Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Enlisted airmen have been part of the Air Force Academy in both instructor and mentor positions. But now they have a chance to be considered full time accredited faculty teachers.

The Air Force Academy was established in April 1954 after several years of consideration. Long before the Air Force was its own branch of the military, senior leadership argued they needed a school that would be directly focused on the war in the air – they needed a place to train future airmen.


In 1948, a year after the formal establishment of the Air Force, the Stearns-Eisenhower Board was formed to study existing military academies. They concluded that the Air Force absolutely needed its own school and that at least 40 percent of all future officers should be service academy graduates.

It took seven years for leadership to reach a consensus on site location and to receive funding. In 1955, construction began on the Academy in Colorado Springs. That same year, the first class of 306 officers were sworn-in at a temporary site – Lowry Air Force Base in nearby Denver, Colorado. Lt. Gen. Hubert R. Harmon was recalled from retirement by President Eisenhower to become the Academy’s first superintendent.

Women were allowed to enter the Academy beginning in 1975, and the first women cadets graduated in 1980. That flagship-class included the Academy’s first woman, who would later be superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson. To date, the Air Force Academy has graduated more than 50,000 officers.

Since its inception, the Air Force Academy has provided a corps of officers dedicated to upholding the standards of their profession and of the Air Force. In turn, the Academy offers cadets the right kind of access to a diverse and varied faculty. Now that faculty is even more diverse than ever.

After its first year, the Air Force Academy says that having noncommissioned officers serve as faculty shows real promise, but there needs to be further evaluation to decide if it’s worth keeping. The Academy is the first service academy that features enlisted service members as official faculty.

A report issued this summer, written by Chief Master Sgt. Sean Milligan and Senior Master Sgts. Ecaterina Garcia and Gloria Kuzmicki was released a year after the test pilot began. The Air Force reports that it will need several more years to explore the sustainability of the program, but initial findings are very promising – both for cadets and for the current faculty on staff.

The four enlisted Academic instructors, including the Chief mentioned above MSgt. Milligan, Senior MSgt. Garcia and Kuznicki, along with Senior MSgt. William Baez. Milligan manages the enlisted instructors and teaches part-time in the management department. Garcia teaches military strategy studies, Kuzmicki teaches leadership and behavior science, and Baez teaches intro statistics.

In a statement to Air Force Times, Milligan said that the program proves that the Air Force can select and hire appropriately qualified enlisted instructors to help increase faculty diversity. He went on to say that it seems like having an enlisted faculty component helps to have a positive effect on the cadets. The diversified faculty might also help cadets have a more collaborative learning environment, leading to greater career growth – not to mention significant experience with enlisted airmen.

The Air Force Academy created three enlisted teaching positions for the senior noncommissioned officers, all of whom hold advanced degrees.

After being hired, each instructor receives their department assignment and teaches classes relevant to their subjects of expertise. This initiative’s main goal is to provide enlisted airmen who have advanced degrees with a chance to put their education to work while continuing to serve the Air Force.

The report concludes that cadets will ultimately be better served with a more diverse staff. It still remains to be seen how the program will continue to unfold, but it seems clear the Air Force is committed to providing the right proving ground for America’s next generation of Air Force officers.

Articles

Russia and China are about to flex their muscles in the South China Sea

The South China Sea is already a powderkeg, given the major tensions in the region over a six-way maritime Mexican Standoff involving China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei. This past summer, China saw an international tribunal rule against its claims in that body and condemn Beijing’s construction of artificial islands.


Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
The forward deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85), left, leads the Russian Federation navy Slava-class guided-missile cruiser Varyag and the Irkut tanker during Pacific Eagle, a bilateral exercise with the Russian Federation navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Corey Hensley)

That’s not to say China’s abiding by the ruling. Far from it, to be honest. The Chinese took a page from the playbook of Game of Thrones’ Cersei Lannister by not even showing up for any of the process leading up to the ruling. China doesn’t seem to care that the ruling went against them, as it is now inviting Russia for joint exercises in the maritime flashpoint for the fifth straight year.

According to a report from the Times of India, Chinese military spokesman Liang Yang said, “Chinese and Russian participants will undertake defense, rescue, and anti-submarine operations, in addition to joint-island seizing missions and other activities.”

The Times of India noted China has sent 10 naval vessels to take part in the exercise, along with 11 aircraft, eight helicopters, and other military assets. Russia is reportedly sending three surface combatants, two supply vessels, and other assets as well.

Two of the vessels Russia sent were an Udaloy-class “large anti-submarine ship” (often referred to as a destroyer in Western media) and a Ropucha-class landing ship.

The South China Sea has seen a number of incidents in the past few years involving Chinese forces. Shortly before the international tribunal issued its ruling on China’s claims, Chinese forces sank a Vietnamese fishing boat and then interfered with rescue operations. Chinese aircraft have also made a number of close passes to U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft, including some within ten feet.

One such close pass in 2001 went wrong, and a Chinese J-8 “Finback” collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II. The Chinese plane crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei, while the EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the 24-person crew was held for ten days. Lieutenant Shane Osborn received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions after the incident.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea reportedly behind South Korean cyptocurrency hack

North Korea’s involvement in major hacking offensives appears to be growing.


The country has been linked to a recent attack on South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges, according to cybersecurity experts.

Researchers from the U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future say a new hacking campaign targeting South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Coinlink employed the same malware code used in the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures and last year’s global WannaCry attack.

Beginning in late 2017, hackers attempted to collect the passwords and emails of employees at Coinlink, but were unsuccessful.

Recorded Future released a full report on Jan. 16 analyzing the methods used in the recent Coinlink attack versus methods used in previous cyberattacks. The firm found what it called strong evidence that a cybercrime unit called the Lazarus group was behind the Coinlink attack, as well as several previous large-scale campaigns, based on the type of code they have used in previous attacks.

