keep out.”
It is potentially noteworthy that the details of the showdown between the US and Chinese warships in the South China Sea came from the British Ministry of Defense, as a British naval vessel also found itself in a standoff with the Chinese military in the South China Sea not too long ago.
In early September 2018, China dispatched a frigate to to take on the UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion when it sailed too close to Chinese outposts in the Paracel Islands. China called the incident a provocation and warned that it would “take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”
The US Navy is apparently expecting incidents like this to occur more frequently going foward. The US and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas,” Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Oct. 30, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Imagine being at your regular guard shift and your relief commander comes in and accidentally stabs you in the foot. Most of us would have trouble walking and go to the hospital. We certainly wouldn’t finish our shift.
But we aren’t The Old Guard.
A video taken by a visitor to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery captured a bayonet mishap – the last thing anyone wants to hear after the word “bayonet.”
The Old Guard – soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry guard the Tomb of the Unknowns 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in any weather and even the middle of a hurricane.
Every half hour, the guard, called a Tomb Guard Sentinel, is changed. the changing begins with a white glove inspection of the outgoing guard’s rifle.
A video captured by YouTube user H Helman shows the Tomb Guard Commander accidentally losing his grip on the rifle and putting the bayonet through the guard’s foot.
The look on the guard’s face never changes. There’s clearly a shock to the system as the bayonet slides home, but all you ever see from the guard is a very slight wince.
The Old Guard is trained and drilled meticulously to maintain their professionalism, military bearing, and discipline. Accidents and outbursts from the Sentinels are extremely rare. As a matter of fact, if you weren’t watching this incident closely, you may even miss what happened.
Instead of running away, being carted off, or even being relieved, the Sentinel who was stabbed carried on with his shift. He marched back and forth along his route, blood oozing from his foot as he walked.
Neither he, the commander, nor the other Sentinels ever missed a beat. They sharply finished their watch. This kind of discipline is the reason 90 percent of the soldiers who try to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns wash out of training.
If you want to look good without a shirt on, you need to sweat, eat clean, and lift weights over a long period of time. That’s sort of a no-brainer. If you want to look the way Dax Shepard, Ryan Hansen, and The Rock do on Instagram, though, you will also need a few tricks straight out of the movies. You see, celebrities and Instagram stars don’t actually look that good all the time. They prep their bodies for upcoming projects the way you prep your house before company comes over. (It’s not really that neat all the time, right?) So with a week to go before you and the family hit sand and surf, it’s time to change up your food, hydration, and exercise regimen to put the final touches on your look. Plus, a little baby oil can’t help to make the muscle you do have stand out. Here’s what you need to do to look good this coming weekend.
1. Drink up
It’s a myth that drinking too much liquid will make you look bloated. Actually, when your body sense dehydration, it responds by storing whatever water you do drink under the skin surface, creating a puffy look. Drink 8 to 10 glasses of H2O a day, and avoid caffeinated soda and coffee, which do cause fluid retention and increase the odds of bloating.
Baby oil will work. So will olive oil. Both nourish dry skin while adding an all-important sheen to your look. This is key because a shiny surface accentuates the ripples and bulges you’ve been building at the gym, while generously glossing over less-than-perfect areas.
3. Flex first
In the minutes after you do a weights workout, your biceps and pecs are filled with blood, pumping them up to size XL. If big is what you’re going for, hit the gym right before you hit the beach.
Yeah, it sounds sketchy. But a bear rug on your backside isn’t just unbecoming, it also disrupts your body’s symmetry and smooth lines, making you look shorter and wider than you really are. True, you could shave it off, but waxing looks better and lasts longer.
5. Hit the steam room
Did you know that the average race car driver sweats out 8 to 10 pounds during a race? While chronic dehydration can cause your body to store water in ways that make you look bloated (see above) a quick trip to the steam room or sauna will help you whittle your way down a size if you’re looking for an 11th-hour Hail Mary. Fifteen minutes is fine — too much steaming will make you feel dizzy and fatigued.
6. Hit those vanity muscles
With just seven days, now is not the time to focus on muscle-specific exercises. You want compound movements — workouts that load up several major muscle groups at once — to get the most mileage out of your sweat sessions. Five that get the job done (do three sets of 10 reps each, once a day): Burpees, lunges, pushups, pullups, and planks (skip the reps for planks and do three 60-second holds).
