Three crew members who have been living and working aboard the International Space Station returned to Earth on Dec. 14, landing in Kazakhstan after opening a new chapter in the scientific capability of humanity’s premier microgravity laboratory.
Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA and Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos landed at 3:37 a.m. EST (2:37 p.m. Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.
Together, the Expedition 53 crew members contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, as well as Earth and other physical sciences aboard the orbiting laboratory. Their time aboard marked the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment of the International Space Station from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated to research on the station.
The trio also welcomed three cargo spacecraft delivering several tons of supplies and research experiments. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived at station in November as the company’s eighth commercial resupply mission. One Russian ISS Progress cargo craft docked to the station in October. And a SpaceX Dragon completed its commercial resupply mission to station in August, the company’s twelfth resupply mission.
During his time on the orbital complex, Bresnik ventured outside the confines of the space station for three spacewalks. Along with NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, Bresnik lead a trio of spacewalks to replace one of two latching end effectors on the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2. They also spent time lubricating the newly replaced Canadarm2 end effector and replacing cameras on the left side of the station’s truss and the right side of the station’s U.S. Destiny laboratory.
Ryazanskiy conducted one spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin in August to deploy several nanosatellites, collect research samples, and perform structural maintenance.
The Expedition 54 crew continues operating the station, with Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos in command. Along with crewmates Mark Vende Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA, the three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members on Tuesday, Dec. 19.
Scott Tingle of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), are scheduled to launch Sunday, Dec. 17 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. NASA Television will broadcast the launch and docking.
In the months leading up to the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump in Finland, Moscow appears to have ramped up activity in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.
Satellite imagery gathered by Planet Labs and reported by Defense One shows activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, a town that hosts a major Russian port and two air bases.
Between March and June 2018, “the visible change … appears to be the fortification of buildings, characteristic of explosive storage bunkers, utilizing earthen berms to further insulate these structures,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One.
Hall said other structures shown in the images appeared to have been reinforced over that period. Activity in a forested area was partially obscured by foliage, but there appeared to be more structures among the trees, some covered and some uncovered with different levels of fortification.
Aerial photo of Baltiysk
“In this area some of the structures have changed, potentially showing roofing structures or tarps that have since been removed to reveal caches of items,” Hall said. “Additionally, there appear to be new or redistributed items — potentially identifiable as shipping containers.” Hall also told Defense One a railroad line was visible in the photos.
Kaliningrad — 86 square miles of land bordered by Poland and Lithuania — was an important asset to the Soviet Union, and military activity there has grown amid Russia’s recent military buildup. It also hosts Russia’s Baltic Fleet and its 11th Army Corps.
Russian weapons in Kaliningrad have been a point of contention with NATO. In late 2016, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said the transfer of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to the exclave “means an aggressive, open demonstration of power and aggression against not the Baltic states but against European capitals.”
Iskander missiles have a range of about 310 miles and in the past were stationed in Kaliningrad on a temporary basis. But in February 2018, Grybauskaite said Russia had deployed more of the missiles there “for permanent presence.”
The head of Russian parliament’s defense committee confirmed that deployment, saying it was a response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe. A Kremlin spokesman said at the time that Russia had the “sovereign right” to station military forces on its territory.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
Satellite imagery of another area within Kaliningrad showed renovations of what appeared to be an active nuclear weapons storage site, according to a June 2018 report by the Federation of American Scientists.
Images “show one of three underground bunkers near Kulikovo being excavated in 2016, apparently renovated, and getting covered up again in 2018 presumably to return operational status soon,” the report said.
The imagery provided few conclusive details, but “features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” the report said. “But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region.”
The missiles deployed to Kaliningrad have raised concern about threats to Western Europe, but the exclave also positions Russian forces near the Suwalki Gap, a weak point in the NATO alliance, according to a recent report from the Center for European Analysis, coauthored by retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who was head of US Army Europe.
The gap, stretching between eastern Kaliningrad and western Belarus, is the only land connection between NATO and its three Baltic member states: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
“The Suwałki Corridor is where the many weaknesses in NATO’s strategy and force posture converge,” the report says.
“If Russia attempted to establish control over the Suwałki region, or even threatened the free movement of NATO personnel and equipment from within the borders of Kaliningrad and Belarus, it could cut the Baltic states off from the rest of the Alliance” and hinder reinforcement efforts. NATO forces did exercises focused mobility and interoperability in the Suwalki region early 2018
Suwalki Gap crossing
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kevin Wang)
A dispute over the gap “could escalate with alarming speed,” the report says, though Hodges believes a Cold War-style Russian ground invasion is unlikely.
“I don’t think that Russia intends to invade Europe as though its 1991. They don’t have the capacity to do that anymore,” he told Defense One.
Moscow may instead look to use a crisis in the area to undermine NATO by showing it was unable to response effectively, or at all, to a threat.
“If you accept that premise, that they might do a limited attack to demonstrate that NATO cannot protect its members,” he told Defense One. “That would create a problem.”
Russia is believed to have a substantial military force stationed along NATO’s eastern border, and its ability to deploy it quickly could make it harder for Western forces to distinguish between a military exercise and an actual military operation.
During the Zapad war games in 2013 and 2017, Russian troops simulated advances on the gap, cutting off the Baltic states from the rest of Europe. There has also been an increase in close encounters between NATO and Russian aircraft in the skies over the Baltics.
In the years since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, Baltic countries have warned about possible aggression against them.
In 2017, Lithuania said it worried Russia was laying the groundwork for “kinetic operations” through propaganda and misinformation — a manner similar to what preceded Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Lithuania, which is under pressure from Moscow to allow a permanent Russian-controlled transit corridor to Kaliningrad, has also called for a permanent US troop presence on its soil and started building a fence along its border with Kaliningrad.
