This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals - We Are The Mighty
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This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals

DARPA wants Navy SEALs to be more seal-like, so they invented PowerSwim.


“Technically it’s called an oscillating foil propulsion device,” DARPA program manager Jay Lowell says, in a video from DARPA TV. “That’s a really fancy way of saying it’s a wing that helps push a diver through the water.”

The typical swimmer fins are no more than 15 percent efficient in their conversion of human exertion. By contrast, PowerSwim helps divers swim 80 percent more efficient. This dramatic improvement in swimming efficiency will enable a subsurface swimmer to move up to two times faster than what’s currently possible, improving performance, safety, and range, according to DARPA.

Watch this video to see PowerSwim in action:

NOW: 19 photos of Navy SEALs doing what they do best

OR: Hilarious robot fails show why you shouldn’t worry about ‘Terminator’ just yet

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The Waco Siege was the most controversial use of federal force in decades

On February 28, 1993, a standoff between federal agents and an offshoot branch of Seventh-Day Adventists escalated into armed conflict on American soil. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, in an effort to execute a legal search warrant.


Once the shooting started, four agents and six Davidians were dead. The ensuing standoff would last 51 days. The conspiracy theories would live forever.

By March 11, there was a new sheriff in town – that is to say, a new top law enforcement officer was at the desk of Attorney General.

For Janet Reno — the first female to hold top cop job — one of the first tasks was a literal trial by fire: how to handle the ultimate hand of “Texas Hold ‘Em” happening down Waco way.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
Reno in an undated broadcast TV interview.

Related: This is how the US military would put down an armed rebellion

There are two segments to the Waco standoff, sadly bookended by violence. The first was the ATF raid for the initial search warrant. President Clinton was inaugurated the previous January, creating a transition period for many departments of the federal government. The Department of Justice was in what it called “caretaker mode” before a new AG could be appointed. For much of the time after the February raid, it was assumed by many that the FBI would negotiate a resolution with the Davidians, so that’s what the caretakers – senior justice department officials – did.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
Branch Davidian Compound (YouTube Screengrab)

The second major event came when the Attorney General’s office ordered a full-on storming of the compound by the FBI on April 19th. For the 51 days in between, FBI negotiators tried to end the siege peacefully — and came close a few times. It was when Davidian leader David Koresh proclaimed that God told him to remain inside the compound that factions within the FBI began to advocate for an assault. The Davidians made a number of demands, to a mixed reception by the FBI.

Though some children inside the compound were released to the care of the FBI, there were still children inside the Davidian compound. Allegations of child sexual assault prompted many to wonder why the government forces allowed the standoff to continue. Acting Attorney General Stuart Gerson, a holdover from the Bush Administration, requested military firepower from nearby Fort Hood. When President Clinton was informed, he demanded that Gerson not use the requested military vehicles for a “more aggressive” tactical push.

Federal forces used Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles and M728 Combat Engineer Vehicles to destroy perimeter fences and structures and to destroy the cars of people on the compound. Troops around the area also had 2 M1A1 Abrams Tanks. The feds used loud music, pre-recorded aircraft noise, and even the sounds of slaughtered rabbits to deprive the Davidians of sleep while cutting water, power, and communications to the compound. Koresh reportedly began to believe he was the second coming of Christ.

As incoming Attorney General, Reno was briefed about the Waco Siege situation on March 12. By April 18, she was informing President Clinton that she authorized the FBI’s use of tear gas on the compound. With the assurance that the children in the compound were protected, he left it to Reno to decide the next steps. The FBI planned the assault for 0700.

On April 19th, agents from the FBI and ATF, as well as troops from the U.S. Army and Texas National Guard, were authorized by Clinton to assault the compound. Reno told the president the risk of abused children inside was high while the siege was costing the government upward of $1 million per week.

Federal forces used the CEVs, .50 cal machine guns, and explosives to punch holes in the walls of the compound. The area was then saturated with tear gas in an attempt to flush the Davidians out. The people inside the complex responded by firing on the CEVs. The federal forces maintained they never returned a shot. For six hours the Davidians held out.

But fire is what ultimately ended the Waco siege.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
The Davidians’ Mount Carmel Compound in flames on April 19, 1993. (FBI photo)

Three fires began at separate locations within the building at about noon local time. Nine people escaped the blaze, but 76 died inside the walls. The government forces maintain the fires were started by the Davidians in the compound while those who escape claim the fires were a result of the assault. According to an official Justice Department report, poor construction, high winds, and the holes created by the government attack helped vent the fire and contribute to its fast spread.

Time Magazine reported that 12 autopsies found Davidians who died from bullet wounds to the head, “indicating either suicide or murder.” Koresh was killed by his right-hand man during the Waco siege, who then turned the gun on himself.

“I’m accountable,” Time Magazine reported Reno as saying on April 19, 1993. “The buck stops with me.”

After all was said and done, the original ATF warrant was founded in fact. The Justice Department reported they recovered a number of illegal weapons from the compound, including 1.9 million rounds of spent ammunition,  20 fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles, 12 fully automatic AR-15 assault rifles, at least two .50 caliber semi-automatic rifles, and anti-tank armor-piercing ammunition.

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This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

By all accounts, Vietnam combat veteran John P. Baca has lived a quiet, humble and selfless life in the decades since he made the split-second decision to jump on an enemy grenade.


