An assistant patrol leader with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, applies camouflage paint to his face.
Most people don’t think about evil. The force of evil is certainly out there, but it’s on a different street, a different city or across the ocean. Evil is something we see as a plot in Hollywood, in movies like Joker. It isn’t something most people give much thought to.
But for veterans, it’s different.
I sat at a table with a veteran friend of mine, sipping coffee in a local cafe. He looked around as we talked about where we’d been and things we’d done. “They’ll never know,” he said. “I mean, how could they?” Our fellow patrons were having conversations a million miles away from ours, talking about things like kids, yoga and groceries, not darkness or things that haunt us. “I suppose it’s better that way,” he added.
Maybe it is, I thought, but maybe not.
The recent depiction of The Joker has become the highest grossing R-rated release in box office history. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is now an Oscar front-runner for his personal dive into villainy. For a society that doesn’t understand or talk about evil, The Joker has clearly found an audience. Phoenix’s rendition of Arthur is not the villainous story you might guess though, instead, it’s a man driven by his quest for love and entertainment; he hardly seems like a villain.
Phoenix said he prepared for this role by identifying with “his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected. To have warmth and love.” It’s an interesting juxtaposition: how does one end up being evil if all they want is love? This is the question and the genius of Joker. The same question haunts many veterans today. What is the difference between the pursuit of love and evildoing? Seems obvious, right? Maybe not, if evil never seems to be the aim. Yet, somehow people end up there – doing things that destroy the world around them. Even Hitler, a real life villain, once said, “I can fight only for something that I love.”
People want to believe that evil is something they can spot, as if it wears an enemy’s uniform and is clearly recognizable as “the bad guy.” The reality is, evil isn’t just lurking in a dark alley, waiting to sneak up on you when you least expect it. For some veterans, evil isn’t only external, although it certainly may have started that way. Evil isn’t something in a far-off land for us. It’s something we’ve carried home and something with which we have to deal. Carl Jung once said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method of dealing with the darkness of other people.” What most veterans don’t know, but soon find out, is that facing evil out there means facing it inside of ourselves, too.
I have witnessed this realization many times in veterans, sitting next to them as they struggle with how the world could be this way. How could it be? Where is the good? As a chaplain and a social worker, I have seen, even been part of, people losing their hold on a world that they can picture themselves living in. The feelings of helplessness and sadness are overwhelming when facing a world with all its deficiencies.
It can be horrifying to think that we have something in common, even sharing the air, with the Jokers of the world. The genius of Phoenix’s performance is that most of us can see parts of ourselves in his character. This is what makes coming back from war so difficult; there is no shutting your eyes. Facing the realities of evil post-war is harder in a society that also wants nothing to do with it.
Service in the military shocked my own naiveté, forcing me to grasp with my own encounters with evil around me, even in me. War, more than any other environment, is the great tester. It reveals all of the little cracks and strengths. It is the great kiln of life. Perhaps facing these demons is a reason for the stubborn rising suicide rate and extreme isolation we see in veterans post-war. It also explains why veterans so often take roles in protecting people from it — serving in law enforcement and security.
For those who haven’t served, who has not felt the pain of betrayal, neglect or helplessness at an abuse of power? Allowing ourselves to experience the abyss of evil is “fearless”, as one critic said of Phoenix’s performance. Who has not found themselves filled with thoughts of revenge? Perhaps a better question then is: Why aren’t all of us Jokers? Why don’t we all go mad? Maybe we are. Maybe there’s a little villain in all of us.
Not all veterans can face their demons. Not facing the villain, outside and in, leads to a space you can’t share, a place where you join the Jokers of the world. This would explain why some veterans think of suicide as an honorable thing, saving the world from the Joker they have become. Some just drive faster, drink more, turn up the music and close their eyes when these evils start to appear.
There is good reason to avoid looking – we might not be prepared to fight the evil we see. Heath Ledger’s plunge into the character of evil may have led him to places that he could not find his way out from. Encountering true evil and the thin veil that separates us leads most to question our own capacity to overcome it.
Evil hides in omission — our lack of doing as much as our acts of doing. Stopping evil does not mean that we weaken or blind ourselves. Instead, as many veterans do, they choose to see the enemy, even if it’s within, rather than hide. The confrontation is fraught; not just with evil’s existence but in the failure to do good when they can. Veterans who find their way back home learn this. Veterans like Chase Millsap who saw local nationals murdered after working with U.S. soldiers and created a way for them to be safe withnooneleft.org. Veterans like Noel Lipana, who couldn’t make sense of his actions and has found a way to tell his story and shape others through an art performance piece. They could not omit. They decided that the way back is to do good. To exert agency over their helplessness in the face of evil. Is this not the only way? To do good, in the face of evil.
The last decade has brought new thinking on this as well, rethinking post-traumatic stress disorder toward a term called Moral Injury because it tracks better to veterans’ experience of war — that evil, sometimes our own, shocks our worldview. To see evil and the ugliness of humankind can shake you to your core and leave you with lingering questions. An abbreviated definition of Moral Injury refers to the lasting impacts of actions that violate a service member’s core moral values and expectations of self or others. Perhaps another definition is that Moral Injury is the impact of coming face to face with evil, even if it’s our own. Facing evil in the world can leave you with more questions than answers. Fortunately, these questions aren’t new, they just aren’t often talked about. Maybe that’s why evil and veil are just letters rearranged differently; both are thinly seen.
The story of the Joker is the story that veterans know all too well. Today’s society leaves most willfully blind to the struggles and evils in the world, leaving many veterans grasping for answers to questions that their neighbors are not asking. At first glance, it does seem easier to omit them, but closing our eyes to them will not save us. Perhaps the reason the Joker has garnered so much international attention is because it’s telling a story we all know, but don’t like to look at. A story that needs to be told.
We don’t say things we should. We don’t look at injustice if we can avoid it. We avoid confrontation when possible. We choose to close our eyes, rather than see.
The Joker invites all of us, not just veterans, to manage our own shadows by doing the good we know to do. Veterans don’t have the market cornered on this, most just signed up for it and are learning how to live with the evil around us.
Ask most people about ducks, and they think of the birds that you’d feed in a park or what they would go hunting out with some buddies in the spring or fall. Others may think of it as the middle bird in a turducken. But World War II veterans will think of a very different thing – a truck that was a very crucial piece to victory in that conflict.
Well, the truck wasn’t officially called a duck. It wasn’t even officially called the DUKW. That name came about from General Motors, which had an in-house designation system (many companies that build fighters do the same thing). According to Olive-Drab.com, D stood for a vehicle that first began production in 1942. The U stood for a utility vehicle. The K meant that it was an all-wheel drive vehicle, and the W signified a dual-rear axle arrangement.
It was a modified two and a half ton truck, intended to be able to operate on water as well as on the land. The amphibious capability came from adding a boat hull and a propeller to the standard truck then in service.
The DUKW was used to haul troops and cargo through water, to the beach, and then inland.
(Photo by U.S. Army)
The DUKW first rolled off the assembly line in June, 1942, just as the United States Navy won the Battle of Midway. Production was well underway by later that year, which meant this vehicle missed Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa.
The DUKW could haul troops or cargo over most terrain. Here, one is being loaded with cans of fuel.
(Photo by U.S. Army)
But when it came time to storm Sicily, the DUKW was ready, and proved to be very valuable. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the DUKW had a top speed of 50 miles per hour, could go 398 miles on a tank of gas, and had a crew of two. Over 21,000 ducks were built, and some of them continued in military service until 2012 – seventy years after the first one was made!
Many DUKWs that are still operating in the civilian world carry out “Duck tours” in cities across the world.
(Photo by Arnold Reinhold)
Today, most “ducks” still in service are with civilians owners and operators, some of which appear in “duck tours,” one of which was featured on the TV series Undercover Boss. Learn more about this troop and cargo-hauling duck in the video below.
The most recent Health Related Behaviors Survey for the Department of Defense, conducted by the RAND Corporation, has been released recently — and, spoiler alert: it’s not looking so good.