The CEPA report lays out several scenarios through which Russia could provoke a crisis to justify action against Suwalki, using disinformation and hybrid-warfare techniques to deflect blame and confuse observers.
“If [Russian forces] ever tried anything, they would do it asymmetrically so that they could achieve whatever they wanted to achieve before the alliance caught on,” Hodges told Defense One.T
his article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A first-in-human trial evaluating an experimental treatment for Ebola virus disease has begun at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The Phase 1 clinical trial is examining the safety and tolerability of a single monoclonal antibody called mAb114, which was developed by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH, and their collaborators. Investigators aim to enroll between 18 and 30 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 60. The trial will not expose participants to Ebola virus.
Ebola virus disease is a serious and often fatal illness that can cause fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and hemorrhage (severe bleeding). It was first discovered in humans in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and has caused periodic cases and outbreaks in several African countries since then. The largest outbreak, which occurred in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, caused more than 28,600 infections and more than 11,300 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. In May 2018, the DRC reported an Ebola outbreak, located in Équateur Province in the northwest of the country. As of May 20, health officials have reported 51 probable or confirmed cases and 27 deaths. There are currently no licensed treatments available for Ebola virus disease, although multiple experimental therapies are being developed.
“We hope this trial will establish the safety of this experimental treatment for Ebola virus disease—an important first step in a larger evaluation process,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “Ebola is highly lethal, and reports of another outbreak in the DRC remind us that we urgently need Ebola treatments.”
“This study adds to NIAID efforts in conducting scientifically and ethically sound biomedical research to develop countermeasures against Ebola virus disease,” added Dr. Fauci.
MAb114 is a monoclonal antibody—a protein that binds to a single target on a pathogen—isolated from a human survivor of the 1995 Ebola outbreak in Kikwit, a city in the DRC. Nancy Sullivan, Ph.D., chief of the Biodefense Research Section in NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC), and her team, in collaboration with researchers from the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) in the DRC and the Institute for Biomedical Research in Switzerland, discovered that the survivor retained antibodies against Ebola 11 years after infection. They isolated the antibodies and tested the most favorable ones in the laboratory and non-human primate studies, and selected mAb114 as the most promising. Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director general of INRB and one of the scientists involved in the original detection of the Ebola virus in 1976, played a key role in discovering mAb114.
In collaboration with the VRC, scientists at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, illustrated that the monoclonal antibody binds to the hard-to-reach core of the Ebola virus surface protein and blocks the protein’s interaction with its receptor on human cells. A single dose of mAb114 protected non-human primates days after lethal Ebola virus infection. The antibody was developed in partnership with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It was manufactured for clinical studies by the company MedImmune based in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
“The discovery and development of this experimental Ebola treatment was a collaborative process made possible by Ebola survivors and the DRC scientists who first encountered the virus, as well as through collaboration with our colleagues in the Department of Defense. We are pleased to announce the start of this Phase 1 trial of mAb114,” said NIAID VRC Director John Mascola, M.D.
Martin Gaudinski, M.D., medical director in the VRC’s Clinical Trials Program, is the principal investigator of the new trial. The first three participants will receive a 5 milligram (mg)/kilogram (kg) intravenous infusion of mAb114 for 30 minutes. The study monitoring team will evaluate safety data to determine if the remaining participants can receive higher doses (25 mg/kg and 50 mg/kg). Participants will have blood taken before and after the infusion and will bring a diary card home to record their temperature and any symptoms for three days. Participants will visit the clinic approximately 14 times over six months to have their blood drawn to see if mAb114 is detectable and to be checked for any health changes.
Investigators expect that the trial, called VRC 608, will be fully enrolled by July 2018. For more information about the trial, please visit ClinicalTrials.gov and search identifier NCT03478891.
Russia has unveiled a new military base as part of its buildup in the Arctic region, and has provided a tour — albeit a virtual one on your computer.
According to a report from FoxNews.com, the base is located on Franz Josef Land — an archipelago north of Novaya Zemlya that the Soviet Union seized from Norway in 1926 — and is known as the “Arctic Trefoil” due to its tricorne shape.
The base covers roughly 14,000 square miles and can house up to 150 people for a year and a half. The National Interest has reported that Russia has developed new versions of several systems for a cold weather fight, including the SA-15 Gauntlet, the T-72 main battle tank, and an artillery system known as Pantsir-SA. A version of the SA-10 modified for Arctic conditions is also being developed.
The Arctic Trefoil is the second base Russia has opened in the Arctic. The first one, called Northern Clover, is located on Kotelny Island, north of Siberia. According to a 2014 report by the Russian news agency TASS, its runway is capable of landing Il-76 Candid cargo planes, which are comparable to the retired C-141 Starlifter, year-round.
The SA-15 Gauntlet is a short-range, radar-guided missile. According to ArmyRecognition.com, the missile has a maximum range of about eight miles and a speed of Mach 2.8. A version of this missile is also used on Russian naval vessels, like the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov as a point-defense system.
The Pantsir-SA is a modified version of the SA-22 Greyhound. ArmyRecognition.com notes that this is a truck-mounted system that holds 12 missiles with a maximum range of almost 12.5 miles and two 30mm autocannons that can hit targets 2.5 miles away. The system reported scored its first kill against a Turkish RF-4 Phantom in 2012.
Russia has been pushing to build up its bases in the Arctic in recent years, prompting the United States to carry out a buildup of its own, including the replacement of its aging icebreakers.
Jan. 15, 2019, was the first missed payday for the US Coast Guard, the only military branch who’s working without pay during the government shutdown that started on Dec. 21, 2018.
