7 important rules for the troops who support special operators - We Are The Mighty
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7 important rules for the troops who support special operators

While I still have a few years left, I am on the tail end of my military career. I have been fortunate enough to spend most of my time in uniform supporting Special Operations Forces. I have done a wide range of work. I’ve done everything from working out of safe houses to sitting behind a desk doing policy work to ensure the guys down range were covered. Because nothing happens without paperwork.


During my time I have learned a lot about the community and what it takes to do well in it. Over the years, I have made mistakes and I have reached milestones, and both situations taught me valuable lessons along the way. If I had to pass on knowledge to a new support personnel, these are the things I would tell my potential future replacements:

1)  Know your place, and be proud of it.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
USMC photo by Sgt. Brian Kester

When you very first get to the community, don’t overestimate your worth. I have seen more than a few well-qualified support personnel get fired from SF commands because they forgot they weren’t Operators. If an SF command has taken the time to screen you, hire you, and then provide you additional training based on your MOS/Rate it’s because they needed your specific skillset, and they considered you ahead of your peers. Be proud of that, because it means the SOF community needed your skillset in order for them to accomplish the mission.

And don’t treat your conventional counterparts like sh–. You may very well need them one day. In fact, you probably will.

2)  The Q Course doesn’t produce seasoned SF Operators.

I realize that statement should be fairly obvious, but coming into the community, I didn’t quite grasp that. I assumed all Operators were seasoned Veterans and were professional at everything they did. I also assumed that all the support personnel were seasoned as well.   It took me years to fully understand that an Operator has to grow into that seasoned and professional warrior.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Bertha A. Flores

At some point you will inevitably hear something like, “What do you know, you’re not an Operator!” You need to remember several things when you run into this. First, check yourself, and make sure you didn’t just put your foot in your mouth. If you didn’t, and you are confident about what you are talking about, don’t back down (remember, you were hired for your specific skillset).

The next thing is you need to remember is to not take it personally. And finally, you need to consider if this is an Operator who has been around and understands the role of the support folks, or if this is a new Operator that still learning what role you play in helping accomplish their mission.

This may have been my hardest lesson at the early stages of my career.       

3)  Find someone senior and make them your mentor.

There is always that one support person. The one that has been in the command forever, and almost seems bitter about it, yet the leadership always comes to them for advice. The Operators don’t give them a hard time when they need something from them, because they’ve proven their worth time and time again.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
DoD photo by Steven Stover

More than likely, they’ve been there since they were a junior NCO, and is now a senior NCO complete with the crusty attitude. Get on their good side and make them your mentor (whether they know it or not). There is a reason they has been there forever and a reason they have survived. Find out what it took, and imitate their work ethics. But maybe not the attitude, not yet anyway. Get some years in first and earn your “crustiness.”

4)  Always put the mission first.

Like any of us in uniform, we all want to advance. We want more responsibility and we want to take on leadership roles. At some point, you will face a decision where you have to make a choice between the mission and something administrative pertaining to your career, or someone else’s.

One of my favorite mentors gave me this piece of advice: “Always put the mission first and everything else will fall into place”. What he essentially meant was that if I was doing what I was supposed to do, the senior leadership would recognize it and take care of me when the time came.

5)  Bad news doesn’t get better with time.

This applies to all communities but I think this really hits home in the SOF community. If you mess up, don’t try to hide it, fix it on the sly, and hope no one notices. Own your mistake, tell the people you need to tell. It’s okay to make mistakes. Learn from it and move on with it.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
US Navy Admiral William McRaven. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Williams

As Admiral McRaven moved through the SOF commands, one of the things he used to put out to the mid-level leadership was for them to allow their people to make mistakes. He said he didn’t want his people to be too afraid to take chances for fear of being punished if they failed. If you find something innovative, don’t be afraid to try new things. Just make sure you have a good plan and that you communicate with your teammates.

6)  Your rank doesn’t make your idea better.

One of my favorite things about the SOF community is that good ideas usually don’t wear rank. Listen to your people! If your junior folks have an idea, it may be worth listening to. It may not, but take the time to listen. That one time you do it and it works, you may make a huge impact on your troops’ morale.

And finally:

7)  Always be in good shape.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

You ever see that one fat support person that all the Operators asked for advice from? No? That’s because it never happened. Your primary concern should be your job and how well you do it, and your secondary concern should be your physical shape. No Operator wants to hear from a fat, out-of-breath body.

If you can’t take care of yourself, how can they have any faith you will take care of them as they head out the door? I’m not saying you need to be a triathlete or even keep up with the Operators at the gym, but I am saying that the Operators need to feel comfortable that you can keep up if or when they take you out of the wire.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how the Air Force plans to ‘sail’ its airmen through space

Sun Tzu advised in The Art of War, “When the enemy occupies high ground, do not confront him.”


This is why, since the advent of flight, all battlefield commanders have sought to control the airspace above the battlefield – the “ground” above the high ground.

Control of the airspace grants its occupant a clearer view of an enemy’s movements, better communications with friendly forces and the freedom to move quickly and unpredictably to attack downhill well behind the enemy’s front lines.

Forces on land, at sea and in the air all reap the advantages of the establishment of air superiority – the keystone to victories from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Just as important, occupying that high ground denies those same advantages to the enemy.

Research into lasers may offer advancement in propulsion technology to get us into deep space and beyond for a fraction of the cost. The geniuses at the Air Force Research Laboratory are developing multiple ways to utilize laser power to enhance weapons, mining in space and electrolyze water.

In peacetime, maintaining air superiority provides a deterrent to those potential adversaries who heed the warning of Sun Tzu.

That is why the Air Force and its researchers are constantly looking far beyond the horizon of the current battlefield to develop new technologies enabling access to the highest ground possible – space.

Even before the Soviet Union successfully launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit in October 1957, the United States was developing its own top-secret satellites to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) of potential adversaries – Project Corona.

While Sputnik was little more than a beeping aluminum ball orbiting the Earth, it was an undeniable Soviet flag planted on the global high ground. The U.S. government knew that ceding that high ground greatly increased the chances of defeat should the Cold War with the Soviet Union turn hot.

Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, who oversaw the fledgling National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), firmly acknowledged the national security benefits of advancing the peaceful exploration of space in 1963.