While the study covers a wide array of health problems, the biggest standout — the one that ruffled everyone’s feathers — was that, across every branch, over sixty percent of troops are overweight or obese. The Army took top “honors” with a whopping 69.4 percent while the Marines achieved a slightly slimmer 60.9 percent.
But this isn’t the most alarming statistic.
Troops are also getting less sleep than before. There’s no denying the connection between lack of sleep and weight gain. Troops are still PTing their asses off early in the morning along with eating relatively well, which makes it pretty easy to identify the real root of the problem.
It’s not hard to point out why troop’s get little sleep nor why their sleep is so awful.
(U.S. Army photo)
As noted by the Military Times, nearly sixty percent of all troops have reportedly gotten far less sleep than needed. Another research study conducted by the Journal of Sleep Research concludes that both insomnia and sleep apnoea are on the rise among service members. This surely contributes to the nine-percent of all troops that have reported daily or near-daily use of sleep medication.
Contrary to popular belief, sleeping more is not a symptom of laziness, a laziness that many point to as the cause of weight issues. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. A lack of sleep throws a person’s hormones that regulate hunger, ghrelin and leptin, out of order. Getting just four hours of sleep will impact your body’s ability to accurately determine its food intake needs.
Your best bet is to eat three solid meals a day to curb hunger.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Riley Johnson)
Of course, eating too much junk food is going to increase weight gain. But did you know that the opposite — eating one meal a day (which is usually junk food or a late-night binge meal) — is often just as bad. Fat buildup is the body’s way of conserving energy. If you’re starving your body throughout the day and, right before going to bed, loading up on pizza and beer, your body will instinctively hold that junk food because that’s all you’re giving it.
While has been proven that intermittent fasting (intentional or not) does not have adverse effects on metabolism, it’s still very unhealthy — especially when combined with the metabolism drop that comes with a lack of sleep.
It’ll be a hell of a work out, I’m sure. But don’t expect it or the training to cut fat off the formation.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kelsey Miller)
Which scenario is more likely within the military? That a slight change in PT schedule was so widespread and disastrous that well over half of troops are now more fat — or that an increasingly competitive and stressful environment is causing troops to skip meals and sleep to accomplish arbitrary missions in a garrison environment?
And since the projected Army Combat Readiness Test, the new PT test for the Army, seems like it will be focusing more on physical strength over cardiovascular endurance, expect them to keep the top spot for the foreseeable future.
Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is celebrating its 175th birthday the same way most people celebrate their (18th, 19th, 20th and…) 21st birthday–with a whole lot of beer. However, PBR has a new spin on their own birthday gift this year. They are debuting two very different beers: one a totally non-alcoholic beer, and the other a more alcoholic beer (from 4.6% ABV to 6.5% ABV).
In true yin and yang fashion–they come in black and white cans. Debauchery and purity. Dark and light. Stumbling into a Little Caesars at 2 a.m. Being the DD driving your buddies to buy Little Caesars at 2 a.m.
According to PBR, both beers are modeled after the same taste profile as standard PBR. In case you are unfamiliar with binge drinking on a budget, that taste can only be described as “fun water.” This is not to say that PBR tastes bad. It’s arguably the best bang-for-your-buck beer out there.
Please do not let beer snobs fool you. There is a reason most beer snobs end up brewing their own god-awful wheat sludge in a basement– because they are ashamed, deep down, that the neighbors will see their pretentious witchcraft-beer rituals.
It’s really refreshing to know that PBR is finally going to bring some easy drinkability to the non-alcoholic beer market. Gone are the days of choking down a couple of lukewarm O’Douls (gag) with your dad. We’re so happy you’ve kept the promise for yourself to bend your situation towards self-improvement and hold yourself accountable all these years…but damn it those things taste like liquid saltines with no salt.
Now next time that weird distant uncle nobody really knows shows up to the 4th of July party ready to turn it into a rager–you can just toss him a white non-alcoholic can of PBR. It’ll taste great, and he won’t know the difference. You just may save that above-ground pool from his antics this year…
On the flip side– think of all the possibilities now that PBR can get you drunk before 20 beers! Think about all the conversations you can see through to the end, instead of going to take a whiz every 6 minutes! Think of the 10s of dollars you can save! Think about only having to use your car keys to shotgun 10 PBRs instead of 12!
All joking aside this is great news. You and your buddy fresh out of AA can still enjoy some PBRs together in the summer heat. Throw some brats on the grill. Get too hot and move inside. Watch some underwhelming baseball game. Live life.
This is of course, if you’re over the age of 21.
If you’re a 20-year-old man or woman, you can ship out overseas. You can be trusted with millions of dollars of equipment. You can be trusted with the responsibility of defending your life and your brothers in arms.
But for some reason, you still can not be trusted with a six pack of PBR. Hell, depending on the state, you can’t even buy that nice new white can of non-alcoholic PBR.
Maj. Gen. Patrick C. Higby, director of DevOps and Lethality, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, discusses his mission and responsibilities and the roles of DevOps, cyber resiliency and diversity in Air Force readiness during an interview with Airman magazine at the Pentagon. Higby devises and implements strategies to responsively combat cybersecurity threats while rapidly delivering cyber/digital/IT capabilities to the point of need.
During an interview with Airman magazine, Higby discussed his mission and responsibilities and the roles of DevOps, cyber resiliency and diversity in increasing Air Force readiness and lethality.
Airman magazine: Can you summarize the objectives of your office and how your responsibilities in DevOps and lethality pair together to impact the National Defense Strategy?
Maj. Gen. Higby: In my first meeting with Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, he also had a question about my duty title, which was something totally different, but really didn’t resonate with what was trending and what was gaining importance. So, we were struggling with what’s the right way to capture my role.
My role is to nudge the culture in a different direction, not just the culture in the Air Force, but the culture in the Pentagon in general, with all of the politics, stove piping and the other challenges we face sometime when we try to do something agile in DevOps. So, we came up with DevOps as being part of my title. And when I say DevOps, I include DevSecOps as Nick Chaillan, our chief software officer, always reminds me. The “Sec” adds the security aspect.
DevOps of 15 years ago wasn’t necessarily very security minded. Today when we say DevOps or SecDevOps, there is a big security aspect to it as you develop code and then deploy the code.
The lethality piece is there to influence the message, especially to our industry partners, we’re not just doing this for some admin system, this is war fighting. This is giving American men and women and our coalition partners the edge against the enemy to make sure we hit the right targets, we don’t inflict unneeded casualties and also protect our lives in combat.
Lethality is a balance it’s not just inflicting on the bad guys, it’s also preserving your own force.
Airman magazine: How do you define DevOps and what it means in the actual development of programs and weapons systems and what does that mean to the warfighter?
Maj. Gen. Higby: DevOps came out of the software and coder world in what some would argue the eighties and nineties, so it’s been around awhile.
The concept was that the developers that are writing code or software packages, they were historically not well connected with the operators, either the operators of the network or the operators that were going to consume that code.
What DevOps endeavored to do was to bring the coder and operator together. So, you have a very well-integrated team where you’re continuously checking with each other on what’s needed and what do we have to do and you are continuously delivering product.
The idea is that you have a continuous pipeline of valuable product, in this case software code, but you could apply this to anything that’s continuously being updated based on the needs of the user of that product.
In many cases what we’re delivering to them (the warfighter) is a pristine rotary dial telephone system connected to a landline and in their private lives as Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors or Marines they’re using iPhones. It’s like, I joined the military to have this high-tech experience to do good things and schwag bad guys and I’m burdened with this old technology.
And so, what do we owe our young men and women that have vowed to put their lives on the line to defend the constitution of the United States. We owe them the best technology that America has to offer. We have many industry partners that are alongside and stand strong in that message to say, we want our American fighting men and women to have the best technology available. And that’s not a rotary dial phone, it’s an iPhone that is continuously getting updated, getting new apps, getting refreshed, getting new security hardening, put on it continuously.
Airman magazine: What has been the traditional rift between the engineers who develop software iterations and the people who use these products in the field?