In the long haul, skimping on carbs is stupid: They’re the primary source for workout energy and exactly what your body needs for a 3 PM pick-me-up. But in the short term, when you deplete your body’s store of carbs, you force it to burn fat for fuel, temporarily helping you lose more weight. Meanwhile, lean protein helps build lean muscle, so throw another T-bone on the grill.
8. Stand up
Your mama always told you to quit slouching, and evidence suggests when it comes to beach bodies, she was onto something. The straighter you stand, the taller you look, and the slimmer you appear. Focus on pulling your shoulder blades together as you walk.
You didn’t hear this from us, but using bronzing powder down the sides of your abs and along that V-shaped area from your hips to your privates, can give the illusion of sculpting where there is none. Just be sure to blend it with the surrounding skin so it doesn’t look like you’re headed to a Halloween costume party.
10. Skip the salt
Nothing makes your body hang onto excess water like too much sodium. While a little salt is good (it’s an electrolyte that helps regulate important organ functions), most of us eat way more than we should. This week, be extra-conscious of not adding salt to your breakfast eggs and dinner veggies.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The sun was fading behind Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains the evening of June 27, 2005, as a team of four U.S. Navy SEALs walked up the ramp and into the back of U.S. Army Captain Matt Brady’s MH-47 Chinook helicopter on Bagram Air Base.
Tasked with inserting the SEAL special reconnaissance (SR) team deep into enemy territory in unforgiving terrain, Brady knew the SEALs — Lieutenant Michael Murphy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Axelson — had a difficult mission ahead. Marines in the area knew it was an extremely dangerous place filled with Taliban fighters.
Brady had no way of knowing at the time, but it would be the last time anyone at Bagram would ever see three of those four Americans alive.
The Afghanistan mountains and forest from the valley where soldiers searched for the remains of the three SEALs who were killed in action. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
The Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) is known for having some of the most skilled aviators in the world, who fly the most elite special operators into some of the most austere environments on earth using the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. military inventory. They are famous for the roles they played in both the Battle of Mogadishu and the mission to kill Usama Bin Laden but are revered throughout the special operations community for acts of valor that often never see the light of day due to the classified nature of their work.
As a pilot in the 160th, Brady was the air mission commander for the operation. He and some of his fellow “Night Stalkers” felt the SEALs’ plan was too risky.
The mission was to capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a Taliban commander. The three-phase plan called for inserting a four-man SR team the first night, then inserting the second element of SEALs the following night to establish an isolation zone around Shah. Finally, 150 U.S. Marines would come in to establish blocking positions for the SEALs’ assault on Shah’s compound.
The Night Stalkers’ job was to insert the SEALs on a ridgeline where the terrain left few options for landing zones. The commandos would have to descend from a rope — fast-rope — while the helos hovered high above the trees. That meant if the SEALs got into trouble, extraction would potentially require the use of a hoist to pull the SEALs out, which was a time-consuming and dangerous option.
As he approached the insertion site, Brady could see lights dotting the mountains below through his night-vision goggles.
An MH-47 Chinook with 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and a KC-130J Super Hercules with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 conduct aerial refueling during Exercise Yuma Horizon 19. Photo by Lance Cpl. Seth Rosenberg, courtesy of DVIDS.
“This was a desolate part of the Hindu Kush, and at night, you wouldn’t really expect to see much,” Brady told Coffee or Die. “Not really sure who they were, but there was more activity than I expected.”
As the pilots climbed the last 1,000 feet of elevation, the AC-130 crew providing overwatch on their destination radioed to say they had to leave their position due to a mechanical issue. Brady knew that surveillance aircraft going off station without backup was supposed to result in aborting the mission.
He asked the AC-130 crew for one final report on the four potential landing zones the Night Stalkers had identified for the mission.
“We’ve got two military-aged males, possibly armed, on the northernmost LZ,” the crew reported. “Primary and secondary zones appear to be clear of potential threats.”
Believing the gunship could make it back on station in time for the insertion, Brady made the call to continue the mission.
