Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the U.S. Air Force needs to be ready to engage in space combat.
“Other nations are preparing to use space as a battlefield, a big battlefield, and we’d better be ready to fight there,” Welsh said last week in Arlington, Virginia. “We don’t want to fight there but we better be ready for it because other people clearly are posturing themselves to be able to do that.”
Welsh, who will be retiring on July 1 after just over 40 years of service, made his comments Thursday morning in Arlington, Virginia, at an Air Force Association breakfast.
His comment about space as a battlefield came in the context of what the U.S. needs to be able to do to win future fights.
One of the absolutes in modern warfare, he said, is firepower – “more of it, more quickly and more precisely.” And the Air Force needs to have that not only in the air domain but in cyber and space domains.
Welsh credited Air Force Space Command with taking the lead “in at least thinking about the space domain as a warfighting domain.”
But Space Command has been thinking about space warfare for quite some time.
In the 1990s, Air Force Gen. Joseph Ashy, then head of Space Command, told lawmakers that space would become a battleground, according to Air Force Maj. William L. Spacy II, who quoted Ashy in “Does the United States Need Space-Based Weapons?”
“Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue … but — absolutely — we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space,” Ashy said.
A 1967 Outer Space Treaty stipulates that space is to be used for peaceful purposes. Just what that means has never been defined, though the 1945 U.N. Charter defined “peaceful purposes” to include the inherent right of self-defense, Spacy wrote.
That freed up space-pioneering countries including the Soviet Union and the U.S. to place military communications and early-warning system satellites into space. But both also went farther than that, developing and testing – but never deploying – anti-satellite weapons before and after the 1967 treaty was adopted.
But in recent years the idea of space engagements has grown more real as both China and the U.S. successfully demonstrated the capability to take out a satellite with a weapon.
China destroyed one of its own weather satellites with an anti-satellite weapon in 2007. A year later the U.S. took down one of its own damaged satellites using a SM-3 missile fired from the USS Lake Erie.
The US Marine Corps is developing a new concept of naval warfare to allow Marines to take South China Sea islands from Beijing in the context of a massive missile fight in the Pacific.
Marine Corps leaders at the Surface Navy Association’s annual national symposium told USNI News that today’s naval protocol wasn’t what the force was looking for to take on China’s Pacific fortress.
China has spent years dredging up the sea floor to build artificial islands in the South China Sea, an international waterway.
Despite promising never to militarize the islands and losing an international arbitration case concluding they did not own the islands, China has enforced de facto control over the vital shipping lane that sees trillions in annual trade.
U.S. Marines assigned to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion observe the approach of amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) during well deck operations aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25). Somerset is participating in Exercise Dawn Blitz 2015 (DB-15).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos)
Taking Beijing’s islands is central to those plans, US Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Coffman said, according to USNI News.
Coffman said “integrated naval operations could be needed to take an island somewhere — natural or manmade,” in a likely reference to Beijing’s man-made South China Sea outposts.
“It certainly will be required when a great power competition pits a whale against an elephant, or maybe two elephants — a global maritime power, that’s us, against a regional land power hegemon with home-field advantage,” he continued, again referencing China as an “elephant,” or a land power that the US, a “whale” or maritime power would have to overcome.
“In that long war, maritime superiority is necessary but not sufficient for the whale to beat the elephant,” he said.
In other words, the US Navy and Marines can’t just win the fight with better sea power, they will also need to make landings.
But those landings will have to be made under a massive missile attack.
The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) conducts flight operations near the island of Hawaii, July 30, 2016.
The South China Sea now hosts a vast network of radars that experts say could be used to track and kill US naval aviation, even the stealth kind.
Additionally, a recent study that looked at carrier survivability at the Heritage Foundation revealed that China could likely muster up 600 anti-ship missiles and that a carrier strike group could likely only down 450 of those fires.
As a result, Coffman said the normal three-ship Amphibious Ready Group and the accompanying a Marine Expeditionary Unit on small deck carriers would no longer cut it.
