Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States paid a special visit to Fort Bragg on Thursday to pay respects to Army special operations forces killed while fighting the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
Hamdullah Mohib, ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, joined Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo in placing a wreath at a memorial wall outside the U.S. Army Special Operations Command headquarters.
Tovo is the commanding general of USASOC.
Mohib, who served as deputy chief of staff to the president of Afghanistan before being appointed ambassador to the U.S., also spoke with soldiers who have served or will soon deploy to Afghanistan.
The memorial wall, located on Meadows Memorial Parade Field, lists the names of more than 1,200 special operations soldiers who have died in conflicts dating to the Korean War. More than 330 of the names have been added since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At least four U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year, all of them belonging to USASOC units.
The latest losses were last month, when Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers and Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas, both part of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, were killed in southern Nangarhar province.
Mohib, who is based in Washington, was a special guest of Maj. Gen. James B. Linder.
Linder relinquished command of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School during a ceremony Thursday morning. He’ll next serve as commander of the Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan and Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan.
Officials said Mohib’s presence highlighted the strong ties between Afghanistan and Army special operations.
“Since 2001, the men and women of U.S. Army Special Operations Command have been on continuous rotations in and out of Afghanistan,” Linder said. “Our soldiers have formed enduring friendships with our Afghan commandos and special forces partners. We have cemented a brotherhood through blood, sweat and sacrifice.”
Fort Bragg soldiers have historically played a key role in the 16-year war in Afghanistan. Local troops have been continuously deployed to the country since the earliest days of the war.
And last month, the Army announced that 1,500 paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division would soon deploy to the country.
Marine veteran James P. Connolly (Sirius/XM Radio, Comics Unleashed) hosted the 6th Annual Veteran’s Day Benefit Comedy Show “Cocktails Camouflage,” at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, California in early November.
All funds raised were donated to Veterans in Film Television (VFT), a non-profit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in film and television and offers the entertainment industry the opportunity to connect with and hire veterans.
In this video, we get to laugh with Navy veteran Steve Mazan, who talks about his foolproof plan to have a celebrity emergency contact.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to the 79th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., waves at the boom operator after a mid-air refueling during Red Flag 16-3 over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev., July 27, 2016. Red Flag is a realistic combat exercise involving multiple military branches conducting training operations on the 15,000-square-mile test and training range.
A C-130H Hercules, from the 179th Airlift Wing at Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base, Ohio, takes off to perform an airdrop during exercise Slovak Warthog, July 27, 2016, at Sliač Air Base, Slovakia. Members of the U.S. and Slovak armed forces joined together for the exercise to demonstrate joint operations with a variety of aircraft.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 101st Airborne Brigade, fire a Javelin Anti-Tank Missile system during a large-scale platoon live-fire exercise at Fort Campbell, Ky., July 29, 2016.
Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provide cover during a combined arms live fire exercise on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 8, 2016.
ARABIAN GULF (Aug. 8, 2016) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Dakotah Emmerth, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike), guides an E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 onto the catapult. Ike and its Carrier Strike Group are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
OAK HARBOR, Wash. (Aug. 9, 2016) Lt. Erik Dippold, a Navy pilot assigned to EA-18G Growler Airborne Electronic Attack Aircraft with Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133 is welcomed home by his wife and daughter at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. VAQ-133 conducted an eight-month, regularly scheduled, 7th Fleet deployment aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) supporting stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
Lance Cpl. Ryley Sweet drives an assault amphibious vehicle onto amphibious assault ship USS San Diego, off the coast of Hawaii. The Marines are participating in the Rim of the Pacific 2016, a multinational military exercise, from June 29 to Aug. 8 in and around the Hawaiian Islands.
A Marine with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, provides cover fire for his squad during the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Integrated Experiment (MIX-16) at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., August 5, 2016. The experiment was conducted to test new gear and assess its capabilities for potential future use. The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWL) identifies possible challenges of the future, develops new warfighting concepts, and tests new ideas to help develop equipment that meets the challenges of the future operating environment.
Justin Daulman, a parking assistant, took this photo of CG-2301 painted in retro colors in celebration of 100 years in Coast Guard aviation. Photo taken at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on July 30, 2016.