The fragmentation grenade landed amidst the soldiers of his recoilless rifle team responding to help an Army platoon facing a nighttime barrage of enemy fire inPhuoc Long province on Feb. 10, 1970. Then-Specialist 4th Class Baca, a 21-year-old drafted the previous year, removed his helmet, covered the grenade and prayed through what he thought was his final moment on Earth.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
Medal of Honor recipient and community activist John Baca got the attention of former Marine and MOH recipient Dakota Meyer for his work with the community in San Diego. (Photo from Gidget Fuentes)

Baca, seriously wounded by the concussion and shrapnel from the exploding grenade, survived the blast. So did eight fellow soldiers. His actions didn’t go unnoticed. The following year, President Richard Nixon placed the Medal of Honor medal, the nation’s highest award for combat valor, around his neck in the nation’s recognition of the “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”

Baca’s “gallant action and total disregard for his personal well-being directly saved eight men from certain serious injury or death,” states the award citation.

On Oct. 29, Baca, now 67, stood among a crowd of several hundred attending the first-annual “Ride to Live.”

The American Soldier Network, a Mission Viejo, California-based, all-volunteer non-profit group, and the all-veterans Forgotten Sons Motorcycle Club organized the fundraiser in Oceanside to raise awareness about suicides, post-traumatic stress and struggles of military veterans. About a dozen motorcycle clubs joined in the event outside the Elks Lodge, where scores of motorcycles crowded the parking lot.

“It seems like we flock to our own,” said Dave Francisco, a retired Marine and member of all-veterans Forgotten Sons MC who helped organize the event.

Annie Nelson, ASN’s founder, told the crowd the broader message of the day is about “keeping your battle buddies alive and living for them and fulfilling their bucket list.”

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
Baca’s need for a set of reliable wheels to attend events, visit injured vets and even deliver local apple pies got the ear of others, including fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Marine vet, Dakota Meyer, who mentioned it to Michael Smith of Toyota USA. (Photo from Gidget Fuentes)

Unbeknownst to Baca, who arrived with friends from San Diego, the organizers were about to fulfill one wish tailored just for him: A fully-loaded, red Toyota Tundra Platinum 4×4 pickup truck.

The reluctant hero, who keeps busy volunteering and working with many veterans’ groups and military-related causes — and once insisted a Habitat for Humanity house meant for him be given to the next person on the list — has been getting around with the help of friends. His need for a set of reliable wheels to attend events, visit injured vets and even deliver local apple pies got the ear of others, including fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Marine vet, Dakota Meyer, who mentioned it to Michael Smith of Toyota USA, himself a former Marine rifleman.

Baca’s story of service and “sacrifice deserves a lifetime of stuff for us to pay him,” said Smith, president of the Toyota Veterans Association. Toyota and San Diego-area dealers joined in providing the truck along with an extended-service contract and $3,500 for gas, he said. The company also presented a large banner honoring Baca and signed by workers at the San Antonio, Texas, plant where the truck was assembled. The Nice Guys of San Diego, a local charity organization, will pay the taxes Baca will owe in receiving the donation, and another donation will cover a year of insurance for him. And Baca also gotdonatoins for his trusty companion and service dog, Jo-Jo, with a year’s worth of dog food and basket of treats, toys, a blanket and seat cover for the truck.

“I no longer have to give you a ride,” a woman in the crowd said as Baca, with the light-blue and starred ribbon and medal around his neck, took hold of the microphone.

Baca, visibly moved, spoke softly as he relayed some moments of his post-war life, reconnecting with a former North Vietnamese soldier and with his estranged daughter and connecting with families through Snowball Express. He is a dedicated volunteer, as reflected by the cap on his head of the nonprofit group that helps the children of the military’s fallen men and women.

Jumping on that grenade was a moment, too. “It was no pain,” he said. “You crossed that veil… I believe we all had that Guardian Angel with us, and mine was holding me that night.” His lieutenant, John Dodson, “wouldn’t let me go to sleep. The angels were ready to take me to heaven and my mom was going to be mad at me for getting myself in this stupid situation,” he said. “But, um, it wasn’t my time.”

Baca returned to Vietnam in 1990 and helped build a village health clinic with former North Vietnamese soldiers, including a former teenage soldier who he had encountered on Christmas Day 1969 and instead let him surrender.

“And I’ll always remember this moment,” Baca said, choking up as he pointed out longtime friends, some who knew him from high school days outside of San Diego. “Thank you so very, very, very much.”

When Baca checked out the truck,  the crowd swelled around him. He peered inside and then climbed into the back seat of the quad cab, and Jo-Jo soon followed. “Get in the driver’s seat, John,” insisted a women, who said she first met him when he visited her husband in a local hospital earlier this year. “When another brother’s in need, he’s always there.”

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The Army is preparing its medics for a war without medevac helos

The Army’s top surgeon said Aug. 18 the service is working with its combat medics to deal with casualties that can’t be airlifted immediately out of the battle zone and back to surgical facilities for hours or days, arming the first responders with new gear and techniques designed to keep a soldier alive well past the so-called “Golden Hour” that’s contributed to a record-level survival rate for wounded troops.


Lieutenant Gen. Nadja West said the Army’s 68W Healthcare Specialist cadre will have to be armed with sophisticated sensors to measure a patient’s vital signs, be trained to use new lifesaving equipment like tourniquets that can wrap around a patient’s waist or chest and be given technology that will allow them to “reach back” from the battlefield to surgeons in the rear who can deliver expert advice far from the operating room.

“We’ve had the luxury of air superiority so we could evacuate our casualties at will,” West told WATM at a recent meeting with defense reporters in Washington, D.C. “We’re trying to make sure that in an environment where it’s not as permissive — where we’re going to have to retain casualties longer — we have the ability to do this prolonged care.”