From left, SGT Carlos Pacheco (3/160 medic, former 3/75), SFC Marcus V. Muralles (Legend – 3/160 medic), MAJ Sam Sauer (3/160 flight surgeon), SFC L.E. Shroades (medic R/160), SGT Dan Bell (E Co/160) during during the timeframe of Operation Red Wings. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
Approaching the insertion point, the pilots flared the Chinook and came into a hover. As the lead aircraft descended, it became clear the LZ was on a steep slope of the mountain, making descent difficult due to the front rotors approaching the mountainside faster than the rear of the aircraft.
“Hold your right and left; hold your front and rear,” came the internal radio traffic from the flight engineer to Brady.
There were 100-foot-tall trees on all sides of the Chinook, and they were so close the pilots had no room to sway as they descended.
“When you hear all four directions, everyone gets pretty tense,” Brady said. “It means you can’t drift any direction without crashing.”
The pilots descended to the point where the Chinook’s front rotor was just a few feet away from the mountainside with tall trees all around the aircraft. The flight crew kicked out the ropes, and the SEALs fast-roped down.
When the crew chief tried to pull the rope up, they found it was entangled below. After several tense moments of struggling to bring in the rope, they decided to cut it loose. The odds of enemy fighters hearing the echo of the dual-rotor helicopter increased every second it remained in a hover. The SEALs did their best to hide the rope and keep their presence on the ridgeline hidden from enemy fighters.
It wasn’t an ideal insertion, but the Night Stalkers had accomplished their mission. They ascended and flew back to Jalalabad to link up with another group of SEALs and standby as a quick reaction force (QRF) in case the SR team was compromised.
At Jalalabad, Brady was approached by SEAL Commander Erik Kristensen in the command operations center. Kristensen confronted him about the decision to cut the rope at the LZ and asked if the Night Stalkers would go back and retrieve it.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from 1-228th Aviation Regiment conducting hoist operations. Photo by Spc. Steven K. Young, courtesy of DVIDS.
“We would have to drop a man down with a hoist in that hole of an LZ,” Brady explained. “Hoisting a man at that altitude on that kind of terrain at night is a dangerous operation. Once on the ground, they’d have to pick up the rope, hook it to themselves, and get hoisted back up. Hovering for that long over the same spot would burn the LZ and likely alert the enemy to the SR team’s presence.”
Kristensen agreed with Brady’s evaluation, and after the SR team radioed that they would be laying down for the day in their hide site, Brady and Kristensen called it a night.
Walking toward the flight line, the SEAL commander quipped, “What made you want to fly such ugly helicopters?”
“They’re not much to look at, but they get the job done,” Brady fired back. “Kind of like SEALs.”
They shared a laugh as they loaded up for the flight back to Bagram.
At the Bagram operations center, Major Stephen Reich approached Brady urgently, asking why he didn’t follow abort criteria and fly back with the SR team after the AC-130 had to leave the airspace.
Brady said he estimated the AC-130 would only be off station briefly and that the crew had reported no hostile activity on the LZ. He told Reich pushing the mission back would allow Shah to continue his terrorist activities, likely leading to the death of locals and U.S. military in the area.
“Good,” Brady recalled Reich saying. “I’m glad you’re a thinking air mission commander and not simply one that takes a black-and-white view of the situation.”
With that, they retired to their rooms to rest for phase two of the operation the following night.
Some of the Night Stalkers hanging out in the B huts they slept in, enjoying much needed down time. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
As the Night Stalkers slept, the SR team was discovered by a numerically superior force of enemy fighters. They engaged in a fierce firefight, and at some point the task force lost contact with them.
Brady’s maintenance officer woke him and said the SR team was in trouble and the Night Stalkers had orders to spin up and pull the team out.
“That’s not possible,” Brady replied, confused at how quickly the SEALs had become compromised. “They’ve got their own quick reaction force. We’re completely separate commands. It doesn’t make sense.”
But he knew and lived by the Night Stalkers’ promise to every customer: “If we put you in, we’ll stop at nothing to get you out — even if it’s technically someone else’s job.”
Brady rushed to the operations center where Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Eicher was telling the task force commander that they should wait until dark before sending the QRF because going in during daylight would subject them to more danger. The 160th had only lost helicopters during daylight missions at that point — they’re called Night Stalkers for a reason.
The commander explained that the ground force commander had already rejected that plan and didn’t want to wait any longer.
Brady ran over to where his platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Mike Russell, was sleeping and updated him on what had unfolded.
“Are you serious?” Russell replied.