Maj. Gen. Higby: The rift has been it’s not delivered quickly enough at the speed of need. And so what DevOps or Agile, what that replaced was called the waterfall process where you have lots of intelligent engineers that are very capable and they come up with something that then gets delivered to the field.
The process takes a long time because you’re deploying a full solution vice, a prototype or a minimally viable product. It’s the full up solution that you’ve invested 10 years of work and billions of dollars in, you’d get it deployed and that’s the first time that the warfighter gets to use it and they’re like, wow, this needs a lot of work. Then it would go back to the engineers and then they’d come up with a “B” version that would take another 10 years and so on and so forth. In today’s environment at the velocity of change, the acceleration of change, that’s just not a viable architecture to have.
That’s why Agile development and then later on DevOps and DevSecOps, caught on, not just an industry, but in the Department of Defense and in the joint fight.
Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, discusses ÒThe Future Air Force, Faster, Smarter: The Next GearÓ during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16, 2019. The ASC Conference is a professional development forum that offers the opportunity for Department of Defense personnel to participate in forums, speeches, seminars and workshops.
Airman magazine: Is this why Dr. Roper talks continuously about the fact that speed is the most important aspect of development of weapon systems?
Maj. Gen. Higby: That’s exactly right. The challenge with speed is that implies more risk and as you know, the Pentagon, is very risk averse. No one wants to be the one that leads failure, so there’s a reluctance there and that’s part of the culture change of nudging people to be more comfortable and accepting risk. It’s getting that minimally viable product out there, vice always talking about the perfect solution, that we’ll get in a couple of years. No, give me something now that works and then I can give you immediate feedback on it and we can continue to iterate.
I’ll even reach back to historical examples in the P-51 Mustang and the German Fw 190 fighters of World War II. If you look at the history of how the P-51 came about, I would argue that’s a DevOps case study.
That came about with a minimally viable product built in the United States by a start-up company that was put out into the field for the British. It wasn’t quite right and then all these other ideas came along; can we put a Rolls Royce Merlin engine in there? Can we do this? Can we give it this kind of Gunsight? Next thing you know, you have one of the best fighters on the planet that helped us win WWII.
Now, did it still have shortcomings even when it was mature? Sure. It wasn’t well-suited maybe for the Pacific domain where you had to travel long distances. It didn’t have all those navigational aids that some of the more expensive, larger fighters did, but in terms of what we needed it for at the time, which was bomber escort to defeat Nazi Germany, it was the perfect system. And it could go beak to beak with enemy fighters and come out on top.
That was industry and coalition partners taking risks, making stuff happen. Then suddenly it dawned on the United States as our bomber crews are getting slaughtered that if we had some of those P-51s it would be a game changer for our air war against Germany.
A P-51 Mustang passes over the Shaw flightline after being displayed as a static aircraft during the 20th Fighter Wing change of command ceremony, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., March 19, 2012.
Airman magazine: So, what you’re saying is that what you’re attempting to do now in nudging this culture change, that it’s not a new culture?
Maj. Gen. Higby: It is not new, this has been done many times before. Today we call it DevOps. Five years ago, we were calling it Agile. Industry has been calling it DevOps for quite a while, but a lot of these concepts aren’t new. It’s just the getting out of our box that we sometimes get ourselves trapped in – we have this and we can’t change now because it’s too risky.
Airman magazine: What are the benefits of developing systems this way for the people in the field and how you would explain that to somebody on Capitol Hill who is holding the purse strings, making the decisions on the money? How do you explain to them that allocating a certain amount of money and taking risk at the front end is actually a better way to safeguard the taxpayer money than doing it the old way?
Maj. Gen. Higby: The best way to convince them, I believe, is to build trust through some successes. In a real DevOps risk accepting environment you are going to have failures, but you want those failures to inform the next success. After you do it for a while you can point to some successes like the modern-day P-51 kind of stories and we have several of those, not just in the Air Force, but in or other services.
One of those stories that we like to celebrate is the original DevOps software package the tanker (air refueling) planning tool grew out of. We were doing things in a very industrialized way in our combined air operations centers with grease pencils and white boards trying to schedule aerial refueling by hand. Then with some lines of code, working with the people that were actually using this planning tool and you create a product that saves a lot of man hours and comes up with a better solution in terms of planning where to put your tankers to conduct a certain portion of the air tasking order and taking the fight to the bad guy.
Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, provides command and control of air power throughout Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and other nations in the U.S. Air Forces Central Command region. In 2016, the CAOC was using dry erase boards to plan AFCENTÕs aerial refueling operations.
This degree of automation and using an algorithm to figure things out is way faster than having a bunch of very smart people doing it the old-fashioned way. That’s just one example. There’re many others like that, but, those are the ones we need to continuously be pointing at to show Capitol Hill, hey, this works.
We also have to let them (Capitol Hill) understand that when we started this, we weren’t quite sure what the end solution was going to look like and that’s the other big hurdle. I don’t necessarily know where I’m going to end up when I start with something.
So, projects continuously changing as they go forward. So, what we think might be the destination today, five years from now, we might be over here somewhere better than we thought we were going to be. I don’t want to trap the DevOps teams into, you have to end up here, because somewhere else might be better.
Airman magazine: You mentioned the tanker planning tool and how much money that ended up saving and how it was one of the success stories we could go back to Congress and say, “Look, we took a risk on the front end, but here are the payoffs.” So, could you please explain a little bit about 804 and OTA has acquisition authorities and how that kind of goes hand in hand with the DevOps thing. How do you explain to someone who’s been on Capitol Hill for a long time, what the advantages are of making those mistakes at the beginning and spending money as you iterate instead of one big large chunk?
Maj. Gen. Higby: Right. OTA, other transactional authority, that’s what OTA stands for. There are two flavors. There’s the prototyping flavor and the experimentation flavor. Let me rewind, you can do either, you can take a product that’s already in the commercial sector and say we’re going to buy this and we’re going to experiment with it and see if it works.
Staff Sgt Brian Nesbitt, assigned to the 169th Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base checks his M-16 assault rifle during the classroom portion of an the M-16 qualification course. Nesbitt is completing the training as part of his pre-deployment requirements.
A good historical example is the M-16 rifle, a Vietnam era, the first plastic rifle, put into combat. That was done under an OTA. So, these (OTAs) aren’t necessarily that new. The 804 (Section 804) Middle Tier Acquisition (MTA) authorities, so that is trying to get after these middle-tier programs, so not the super big programs, but sort of the middle-tier programs.
We don’t need all this excess of documentation that’s been inflicted over years. Because again, historically, when you look back at programs that have failed, those failures usually end up in some kind of legislation that tries to point at, “this is what went wrong in that program.” Now we’re going to write a law to prevent that from happening and that volume of laws has continued to grow and grow and grow to the point where now when you try to do something fast and you’re confronted with all those laws, it makes it really hard to go fast. And that’s what the 804s were supposed to be incentivizing.
In the Air Force, we dove full in and we had, I don’t remember the count, but it was dozens of programs that went down the 804 path and saved a hundred years of labor and acquisition timeline and cut that out. That gets delivery of capability of the warfighter faster. That’s what we’re trying to do and the 804 does that.
Airman magazine: You mentioned the fact that it not only applies to programs being developed from the ground up, but programs that are taken off the shelf that already exist and are augmented, you said the M-16 rifle, but does the newly acquired MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter fit into that? Can you talk about that a little?
Maj. Gen. Higby: I would argue it could. The question on helicopters is, do I need to develop an all-new military-specific helicopter or can I use something that’s already in the civilian market that already has shown reliability, make the few minor modifications to it that I need for its military applicability, and then put it out there, begin to use it and then begin to iterate? There are many opportunities to ask this question from firearms, all the way up to helicopters and maybe even (flight) trainers and aircraft.
Part of this also is when we look at our defense industrial base, are there opportunities to bring along smaller companies that have some very genius ideas that we could use in the Department of Defense to help our mission that are also then viable in the commercial market.
The MH-139A Grey Wolf lands at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 19, 2019, before its unveiling and naming ceremony. The aircraft is set to replace the Air Force’s fleet of UH-1N Huey aircraft and has capability improvements related to speed, range, endurance and payload.