According to the report, the Lazarus group operates under a North Korean state-sponsored cyber unit.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
Advertisement for Bithumb (Image Bithumb Twitter)

The group has been conducting operations since at least 2009, when they launched an attack on US and South Korean websites by infecting them with a virus known as MyDoom, the report said. The group has mainly targeted South Korean, U.S. government, and financial entities, but has also been linked to the major attack on Sony Pictures in 2014.

In recent years, researchers noticed a change in North Korean cyber operations as they began to shift their focus to attacking financial institutions in order to steal money to fund Kim Jong Un’s regime, the report said.

In 2017, the group began targeting cryptocurrencies, and their first offensive was aimed at Bithumb, one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchanges. Lazarus hackers stole $7 million in the Bithumb heist at the time, according to the report.

The WannaCry attack in 2017, which affected computer systems at schools, hospitals, and businesses across 150 countries, also used malware code that was linked to Lazarus.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Additionally, a December attack on the South Korean bitcoin exchange YouBit reportedly mirrored previous North Korean offensives, leading experts to suggest that groups associated with the North were behind that attack as well.

Recorded Future’s report comes amid recent allegations that North Korea has begun mining and hacking cryptocurrencies in order to sidestep crippling economic sanctions.

“This is a continuation of their broader interest in cryptocurrency as a funding stream,” Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic-threat development at Recorded Future, told the Wall Street Journal this week.

The U.S. has released statements blaming North Korea for several recent attacks. North Korea still denies any involvement, despite mounting evidence.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time soldiers got away with robbing the Army paymaster

The story behind what came to be known as the Wham Paymaster robbery began on the morning of May 11, 1889, when a U.S. Army paymaster called Major Joseph Washington Wham was charged with transporting a lockbox containing the salaries of several hundred soldiers across the Arizona desert from Fort Grant to Fort Thomas located some 50 miles away. All in all the lockbox contained $28,345.10 in gold and silver coins worth the equivalent of about $784,000 today.

Tasked with protecting the contents of the lockbox, Paymaster Wham’s convoy included 9 Buffalo Soldiers of the 24th Infantry and two privates of the 10th Cavalry. At this point it’s probably worth mentioning for anyone unfamiliar with the term “Buffalo Soldiers” that all of the soldiers protecting Wham and his convoy were black.


This is important as a few hours after setting off the convoy was attacked by as many as 20 bandits who shot at the convoy while screaming racial slurs at the soldiers guarding it. More particularly, it’s thought that one of the ways those who robbed the convoy justified it from a moral standpoint was simply that it was no real crime in their minds to take money from black soldiers. (More on this in a bit.)

Whatever the case, during the ensuing 30 minute firefight, 8 of the soldiers guarding the convoy were shot, two of them multiple times. Of note are the actions of one Sergeant Benjamin Brown who shrugged off a bullet wound to the gut to stand out in the open firing at the bandits with his trusty revolver.

After being shot twice more (once through each arm), a fellow soldier braved the bullets to carry Brown to safety. Unwilling to halt his one-man assault, Brown continued firing on the bandits while being carried away.

Another Buffalo Soldier, Corporal Isaiah Mayes, similarly ignored the hailstorm of bullets, two of which hit him in the legs, to quite literally at times crawl to get help two miles away at a nearby ranch.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
Major Joseph W. Wham

Unfortunately, with nearly everyone in the convoy seriously injured, they were forced to retreat away from the wagons, at which point heavy gun fire kept them pinned down while some of the bandits ran in, used an axe to open the lockbox, and stole the contents.

While the bandits succeeded in their goal, Paymaster Wham was astounded by the bravery of the soldiers (all of whom miraculously survived despite many being shot as noted). In fact, according to one of the witnesses to the event, Harriet Holladay, Sergeant Brown “had a bullet hole clean through his middle but he acted as if it didn’t bother him at all.”

Because of their uncanny bravery and dedication to protecting government property with their own lives, Wham immediately recommend 9 of the Buffalo soldiers for the Medal of Honor. Both Brown and Mayes were subsequently awarded that medal, while 8 other soldiers Wham singled out for their bravery were instead awarded certificates of merit.

As for the money, nobody is exactly sure what happened to it because nobody was ever convicted of the crime in question, despite that many among the robbers were recognized during the gunfight as they brazenly did not wear masks. It’s speculated that they didn’t bother with masks because they felt morally justified in the robbery and were all upstanding, church-going members of a nearby town, Pima, with the robbery seemingly organized by the mayor himself, Gilbert Webb.

Webb had come on hard times and was on the verge of bankruptcy. As he was a major employer in the town, and the town itself had come on hard times, he seems to have gotten the bright idea to simply take the money from the U.S. government to solve his and the town’s problems.

As to why he and others in the extremely religious town thought this was a perfectly moral thing to do, well, the town was largely made up of Mormons who felt very strongly (and not really unjustified in this case) that the U.S. government had been oppressing them for years, and so taking money from Uncle Sam was no real crime.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
Isaiah Mays

On top of this, the individuals guarding the money were all black outside of Wham, as were many of the soldiers that were to be the recipients of the money once it was delivered. Thus in their view, to quote a contemporary article written on subject during the aftermath about the general sentiment of some in the town, “The n**ger soldiers would just waste the money on liquor, gambling, and whores, so why not take it and use it to the benefit of a community that really needed some cash…”

And so it was that when seven suspected members of the robbers were tried for the robbery, community members were seemingly stepping over themselves to give them an alibi (with 165 witnesses testifying in all).

On top of that, the original judge, William H. Barnes, had to be removed from the case when it was discovered he was not only a friend of one of the accused, but also was actively intimidating witnesses for the prosecution. This all ultimately resulted in U.S. President Benjamin Harrison himself stepping in and appointing a new judge, Richard E. Sloan.

In the end, despite many of those called in defense of the robbers completely contradicting themselves, eye witness testimony identifying a few of the men, and that some of them, including Mayor Gilbert Webb, were found in possession of stolen gold coins, all were ultimately acquitted for the crime. Deputy William Breakenridge summed up the reason- “the Government had a good case against them, but they had too many friends willing to swear to an alibi, and there were too many on the jury who thought it no harm to rob the Government.”