“I, for one, don’t want to go to bed by the light of a Communist moon,” said Johnson.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Today, the Air Force operates the largest GPS constellation in history with more than 30 satellites. Originally developed and implemented as a military navigation system, today we share it with the rest of the world while still relying on it for a variety of tasks from guiding precision weapons to delivering humanitarian supplies on the other side of the planet. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

To this day the U.S. Air Force has remained at the forefront of pushing farther into space, from launching communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to providing astronaut Airmen who first ventured into Earth orbit during Project Mercury, walked on the Moon during Project Apollo to Col. Jack D. Fischer currently aboard the International Space Station.

It is a legacy that surrounds and drives Dr. Wellesley Pereira, a senior research physical scientist with the Air Force Research Lab’s (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The very site at which Pereira conducts his research is named for an Airman who led the charge to put an American on the Moon.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Col. Buzz Aldrin was one of the first two humans to land on the Moon, and the second person to walk on it. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

The Phillips Research Site is named for Air Force Gen. Samuel Phillips, who served as Director of NASA’s Apollo manned lunar landing program from 1964 to 1969. That program culminated in the first humans, Neil Armstrong and then Air Force Lt. Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, landing on the moon in 1969 as Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Collins piloted the Apollo 11 Command Module overhead. It was the kind of aggressive manned exploration of space that Pereira would not only like to see continue, but accelerate.

“The Air Force and its Airmen are seen as trendsetters, as in the case with GPS, benefiting all humanity, or with technologically-inspired precision airdrops from 30,000 feet of lifesaving supplies during humanitarian crises,” said Pereira. “In doing this the Air Force establishes itself as a global power in which it does not cede higher ground to anyone… It pays dividends to be at the leading edge of that technology as opposed to playing catch up all the time. The Air Force can really send a very positive message by being that trendsetter in space.”

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
The Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) is an American military airdrop system which uses the GPS, steerable parachutes, and an onboard computer to steer loads to a designated point of impact (PI) on a drop zone (DZ). (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

Pereira is currently researching infrared physics and hyper-spectral imaging as a means to provide ISR data over a wide range of light not visible to the human eye.

“We simulate cloud scenes viewed from spacecraft,” said Pereira. ” (Examining) all the aspects that affect an image from space like the artifacts caused by movement in the space platform; trying to process signals, trying to process information. We try to simulate these things in our lab just to understand spacecraft processes and how we can deal with this in post-processing.”

Pereira’s current position at AFRL as a research scientist coupled with a background in astronomy, physics and space research gives him the opportunity to think deeply about space and human space flight.

“As a research scientist, I’ve been involved in building payloads for the Air Force on satellites,” said Pereira. “This has led me to think about satellites in general; launch, orbits, moving in and out of orbits, the mechanics of orbits and the optimization of orbits.”

Those contemplations have led Pereira to envision an Air Force of the future that will propel its assets and Airmen to increasingly higher ground in space in a cost-effective way that combines technology old and new – sails and lasers.

“Up until now, we’ve been using chemical propulsion to get into space. Chemical propulsion is limited in what it can do for us in the future. We cannot go very far. We have to take resources from the Earth into space, which is a big issue considering we only can carry so much mass, we only have so much power, and so on. It is limited by chemical bond, but it is also limited by size, weight, power,” said Pereira.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Description Here (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

The concept of solar sails has existed for quite a while. A solar sail uses photons, or energy from the sun to propel a spacecraft. Photons have energy and momentum. That energy transfers to a sail upon impact, pushing the sail and spacecraft to which it is attached, farther into space, according to Pereira.

“The Japanese have already proven that we can fly stuff with a solar sail. In 2010, they sent up an experiment called IKAROS, Interplanetary Kite-raft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun. This was a very successful project,” said Pereira.

“In the same vein as solar sails, futurists have also thought about laser sails. I think this is an area where the Air Force can develop an ability for us to propel spacecraft farther using lasers, either in the form of laser arrays on Earth or taking a laser array and putting it on the moon, to propel spacecraft without the cost of lifting spacecraft and chemical propellant from the Earth’s surface.”

In the near future, Pereira sees this method as a cost-effective way the Air Force can lift satellites into higher Earth orbit.

“You have spacecraft go into orbits that are just about 300 to 600 kilometers above the Earth. We call those Low Earth Orbits or LEO. Likewise, you have orbits that could be about 36,000 to 40,000 kilometers above the Earth. We call them Geostationary Earth Orbits or GEO orbits. Many communications satellites, as well as, a few other satellites are in Geostationary orbit…the way of the future, would be to use laser based arrays, instead of chemical propulsion, to fire at a satellite’s sail to push it to a higher orbit,” said Pereira.

“Our goal is to try and minimize taking resources from earth to space. We can literally just launch a rocket using a catapult that could boost to about 100 meters per second and, once we get it to a certain altitude, we can have an array of lasers focus on the sail on the rocket, propel it out farther, whether it’s intended for a LEO orbit or whether it’s intended for a GEO orbit. As long as you can build material that can endure the laser energy without tearing, I think this is a far cheaper way to go and it could save the Air Force a lot of money.”

According to Pereira, developing this technology would naturally lead to the ability to propel spacecraft carrying Airmen farther into the solar system where they could establish self-sustaining outposts on ever higher ground.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the MPCV, is essentially a spacecraft designed to take astronauts farther than any human has ever gone before. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

“NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the MPCV, is essentially a spacecraft designed to take astronauts farther than any human has ever gone before. One test flight concept is to visit an asteroid called 1999 AO10, in around 2025,” said Pereira. “This asteroid does not have a lot of gravity and not a lot of surface area, so rather than walking on the asteroid, the idea is for the spacecraft to connect itself to the asteroid, and for the astronauts to do spacewalks to mine materials, so that they can bring them back to Earth for analysis.”

Past and current Air Force research during manned space flight has led to increased understanding of human physiological response to microgravity and exposure to radiation, development of life support systems, nutritious food packaging, sophisticated positioning, navigation and timing software and systems that could one day enable Airmen to routinely fly to and mine asteroids and planetary moons for needed resources.

Pereira also sees Air Force cooperation with commercial companies developing space flight technologies as a benefit to both, from developing suborbital space planes, manned capsules and space waypoints, or “hotels”, to projects as ambitious as Breakthrough Starshot, a proposed mission to send a microchip all the way to Proxima B, an exo-planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri, and transmit data back to Earth.

