On June 29, 2019, Luis Alvarez, retired NYPD detective and proud military veteran, passed away from advanced-stage colorectal cancer as a result of his work at Ground Zero in New York following the 9/11 attacks. Just days before, he had testified in Congress alongside Daily Show host Jon Stewart in support of reauthorizing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. He was 53 years old.
His speech in Congress came after sixty-eight rounds of chemotherapy — and just before he was about to begin his sixty-ninth.
“I have been to many places in this world and done many things, but I can tell you that I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero when I was there. We were part of showing the world that we would never back down from terrorism and that we would all work together. No races, no colors, no politics,” he said.
9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez gives emotional testimony
His family shared an official statement on his passing: “It is with peace and comfort, that the Alvarez family announce that Luis (Lou) Alvarez, our warrior, has gone home to our Good Lord in heaven today. Please remember his words, ‘Please take care of yourselves and each other.’ We told him at the end that he had won this battle by the many lives he had touched by sharing his three year battle. He was at peace with that, surrounded by family. Thank you for giving us this time we have had with him, it was a blessing!”
Thousands of 9/11 first responders were exposed to dangerous carcinogens in the dust and gases at Ground Zero, putting them at risk of multiple myeloma and other cancers. The Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was created to “provide compensation for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of Sept. 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes.
The original VCF operated from 2001-2004, then was extended in 2010 and again in 2015, allowing individuals to submit their claims until Dec. 18, 2020. On Feb. 15, 2019, it was determined that the funding would be insufficient to pay all the pending and projected claims, which is what brought Alvarez before Congress.
According to NBC New York, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to call a Senate vote on a bill that would ensure the VCF never runs out of money.
For better or worse, you’re going to find out basically everything about your brothers- and sisters-in-arms. The longer you serve with them — the more field ops, the more deployments, and the more random BS — the more you’re going to learn all the tiny, little details about your fellow troops.
But if you want a crash course on the personal life of any other troop, look no further than how they dress whenever they’re given the option to show up in civvies instead of the uniform. Sometimes it’s at the recall formation at 0200 on Saturday morning and everyone’s just rolled out of bed. But when it’s a “mandatory fun” day with the unit, troops tend to get a bit… uh… creative with their wardrobe selection.
Here’s what your choice of mando-fun outfit says about you.
Look at them. Being all successful and sh*t.
(U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Aux. Barry Novakoff.)
Average civilian clothes
Nothing really stands out about this troop. They’re probably the type to stay in, honorably discharge, get into a nice school under the GI Bill, and become a productive member of society. There’s nothing really bad you could say about them but, man, these guys are boring as hell.
They may fit in with world when they’re on leave, but in the unit, they’re the odd one out — because they’re not what society considers odd like the rest of us.
There’s a 50% chance that all of these guys’ military stories are about other (more interesting) people.
They’re probably 98% more likely to also being too lazy to even change from the work day before…
(U.S. Army photo)
Basically the uniform, but with blue jeans and without the top
If this troop has been in any longer than one pay period beyond basic training and still dresses like they’re barely satisfying the minimum requirement to be “out of uniform,” then they’re lazy as f*ck. The longer this troop has been in, the less of an excuse they have — they get a clothing allowance that specifically includes extra cash for civilian clothes.
It’s literally the one time the military gives you money and says, “go buy yourself something nice” and this troop wasted it on booze, video games, or strippers.
These bums have a 98% chance of asking you to spot them until payday, saying they can “totally” get you back (but never will).
If they do wear a kilt in formation, they have a 100% chance of asking you, “do you know the difference between a kilt and a skirt?” before mooning you.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by SSgt. Marc R. Ayalin)
Over-the-top, ridiculous clothing
This troop has been eagerly awaiting the moment they’re told they can wear civilian clothes. This dude is the platoon’s joker while in uniform, so don’t expect that to change when they’re given the freedom to wear whatever.
You can never really predict what they’re going to show up in. Maybe they’ll wear a Halloween costume in April. Maybe they’ll show up in a fully-traditional kilt. Maybe they’ll just wear that mankini thing from Borat.
These bros also have a 69% chance of repeating a joke if you don’t laugh at it, insisting that you must have missed it the first time two times.
Overtly moto clothes
It’s not entirely uncommon for troops to start up clothing lines when they leave the service. Hell, we even got into the veteran-humor t-shirt game to help pay the bills. Warning: shameless self-promotion here.
But there’s just something odd about troops who wear overly-Hooah, I’m-a-Spartan-sheepdog-who-became-the-Grim-Reaper-for-your-freedoms shirt when everyone in the unit knows you’re a POG who just got to the unit. We’re not knocking the shirt (because that’s something we should probably start selling sooner or later…) but, you’re not fooling anyone.
These boots are 1% likely to actually be a grunt.
This was your first sergeant ten years ago… and ten days ago…
Same style you had before you enlisted
That moment you enlist is probably the last time you really give a damn about clothing styles. So, your closet is (probably) still full of clothes that you might get around to wearing some day. We get it. But it gets kinda sad the longer you’ve been in the military.
Dressing like a background actor in Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8r Boi” music video may have been cool back in the day, but when you see a salty, old first sergeant try to rock that look it’s… just depressing.
These dudes have a 75% chance of reaching 10 years, saying, “what’s another 10 anyways?” to themselves, and immediately regretting that decision.
Civilian clothes don’t have a standard, but if they did…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. John Ross)
Business casual with a “high and tight”
When the commander puts out the memo saying troops can wear whatever they want as long as they’re in formation, these guys kind of break down. Freedom of choice is a foreign concept to them.
What they chose to wear is, essentially, another kind of uniform: a muted-color polo tucked into a pair of ironed khakis, a brown belt, and loafers — and maybe a branch hat that they picked up at the PX because they’d have an anxiety attack if the open wind touched their bare head.
This guy has a 99.99% chance of also trying enforce some sort of clothing standard when there isn’t even a need for it.
An MQ-4C Triton experienced a technical failure that forced it to perform a gear up landing at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) at Point Mugu on Sept. 12, 2018, the U.S. Navy confirmed
“The Navy says as a precautionary measure, the pilots shut down the engine and tried to make a landing at Point Mugu but the aircraft’s landing gear failed to deploy and the aircraft landed on the runway with its gear up, causing some $2 million damage to the plane,” KVTA reported.
No further details about the unit have been disclosed so far, however, it’s worth noticing that two MQ-4C UAVs – #168460and #168461 – have started operations with VUP-19 DET Point Mugu from NBVC on Jun. 27, 2018.