A work-around secured money for Dec. 31, 2018 paychecks, but no such maneuver was possible for Jan. 15, 2019, and communities around the country have stepped in to support Coast Guard families amid protracted uncertainty.
The strain at home comes after a busy year at sea.
In 2018, the Coast Guard apprehended five times as many migrants at sea off the coast of Southern California as it did in 2017, according to records seen by The Washington Post.
Coast Guard crews interdicted multiple Dominican migrants attempting to illegally enter Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, Jan. 11, 2019.
(US Coast Guard photo)
The 1,022 migrants picked up off Southern California through the end of the 2018 fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2018, exceeded the 213 and 142 intercepted in fiscal years 2017 and 2016, respectively.
But across the entire US, the number of migrants caught at sea between 2017 and 2018 decreased from 2,512 to 1,668, according to The Post.
Most of the Coast Guard’s apprehensions at sea were for a long time off the coast of Florida; many of those caught were Cubans, who were allowed to pursue citizenship once reaching the US under the “wet foot, dry foot” policy.
The Obama administration rescinded that policy in January 2017, and most migrants intercepted there now come from Haiti or other islands in the Caribbean.
While the number of people picked up in the area has fallen, the route remains active. The service said on Jan. 11, 2019, that 66 migrants were picked up around Puerto Rico in a 72-hour period and that 708 had been intercepted there since Oct. 1, 2018.
Migrants picked up off the California coast come from throughout the region, from Mexico to Bolivia. High-value migrant smuggling — which involves people who’ve paid large sums to come to the US from countries as far afield as China and Sri Lanka — has also increased, including in the waters around Florida, Coast Guard officers told Business Insider during a patrol over Miami in November 2018.
An overloaded vessel with about 35 migrants is interdicted approximately 34 miles west of Desecheo, Puerto Rico, Jan. 7, 2019.
Out in the Pacific, Coast Guard crews were busy with a more nefarious activity in 2018.
During that period, the service seized 458,000 pounds of cocaine — less than the record 493,000 pounds seized in 2017 but more than the 443,000 pounds seized in 2016, which was itself a record.
Having faced those challenges at sea in 2018, the Coast Guard begins 2019 with a government shutdown that at 25 days is the longest in US history.
Unlike the other four branches of the military, which are part of the Defense Department, funding for the Coast Guard, which is part of the Homeland Security Department, has yet to be approved.
Some 42,000 active-duty Coast Guard members remain on duty without pay. The majority of the service’s 8,500 civilian employees have been furloughed, though about 1,300 remain at work.
A Coast Guard crew oversees the salvage of a privately owned Hawker Hunter aircraft off of Honolulu, Jan. 7, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Russ Strathern)
Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray said in a Jan. 10, 2019 letter that Coast Guard “leadership continues to do everything possible … to ensure we can process your pay as soon as we receive an appropriation,” but “I do not know when that will occur.”
In a letter two days later, Ray cautioned that “there is a distinct possibility that Retiree Pay and Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP) payments may be delayed if this lapse continues into late January.”
Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, who has missed his own paycheck, told Military.com that without a budget appropriation for fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2019, a continuing resolution, or some other funding measure, the service won’t be able pay its 50,000 retirees on Feb. 1, 2019.
Measures have been introduced to Congress to pay the Coast Guard amid the government closure.
The Pay Our Coast Guard Act was reintroduced to the Senate on Jan. 4, 2019, and assigned to the Senate legislative calendar. The Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on Jan. 9, 2019, and is with the Appropriations and Transportation and Infrastructure committees.
Those measures would have be approved by the other house of Congress and by the president in order to go into effect. On Jan. 15, 2019, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she was working with the White House and Congress on legislation to fund the service.
“Like the other branches of the U.S. military, active duty @USCG should be paid for their service and sacrifice to this nation,” Nielsen said on Twitter.
Despite support from each other and their communities, Coast Guard families around the country are feeling the strain.
“This is talking an emotional toll on us and all the families here at Fort Wadsworth,” Rebeca Hinger, a Coast Guard spouse and mother of three, told Staten Island Live. “Many of us here … live paycheck-to-paycheck, and without money we can’t pay our bills.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China has tested a new anti-satellite weapon, marking a new threat to American space assets like reconnaissance satellites and the Global Positioning System. The Dong Neng 3 missile was previously tested on two occasions, including this past December.
According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the test took place late last month, and was not successful due to a problem with an upper stage of the missile. The test was broadcast on the Internet by a number of users in China near the launch facility. This has been part of a long process as China has pushed to acquire the means to carry out warfare in space.
“Since the early 1990s China has developed four, possibly five, attack-capable space-combat systems,” Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center said. “China may be the only country developing such variety of space weapons to include: ground-based and air-launched counter-space weapons; unmanned space combat and Earth-attack platforms; and dual-use manned platforms.”
Harsh Vasani from Manpaul University in India, noted that the purpose of those systems would be to “counter the United States’ conventional strength and gain strategic parity, Chinese strategists believe, Beijing will need to strike at the U.S. Achilles heel—Washington’s over-reliance on satellites for [command, control, communications, computer, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance]. Beijing plans to exploit the vulnerable space infrastructure of the United States in the case of a war.”
The United States has carried out a number of its own anti-satellite tests in the past. Most notable was the 1980s-vintage ASM-135 ASAT missile, capable of being launched by F-15 Eagle air-superiority fighters. After a 1985 test, though, Congress prohibited further tests against satellites, and the program was ended in 1988. The ASM-135 could destroy satellites anywhere from 350 to 620 miles above the Earth.
In 2008, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) used a RIM-161 Standard Missile SM-3 to destroy a failed satellite. Operation Burnt Frost was a success, with the failed satellite being destroyed 133 nautical miles above sea level. China and Russia protested the operation.