The Coast Guard’s first production MH-60T “Jayhawk” helicopter (tail number CG 6028) completed its first search and rescue operation off the North Carolina coast OTD in 2009.
Believe it or not, some of the greatest pioneers in the use of military helicopters were Coast Guardsmen. These early breakthroughs took place during World War II when the Navy was too busy expanding traditional carrier operations to focus on rotary wing, and the Army had largely sequestered helicopters to an air commando group. The Coast Guard, meanwhile, was working on what would be the first-ever helicopter carrier.
USCGC Governor Cobb underway after its conversion into a helicopter carrier.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
Obviously, we’re talking about a ship that carries helicopters, not an aircraft carrier that flies like a helicopter. The Avengers aren’t real (yet).
The potential advantages of helicopters in military operations were clear to many of the military leaders who witnessed demonstrations in the early 1940s. Igor Sikorsky had made the first practical helicopter flight in 1939, and the value of an aircraft that could hover over an enemy submarine or take off and land in windy or stormy weather was obvious.
But the first helicopters were not really up to the most demanding missions. For starters, they simply didn’t have the power to carry heavy ordnance. And it would take years to build up a cadre of pilots to plan operations, conduct staff work, and actually fly the missions.
The Army was officially given lead on testing helicopters and developing them for wartime use, but they were predominantly interested in using it for reconnaissance with a secondary interest in rescuing personnel in areas where liaison planes couldn’t reach.
So, the Coast Guard, which wanted to develop the helicopter for rescues at sea and for their own portion of the anti-submarine fight, saw a potential opening. They could pursue the maritime uses of helicopters if they could just get a sign off from the Navy and some money and/or helicopters.
The commandant of the Coast Guard, Vice Adm. Russell R. Waesche, officially approved Coast Guard helicopter development in June 1942. In February 1943, he convinced Chief of Naval Operations Navy Adm. Ernest King to direct that the Coast Guard had the lead on maritime helicopter development. Suddenly, almost every U.S. Navy helicopter was controlled by the Coast Guard.
A joint Navy-Coast Guard board began looking into the possibilities with a focus on anti-submarine warfare per King’s wishes. They eventually settled on adapting helicopters to detect submarines, using their limited carrying capacity for sensors instead of depth charges or a large crew. They envisioned helicopters that operated from merchant ships and protected convoys across the Atlantic and Pacific.
The Coast Guard quickly overhauled the steam-powered passenger ship named Governor Cobb into CGC Governor Cobb, the first helicopter carrier. The Coast Guard added armor, a flight deck, 10 guns of various calibers, and depth charges. Work was completed in May 1943, and the first detachment of pilots was trained and certified that July.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Frank A. Erickson stands beside an HNS-1 Hoverfly and his co-pilot Lt. Walter Bolton sits within.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
The early tests showed that the HNS-1 helicopters were under-powered for rough weather and anti-submarine operations, but were exceedingly valuable in rescue operations. This was proven in January 1944 when a destroyer exploded between New Jersey and New York. Severe weather grounded fixed-wing aircraft, but Coast Guard pilot Lt. Cmdr. Frank A. Erickson took off in an HNS-1s.
He strapped two cases of plasma to the helicopter and took off in winds up to 25 knots and sleet, flew between tall buildings to the hospital and dropped off the goods in just 14 minutes. Because the only suitable pick-up point was surrounded by large trees, Erickson had to fly backward in the high winds to get back into the air.
According to a Coast Guard history:
“Weather conditions were such that this flight could not have been made by any other type of aircraft,” Erickson stated. He added that the flight was “routine for the helicopter.” The New York Times lauded the historic flight stating: It was indeed routine for the strange rotary-winded machine which Igor Sikorsky has brought to practical flight, but it shows in striking fashion how the helicopter can make use of tiny landing areas in conditions of visibility which make other types of flying impossible….Nothing can dim the future of a machine which can take in its stride weather conditions such as those which prevailed in New York on Monday.
Still, it was clear by the end of 1944 that a capable anti-submarine helicopter would not make it into the fight in time for World War II, so the Navy slashed its order for 210 helicopters down to 36, just enough to satisfy patrol tasks and the Coast Guard’s early rescue requirements.