Here’s what we have written about that first flight back then:
The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform that will complement the P-8A Poseidon within the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems: for instance, testing has already proved the MQ-4C’s ability to pass FMV (Full Motion Video) to a Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). An advanced version than the first generation Global Hawk Block 10, the drone it is believed to be a sort of Block 20 and Block 30 Global Hawk hybrid, carrying Navy payload including an AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor (MFAS) radar system, that gives the Triton the ability to cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission that can last as long as 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
The U.S. Navy plans to procure 68 aircraft and 2 prototypes. VUP-19 DET PM has recently achieved an Early Operational Capability (EOC) and prepares for overseas operations: as alreadt reported, Point Mugu’s MQ-4Cs are expected to deploy to Guam later in 2018, with an early set of capabilities, including basic ESM (Electronic Support Measures) to pick up ships radar signals, for maritime Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance mission.
The Triton is expected to reach an IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in 2021, when two additional MQ-4Cs will allow a 24/7/365 orbit out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
Featured image: file photo of an MQ-4C of VUP-19 Det PM during its first flight (U.S. Navy)
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Researchers from the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory, recently partnered with Texas A&M University to work on artificial intelligence and machine learning as applied to material informatics (and genome).
1st Lt. Levi McClenny, a doctoral candidate in the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and an active member of the U.S. Army Reserve serving as a platoon leader and Black Hawk helicopter pilot in an aviation battalion in Conroe, Texas, recently completed a two-week internship at the lab’s Vehicle Technology Directorate at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
At Texas AM University, McClenny and his adviser Dr. Ulisses Braga-Neto support the development of an AI agent to determine the internal state of various materials and systems using microscopic images and deep machine learning techniques.
Researchers want to understand how materials fracture and break so they can potentially predict when a component will break in an aircraft, for instance, to help with maintenance and operational requirements. The idea is to engineer vehicles that can begin to detect their own deterioration.
Researchers from the RDECOM Research Laboratory, the Army’s Corporate Research Laboratory, recently partnered with Texas AM University to work on artificial intelligence and machine learning as applied to material informatics (and genome).
(US Army photo)
“We are applying machine learning techniques to better understand what is happening at the microstructure level in materials,” said Dr. Mulugeta Haile, research aerospace engineer at VTD. “We want to have a complete understanding of how materials behave during normal usage or in extreme conditions from the day they are put there until they are removed.”
McClenny said coming to the Army’s corporate research laboratory and working in its facilities allowed him to interact with some brilliant and experienced materials scientists that can not only shed some light on the work he’s done, but also pave a way forward.
“The new AI lab is absolutely incredible,” McClenny said. “I was able to use the supercomputer facilities to generate products that I will be taking back to Texas AM with me for future projects that would not be possible without the facilities Dr. Haile and Mr. Ed Zhu put together.”
According to Haile, the new AI/ML lab was conceived to facilitate research in artificial intelligence and machine learning to focus on vehicle technology and maneuver sciences. The lab, not only hosts state-of-the-art GPU accelerated high performance computing resources, it makes these resources highly available and easily configurable to users in an open and collaborative space.
Researchers from the RDECOM Research Laboratory, the Army’s Corporate Research Laboratory (ARL), recently partnered with Texas AM University to work on artificial intelligence and machine learning as applied to material informatics (and genome).
(US Army photo)
“I was able to get these products, as well as develop a plan of action for the microstructure research in the two weeks I was here,” McClenny said. “I was also able to sit down with numerous researchers from the VTD to see their data and see how we could apply machine learning approaches to learn more from it. We always say that models are only as good as the data, and here we can generate some top-notch data.”
The directorate was pleased to host McClenny and found his mix of skills to add to the overall research.
“As a PhD student and an Army Black Hawk pilot, Levi brings to the research environment a unique mix of skills and understanding,” said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of VTD. “The unique mix of scientist and end user gives Levi a perspective that can be key to enabling the Army Futures Command’s objective of incorporating warfighter feedback into advancing science and technology for the modernization process.”
McClenny said working at the Army’s corporate research laboratory was an incredible experience and absolutely surpassed his expectations. He also said being a member of the military and a researcher offered some unique perspective.
“Throughout all the conversations and ideas, I have tried to remember the ‘why’ for these projects,” he said. “This is important to me, potentially more so than the average researcher, because I can directly impact the soldiers in my own unit, and future units, with this work. The facilities and expertise offered at this facility, not only by Dr. Mulugeta Haile, my mentor, but others in the group like Dr. Dan Cole and Dr. John Chen, really helped to expand my understanding of why we are researching the topics we are.”
When the players on the Army West Point football team take the field, they do so for more than themselves.
They represent the U.S. Military Academy and the generations of graduates who make up the Long Gray Line. They play for the U.S. Army and those who have fought and died protecting America. And each week during the season, they play for a particular division of the Army and the soldiers currently serving and who have served in it.
For most of the regular season, the division is honored by a patch on the back of the players’ helmets. But for the past three years during the Army-Navy Game, the Black Knights have honored one of the Army’s divisions by wearing an entire uniform telling the division’s story.
The new uniform tradition started with a design telling the story of the 82nd Airborne Division. So far, the 10th Mountain Division and 1st Infantry Division have also been honored.
This year, Army will take the field in honor of the 1st Cavalry Division and tell the story of the soldiers’ role in the Vietnam War as America’s first airmobility division.
(Danny Wild, USA Today)
This year, Army will take the field in honor of the 1st Cavalry Division and tell the story of the soldiers’ role in the Vietnam War as America’s first airmobility division.
The 1st Cav’s role as the honored division was kept secret until the uniform was unveiled Dec. 5, 2019, in front of the assembled Corps of Cadets, but the process of designing the uniform for the game each year is an 18-month collaboration between Nike and West Point’s Department of History.
The cycle of divisions is decided three to four years in advance by West Point’s Athletic Department, and each design process starts about a year and a half out from the game. This year’s uniform hasn’t been unveiled yet, but most of the work is already done on 2020’s uniform and the process for 2021 will start to ramp up in the near future.
After the division is selected, step one of the process is determining the timeline that will be honored. For the 82nd Airborne it was World War II and for the 1st Infantry Division they highlighted World War I for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice.
Then, Nike’s designer in partnership with the USMA history department starts doing research and crafting the story the uniform will tell.
“It is almost like a method actor preparing for a role,” Kristy Lauzonis, senior graphic designer for Nike college football uniforms, said. “I just go as deep as humanly possible with the research. I order books, read everything I can under the sun and then that is when I start hitting the history department back with all kinds of crazy questions.”
In 2017 Army represented the 10th Mountain Division with its Army Navy uniform.
(Photo by Cadet Henry Guerra)
With help from the Department of History, Lauzonis goes through photos and artifacts of the unit from the chosen timeline and starts working to craft a uniform that will authentically tell the story of the unit. Some elements are predetermined by NCAA rules such as whether the uniform is light or dark depending on if Army is home or away, but everything from colors of elements to fonts are built from scratch in order to make them historically accurate.