“They want to do this at about 20 percent of the speed of light, meaning it will take five times as long as it would take light to travel between the Earth and Proxima Centauri, approximately four light years away. So it could take only about 20 years for this chip to get to Proxima Centauri. Then if it beams images back at the speed of light, it would take another four years for that data to come back. In about 24 years, we would get data from Proxima Centauri, our nearest star,” said Pereira.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
To this day the U.S. Air Force has remained at the forefront of pushing farther into space, from launching communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to providing astronaut Airmen who first ventured into Earth orbit, walked on the Moon and are currently aboard the International Space Station. The future holds promises of laser-based sails and self-sustained space outposts. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

Pereira believes that the Air Force participating in such ventures into the space domain could lead to technologies that could send Airmen to the moons of outer planets in our solar system within a person’s lifetime, benefiting the human race and keeping the Air Force firmly atop the high ground.

“First and foremost, Airmen, as many times in the past, can serve in the capacity of professional astronauts: providing services in scouting and setting up breakthrough scientific missions, establishing colonies for repair and mining in order to reduce or avoid having to take materials from Earth to space…enabling safe pathways, providing in-flight maintenance, refueling crews, more effectively than machines might be able to do.”

“There are so many wonderful things about space that are so fascinating that we can explore and learn so much more if we just keep that aspect of space exploration going. We can achieve this by having our Airmen lead the way to an era of exploration enabled by human space flight.”

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This program helps turn troops into teachers

Troops to Teachers, a Department of Defense funded program, has been working to help service members transition to careers in education since 1993. The program is part of the Defense-Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, or “DANTES,” which assists service members in acquiring degrees or certifications (or both), during and after their obligated service.


Through DANTES, service members can apply for scholarships, grants, loans, and tuition assistance, as well as get help understanding their VA education benefits.

Eligible DANTES users who utilize the Troops to Teachers program may qualify for additional funding — up to a $5,000 stipend or a $10,000 bonus.

Stipends may be used to pay for certifications, classes, or teaching license fees. Bonuses are awarded to those who’ve already completed their education and received certification and licensure; they are designed to be an incentive for teaching in high need or certain eligible schools.

“High need schools”, according to TTT, are schools in areas where 50 percent of the elementary or middle school or 40 percent of the high school receives free or reduced lunch. “Eligible” schools will have at least 30 percent of its students receiving free or reduced lunch, have an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 13 percent or more, or be a Bureau of Indian Affairs funded school.

Service members awarded stipends or bonuses must either agree to teach full time in an eligible or high need school for three years, or must commit an additional three years to the military.

The Troops to Teachers program has several goals:

  • Reduce veteran unemployment.
  • Improve American education by providing motivated, experienced, and dedicated personnel for the nation’s classrooms.
  • Increase the number of male and minority teachers in today’s classrooms.
  • Address teacher shortage issues in K-12 schools that serve low-income families and in the critical subjects – math, science, special education, foreign language, and career-technical education.

TTT actively recruits service members from its program to teach in Native American “school[s] residing on or near a designated reservation, nation, village, Rancheria, pueblo, or community with a high population of indigenous students.”

In addition to financial assistance and job placement, TTT offers support to its participants through counseling and mentorship programs.

To date, TTT has awarded over $325,000 in stipends, nearly $2.5 million in bonuses, and helped place over 20,000 veterans into jobs.

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85,551 things the Pentagon could have bought with that wasted $125 Billion

A recent report by FoxNews.com and the Washington Post noted that the Pentagon bureaucracy covered up over $125 billion in “administrative waste” over five years. So, what could the Pentagon have gotten for $125 billion? Let’s take a look at a combination of three things that the wasted money could have bought for the troops:


21 Zumwalt-class destroyers at $3.96 billion each (total: $83.16 billion)

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
USS Zumwalt, first of three commissioned DDG-1000 Destroyers | U.S. Navy

The Navy, short on land-attack hulls, could use the extra firepower for amphibious groups. The thing is, buying 21 more Zumwalts would probably also knock down the unit cost some more, as buying in bulk usually does. If you don’t believe me, compare the price of soda at Costco to the cost at your local grocery store.

As a side effect, getting 24 Zumwalts would probably have saved the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile from cancellation, largely because with a larger purchase order, the price per shell would have gone way down.

200 F-22 Raptors at $154.6 million each (total $30.92 billion)

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

With this, you get a much larger force of F-22 Raptors – the premiere air-dominance fighter in the world. The fly-away cost is actually comparable to the LRIP cost of the F-35. The real thing this does is it gives the United States Air Force more quantity for the missions it has. Originally, plans called for 749 airframes from the Advanced Tactical Fighter program (which lead to the F-22).

Congress has already studied putting the Raptor back into production, incidentally. The 200 purchased would push the total to a little more than half of the initial planned total.

360 Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles at $22 million each (total $7.92 billion)

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The AAV-7A1 first entered service in 1972. It’s slow, not as-well-protected as other armored vehicles, and has only a M2 .50-caliber machine gun and a Mk 19 grenade launcher as armament. It also has great difficulty keeping up with the M1A1 Abrams tanks in the Marine Corps inventory.

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle not only brought better protection, it had a 30mm chain gun, and could keep up with the Abrams while carrying 18 fully-armed Marines. It got cancelled by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Maybe Secretary of Defense Mattis can bring it back?

85,000 XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement Systems at $35,000 each (total $2.975 billion)

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
U.S. Army photo.

This system has been in budget limbo since some initial combat deployments with the 10st Airborne Division (Air Assault) showed great promise. In fact, this system was quickly called “The Punisher” by the troops. The Army Times reported in 2011 that firefights that would usually take 15 to 20 minutes ended in much less time.

Why buy 85,000 systems? Well, the Army will need a lot to equip its active and National Guard forces. But why should the Marines, Navy SEALs, and other ground-pounding units be left out?

So, think about what that $125 billion could have bought … then be furious that the money got wasted and that the waster was covered up. Oh, and food for thought: That means there is $25 billion a year in “administrative waste” every year.

So, what would you use that extra $25 billion a year for after taking care of this shopping list?