This made the helicopter carrier Governor Cobb surplus to requirements. It was decommissioned in January 1946. The helicopter wouldn’t see serious deployment with the Navy’s fleet until Sikorsky sent civilian pilots in 1947 to a Navy fleet exercise and successfully rescued four downed pilots in four events.
But the experiment proved that the helicopters could operate from conventional carriers, no need for a dedicated ship. Today, helicopters can fly from ships as small as destroyers and serve in roles from search and rescue to anti-submarine and anti-air to cargo transportation.
The Jobaria Multiple Cradle Launch system carries a stunning 240 rockets which can be driven into position and fired by a crew of only three people.
The Jobaria, which shares its name with a massive dinosaur, includes a large Oshkosh 6×6 Heavy Equipment Transporter that pulls a semi-trailer with four 122mm rocket launchers, each packed with 60 rounds. And the truck can fire all of those rockets in less than two minutes. That’s a rate of more than two rockets per second.
A global positioning system tracks the location of the launcher and the rockets follow instructions from an inertial guidance system after firing. The system can carry either high-explosive warheads or steel-ball proximity warheads, essentially flying claymores.
Developed in partnership with the Turkish company Roketsan, the United Arab Emirates is the only nation to deploy the system, though it has been shown at a number of defense expos where other countries might decide to buy it.
Of course, such heavy machinery requires a decent road network and a single enemy missile strike could take the whole system down. Still, a crew of three with the ability to fire 240 rockets is pretty concentrated firepower.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has told domestic entrepreneurs that the collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal would have “very dangerous consequences” for the country.
“We can talk the deal up, or talk it down. But we should know that a failure of the deal will have very dangerous consequences for us,” Zarif told a meeting of entrepreneurs at the Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Tehran on June 24, 2018.
“This is certainly not the [Iranian political] system’s choice,” said Zarif, who helped write the landmark deal with six global powers.
Zarif did not specify what the damages would be, but he said a failure of the deal could leave Iran politically isolated.
U.S. President Donald Trump in May 2018 pulled his country out of the landmark nuclear deal that provided Iran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Trump said he was unhappy with the terms of the deal and with Iran’s continued testing of ballistic missiles and its support for militants in the Middle East.
Iran has denied it backs insurgents in the region and said its nuclear program was only for civilian purposes.
Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia also signed the deal and have pledged to remain in the accord.
However, many companies have pulled out of Iran for fear of being hit by U.S. sanctions if they do business with Tehran.
Iran has been negotiating with European Union leaders and other officials in hopes of keeping the deal alive and of receiving economic assurances.
President Hassan Rohani is expected to visit Switzerland and Austria in July as part of Tehran’s efforts to ensure continued European support for the deal.
Soldiers and Marines have risked life and limb in dangerous breach operations on the battlefield, but new technology will help keep them out of harms way.
“We never, ever want to send another soldier into a breach, so how do we do this completely autonomously?” Gen. Mike Murray, head of Army Futures Command, asked at Yakima Training Center in Washington state recently, Defense News reported.
The answer to the general’s question: A monstrous robotic Assault Breacher Vehicle, an 80-ton battlefield bulldozer built to rip up minefields and remove obstacles.
A M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV) from 8th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division prepares to conduct gunnery qualifications.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)
The Army and Marines have been using manned M1150 ABVs for breach operations for nearly a decade.
An Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV) is essentially an M1 Abrams tank that has been upgraded with armor improvements and had its turret replaced with either a mine plow or a combat dozer blade able to clear a path for other assets.
These mobile, heavily-armored minefield and obstacle clearing vehicles have traditionally been manned by a crew of two.
The plan is to get those troops out.
“That is a very dangerous point to put soldiers and Marines, especially when dealing with explosive obstacles,” 1st Lt. David Aghakhan, ABV Platoon Commander, said in a statement, adding that new robotic variants give “us the option to take the operator out of the vehicle, and still push that vehicle through the lane, creating that mobility for follow-on forces.”