American defense officials claim that the United States has “very robust” capabilities in space. But Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten says that China and Russia have been developing space-warfare capabilities.
Hyten noted that Chinese and Russian threats to American space systems will be “a much nearer-term issue for the commander after me, and for the commander after that person, it will be more significant because the gap is narrowing quickly” between American capabilities and those of China and Russia. A 2013 test of an earlier missile in the Dong Neng series reached up to 18,600 miles over the earth.
“It’s not very complicated. You treat it as a war-fighting domain. And when you do that, the answers are not that complicated. You have to have increased maneuver capabilities on our satellites. We have to have defensive capabilities to defend ourselves. These are just war fighting problems,” he said.
Dating a service member or veteran can be challenging for a civilian unfamiliar with the world of military life. And it can even throw veterans dating other veterans into unfamiliar ground.
Whatever your background, here are nine things you’re going to have to get used to if you decide to date a servicemember or veteran.
1. Understanding dark humor
Learning a new sense of humor is something that has to happen when you date a veteran. They cope with things with a dark sense of humor, and this can be a little off-putting.
Thing is, you just have to learn to laugh when he takes his leg off at dinner, sets it on a chair and asks the waiter for another menu.
2. The things they carry
When you’re dating a civilian, they might sometimes leave a shirt or socks behind after a late-night visit. But if you’re dating a veteran, you may have to deal with a forgotten piece of their prosthetic, a utility knife, or something else you might not expect.
3. Bobby pins are everywhere
Just like dating a civilian woman, military women will leave bobby pins behind. To keep the crisp, clean bun many women in uniform rely on, it can take 15 or more bobby pins to make it work. Occasionally, they get left behind on night stands and kitchen sinks as an accidental territory marker.
4. Opening up takes a little longer
Any relationship is built on trust and understanding – a relationship with a vet is no different. Special importance has to be put on trust, though. When someone’s ready to open up, you have to be ready to listen and try to understand things you may have never experienced and couldn’t begin to comprehend. Many veterans are used to losing the people who are closest to them, whether from failed relationships, in combat, or to suicide. They may not want to get attached for fear of losing you, but you have to work to build their trust.
5. Inter-service rivalry is all in good fun
If you’re a veteran dating a veteran of another branch, you have to get used to the good-natured teasing of your service coming into all aspects of your life. Whether you forget something at home on a trip and hear “man, that’s why you can’t trust an Airman!” or if you’re late to a date and get a “sailors, always on their own time,” you have to learn to dish it back with a smile.
6. You learn to love listening to stories
Any veteran, young or old, loves to tell stories from their service. Whether they fought the Nazis in 10 feet of snow with an ax handle and a pocket knife, or they battled al-Qaeda as a member of Delta Team Six, the stories are always an interesting look into the way the military works. Whether they’re 100 percent true or a little embellished, you’ll learn to revel in the stories of your veteran significant other — especially over a few drinks.
7. You learn to give your all and try new things
Veterans can be intense people. They’re used to giving a mission their all and take that passion into the things they love most. Learning new things may include backpacking or kayaking or it could be a sport like football or basketball. No matter what, you have to learn to give 100 percent to anything you try.
8. Not every vet has post-traumatic stress, but some do
Life isn’t always sunshine and roses. While visible wounds may make people stare, the invisible wounds can be harder to deal with in a relationship. Traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress are big hurdles modern veterans face, and they can affect their closest relationships dramatically. Patience is key in a time where your significant other is facing something they may not want to – or be able to – talk about.
9. Commitment is more than a ten-letter word
Each branch of the military focuses on commitment, duty, honor, sacrifice, and service and others before self. This bleeds into their life outside of the military – dating and marrying a veteran can be one of the most rewarding things someone can do. It isn’t for everyone, but if you meet and fall in love with a veteran, you can be assured their service will be an asset in your life together.
Six years ago, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jared Coons grappled with the grief of the death of his father. Mark Coons, 54, left part of his estate to his son, who in turn has taken that gift to help wounded troops, children and families.
Coons gave some $25,000 to the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. A $100,000 check covered two-thirds of the cost to build a playground for special-needs kids at the YMCA in his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. An $85,000 donation benefitted local schools.
Smaller but still sizable donations funded outdoor camps and horse therapy programs.
The Marine Corps also recognized Coons for his charity. At a November 2013 ceremony at the Pentagon, it gave him the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award for his “extraordinary philanthropic contributions” of over $238,000 and noted his “generous and philanthropic character epitomizes the spirit of Bob Hope and was in keeping with the highest traditions” of the services.
But last year, Coons found himself in legal hot water. Why? He dug into his wallet several times in 2014 while serving as the logistics chief with a Japan-based Osprey squadron, VMM-262.
Tempo was high, he said, as the squadron was preparing to chop to another command for a shipboard deployment and prepping for training exercises in the region. Logistics are complicated business in the western Pacific, where units are further from military supply lines and stateside support.
Once, crunched for time, Coons spent about $1,400 to rent three large trash bins to haul away another unit’s property left in a Futenma Marine Corps Air Station hangar on Okinawa. Another time, he paid $1,450 to fund commercial Internet services from a contingency supply vendor for an exercise deployment to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.
The unit needed internet access so the Marines could track flight activities and do their daily work to meet the mission, he said. But there wasn’t enough time to wait for the waiver from Washington, which would likely come too late. So he decided to cover the cost and file for reimbursement.
Coons, a 15-year veteran, said it wasn’t the only times the squadron came up short with getting supplies and equipment the Marines needed.
“We had a very high mission tempo and we rarely received the support we needed,” he said. Higher-ups “should have supported the squadron better than it did.”