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
Specialist Thomas Appelhanz, C Company, 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade flight medic checks to ensure IV fluid is flowing properly to a wounded Afghan National Army soldier during a patient transfer mission at Forward Operating Base Tagab, Kapisa province, Afghanistan Nov. 5, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Duncan Brennan

West added that in Afghanistan, for example, there were cases where patients were flown out of the combat zone and back to Bethesda Naval Medical Center and on the operating table within 24 hours. But in future wars, that capability might not exist.

In the wars since 9/11, the Army has benefitted from American air dominance which allowed slow-moving, poorly-armed medical evacuation helicopters to speed to the battle and pick up wounded in a matter of minutes. That’s led to a 93 percent survival rate for wounded soldiers, a 75 percent increase since the Vietnam war.

But the Army is worried that wars in the near future won’t allow a speedy MEDEVAC, so its medics will have to deal with situations like potential limb loss from tourniquets staying on longer than usual to fluid pooling in the brain or organs, West said. That doesn’t mean that all of the sudden 68Ws have to be trained as vascular surgeons, but they do have to be able to get detailed information that’ll help keep their patients alive.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
Army Spc. Trent McIlwraith, of Edmond, Oklahoma., a combat medic for Bravo Company, 1-179th Infantry, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, administers an I.V. to Tech Sgt. Gevoyd Litlle, of Columbus, Ohio, an explosive ordinance disposal technician supporting Task Force force Maverick in Operation Lionheart on Sept. 12. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Zackary Root.

“Telehealth is going to be very important and we’re working on that,” West said of capabilities being developed for detailed medical communication on the battlefield.

“So you’re actually talking to a vascular surgeon when you’re down range and say ‘Hey I’m looking at this vessel, what do I need to do?’ ” West explained. “You’re not going to make them trauma surgeons, but at least you have someone that can give them the expertise that can do things right there.”

West also said the Army was experimenting with ways to attach sensors to soldiers so that intensive care specialists in the rear can get detailed information about a patient’s condition and be able to render advice to a medic on managing the casualty over a longer period.

“So I see not having to train them on every single thing, but having the reach-back capability to say okay, I’m looking at this, what do I need to do?” she said. “That’s what I see in the future. Rather than trying to overload them with everything, give them the reach back to help them answer those questions.”

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6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

There aren’t many jobs in the military where your sea-duty station consists of serving with another branch. But for the Navy rate of an “HM,” or Hospital Corpsman, that’s exactly where you can expect to find yourself.


After you graduate Field Medical Training Battalion, expect to get orders to the Marine Corps side of the house or what we call, the “Greenside” — sooner rather than later.

We call it the greenside because you’re going to wear a sh*t ton of green for the next three years.

Related: 4 unusual tasks Corpsman do that their recruiters left out

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
Doc, meet the company first sergeant. (imgflip.com)

It can be pretty nerve-wracking for a Corpsman to cross over for the first time. But don’t worry, WATM has your back.

Check out what you should know about heading over to “Greenside.”

1. PT

You don’t have to be a marathon athlete, but don’t let your Marines ever see you fall out of a hike, a run, or get hurt — you’ll look like a p*ssy.

Be the exact opposite of this guy (giphy

2. Chugging a beer

Marines drink a lot of beer during barracks parties. So get your tolerance up and have a few I.Vs handy.

Finding new ways to drink is badass. Plus you’ll look cool. (giphy

3. Always be cool

Marines are trained to love their Doc — they’re also trained to kill. They’re going to look to you for advice from time-to-time. When your grunts do something right, congratulate them.

Great job, Lance Corporal! (giphy)

4. Know every line from “Full Metal Jacket”

Marines love that sh*t when you manage to work a line or two into a conversation. Oh, make sure you have a copy of the movie on your hard drive when you deploy; it’s the “unofficial” movie of the Marine Corps.

Any line will do, as long as it fits the conversation. (giphy)

5. Know your ranks

Marine ranks are different than Navy ones. A Marine Captain is an O-3, compared to a Navy Captain who is an O-6. Big difference.

“Do I look like I’m in the Navy to you!” (giphy)Learn to count chevrons. Senior NCOs’ collar devices can blend into their uniform, making it tough to make out their proper title. Find an alternate way to greet them properly, or you can just take the less populated walkways (aka the long way).

Also Read: 8 tips for ‘skating’ in the military

6. Learn sick call

Face it, the Navy has only given you officially 12-16 weeks worth of medical training. No one is going to ask you to perform open-heart surgery on your first day.

Marines are going to get sick and injured, and that’s your time to shine. When you’re working in the B.A.S., or “battalion aid station,” you’re going to have to explain why your patient is in sick call to the Independent Duty Corpsman or the doctor on staff. Knowing the medical terminology will earn you respect from the Navy doctor to the point they aren’t going to waste their time doing the second examination.

Getting your Marine a day off work or light duty is key. Impress your Marine and your life, and your heavy pack will seem lighter on a hike — it’s a beautiful thing.

Can you think of any more? Comment below.
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This World War I hero wanted to recruit race car drivers to be fighter pilots

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
Capt. Edward Rickenbacker Photo: US Army Air Force


Capt. Edward Rickenbacker was one of the few American fighter pilots to earn the title “Ace of Aces,” given by the press for his 26 kills in World War I. He is arguably one of the most decorated service members to ever live.

But before he was a decorated hero, Rickenbacker was a professional race car driver who almost wasn’t allowed to fly.

Rickenbacker raced cars from 1912-1917, racing in a number of events including the first Indianapolis 500. He even broke the land speed record, reaching a blistering 134 mph.