On the first uniform, the flag on the players’ shoulder may have looked backward to a casual observer, but it was placed the way it was worn in World War II. On the 10th Mountain Uniform, the popular Pando Commando logo wasn’t something created by Nike, but was instead a little used logo found during the research process. On last year’s uniforms, the Black Lions were to tell the story of the 28th Infantry Regiment and the first major combat for American forces in World War I.
“I think one of the great things about being authentic to history is you will have those moments like where you’ve done something where it is 100% authentic and people aren’t aware of it,” Lauzonis said. “That is that bonus element where everyone is saying the flag is backward and we are able to say it pre-existed flag code and this is exactly how it was worn on the uniform and we purposely did it that way. It is not just a company woops we flipped the flag the wrong way. We are never going to do that.”
Throughout the entire process, the USMA history department is fact checking elements on the uniform and making sure they accurately represent the division’s history and the timeline being depicted. That includes checking colors such as the red used in last year’s Big Red One on the helmet and making sure each insignia used is authentic and historically accurate.
In 2016 the Black Knights honored the 82nd Airborne Division.
(US Army photo)
“We provide historical context and then of course, the Nike designers are amazing,” Steve Waddell, an assistant professor in the Department of History, said. “They’ve got to kind of translate a historical idea concept to actually make it work on a real uniform and have the color contrasts and everything work … I’m a World War II historian and we did the 82nd Airborne for the first one. It’s just exciting that they’re tying the sport of football to military history and military history is always popular.”
Along with assisting in the uniform design, the USMA history department helps tell the story of the uniform and the division through the athletic department’s microsite, which is created as part of the unveil each year.
There the elements of the uniform are explained, and the story of the division is told in detail.
“The Army’s business is people,” Capt. Alexander Humes, an instructor in the Department of History, said. “That’s why it’s also important to tell the story of this unit and the people that were part of this unit and to take this as an opportunity to do that. This presents the Army a great opportunity in something as highly visible as the Army-Navy Game to be able to tell its story to the American public.”
This year’s uniform pulls elements from the 1st Cav’s Vietnam War era uniforms and the pants were designed to resemble the motif of the UH-1 “Hueys” the soldiers flew during the war.
“I hope that for the folks that are in or have a relationship to the unit, that they feel like their story is being told authentically,” Lauzonis said of her goal when designing the uniform each year. “That they feel like they now have something they can wear with pride and that we’ve done right by them with the storytelling.”
The annual rivalry game against the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis will take place Dec. 14, 2019, in Philadelphia.
A few World War II movies feature incredible scenes of troops — usually soldiers or Marines — fighting tooth and nail against an enemy until they’ve expended most of their ammo, all of their grenades, and are stuck in their final defensive position.
That’s when someone does something crazy and starts throwing mortar rounds at the oncoming onslaught. The huge bursts of shrapnel wipe out groups of the enemy forces, breaking up the attack and allowing the heroes to emerge victorious.
Skip ahead to 0:28 in this clip to see this happen:
But most mortar rounds in World War II could be thrown this way. It was just incredibly dangerous and rarely done.
While new proximity fuzes — those which detonate a specified distance from the surface — were developed during World War II, most mortar rounds carried impact fuzes that used the physical force of the mortar striking a rock or something to trigger the charge.
So weapon designers made fuzes that were very sensitive. To prevent the fuzes from exploding prematurely, designers incorporated impact fuzes with a two-step arming process. This meant a safety pin had to be removed followed by a sudden force such as the propellant exploding to fire the round from the tube.
For soldiers looking to use these mortar rounds as a grenade, they had to remove the safety pin and slam the tail of the mortar round against something solid to simulate the force of the weapon firing. After that, the round would explode from any sudden force applied to the fuze.
This method of triggering, combined with the greater explosive force of a mortar, made them way more deadly than grenades.
Most grenades work using a timer, meaning that a soldier throws it and hopes that the enemy can’t grab the weapon and throw it back before it detonates.
But a hand-thrown mortar round will usually explode as soon as it hits the ground or a solid object, making it nearly impossible to throw back.
At least two soldiers used this to their advantage in World War II. Technical Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson threw mortar rounds to drive off a Japanese attack on Okinawa, and Cpl. Charles E. Kelly used mortar ammunition during his final defense of a storehouse being overwhelmed by the Germans in Italy.
This procedure comes with high risks. A round that falls short of the intended throw will almost certainly go off, potentially killing friendly troops and the thrower, and a round that is dropped after arming could go off, killing the operators. Still, for a happy few, the risk was worth the reward.
There’s nothing better to do while you’re out camping with the people you tolerate love than to crack open a beer and roast some marshmallows over a nice fire. I mean, who doesn’t love a little puffed sugar that’s slightly caramelized?
As everyone knows, the entire state of Hawaii has collectively forgotten the last time they gave a f*ck. Many people are taking the recent volcanic eruption with far less seriousness than natural disasters deserve — unlike here in Los Angeles, where a light drizzle brings the entire city to a terrified stand-still.
Many Hawaiians have reacted to the flow of lava by taking photos of the incoming molten rock and, generally, taking the whole thing in stride. Twitter user @JayFurr was trolling the official United States Geological Survey — Volcanoes twitter account and asked if it was okay to roast marshmallows in the heat given off by the lava.
Erm…we’re going to have to say no, that’s not safe. (Please don’t try!) If the vent is emitting a lot of SO2 or H2S, they would taste BAD. And if you add sulfuric acid (in vog, for example) to sugar, you get a pretty spectacular reaction. — USGS Volcanoes? (@USGSVolcanoes) May 29, 2018
Which is all legitimate advice. Sulfur dioxide is, essentially, air pollution and hydrogen sulfide is what gives volcanoes that farty smell (hence the joke in Shrek). The sulfuric acid within the vog (or volcanic fog) actually has a really kick-ass reaction when met with sugar. Check the video below for example.
The USGS took the trolling in stride, even if nearly every news outlet insists they took it seriously. For obvious reasons, getting close to lava is a dumb idea and, from the get-go, it was obvious this Twitter user was kidding — Jay Furr’s account even says he’s from Vermont.
But this wasn’t the only time the idea of cooking marshmallows over a pool of magma has come up. Storytrender on YouTube did it a while back in New Zealand. There’s no audio, but you can kind-of see the guy wince while he eats the roasted marshmallow.
Janine Stange is looking for a lot of people to acknowledge what a few people have obtained over the past 156 years.
Stange, who, in 2014, became the first person to perform the national anthem in all 50 states, is in her third year of asking people to write letters of appreciation to those who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“I didn’t realize how many people wanted to do this,” Stange said over the telephone from her Baltimore, Maryland, home.
Janine Stange performing the National Anthem for the 2016 National Medal of Honor Day gathering.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the military.
March 25th is National Medal of Honor Day. During the last week of March, recipients meet for an annual event in Arlington, Virginia. In 2016, Stange was invited to sing the national anthem at that gathering.