It should be noted, however, that several of the accused, including Mayor Webb, would later in their lives be convicted of other theft-related crimes, including Webb having to flee town when he was indicted for stealing $160 ($4400 today) from the Pima school district. (We should also probably mention that Webb actually left his former home in Utah to settle in Pima because he was under charges for grand larceny…)

In the years that have passed since the famed robbery, numerous legends have arisen about where exactly the money ended up, including several that posit that the money is still buried somewhere out there in the Arizona desert. However, given none of those who committed the robbery were convicted and it would seem much of the money was used by Mayor Webb to pay off debts around town, as well as forgive the debts of some of the men who helped him in the robbery, this seems extremely unlikely.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

The nuclear-powered submarine. Ultra-advanced stealth bombers and fighters. These all represent the most lethal weapons in the U.S. military’s mighty arsenal — and they might soon all be close to obsolete

Well, at least if certain technological trends bear fruit, according to a number of think-tank reports, research studies, and in-depth essays that have been published over the last year.

America’s Carriers vs. China’s Missiles: Who Wins?

And while it might not all come to pass, or at least not right away and certainly not all at once, the trend lines are clear: America’s military, if it wants to retain its unrivaled dominance on the battlefields of the future, will need to do a great deal of soul searching and investment to <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/pay-attention-america-russia-upgrading-its-military-15094" title=" maintain its edge over nations like Russia” target=”_blank”>maintain its edge over nations like Russia, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/pentagon-lays-out-challenge-posed-by-chinas-growing-military-might-1402005458" title=" China” target=”_blank”>China, and many others in the years to come.

The aircraft carrier, a symbol of American naval and overall power projection capabilities, <a href="http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2016/02/stop-the-navy-aircraft-carrier-plan-000036-000036" title=" seems under the most threat of being rendered a relic of the past” target=”_blank”>seems under the most threat of being rendered a relic of the past. Almost every week, a new report casts a dark shadow on the future of this important U.S. military asset.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

The newly developed DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.


Take, for example, the recent report released by the Center for New American Security (CNAS) smartly titled, “Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers.” <a href="http://www.cnas.org/SaylerKelley" title=" Author Kelley Sayler” target=”_blank”>Author Kelley Sayler, an associate fellow at CNAS, argues that “the short, medium, and long-range threats to the carrier–including SAMs and other anti-access/area denial capabilities (A2/AD), in which China is investing heavily” will create a situation where American carriers “will not be able to act with impunity in the event of future conflict.” As Sayler explains in great detail in her report, carriers”will face a dense and growing threat across their full range of operations as A2/AD systems continue to proliferate. Operating the carrier in the face of increasingly lethal and precise munitions will thus require the United States to expose a multibillion-dollar asset to high levels of risk in the event of a conflict. Indeed, under such circumstances, an adversary with A2/AD capabilities would likely launch <a href="http://thediplomat.com/2013/02/missile-defenses-real-enemy-math/" title=" a saturation attack” target=”_blank”>a saturation attack against the carrier from a variety of platforms and directions. Such an attack would be difficult — if not impossible — to defend against.”

And as Slater points out, <a href="http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/CNAS%20Carrier_Hendrix_FINAL.pdf" title=" China is increasingly able to target U.S. carriers at range (and well past the ability of their carrier strike aircraft to safely attack from out of range” target=”_blank”>China is increasingly able to target U.S. carriers at range (and well past the ability of their carrier strike aircraft to safely attack from out of range):

“China appears intent upon increasing its ASBM [anti-ship ballistic missile] capabilities further and, at a recent military parade commemorating the end of World War II, revealed that it may have an ASBM variant of a substantially longer-range missile — <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/chinas-2500-mile-range-carrier-killer-missile-nuclear-threat-14669" title="the DF-26” target=”_blank”>the DF-26. As with the DF-21D, estimates of the capabilities of the DF-26 vary widely; however, it is thought to have a range of 1,620 to 2,160 nm and to have both conventional and nuclear warheads. If accurate and operational, this system would give China the ability to strike targets within the second island chain – including those in and around the U.S. territory of Guam – as well as those throughout the entirety of the Bay of Bengal. In the event of a wider conflict, these systems could also reach targets throughout much, if not all, of the Arabian Sea.”

As for America’s nuclear-powered submarine force, the threats to its continued dominance in undersea warfare seem a little more further off, but nonetheless, something that must be planned for.

Once again, the Washington-based think-tank universe provides us some important clues concerning the challenges ahead. <a href="http://csbaonline.org/publications/2015/01/undersea-warfare/" title=" In a report by the always smart Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments” target=”_blank”>In a report by the always smart Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), as well as in a follow on piece in this publication partly excerpted below, CSBA Senior Fellow Bryan Clark <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/are-submarines-about-become-obsolete-12253" title=" lays out the challenge to America’s submarine force” target=”_blank”>lays out the challenge to America’s submarine force:

“Since the Cold War, submarines, particularly quiet American ones, have been considered largely immune to adversary A2/AD capabilities. But the ability of submarines to hide through quieting alone will decrease as each successive decibel of noise reduction becomes more expensive and as new detection methods mature that rely on phenomena other than sounds emanating from a submarine. These techniques include lower frequency active sonar and non-acoustic methods that detect submarine wakes or (at short ranges) bounce laser or light-emitting diode (LED) light off a submarine hull. The physics behind most of these alternative techniques has been known for decades, but was not exploited because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine. Today, ‘big data’ processing enables advanced navies to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time to exploit these detection techniques. As they become more prevalent, they could make some coastal areas too hazardous for manned submarines.”

From there the problem gets worse. Clark’s CSBA report sees even more problems ahead:

“New sensors and related improvements to torpedo seekers could enable completely new approaches to finding and attacking submarines. Most significantly, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces could shift away from today’s skill and labor-intensive tactics that result from the short detection range of sensors that are precise enough to support ASW engagements. This limitation requires ASW ships and aircraft to methodically search a wide area for a submarine, then track it until they can get within weapons range for an attack. New sensor and seeker capabilities could instead enable a “fire and forget” approach in which ASW forces detect a submarine at long range and apply computer processing to obtain enough precision for an attack using long-range missiles with torpedo warheads. This kind of attack may not sink the submarine, but would likely compel it to at least evade, breaking its initiative and making it more detectable.”