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5 methods to get that bicep vein popping out of your arm

Remember back at the beginning of your career when you only cared about how tight your sleeves were?

I remember wanting to look jacked, even though I was only 170 pounds soaking wet. In my inner circle, you got bonus points when your biceps vein looked like it was going to burst out of your skin. So how do you get a bulging vein anyway?


In this article, I’m giving you five strategies to employ that will increase your vascularity.

That biceps vein is probably the first one you’ll see on your journey to becoming the big veiny triumphant man you’ve always wanted to be.

 

Eat to lose fat

Sounds pretty simple? Why haven’t you done it yet then?

Losing body fat is one of the harder body goals to achieve, not because it’s complicated or overly difficult. It’s hard for an entirely different reason…you have to make hundreds of decisions every day to eat properly to burn fat.

Trying to run the fat off through cardio is only one decision.

It’s a lot easier to say “yes” one time than “no” 134 times in a day.

The science is proven. If you want to burn fat diet manipulations are more effective than extra cardio. I wrote a lot more about this topic in What type of exercise burns the most fat.

The goal is to get under 15 percent body fat for some of you. To be sure though, aim for under 12 percent body fat.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
You can’t go wrong with leafy greens when it comes to vascularity. (DeCA photo)

 

Eat to increase Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide is the compound that makes your veins dilate; AKA get bigger. There are plenty of foods that help increase the amount of nitric oxide in the blood.

Foods that get converted into nitrates in the body do the trick to up your level of nitric oxide. Eat foods like:

  • Beetroot
  • Lettuce
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Arugula
  • Spinach

You’ll notice that these foods are healthy and something you should be eating anyway. This is a time when what’s healthy and what’s aesthetic are actually the same thing.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Salt makes food delicious and makes you look fluffy. (Photo by Jason Tuinstra on Unsplash)

 

Keep sodium intake low

Salt holds onto water. Simply put, the more salt in your diet, the more water you’ll retain the less your biceps vein will show.

If you recall in How to cut weight in a borderline safe way, I covered a specific strategy to decrease body water retention in order to make weight. Similar rules apply here. The smarter you are about what you eat, the more likely your body will look the way you want it to.

If you eat a lot of pre-prepared food from the 7-day shop on base that you just need to add water and microwave to cook, I bet you struggle to get your veins popping the way you want them to. There’s a lot of sodium in those foods to make them last longer on the shelf and taste better since they’re made from the cheapest ingredients possible.

Eat from the above list instead.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
The body remembers. If you treat it well it’ll look how you want it to. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Preston Jarrett/Released)

 

Keep water intake consistent

The body remembers. If you’re chronically dehydrated, your body is craving water and will retain as much as possible whenever it has the chance.

If instead, you keep a consistent level of hydration, your body will hoard less water and be willing to excrete any extra water.

Apply this to trying to achieve more vascularity. You will have to stay chronically dehydrated in order to have any veins show and one glass of water will completely change the way you look.

If instead you stay properly hydrated regularly, then just a little bit of dehydration will make your veins pop.

Here’s a bunch of other reasons to drink more water.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Lift often and lift heavy. Bigger muscles equal better vein visibility. (Photo by C.J. Lovelace)

 

Lift weights

The structure of your arm goes like this; skin, fat, veins, muscles, bone.

We have now entered the level of your muscles. Assuming you’re eating and drinking according to the recommendations above, you next need to help your muscles push your veins to the surface.

Weight training is going to increase the blood flow to your muscles. That increase in blood flow is what’s known as “The Pump.” It makes your arms feel bigger, tighter, and stronger. It has two effects on your vascularity.

  1. The increase in blood flow will increase the size of your blood vessels even more than your diet already has.
  2. Larger muscle circumference will push your veins closer to the surface of your skin and make them more visible.
For more on the effects of weight training, check out Why you should be training, not exercising.
7 important rules for the troops who support special operators

If you follow these rules, you’re guaranteed to look more vascular than ever before. If you’re looking for more here’s a bonus, ensure you’re using a pre-workout supplement that contains citrulline malate. For more on how to choose a pre-workout check out Part 1 of What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money.

The new Mighty Fit Plan is coming in hot very soon. Be one of the first to sign up for it here!

Join the Mighty Fit FB Group here!

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Meet the more lethal Abrams tank variant coming in 2020

The Army is now engineering a far-superior M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond –designed to be more lethal, faster, lighter weight, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.


Advanced networking technology with next-generation sights, sensors, targeting systems and digital networking technology — are all key elements of an ongoing upgrade to position the platform to successfully engage in combat against rapidly emerging threats, such as the prospect of confronting a Russian T-14 Armata or Chinese 3rd generation Type 99 tank.

Related: This is what makes tankers so deadly

The SEP v4 variant, slated to being testing in 2021, will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Aerial drone image of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew, from the 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, conducting Table VI Gunnery at Fort Stewart, Ga. December 6, 2016.

While Army officials explain that many of the details of the next-gen systems for the future tanks are not available for security reasons, Basset did explain that the lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.

The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Bassett said.

“A combination of mid-wave and long-wave sensors allow for better target identification at long ranges and better resolution at shorter ranges,” Bassett explained.  Higher-definition sensors allow Army crews to, for instance, better distinguish an enemy fighter or militant carrying an AK 47.

Improved FLIR technologies also help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles. This enhancement provides an additional asset to a tank commander’s independent thermal viewer.

Rear view sensors and laser detection systems are part of these upgrades as well. Also, newly configured meteorological sensors will better enable Abrams tanks to anticipate and adapt to changing weather or combat conditions more quickly, Bassett explained.

“You do not have to manually put meteorological variables into the fire control system. It will detect the density of the air, relative humidity and wind speed and integrate it directly into the platform,” Basset explained.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Marines from Company C, 1st Tank Battalion, prepare their tank for the day’s attack on Range 210 Dec. 11, 2012, during Steel Knight 13.

The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single vehicle. Also, some of the current electronics, called Line Replaceable Units, will be replaced with new Line Replaceable Modules including a commander’s display unit, driver’s control panel, gunner’s control panel, turret control unit and a common high-resolution display, information from General Dynamics Land Systems states.

Advanced Multi-Purpose Round

The M1A2 SEP v4 will carry Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition round able to combine a variety of different rounds into a single tank round.

The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.