In the weeks leading up to the event, she had an idea. “I thought I would ask people if they wanted to write them,” she said.
Just some of the packages and letters Janine has received to pass onto MOH recipients.
The response was encouraging.
During the first two years, Stange and event organizers reminded them of their service years. “We handed the letters out in packages, ‘mail-call style,'” she said.
There are currently 72 living Medal of Honor recipients. The honor was first issued in 1863 and has been bestowed upon 3,505 recipients since. The oldest living recipient is Robert Maxwell, 98, who served in the Army in World War II. The youngest recipient is William Kyle Carpenter, 30, who served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“If they didn’t have their medal on, you’d think you were talking to the nice guy in the neighborhood,” Stange said about her moments getting to know the ones who have been honored. “They are so in awe that people take the time to write them. Many take time to write people back.”
Stange said humility is a common trait among the recipients.
“This is an opportunity for people to learn about these selfless acts of valor. They were not thinking of their lives, but their buddies, and something bigger than themselves. They were not concerned about their own life, they were looking at future generations,” Stange said.
Medal of Honor recipient Roger Donolon with some of the mail he’s received via Ms. Stange.
Stange said she doesn’t use the word “win” for a recipient.
“They don’t ‘win’ this. It’s not a contest. I don’t say ‘winner.’ It’s because of their selfless sacrifice.”
In addition to the letters, Stange said people have included small gifts, ranging from pieces of art and carved crosses to postcards from the writers’ homes and pieces of quilts.
“Don’t limit it to letters. These small mementos make it feel very homegrown,” she said.
Stange said the letter writing is open to anyone, from individuals to group leaders (school teachers, community organization leaders, sports coaches, businesses, etc). Those interested in leading a group in this project can go online to www.janinestange.com/moh – recipient(s) will be assigned to ensure an even distribution of letters.
The United States has started bringing home troops from Syria as it moves to a new phase in the campaign against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, the White House says.
The militant’s “territorial caliphate” had been defeated, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Dec. 19, 2018, amid media reports saying that the United States was preparing to withdraw all its troops from Syria.
“These victories over [the IS group] in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign. We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign,” Sanders said.
Earlier, President Donald Trump tweeted the IS group had been defeated in Syria and that was his “only reason for being there.”
There are currently around 2,000 American troops in Syria, many of them special operations forces working with an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias battling the IS group.
Most U.S. soldiers are based in northeastern Syria, where they had been helping to rid the area of IS fighters, but pockets of militants still remain.
CNN quoted a defense official as saying on Dec. 19, 2018, that the planning was for a “full” and “rapid” pullout.
And CBS said it was told that the White House ordered the Pentagon to “begin planning for an immediate withdrawal.”
The coalition has “liberated” the IS-held territory, but the campaign against the group “is not over,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.
“For force protection and operational security reasons we will not provide further details. We will continue working with our partners and allies to defeat ISIS wherever it operates,” White said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria creates prospects for a political settlement of the conflict there, according to the TASS news agency.
Marines fire an 81mm mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Hajin, Syria, Aug. 4, 2018. The training is a portion of the building partner capacity mission, which aims to enhance the capabilities of Coalition partner forces fighting ISIS in northeast Syria.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
Russia has repeatedly asserted that U.S. forces have no right to be in Syria because Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has not approved their presence.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said a decision by Trump to withdraw troops from Syria at this time would be “a mistake” and a “big win” for the IS group, Assad, and its allies — Russia and Iran.
Both Moscow and Tehran have given Assad crucial support throughout the Syrian conflict, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011 and has left more than 400,000 people dead, displaced millions, and devastated many historical sites across the country.
In 2014, IS fighters seized large swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory in a lightning offensive and proclaimed a so-called Islamic “caliphate.”
IS militants have lost virtually all the territory they once controlled in Iraq, but still carry out sporadic attacks.
In October 2018, Airman Magazine sat down for a conversation with Maj. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, Twenty-fourth Air Force commander; Air Forces Cyber commander and Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber commander, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. He is responsible for providing Air Force component and combatant commanders with trained and ready cyber forces to plan, direct and execute global cyberspace operations.
Airman Magazine: In July, the Twenty-fourth AF moved from Air Force Space Command to Air Combat Command. At the same time you moved from AFSPC to ACC. What are the reasons for that restructuring?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: This allows Gen. Raymond, as the Air Force Space Command commander, to truly focus on space operations. The other thing is this brings cyber within Air Combat Command, which has intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; command and control and the air domain. Bringing all these forces together under one four-star MAJCOM (major command) commander, Gen. Holmes, allows him some more flexibility to be able to present forces across the spectrum of operations.
The networks for those operations need to be resilient and they need to be protected. When you bring together the ISR, cyber, information operations, electronic warfare and command and control, that’s a lot under one hat. But it allows us greater integration as we move forward. At the end of the day, this is about multi-domain operations and the more we can bring those together, the more successful we’ll be.
Airman Magazine: How are your responsibilities divided between your three commands? It seems that just the information technology portion alone would be a huge demand on your resources.
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Cyber operations have four or five different lines of effort. One is to actually build the networks, build the applications and build the systems.
Another is to operate and maintain the networks, but also secure and protect them from vulnerability to adversaries. We also defend networks for our maneuver forces and then we have full spectrum operations, which is on the offensive side.
We also have combat communications airmen and engineering installation airmen who extend the network out to a multitude of places, whether that’s tactical basing or at the forward battle edge.
With that said, information technology is still a key part of the cyberspace domain and we are moving forward in the Enterprise IT as a service. We are going to utilize things industry does very well as a commodity type of action activity.
We are going to leverage what industry does great, providing some services and network infrastructure, and re-mission our airmen to do core Air Force missions on the defensive and offensive side, while providing assurance for the many missions the Air Force presents to the combatant commanders on the joint side.
The bottom line is we’re in the cyber operations business — information technology, networks, both operating and defending — and we provide full spectrum operations in this thing we call the cyberspace domain.
Tech. Sgt. Wyatt Bloom uses a spectrum analyzer to check television broadcast network routers at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., July 18, 2012. Bloom is a cyber-transport technician assigned to DMA.
Airman Magazine: Would you explain your duties as commander of the Air Force component at Cyber Command? How is that different from the hat you wear as commander of Twenty-fourth AF and Air Force Cyber?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: This could actually be a dissertation. To break it down a little bit, the Twenty-fourth AF is where we organize, train and equip our airmen. The perfect example is we have an organization down at Hurlburt Field — they train almost every cyber professional. Now we do a lot more than that, but that’s one example of the Twenty-fourth AF piece.
In the Air Force cyber piece, I am charged by the Air Force to present forces to Gen. Paul Nakasone, the U.S. Cyber Command commander, for his missions and functions as the combatant commander.
We provide offensive forces and defensive forces, DODIN (Department of Defense Information Networks) ops cyber professionals and ISR professionals to Gen. Nakasone, so he can perform his mission.