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Two F-22As in close trail formation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Ben Bloker)

RIP Stealth?

Finally, we come to America’s growing fleet of stealth fighters and long-range bombers. It seems advances in new types of radars could provide the targeting information needed to take down some of Washington’s most advanced aircraft — and most expensive.

As National Interest Defense Editor, <a href="https://twitter.com/davemajumdar" title=" Dave Majumdar” target=”_blank”>Dave Majumdar, points out, “China appears to be building a new high-frequency radar on an artificial feature in the Spratly Islands that could allow Beijing to track even the stealthiest American warplanes, including the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and even the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit.” He explains, in greater detail, that:

“While the system is called a <a href="http://ece.wpi.edu/radarcourse/Radar%202010%20PDFs/Radar%202009%20A_7%20Radar%20Cross%20Section%201.pdf" title=" high-frequency (HF) radar—that’s bit of a misnomer. HF radars actually operate on low frequencies relative to the VHF, UHF, L, S, C, X” target=”_blank”>high-frequency (HF) radar—that’s bit of a misnomer. HF radars actually operate on low frequencies relative to the VHF, UHF, L, S, C, X and Ku bands, which are more typically used by military radars. These low frequencies have <a href="http://www.radartutorial.eu/01.basics/Rayleigh-%20versus%20Mie-Scattering.en.html" title=" waves that are several meters long” target=”_blank”>waves that are several meters long and, consequently, most stealth aircraft show up on HF radar. In order to defeat low frequency radar, a stealth aircraft has to eliminate features like fins, which is why the flying-wing shape is the best way available to avoid detection. That is because there is an <a href="http://news.usni.org/2014/04/21/stealth-vs-electronic-attack" title=" omnidirectional resonance” target=”_blank”>omnidirectional resonance effect that occurs when a feature on an aircraft — such as a tail-fin — is less than <a href="http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-can-chinas-radars-track-americas-stealth-f-22-15261" title=" eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. As a result, there is a step change in radar” target=”_blank”>eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. As a result, there is a step change in radar cross section once that threshold is exceeded. Since every stealth aircraft currently in America’s fleet exceeds that threshold — even the B-2 is not large enough to avoid most HF radars — every U.S. aircraft would show up on the Chinese radar. Indeed — all stealth aircraft will show up at some frequency.”

How Should America Respond?

So what is Washington doing about the threats listed above?

First off, when it comes to America’s carriers, it should be noted that no one really knows how deadly China’s anti-ship missiles, especially at long-ranges, would be in a real firefight. For example, can Beijing find a U.S. carrier in the massive Pacific Ocean? Can they defeat American missile defenses? And as for the case of the dangers poised to advanced submarines, at least as of now, such threats are more on the drawing board than a clear and present danger. As for the challenges posed to stealth, that seems a more realistic and present-day challenge U.S. officials will have to deal with. (<a href="http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-can-chinas-radars-track-americas-stealth-f-22-15261" title="They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak” target=”_blank”>They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak.)

However, there is a clear recognition in the Pentagon that America’s chief competitors, <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/24/chinese-russian-subs-increasingly-worrying-the-pentagon/" title=" namely great power challengers like China and Russia” target=”_blank”>namely great power challengers like China and Russia, are catching up to many of the U.S. military’s chief abilities to project power <a href="http://breakingdefense.com/2015/09/russians-in-syria-building-a2ad-bubble-over-region-breedlove/" title=" or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities” target=”_blank”>or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities. While the Obama Administration’s recent budget request does smartly increase funding for research and development, I can’t help but wonder if such investments might be too little, too late. There is also the very real possibility that a new administration will have its own priorities, slowing down or possibly canceling any modernization efforts that could make a real difference. In fact, members on Capitol Hill seem to take such a possibility seriously. As <a href="https://joewilson.house.gov/" title=" Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)” target=”_blank”>Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee, recently explained,

“This budget request is a good step in tackling the modernization challenges of the Department. Activities like the Third Offset Strategy and the Long Range Research and Development Plan are important to charting a course that takes a strategic view of the security environment; however, I remain concerned that it is too little too late. As I see it, starting major initiatives at the end of an administration makes it difficult to ensure that these things will survive the new budgetary and policy priorities that will naturally arise with a new President. I hope I am wrong, since I support many of the things being proposed in this budget request, but only time will tell.”

Indeed, only time will tell.

(This article first appeared in February 2016 and is being reposted due to reader interest)

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US’ top tech CEO says AI is more dangerous than nukes

Elon Musk, the tech billionaire who wants to colonize Mars, is seriously worried about advances in artificial intelligence.


Speaking during a QA at the SXSW film festival and tech conference in Austin, Texas, on March 11, 2018, Musk said the two things that stress him most in life right now are production difficulties with the Tesla Model 3 electric car and the dangers of AI.

“I’m really quite close, very close to the cutting edge in AI. It scares the hell out of me,” Musk said. “It’s capable of vastly more than almost anyone on Earth, and the rate of improvement is exponential.”

Musk cited Google’s AlphaGo, a software powered by AI that can play the ancient Chinese board game Go, as evidence of the rise of the machine. In early 2017, AlphaGo clinched a decisive win over the number-one player of Go, the world’s most demanding strategy game.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
AlphaGo. (Photo by Kenming Wang)

Musk also predicted that advances in AI will let self-driving cars handle “all modes of driving” by the end of 2019. He said he thinks Tesla’s Autopilot 2.0 will be “at least 100 to 200%” safer than human drivers within two years. Musk imagines drivers can sleep at the wheel someday.

Also read: This is what Elon Musk had to say at a Marine ball

The rate of improvement excites and worries Musk. He expressed a need for regulating AI development to ensure the safety of humanity, but he didn’t say who should regulate it.