The latter round was introduced in 1993 to engage and defeat enemy helicopters, specifically the Russian Hind helicopter, Army developers explained.  The MPAT round has a two-position fuse, ground and air, that must be manually set, an Army statement said.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
M1 Abrams tanks conduct a live fire range day. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The M1028 Canister round is the third tank round being replaced. The Canister round was first introduced in 2005 by the Army to engage and defeat dismounted Infantry, specifically to defeat close-in human-wave assaults. Canister rounds disperse a wide-range of scattering small projectiles to increase anti-personnel lethality and, for example, destroy groups of individual enemy fighters.

The M908, Obstacle Reduction round, is the fourth that the AMP round will replace; it was designed to assist in destroying large obstacles positioned on roads by the enemy to block advancing mounted forces, Army statements report.

AMP also provides two additional capabilities: defeat of enemy dismounts, especially enemy anti-tank guided missile, or ATMG, teams at a distance, and breaching walls in support of dismounted Infantry operations

Bassett explained that a new ammunition data link will help tank crews determine which round is best suited for a particular given attack.

“Rather than having to carry different rounds, you can communicate with the round before firing it,” Bassett explained.

Engineering Change Proposal 1

Some of the upgrades woven into the lethality enhancement for the M1A2 SEP v4 have their origins in a prior upgrades now underway for the platform,

Accordingly, the lethality upgrade is designed to follow on to a current mobility and power upgrade referred to as an earlier or initial ECP. Among other things, this upgrade adds a stronger auxiliary power unit for fuel efficiency and on-board electrical systems, improved armor materials, upgraded engines and transmission and a 28-volt upgraded drive system.  This first ECP, slated to begin production by 2017, is called the M1A2 SEP v3 variant.

This ECP 1 effort also initiates the integration of upgraded ammunition data links and electronic warfare devices such as the Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device – Electronic Warfare – CREW. An increased AMPs alternator is also part of this upgrade, along with Ethernet cables designed to better network vehicle sensors together.

Also read: This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat

The Abrams is also expected to get an advanced force-tracking system which uses GPS technology to rapidly update digital moving map displays with icons showing friendly and enemy force positions.

The system, called Joint Battle Command Platform, uses an extremely fast Blue Force Tracker 2 Satcom network able to reduce latency and massively shorten refresh time. Having rapid force-position updates in a fast-moving combat circumstance, quite naturally, could bring decisive advantages in both mechanized and counterinsurgency warfare.

Active Protection Systems

The Army is fast-tracking an emerging technology for Abrams tanks designed to give combat vehicles an opportunity to identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.

Called Active Protection Systems, or APS, the technology uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs. Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly test and develop APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks.

The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program, an Army official told Scout Warrior.

General Dynamics Land Systems, maker of Abrams tanks, is working with the Army to better integrate APS into the subsystems of the Abrams tank, as opposed to merely using an applique system, Mike Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Clarence A. Leake

Peck said General Dynamics plans to test an APS system called Trophy on the Abrams tank next year.

Using a 360-degree radar, processor and on-board computer, Trophy is designed to locate, track and destroy approaching fire coming from a range of weapons such as Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles, or ATGMs, or Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs.

The interceptor consists of a series of small, shaped charges attached to a gimbal on top of the vehicle. The small explosives are sent to a precise point in space to intercept and destroy the approaching round, he added.

Radar scans the entire perimeter of the platform out to a known range. When a threat penetrates that range, the system then detects and classifies that threat and tells the on-board computer which determines the optical kill point in space, a DRS official said.

Along with Rafael’s Trophy system, the Army is also looking at Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain, Israeli Military Industry’s Iron Fist, and UBT/Rheinmetall’s ADS system, among others.

Overall, these lethality and mobility upgrades represent the best effort by the Army to maximize effectiveness and lethality of its current Abrams tank platform. The idea is to leverage the best possible modernization upgrades able to integrate into the existing vehicle. Early conceptual discussion and planning is already underway to build models for a new future tank platform to emerge by the 2030s – stay with Scout Warrior for an upcoming report on this effort.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

National Guard troops deployed to the border in Arizona are puttering around doing administrative and maintenance work in order to keep them out of potentially dangerous situations and to allow the border patrol to focus on working in the field.

Troops have been deployed to the border in the past — both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent troops there under similar circumstances — but the ones currently stationed in Arizona are even farther from the border than past deployments, according to a Politico report, and have no involvement in law-enforcement activity there.

President Donald Trump has called for up to 4,000 troops from various states to deploy to the border from Texas to California. Only about 200 Arizona National Guard soldiers have been put to work there, less than one-third of the 682 who have been authorized to deploy.


The troops are not allowed to join patrols or operations to detain people trying to cross the border undetected.

“There is a false narrative that we are doing ride-alongs,” Capt. Macario Mora of the Arizona National Guard told Politico. The troops also are not armed, Mora said, “and there is no anticipation that will change.”

Feeding horses and shoveling manure

Many have been pressed into service providing administrative support and doing upkeep, including feeding horses and shoveling manure out of stables, office work, and basic repairs and maintenance work on border patrol facilities and vehicles. “We fix flats,” one sergeant, a cook, told Politico.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
U.S Army Soldiers install steel runway planking for fence along the U.S./Mexico border in Naco, Ariz., June 28, 2007,
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)

Troops in Arizona are kept far from the border, though some have been given training to monitor the remote cameras the border patrol has set up along the frontier. In Texas, troops are allowed to visually monitor the border, but the ones tasked with surveillance are not allowed to look into Mexico. Those troops are also performing maintenance and doing repairs on roads and vehicles.

Jurisdictional issues and legal restrictions are part of the reason troops are tasked with such a narrow range of duties, but there is also an effort to keep the soldiers out of trouble, particularly in areas where they could encounter criminal groups along the border.

The soldiers are not really trained or equipped for law-enforcement duties, and officials are still wary of the potential risks involved in them interacting with civilians. Officials are still mindful of the 1997 killing of an 18-year-old by marines who were patrolling along the Rio Grande River in Texas as part of a drug-surveillance patrol.

Esequiel Hernandez was shot and killed within sight of his home by marines who had followed him as he herded goats along the river. The marines, who had been deployed to the area secretly days before, said Hernandez pointed his .22 rifle at them fired twice in their direction. A prosecutor and Texas Rangers doubted that story but were unable to indict the marines on a murder charge, leaving locals bitter.