Then the third area is the Joint Force Headquarters side. That’s where Gen. Nakasone has asked us to align to three different combatant commanders to provide additional joint support for their missions.
We have planning elements that are aligned to these three combatant commanders, as well as some cyber teams supporting the commanders’ efforts in defense of the mission. Our teams are able to deploy and employ forces against a particular adversary at the time and place of the combatant command commanders’ choosing.
Our job within Twenty-fourth AF, AF Cyber JFHQC and Cyber Command, is to be ready at a moment’s notice to protect our systems and defend the networks and defend the core missions of our military and our joint war fighters. Then deter, disrupt and degrade an enemy’s ability to perform those functions against us. Part of that goes into making sure that we have persistent engagement, a persistent presence, and a persistent innovation as we continue to move forward.
Airman Magazine: Across the Air Force, joint force, partner agencies and nations, do cyber operations equate to kinetic operations or is that a completely different animal?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say it is not a completely different animal. To be successful in cyber operations and have cyberspace superiority at the time and place of our choosing, we need a team of teams that is internal to the Air Force.
Every single airman in our Air Force needs to be a cyber sentinel. We need every airman to be very conscious of cyber security, cyber hygiene and things that are going on within the cyberspace domain.
We have branched out and are part of several joint organizations that perform functions and missions within the cyber domain. The National Security Agency is a huge partner with us as we perform these missions, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Information Systems Agency and Department of Homeland Security — a lot of different agencies across the board.
We are also great partners with commercial industry and academia because we’re all in the same field and in the same cyber domain.
Within Twenty-fourth AF, we have a United Kingdom representative and an Australian liaison officer, but most of our allies and partners are really up at the Cyber Command level. We leverage those partners through U.S. Cyber Command, NATO and other organizations.
Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
Airman Magazine: What is it that makes your cyber airmen “cyber warriors”?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Our airmen are absolutely warriors. We have teams in the fight operating constantly: 7 days a week, 365 days a year, Christmas and New Year’s.
If you’ve heard Gen. Nakasone speak recently you’ve heard him say we’re no longer solely responding to network intrusions, we have cyber forces persistently engaged against state and non-state adversaries, actively identifying and countering threats in the cyber domain.
This achieves several benefits at once: first and foremost, it gives us control over the cyber terrain that serves as the foundation for superiority in cyberspace. It also keeps our operators ready and their skills honed and imposes cost on the adversary so they can no longer operate freely without repercussion. There’s already a massive demand signal for our cyber operators that will only increase, so we have to ensure we’re fielding proficient, ready and lethal operators at scale.
Because of this, we are investing not only the readiness of our mission, but also in the readiness of our people. This means examining everything within our scope of control, including the effect the operational tempo of our 24/7/365 mission has on our operators.
Just like you see within the (remotely piloted aircraft) field, cyber can mean long periods away from the sunlight and abnormal sleep hours, and that can absolutely have an effect on people. Any leader will tell you—if you take care of the people, they will take care of the mission.
Airman Magazine: What part does the total force play in cyber operations and defense?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I will tell you, we could not do our job on a day-to-day basis without the total force. The majority of the forces within Twenty-fourth AF are guard and reserve components.
Our engineering installation mission is 85 to 90 percent within the guard. More than 50 percent of our combat communications capability, which extends and expands our capabilities to the tactical edge, is in the guard. We have guard organizations up in Washington. We have some in Rhode Island. We have some here in Texas. I will tell you they provide great day-to-day work.
What’s even more important is the expertise that they bring from their civilian jobs. We have vice presidents of some corporations who are part of our total force as well. Bringing that expertise, leadership, things that the public is good at and things that industry is focused on benefits the military and vice versa. They take lessons learned from the military and take it to their company. So it’s a great yin-yang relationship.
Whether it’s an offensive operation or a defensive operation or even DODIN ops, there has to be a tight tie between all of those as we move forward because the defense learns from the offense and the offense learns from the defense. DODIN ops learn from defense to figure it out where we need to be resilient, where some of our mission critical assets are and how to defend them.
All the computer networks, email, applications and systems in the cyberspace domain are what we call the Department of Defense Information Networks. There are pay applications that we have in the Air Force that are part of DODIN. If you get paid electronically within the Air Force that’s part of the DoD information network.
Airman Magazine: Is it an advantage that those reserve and National Guard personnel tend to have long histories with one unit?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say sometimes it’s an advantage and sometimes it’s not. In some places having continuity is good. I would say having too much continuity isn’t necessarily good in cyber because you want some fresh blood, some fresh ideas.
Airman Magazine: Would a technical track for active-duty cyber operators benefit the force?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Similar to other domains and weapon systems, we have to be proficient to be effective. Since cyber is a technical domain we do need technical expertise.
However as our people gain that expertise and increase in rank and responsibility, we need them to be leaders and lead teams to success while still maintaining credibility in their profession. We, ACC and Headquarters Air Force are working closely together to determine what the right “path to greatness” will look like, in order to build a force that generates maximum lethality.
Cyber warfare operators assigned to the 275th Cyber Operations Squadron of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group of the Maryland Air National Guard configure a threat intelligence feed for daily watch in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
Airman Magazine: As cyber tools and methods seem to change constantly, ow can the acquisitions process be altered to make sure the Air Force has the best technologies and practices in the cyber domain?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: The Air Force and DoD leadership are laser-like focused on our ability to acquire things in a more agile, fast and relevant way. We have leveraging other authorities, like 804 authorities, to bring on the future faster and to bring innovation faster.
As an Air Force we are becoming more of a software force than a hardware force. The ability to bring the new wave of agile software development operations, DevOps, is going to be key in maintaining our superiority and operating within the enemy’s OODA loop (time it takes to observe, orient, decide, and act).
We’re bringing in individuals who understand the old waterfall model is not the right model because by the time that you set the requirements and start developing to those requirements, the environment, threats and priorities have changed.
If you’re spending weeks, months and years identifying and defining hundreds or thousands of requirements, you definitely can’t meet those requirements in a timely manner. So leverage industry, leverage developers who are innovative, define the left and right limits or requirements.
So you get a three to five-page requirements document, which is much better than a 100 to 200-page document. Let them innovate and come back with a solution and in a much more timely manner—days and weeks versus months and years. Then you iterate and you continue to iterate on that minimum viable product.
Then also leverage some of those techniques to buy the right hardware in a timely fashion and focus on the approval top rate process, to reduce the amount of time to approve either software or hardware for connecting to the network. I know that Dr. Roper, Air Force Acquisition and the chief and secretary are very focused on bringing the future faster.