“I think the danger of AI is much bigger than the danger of nuclear warheads by a lot,” Musk said. “Nobody would suggest we allow the world to just build nuclear warheads if they want, that would be insane. And mark my words: AI is far more dangerous than nukes.”

Musk wants to create a Plan B society on Mars

Musk has a backup plan in case nuclear war — or AI — wipes out the human race.

The SpaceX founder wants to put 1 million people on Mars as a sort of Plan B society. He told the crowd at SXSW that it would be ideal to get the base operational before a World War III-type event happens.

Related: What life will be like for the first colonists on Mars

In the event of nuclear devastation, Musk said, “we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages. I think that’s why it’s important to get a self-sustaining base, ideally on Mars, because it’s more likely to survive than a moon base.”

Musk has yet to detail exactly how hypothetical Mars colonists will survive for months or years on end.

Articles

Congress and the Air Force are in a tiff over who will manage a space war

The Air Force is mired in a political war on multiple fronts. on one side, it’s fighting new legislation to create a “Space Corps,” on the other, it’s feuding with other service branches over who will take the lead on space operations.


House lawmakers advanced a proposal in late June to hand the Air Force’s current responsibilities outside of Earth’s atmosphere over to a newly-created Corps. The Corps would serve as a unified authority over satellites and spacecraft under U.S. Strategic Command.

The legislation would establish a new U.S. Space Command and make the new chief of the Space Corps the eighth member of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
A remote block change antenna designated as POGO-Charlie, operated by Detachment 1, 23rd Space Operations Squadron at Thule Air Base, Greenland July 26, 2016. Detachment 1 provides vital support to Schriever and the Air Force Satellite Control Network, providing telemetry, tracking and command technologies. (Courtesy Photo)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson opposes a Space Corps on grounds it would make the military “more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart and cost more money.” The Navy is also opposed to a Space Corps, but only because they want to take a lead role in space operations, arguing they could resemble operations at sea.

The inter-service feud over future space operations has experts thinking about whether or not any branch of the U.S. military is prepared to lead in that theater.

“The challenge here is that neither service is 100 percent ready to fight a true war in space,” Harry J. Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “While the Air Force and Navy have assets that certainly have applications towards space, waging war in what is still technically a new and challenging domain is asking a lot.”

The military uses satellites for a variety of tasks from navigation to spying and missile defense. Threats against satellites have largely been an afterthought in today’s asymmetric wars against technologically-lacking terror cells, according to a report published in August by the U.S. National Academies.

Satellites are vulnerable to weapons rival military powers, like Russia or China, are developing, according to Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command. China destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007, and likely tested a ground-based missile launch system to destroy orbiting objects in 2013.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
Artist rendering of an experimental U.S. military space plane. (Photo from DARPA)

“We must remember, if war were ever to break out with a near-peer competitors like Russia or China, U.S. military forces would be fighting in all domains — land, air, sea, space and cyberspace,” Kazianis said. “Winning in one domain will have consequences and pressure for the other services.”

Some experts think creating an entirely new military bureaucracy could be expensive and add to the current confusion.

“What would make the most sense is for the Navy and Air Force to work together and avoid inter-service rivalry on this important issue,” Kazianis said.

This wouldn’t be the first time branches of the military competed brutally for access to space. During the Cold War space race with the Soviet Union, the U.S. armed services competed among themselves to develop advanced rockets. This inter-service rivalry led to some early confusion and duplication, according to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Though some argue a Space Corps could oversee U.S. grand strategy in space, selecting one of the current military branches to lead space operations could be counterproductive.

“We need a service that understands that its core mission is to provide such services to all of our armed forces, to be able to deny them to any adversary, and to protect all American space assets, whether military or civilian,” Dr. Robert Zubrin, a scientist who has written about space warfare and developed NASA’s mission plan to visit Mars, told TheDCNF.

“I don’t see any of the three current armed services being able to comprehensively grasp and prioritize that mission. An officer rises to the top in the Army, Navy or Air Force by leading troops, ships or aircraft into battle. They do not do so by developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to seize and retain space supremacy,” Zubrin said.

The Air Force and Navy adopted a joint “AirSea Battle” concept doctrine in 2010, renamed Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC) in 2015.

“Ultimately, we need to get out of the mindset of ‘this is my turf’ and think about fighting the wars of the future with a multi-domain mindset,” Kazianis said. “This is why the military must push forward on things like AirSea Battle’s successor, JAM-GC. This is the only way to win the wars of the future.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A box of gear from Alpha Outpost for the tactical vet in your life

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For a gift of gear that keeps on giving:

~ The tactical subscription service designed by the guy behind Grunt Style ~

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

“If you’re not selling, you’re not in business. You’re just busy.”

Daniel Alarik, Cigars and Sea Stories Podcast

 

As we’ve reported, thoroughly, from previous fun encounters with Grunt Style founder, Daniel Alarik, the man is a force in the vetrepreneurial sector.

After all, he created one of the premier purveyors of patriotic apparel, standing tall in an extremely crowded field. Alarik and his team didn’t stop at clothing design, however.

Alarik ventured directly into another competitive field: the tactical monthly subscription box sector. His offering: Alpha Outpost.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Now, we’re not sure how familiar you are with the bizarre and extensive youTube subculture of subscription box unboxing videos, but believe us when we tell you, folks out there are effing intense about the quality, uniqueness, and overall wow-factor of the various, competing tactical gift boxes they receive in the mail every month.  Suffice to say, the average subscription box customer is a difficult dude to please.

Alpha Outpost must be doing something right. They made over $8 million dollars in revenue in their first year of operation.

The skills Alarik acquired and the systems he perfected through the hard years of launching Grunt Style certainly account for some of Alpha Outpost’s success. But a greater share is surely due to the sheer thoughtfulness evident in each of their monthly offerings.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Every month’s box has a theme and that theme poses a problem. The tools in the box make up part of the solution. The other part comes as a result of the skills you build by putting those tools to use as you work through specific challenges Alpha Outpost poses.

They’re not just sending you gear. They’re trying to make you better.