Russell went to work right away getting the crews together to prep the aircraft for the mission.
Three of the 160th’s MH-47D Chinooks on the flight line in Bagram, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
Back in the operations center, leaders were busy trying to figure out the SEALs’ last known location and calculating how many soldiers each helicopter could fly with. They finalized plans and sent the Night Stalkers on their way.
As Brady approached the Chinook he’d be flying, he noticed the tail number: 1-4-6. The bird’s call sign was Turbine 33. Kristensen and his SEALs were waiting on the ramp, standing in a circle.
“Our plan of action is for you to get us to the high ground as close to the troops in contact as you can, and we’re going to fight our way downhill,” Brady recalled Kristensen saying.
Since the SEALs weren’t sure where exactly the compromised team was located, Kristensen believed inserting at a position of tactical advantage was the best option.
“Drop us on the high ground, and we’ll make our way to our swim buddies,” Kristensen told Brady.
Navy SEALs operating in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. From left to right, sonar technician (surface) Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, California; Senior Chief information systems technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, New Hampshire; quartermaster Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Florida; hospital corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; machinists mate Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nevada; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, New York With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wing. Photo courtesy of DVIDS.
As Brady climbed into Turbine 33 and started strapping in, Reich tapped his shoulder and asked what the plan was. Reich, who had been designated mission commander for phase two of the operation, felt the QRF was his responsibility.
“We argued for what seemed like 10 minutes but was actually about 30 seconds,” Brady recalled.
But Reich cut the debate short. “I don’t really care, Matt,” he told Brady, “just get your stuff and get off the airplane. This is my mission.”
Brady said he pleaded with Reich to at least let him come with and act as an extra gun and set of eyes.
“Nope, I want you to take my spot as the operations officer and monitor from here,” Reich replied.
Disappointed, Brady followed the order and got off the aircraft. As he watched the two Chinooks taxiing onto the runway, he locked eyes with Russell, his platoon sergeant.
“He had a look of competence and professionalism — like he was ready to live out the Night Stalker creed,” Brady said.
He walked back to the operations center to monitor the situation and provide support from Bagram.
Matt Rogie, left, and Matt Brady having jovial conversation in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
The two Chinooks — Turbine 33 and Turbine 34 — were packed with 16 SEALs each, plus the Night Stalker pilots and crewman. Flying toward Jalalabad en route to the last known position of the SEALs, they received word from Bagram on the number of men they could have on board each aircraft and still fly at the extreme elevation. They would have to offload eight SEALs from each helicopter before continuing.
“A lot of guys really wanted to stay on the mission,” recalled Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tim Graham, one of the pilots on Turbine 34.
The plan was for the SEALs to fast-rope onto the ridgeline above the original LZ. The Night Stalkers would then circle back and pick up the remaining SEALs who offloaded at Jalalabad.
During the flight, the Night Stalkers passed two Apache gunships whose pilots asked if they wanted to slow down so they could provide surveillance and support for the operation. Not wanting to burn valuable time waiting on approval from the task force commander for the audible, the Night Stalkers continued on without the Apaches.
Tim Graham standing by in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
Arriving at the insertion point on the ridgeline, Turbine 33 descended into a hover. Graham watched from Turbine 34 as Turbine 33’s ramp lowered and the crewman walked onto it to observe the landing zone below. Graham’s aircraft pulled off to the right to circle around and insert their payload of SEALs after Turbine 33 moved off to allow their entrance.
That’s when Staff Sergeant Steven Smith, the flight engineer in the rear of Turbine 34, saw a smoke trail emerge from the tree line directly toward Turbine 33. The projectile flew through the open ramp of the Chinook and exploded inside. Turbine 33’s nose dipped down, and the aircraft slid to the left, appearing to almost recover. Then the helo’s blades started hitting each other, and the aircraft rolled to the right before inverting as it descended to the mountainous terrain below.
Smith and the others in Turbine 34 watched helplessly as the Chinook full of their fellow aviators — their friends — crashed into the mountain and erupted in a ball of flames.
“Al and Kip were on the ramp when the RPG impacted,” Smith, who witnessed the horrific event, recalled. “They rode it all the way in that way.”
Soldiers sit on the rear deck of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while flying over southern Afghanistan Oct. 19, 2010. Photo by Cpl. Robert Thaler, courtesy of DVIDS.