Coons contends he had the OK from his boss to get those mission-essential purchases. But he saw no reimbursement. Instead, the squadron, with a new commander in charge, in July 2015 ordered an investigation into his 2014 purchases. Coons was counseled for “unauthorized commitment of personal funds.”
But it didn’t end there. After a contingency mission to Nepal following an earthquake there, the squadron blamed Coons for several general-purpose tent poles in palletized GP tents, which he initially had signed out for but which later had missing parts. The Marine Corps valued those poles at $2,288 – his attorney says the parts are worth less than $100 — and it garnished his pay to cover that bill.
Jane Siegel, a retired colonel and Marine Corps judge advocate now in private practice near San Diego, said the Marine was “pressured” to sign a form that he’d agree to the garnishment from his military pay. He did it so he could take requested leave, which she said was subsequently wrongly cancelled and meant the loss of $1,147 airline ticket for his short trip to the U.S.
The money garnished was “20 times the amount he actually owed” for the missing poles, Siegel wrote in an appeal to Marine Corps Forces Pacific command in Hawaii to right the wrongs, order a new investigation and reimburse the gunnery sergeant for $6,276, in all.
“This is about fundamental fairness and admission that the red tape does not keep up with the mission tempo,” she wrote. “When the mission absolutely, positively has to be done, call the Marines. This is what the gunny was trying to ensure.”
Coons has few options left for redress. Last year he rotated back to the states and is stationed at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in California and he’s spent this year trying to recoup the money for things he said the squadron needed overseas. Commanders up the chain agreed with the investigation, blaming Coons for requesting reimbursement.
He’s hit dead ends with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Inspector General, all which have rejected his appeals to reinvestigate. Most recently, the Defense Department’s IG refused to reopen the case.
“We want someone to investigate. He wants a fair hearing – and he hasn’t gotten one,” Siegel said, calling Coons “an outstanding” Marine. “It’s not so much about the money. To him, it’s about the fact that he had to do these things. He had to outlay the money for the Internet, because he’s just that kind of a Marine.”
But Mattis, a retired Marine general, is not the only US military officer who has supplemented his martial knowledge with academic achievement.
In that spirit, the US Army has distributed reading recommendations so soldiers and civilians alike are able “to sharpen their knowledge of the Army’s long and distinguished history, as well as the decisive role played by landpower in conflicts across the centuries.”
Below are some of the books recommended by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to help better understand the world’s current strategic environment, along with his explanations for their inclusion.
“Blending historical evidence with interviews of an amazing array of individuals, [Singer] shows how technology is changing not just in how wars are fought, but also in the politics, economics, laws, and the ethics that surround war itself.”
“Contending that states throughout history have been driven to acquire greater power and influence as a means of guaranteeing their own security, [Mearsheimer] concludes that current efforts at engagement and seeking harmonious relations between states will ultimately fail and predicts that the U.S. security competition with a rising China will inevitably intensify.”
Kennedy’s “far-ranging survey explores the relationship between economics, strategy, technology, and military power. He argues for the primacy of economic factors to explain why some states achieved great power status. By the same token, nations stumbled and declined when their financial resources could no longer support their military ambitions and commitments.”
“Between 1500 and 1800, the West sprinted ahead of other centers of power in Asia and the Middle East. … Today, that preeminence is in decline as China, India, Brazil, and other emerging powers rise. Kupchan considers how those principles associated with the West — democracy, capitalism, and secular nationalism — will continue to endure as new states outside the Western world gain greater economic and political prominence.”
O’Hanlon “wonders where large-scale conflicts or other catastrophes are most plausible. Which of these could be important enough to require the option of a U.S. military response? And which of these could, in turn, demand significant numbers of American ground forces for their resolution?”
“He is not predicting or advocating big American roles in such operations — only cautioning against overconfidence that the United States can and will avoid them.”
“Zeihan examines how the hard rules of geography are eroding the American commitment to free trade; how much of the planet is aging into a mass retirement that will enervate markets and capital supplies; and how, against all odds, it is the ever-ravenous American economy that — alone among the developed nations — is rapidly approaching energy independence.”
“He concludes that geography will matter more than ever in a deglobalizing world and that America’s geography is simply sublime.”
“In this masterful study of urban warfare, DiMarco explains what it takes to seize and hold a city literally block by block and provides lessons for today’s tacticians that they neglect at their own peril.”
“Burrows examines recent trends to forecast tectonic shifts that will drive us to 2030. A staggering amount of wholesale change is happening — from unprecedented and widespread aging to rampant urbanization and growth in a global middle class to an eastward shift in economic power and a growing number of disruptive technologies.”
“In an era of high technology and instant communication, the role of geography in the formation of strategy and politics can be undervalued. … In a series of case studies, Grygiel, a political scientist, highlights the importance of incorporating geography into grand strategy. He argues that states can increase and maintain their position of power by pursuing a geostrategy that focuses on control of resources and lines of communications.”
Army scientists have been working on a canine-like robot that’s designed to take commands from soldiers, much like real military working dogs.
The Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation (LLAMA) robot is an Army Research Laboratory effort to design and demonstrate a near-fully autonomous robot capable of going anywhere a soldier can go.
The program is distinctly different from an effort the Marine Corps jointly undertook with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in 2010 to develop a four-legged mule robot to take equipment off the backs of Marines in field, officials from the Army Research Laboratory said.
It’s much more similar to Marine Corps research efforts around Spot, a four-legged hydraulic prototype designed for infantry teaming.
“We wanted to get something closer to a working dog for the soldier; we wanted it to be able to go into places where a soldier would go, like inside buildings,” Jason Pusey, a mechanical engineer at ARL, told Military.com.