Knowing Alarik’s trajectory, it makes perfect sense that self-improvement lies at the heart of any gift you receive from his his company.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

As the CEO of two multi-million dollar, veteran-oriented companies, Alarik views kicking ass as a skill that anyone with the right tools can build. In his view, military experience isn’t a magic bullet for veteran success, but it provides a damn fine head start.

Check out the full Cigars and Sea Stories interview with Daniel Alarik and tell us you can’t think of someone who’d love to get a new box of ass-kicking tools every month from Alpha Outpost.

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Articles

CIA deflects criticism after live-Tweeting bin-Laden raid to mark 5th anniversary

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
Quick . . . how many WATM board members are in this picture? (Photo: White House)


The Central Intelligence Agency on Monday defended live-tweeting the U.S. military raid that killed Osama bin Laden to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the covert mission.

The Langley, Virginia-based agency the day before had posted a series of tweets chronicling key moments during the May 2, 2011, raid by Navy SEALs on the terrorist leader’s home in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

“1:25 pm EDT-@POTUS, DCIA Panetta, JSOC commander Admiral McRaven approve execution of op in Abbottabad,” it tweeted, referring to the local time the go-ahead was given by President Barack Obama, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta and then-Joint Special Operations Commander Navy Adm. William McRaven.

The agency’s decision to do so came under fire from many observers on Twitter and other social media sites.

One of those was Phillip Carter, a former Army officer who served in Iraq and now works as a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington, D.C., where he directs the organization’s military, veterans and society research program.

“I get @CIA desire to take victory lap but tweeting #UBLRaid seems contrary to Intel Community ethos good judgment,” Carter tweeted.

But the intelligence agency defended the move.

“The takedown of bin Ladin [sic] stands as one of the great intelligence successes of all time,” Glenn Miller, a spokesman for the CIA, said in an emailed statement to Military.com, using a different spelling for bin Laden. “History has been a key element of CIA’s social media efforts. On the fifth anniversary, it is appropriate to remember the day and honor all those who had a hand in this achievement.”

Miller added, “In the past we have done postings to note other historical events including the Glomar operation, Argo, U-2 shootdown, and the evacuation of Saigon.”

In an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” show, CIA Director John Brennan said the raid on bin Laden’s compound less than a mile from Pakistan’s prestigious military academy represented “the culmination of a lot of very hard work by some very good people at CIA and other agencies.”

He added, “We have destroyed a large part of al-Qaeda. It is not completely eliminated, so we have to stay focused on what it can do. But now with this new phenomenon of ISIL, this is going to continue to challenge us in the counterterrorism community for years to come.”

He was referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, which overtook large parts of both countries following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in late 2011 and the start of civilian uprisings in Syria against the regime of President Bashar al Assad.

Brennan said killing bin Laden was an important victory for the U.S. in both a symbolic and strategic sense, given that he was the founder of the terrorist group and a key player in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

“It was important after 9/11 that we remove the person responsible for that,” he said.

While Brennan said eliminating ISIS’ leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, “would have a great impact on the organization,” he also called the al-Qaeda offshoot a “phenomenon” that appeals to tens of thousands of followers in not only Syria and Iraq, but also Libya, Nigeria and elsewhere in part because of endemic corruption and a lack of governance and economic opportunity in those regions.

“Although the counterterrorism community has an important obligation to try to prevent these attacks, we need to give the diplomats and other government officials both here in this country and other countries the time and space they need to address some of these underlying factors and conditions that facilitate and contribute to the growth of these organizations,” he said.

Brennan also pushed back against a recommendation from former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat from Florida who helped lead a congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks, to release a 28-page chapter from the investigation that may help determine whether the attackers received Saudi support.

“I think there’s a combination of things that are accurate and inaccurate,” Brennan said of information in the pages in question. “I think that the 9/11 Commission took that joint inquiry and those 28 pages or so and followed through on the investigation and they came out with a very clear judgment that there was no evidence that indicated that the Saudi government as an institution or Saudi officials individually had provided financial support to al Qaeda.”

Articles

One of NATO’s most deployed anti-air missiles is getting a major upgrade

The ground-based version of the AIM-120 Sparrow air-to-air missile just got a major upgrade as Raytheon announced that it has successfully tested a new engine and enhanced fire distribution center that gives the system a much longer range and higher maximum altitude, according to a company press release.


Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
An AMRAAM-Extended Range missile is shot from a NASAMS launcher. The missile successfully engaged and destroyed a target drone during a flight test at the Andoya Space Center in Norway. (Photo: courtesy Raytheon Company)

Used by militaries around the world, the system is designed to bring down helicopters, jets, and even cruise missiles. Basically, it’s an oozlefinch with an “If it flies, it dies” mentality.

The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System uses the AIM-120 air-to-air missile, also known as the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, but fires it from tubes parked on the ground. The new version of the missile borrows the engine from the Navy’s Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.

This new engine, combined with better flight control, allows the AMRAAM-Extended Range to engage targets at a 50 percent longer range and 70 percent higher altitude than it used to be capable of. The exact range of AMRAAM-ER has not been released, but the Evolved Sea Sparrow can engage targets at over 30 miles away when fired from a ship.

Already popular in NATO, the NASAMS is designed for low and medium-altitude air defense. Norway was the first adopter and helped develop it under the name “Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System,” and the system is deployed by U.S. forces and five other countries.

The U.S. uses NASAMS to defend Washington D.C. from aerial attack and typically deploys Patriots, Stingers, and other air defense assets elsewhere in the world.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Exclusive interview: Army nurse on how COVID has affected the MOS

Martine Caraballo comes from five generations of military service. Her father is a Purple Heart Vietnam veteran. She was raised on Treasure Island, Florida and served four years in the Marine Corps as a Comm Center Operator. Caraballo served 10 years in the US Army as a 68W Combat Medic with ASI (Additional Skill Identifier) of M6/LPN. As an Iraq War veteran, she Deployed to Iraq in 2009-2010. She was among 39 Soldiers selected for the AMEDD Enlisted Commissioning Program (AECP).

Martine Caraballo with her father, a Vietnam Vet.
Martine Caraballo with her father, a Vietnam Vet.