Mora, the Arizona National Guard captain, told Politico that the troops were in a “much safer environment” miles away from the border. “It definitely helps mitigate the risk of the National Guard running into conflict,” he said.

The troops’ muted presence stands in contrast to Trump’s rhetoric about the threats posed by border crossers and about his administration’s response.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Both the Border Patrol and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the deployments, the former regarding them as a misuse of resources and latter seeing it as unneeded. Military officials have also criticized the deployments, viewing them as a distraction and a needless strain on US-Mexico relations.

The deployments, paid for by the Pentagon, are only funded through September 2018, the end of the fiscal year. It’s not clear if funding will be extended beyond that, and other events may limit or curtail the deployments going forward.

Governors from at least eight states have said they withhold or withdraw their states’ National Guard troops from the border, many of them citing dismay over the Trump administration’s now-rescinded policy of separating children from their parents as they cross the border.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA needs astronauts. Do you have what it takes for outer space?

Do some people call you a Space Cowboy? Or do they call you a Gangster of Love?

Well, if they do, have we got the job for you!


NASA recently announced that it is accepting candidates for its next astronaut class. The goal is to have humans on the Moon by 2024 with the next step of setting foot on Mars by the mid-2030s.

Dubbed the Artemis Generation, this new class of space cadets will make up the core of what should be the most historic period of space exploration since the Apollo Program.

“America is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning astronauts to the Moon. We will send the first woman and next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and we need more astronauts to follow suit on the Moon, and then Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to join us in this new era of human exploration that begins with the Artemis program to the Moon. If you have always dreamed of being an astronaut, apply now.”

The last time NASA took applications, over 18,000 people applied for what would end up being 11 spots.

The odds are against you right?

Probably! (Successfully applying through USAJobs is the first difficult hurdle. View the job here.)
7 important rules for the troops who support special operators

Education

You may be a genius when it comes to knowing everything during comment wars on Facebook, but to be an astronaut, you have to be educated in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. (the University of Hard Knocks doesn’t count sorry) plus at least three years of proficiency in your field. Advanced degrees go a long way.

If you want to be a pilot (the new Orion might be the new transport for Americans), you must have over 1,000 hours of command pilot experience under your belt.

The physical 

People usually focus on the science and education portion of being an astronaut without realizing that physical fitness is a major part of being accepted. Astronauts used to be only military men, but with the expansion of applicants into the civilian side, NASA makes sure that everyone that makes it into the interview stage (by this time down to 120 from 18,000) can pass a strenuous physical and medical exam.

It will probably be a bit more complicated than this.

www.youtube.com

The pay

As a civilian, you get paid GS11 to GS14 wages. If you are in the military still, you will get your typical military pay based on your rank and time in service.

Training

If you made it past the initial selection, interviews and physical and medical exams, then you have to go through nearly two years of Astronaut training. What does that entail?

Here are some of the things you will have to learn and show proficiency in:

Candidates must complete military water survival and become SCUBA qualified to prepare them for spacewalk training. Astronaut Candidates must pass a swimming test in their first month of training. They must swim three lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping, and then swim three lengths of the pool in a flight suit and sneakers. They also have to tread water for 10 minutes wearing a flight suit.

Candidates are exposed to problems associated with high (hyperbaric) and low (hypobaric) atmospheric pressures in the altitude chambers and learn to deal with emergencies associated with these conditions.

Additionally, candidates are given exposure to space flight during training in modified jet aircraft (the Vomit Comet) as it performs maneuvers that produce weightlessness for about 20 seconds. This sequence is repeated up to 40 times in a day.

Finally, Astronaut Candidate Program will require successful completion of the following:

  • International Space Station systems training
  • Extravehicular Activity skills training
  • Robotics skills training
  • Russian Language training (We beat the Ruskies to the Moon but now have to ask them for a ride…. Until the Orion is ready)
  • Aircraft flight readiness training

Easy right?

If you think you have what it takes, go to USAJobs and apply!

The deadline is March 31.

Articles

Today in military history: Luftwaffe pilot mistakenly lands in England

On June 23, 1942, a German Luftwaffe pilot got lost and accidentally landed his advanced fighter on a British airfield, allowing the British to capture his plane. Oops.

The Royal Air Force had the technological edge in the air at the start of World War II thanks to the Spitfire fighter, but the 1941 debut of the German Focke Wulf 190 changed all that. The FW 190 was lethal and many pilots on both sides considered it the best fighter of the war.

The British schemed to steal a Fw 190, but worried the plans were unlikely to work. One such scheme included sending a German-speaking RAF pilot in a Luftwaffe uniform and a captured Messerschmitt fighter into France to land at an Fw 190 aerodrome, let off a stream of German, demand a new aircraft, and take off in an Fw 190.

Luckily for them, German pilot Oberleutnant Armin Faber became disoriented during a 1942 dogfight and mistook the Bristol Channel for the English Channel, leading him to land at RAF Pembrey in South Wales, home to the RAF’s Air Gunnery School. Needless to say, the British at the airfield were baffled, but they quickly captured Faber along with his plane.

The RAF was able to study the intact plane and learned that it struggled at high altitudes, giving them a new strategic advantage. Some of the features of the Fw 190 were even worked into future British fighter designs. The insights gleaned from the fighter helped the Allies win control of the skies over northern France and pave the way for the D-Day invasion in June 1944.

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These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son

When Elinor and Arty Nakis brought home the body of their 19-year-old son who had died during a transport mission while deployed with the Army National Guard in Mosul, Iraq, in 2003, an eagle soared over their Sedro-Woolley home.


Another eagle flew overhead on the way to Nathan Nakis’ memorial service, Elinor Nakis recalled.

And in 2008, when the Nakis family helped install indoor climbing and bouldering walls in honor of their son at the Camp Black Mountain Boy Scout camp in Whatcom County, an eagle was there, too.

That’s why Elinor wasn’t surprised to see a young eagle soar overhead Saturday morning during the dedication of the bouldering wall at its new home near Cascade Middle and Evergreen Elementary schools in Sedro-Woolley.

“(Nathan) would be so proud,” she said.