When America entered World War I, he volunteered to organize a very unique unit: a fighter squadron filled entirely with race car drivers.

The guts, reflexes, and situational awareness needed to succeed racing early automobiles 100 mph or faster would have served flying squadrons well, but the U.S. Army wasn’t interested. Worse, Rickenbacker was considered too old to become a pilot himself.

Rickenbacker enlisted anyway and was assigned as a chauffeur. While driving for senior officers he met Col. William Mitchell, the chief of the Army Air Service. Rickenbacker, then 27-years-old and two years over the Army’s standard age cap, spoke to Mitchell about becoming a pilot.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
Eddie Rickenbacker in San Francisco for a race before World War I. Photo: Wikipedia/San Francisco Public Library

Mitchell encouraged him to do so and just had Rickenbacker lie about his age, claiming he was 25 in order to start training.

The young aviator graduated the pilot’s course 17 days after starting it and began the career that would make him famous.

In his first few months as a pilot, he scored 7 victories, becoming an ace pilot. He took command of his unit, the 94th Pursuit Squadron, and scored two more kills in a daring attack on Sep. 25, 1918, his first day as the commander.

While conducting a solo patrol, he spotted five aircraft. He maneuvered above them unseen and then dove through the formation, downing two and scattering the rest. He received both the French Croix de Guerre and the Medal of Honor for his valor.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

It was when he reached 12 kills that the press began calling him the “Ace of Aces,” a title he didn’t like, according to History Net. The three aviators who had been adorned with the title before Rickenbacker were all killed in combat.

The nickname served Rickenbacker better than it did his predecessors. He didn’t just survive the next month, he scored 14 new victories and ended the war with 26.

After the war, Rickenbacker became a businessman who made a number of breakthroughs in the aviation and automobile industries.

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The Army is offering $5K bonuses to join new training brigade

The U.S. Army is authorizing $5,000 bonuses to woo top-performing troops into a new training brigade as the service once famous for shouldering the burden of America’s wars works to meet the growing demand for advisers in places ranging from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and Africa.


The plan recognizes the new reality of America at war: Army soldiers are more often training and building local security forces rather than doing the fighting for them on foreign soil. It replaces what has been a hodgepodge of programs over the past dozen years with projections for five new, permanent, fully-trained brigades that can be deployed around the world as professional advisers.

“It’s a recognition that this is an enduring requirement for the conventional Army,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, told The Associated Press in an interview.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
A Marine assigned to Task Force Taqaddum (TF TQ) advises and assists designated Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Anbar Province to enable ISF to degrade and defeat Da’esh (an Arabic acronym fro ISIL) and support the Mosul counterattack. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson/Released)

“Most times we’re falling in on existing institutions that are probably failing, and bringing them up to a certain competency level so they can secure themselves. And we’ve got to be able to do that on a large scale.”

The new program and its signing bonuses also illustrate how the Trump administration has endorsed the Obama administration’s emphasis on working “by, with and through” local forces.

That policy emerged from the deadly and tumultuous years after the 2003 Iraq invasion, when as many as 160,000 American troops were on the ground battling insurgents while struggling to transform a rag-tag mix of often ethnically-opposed Iraqi troops into a functioning fighting force.

U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011. Less than three years later, the Iraqi security forces largely collapsed as Islamic State militants seized control of large swaths of territory. U.S. troops then returned to Iraq, training, advising and enabling the Iraqis to oust IS from the country.

Also read: Here’s how the Army is assisting Iraqi forces in the fight for Mosul

The $5,000 bonus got final authorization on May 3 and is expected to be available beginning in June. The Army has chosen a colonel to lead the first training brigade and he will travel to a number of military posts in the coming weeks to recruit soldiers for the unit. Joining is strictly voluntary.

Since it’s a new program, Abrams acknowledged some soldiers may be reluctant to shift away from current career paths by taking a chance on something they fear may fail or lose support over time.

“There is natural apprehension in the field: ‘Is this a flash in the pan?’ It’s not a flash in the pan,” Abrams said. “The chief is committed and the Army senior leadership is committed, I’m committed. This is going to be an enduring capability.”

The challenge, he said, is getting mid-grade non-commissioned officers to sign up. That’s where the bonus will help.

Of the 529 soldiers in the brigade, 360 will be officers who don’t qualify for the bonus. The rest will be enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers who can earn the extra money.

The objective is to fix some problems created by the current training programs. In Iraq and Afghanistan, chunks of combat brigades have been deployed to serve as trainers and advisers to local forces, often leaving the remainder of their units back at home. Right now, for example, portions of three brigades are in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
U.S. Army and Iraqi soldiers cross an intersection during a routine security patrol in downtown Tal Afar, Iraq (U.S. Navy photo)

“It separates the leaders from those they lead, and it degrades (unit) readiness significantly,” Abrams said, adding that Army leaders have expressed frustrations over breaking units apart to staff the mission.

The plan calls for a military assistance training academy to be created at Fort Benning, Georgia. About 90 civilian and military staff members are being recruited. The first class will begin in October.

Members of what is being called the new Security Force Assistance Brigade will go through a training course of six-to-eight weeks. Almost 200 will receive 16 weeks of intensive language instruction. Others will get an eight-week language course.

More reading: SEAL Team 6 is experimenting with sensory deprivation chambers to learn languages faster

The first brigade could be ready to deploy by the end of 2018, Abrams said, but there has been no decision on where they will go. Iraq and Afghanistan are the most likely locations, he said.