Marines from the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, Camp Lejeune, N.C., operate an Assault Breaching Vehicle with robotic operation capabilities at Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Wash., May 1, as part of Joint Warfighting Assessment 2019.
(U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Monte Swift)
The Army and the Marines tested a robotic version of the ABV for the first time out at Yakima Training Center a few weeks ago in a first step toward pulling troops out of the breach.
“This is something we cried from the mountain tops for. Somebody listened,” Lonni Johnston, program manager for Army Future Command’s Robotic Complex Breach Concept (RCBC) and former assistant program manager for the ABV program, told Business Insider.
During the recent demonstration at Yakima, a prototype was put to the test. “This is the first time this has been used. We’ve never had a robotic version of this until now,” Johnston explained.
The robotic ABVs in the recent test were supported by a robotic Polaris MRZR vehicle capable of creating smoke screens, as well as suppression fire units, which in a real situation could be either manned or unmanned.
“A breach is one of the most complex maneuvers during any type of military operation because there are so many components to it,” Johnston explained.
Marines from the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, Camp Lejeune, N.C., operate an Assault Breaching Vehicle with robotic operation capabilities at Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Wash.
(U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Monte Swift)
The breach is one of the most dangerous places a soldier or Marine can find themselves.
“The breach is literally the worst place on Earth,” Johnston, a retired Army officer, told BI. “It’s the most dangerous place on the planet.”
“Every gun, every cannon, everything that shoots a missile or a bullet is going to be aimed at that breach,” he added. “When you are attacking an enemy force that is hellbent on keeping you out, they are going to do whatever they can to do that.”
So, the Army and Marines are looking at robotic systems smash through the breach, which soldiers and manned vehicles can then flow through.
U.S. Marine with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion services Next Generation Combat Vehicle Surrogate during a demonstration of next generation technologies in support of Joint Warfighter Assessment 19 at Yakima Training Center.
(U.S. Army Reserve Photo by Spc. Patrick Hilson)
The services have a number of challenges to surmount for robotic ABVs to be effective against a tough adversary.
It’s unclear when the robotic ABVs will be ready for deployment, but the Army is envisions fielding six per brigade, four with mine plows and two with combat dozer blades. That is how many the service believes it needs to clear two breach lanes.
Each vehicle would be operated by one person in either a stationary or mobile command and control center.
Challenges include electronic countermeasures, such as jamming technology that could be used by an enemy to incapacitate these vehicles. There are also concerns about what to do if it dies mid-breach, inadvertently becoming just the kind of obstacle it was meant to obliterate.
These are some of the things the services will have to explore as they push forward on this technology.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force general in command of New Jersey’s National Guard has been ordered to shape up or ship out, NJ.com reports.
On Tuesday, the office of Gov. Chris Christie (who serves as commander-in-chief of the state guard) released a statement saying that Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff has 90 days to meet military height and weight requirements. This comes a day after the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock dropped his story on a guard unit that had become “increasingly dysfunctional,” while also revealing a secret reprimand from the Pentagon chiding Cunniff for skirting weight regulations and physical fitness tests for at least three years.
“The Governor has expressed directly to the General that his failure to meet that standard or to provide notification of his formal reprimand is both unacceptable and disappointing,” Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts told the Post in an emailed statement.
It’s not entirely clear how much weight Cunniff has to lose, though it is clear he should probably stay away from McDonald’s all-day breakfast menu.
While some have noted the irony of Christie ordering someone else to lose weight, the Air Force general is the only character in this story who is required to maintain a military weight standard. According to The New York Post:
Cunniff took a fitness test in November 2013, his first in more than three years. He flunked when his waist size was measured at 43.5 inches — 4.5 inches larger than what was allowed.
As New Jersey’s Adjutant General, Cunniff is in charge of the 9000-strong Army and Air National Guard in the state. That may be a lot of responsibility for a brigadier general. But you know what they say: One star, two chins. (Boom, drop the mic.)
Army Emergency Relief expanded its support programming in 2020 to keep up with the evolving needs of those impacted by COVID-19. Now the organization is going a step further in easing financial burdens for soldiers and their families.