And that’s another tack Dr. Roper is taking. Can we, the United States Air Force, become like a venture capital company, where we look out, we see this small company that has something and we’re like, “Hey, we could use that in the Air Force?” But, I don’t want to create another defense contractor where your only customer is the Air Force. I want you to also be viable in the commercial marketplace with that product. Now we might use a version of that product that’s adapted for military use, but in general, whatever you’ve got is going to be commercially viable as well.
There are tons of opportunities in the United States, with our intellectual capital, which I think is a strategic competitive advantage vis-a-vis some of the adversaries that we talk about in the national defense strategy.
Airman magazine: Before we move on, is there anything just on the general concept of DevOps that you want to talk about that you think we should have asked?
Maj. Gen. Higby: The one challenge with DevOps is there’s a temptation again in this building (the Pentagon) where we’re always looking for efficiencies. There’s a temptation to see DevOps as a money saver. I have to speak up about that because DevOps is not about saving money. DevOps is about being more effective for our warfighter, being more lethal for our warfighter.
You have to understand that when you roll out this minimally viable product, it could be an app for your phone or it could be a software module for the combined air operations center or anything like that, that continuous delivery and continuous integration continues and you’re always have a DevOps team that’s taking care of that product. So, when you think in the old term of sustainment and you’re making improvements, that comes at a cost.
You’re paying those people to be the caretakers of this product and to continuously be engaging with the users of the product, daily. And then employing new software updates could be daily, it could be multiple times a day if you’re doing extreme programming, but daily, weekly, monthly, and then maybe as, as the product ages you’re only doing a release once a year and you might not need as much human capital bandwidth to be paying attention to it. But it’s not a widget that you deliver and then you’re done.
DevOps is continuous, so the sustainment tail, as we call it in the industrial age, that sustainment tail is still there. It’s just that sustainment tail is now different in the sense that you’re not just sustaining the current capability. You’re continuously improving the capability up to the point where the operator or the user of the product says, “Hey, we think we need something different now.” And then you got to spool up another DevOps team to say, what do you need? Where do we go? What’s this new thing you’re trying to do? What’s this new capability you’re looking for?
Pararescue jumpers and combat rescue officers with the 103rd Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing conduct mass casualty training with the Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided Knowledge System (BATMAN) at FS Gabreski ANG, Aug. 25, 2015. The BATMAN system is an Air Force research laboratory advanced technology demonstration program that develops enhanced capabilities for battlefield airmen. The program applies an airmen-centric design approach to all its research and development efforts to maximize the airmen’s mission effectiveness and efficiency.
Airman magazine: Can we explore a tangential perspective on that? A lot of warfighters that we spend a lot of money training in various disciplines have spent a lot of years saying nobody listens. Now people are listening on a weekly, sometimes daily basis about what they need to do their job. Is this a positive influence on retention?
Maj. Gen. Higby: I think it absolutely is because you’re giving the warfighter direct input into the tools that they’re using, sometimes in life or death situations. And, it’s being done with all of that bureaucracy abstracted away because your DevOps team, whether it’s in a software factory like Kessel Run or whether it’s a dedicated team to some specific mission, that DevOps team is a close-knit group and they are making stuff happen and adjusting capability the way the warfighter wants it with the warfighter right there.
That’s the amazing thing. Now again, you can study, you can look back in history and any of the successful programs that we’ve (Air Force) done, it’s usually predicated on a small team that’s protected from the bureaucracy that’s given a mission to do and they’re usually successful.
Airman magazine: So, let’s shift gears a little bit and get you to put your cyber hat on. Your job takes what appears to be the two foundations, the first bricks that are necessary in building an Air Force of the future and that’s acquisition reform and incorporating cyber resiliency from the very beginning. Is that correct?
Maj. Gen. Higby: So, cyber resiliency in simple terms is making sure you can get your mission done no matter what happens in cyberspace. In other words, no matter what happens to your computers or your phones or your RF links, you can get your mission done. That’s really what cyber resiliency is about.
Now, when you look at the original cybersecurity standards, they all had aspects of that in there. In civilian terms, we’d call it continuity of operations or continuity of business operations. And so those of us that went through our security plus training and CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) training, all those aspects of cyber resiliency were already there. But, the idea is to quit thinking just about cyber resiliency in terms of, I’m on a computer, I need cyber resiliency. It’s, I’m doing a mission and that mission is very reliant on what’s happening in the cyberspace domain, so you better make sure that you have some of those aspects of cyber resiliency built in.
In a modern, data-driven Air Force, cyber-resiliency is crucial to mission security and success.
And again, some, some of this thought is still being developed. A NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) is on the verge of publishing Special Publication 800-160 Vol. 2, which is 14 different techniques to achieve cyber resiliency. And it’s everything from, do we have divergent or diverse paths to communicate with, all the way to are we doing a good job deceiving the adversary so that they don’t have the easy targets to poke at because we’re constantly putting up false targets and decoys and honeypots that they might be tempted to go after within the cyberspace domain.
But then there’s PACE planning, primary, alternate, contingency emergency, that is an aspect of cyber resiliency. So, I have a primary way to get my mission done, that primary way I’m going to take advantage of all those great electronic systems and computer systems and AI machine learning that’s available. But, if any one of those or all of those go away, I better still have an alternate way of doing the mission and then a contingency way and then an emergency way.
So, I may start off with a very elegant high-tech kind of strike and the emergency way may be, we’re back in the agricultural age and we might have to take Spears and go fight the bad guy. So, the idea behind resiliency is you’re going to fight to get your mission done, no matter what happens.
Airman magazine: Also, could you talk about the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems or CROWS office and how this all works together?
Maj. Gen. Higby: The CROWS stood up in 2016, I believe, and it was in conjunction with a cyber squadron initiative, which called out this entity called a mission defense team.
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.
So, the thought was we would have mission defense teams at the tactical edge associated with a specific mission capability, be it F-16s (Fighting Falcons) or Air Operations Centers, B-52 (Stratofortress) bombers, tankers or presidential airlift support. All of those have mission defense teams associated with them. Again, they’re at that tactical edge that can detect something is going on here, that invisible hand or that obscured hand from the adversary. They’re 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.
So, they go in with the flashlight, they investigate and “holy cow” there’s somebody in there, where do you go with that? And so, the CROW stood up as sort of that interface, especially when you talk about legacy weapon systems.
Take the F-16, which are very cyber dependent as we’ve learned in the last 10-15 years. How does that team, that cop that’s on the beat that says, there’s a window open in that F-16 software that shouldn’t be open, how do you get the right experts, engineers and PhDs involved that may have built that system or designed that system and facilitate a very quick turn response to that? The response could be a whole number of things. It could be, we need to ground that asset for now. We can’t fly the next sortie because the risk is too great. It may be, I think we can still fly with that vulnerability in place because we have other work arounds.
Again, back to that resiliency discussion. It may be, we can deploy some code very quickly and shut that window and get the adversary out of the system. But you need the expert that built that system originally to be in that discussion.
Two F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the Alabama Air National Guard’s 187th Fighter Wing approach a tanker during an aerial refueling mission over Nevada during exercise Green Flag-West 13-02.
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. 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.
Airman magazine: Cyber was involved in everything we do. How does the Air Force get that level of education raised? That sea level of understanding about how cyber influences everything that we do across the entire force.
Maj. Gen. Higby: We do have a cyber (Air Force specialty code), a tribe of cyber professionals that are trained to do that. But as you said, cyber affects everything.
So, now the question is how do I open up that aperture to find more cyber talent that we may have on the force that we’re not aware of? And so, we came up with the concept of a cyber aptitude test. So just like you test for different aptitudes like spoken languages, you can test for cyber aptitude and you might find cyber aptitude in unusual places.
It may be a fuels troop in an LRS (Logistics Readiness Squadron) at a base somewhere that on the side, tinkers with Raspberry Pis and develops apps for phones. That’s probably the Airman that you want working to look at (creating) the digitized fuel pump that’s pumping fuel to the jets when they’re in the hot pad. He or she is probably the good beat cop to have on the mission defense team to say, “Hey, somebody is messing with that fuel pump” and I might be able to circumvent it right here on the spot and allow the mission to continue without having to escalate up and get those higher-level SWAT teams to come in.