As more brigades are created, they would deploy to other areas of the world. While the Army initially conceived of one base in each geographical military command around the globe, it’s more likely they’ll simply be sent where most needed.

The Army will select soldiers for the second brigade in about a year. All five brigades will be created by 2022.

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Why the US military is struggling to keep up with all its responsibilities

Years of complex operations and the ongoing demands of units in the field have left the armed forces struggling to maintain both operational capacity and high levels of readiness, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.


“After more than a decade combating violent extremists and conducting contingency operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently Syria, [the Defense Department] has prioritized the rebalancing of its forces in recent budget requests to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevail across a full range of potential contingencies,” the report states.

“However, DoD has acknowledged that unrelenting demands from geographic commanders for particular types of forces are disrupting manning, training, and equipping cycles,” it adds.

Each of the service branches has had some success in addressing readiness issues, but problems remain in some areas for each.

For the Marine Corps, as of February, about 80% of aviation units didn’t have the minimum number of aircraft ready for training. The Marines also had a significant shortage of aircraft ready for wartime requirements.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
Photo courtesy of USAF

A high pace of operations has also hindered the Navy’s maintenance efforts. The service bases its readiness recovery on deployment and maintenance schedules. “However, GAO reported that from 2011 through 2014, only 28 percent of scheduled maintenance was completed on time and just 11 percent for carriers.”

Like the Navy, the Air Force has seen continued operations with a shrinking pool of resources and little time for repair and recovery, citing Air Force reports that less than 50% of its forces are at acceptable readiness levels.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
Photo courtesy of USAF

The service branch also says it is short of 1,500 pilots and 3,400 aircraft maintainers.

Air Force leaders are looking at several options to address these personnel issues, including heftier retention bonuses and stop-loss policies.

While the Army has seen readiness improvements in recent years, as GAO notes, it continues to have important deficiencies that put it at a disadvantage compared to other countries.

“For example, the Army reports that two thirds of its initial critical formations — units needed at the outset of a major conflict — are at acceptable levels of readiness, but it cautions that it risks consuming readiness as fast as the service can build it given current demands,” the report says.

The Army has also gotten withering criticism of its unit readiness from within the service itself.

According to Capt. Scott Metz, who until recently was a observer/controller/trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, “many of our multinational partners are more tactically proficient at company level and below than their American counterparts.”

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
US troops from the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment call in their location in the back woods of the mock village they are taking over during Saber Junction 17, a field-training exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center on May 15, 2017, at Hohenfels, Germany. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Frost)

“In fact,” Metz wrote in a paper published this spring, “several of them are significantly better trained and more prepared for war than we are.”

Metz recounted how unit commanders arriving at the JMRC would caution him about their unit’s lack of preparation and the minimal training done at their home stations. In his role as the opposition-force commander during exercises, he could see how this manifested itself in potentially fatal mistakes in the field.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
US soldiers prepare to engage a multinational force while during an exercise at Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany, March 25, 2017. US Army photo by Sgt. William Frye.

The opposition-force commander “knows from past experience that the Americans will probably stay on or near the roads,” Metz writes, adding:

“They will stop for long periods of time in the open with minimal dispersion. They will not effectively use their dismounted infantry and will likely leave them in the back of vehicles for too long, allowing them to be killed with the vehicle. They also will probably make little use of tactical formations and will not use terrain to their advantage.”

All units make mistakes during their time at the JMRC, according to Metz.

The shortcomings evident in units that visit the facility come rather from deficiencies in training they do at home.

“The problem is that they are making mistakes because they have not trained as a platoon or company,” Metz states.

A multitude of factors outside the control of commanders limits the time and resources they can devote to small-unit training.

This has resulted in the longstanding problem of a “deluge of requirements,” Metz writes, citing a 2015 report that “makes the case that the Army overtasks subordinates to such a level that it is impossible for Army units and Army leaders to do everything they are tasked to do.”

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
US Army paratroopers finish boarding an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft loaded with a heavy-drop-rigged Humvee for a night jump onto Malemute Drop Zone, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Photo courtesy of the US Army.

The problem is a deep-rooted one and will take some time to correct, requiring a cultural change starting at the highest levels of the Army’s leadership, Metz writes.

Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, told the Senate this month that the Army, like the Air Force, is also suffering from a lack of personnel.

He told the Senate Appropriations’ defense subcommittee that the service’s portion of US defense strategy, the Army needs an active component of 540,000 to 550,000. That active component is now 476,000.

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals
A US soldier, left, and a US Army Interpreter look over a map with an Iraqi army soldier before starting a cordon and search in the Ninewa Forest in Mosul, Iraq, June 8, 2008. US Army/Pfc. Sarah De Boise

Though the US armed forces maintains definite advantages over peers and other forces in technology, training, and capabilities, years of operations and, according to many officials, reductions in funding have imperiled the US military’s ability overcome opponents and fulfill its missions.

“In just a few years, if we don’t change our trajectory, we will lose our qualitative and quantitative competitive advantage,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this June.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Gear Porn: Atibal X 1-10x First Focal Plane Scope

The future of modern carbine sights are low-power variable optics (LPVOs). Like the leap from iron sights to red dots, there’s an upfront cost, but unfortunately for the consumer, making the next step typically requires you to double your ante to upgrade from a red dot to a variable. The free market has responded, and we’ve seen a significant increase in new and inexpensive options. Even five years ago, this would’ve been unthinkable. The realm of variable optics, once relegated between the options of Walmart-cheap and S&B costly, now has a big fat middle range.