AER disbursed assistance to more than 710 soldiers this year, according to its website, totaling $1.1 million in assistance. With the pandemic continuing to cause detrimental impacts to Army families, the organization is looking to convert loans into zero-payback grants.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, Director of AER, said he is excited to announce this initiative.
“Soldiers and their families may be exposed to financial challenges as an incident to their service, and this year has presented many challenges. We’ve been closely monitoring the situation and I believe Americans have noticed as well,” he said.
Since its inception, AER has provided $2 billon in financial assistance, with half of that occurring since the events of September 11, 2001. The organization has also supported around 4 million soldiers. While donations do come from larger organizations, many come from citizens who want to support U.S. troops.
“Thanks to the generosity of citizens, patriotic corporations, and Soldiers themselves, we were able to go back and review zero-interest loans where conversion to grant makes the most sense and alleviates distress caused by the unique challenges we’ve experienced this year,” Mason said.
Although the goal itself isn’t to specifically hit the $1 million mark, Mason says by examining the individual needs that prompted the loans, they’ll be able to hit that target.
“Our goal is to identify loans issued in response to some of the unique challenges we’ve faced this year, and eliminate the requirement of payback on those loans. In doing so, we believe we will convert $1 million in loans to grants and potentially change the financial future for over a thousand soldiers and their families,” Mason explained.
Although the loans soldiers received are zero interest, the organization wants to take it further by seeing where they can turn them into grants and further support relief efforts.
“In short, we’re trying to do the right thing while respecting the contributions we’ve received from generous Americans,” Mason explained.
AER has expanded its outreach efforts to ensure soldiers and their families know about its mission and the importance of asking for help when it is needed. The organization is doing this through engagement with Army leadership to instill the notion that AER should be the first stop when Army families find themselves in financial trouble of any kind.
With the entire country being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs remain great for many families. AER is poised to continue supporting Army families and finding ways to ensure they thrive, even in the midst of a pandemic. Stepping forward to convert loans into grants is just one more way it can live out its mission of soldiers helping soldiers.
To learn more about AER and how you can support their mission or request assistance, click here.
It’s no secret: America loves the legendary generals who have taken key positions of power in the Trump administration.
But the nation’s trust and dependence on these men to lead them through challenging political times may be misplaced, retired Adm. Mike Mullen said Thursday.
Mullen, who served as the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, said the way the nation is turning to these generals betrays a tendency not inherently American.
“I am increasingly — I’m not surprised, but I am concerned about the dependence of the American people on Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, John Kelly and Rex Tillerson,” he told an audience at the U.S. Naval Institute’s 2017 Naval History Conference in Annapolis.
(Adm. Mullin is a member of the We Are The Mighty board of directors)
Mattis, McMaster and Kelly — who serve as secretary of defense, national security adviser and White House chief of staff, respectively — all attained four-star rank in the military. McMaster remains on active duty.
“The question that I ask is how did we get here, to a point where we are depending on retired generals for the stability of our citizenry,” he said. “And what happens if that boulder breaks, first of all, and when.”
President Donald Trump has encouraged reverence for the generals in his administration, particularly Mattis, whom he has referred to by the nickname “Mad Dog” and praised on Twitter as a “general’s general.”
Mattis, who was lionized by troops while in the Marine Corps for his care for his men and straightforward style, had been out of uniform for only four years when he was nominated to serve as defense secretary.
Congress passed a one-time waiver of a law requiring defense secretaries to have been out of the military for at least seven years to allow Mattis to serve.
In a congressional hearing held prior to the waiver vote, military experts advised that Mattis be confirmed, but warned the waiver should not be used again for a long time to preserve the tradition of civilian leadership of the military.
In the past, Mullen has been outspoken about the civilian-military divide and has publicly criticized the recent trend of general and flag officers becoming keynote speakers at political conventions and publicly endorsing candidates for president.
He reiterated these views Thursday, saying that while retired officers have the right to endorse, they do damage to the military by eroding its reputation for impartiality.
Mullen qualified that he knows Mattis, McMaster and Kelly, and called them “extraordinary individuals in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”
But he suggested it sets a dangerous precedent to turn to them as a focal point for national leadership.