Proposed content viewing page on the Cyber Education Hub, which is being developed at the Center for Cyberspace Research in the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The online site is a platform for multimedia cyber education content geared to cyber experts and Airmen seeking knowledge of how cyber applies to their career fields. The site builds user profiles based on user viewing history, job description and preferences, as well as command directives.
Then there is modularized training and we began rolling that out in 2014, allowing some self-paced training. So, a certain module might be really easy for me, but might be really hard for you. Let me go through it at my speed and then the next module, it might be the other way around, but don’t limit the learning. If somebody already has the skills, I don’t have to have them relearn it at the school house. We can do it remotely. We can do it through things like YouTube videos.
All of that is now becoming available to our Airman. So, any Airman out there, on the chief software officer’s webpage (software.af.mil), there’s a whole bunch of training modules about DevOps, for example.
So, if you’re that LRS Airman fuels troop and you say, “Hey, I hear all this DevOps stuff and ‘Containers’ and ‘Kubernetes,’ what does all that mean? All of that is available to them.
Airman magazine: How important is it making sure that that cyber resiliency not only extends to the finished products, the war fighting systems that we use, but the supply chain from all the contractors and all the various companies that supply parts from various locations?
Maj. Gen. Higby: That’s a huge challenge. I was actually involved with our general counsel office because they were seeing the same concerns across the supply chain.
So, we’re building a new airplane or a new pod for an airplane. That system relies on a lot of integrated circuit boards, processors, chips, chipsets and timing clocks that all come from diverse places. And how do we assure ourselves that when they come together that they inter-operate properly and that there isn’t some kind of malware or malicious code or backdoor baked into them that the adversary could then use in the future to defeat that weapon in a way that would surprise us.
A 507th Air Refueling Wing aircraft maintenance team installs a Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures pod onto the underside of a KC-135 Stratotanker Oct. 25, 2017 at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.
That is hard. Now again in the commercial sector this has been a concern for a long time too and there are companies, some pretty big-name computer companies, that have pretty good supply chain resiliency and supply chain monitoring making sure that you can track where a given product was made and if it was made in the right place by the people with the right clearances.
So, there are techniques out there. The challenge for the Air Force, since we don’t tend to make our own pods and airplanes, is we usually rely on an industry partner and what’s the right balance for us have that industry partner get the help they need, when they need it, but also to be open to communicate to us when they have concerns.
We have an Air Force asset, but it works for the entire Department of Defense, the defense Cyber Crime Center, under the Air Force Office of Special Investigations that specializes in just that kind of stuff. And I believe their role will increase in the future as we move forward. They need more staff and help and all kinds of things too. They’re the right experts that can look at a given component and say, this has something in it or this is behaving in a way that it shouldn’t, so they can detect some of that as well and then find ways to circumvent it and then upstream consequences for whoever the person was or the entity was that in injected that into the supply chain.
Our supply chain is a big concern not only for DoD, but for our industry partners as well.
Hypersonic Research Engineers, Ryan Helbach and 1st Lt David McLellan, talk in Hypersonic Combustion Research Cell 22, used in research into SCRAM jet technology, at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, Jul 21, 2016. Helbach is the program lead for AFRL’s Intellect to Intellect Exchange (i2i Exchange) which pairs AFRL scientists and engineers with innovative private tech companies and created the AFRL Entrepreneurial Program allowing scientists and engineers to take sabbaticals to pursue outside for-profit goals.
Airman magazine: What kind of things are being undertaken to try and attract new cyber talent and to retain our talent?
Maj. Gen. Higby: There’s a huge number of initiatives. One that I mentioned, again, the cyber aptitude test of finding talent and places where you may not think it exists.
So, there may be a young man or woman who grew up in the mountains of Appalachia that didn’t grow up with iPhones and computers. But, maybe they have a natural gift, they’re a gifted musician perhaps. And guess what gifted musicians sometimes make really good coders. Unless we can expose them to a cyber aptitude test, we won’t know that they have that ability. Then we could say, you scored really high in this thing, would you like to join this team that’s doing big important things for our country?
I think even today, despite all the bad rap that millennials get, there is a desire to be part of something that in our generation would call bigger than yourself, so doing something for the greater good.
There are still young Americans who are willing to step forward and do that. The key is attracting them and once we attract them, we know we’re not going to retain them by paying them more.
I can’t compete with the big-name companies in Silicon Valley in terms of financial compensation, but what I can compete with is the coolness factor of the mission. Hey, you’re doing something here that’s either saving American lives or making Americans that are in combat somewhere more effective in protecting our constitution. There are American millennials and the generation after them willing to do that.
The challenges, what’s the environment that they’re going to come into? Are they going to come into that environment where we hand them the rotary dial phone tethered to a cable or we are going to bring them into the force that says, here’s the iPhone or whatever that we’re going to issue you a basic training? Your orders are on there, all your personnel files are on there. Your training, a program that you need to go through is on there. The links to all those YouTube videos, it’s all on there. Where you need to go to get your uniform issued, that code or that app is on there. That’s the experience that they should be having. Not here’s your big rotary dial phone with the cable attached and then you need all these pieces of paper to go over there to get your uniform.
So, it’s on us to make that environment conducive to the generation that grew up as digital natives where we don’t bring them into an analog world, because that’ll be a turnoff very quickly.
It comes down to understanding our Airmen and the two biggest and in all of the retention surveys I’ve seen the results of, the two big factors that stick out is, one, does the Airman feel tethered to an important mission? That’s a huge retention factor.
And then the second is the Airman’s relationship with their supervisor? The frontline supervisor, not wing commander, that’s not MAJCOM commander, that’s not the chief of staff or the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. That is your frontline supervisor, the person that you’re interacting with every day. If that is a good relationship and that frontline supervisor is keeping you inspired about the importance of the mission you’re doing and how that plays into doing something bigger than yourself, you’re going to stay on the team.
Airman magazine: I would imagine the key to retention too is after you’ve trained them up to do these cool missions, is not having Airmen stuck doing housekeeping things. Can we talk about how (artifical intelligence) fits into this conversation?
U.S. Air Force Airmen 1st Class Raymond Rowe and Jaran Daly, 460th Space Communications Squadron, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, and Staff Sgt. Derrick Shipley, 932nd Airlift Wing, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, students, attend the 24th Air Force Enterprise Cyber Security Tools Training Course at Lott Hall at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Sept. 12, 2018. This is the first time the 690th Cyber Operations Group has held the course at Keesler.
Maj. Gen. Higby: Our enlisted career field for coders, 3D0X4, we have a number of case studies where this good coder gets to go to Kessel Run and work on the tanker planning tool for example and absolutely love it.
They’re doing paired programming with the industry expert attached to their hip learning together, growing together, creating code that’s being used. They’re talking to the war fighter that’s actually using it on a daily basis. It’s a very rewarding experience and then after their six-month TDY ends, they go back to their base-level communication squadron and they’re a SharePoint administrator, which is not necessarily what they signed up for.
Now, does SharePoint need to be administered at that base? Absolutely it does. But, maybe now we have enough talent in that Airman where they could use something like an algorithm or some kind of machine learning tool to automate the SharePoint administration aspect and then free themselves up to do the DevOps full time, vice having to do a lot of the laborious housekeeping that could be done through code or through an industry partner.
If you look at the AFNet today and I think most of us that are working on the AFNet would agree, it is a complicated, convoluted mess. It’s overly complex and in terms of the user experience, if you ask most Airmen, how would you rate the AFNet? They’re not going to give it good grades.
What we’re trying to do now is get some of those industry providers that provide service for the commercial sector, for our civilian lives, to bring that experience into the Air Force and have them run the network at a base or have them run the network in a given region.
So now you get the same user experience that you like in your private life, you now get that at work as well instead of staring in the blue wheel of death, waiting for something to load.
Cyber-warfare specialists serving with the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group of the Maryland Air National Guard engage in weekend training at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., Jun. 3, 2017.