Since their inception, Atibal has been steadily improving the quality of their product line, while keeping their prices affordable. The first Atibal optic we got hands on with was their inexpensive second focal plane (SFP) XP8. Though it had some warts, it was also a mere 0. Atibal followed it up with their FFP 1-6x Mirage (better) and then the Apex 4-16x FFP (better still).

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Don’t get us wrong, NightForce they’re not — but they don’t pretend to be. Often, we’re cajoled by budget optic companies proclaiming they’re “just as good as,” and Jimmy Labita of Atibal has never tried to feed us that line. Frankly, in an industry full of wild claims and exaggerations, it was a breath of fresh air.

And, at least at the time of this writing, the Atibal X is the first and only front focal plane (FFP) 1-10x power optic on the market.

The Atibal X has a lot of the features that we look for in an optic like this: a Mil Dot reticle, 1/10th mil adjustments, FFP, great tactile clicks, easy zooming, and illumination that’s actually what we’d consider daylight bright (with an asterisk).

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It’s exceedingly hard to make a daylight-bright illuminated reticle with a FFP scope; most on the market sans a small handful with bright reticles are second focal plane. This is because the reticle on an FFP scope is exceedingly small — and the higher the variation in power, the smaller the physical reticle itself has to be. Usually with the brightness pumped on one of these, it turns into a blurry mess. Atibal’s solution with the X wasn’t necessarily to needlessly dump light into the reticle, but instead opted for a reticle design that aids in this endeavor.

Reminiscent of the EOTech VUDU line of optics, the Atibal X features four thick segments in a 20mil by 20mil diamond outside the reticle itself that illuminates along with a quarter-mil center dot. For those who live in the MOA world, this translates to roughly a 68.75 MOA (~72 inches at 100 yards) diamond. Being right around 6 feet in height makes it very easy to get rough range estimation against human targets.

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Being an FFP scope, as you zoom in for a more refined aiming point, the diamond moves out of the center giving you access to the Mil Dot reticle. Up close? Put the red on the target and pull. Further away? Zoom right in.

One feature that we were extremely happy to see was that the six illumination levels feature an “off” between each setting. If you want to save battery life, select your desired brightness level and then just give it one click in either direction.

The turrets are easy to float, and all you need is a hex wrench to pop it off and shift after zeroing. The turrets also lock and are in a “pull out to move” arrangement. Zero worries about minor bumps or bangs playing mucky muck with your adjustments.

The eye box of the Atibal X is more than reasonable with 3.6 inches at high magnification and 5.5 inches at low magnification. For comparison’s sake, the 1-6x Vortex Razor HD II has 4 inches of eye relief at the highest magnification.

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We’ve seen a trend of larger optical tubes for increased light-gathering properties, and the Atibal X is no different. With a 35mm tube, it bulges out 1 millimeter more than the “standard” large tube, but there are still several options out there (it doesn’t hurt that the new Leupold Mk5 also rocks a 35mm tube). Additionally, Atibal teamed up with Bobro Engineering for a 35mm mount option, so you can order them as a pair — at a helluva discount too! Currently, the Atibal X is 9 with a mount and 9 without. Not too shabby for the best optic Atibal has ever put out.

There was a time when “Made in China” was the kiss of death, at least as far as firearms accessories were concerned. But place of manufacture alone is no longer a disqualifier regarding optics — at least not this one. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise; we’ve been using a handful of camera lenses with Chinese glass in them for some time.

Undoubtedly, we’ll see both Vortex and Primary Arms release similar models, just as they’ve done with every other Atibal release. But for some reason, Jimmy gets them into the hands of the public before everyone else; hell, he was showing this one off a year ago.

Featured image: Recoilweb.com

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia wants to refurbish its piece-of-garbage carrier

The Russian Navy’s lone aircraft carrier, the Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, is heading to the shop to get some upgrades. Let’s be honest, if you’ve loyally followed We Are the Mighty, then you likely know a thing or two about this ship’s reputation. To be frank, this ship desperately needs some upgrades.


As it turns out, the video Russia released extolling the Kuznetsov’s Syrian deployment didn’t magically make existing problems go away. There remains a lot of stuff about the piece-of-crap Kuznetsov that needs to be fixed. Maybe after this round of revamps, the ship won’t be a floating hell for its crew.

Related video:

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals

A Russian Navy Su-33 Flanker prepares to take off from the Kuznetsov.

(Moscow Kremlin)

Among the many changes is the installation of new boilers that will (supposedly) be more reliable than the current ones. Currently, the boiler suite on the vessel consists of eight KVG-4 turbo-pressurized boilers that deliver 64 kilograms per square centimeter of pressure. Right now, the Kuznetsov‘s propulsion system is so bad that the ship is accompanied by ocean-going tugboats.

The Mars-Passat radar system — which NATO calls “Sky Watch” — is also slated for replacement. This system, to put it bluntly, is complete garbage. So, the Russians want to replace it with a new radar called Poliment-Redut. Russia also plans to add the Vityaz medium-range surface-to-air missile system to the Kuznetsov, which currently uses the SA-N-9 Gauntlet as a point-defense missile.

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HMS Liverpool escorts the Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.

(Royal Navy)

Russia plans for the Kuznetsov to be in the shop through 2020 and is aiming to have it back in service by 2021. The Russians have plans to replace the Kuznetsov‘s Su-33 Flankers with MiG-29 Fulcrums by then, too. However, even with upgrades, it still won’t be able to stand up to an American — or French — aircraft carrier.

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The 10 best military movies to watch on Netflix this month

There’s aren’t many military-themed new releases for December, so take a dive deep into the Netflix catalog for some fascinating catalog titles.