Airman Magazine: The Air Force is considering launching a cyber rapid capabilities office. How would that benefit the Twenty-fourth AF and the cyber community as a whole?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: The traditional slow-and-steady acquisition model is great for buying a fleet of fifth-generation aircraft, but it isn’t ideal for cyberspace where the landscape is changing constantly and where the state-of-the-art is available to anyone interested in buying. We need to get faster.
The DNA of the Air Force RCO brings agility and flexibility, which drives down timelines and increases capability. Right now we can’t say what form a cyber RCO would take, but will benefit us by getting the right capabilities and weapons at the right time to our operators. We need to respond to malicious cyber activity with greater speed and tempo employing a calculated, “spectrum of risk” framework which is properly delegated at echelon to enable responsible and responsive cyberspace operations in support of assigned missions.
The concept of Fusion Warfare gathers all intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data across all Air Force platforms into the “combat cloud” through and autonomous process where it’s analyzed and combined to create a real time big picture for commanders.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron)
Airman Magazine: What effect will advances in big data research have on cyber operations?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Data is the game changer in our business. If I own the data battle space, then I will definitely be within the OODA loop of the adversary. Being able to leverage quantum computing, artificial intelligence and analysis of big data platforms is really the future of our mission.
There is so much data out there in today’s environment there is no way that you can get through all of it (manually). So you may miss a key data point that would help you make a decision. In a future conflict, being able to have the right data at the right time analyzed at the right tempo is key to success.
We’re putting a lot of effort into better understanding the data, not just from cyber standpoint, but also in logistics, in intelligence and even in personnel. The more we can analyze the data, the better that we can perform education and training, perform timely logistics, perform ISR operations. Every single Air Force core mission is reliant on data to be more effective, more efficient and more successful.
Airman Magazine: Can you talk about Hack the Air Force and its value to the force?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: The first Hack the Air Force iteration was in late 2017, after the successful Hack the Pentagon initiative by Defense Digital Services. When the first hackathon sprint kicked off it took less than a minute for a hacker to find a valid vulnerability. By the end, over 200 holes in our boundary had been patched—and that was just the first iteration.
Hack the Air Force gets after two important focus areas: first, it builds capacity for the Air Force by leveraging expertise from a multitude of places, and second, it leverages innovative thinking to find vulnerabilities we otherwise might not uncover.
Take, for example, the person who won the first hackathon sprint, a 17-year-old high school student from Chicago. Maybe his path won’t lead him to the Air Force, but we were still able to use his talents to make ourselves more resilient. To me that’s a win.
Quynh Tran, right, a Raytheon Corporation software engineer, talks with Capt. Nick Lundin, Product Management lead, about a software coding project May 30, 2018 at Kessel Run, a program within the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, a United States Department of Defense organization, in Boston.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
Airman Magazine: What lessons can be learned from commercial companies about practices that enable those fresh ideas to come forward?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: There are a lot of great lessons learned from Silicon Valley and I would offer Silicon Valley has also learned from the Department of Defense.
As I’ve said many times over my 33-year career to date, if I came into the military today, compared with a talent level of the individuals that we have now, I would not be as successful as I have been.
The talent today is amazing and our job as senior leaders is how do we unleash that talent? How do we have the right policies and the right directives leveraging the right acquisition authorities and unleash this talent on the hard problems that our force and our nation face today.
The key is getting the right people in the room to determine how best to provide solutions, whether it’s software development, hardware acquisition or cyberspace operations. It’s getting the right people in the room and getting through the bureaucracy, pushing the bureaucracy to the side and being able to unleash the talent.
Airman Magazine: How can, especially when it comes to the cyber domain, the Air Force compete with civilian industry to attract more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) talent?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: There was always a competition between academia, research labs, commercial industry and the military. We as a military cannot compete from a dollar standpoint.
But where we can compete is with the great things you can do within the DoD, that you probably can’t do within the commercial world. We have great missions coming from the research we’re doing.
Some of the operations we’re doing on a day-to-day basis, you can’t do that on the commercial side. We have opportunities for individuals at a variety of levels to perform things they couldn’t do outside of the military. That’s our calling card.
Airman Magazine: Peer and near-peer competitors have been going to school on us since World War II; how do we offset that advantage?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say every threat is an opportunity. While we have been focused over the last 10 to 15 years on the violent extremist, the latest National Defense Strategy, National Security Strategy and National Cyber Strategy outline strategic competition, peer competitors, and has turned the focus there.
You’ll hear a lot about readiness. Readiness is very important to our chief, very important to our secretary and very important to the secretary of defense. We need to make sure that we have a lethal force. In order to do that, you need to have a ready force.
In order to be ready, you need to have a disciplined force. Especially when there is strategic competition out there and adversaries who on a day-to-day basis are performing actions and operations that are probably right below the level of conflict.
But, I would not want to go and do a mission against a threat with anyone else but the airmen we have in our service today. Our airmen, with our joint partners in the other services, still have the most critical, credible and lethal force in the world.
Airmen with the 68th Network Warfare Squadron monitor Air Force communications to analyze disclosures of critical information and perform data loss prevention at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 25, 2018.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
Airman Magazine: You talked about having a disciplined force in order to be lethal. What constitutes discipline in the cyber world?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Discipline is key. I’m not talking about discipline from a uniform code of military justice aspect. This is discipline in processes, discipline in procedures and discipline in command and control. We spent a lot of time going back and trying to figure out what happened on something because there was an undisciplined tactic, technique, procedure or process. We’re trying to leverage discipline to make our force more effective and more capable and build capacity.
Then we come to a readiness standpoint. Readiness, as you know, is made up of personnel, equipment, procedures and training. We are continually leveraging our innovative airmen to improve the training they receive, how we purchase equipment, how we educate our airmen.
Part of all this is proficiency. Proficiency against a violent extremist organization is much different than proficiency against strategic competitors. Our focus continues to be how to maintain and improve the readiness and proficiency against strategic competitors.
We are also leveraging our airmen and technology to be more efficient and more effective.
Leveraging artificial intelligence can decrease the amount of time that our airmen spend doing manual work so they can focus on the higher end discussions of cognitive actions and activities.
For example, manually looking through thousands of pages of data takes a very long time. We have airmen who are leveraging technology, whether it’s using keywords or bringing a couple of technologies together, that can take those thousands of documents and run through them in minutes versus hours, days or weeks.
Then taking what the technology has given you and put the human eye on it — are there any other needles in the haystack?
That’s what our airmen are doing on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s from a data collection standpoint, whether it’s from a cyber operation standpoint, whether it’s looking through logs to see if we have an adversary presence on our networks. Looking through logs to make sure that our user experience is where it needs to be on a daily basis, but leveraging technology to reduce the amount of manual steps.
Airman Magazine: With a kinetic weapon, the effects are apparent and there is an inherent process to be able to determine origin, intent and purpose. The very nature of cyber is to hide the hand that dealt the cards. What kind of challenges does determining attribution pose for a commander?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: So attribution is a very significant challenge. There are not as well defined international norms in the cyberspace domain and therefore a multitude of nations and multitude of criminals and the multitude of other individuals are continuing to push the limits.