Airman magazine: Let’s talk about our civilian Airman, the Air National Guard units. How important is that? When it comes to DevOps and contracting, acquisitions and cyber to have people out there getting real-world experience in a different vein and bringing that cross pollination back into the force.
Maj. Gen. Higby: That’s always been a huge success story for the Air Force between our total force as we say, “Guard, reserve and REGAF (regular Air Force).” In the guard and reserve, there is so much untapped talent, it’s everything from coders all the way through to pilots. If we can find the right ways to tap into that talent at the time of need, I think it would make us a much more capable Air Force.
Some functional areas have figured that out. It’s hard because again, a lot of these total force Airmen have civilian jobs and I can share anecdotes of say a cyber security officer for a high-end Fortune 500 company in civilian life, but they’re a defender for security forces in their guard role. I ask, “Can I make you a cyber Airman? And the answer is, well, I don’t want to do all that cyber stuff. I want to be in a foxhole with a gun.
We have to figure out what are the right incentives for someone like that to say, okay, I’ll leave you on the security forces side, but can we leverage some of your cyber talent to make that SF unit more capable? Because you can do some DevOps things to manipulate the base defense cameras or a system that detects non-ferrous materials coming into the base. You can manipulate those systems in ways to maybe have a quicker response or more capable response and you’ll still get to carry your gun and lay in the foxhole on the weekend if that’s really what you want to do.
Airman magazine: You have stated that your career field pyramid is inverted. What does that mean and how is that being addressed?
Maj. Gen. Higby: When I was the cyber career field manager two or three years ago, this was one of the challenges on the officer’s side. It ended up that in our inventory we had more field grade officer positions than company grade officer positions.
Normally in the military hierarchy, you would have more CGOs then you pick the best and promote them up and so you have a pyramid. The biggest hit was probably the PBD720 force shaping cuts of the 2008-2009 timeframe, that harvested a lot of the CGO positions. And so the cuts weren’t necessarily laid in a way that made sense in terms of that pyramid. That’s where you end up and in some cases it’s a good opportunity, where a captain fills a major’s position or a major fills a lieutenant colonel’s position and they can work at an echelon higher than they normally would be able to. Some do really well at that and it’s a great opportunity, but that’s something that needs to get fixed.
I know Maj. Gen. Kevin Kennedy, who replaced me, that’s one of the challenges that he’s looking at is how do we right size that and are there places where perhaps we can trade FTO for CGO billets and fix that manpower map.
Our manpower system in the Air Force is an industrial age system and it is something that our A1 team (manpower, personnel and services) is struggling with, as well as figuring out how do we get into the DevOps and Agile age? I know Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly is working hard on that and trying to come up with different ways where we don’t get trapped in the old thinking of it has to be a pyramid. There may be cases where if you’re working as a team, it doesn’t have to be a pyramid and we can leave our rank at the door, so to speak.
Airman magazine: Does getting away from being a one mistake Air Force enter into that?
Maj. Gen. Higby: It certainly does and especially when you talk about the risk appetite that’s required to do DevOps or Agile, you have to be able to celebrate those failures.
Now again, I’m not talking about breaking laws and committing crimes. I’m talking about taking a risk on something and it ends up not working out. Failing forward, that’s the term that the chief (Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein) likes to use. It’s what do you learn from that failure to enable your next success.
Over history, there’s plenty of examples of people that have failed and failed and failed, but they keep trying and then eventually they hit that big success that makes all those failures pale in comparison. We’re talking about venture capital and venture capital is predicated on a lot of failures. You invest in a hundred different things as a venture capitalist waiting for that one big one to be the breakthrough. Ninety-nine of the rest aren’t going to make you any money.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein addresses members of the Project Kessel Run team during a visit in Boston Dec. 6. Kessel Run personnel, led by the program executive officer for Digital at Hanscom AFB, Mass., create and rapidly deliver software and applications for U.S. warfighters.
Airman magazine: So how about you, if you don’t mind us asking, what did you learn from your failures? Has there been a failure in your career that has affected the way you lead or affected a project or something that you were working on?
Maj. Gen. Higby: Yeah, my career is replete with many failures. I’ll share one from when I first came in the Air Force and all of my failures in the Air Force, as I look back now, they have sort of a common theme and that is that I didn’t rely on the team in the way that I should have relied on the team.
My first duty station was at Fort Meade, Maryland, in the Musketeer Program. We didn’t use terms like cyber or DevOps at the time, but that’s essentially what we were doing in the musketeer program. So, I was given this assignment as, as part of a team. So think back to 1990, The Soviet Union has come apart, but they still had a very capable military and they were doing something like out of a Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October novel. They had something they were doing to non-acoustically detect submarines and that was very worrisome for us. I was assigned to this project to figure out what they were doing.
We figured out they had some airborne assets that were emanating a certain kind of signal and so I was assigned to figure out in three months how to correlate where the aircraft was so we could figure out what that power pattern polarization actually looked like coming from the aircraft. In other words, I had to figure out how to track the aircraft.
So, we’re deploying in like three months and I’ve already wasted two months and I’m at wit’s end. Nothing is working. And the whole team is relying on me to come up with this answer. Finally, a colleague of mine that wasn’t on the deployment team per se, but was a musketeer said, “have you considered a V beam?”
So, I do a little research and team up with him and we get two commercial yacht radars, put them back to back, tilt them at 37 degrees and spin them on top of a little container that I put in this gun emplacement to get azimuth bearing and altitude. And that all comes in digitally and then you write code to correlate to what the other system is collecting. It went from I’m an epic failure because I was trying to do it by myself to be the hero to there’s actually somebody over on my team and if only I would have engaged them earlier.
Every failure I’ve had in my career is where I try to solve a problem alone and sort of suffer in silence and then realize in hindsight there’s actually somebody right here that can help me. Whether it’s personal life problems or work projects I’m not able to get a breakthrough on, it’s always I’m trying to do it by myself and I’m not leveraging those other great Airmen that are around me that have different viewpoints and different backgrounds. That diversity of thought can help you solve a problem.
Oregon Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Carl Green and Airman 1st Class Michelle Johnson, 142nd Fighter Wing Diversity and Inclusion Counsel’s co-chairs, review notes during a group activity as part of the monthly Unit Training Assembly weekend of events, Jan. 11, 2015, at Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. The Diversity and Inclusion Counsel helps foster communication by recognizing that a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds are crucial to mission success.
Airman magazine: When you put on those stars, is this something that is now a lesson learned that you’re feeding down the chain?
Maj. Gen. Higby: I talk a lot about diversity and making sure you have a diverse team that comes together. In some cases that diversity can be visually ascertained, like you all look different. In other cases that diversity can be ascertained once you get to know each other and you realize, wow, you really think about this very differently than I do. Instead of being afraid of that, we ought to embrace it, because there could come a time where I’m confronted with a situation that I can’t get around, but you’ll look at it in a different way and throw the solution on the table that helps us get the mission done quickly and again, that’s all part of DevOps.
Back to the original question, what is DevOps? DevOps is that team of diverse individuals that are continuously iterating and continuously improving that capability that you need to get the mission done.
As the cyber realm evolves, effects from cyberattacks are moving from the digital world to the physical one.
Just three years ago, nearly 225,000 energy customers in Ukraine woke to a powerless city after regional electrical companies were hacked and shut down by malicious Russian cyber actors. In 2018, the city of Atlanta had to suspend many of its services while ransomware ran rampant through government computers.
To ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams, which defend priority Department of Defense networks and systems against such malicious cyber-physical acts, the 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron has developed an innovative new training tool.
“‘Bricks in the Loop’ helps cyber airmen conceptualize and understand the relationship between the network and physical domains in operational technology infrastructures,” said Christopher De La Rosa, 90th COS cyber modeling and simulation environments lead. “Significant differences exist between information technology and OT networks, necessitating different approaches to training our airmen in IT and OT cyber defense.”