Up gunning the fleet
The solution? Up-gunning the small carriers and including destroyers and cruisers in the battle formation.
“Every ship has to be a warship that can defend itself, have an offensive striking capability and be able to deal with the threats that are coming in, be it a cyber threat – so it needs a good network – or whether it’s a kinetic threat in the form of a missile that’s coming at it,” Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault said, according to USNI.
Beaudreault suggested putting vertical lauch cells on new US Marine Corps helicopter and F-35B carriers to handle incoming threats, essentially turning these amphibious flattops into aircraft-carrying destroyers in their own right.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong is a leader in the Chinese Navy, a professor at Beijing’s National Defense University, Chief Weapons Specialist and Strategist, and what some call “the Head of the Strategic Fool You Agency.”
The last is a nickname he earned because Chinese Netizens came to realize quotes from Adm. Zhang would suddenly mean the opposite of his intent. He said the Chinese would use fishermen on wooden boats to take out the new Zumwalt-Class destroyers, as the Chinese commissioned their first aircraft carrier, when he also said the Chinese defense against U.S. submarines would be “ropes of seaweed” a threat the U.S. did not foresee. He also publicly claimed the Chinese were not developing a fifth-generation stealth jet right before the Chinese test piloted its J-20 fighter in May 2011.
Admiral Zhang once criticized U.S. media for overestimating the threat of Chinese power. He said China could not keep pace with the U.S.if it wanted to, which it doesn’t. He acknowledges the need to increase the strength of Chinese military, but only because of “provocation” from the United States.
“American media like to make claims about how fast China’s military will surpass the United States,” Zhang told Want China Times. “What I have to say is that China is not going to catch up with the United States even if it stopped all military projects.
The admiral publicly stated China should do everything in its power to protect Iran from U.S.-Israeli aggression, “even if it means a third world war.” In response to the U.S. deploying a laser weapon on the USS Ponce, he said he believes the smog covering Chinese cities are the best defense from laser weapons.
“Under conditions where there is no smog, a laser weapon can fire [at a range of] 10km (6 miles),” he said, adding, “When there’s smog, it’s only 1km. What’s the point of making this kind of weapon?”
Zhang “retired” from the PLAN in 2015 and is now the most well-known and most senior military commentator on China’s state television.
For the longest time, the GI Bill was one of the most effective recruiting incentives. Even for recruits who had no intention of using some of the many perks, the ability to pass it on to their spouses or children was a huge factor in deciding whether or not to enlist. For some U.S. troops, that benefit is at an end.
A new policy reported by Military Times shows that the Pentagon sees the transferability benefit as a recruiting tool and that those military members with more than 16 years of service are closer to retirement than they are to being a recruit. As a result, the Department of Defense will place a cap on transferring those benefits, clearly believing the possibility of retirement at 20 years is a much better retention incentive than giving a free education to military children.
The current policy states that any member with six years’ time in service can transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children as long as they serve another four years. That will not change. Members with 10 years of service also received transferability benefits even if they were unable to extend their service for any reason. That provision will also go away – unless the member was forced out due to force-shaping policies.
“The fact that nobody was consulted about this is alarming,” Paul Frost, a retired Navy captain who serves as MOAA’s program director for financial and benefits education, told Stars & Stripes. “What else is being discussed on the changes of this bill, which is one of the key benefits that a service member gets?”
Current service members will have until that year to decide their course of action. The new Forever GI Bill does not affect this new policy and all transfer requests must still be made while the service member is on active duty.
“As a matter of principle, The American Legion is against the curtailment of veterans’ earned benefits,” said American Legion spokesperson Joe Plenzler. “We understand the minimum time-in-service for transferability eligibility, and that makes sense from a retention perspective, but the 16-year transfer or lose rule makes no sense to us as DOD has articulated it and disadvantages the veteran when it comes to the full use of this earned benefit.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of We Are The Mighty.