(CCDC Army Research Laboratory)
“It’s supposed to be a soldier’s teammate, so we wanted to have a platform, so the soldier could tell the robot to go into the next building and get me the book bag and bring it back to me. That building might be across the battlefield, or it might have complex terrain that it has to cover because we want the robot to do it completely autonomously.”
The LLAMA effort began more than two years ago through the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance Program, a research effort intended to study concepts for highly intelligent unmanned robots.
“In the beginning we had a lot of wheeled and tracked systems, but we were looking at some unique mobility capabilities … and toward the end we decided we wanted something that we could incorporate a lot of this intelligence on a [robot] that had increased mobility beyond wheels and tracks,” Pusey said.
Army modernization officials have been working to develop autonomous platforms, but one of the major challenges has been teaching them how to negotiate obstacles on complex terrain.
“We picked … the legged platform, because when we get to an area where the soldier actually has to dismount from the vehicle and continue on through its mission that is the point where the legs become more relevant,” Pusey said.
Working with organizations such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Institute for Human Machine Cognition, ARL has developed a LLAMA prototype that’s able to take verbal commands and move independently across terrain to accomplish tasks, Pusey said.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Command Army Research Laboratory developed the Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, as part of the lab’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance.
(U.S. Army photo by Jim Nelson)
“We wanted it to be very intelligent, so the soldier’s head doesn’t have to be down and looking at a screen,” Pusey said. “Similar to a working dog, we wanted it to be able to go across the way, get into the building, grab the bag and bring it back.”
“Right now, when we tell it to go across the rubble pile and to traverse the path, we are not joy-sticking it. It does it by itself.”
Program officials have been working to input automatic thinking into the LLAMA. With that capability, it wouldn’t have to think about the mechanics of running or avoiding an obstacle in its path any more than a human does.
Digital maps of the terrain the robot will operate on, along with specially identified objects, are stored in internal controllers that guide the dog’s thinking, said Geoffrey Slipher, chief of the Autonomous Systems Division.
“You can say, ‘go to the third barrel on the left,’ and it would know what you mean,” Slipher said.
If the map doesn’t have objects identified, operators could tell LLAMA to go to a specific map position.
“It would go there and it would use its sensors as it goes a long to map the environment and classify objects as it goes, so then you would have that information later on to refer to,” Slipher said.
“As a research platform, we are not looking at it maximizing range and endurance or any of these parameters; the objective of the design of this vehicle was to allow it to perform the functions as a research platform for long enough so we could answer questions, like how this or other autonomous systems would perform in the field.”
The Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, is the embodiment of the program’s research efforts in the area of advancements in autonomous off-road mobility.
(U.S. Army photo by Jim Nelson)
Pusey tried to relate the effort to trying to teach instinctive human reactions.
“If you slip on a step, what do you do? You normally will flail out your arms and try to grab for railings to save yourself, so you don’t damage a limb,” he said. “With a robot, we have to teach it that it’s slippery; you have to quickly step again or grab something. How do you kind of instill these inherent fundamental ideas into the robot is what we are trying to research.”
The LLAMA is also battery-powered, making it much quieter than Marine Corps’ Legged Squad Support System, Pusey said.
“One of the problems with the LS3 in the past was it … had a gas-powered engine, so it was loud and it had a huge thermal signature, which the Marines didn’t like,” he said, describing how the LLAMA has a very small thermal signature.
Despite the progress, it’s still uncertain if the LLAMA, in its current form, will one day work with soldiers since the research effort is scheduled to end in December.
“We are in the mode of this program is ending and what are we going to do next,” Pusey said. “There are multiple directions we can go but we haven’t quite finalized that plan yet.”
Currently, the Army has no requirement for a legged robot like LLAMA, Slipher said.
“One of the objectives of the follow-on research will be to study concepts of operation for these types of vehicles to help the senior leadership understand intuitively how a platform like this might or might not be useful,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Iranians on July 23, 2018, shrugged off the possibility that a bellicose exchange of words between President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart could escalate into military conflict, but expressed growing concern America’s stepped-up sanctions could damage their fragile economy.
In his latest salvo, Trump tweeted late on July 22, 2018, that hostile threats from Iran could bring dire consequences.
This was after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani remarked earlier in the day that “America must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”
Trump tweeted: “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKE OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Within hours, Iran’s state-owned news agency IRNA dismissed the tweet, describing it as a “passive reaction” to Rouhani’s remarks.
On Tehran streets, residents took the exchange in stride.
“Both America and Iran have threatened one another in different ways for several years,” shrugged Mohsen Taheri, a 58-year-old publisher.
A headline on a local newspaper quoted Rouhani as saying: “Mr. Trump, do not play with the lion’s tail.”
Prominent Iranian political analyst Seed Leilaz downplayed the war of words, saying it was in his opinion “the storm before the calm.”
Leilaz told The Associated Press he was not “worried about the remarks and tweets,” and that “neither Iran, nor any other country is interested in escalating tensions in the region.”
Citing harsh words the United States and North Korea had exchanged before the high-profile summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Leilaz said Trump and Kim got “closer” despite the warring words.
Trump’s eruption on Twitter came after a week of heavy controversy about Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 election, following the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, the tweet was reverberating across the Mideast.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the U.S. president’s “strong stance” after years in which the Iranian “regime was pampered by world powers.”
In early 2018 Trump pulled the U.S. out of the international deal meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon and ordered increased American sanctions, as well as threatening penalties for companies from other countries that continue to do business with Iran.
With the economic pressure, Trump said in early July 2018 that “at a certain point they’re going to call me and say ‘let’s make a deal,’ and we’ll make a deal.”