After spending years in storage at a Janicki Industries facility in Hamilton, the bouldering wall formerly housed in Whatcom County is ready to carry on Nathan Nakis’ memory in the community he grew up in.

“We expect this thing to get a lot of use,” Arty Nakis said. “We took the protective covering off last night and it’s already getting used.”

Nathan, a 2002 Sedro-Woolley High School graduate who started in school at Evergreen, was heavily involved with the Boy Scouts, his mother said.

As an adult, the Eagle Scout volunteered and worked at Camp Black Mountain and helped build the camp’s first rope climbing course, Elinor Nakis said.

When the course would close for days at a time due to inclement weather, Nathan would tell his mother how much he hoped to see a covered climbing facility for the Scouts to use. The wall located between the Evergreen and Cascade campuses is covered by a roof.

After his death, the Nakis’ could think of no better way to honor their son.

“Elinor and I have always felt that it took the help of our community to raise our sons,” Arty Nakis said at the dedication. “When we lost Nathan, we felt the support and love of this community stronger than ever.”

When the Boy Scout camp closed in 2012, the climbing wall built in Nathan’s honor couldn’t be salvaged, Arty Nakis said, but the bouldering wall was removed so it could one day find a new home for more to enjoy.

“It’s an honor and a privilege,” Sedro-Woolley School District Superintendent Phil Brockman said. “It’s an honor to have ‘Nathan’s Boulder’ on our campus. Our kids look forward to playing on this.”

The wall is set to be used not only by students attending the schools, but also by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Skagit County’sSedro-Woolley club that shares the same property.

“This is perfect,” Arty Nakis said. “I couldn’t imagine a more perfect spot.”

The district’s special needs students will also utilize the wall for hands-on learning experiences, something that Elinor, a 21-year employee of the Sedro-Woolley School District, is glad to see happen.

“(Whether) it’s Scouting or through the schools, you’ve got to get (kids) out of their comfort zone,” Arty Nakis said. “It builds confidence and trust in each other.”

For Rotary International of Sedro-Woolley President David Bricka, the project took on a special meaning as he remembered his nephew Brian Gurney, who died in December as a result of injuries sustained during a 2014 hiking accident at Pilchuck Falls. Gurney was 19 at the time of the accident.

“(Brian and Nathan) were two great young men that had such an impact,” Bricka said. “They both had 19 years of actively living.”

Sedro-Woolley Mayor Keith Wagoner, a veteran himself with a son currently enlisted, thought the bouldering wall was a perfect fit for the community.

“I have so many friends that went and didn’t come back,” Wagoner said. “Literally thousands of hands have touched this thing. It’s not a monument you stand back and look at.”

Alec Giess, who served with Nathan Nakis and was in the vehicle with him the day Nakis died, drove up for the dedication from Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Giess has become part of the family, Arty Nakis said.

“It was a combat mission on a crummy day,” Giess said. “Everybody liked (Nathan). (Nathan’s story) won’t end now. It’ll keep going.”

Articles

Gear Porn: Aimpoint 3X-C Magnifier finally hit the shelves

Don’t want to put a variable optic up top? Try an Aimpoint magnifier instead.


A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo of BreachBangClear.com.

Remember — this is just a public service “be advised message,” and we’re saying this without the slightest trace of tergiversation. All we’re doing is letting you know these things exist and might be of interest to you. This isn’t a critique or a review any more than it is rectopexy.

Grunts: tergiversation.

It’s been a long time coming (we first saw it debuted back at SHOT 2016), but the new Aimpoint 3X-C Magnifier is now available.

Use it as a a budget friendly, responsibly-armed-citizen-version of its almost bombproof military cousin, or throw it up to your peeper as a monocular and perv on the cougar who lives across the street.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Aimpoint 3X-C — ain’t she somethin’?

The 3X-C is designed to be used in conjunction with all Aimpoint sights for better reaching-out-and-touching someone, or for observation if your fetish job is an ISR role. You can use the variable dioptric (-2 to +2) setting to fine tune it to your specific eyeball as required.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Cougar huntin’.

Remember that the 3X-C utilizes the Aimpoint red dots as the aiming reticle. You won’t need to worry about re-zeroing when you shift between magnified (i.e. with the 3-XC) or non-magnified (after you’ve snapped it back to the side) aiming.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Aimpoint 3X-C is fancy af.

The 3X-C is encased in a rubber cover that makes it easy and comfortable to grip (that’s what she said), but more importantly, it absorbs shock and impact. Internal optical adjustments make aligning the magnifier a task even grunts can do easily.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Nothin’ quite like a girl with a gun.

Note that the 3X-C is only compatible with 30mm ring mounts. It doesn’t have the same 4-hole mounting plate the “pro” models do. It is NOD (NVD) compatible.

The 3X-C has a 6° field of view, exit pupil of 6.5mm, and eye relief of 56mm. It will function in a wide enough variety of climes that if it doesn’t work where your’e living, you probably need to just pack up your shit and move.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Grunt-friendly and pretty to boot!

Don’t forget you’ll need a mount (believe it or not some folks do). Figure out ahead of time what sort of co-witness you’re going to prefer (absolute or lower 1/3) and make sure you’re not using some peculiar size/shape BUIS, then get your mount.

There are many options out there, and of course Aimpoint offers one as well. Their AR Ready Mount is a lever release Picatinny (LRP) mount with a 39mm spacer. Like all their magnifiers, the Aimpoint 3X-C works with their own proprietary TwistMount. You can also buy it with the FlipMount. If you already own the former, buy the upper portion of the latter (it will work with the old base) and you’re good to go.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators

Or, you can just wait for that 6x (C) magnifier that oughta be out really soon…

Learn more about it here on the Aimpoint website, or find a place to buy one right here.

You know. Whatever your “shooting” preferences are.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
Sexy carwash.

About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators

Articles

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators


The fist bump was their thing in Afghanistan, where both Marines lost legs in the same attack, and the fist bump is still their thing in the hunt for child predators under a special law enforcement program to train and hire medically retired veterans.

Cpl. Justin Gaertner and Sgt. Gabriel Martinez in their dress blues bumped fists at an event earlier this year in Florida, just as they bumped fists while recovering from their wounds.

Gaertner, 26, of Tampa, Fla., has been partnered for the last two years with retired Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Nathan Cruz, 42, executing the computer forensics to track down sex traffickers in the ICE/HERO program.