Thank you for using your platform to highlight a societal ill that needs our national attention and action to address and improve matters pertaining to equal justice under the law. Many will take issue with the manner of your “protest” and may never entertain the issue at the heart of your statement. These fellow Americans may have a concern about the nature of your protest rather than the substance of your protest.
I applaud you for risking the sure backlash and knee-jerk disdain sure to come for any American who dares to highlight an issue during the National Anthem. Because you are not a professional protestor, your methods may be crude and course. Because you are a professional athlete, your words may not convey the precise intent of your protest. But because you are an American, you have the right to express your thought or voice in a manner available to you. Some will offer advice on how to protest in a manner that is less upsetting to them and their sensibilities.
This misses the point of social protest. It is to awaken those very sensibilities and highlight the moral deficit in our social fabric. There are not many avenues or ways for a social minority to highlight an issue to the majority. Our shared history, our American history is replete with examples worthy of outrage and protest that caused no action or discussion by the majority.
A notable example is the story of Emmet Till. Many are not aware that the injustice endured by the murder, disfigurement, mutilation and hatred visited on a 14-year-old boy and his family, were the chief impetus to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In short, this 14-year-old boy was kidnapped from his home and killed. The assailants were known and a mock trial held. No convictions were given.
Many will accuse you of nefarious motives and unpatriotic underpinnings. Many will look to dissect your background for failings to lessen your protest moment. Many will discount your intended message because of your delivery (manner and voice). And many will never look to address the intent of the protest because that is hard and dismissing is easy.
In addition, not having a difficult discussion is easier than acknowledging a perspective not shared. Said another way is that the experiences that are not shared by the majority are often deemed non-existent. My nation, our nation, needs to continue the work to improve our social fabric and the actions of its institutions and agents to better provide equal justice. America, in its history, has made great strides in integrating many cultures, religions, and traditions.
America has led the world in demonstrating democracy in action. America has often led the world in being a champion for human rights and dignity. America is the greatest nation in this world and remains a beacon of hope for many people enduring deep levels of oppression.
While your manner of protest is not what I or many others would choose, I support you in this effort to highlight the need for a national engagement on the issue of equal justice. To those reading this letter, this is a call for us work together to discuss the issue, understand the perspectives/history and bring ideas and solutions to improve our America. I love my country and stand ready to serve again. This is the work needed to push us forward in making our nation a “more perfect union.”
Arthur Billingsley is a retired Navy commander, graduateof the Naval Postgraduate School with a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Auburn University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering. He’s currently working as an IT professional in northern Florida.
Jericho Hill is a band created by Army veteran Steve Schneider and Navy corpsman McClain Potter. They began writing music together in 2012 while attending college, bonding over their military experiences.
True to form, they’ve just released a new EP that touches on themes of anger, mental health, and losing comrades and loved ones.
Loss comes up a lot for Jericho Hill — as it does for many veterans. One of their traditions during their shows is to dedicate a song to the fallen.
The EP, named Dvda@ the BB, contains three songs that demonstrate their diversity within the hard rock genre:
Devil in Disguise shows a bit of attitude with a taunting tempo and lyrics like “I’m from the land of the wicked ones, and I’ve come out to play.”
The second track, Fuel to the Fire, amps up the intensity both in instrumentals and tone: “You’re only adding fuel to the fire. Tonight we light the funeral pyre.”
Finally, there’s Sins of the Son, a mellow piece that starts with a confession and continues with questions: “What do you get out of running away? I don’t know.”
Jericho Hill is currently hustling, playing gigs in the Pacific Northwest, and planning their full album. Check them out on Facebook and let them know what you think of their new tracks.
Speaking of which, the EP is on Spotify (or other streaming services like iTunes, YouTube, and Pandora). We’ve also embedded it right here for you, because we’re cool like that:
An old sailor’s myth claims that any ship which fails to break a bottle of champagne during its christening ceremony is cursed forever.
This seemed to be exactly the case with the Soviet ballistic missile submarine K-19, later nicknamed “Hiroshima” by its crew after an accident in 1961 which almost resulted in a nuclear accident which would have rivaled the size and effect of Chernobyl, years later.