Iran has rejected talks with the U.S., and Rouhani has accused the U.S. of stoking an “economic war.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Rouhani also suggested Iran could immediately ramp up its production of uranium in response to U.S. pressure. Potentially that would escalate the very situation the nuclear deal sought to avoid — an Iran with a stockpile of enriched uranium that could lead to making atomic bombs.
Trump’s tweet suggested he has little patience with the trading of hostile messages with Iran, using exceptionally strong language and writing the all-capitalized tweet.
“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!,” he wrote.
Another Tehran resident, Mehdi Naderi, fretted that the U.S. measures and his own government’s policies are damaging the lives of the average Iranian.
“America is threatening the Iranian people with its sanctions and our government is doing the same with its incompetence and mismanagement,” said the self-employed 35-year-old.
Trump has a history of firing off heated tweets that seem to quickly escalate long-standing disputes with leaders of nations at odds with the U.S.
In the case of North Korea, the public war of words cooled quickly and gradually led to the high profile summit and denuclearization talks. There has been little tangible progress in a global push to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons program since the historic Trump-Kim summit on June 12, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Pyongyang for follow-up talks in early July 2018, but the two sides showed conflicting accounts of the talks. North’s Foreign Ministry accused the United States of making “gangster-like” demands for its unilateral disarmament.
Some experts say Kim is using diplomacy as a way to win outside concessions and weaken U.S.-led international sanctions.
Many in Iran have expressed frustration that Trump has seemed willing to engage with North Korea, which has openly boasted of producing nuclear weapons, but not Iran, which signed the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Since Trump pulled out of the deal, other nations involved — Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China as well as the European Union — have reaffirmed their support for the deal and have been working to try and keep Iran on board.
“Iran is angry since Trump responded to Tehran’s engagement diplomacy by pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear deal,” Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh told the AP.
He added, however, the war of words between the two presidents was to be expected, since official diplomatic relations between the two countries have been frozen for decades.
“They express themselves through speeches since diplomatic channels are closed,” said Falahatpisheh who heads the influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy.
On July 22, 2018, in California, Pompeo was strongly critical of Iran, calling its religious leaders “hypocritical holy men” who amassed vast sums of wealth while allowing their people to suffer.
In the speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Pompeo castigated Iran’s political, judicial and military leaders, accusing several by name of participating in widespread corruption. He also said the government has “heartlessly repressed its own people’s human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms.”
He said despite poor treatment by their leaders, “the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government’s many abuses,” Pompeo said.
“And the United States under President Trump will not stay silent either.”
Lester reported from Washington. Associated Press writers David Rising in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, Aron Heller in Jerusalem and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.
Wars should be like taking off Band-Aids: If a country can’t get it over with fast, maybe it shouldn’t think about shedding blood.
When a country is this bad at war, it probably runs the risk of just slowly bleeding to death. There are many, many examples of this in both history and in today’s newspapers — and we’ve collected our favorite examples.
This episode of “Fixer Upper: Armed Forces Edition” has seen a lot of changes since 2015.
There are also a few new faces on this updated list. When considering this year’s candidates, I actually created some criteria. It was important to consider what the armed forces of a country needs versus what it has and what a country’s priorities really are. I also considered how much sh*t the country (or its leadership) talks versus what it actually accomplishes.
But keep in mind this is not about criticizing the people who fight wars on the front lines. For the most part, it’s about criticizing the governments and policymakers who fund, train, and equip these armies and then expect them not to get annihilated once they go into battle.
There are many countries with extremely substandard defense forces, but most of those aren’t going around rattling sabers, either. For example, Gambia has about 2,000 troops with old weapons and uniforms that don’t match, but they spend most of their time fighting HIV and wizards, not threatening to invade Senegal.
And though there are many armed forces engaged in fighting around the world, many of those aren’t actually from a recognized country.
This year’s list gave Mongolia a break for going the extra mile and having a Navy despite being totally landlocked. We also said goodbye to the Philippines. After the Manila Standard called our 2015 assessment of the Philippines’ armed forces “spot on,” incoming President Rodrigo Duterte decided to spend $6.6 billion upgrading the AFP.
To be clear, no one here is taking credit for this.
Also leaving this year’s list is “Africa’s North Korea,” Eritrea. At the time of this writing, the country is looking to end its war with Ethiopia and maybe even stop “drafting” all of its men to work in forced labor.
Also missing from the list is Somalia, whose armed forces is pretty much subsumed by U.S. special operations along with Kenyan and Ethiopian troops.
These are the forces that make the KISS Army seem even more formidable than they already do.
The latest hand-me-downs from Russia to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Tajikistan include two classes of helicopter from the 1960s, tanks from the 1970s, and personnel carriers from the 1980s. This is still a big step up from the absolutely nothing they got from the fall of the Soviet Union. That’s just the equipment. It doesn’t get much better for the troops on the ground in an army where even the doctors will haze them to death.
But congrats to the Tajik armed forces, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018. This is only weird because independent Tajikistan is 27 years old.
Many might be surprised to see Russia on a “worst armies” list, but the country’s biggest wins of the last few years include:
Not starting World War III in Syria.
Air strikes on poorly-armed Syrian rebels.
Fighting Ukraine to a draw.
Building a Navy it can’t crew.
Annexing a peninsula with no electricity, fresh water, or money.
Hypersonic missiles that fly only 22 miles.
Finally building a robot tank after 30 years and failing at it.
Russia seems strong because it doesn’t let anyone tell it what to do. But all it wants to do is beat up on its weaker neighbors and generally be an asshole to Washington — and this is the source of its true power. It can fight a war. It can conquer countries.