“I have been in too many countries globally where the generals, if you will, gave great comfort to their citizens,” Mullen said. “That is not the United States of America. It may be temporarily now; I can only hope that it won’t be in the future. And despite each one of these individuals’ greatness, there are limits.”
In addition, he said, experience on the battlefield does not translate directly to leadership in the political sphere.
“When I walked into the Oval Office for the first time, that is an environment I’d never been in before, ever,” Mullen said. “… There is no reason these individuals, who are exceptionally good, had any better preparation in that regard. They are trying to figure it out as we go.”
Recent press reports, he said, have called the generals the “bulwark” of the administration.
“And one of the questions is, will that bulwark last, and what happens if and when it doesn’t,” Mullen said. “My own belief is, it won’t.”
On January 13, 2021, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and U.S. Senator Richard Shelby announced that Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama was selected as the location for the United States Space Command Headquarters. “I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that Alabama will be the new home to the United States Space Command!” Governor Ivey said.
““This is outstanding news, not only for our state but also for the Air Force,” Shelby said. “This long-awaited decision by the Air Force is a true testament to all that Alabama has to offer. Huntsville is the right pick for a host of reasons – our skilled workforce, proximity to supporting space entities, cost-effectiveness, and quality of life, among other things. I am thrilled that the Air Force has chosen Redstone and look forward to the vast economic impact this will have on Alabama and the benefits this will bring to the Air Force.”
Space Command was established in 2019 as a unified combatant command under the Department of Defense. The search for its headquarters’ location began in 2020. Potential sites were ranked based on room to grow, opportunity to add infrastructure, community support, cost to the DoD, and ability to support the command’s mission. 24 states initially competed to host the headquarters. In addition to Huntsville, finalist cities included Albuquerque, Bellevue, Cape Canaveral, Colorado Springs, and San Antonio.
The new command is expected to bring at least 1,600 new jobs to the local area, with more expected as its mission grows. Redstone Aresenal is already home to Army Materiel Command, Army Space and Missile Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency/Missile and Space Intelligence Center, and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. The FBI has also taken up residency at Redstone Arsenal as part of a strategic realignment of major assets including its cybersecurity operations. The bureau called Huntsville, “the Silicon Valley of the South.”
Historically, Huntsville has played a major role in America’s space presence since the 1950s. Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of rocket scientists developed the Saturn V rocket that would take man to the moon in Huntsville. The space shuttle propulsion system was also developed there, and the city still hosts the U.S. Space and Rocket Center with its world-famous Space Camp.
Space Command is currently commanded by Army General James Dickinson and is located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. The command is expected to remain there for at least six years. The decision to move to Huntsville is still pending an environmental impact study. A final decision is expected to be made in spring 2023.
The gym echoed with sounds of bodies hitting the floor as instructors watched their students wrestle each other to the ground.
The students trained tirelessly for the past week and were showing signs of wear and tear: cuts, bruises, and red, sweaty faces steaming with pain.
This is the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course, perhaps the most rigorous training program in the Air Force Security Forces world. The Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program centers on the concept of specially trained security forces airmen flying with and protecting AMC aircraft around the world.
The trained airmen are to “provide close-in security for aircraft and airfields that AMC has deemed as having inadequate security,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph McGuire, 421st Combat Training Squadron Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor. “We guard the aircraft, protect the personnel, and whatever else is on board.”
This particular class, however, is different: instead of taking place at the program’s training hub at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, it was conducted by a mobile training team sent to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa headquarters here.
The students in the course came from three squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community: the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons, and the 569th United States Forces Police Squadron.
Vigorous physical training
The course involves vigorous physical training sessions, Armament Systems and Procedures Baton training, use-of-force scenarios, combatives classes, and live-fire training, as well as 15 academic classes.
McGuire added that it is not uncommon for some students to fail the course and get sent home. A few have already washed out since they started Jan. 22.
“It is extremely hard,” he said. “You have to be mentally and physically tough. You have to have heart. You have to have dedication … and mental tenacity. And you have to be able to make proper decisions while being in a stressful environment.”
Students who graduate from the program receive the Raven tab, which they may wear on their uniform, and also a coin with their Raven number.