If it was any consolation to the horrified sailors who witnessed the champagne bottle bounce intact off the K-19’s stern during its induction ceremony, the sub was already thought to be cursed thanks to the deaths of a number of shipyard workers involved in its construction. Upon its acceptance to the Soviet Navy, its 35-year old captain, Nikolai Zateyev called the ship unfit for service, noting that the USSR’s rush to catch up to American submarine advances had caused the country to cut corners in designing its new vessels.
Regardless, the K-19 entered into active service and set sail on its maiden voyage in 1961, operating in the North Atlantic below the shipping lanes that crisscrossed the Atlantic. On the 4th of July — while millions of families made their way to parks to barbecue and watch fireworks in the United States — the K-19’s powerplant experienced a leak in its cooling system while the vessel was submerged southeast of Greenland.
If something wasn’t done to solve the cooling issue immediately, a nuclear meltdown would have followed, causing untold amounts of radiation to spew over the North Atlantic, and almost certainly travel over into Western Europe or even parts of Canada and the United States.
Zateyev ordered his crew to devise a “jury-rigged” cooling system, using scrounged-up parts and components of the submarine to re-route water into tubes around the reactors. In the meanwhile, members of the crew volunteered to go into the reactor spaces to attempt to fix the system, receiving fatal doses of radiation almost instantaneously.
None of the ship’s engineering crew would survive, and many more died from radiation poisoning in the years after the near-meltdown. Many of these sailors were later buried in lead coffins, quietly and away from the public eye.
According to David Miller in his book “Submarine Disasters,” a distress signal emitted from the K-19 was soon picked up by nearby American warships, whose crew offered to assist the stricken sub and her complement. However, Zateyev, worried about losing his ship to the United States — then the enemy during the height of the Cold War — decided instead to sail towards a nearby Soviet diesel submarine. That linkup allowed the K-19’s crew to offload safely.
In the aftermath of the near-catastrophe, the Soviet Navy sought to downplay the nature of the incident, forcing the crew of the K-19’s 1961 cruise to swear an oath of secrecy; violations would result in a lengthy stay at a gulag.
Nevertheless, a number were still decorated for bravery and their role in preventing what could have been an unmitigated disaster. Zateyev went on to serve in the Soviet Navy for another 25 years, passing away eventually from lung disease. The official report on the condition of the sick sailors stated that they were suffering from a form of mental illness.
That, however, wasn’t the end of K-19’s story. Now widely known throughout the Soviet Navy as “Hiroshima,” the ship was repaired and reentered into active duty.
In 1969, a collision with an American submarine disfigured Hiroshima, ending its patrol prematurely. In the 1970s, the submarine suffered a series of fires that killed 30 sailors and wounded scores more. The K-19 was clearly, by this point, living up to its curse.
The oath inflicted upon the 1961 cruise sailors was lifted after the fall of the Soviet Union, and what was once a closely-guarded secret was told to the world. In 2006, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev made public the courageousness of the crew in a letter to the Nobel Prize committee, nominating the survivors for a Nobel Peace Prize.
K-19 was finally retired from service in 1991 having been active for nearly 30 years, and accumulating hundreds of thousands of miles transiting through the world’s oceans. Instead of preserving the ship as a monument to the men who served aboard her, and had a hand in saving millions from nuclear poisoning, the Russian government elected to dismantle and dispose of the vessel, finally ridding its navy of the cursed ship.
As the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan continues following the U.S. withdrawal, thousands of Afghans have gathered at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul trying to escape the country. Aircrafts are cramming as many passengers as possible, with hopes of getting as many out as they can. For Americans in the states wanting to support the Afghans they worked with, the situation may seem impossible; especially with the August 31 withdrawal deadline. There are, however, some steps you can take to aid your colleagues in Afghanistan and help them get to the U.S.