President Erdoğan is a lot more aggressive with Turkey’s armed forces than he used to be, both in use of force and imprisoning generals he thinks started a coup against him in 2016. That’s what dictators do. But as ISIS fighters approached the Turkish border with Syria, Turkey did very little about it. Erdoğan only cared about consolidating power, (something he finally did with the most recent election) while Turkey’s longtime enemy, the Kurds, cleared ISIS from the area.
Fast-forward to when Turkey did act in Syria, months after the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters defeated ISIS in northern Syria. Turkey invaded and immediately started attacking – you guessed it – the Kurds. Turkey has always had a reason to hate Kurds, but it’s poor timing to exercise those demons on a de facto ally in the middle of a war they were winning to help protect Turkey.
The only goal of the Turkish invasion is to keep the Kurds from getting their own country, the ultimate geopolitical dick move.
If you thought it was bad that Nigerian military members were fired for making a strategic retreat or that Nigerian troops could only run away from Boko Haram because neither their weapons nor vehicles worked, remember: it can always be worse. Especially for Nigerian women.
As for the troops’ welfare, senators are more likely to have armored cars than front-line troops. And when the country did decide to invest $2 billion into its military, it was immediately funneled into personal bank accounts of government ministers – to the tune of $2.2 billion, more than the original investment.
First of all, let’s understand that the U.S. is never, ever going to leave Afghanistan — ever. If we really planned to leave Afghanistan, we’d give them something more effective than old prop planes and uniforms we don’t want. When U.S. troops do give the ANA reasonably modern equipment, the ANA turns right around and deserts them in the next Taliban attack. So the U.S. then has to go destroy their own Humvees. And while some call the Afghan Air Force a win for U.S. training, they should remember that when the Taliban get its hands on those planes and laser-guided munitions and the U.S. has to blow those up, too.
Most of the funding for the ANA goes toward salaries, essentially begging ANA troops not to kill their fellow troops or NATO allies. This is a game the ANA can’t win when the Taliban is offering three times as much to do the opposite. So, even though the ANA called the 60mm mortar a “game changer” for ground troops, the Taliban will still pay a king’s ransom for them to fire it into a friendly base. The United States has sunk billion into an Army that can’t win — or even fight. Hell, they pass basic training just by not going AWOL.
To top it all off, the older generals are being forced to retire from the Afghan Army. Remember what happened the last time the U.S. pushed to fire a whole big chunk of another nation’s army? The Iraq War and, eventually, ISIS.
The number one PT score for Venezuela’s army is probably in running, because that’s all they’ve been doing lately. When a Venezuelan soldier’s choices are limited to either working for free and potentially starving to death or to desert entirely, the choice becomes clear.
So, what does an embattled President do when his army starts crumbling? Tell civilians the U.S. is going to attack and then show them how to defend the country.
Mexico militarized its law enforcement then sent its military into Mexico to fight of violent drug cartels… and still lost. The country was divided into five security zones and then invaded by the armed forces. Then they became just as corrupt and criminal as the local law enforcement they replaced.
To make matters worse, when the army takes out any kind of cartel leadership, it creates a power vacuum and then a war among the cartels. The strategy of removing high-level kingpins has resulted in a 60 percent increase in violence that the Mexican military can’t control, despite fully occupying its own country. They’ve been at this since 2006 and it’s taken a heavy toll on the Mexican military and Mexican people. In the last few years, Mexico quietly became the second deadliest conflict, surpassed only by Syria.
That means you’re actually safer in Kabul than in Cabo.
3. North Korea
Of course North Korea makes the list again. Despite the recent Singapore Summit, there is no one better at rattling a saber than a North Korean named Kim. In fact, Kim Jong Un is really just following the North Korean game plan to get concessions from the United States:
Create a scene
Threaten all-out war with the South
Get talked down at the last minute
Get rewarded for not starting the war you had no intention of starting in the first place.
But to make step two seem plausible, North Korea needs to have a credible threat. So while it does have hundreds of artillery pieces pointed at Seoul, a city with 9.8 million people, it also has the world’s oldest air force and trains its pilots using the power of imagination, mostly because it can’t afford jet fuel. Its navy is just considered a “nuisance” and we would all be amazed if its army had enough food for the time it takes to actually kill those 9.8 million people.
Syria’s armed forces are so awful, they can’t win a civil war with the help of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the U.S. and Kurds fighting ISIS for them. In fact, anyone can feel free to violate Syria’s sovereignty. Turkey, the GCC, Europe, and Israel are doing it without repercussions on an almost daily basis. So, naturally, what do Syria’s armed forces do? Threaten to attack the U.S. and Israel. As if they didn’t have enough problems.
And when they do win, it’s not exactly clean. Chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and starvation are the primary tactics used for the now-seven year long civil war there. It’s not exactly the way to convince the civilian population that Assad is the right leader for them. Seven years down, five to go.
1. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia talks a lot of smack about a war with Iran but even when it brings its full military might to bear, it can’t keep a coalition together, let alone finish off an Iranian proxy. They’ve been fighting the Houthi-led insurgents in Yemen since 2015 and with the help of half of Yemen, all of Sudan, Morocco, the U.S., the UAE, Senegal, France, Egypt, Jordan, and Bahrain, they still fail to win the war.
This coalition has every numerical and technological advantage on sea, land, and air and they’re just being manhandled, the result of overconfidence and a dash of hubris. The Saudis thought 150,000 battle-hardened Houthis would just roll over after a few airstrikes. “Winning” was the extent of their plan and, if it didn’t work for Charlie Sheen, it sure as hell isn’t going to work for Saudi Arabia.
Not only have they failed to win after three years and heavily outnumbering and outgunning the Houthis, they’ve lost coalition partners and turned the entire country into a humanitarian disaster. That’s what you get for relying on another country’s military to bail you out of everything for 20 years.