It is often very apparent in the other domains, from an effect or an outcome, who the actors are. In the cyber domain, you can have the same type of effects in as in other domains, but it is harder to determine the source, which is really important when you start talking about multi-domain operations.
Cyber is a critical enabler while also a critical operation because cyber can be both supporting and supported within multi-domain operations. As we continue to refine our operations, to refine our tactics, techniques and procedures, we will continue to get better at understanding attribution, understanding the outcomes, and making sure that we refine and define those outcomes and bound the outcomes to meet our mission objectives.
As cyber continues to get more profound and more pronounced in the day-to-day operations, attribution is going to become that much harder.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner, then Deputy Commander of Air Force Space Command, speaks at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Cyberspace Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, March 6, 2018.
(Photo by Dave Grim)
Airman Magazine: How do you convince people that cyber and space have become foundational to everything that the Air Force, and our society as a whole, does on a daily basis?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I’ll give you a perfect example, the Global Positioning System is operated by Air Force Space Command: not only for the nation, but the whole world. The U.S. Air Force supplies and supports the system and satellites that enable the GPS navigation we use in our cars and on our phones every day, millions of times around the world.
It also provides timing. Every financial transaction is supported by the GPS system. So when you purchase something and put your credit card into that reader, there’s a timing aspect that is being supported by GPS. So the Air Force is supporting billions of activities and actions all the time.
Airman Magazine: The chief of staff and secretary have made it a priority to push command level decisions down to the lowest level possible. How is that manifested in your command?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Its not only because the chief and the secretary say they want it done. We have the greatest airmen in the world and we have the greatest commanders in the world—pushing authorities and responsibility down to the lowest level really enables them to unleash the talent around them and enables us to unleash their talent.
You don’t need higher headquarters micromanaging and directing things on a daily basis. Our commanders are boarded. We have a tradition of great commanders in our Air Force and we need to let them run. We need to let them determine how best to run their organizations and how best to be effective. The more that we can push decision authority down, the more bureaucracy we can eliminate and the more agile, lethal and effective we can be as an Air Force.
From a higher headquarters level and higher commander level, our responsibility is to give the left and right limits to those organizations and then let them run.
If we are in a conflict, especially against a peer competitor, the amount of time it would take to micromanage our tactical-level units would not allow us to be inside the OODA loop of our adversary.
We need to allow our commanders, in peacetime, to train like they are going to fight. To have that authority to perform the mission as they see fit. With more guidance, directives and limitations to that commander, there’s going to be some negative learning, first and foremost, but secondly, the safety of our airmen will be put in jeopardy.
Participants in the joint, multinational exercise Cyber Guard 2016 work through a training scenario during the nine-day event in Suffolk, Va., on June 16, 2016.
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse A. Hyatt)
Airman Magazine: As commander of Joint Force Headquarters Cyber, you’re responsible for cyber affects in campaign plans from U.S. Central Command to U.S. Transportation Command. How does that integration take place?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Aligned to each of those combatant commanders we have an element called the Cyber Operations Integrated Planning Element. We are just now standing those up and they are at the combatant commanders’ headquarters.
They’re kind of our picture window into that combatant commander to enable cyber operations planning to be part of their overall plan. Each combatant commander has either a function or a region they’re responsible for and they have what we call a scheme of maneuver, which is either day-to-day or in conflict. It is the commander’s plan of how to ensure sure we are successful in that campaign.
These planning elements are aligned there so we can be part of that plan and make sure that cyber isn’t just bolted on, but integrated into that plan. Cyber will be one of the first options that are available to that combatant commander below the level of conflict to make sure that we are meeting our objectives.
Airman Magazine: How do you get everyone with a piece of the huge cyber puzzle speaking the same language? How do you communicate capabilities and vulnerabilities to leadership, agency partners and airmen who are not cyber experts?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say today we have the best understanding and the best alignment from the cyber domain standpoint that we’ve ever had with all the strategy documents – the National Defense Strategy, which is underneath the National Security Strategy, the National Cyber Policy and Strategy, the DoD Cyber Strategy and the Cyber Posture Review.
All of these documents are perfectly aligned and it’s a great understanding of the capabilities that we provide, but also the importance of cyber to the multi-domain operations. The education is continual, but I offer that our Air Force leadership understands the cyber domain. They understand how important the cyber domain is to multi-domain operations.
We continue to educate the entire forest. We’re continuing the education process of all of our airmen, from the highest level to the most junior airman and the joint community, but from a joint standpoint and a national standpoint cyber is more understood than it ever has been.
Proposed content viewing page on the Cyber Education Hub, which is being developed at the Center for Cyberspace Research in the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
(AFIT CCR photo)
Airman Magazine: Do you see the Continuum of Learning concept and applications like the Cyber Learning Hub being developed by the Center for Cyberspace Research, Air Force Cyber College and U.S Air Force Academy’s CyberWorx, as aiding in that effort?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: There are a lot of great opportunities with that as cyber continues to be more and more integrated into the day-to-day operations.
We currently have the Air Force Warfare Center where we bring a lot of different mission systems together, integrate them, exercise and train and cyber is a significant part of that.
From an education standpoint we send people to the Air Force Institute of Technology. They not only have general education classes, but we they have Cyber 100, Cyber 200, Cyber 300 and Cyber 400 courses.
We have the 39th Information Operations Squadron, which does our cyber training. Keesler Air Force Base has a lot of our cyber courses. Just as Gen. Raymond over the last year has been working with Air University to make sure we have more space in our professional military education, we’re doing the same thing from a cyber standpoint.
We’re working with Gen. Cotton at Air University and Gen. Kwast at Air Education and Training Command to make sure that we continue to improve the amount of cyber and relevant topics in cyber education in basic military training through professional military education and to highlight cyber, both from a professional and a personal standpoint, because it impacts every part of your life.
Airman Magazine: In that vein, what would you like every airman to be aware of in their daily connectivity?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: One of the biggest vectors that our adversaries use to get into our networks is email. It’s called spear phishing. You can get those at your home and at the office. We continue to educate that you should know who the sender of an email is, that you do not click on links that you’re not certain are good links. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
If you get an email offering a free vacation, there’s probably not a free vacation. That’s probably someone trying to gain access to your personal information or gain access into our Air Force systems to cause havoc and disrupt our ability to do our missions.
Additionally, be aware that our adversaries can put different pieces of unclassified information together, which in the aggregate actually become classified. So you always have to be careful when you’re outside of work, or even inside work, of what you talk about in the open.
You have to monitor your computer systems. Make sure your systems are patched, especially at home, because that is the quickest way for an adversary to exploit your system. Some vulnerabilities have been out there for years. We find that both on the commercial side and the government side — there are systems out there that have not been patched in a long time, even though a patch has been out there.