1. Don’t post pictures of them on social media
The Taliban is not sympathetic to Afghans who supported American forces. Those who served as interpreters have been marked for death along with their families. On the 21st century battlefield, the Taliban has become adept at utilizing social media for propaganda, recruiting and targeting. Sharing pictures of Afghan interpreters who you worked with only puts them in greater danger as they make their escape from Afghanistan.
2. Guide them to the right program
There are a few ways for Afghans to leave the country. One of the most talked about is the Special Immigrant Visa. The requirements for SIV eligibility have changed recently, so it’s important to review them and determine whether or not your Afghan friend qualifies. If they don’t, they may be eligible for a Priority 2 designation. For Afghans who don’t qualify for SIV or P2, the best option is to go through the UN. The graphic above can help you determine which program they qualify for. Another important consideration is their actual documentation. Encourage your Afghan friends to upload their documents to the cloud rather than traveling with physical copies. Paper documents can make them an easier target for the Taliban if they are discovered.
3. Send their names to the right point of contact
Afghans seeking transportation at Kabul must be approved first. At this time, an official State Department list is being referenced by Americans on the ground to manifest Afghans onto flights. While Afghans can submit their information to the State Department for consideration, Americans can also submit it on their behalf. For those in the SIV program, submit full name, date of birth, passport/visa application case numbers, and in-country contact information like email address or cell phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org. For civilians or others who may be in danger, contact the State Department directly at ACTF@STATE.GOV.
4. Donate to support new arrivals
Afghans who are able to come to America have left everything behind to escape. Upon their arrival, they will need help settling in this new country and rebuilding their lives. No One Left Behind is the only nation-wide association of wartime allies in the US. They are dedicated to keeping America’s promise to Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who served side-by-side with American troops. You can donate to No One Left Behind and help them carry out their mission to evacuate Afghan SIVs and their families and support them in the US.
People are desperate, resources are stretched and time is running out. Our best bet in aiding our Afghan brothers and sisters is in following these steps.
Featured photo: U.S. Marine Cpl. Zach Switzer (right) and an interpreter stand with a village elder as U.S. Marines with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), conduct a cordon and search mission with Afghan national police in a village in Farah province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 2009. USMC Photo
Russia’s Defense Ministry has outlined draft legislation that would allow Russian forces to shoot down civilian passenger planes within the country’s airspace.
The draft document placed on the government’s list of proposed legislation says passenger planes that cross into Russian airspace without authorization and do not answer warning signals or respond to warning shots can be shot down if they are deemed to pose a threat of mass deaths, ecological catastrophe, or an assault on strategic targets.
U.S. Army units have reported about 3,000 M4 carbines have failed a safety inspection because of a potential glitch in the selector switch that could lead to unintended discharges, Military.com has learned.
The Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch was stuck in-between the semi and auto detents. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.
As of June 1, 2018, TACOM has received reports on about 50,000 weapons put through the updated functions check. Of that number, “about six percent,” or 3,000 weapons, failed, R. Slade Walters, a spokesman for TACOM, told Military.com.
” … We are flying near and within the weapons envelope of those that could test our dominance,” Carlisle explained in a statement.
“The lead we have is shrinking as our near peer adversaries, and countries with which they proliferate, have developed, likely stolen, and fielded state-of-the-art systems.”
Carlisle cited numerous factors, such as limited resources, in the stagnating state of combat readiness. According to the Air Force, examples include six consecutive years of cuts that would reduce the number of F-35 combat squadrons by 50% by 2028, the divestment of 3,000 aircraft and 200,000 Airmen since Operation Desert Storm, and a reduction of $24 billion in funding for precision attack weapons — about 45% less weapons capacity.
Furthermore, Carlisle pinpointed outdated equipment, such as the AIM-120 medium-range missile, as a disturbing factor. As the Air Force’s primary air-to-air missile, it originally entered service with the F-15C in 1991. According to the official, in addition to the advancement of AIM-120 counter-measures by other nations, this outdated missile also limits the capabilities of newer aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
“It also carries insufficient range versus newer long range adversary missiles and will soon require recapitalization,” Carlisle explained in a statement. “We are currently delivering 4th Gen weapons from 5th Gen platforms, and even those weapons inventories are being depleted beyond the current campaign requirements.”