In other words, BIL links cyber (IT) and physical (OT) resources to afford airmen the opportunity to see how a cyber action can effect a physical asset. Unfortunately, any cyber-physical training option using life-size training assets would be too costly to create, so current options are predominantly virtual-based, according to De La Rosa.
The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)
To remedy this, his team created a scaled, physical training environment made of toy, plastic bricks purchased off-the-shelf. They combined this with an IT network built from open source or low-cost, and easy-to-use software options. The build cost less than ,000 and took only four months.
The “loop” serves as a simulated Air Force installation with assets such as a fire station, police station, airport, airport passenger terminal, jets, tanker trucks, and other vehicles. Many of these elements can purposefully be hacked and made to light up, move forward or backward, spin, alarm or stop working all together, all to alert the trainee a cyber action has taken place. The toy bricks are built on 15×15 inch tiles so they can be easily transported and re-built to support on-demand training or to model service-level exercises.
“The look and functionality of the environment allows the trainee to easily translate the model to critical missions on most bases, and the potential damage that could occur from a malicious cyber-physical attack on those missions,” De La Rosa said. “There are many more scenarios relevant to Air Force bases that, if disrupted, may have a critical impact on assigned missions.”
The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)
In the future, the team hopes to include additional assets that will lend to more training scenarios, including fuel operations, security, water filtration, and fire alarm and suppression systems. The team is also seeking to incorporate a remote access and control feature providing trainees the opportunity to connect from anywhere.
Training cyber airmen isn’t new to the 90th COS. In the last two years alone, the squadron has developed 110 cyber capabilities comprising real-time operations and innovation efforts, CMF support efforts, and additional supporting capabilities and enabling efforts, including BIL.
As AFCYBER airmen continue to deliver full-spectrum global cyberspace capabilities and outcomes to the Air Force, joint force and nation, so will the 90th COS in its endeavor to keep them proficiently trained and ready.
President Donald Trump announced “precision strikes” on Syria on April 13, 2018, in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack that reportedly killed dozens of people there earlier this month.
Britain and France have joined the US in the military operation, Trump said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was suspected of orchestrating a chlorine attack against the rebel-held town of Douma, near the capital of Damascus, on April 7. Although exact figures were unclear, the attack is believed to have killed dozens, many of them children. The New York Times said at least 43 of the victims showed signs of having been exposed to “highly toxic chemicals.”
“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime,” Trump said on Friday.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price)
Trump called the incident a “heinous attack on innocent” Syrians and vowed that the US would respond: “This is about humanity; it can’t be allowed to happen.”
Trump also accused Russia and Iran of being “responsible for supporting, equipping, and financing” Assad’s regime: “What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children,” Trump asked.
“The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep,” the president said. “No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants, and murderous dictators.”
Trump continued: “Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace. Hopefully, someday we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran. But maybe not.”
Britain and France join in the military action
In a statement on Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized — within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.
“History teaches us that the international community must defend the global rules and standards that keep us all safe. That is what our country has always done. And what we will continue to do.”
An international uproar over chemical weapons
The chemical attack prompted several nations to respond, including the UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel. Trump had reportedly talked to UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron this week, both of whom believed that the Syrian regime should be held accountable.
“I just want to say very clearly, that if they use chemical weapons, they are going to pay a very, very stiff price,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.
Although Trump reportedly advocated for a broad military strike that would punish Syria, and to an extent, its allies Russia and Iran, he is believed to have been met with resistance from Mattis and other military officials, who feared the White House lacked a broad strategy, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The latest chemical attack follows the suspected Syrian-sponsored sarin attack in April 2017, which reportedly killed 89 people. The US responded by firing 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase that was suspected of playing a role in the chemical attacks.
Despite overwhelming evidence of the government’s involvement in the attacks, Syria has denied responsibility for both incidents.
In addition to Assad’s denials, Russia, one of Syria’s staunchest allies, has also dismissed the allegations as “fake news,” and said its own experts found no “trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians.”
On Tuesday, Russia took its response a step further and vetoed the US-backed United Nations resolution that condemned the apparent chemical attack.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley rebuked the decision and called it a “sad day.”
“When the people of Douma, along with the rest of the international community, looked to this council to act, one country stood in the way,” Haley said. “History will record that. History will record that, on this day, Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people.”
We published our favorite 63 COVID-19 memes not too long ago and the response was overwhelming. Turns out during these serious, scary and uncertain times, one thing is for sure: We could all use a good laugh. And one more thing that’s for sure: the memes just keep on coming. We bring you this week’s best COVID-19 sayings and memes.
1. This is why we can’t have nice things
It’s bad enough we cancelled March Madness. Can ya’ll just please follow the directions so we can have some summer?
2. And you thought finding love in the time of cholera was bad
At least it’s not you, it’s COVID-19.
3. 6 feet, damn it!
I always thought Pooh was the selfish one, breaking into everyone’s houses and stealing all the honey. Maybe it’s clingy Piglet.
4. That homeschool life tho
If you can teach fractions pouring wine, you can teach gym with chores.
5. I volunteer as tribute
You know you’re going to get voluntold anyway.
6. Spoiler alert: nowhere
I got so excited when I saw Absolutely.
7. Wasn’t me
It’s always the wife.
8. Dad joke
Oh, so punny. Sorry, not sorry.
9. The truth hurts
If only hoarding had an immunity boost with it.
10. I’d like to pass over 2020
11. Puerto Backyard-O
Just be careful of the DUI checkpoint in the hall.
12. So full of hope
So full of $hit. 1
13. This little piggy
That’s the one who stayed home, Karen.
14. You put the lotion on the skin
But honestly, isn’t there a tinnyyyyy part of you that thinks it would be so nice to be touched by another human again?
15. The quarantine cut
This cut will help you social distance like never before!
16. It ends with credits
After Tiger King, is there really anything left to watch?
17. Poetry in action
We might need this on a t-shirt.
18. Allergies be like
No, but seriously. You know you can’t sneeze without everyone panicking.
19. Blend and repeat
We call this breakfast.
20. No pants either way
Just don’t confuse the two.
21. Life lessons
Here Timmy, blow your nose. And breathe in.
22. Bad Boy vs. Death Row
These are important life lessons.
23. Stay-at-home order
Except for everyone in the military.
24. Quarantine body
We might need to issue a lockdown on our snack cabinet…
25. Nobody wants bed bugs
26. Show me the money!
Plumbing is an essential service. Hoarding is not.
27. Is today the day?
And to think you might not even know for 5-14 days…
28. Another COVID-cut
You can always just shave it off…
29. Prince Charmin
The year of the hunter.
30. Hashtag no filter
No truer words were ever spoken.
31. Speaking of Matthew McConaughey…
At least he got thinner?
32. Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat
We know we’re mixing Disney movies, but that bidet is a whole new world.
33. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma
We know Carol Beskin is the real cause behind coronavirus.
34. United as one
That’s how the heartland does. ‘Merica.
35. April Fool’s
Although, this might be footage of Florida over the weekend… #STAYHOME
36. Muscle atrophy
Too many leg days?
37. How we all feel
Don’t forget to change out of your daytime pajamas into your nighttime pajamas.
38. Oh Kermieeee
Is Quarantini a breakfast beverage?
39. Pants are always optional
Video chats should come with a 15 minute courtesy.
40. The difference a year makes
Just a healthy change in perspective.
41. Men are from Mars…
He probably does want to talk about it.
42. Two thumbs up
“No, really, we don’t mind.”
43. We’ll never forget
The Purell. The panic. The year the world stopped.
Keep your sense of humor, wash your hands, stay home and stop the spread. And more than anything, we hope you and your family stay well.
The Raid on Makin Island is one of those operations that Marines point to with pride. The Marine Raiders that carried it out were among the best of the best. It even became the subject of a 1943 movie, Gung Ho!, starring Randolph Scott and Robert Mitchum. That raid was also a strategic blunder that, in a very real sense, screwed over the 2nd Marine Division assigned to take Tarawa about 15 months later.
You may be asking yourself, “how did a successful raid screw over the 2nd Marine Division more than a year down the line?” Well, it’s all connected to a series of events put in motion by the end of World War I.