1. The Longest Day

Producer Darryl F. Zanuck was determined that his movie was going to be the definitive movie about D-Day and it probably was before the release of “Saving Private Ryan.” While “Ryan” focused on the personal stories of men on the ground, “The Longest Day” aims to tell the WHOLE story. There’s a massive cast that includes Henry Fonda, Sean Connery, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger, Richard Burton, Peter Lawford, Gert Fröbe, Eddie Albert and Curd Jürgens. If you’re under 40, you might wonder how anyone could watch a 3-hour movie with so much talking, but “The Longest Day” is the greatest generation’s most ambitious tribute to itself. (1962)

2. Kagemusha

“Kagemusha” (a/k/a “Shadow Lord”) was a worldwide success for Japanese director Akira Kurosawa in 1980. It won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Foreign film, but it’s of interest here for its epic battle scenes. The plot revolves around a street criminal hired to imitate a medieval war lord and fool enemies in battle. If you can deal with subtitles, this movie features staggering swordplay. (1980)

3. Von Ryan’s Express

Frank Sinatra (and his hairpiece) were almost 50 years old when he played a World War II Army Air Corps pilot shot down over Italy. He ends in a POW camp with a bunch of Brits and takes over as their commanding officer, because he’s a colonel. And American, full of American leadership. After the Italians surrender, the newly-freed POWs are chased by the Germans. The good guys highjack a train and try to escape to Switzerland. There are heroics and some heroic deaths. Are there better WWII movies? Sure, but the Chairman is determined to prove he can carry a war movie by himself and he’s always fun to watch when he’s angry. (1965)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxCHiZ-UxOI

4. The Enemy Below

Film noir star Dick Powell tried to make a move into the director’s chair in the late ’50s, but it was bad luck that his first gig was “The Conqueror” starring John Wayne. Early scenes from that (terrible) movie were shot in Utan downwind from nuclear bomb test sites and almost half of the cast developed cancer over the next twenty years and Powell was gone by 1963. The only other movie he directed was this WWII “KILLER-SUB versus SUB KILLER” movie starring Robert Mitchum as a Naval reserve captain hunting a German U-boat commanded by a Curd Jürgens. We’re supposed to feel sympathy for the German because he’s not enamored of his Nazi leaders, so this one’s about the mutual respect that warriors feel in battle. It’s surprising to see Hollywood moving on from Evil Nazis so soon after the conflict ended. (1957)

5. Last Days in Vietnam

This PBS documentary details the American withdrawal from Saigon in April 1975. As the North Vietnamese army closed in, the U.S. military had to evacuate 5,000 Americans and made efforts to rescue a large number of Vietnamese who had supported the U.S. during the war. (2014)

6. Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s alternate history of World War II stars Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, who leads a squad of Nazi hunters who successfully carry out a plan to assassinate Hitler and his top brass in a movie theater. It’s profane and funny: Tarantino is more interested in paying tribute to the low-rent drive-in war movies he saw as a kid than exploring the history of WWII. (2009)

7. Black Hawk Down

Ridley Scott’s drama is based on a real-life 1993 raid in Somalia to capture faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The 75th Rangers and Delta Force go in and things quickly go south, the troops face down enemy forces in a brutal battle and 19 men (and over 1,000 Somali citizens) are killed before the mission is complete. Scott brings a compelling visual style to the material and the cast features a host of young actors who went on to great success, including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana. Sam Shepherd and Tom Sizemore also play key old-guy roles. (2001)

8. Hell is for Heroes

Steve McQueen gets to work the moody anti-hero magic in a World War II flick directed by Don Siegel of “Dirty Harry” fame. Pop singer Bobby Darin and Bob Newhart round out a cast that also features tough guys Fess Parker and James Coburn. Sticklers for accuracy will be quick to notice where the production cut corners and McQueen’s struggles with a balky M3 in the final reel. Still, it’s all about his performance and he’s fantastic. The whole think clocks in at 90 minutes, so you’re not committing your entire night to the experience. (1962)

9. Bravo Two Zero

Former SAS commander Andy McNab is sort of the UK version Chris Kyle. He’s had a successful career writing military thrillers. Sean Bean plays McNab in this 2-hour BBC TV film detailing an SAS mission McNab led to capture Iraqi SCUD missile launchers aimed at Israel during the first Gulf War. There aren’t many movies about that conflict and this one serves as a reminder that we’ve been fighting alongside the Brits in almost every war for the last 100 years.(1999)

10. The Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story

This PBS documentary begins with Navy frogmen in World War II and does a fascinating job of detailing the evolving mission and eventual official creation of the SEAL units. There are extensive interviews with the men who served and a lot of filmed footage you haven’t seen endlessly recycled on those History and Military (sorry, “American Heroes”) channel programs. (2014)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the rifle Confederates used to snipe Union officers

Many a Union officer fell victim to a .451-caliber bullet designed for this English-built rifle. A muzzle-loaded, single-shot rifle, the Whitworth was the first of its kind and changed warfare for the next century and more. It was the world’s first sniper rifle, and Confederate sharpshooters loved it.


Two of the highest-ranking Federal officers killed during the war were taken down by the polygon-barreled, scoped musket. It was built to make shots at impossibly long distances, sometimes up to 2,000 yards or more – four times as far as the standard musket of the day.

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Look out, artillery crews, here come the sharpshooters.