Besides the threat of more budget cuts, there’s also another threat emerging from a different front — the modernization of the air forces in other countries. These threats include the development of their own 5th generation fighters, anti-space weapons, and new surface-to-air weapon systems that are claimed to possess the ability to acquire, track, and target the US’ stealth aircraft.
“It now comes as no surprise that our near peer adversaries’ capabilities have been modernized to specifically counter and negate American capabilities,” Carlisle stated. “Many other nations, Russia and China in particular, copy very well — original thought: they’re not as good.”
Though Carlisle maintains that many of these advancements were obtained through dubious means, the results are clear enough to have a reason for alarm.
The general illustrated this claim by showing how similar China’s J-31 stealth fighter was to the US’ F-35. With advanced stealth, supercruise capabilities, and innovative data-link technology, many officials are also growing concerned at how rapidly, and accurately, the Air Force’s imitators are emulating their counterparts.
“They’ve watched our success and they know how good we are … They’ll steal technology so they avoid the challenges that we faced,” he explained in the hearing.
In order to address these insufficiencies, Carlisle proposed boosting the Air Force’s air, space, and cyber capabilities — most likely through increased funding — to compete in highly contested environments.
“Although a program is not yet in place, it will be paramount to continue modernizing our fleet, and progress to the next new counter-air aircraft that is more survivable, lethal, has a longer range, and bigger payload in order to maintain a gap with our adversaries,” he concluded.
A pair of Royal Air Force Typhoon jets were scrambled to escort a budget airline flight heading from London to Turkey back to British soil on June 22, 2019, because of an “extremely disruptive passenger.”
Flight LS1503, which was flying from London’s Stansted airport to Dalaman in Turkey, turned back 20 minutes after taking off at 5:52 p.m. (12:52 p.m. ET) when a female passenger tried to open the aircraft doors in mid-air, Jet2 told Business Insider in a statement.
Jet2 said their Airbus A321 had “returned to base because of this appalling and dangerous behaviour.”
A Ministry of Defense spokeswoman told Business Insider: “We can confirm that RAF quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft from RAF Coningsby scrambled to escort a commercial flight into Stansted shortly after take-off due to reports of a disruptive passenger.”
One of Jet2’s A321 aircraft.
Essex Police tweeted on June 24, 2019, to say they had arrested a 25-year-old woman “on suspicion of common assault, criminal damage and endangering an aircraft.”
She has been released on bail until July 30, 2019, they added.
One said: “This lady who was clearly intoxicated gets called to the front of the plane and she starts shouting and screaming and runs to the plane door.”
“The cabin crew grabbed her to stop her and then she starts scratching them and hitting them.”
“She then got pinned to the floor by cabin crew and passengers and a passenger even sat on her.”
Another passenger told The Sun: “The stewards gave her several chances and did the best they could before she became abusive and then made a dash for the cockpit and had to be restrained by staff and passengers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There are more rumors and myths floating around about the Central Intelligence Agency then there are actual facts. “The Agency” or “The Company” is charged with preempting threats and furthering national security objectives by collecting and analyzing intelligence and conducting covert action while simultaneously safeguarding our nation’s secrets. It’s a broad mission, and a lot of trust has been granted to them by the American people to carry it out.
But it takes a special kind of person to thrive in the CIA.
Who, or what, are they looking for? And do those who served at the tip of the spear while in the military have a competitive advantage? If so, is a U.S. Navy SEAL better than a U.S. Army Ranger? Or does a Green Beret’s experience hold more weight when competing for one of the few spots available as a gray man?
The CIA doesn’t publicly answer any of those questions, instead opting to keep their ideal candidate’s qualifications vague. So we reached out to a few veterans of the Agency to see if they noticed any trends.