We’re continuing to leverage technology to make that a little easier, to make sure that we’re updating and protecting all those systems.
Maj. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, Commander, 24th Air Force; Commander, Air Forces Cyber and Commander, Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber is photographed at his headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 26, 2018.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
Airman Magazine: The Air Force places a premium on building leaders. What twists and turns has your career taken that culminated in command of the Twenty-fourth AF?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I’ve had multiple mentors who have taken a special interest in my career. They have said you need to go to this position. I questioned it. I didn’t understand it. But it turns out that developed a place in my leadership that was not refined well enough. We spend a lot of time and energy on managing our talent. What differentiates us from other nations and other militaries is our airmen, whether officer, enlisted or civilian.
Our Airmen are our most precious asset. It is our solemn duty to professionally develop our airmen to the best extent possible. We take special interest in placing them where they professionally develop, while making sure our missions continue to be successful.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
But since 1945, submarines have had a mostly dry spell. In fact, most of the warshots fired by subs since then have been Tomahawk cruise missiles on land targets – something Charles Lockwood and Karl Donitz would have found useful.
There are only two submarines that have sunk enemy ships in the more than 70 years since World War II ended.
1. PNS Hangor
The sub that provides the first break in the post World War II dry spell is from Pakistan. The Pakistani submarine PNS Hangor — a French-built Daphne-class boat — was the vessel that pulled it off during operations in the Arabian Sea during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.
According to Military-Today.com, a Daphne-class vessel displaced 1,043 tons, had a top speed of 16 knots, and had 12 22-inch torpedo tubes (eight forward, four aft), each pre-loaded.
On Dec. 9, 1971, the Hangor detected two Indian frigates near its position. The submarine’s captain dove deep and got ready to fight.
India had sent two Blackwood-class frigates, INS Khukri and INS Kirpan, out of three built for them by the United Kingdom to patrol in the area. These frigates were designed to hunt submarines. Only this time, the sub hunted them.
According to Bharat-Rakshak.com, the Hangor fired a torpedo at the Kirpan, which dodged. Then the Khukri pressed in for an attack. The Hangor sent a torpedo at the Khukri, and this time scored a hit that left the Indian frigate sinking. The Kirpan tried to attack again, and was targeted with another torpedo for her trouble.
The Kirpan evaded a direct hit, and Indian and Pakistani versions dispute whether that frigate was damaged. The Hangor made her getaway.
It didn’t do India that much harm, though. India won that war, securing the independence of what is now Bangladesh. Pakistan, though, has preserved the Hangor as a museum.
2. HMS Conqueror
Just over 10 years after PNS Hangor ended the dry spell, HMS Conqueror got on the board – and made history herself. The Conqueror so far is the only nuclear submarine to sink an enemy warship in combat.
The Conqueror, a 5,400 ton Churchill-class submarine, was armed with six 21-inch torpedo tubes. With a top speed of 28 knots, she also didn’t have to come up to recharge batteries. That enabled her to reach the South Atlantic after Argentina’s 1982 invasion of the Falklands, touching off the Falklands War.
In a sense, the Argentinean cruiser ARA Gen. Belgrano — formerly known as USS Phoenix (CL 46) — really didn’t stand a chance. GlobalSecurity.org notes that the 12,300 ton cruisers were armed with 15 six-inch guns, eight five-inch guns, and a host of lighter anti-aircraft guns.
As the Gen. Belgrano approached the exclusionary zone declared by the Brits, the Conqueror began to track the cruiser. Finally, on May 2, 1982, she got the orders to attack. The Conqueror fired three Mark 8 torpedoes and scored two hits on the cruiser. The General Belgrano went down with 323 souls.
The Conqueror’s attack sent the rest of the Argentinean fleet running back to port. The British eventually re-took the Falkland Islands. The Conqueror is presently awaiting scrapping after being retired in 1990.
China, Russia, Malaysia, and other nations are failing to curb sanctioned financial dealings and trade conducted by North Korea in their countries, according to a U.N. report.
A U.N. panel of experts on North Korea said these nations and others are failing to stop the Kim Jong Un regime’s efforts to fund its nuclear and missile programs, according to a report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. CNN received key sections of the report.
Their draft report was distributed to a U.N. committee overseeing North Korea sanctions compliance. It then goes to the Security Council.
In violation of U.N. sanctions, North Korean exported roughly $200 million in coal and other commodities in 2017, the panel said. Much of the regime’s coal and fuel shipments passed through Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, or Russian ports.
More than 30 representatives of North Korean financial institutions are operating in foreign nations, including Russia and China, the investigators said.
North Korea “is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system,” the document stated.
Several dozen times over the past decade, the report said, North Korean weapons have been shipped to Syria to develop a chemical-weapons program.
Syria told the panel no North Korea technical companies are operating in the country, and the only North Koreans there are involved in sports.
A member country also reported that Myanmar is buying a ballistic-missile system and conventional weapons from North Korea, including rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles, according to the report.
Chinese, Russian, Malaysian, and Burmese embassies in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment by The Wall Street Journal.
Last year, the U.N. Security Council passed stronger sanctions against North Korea after several weapons tests, including nuclear ones.
Displaying images of Donald Trump staring at a cemetery filled with crosses and Vice-President Mike Pence enveloped by flames, the nearly four-minute video showed the island of Guam being targeted by intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
“Americans should live with their eyes and ears wide open. They will be tormented day and night by the Hwasong-12 rockets without knowing when they will be launched,” the caption reads, according to Yonhap. “They will be in jitters.”
“(We) just wish US policymakers should seriously think twice ahead of an obvious outcome (of a war),” another caption says, showing a photo of US Defence Secretary James Mattis. “Time is not on the US side.”
With the exercises continuing on Aug. 22, upped its rhetoric, saying it would be a misjudgment for the US to think that Pyongyang would “sit comfortably without doing anything,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said, citing an unidentified military spokesman.
The ongoing drills and visits of US military officials to South Korea create the circumstances for a “mock war” on the Korean peninsula, KCNA said.
The comments represent a more belligerent tone after a war of words between the US and appeared to have subsided.
Trump praised North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week for waiting to launch missiles over Japan into waters near Guam, after previously warning of “fire and fury” if he continued to threaten the American homeland.
Tensions increased in July after conducted two intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Trump has said military force is an option to prevent Kim from gaining an ICBM that could deliver a nuclear weapon to the US.
On Monday, South Korea President Moon Jae-in said shouldn’t use the latest round of drills as an excuse for any further provocations. The exercises “are not aimed at raising military tensions on the Korean peninsula at all,” Moon told Cabinet members.
Kim made a visit in early August to a guard post about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from the border with the South, Yonhap News reported, citing unidentified South Korean government officials. The South Korean military considers the visit an unusual act and is preparing to prevent a possible military provocation, Yonhap said.