The rifle was first engineered by Sir Joseph Whitworth, a Crimean War veteran who noticed that the British standard-issue rifle wasn’t really performing all that well, but the cannons used by the British in Crimea were much more accurate than previous field pieces. He believed those cannons and their hexagonal rifling could be scaled down to be used by a one-man long gun. Whitworth’s gun would get the chance to perform against the Enfield rifle he sought to replace – and it wasn’t even close. Whitworth’s rifle was superior by far.

Except the British didn’t buy into the rifle. It was far more expensive than the Enfield Rifle. But Whitworth was able to sell his weapons to both the French and the Confederate armies.

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Union Gen. John Sedgwick was killed by a Whitworth rifle while telling his men they couldn’t be killed at 1,000 yards.

The Whitworth was more lightweight than other long-range rifles of the time and used a more compact bullet, which contributed to the weapon’s accuracy. The Confederates put the rifle to good use, arming their best sharpshooters with it and deploying them with infantry units to target officers and Union artillery crews. The sharpshooters and their trademark weapon became so ubiquitous that southern sharpshooters soon took on the name of their rifle, becoming known as Whitworth Sharpshooters.

They quickly became feared among Union troops for their signature high-pitched whistle while in flight. Confederate snipers took out General-grade officers at Chickamauga, Spotsylvania, and Gettysburg.

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These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

The Constitution (Article II, Section 2, Clause 1) gives American presidents the power to grant full pardons. Throughout history, presidents have used this power, some more than others. Presidents Harrison and Garfield issued zero pardons, mostly because both of them died shortly after taking office. (Harrison died of pneumonia and Garfield was assassinated.) President Franklin Roosevelt issued 3,687 pardons, but a factor in that total is the fact he held office for 12 years. President Andrew Johnson either pardoned over 7,000 or just 654 people, depending on how you score it. (See below for details.)


The average number of pardons per president to date is just over 665.

Pardons have taken many forms. Some have been high-visibility because of their impact on politics and pop culture like when President Ford pardoned former President Nixon or when President Clinton pardoned publishing heir Patty Hearst following her stint as a domestic terrorist. Some have been personal like when President Clinton pardoned his brother Roger following a conviction on cocaine possession charges.

But presidents also being commanders-in-chief, naturally, some pardons in American history have had something to do with the military. Here are 5 of the most important among them:

1. James Buchanan pardons Brigham Young

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Brigham Young

In the mid-1800s the Buchanan administration grew concerned about the activities of the Latter Day Saints, led by Brigham Young. The president was afraid that Young was on the verge of creating a theocracy out west and so he sent the U.S. Army to intervene. The resulting “Utah War” was mostly without bloodshed, with the notable exception of the time some Mormons murdered 12o settlers from Arkansas. Young was accused of giving the order or, at least, not doing enough to prevent it. He was later able to prove that he’d actually sent a dispatch ordering his people to let the settlers pass in peace, but it got there two days after the massacre. As a result, Young was ultimately pardoned by President Buchanan.

2. Andrew Johnson pardons the Confederate military

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Andrew Johnson

During the election seasons in the years immediately following the Civil War, it became politically expedient to get the conflict behind the country. In fact, the U.S. Senate was so disappointed in President Johnson’s Reconstruction progress that they impeached him. So on Christmas Day in 1868, Johnson offered amnesty to all Confederates. At about the same time he also pardoned Dr. Samuel Mudd, the Maryland doctor who patched up Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth. President Grant, who’d led the North to victory as a Union general, finished the process, later signing the Amnesty Act of 1872, which pardoned all but 500 of the top Confederate leaders.

3. Gerald Ford pardons ‘Tokyo Rose’

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Iva Toguri D’Aquino was an LA native Japanese-American who had the misfortune of being in Tokyo when war broke out between the U.S. and Japan. She became the voice of Japanese propaganda aimed at American servicemembers across the Pacific Theater. She was frighteningly accurate with military details from time to time, which did cause GIs some concern, but she was also a source of entertainment for them because her broadcasts were equally campy as provocative.

When the war ended “Tokyo Rose,” as D’Aquino was popularly known, was charged with treason, convicted and imprisoned until 1956. In time the facts emerged that she had been pressed into service for the Japanese war machine under duress. She was pardoned by President Ford in 1976.

4. Richard Nixon pardons William Calley

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Lt. William Calley during his trial at Fort Benning. (Photo: AP)

William Calley was a community college dropout who found himself in charge of a platoon fighting the Vietnam War. His weak leadership and lack of military skill led to the systematic murder of 500 Vietnamese civilians. Life magazine broke the story over a year and a half later with a graphic photo essay that shocked the nation and did much to shift public sentiment against the war once and for all.

Calley’s court-martial was a high-visibility event, and he was eventually found guilty of 22 counts (of the 109 he was charged with) of premeditated murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at Leavenworth. President Nixon, reacting to another public sentiment that Calley had been made a scapegoat and that the punishments should have gone higher up the chain of command, ordered his sentence modified to house arrest. Eventually, his time was reduced from life to 20 years. He served three and a half years of that when Nixon pardoned him.

In 2009, while speaking a Kiwanis Club in Ohio, Calley issued the following apology for his role at My Lai:

There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai. I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry…. If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a 2nd Lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them—foolishly, I guess.

5. Jimmy Carter pardons the Vietnam draft dodgers

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Although Gerald Ford had been the first to deal with letting draft dodgers off the hook, his version had been conditional and only affected one-third of the population. President Carter, elected on a progressive agenda, took it the rest of the way by issuing an unconditional pardon for all of those who’d evaded the draft, about 150,000 young American men — including a number of aspiring politicians who would go on to hold the highest offices in the land.

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