In March 2013, Caraballo was commissioned as a 66H in the Army Nurse Corps. In her spare time she has run five Marine Corps Marathons. She is eager for the age of COVID to pass so she can run marathons once again. Currently, she is retired from the military and working in telemetry and COVID floors at Bay Pines V.A. in St Petersburg, FL. Caraballo’s sons are in the Army; one is a Medic and the other an Artilleryman.

WATM: Your career is a success story to all enlisted who dream of going Green to Gold. What was it like to become a commissioned officer and a nurse?

Well, first off it was a big sigh of relief after years of pushing myself to get this goal. The biggest take away is that persistence pays off. When I joined the Army I had this goal in mind for the Army Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program. I achieved many goals, got married and everything. I had a timeline mapped out because I needed it to happen before a certain age before commissioning. There were some setbacks from the beginning; I had a shoulder injury because of that I had to go back to the combat medic school. When I was in school, I was the platoon leader. For some people who are prior service, especially Marines, they really like to have them as platoon leaders. I graduated with honors with a 300+ PT score and then I did the LPN course. I chose to keep my LPN option because Airborne was dangled in front of me and I really wanted to do that – jump out of planes would be a lot of fun but I had to keep with my timeline. I had to be practical because an LPN gives you more job options than jump wings, right? (laughs)

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

I finished LPN school and arrived at Fort Bragg for my first duty station. What I did to get the college courses that were prerequisites for the nursing program, I made a deal with my boss. I said ‘Hey, I’ll work tuition assistance to pay for my school – I just had to buy my books. I would work 12 hour shifts and then do a class, go to sleep and do it all over again.’ It was exhausting but after a few eight-week semesters I had the credits I needed to apply for the nursing program and the AECP program. Then I got accepted into three universities: University of Texas, El Paso, UNC Pembrook and East Carolina University. I chose ECU because it was the closest to my family and they are very military friendly. I was accepted as an alternate because I had one more class to do. So, I was working on that when I had another setback – I got deployed.

I got 18 days’ notice because someone else couldn’t do it [due to] health reasons, so, I had to take over someone’s spot. I had 18 days to put everything in storage, do predeployment training with a new unit where I know nobody, and I had to explain the situation to the university. I paid for them to hold my seat until I returned from deployment before my classes start. That was the great thing, they seated classes in the fall and spring, so, there wasn’t much of a delay.

I was working against time. I passed my boards and got commissioned five weeks before the time cut off because of my age. It was a big sigh of relief to achieve that goal.

WATM: What new challenges has COVID-19 presented to the MOS vs civilian nurses?

Well, I transitioned over to the civilian side but sometimes I still wish I was active duty. When you’re active duty you don’t have to deal with issues with non-compliant individuals as we do in the private sector. When they say ‘wear the mask’ you wear the mask on active duty. On the civilian side we get a lot of hatred and nastiness from people who are being asked to wear it. What can you do?

Martine giving her sons oath of enlistment.
Martine giving her sons oath of enlistment.

It took a bit of adjusting to get used to taking care of a different population. Where I went from taking care of active duty with more trauma issues to an older population with more chronic health issues. Unfortunately, a lot of our vets have, uh, a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms. They have a lot of substance abuse issues, so that makes me a little sad. It was a shock to go from being an officer where there is respect at the workplace with the ‘yes, ma’am, no, ma’am’ to being physically and emotionally abused at work. Nurse abuse is real. I had to develop a tougher shell.

There are challenges on many different fronts. Patients can’t have visitors, so, that makes it hard on them. Help with them healing and having to wear the mask all day for 12 hours. You get the marks on your face, your glasses fall off or fog up, indentations on your face, and having to be very careful all the time. I work in a COVID unit and sometimes there isn’t enough PPE supplies going around and you have to wear your mask for longer than what would be the ideal amount of time you’re supposed to wear it. You just worry about catching it and bringing it home. I keep sanitizer in my car, I spray my shoes and I’m super careful. This challenge is for everybody.

WATM: What advice would you give to others pursuing a military career in nursing?

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Leave no stone unturned when looking for opportunities such as cross training in other specialties. For a new graduate nurse, it’s hard to get a job because they want you to have experience. So, you’re stuck in a catch 22. You can’t get experience because they won’t give you experience. In the Army we had the Brigadier General Hays Program, and it gave us six months where we follow a nurse around, first we watch then we gradually take on a patient and then another patient until you’re taking on a full load and graduating to the floor. Being thrown to the wolves, you know? (laughs)

You have the chance to work with other services and I really recommend it. They help pay for the school, they give you the training, you’re a commissioned officer – what’s not to like? (laughs)

WATM: What can the population do to better support nurses in their mission?

Pretty simple: wearing a mask and avoiding large groups. Healthcare workers are feeling frustration and fatigue with those who are willing and knowingly going to the top three modes of transmission which are: going to bars or restaurants, gyms, and places of worship. They get sick and then want treatment. It is hard to not get irritated when ‘you didn’t care for your health, so, why should we care for your health?’ (laughs). You know its frustrating for healthcare workers to risk their health and their family’s health for people who want to have a beer in a bar instead of at home.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

I hear people say, ‘I went golfing without a mask’ and now you got two of your buddies sick and they wished they wore the mask because now they really can’t breathe. Another one I hear is ‘I had some friends over to play cards.’ I say ‘Did you wear a mask and use hand sanitizer?’

‘No.’

They can’t say the word hasn’t been getting out. It’s been advertised all over TV and the news, so, if people haven’t figured out how to be safe right now then (puts hands up in the air).

I understand people have COVID fatigue and they want to go out and you miss socializing. We have the vaccine coming, so, just hang in there. It’s coming. Hang in there a little bit longer and by the end of this year we should be able to go out and do more things once we get closer to herd immunity.

WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to the military audience?