Graham and his co-pilot whipped their Chinook around to look for survivors. As they were turning around, Graham saw five Black hawks performing a star-cluster evasion. Turbine 34 started taking heavy gunfire from unseen fighters below. They broke off and flew out of reach of the enemy fire.
Graham reported the situation back to Bagram. Receiving the transmission, Brady couldn’t believe it. He would have been on that bird were it not for the last minute change. He asked Graham to repeat, unable to register what he had just heard.
One of Brady’s soldiers in the operations center was asking him a question, but Brady was momentarily frozen with shock. Then the realization hit: He was now in charge.
Brady told his operations NCO to give him a minute to gather more information to get the next plan of action in place. He walked out of the operations center and found Eicher.
“Chris, Turbine 33 has just been shot down,” he told Eicher, who earned the nickname “Iceman” for his always cool demeanor.
Eicher looked at Brady and said, “Nah, they probably put down for maintenance.”
Brady persisted with the details. He and Eicher hurried back to the operations center.
The two Apaches had arrived on station, drawing heavy gunfire, but nonetheless giving Turbine 34’s crew back in the operations center a good look at the crash site.
“It didn’t look like there was any way anybody could have survived,” Graham said. “You hope they could. It just didn’t look good.”
The crash site of Turbine 33. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
They ascended back into orbit and remained there for an hour until the task force commander ordered them back to Jalalabad. Not wanting to leave their brothers, the SEAL team commander hatched a plan with the Night Stalkers to insert higher up on the ridgeline and fight their way down to the crash site so Turbine 34 could fly back to Jalalabad, pick up as many SEALs as he could, and fly back to reinforce the eight SEALs. The task force commander denied the request and ordered Turbine 34 back to Jalalabad. Frustrated and angry, Graham followed the order.
Smith said everyone on the Chinook was angry. One of the SEALs even drew his pistol and attempted unsuccessfully to force the Chinook to land so they could try to save their friends.
Graham made a stop at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) just outside of Jalalabad. After landing, Graham saw the same five Black Hawks that had peeled off earlier parked on the runway. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but many years later he found out a new platoon leader came into their company within the 160th and was responsible for those Black Hawks.
Each of the five Black Hawks was loaded with Marines and had flown out thinking they were the QRF for the SR team. When Turbine 33 was shot down, they received orders to fly back along with Turbine 34 and the Apache gunships until the next phase of the mission was developed.
Flight line view of U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. Photo by Mark C. Olsen, courtesy of DVIDS.
After refueling, he continued on to Jalalabad and off-loaded.
“When I met him there on the ground in Jalalabad, Graham was fairly shaken to say the least,” Brady recalled.
The task force commander debriefed the men and then focused on planning their next steps.
Smith said he saw a line of armored vehicles full of troops.
“I could see a lot of vehicles with troops armed to the damn teeth,” Smith recalled. “They rolled out with a convoy and with some vengeance, and they fought their way up that mountainside, all the way up to the crash site.”
The remaining Night Stalkers prepared for a rescue operation. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and other Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) personnel loaded onto five Chinooks. All the men were anxious, angry, and ready to retrieve their brothers in arms.
The Chinooks took off toward the mountains once again, but as they climbed in elevation, severe weather rolled in. Thunder boomed as lightning struck all around them.
“So the enemy is one factor, but the terrain and weather are now a huge factor, and they’re starting to overtake the enemy in terms of danger to the force,” Brady said.
He said visibility got so bad that he couldn’t see the heat glow of the engines from the Chinook in front of him. The order was given to again abort the mission and return to base. It was a gut-wrenching decision for everyone on the mission, as they knew the original SEALs on the SR team were fighting for their lives and one of their own aircraft and crew was burning on the side of a mountain.
Back at Jalalabad, the commanders decided they had no choice but to wait for better weather and try again the next night.
Troops searching for the KIA and survivors. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
As the storm raged, the members of the task force — haunted with thoughts of their brothers on the mountain — tried to sleep.
As the next night approached, the task force went to work, planning another insertion onto the deadly ridgeline. The Night Stalkers again loaded their Chinooks with Rangers and SEALs and took off toward the mountains.
Arriving on site, the task force members fast-roped in. The extreme height of the trees made the full length of rope — approximately 90 feet — necessary. Many of the men suffered scorched hands from gripping the rope through gloves for such a long descent.