Working out of the Tampa, Fla., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, Gaertner and Cruz use their newly-acquired computer skills to determine probable cause and go on raids to seize evidence hidden in computer hard drives, software programs and cell phones, much of it involving disturbing images of young children.

Martinez has just committed to training for the same job that falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s mandate in a program that began two years ago.

He was expected to start the year-long training in the fall for the program that was initially limited to U.S. Special Operations Command veterans but now is open to medically retired vets from all the services, said Tamara Spicer, an ICE spokeswoman.

Martinez and Gaertner were both wounded while on a route clearance mission outside Marjah in Afghanistan’s southwestern Helmand province on Nov. 26, 2010.

An improvised explosive device went off and “my best friend blew up right in front of me,” Gaertner said. He was wounded when he stepped on a mine while trying to clear a medevac landing zone.

STUNNED AT THE SCOPE

In phone interviews last week, Gaertner, who served five years in the Marines, and Cruz, a 15-year Army veteran, said they were both channeling the discipline and determination they brought from the military into going after child predators and pornographers. Despite their training, both admitted they were stunned at the scope of the problem.

“I don’t think we ever realized fully what we were getting into or the nature of the suspects we were going after,” Gaertner said. “We don’t really understand them. There’s no character to the people who do these crimes.

“We’ve seen schoolteachers to daycare workers to sports photographers to diplomats – there’s really no face to these crimes,” Gaertner said. “It’s been hard and it’s been a long road but luckily Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on.”

Cruz also said “I didn’t know what I was going to get into” at the start. “I wasn’t working, I wasn’t doing anything,” but “I heard from some SOCOM buddies about this so I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Now, as the father of three children, “I think there’s nothing better I should be doing,” Cruz said. “Kids are being victimized over and over. They need someone to get their back. We just want to put the guys that are hurting them behind bars.”

Cruz and Gaertner were part of the first HERO Corps (Human Exploitation Rescue Operations Corps) in 2013 working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to meet the growing backlog of sex trafficking cases.

2,300 CHILD PREDATORS

Last year, ICE seized more than 5.2 million gigabytes of data related to child exploitation and pornography and arrested more than 2,300 child predators on criminal charges.

“The HERO program, and the resulting hiring of Nathan and Justin, has paid great dividends for HSI Tampa across the board,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “We gained skilled employees with valuable experience and training.”

In October 2013, the first class of 17 HEROs graduated from the initial training as computer forensic analysts and in October 2014 a second class of 13 HEROs graduated. In August, ICE was expected to begin training another 50 candidates for the HERO Corps.

In May, Congress passed a bill to make the ICE/HERO program a permanent part of Homeland Security and its budget. The bill was quickly signed into law by President Obama as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.

The program had been partly funded by a five-year, $10 million contribution from individuals and foundations through the non-profit National Association to Protect Children.

At a Washington ceremony last month, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson and ICE Director Sarah Saldana swore 22 new vets into the HERO Corps designed “to allow wounded, ill or injured warriors the chance to continue serving their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators.”

“These heroes have all served their country with honor and distinction and, despite the traumas of war they all have endured, they have answered the call yet again,” Johnson said.

“The main thing we’re focusing on is child exploitation,” Cruz said. “I’d say maybe 80 percent of our cases are child pornography.” The average suspect might have about 1,000 images but “we’ve seen cases with more than 40,000 images. They trade them with their buddies so they can get more – that’s how it works. The more I find, the more years you’re going to get.”

RESCUING CHILDREN

Once they have zeroed in on an offender, the hardest, and most rewarding, part of the job begins – finding and rescuing those children in the images, Cruz said.

“We try to save that kid, try to see where he or she is from. That brings more satisfaction, knowing those kids are not going to be harmed anymore.”

Gaertner said that a recent case in which a suspect had 28,000 images led to the rescue of 130 children nationwide.

Cruz and Gaertner also said that part of the job was focusing on themselves and the potential effects of constantly dealing with the worst of society and the images of exploited children. “Luckily, Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on,” Gaertner said.

“We cannot bring work home, we were taught that during our military careers,” Cruz said. “I tell everybody that when I went to SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), the one thing they stress the most is ‘stay in the circle.’ I stay in the circle. Work stays at work, when I go home it’s Nathan the dad.”

While partnering with Gaertner, “we talk about it all the time,” Cruz said of the potential psychological effects. “He knows what I do, I know what he does. Me and Justin, we’re lucky that we’re here together.”

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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Osprey flights in Japan halted after mishap

The commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force has ordered a stop to all MV-22 Osprey flight operations in Japan until safety procedures can be reviewed after one of the tiltrotor aircraft was forced to make an emergency shallow-water landing off the coast of Okinawa on Tuesday.


In a press conference in Okinawa following the incident, Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson said the aircraft had been conducting aerial refueling operations over water when the rotor blades hit the refueling line, causing damage to the aircraft.

Also read: NATO is hunting for this Russian submarine in the Med

“After the aircraft was unhooking, it was shaking violently,” Nicholson said, according to a III MEF news release. “The pilot made a decision to not fly over Okinawan homes and families. He made a conscious decision to try to reach Camp Schwab … and land in the shallow water to protect his crew and the people of Okinawa.”

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado

All five Marine crew members aboard the Osprey were rescued from the aircraft and taken to the naval hospital at Camp Foster for treatment following the crash. According to the release, three have been released, and two remain under observation. Their current condition was not described.

III MEF officials said a salvage survey is being conducted to determine how best to recover the damaged Osprey safely, while protecting the environment. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.

During the press conference, Nicholson thanked the Japan Coast Guard and the Okinawan police for their assistance in responding to the crash.

“I regret that this incident took place,” Nicholson said. “We are thankful for all the thoughts and prayers the people of Okinawa gave to our injured crew.”

The Marines’ use of the Osprey on Okinawa has long been a point of contention among residents, many of whom fear that the aircraft might be especially prone to crashes given its history of deadly incidents in its early days. When additional Ospreys arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in 2012, locals held protests to oppose the move.

This is the second time in four months that Nicholson has ordered an operational pause for aircraft in Japan. In September, he ordered AV-8B Harriers in the region to temporarily halt operations after one of the aircraft crashed off of Okinawa.

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