A lot of the VA’s do Homeless Stand Downs where they have folks come and try to assist veterans with legal and homelessness issues. They have clothes bins where people are able to donate clothes and whatever, they have other bins. There really is a need for mental health assistance, health providers have their hands full. I see fellas get off active duty and they kinda get lost and lose their way. They don’t have that paycheck every two weeks, they don’t have healthcare, they don’t have that barracks. Maybe they didn’t get the skills they needed in the military that translate to a good job on the outside. Make sure you have a plan before you leave; go to school or have a job lined up and everything. It’s not easy on the outside, rent is going up. Dental care, you’ll really miss that. That’s all I can say about that, really.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Use those benefits. For example, in Florida if you’re 100% disabled you get a tax break on property tax. That’s great! (laughs) Apply for the VA, you can apply for disability benefits up to 90 days before your ETS/EAS. So, get the ball rolling because it may take a couple months. Look into the other benefits that different states offer. In Florida, I think if you’re 100% rated you can get your license plate at no extra cost, so, look into it.

Stay in your fitness routine! People get out of the service and they stop working out.

Uh oh, I feel personally attacked here!

(we laugh) I call it the civilian 15. When you first go to college you’re going to gain some weight (laughs).

Articles

How the Chinese used a Badger bomber to send Trump a message

After feeling slighted by President-elect Donald Trump’s accepting a phone call from Taiwanese president Ing-wen Tsai, the Beijing sent a little message of its own.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the People’s Liberation Army sent an H-6 Badger bomber, a plane in the inventories of both the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy, on a mission over the South China Sea to assert China’s claims in the maritime hot spot.

The bomber, which can carry nuclear weapons or long-range missiles, is a copy of the Soviet-era Tu-16 Badger, a medium bomber now out of service in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
A H-6 Badger bomber. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Around the time the bomber’s flight hit the news, the Daily Caller reported that Trump demanded that the Chinese “play by the rules.”

“They haven’t played by the rules, and I know it’s time that they’re going to start,” the president-elect said during an event in Des Moines, Iowa, where he introduced Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as his pick to be ambassador to China.

The Chinese Badger flew a path covering the so-called “Nine-Dash Line,” a demarcation of the country’s claims in the South China Sea. China’s claims were thrown out by a panel from the International Court of Justice, which issued a stinging rebuke.

It should be noted that China boycotted the process.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
Map of the ChiComs’ Nine-Dash Line (Illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinese military has built bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea, notably at Scarborough Shoal. From those bases, they have flown J-11 Flankers, a knockoff of the Su-27.

The Chinese have backed up their claims aggressively, resulting in close calls for Navy planes on some occasions.

One incident in May 2016 involved an EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane from the United States Navy. In 2014, a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close call with a J-11 that came very close.

The Department of Defense criticized China in the wake of these incidents.

Concern about an accident is very valid – in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback collided with an EP-3E on a surveillance mission. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, while the J-8 crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei.

The EP-3E crew was detained for ten days by the Chinese until a diplomatic solution was reached.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the first American to die in combat in Afghanistan after 9/11

Among the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks were members of the Central Intelligence Agency’s shadowy Special Activities Division, along with elite special operations personnel from the US military’s various branches.


Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
Mike Spann during operations in Afghanistan in 2001. (Photo from CIA)

Tragically, it would be one of the CIA’s Special Operations Group – the armed paramilitary branch of the SAD – who would be the first to lay down his life in the War on Terror, becoming the first American casualty in Afghanistan.

In November 2001, Johnny “Mike” Spann, an SOG operative, found himself at Qala-i-Jangi, a century-old fortress positioned near Mazar-i-Sharif, where hundreds of Taliban fighters were held prisoner by Afghan Northern Alliance militia, having been captured during the Siege of Kunduz that same month.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Spann was a graduate of Auburn University and a former Marine, having served six years as an artillery officer before being recruited to the CIA in 1999. He later went on to join the SAD’s SOG soon afterwards, delving deeper into the world of black operations.

The CIA tasked Spann and another officer – an Uzbek language specialist – with interrogating the captives to glean intelligence on Taliban and Al Qaeda activity. The prisoners, as one might expect, were extremely uncooperative, and were additionally very poorly screened by their Afghan captors.

In a matter of minutes, the situation devolved into chaos.

A number of the prisoners rebelled against their captors, pulling out hidden hand grenades and detonating them in suicide attacks. Prisoners crowded around Spann during his questioning session began lunging at the SOG officer.

Spann and a fellow CIA operative immediately brought their guns to bear – the former pulling a pistol, and the latter grabbing an AK-47 from a Northern Alliance guard. In the blink of an eye, Spann was mobbed from all sides and disappeared under a mass of Taliban fighters, while his colleague attempted to make his way to his fallen comrade.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
Northern Alliance troops in 2001 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Reports estimate that Spann put down anywhere between three to seven enemy fighters with his pistol, before succumbing to the onslaught. The remaining CIA officer systematically dropped more Taliban fighters who had, by now, killed a number of Northern Alliance troops and took possession of their weapons, before running over to warn Red Cross and other civilian workers in the area to escape.

After contacting US diplomatic services in Uzbekistan, a quick reaction force consisting of American and British special forces hailing from Task Force Dagger was assembled and deployed to the area. The QRF established contact with the sole remaining CIA agent, while digging in for a long fight.

American fighter aircraft were directed to drop smart bombs on the fortress, while a pair of AC-130 Spectre gunships, operating under the cover of night, arrived on station, pounding the resistance into submission with concentrated fire.

After a two-day siege, the fort was retaken and most of rebels had escaped to the fort’s main dungeon.

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty
A memorial to Spann, built at Qala-i-Jangi (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The prisoners holed up in the dungeon finally surrendered after it was flooded with cold dirty irrigation water from nearby fields. Spann’s body was recovered with care in the aftermath of the battle, having found to be booby trapped by Taliban fighters. Of the 300-500 Taliban prisoners taken captive at the fortress, only 86 were recaptured alive.

Spann’s remains were repatriated to the US , and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Intelligence Star – equivalent to a Silver Star – and the Exceptional Service Medallion.

Today, a memorial still stands today at Qala-i-Jangi, commemorating Spann – the first American casualty in Afghanistan post-9/11.

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