Once on the ground, they started their search for casualties, potential survivors, and sensitive equipment.
As the Night Stalkers flew back to Bagram, the JSOC ground force that had convoyed to the crash radioed to the task force that they had secured the site. There were no survivors.
The JSOC troops, along with their newly arrived reinforcements, went to work recovering those killed in action as well as sensitive equipment that could not fall into enemy hands. They then used explosives to clear out a large enough area for Chinooks to land when they came back.
Explosives were used to chop down trees due to width of the trees being too big for chainsaws. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matt Rogie arrived in Bagram just before the Night Stalkers came back after dropping off the recovery force. Assigned to replace Eicher as senior flight lead, he was trying to learn as much as he could before hopping into an aircraft and joining the mission.
Rogie met Eicher on the flight line when he landed after returning from the mission.
“I’m glad you’re here because I am spent,” Eicher told him.
The Night Stalkers flew back to their newly forged landing zone the following night. The weather was turning bad again as they offloaded Marines to assist with security.
“I could see the grass being blown by the rotor wash and all the remains bags being lined up in a row — 16 of them,” Rogie recalled. “There was still some smoldering from the crash site, and I could see the glow from the heat through my night vision.”
Some of the fallen members of Turbine 33 prior to being flown out. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
One by one, the Rangers and SEALs loaded the fallen onto the Chinooks and headed back to Bagram with their brothers. The flight back was pure silence. The loss weighed heavy on the men.
As the Night Stalkers approached Bagram they could see what looked like everyone on base standing outside, showing their respect for the fallen.
“When we landed, we just saw a row of Night Stalkers and Rangers and SEALs for as far as I could see, lined up and ready to help transport the remains off and take them to the mortuary affairs section,” Brady recalled.
When the ramp lowered, the Night Stalkers on the Chinooks stood tall and proud for their fallen brethren as task force members boarded and began solemnly moving each remains bag to the mortuary affairs building.
“All of us were pretty broken up at that point,” Rogie said.
Pastors from the task force lead the caskets onto the C-17. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
The C-17 sat on the runway with the ramp down, waiting to receive the 16 interment cases containing the fallen warriors. Brady stood next to a SEAL commander — both had to take command of their respective units when Reich and Kristensen were killed on Turbine 33. Their war-weary faces were chiseled stone as they watched the task force solemnly load 16 flag-draped internment cases into the C-17.
Brady said it seemed like the whole base turned out to give the fallen a proper sendoff. As the cases were being loaded, a SEAL ran up to the new SEAL commander and placed a written note in his hand. The note said that Marcus Luttrell was alive at a nearby village. The SEAL commander broke down and cried at the desperately needed positive news.
The fallen Night Stalkers of the 160th SOAR included:
Staff Sergeant Shamus O. Goare
Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature
Sergeant Kip A. Jacoby
Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles
Major Stephen C. Reich
Sergeant First Class Michael L. Russell
Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach
Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III
Soldiers and Sailors from the Task Force saying their final goodbyes. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
The members of the task force said their final goodbyes. The C-17 closed its ramp and taxied down the runway and took flight. The fallen warriors were now on their way home.
The lone C-17 aircraft lumbered through the sky after departing Germany, a necessary stop on the way back to the United States. The back of the aircraft contained the flag-draped coffins of 16 great Americans: the fallen Night Stalkers and SEALs from Turbine 33.
Children of varying ages ran around the coffins, playing and yelling, not yet old enough to understand the sacrifices these warriors made. A Taliban high-value target (HVT) sat tucked into the corner away from them all, guarded by other soldiers.
Three war-weary escorts — one of them a SEAL and the other two Night Stalkers Daniel Bell and Chris Eicher — sat off to the sides, grimly staring off into space. They were exhausted and angry with the mistake the U.S. Air Force had made when they allowed Space-A seating to be filled on this leg of the flight home.
The men of the task force saying their final goodbyes to the fallen before they are flown home to their final resting place. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
The rescue operation, known as Operation Red Wings II, continued for weeks. Almost every variety of special operations troops in the U.S. military inventory participated in a coordinated effort through some of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and austere terrain during the search for their brothers — both alive and fallen.
Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor from the initial four-man SEAL reconnaissance element.
For the Night Stalkers of the famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the war on terror continued.