At the end of The Great War, Japan was given the Marshall Islands under a League of Nations mandate. Under Article XIX of the Washington Naval Treaty, these islands (and any other islands in the Pacific) weren’t supposed to be fortified. As you might imagine, Japan didn’t abide by these terms.
On the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese swept over the Marshal Islands, seizing control, adding these land masses to a collection of Central Pacific claims. Japan quickly fortified both the Gilbert and Marshal Islands. From these bases, they hoped to whittle down the American fleet in the Pacific to the point where their smaller force could win a decisive battle.
U.S. Marine Col. Carlson and his staff consult during training for the Makin raid.
Around the time the United States attacked Guadalcanal, the 2nd Raider Battalion was sent to hit Makin Island. They went in on two submarines, USS Argonaut (SS 166) and USS Nautilus (SS 168). The intent was to gather intel about Japanese forces in the Central Pacific while distracting from Allied landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi.
The raid went pretty well for the United States Marines. They killed 46 of the enemy, but suffered 30 casualties, including losing nine who became POWs and were later executed.
The Raid on Makin Island prompted the Japanese to reinforce Tarawa, which made landing on that island a very costly affair.
Although it was tactical success, it had its consequences. It alerted the Japanese to the vulnerability of their bases in the Central Pacific — and they responded with reinforcements. The existing bases were further built up. When the Americans came knocking in November, 1943, the Japanese troops were dug in. Tarawa became a bloody fight.
The fact that nine Marines were left behind, taken prisoner, and later executed was not the worst consequence of the Makin Island raid.
In short, the Raid on Makin Island was a big morale boost for the United States, but that early attack exposed weaknesses on a small scale and arguably made the Central Pacific much more costly in the grand scheme of things.
During the last few months, Americans have faced a lot of adversity and continue to look for those to lead, guide and help navigate them through these uncertain times. One group has shown up and set an example of leadership and duty that we all should emulate.
We often use terms like, “When I served,” “When I was in the service,” or others to talk about when we were in uniform. But as many of us know, and many more of us learned during the last few months, the service that veterans provide to our country isn’t limited to the 4 to 20+ years in the military.
For many veterans, the desire to serve continues into their next career or the volunteer work they do. And the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) wants everyone to know the many ways veterans continue to serve.
The VFW has launched #StillServing, a campaign to bring attention to and honor the continued commitment and sacrifice of America’s veterans.
“Veterans truly exemplify the best of America,” said William “Doc” Schmitz, VFW national commander. “They are dedicated to giving of themselves, and the skills and values they develop in the military only deepen their desire to better themselves, their communities and their country through service. We are grateful for the millions of members who have made service a hallmark of the VFW and we’re excited for the veterans who are joining now to carry this forward in new ways.”
The VFW is encouraging all veterans to share stories of their ongoing service using #StillServing on social media channels. They want veterans to show how they continue to answer the call to serve in ways big and small. In addition, family members are also asked to use #StillServing posts to honor a veteran in their family who believes the spirit of service transcends military life.
The VFW gives veterans a place to share in the bonds formed through military service. VFW members have created a foundation of service since 1899, and that legacy is now attracting a new generation of members who want to carry the torch forward.
At one time, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria controlled a self-proclaimed caliphate that stretched from Syria to Iraq, but now that force in Iraq has been degraded so much that the remnants are hiding in caves, deep wadis, and tunnels in the desert and hills of western Iraq’s austere terrain, the commander of Task Force Rifles told Pentagon reporters Dec. 11, 2018.
Army Col. Jonathan C. Byrom, who also serves as deputy director of Joint Operations Command Iraq, spoke via video teleconference from Baghdad.
Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi security forces are conducting continuous clearance operations against these small pockets, the colonel said.
Checkpoints along the Iraq-Syria border have now been reopened, and Iraq’s border guard and security forces are operating along that border to prevent ISIS from crossing, he said. That includes “intense cross-border fires” by Iraqi and coalition forces in consultation and coordination with Syrian Democratic Forces, he added.
U.S. Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command fire 120mm mortars in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve operations Sept. 18, 2018. CJTF-OIR is the military arm of the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS in designated parts of Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)
Iraqi security forces are large-scale clearance operations and are hunting ISIS leadership and trying to take out the terrorist group’s media, propaganda, and financial capabilities, Byrom said.
Assistance from U.S., coalition forces
U.S. and coalition forces are advising, assisting, and enabling Iraqi forces, he said, support that includes providing them with joint fires, intelligence, aerial surveillance, and training, along with some equipment. “It’s a good partnership” that’s preventing a resurgence of ISIS and continues to degrade their numbers and effectiveness, the colonel said.
Byrom emphasized that the Iraqis are conducting their own missions and making the decisions. “They are effectively targeting ISIS and regularly conducting operations that disrupt ISIS and preventing their resurgence,” he said.
Asked how many ISIS fighters remain in Iraq, Byrom said he doesn’t focus on the number. “What we’re really focused on is the capability and whether they can translate this capability into destabilizing or resurging,” he explained.
The good news story, he said, is that ISIS attacks “are not having that much of an impact on the population.”
The Marine Corps is leading the way in employing advanced technologies and robotic construction.
In early August 2018, the Additive Manufacturing Team at Marine Corps Systems Command teamed up with Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force to operate the world’s largest concrete 3D printer at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois. As a joint effort between the Marine Corps, Army and Navy Seabees, an expeditionary concrete 3D printer was used to print a 500-square-foot barracks hut in 40 hours.
The Marine Corps is currently staffing a deliberate urgent needs statement and concept of employment for this technology. The results of the field user evaluation will inform future requirements to give the Corps a concrete construction additive manufacturing program of record.
“This exercise had never been done before,” said Capt. Matthew Friedell, AM project officer in MCSC’s Operations and Programs/G-3. “People have printed buildings and large structures, but they haven’t done it onsite and all at once. This is the first-in-the-world, onsite continuous concrete print.”
Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force learn how to operate the world’s largest concrete 3D printer as it constructs a 500-square-foot barracks hut at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
The team started with a computer-aided design model on a 10-year old computer, concrete and a 3D printer. Once they hit print, the concrete was pushed through the print head and layered repeatedly to build the walls. In total, the job took 40 hours because Marines had to monitor progress and continually fill the printer with concrete. However, if there was a robot to do the mixing and pumping, the building could easily be created in one day, Friedell said.
“In 2016, the commandant said robots should be doing everything that is dull, dangerous and dirty, and a construction site on the battlefield is all of those things,” Friedell said.
The ability to build structures and bases while putting fewer Marines in danger would be a significant accomplishment, he said.
“In active or simulated combat environments, we don’t want Marines out there swinging hammers and holding plywood up,” said Friedell. “Having a concrete printer that can make buildings on demand is a huge advantage for Marines operating down range.”
It normally takes 10 Marines five days to construct a barracks hut out of wood. With this FUE, the Marine Corps proved four Marines with a concrete printer can build a strong structure in less than two days. Ideally, the Corps’ use of concrete printers will span the full range of military operations, from combat environments to humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.
The world’s largest concrete 3D printer constructs a 500-square-foot barracks hut at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in mid-August in Champaign, Illinois.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
As the first military services on site in natural disasters, the Navy and Marine Corps are great at providing food and water, but struggle to provide shelter, Friedell said. In many locations, cement is easier to acquire than wood. During humanitarian or disaster relief missions, Marines could safely and quickly print houses, schools and community buildings to replace those destroyed.
“This capability would enable a great partnership with the local community because it is low cost, easy to use, and robotics could print the buildings,” Friedell said. “We can bring forward better structures, houses and forward operating bases with less manpower and fewer Marines in harm’s way.”
The AM Team plans to conduct further testing and wants to get the capability into the hands of more Marines to inform future requirements for cutting-edge technology and autonomous systems.
“Our future operating environment is going to be very kinetic and dangerous because we don’t necessarily know what we’re going into,” said Friedell. “The more we can pull Marines out of those potentially dangerous situations — whether it’s active combat or natural disaster — and place robotics there instead, it helps us accomplish the mission more efficiently.”