Hafer while deployed to Africa.
(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)
Evan Hafer, former CIA contractor
Evan Hafer is in the coffee business these days, but he started out as a U.S. Army Special Forces NCO (noncommissioned officer) before transitioning to contracting for the CIA. He’s deployed dozens of times around the world on their behalf, and he even assessed and trained those who were trying out for the Agency’s elite high-threat, low-visibility security force toward the end of his career.
“It all depends on what kind of officer you’re looking for,” Hafer said. “When you look at paramilitary operations, they have a wide variety of objectives. A good portion is working by, through, and with foreign nationals while conducting covert action. For a long time, Special Forces did a lot of covert action, so they made for the best agents in that respect.”
Hafer while deployed to Afghanistan.
(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)
Hafer went on to explain that there are different types of jobs at the Agency that require different skill sets. “Typically a good Ranger NCO will make a great guy for on-the-ground, high-threat, low-visibility security work. And Marines across the spectrum are pretty good at a lot of different things.”
Hafer made sure to note the difference between conducting direct action (DA) in the military’s special operations units and gathering intelligence for the CIA. “If you like blowing doors down, intel will bore the fuck out of you,” Hafer said. “It’s a lot of writing, and regardless of background, guys who enjoy DA might not like the intel job.”
“If you’re a hammer and every problem is a nail, then you won’t like being the pen.”
(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)
Bob Baer, former CIA case officer
You may recognize Bob Baer from his work hosting investigative shows on the History Channel or delivering commentary on CNN, but before that he spent 21 years as a CIA case officer. He deployed around the world, speaks eight languages, and even won the CIA’s career intelligence medal.
“It’s almost always Special Forces,” Baer said about the ideal background for working operations in the CIA. “These guys are out in places training locals. I found the SF guys, especially the ones who have experience working in strange places, to be most effective.”
(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)
He even went so far as to say that elite Tier 1 operators (that many would assume to be perfect for the job) often don’t work out. “For them, it’s so low-speed — there’s not as much excitement as they’re used to. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Delta or SEAL Team Six guy make the adjustment.”
Baer echoed Hafer’s sentiment toward the U.S. Marines, saying, “It seemed the Marines did a good job adjusting.” And admitted that he usually preferred a military background over a straight academic: “All in all, people who were in the military were best because they learned about dealing with government BS, while the least equipped were always the academics.”
Robyn, like Baer, was a case officer for the CIA and spent years running sources around the world — to include active combat zones. She asked that we not use her last name but was happy to offer her thoughts on not just the ideal military resume, but also what it actually takes to be a successful case officer regardless of background.
“At the end of the day, you’re selling a lemon. You’re convincing someone to commit espionage and provide intel against their country in exchange for whatever is valuable to them,” Robyn explained. “You have to convince them that you care, that their life matters — whether it does or not.”
“So the guys that do well are the guys that understand the human factor,” she continued. “They have to understand what makes someone tick and pretend to be concerned. People are not going to put their lives at risk for someone who doesn’t care. You have to care.”
Robyn recalled a former state trooper who she worked with that did well, noting that a law enforcement background laid a solid foundation for talking to people who can be difficult to extract information from, such as witnesses and victims.
“The militant guys don’t do well,” Robyn said, noting that there’s a difference between being militant and being from the military, and that it takes a unique person to operate in the gray for months or even years at a time. “They’ve gotta operate without mental, emotional, or personal boundaries. There’s no commander’s intent, and the mission isn’t always clear. A renaissance man will do better than the fire-breather, even if they both come from Special Forces. We need the guys who can jump between philosophy and tactics while maneuvering in all different environments.”
The one thing that Hafer, Baer, and Robyn all agreed on is that no single bullet point on a resume qualifies someone for the difficult work of the CIA. They all emphasized that it takes a special person, and the best people at the Agency often have certain intangibles that you either have or you don’t. It seems it takes much more than a trident or a tab to make it into the nation’s most elite intelligence agency — and that’s a good thing.
Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe