An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

Post-Traumatic stress disorder carries him into the depths of fear and pain; reliving images of death and destruction. Closing his eyes to night terrors at sundown and fighting through daily anxiety attacks eventually pushed him to the brink of suicide so he could put an end to the never-ending cycle.

It wasn’t until his second suicide attempt that Air Force veteran and Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center support agreement manager Ryan Kaono took steps to face his invisible scars and reach out for help.

It was 2010 and he hadn’t slept in more than four days, knowing he’d get flashbacks of what he’d experienced during deployments to Saudi Arabia and Iraq.


“They were terrible,” Kaono said. “I would wake up screaming and my wife would be scared. Out of desperation, I decided I was going to end it.”

Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said it was very difficult for her to watch her husband suffer with no real diagnosis.

“You feel helpless,” she said. “I described it as having an animal or child unable to speak yet you know they’re feeling something. You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them.”

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, takes a moment to breath while his service dog Romeo assesses the situation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

Exhausted and going through myriad feelings, Kaono swallowed numerous prescription drugs in the hopes of not waking up. Something inside him, however, made him reach out to his commander for help, letting her know what he’d done.

He was admitted to the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs hospital for a few days of observation and diagnosed with PTSD. This began his journey of living with the disorder instead of being a slave to it.

His diagnosis came with some relief but angst as well.

“I was scared yet relieved at the same time,” Alessa said. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I was happy he was finally diagnosed but both he and I knew it would be a long and difficult journey at times.”

Even today, two deployments replay in the mind of the former security forces military working dog handler and logistician.

Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia

In June 1996, Kaono was working a gate at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated on the other side of the compound, killing 19 and wounding countless others.

“When the actual blast went off, it was chaos everywhere,” Kaono said. “I had to stop and put that part behind me. I needed to focus and ensure that the folks who had been injured or disoriented … were taken care of.”

For years, he continued pushing the many visions of pain and suffering he’d seen there to the back of his mind where they festered.

In total, the Hawaii-native had 11 deployments as a security forces defender by the time he found himself at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, struggling with anger issues.

“I would quickly get frustrated; I would have bouts of just frustration and real anger,” he said.

While on a smoke break outside of central security control one day, Kaono lost consciousness and fell to the ground. Controllers inside the building were able to see what happened and his officer-in-charge ran to his aid.

When he regained consciousness, his captain was leaning over his chest, trying to wake him.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
U.S. and Saudi military personnel survey the damage to Khobar Towers caused by the explosion of a fuel truck outside the northern fence of the facility on King Abdul Aziz Air Base near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, at 2:55 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, June 25, 1996.

He was quickly taken to the hospital where he suffered with partial paralysis in his legs for about 10 hours and the inability to use his body from the base of his neck to his fingertips for three days.

His medical team diagnosed him with syncope; the uncontrollable loss of consciousness with no real explanation.

“From that, they determined I couldn’t deploy, I couldn’t carry a weapon so I couldn’t really be a security forces member anymore,” Kaono explained. “I was force retrained for medical reasons into logistics.”

Balad Air Base, Iraq

Fast forward to 2005 when Kaono served as first sergeant and deployment manager for the 93rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in Balad, Iraq.

As a dual-hatted logistics planner and first sergeant in the Reserve, he was responsible for making sure unit members arrived safely at their deployed location, were able to get their jobs done and would return home to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, when their deployment was over.

While in a meeting with senior leaders, the base began taking mortar fire that impacted closer and closer to Kaono’s trailer and two fully-loaded F-16s nearby.

“They were trying to walk (mortars) up our runway to our loaded aircraft,” Kaono said, with the expectation that they’d be able to hit the aircraft causing secondary explosions with more damage.

While everyone in the room was running for cover, Kaono gathered up classified materials to stow in a safe.

“It wasn’t my first mortar attack so I really didn’t think anything of it,” he said.

With the sensitive documents in the safe, Kaono turned to leave to seek shelter when a mortar pierced the aluminum trailer and exploded, sending him 15-20 feet in the air before slamming his head and right shoulder into a concrete Jersey barrier.

“It felt essentially like The Matrix … I’m floating through the air and everything is going in slow motion. I see shrapnel and dust and everything just going around me,” he said.

Once he hit his head, he was snapped back to reality and felt the severe pain of what would later be diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury.

“I went to the hospital there at Balad and they checked me out and told me I had a concussion but that was about it; nothing really life threatening so I didn’t get sent home,” he said.

When he eventually rotated back to Homestead, he went through a standard post-deployment physical health assessment where he initially struggled with discussing what he’d endured. When he was able to talk about it, the doctor said he entered what was considered a fugue state — a complete loss of what was going on around him.

“I essentially was staring off into nothingness for a period of time suffering a flashback,” he said.

“From there, they said I had a possibility of PTSD and they sent me on my way.”

Five years later, after his extreme cries for help, his PTSD diagnosis came.

PTSD, the daily struggle

“PTSD and living with it is a daily struggle,” Kaono said. “We’re always cognizant of it. Those who are around us may see us and see absolutely nothing’s wrong. We don’t typically have external signs of our disability but emotionally and mentally, we still have to deal with it.”

In the years between 1996 and today, Kaono said there were times when he would just shut himself away because he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. There were also times when he could go to work and feel that people would think there was nothing wrong with him because he looked fine.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, shares a laugh with a videographer during an interview while his service dog Romeo keeps a steady eye on the photographer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

“That just reinforced the issue that I had,” he said. “To me, one of the main issues of dealing with PTSD is that people don’t (realize) … they don’t see you missing a limb, they don’t see you scarred, they don’t see you burned and so to the outside world you look like you’re no different — you’re not special, you have no issue, no disability to really claim.”

In order to live his life, Kaono has to acknowledge his PTSD and what caused it every single day.

“If I continued down the path that I was on previously, where I just let it consume me, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans and 11 percent of veterans from the war in Afghanistan live with PTSD.

To be able to help them, Kaono recommends people educate themselves on the disorder.

“Find out what post-traumatic stress is, see what it does, look at the studies that show why there are 22 people per day committing suicide because they can’t handle the stress anymore. Don’t just pass us off as being fine … that’s the worst thing that people can do.”

On top of everything else, dealing with the stigma of having PTSD is a struggle for the Kaono family.

“When people hear the word PTSD they think of the negative news articles out there. Ryan may have PTSD, but it doesn’t make him any less of a human being,” Alessa said.

“We’re not asking people to walk on eggshells around us,” Kaono said. “Treat us as if you would treat anybody else … we are still people. We still hold jobs. We still have families.We still have responsibilities and if you don’t give us the opportunity to meet those responsibilities, you’re not helping us.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian fighters and F-22s almost had a catastrophic midair crash

Two U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth fighters intercepted two Russian Su-25 fighter jets Dec. 13, conducting multiple maneuvers, firing warning flares, and, in one instance, aggressively flying to avoid colliding with one another, U.S. officials tell Military.com.


The Su-25s — single-seat, twin-engine aircraft — “flew into coordinated coalition airspace on the east side of the Euphrates River near Abu Kamal, Syria, and were promptly intercepted,” Air Forces Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart told Military.com in an email.

The F-22s, the U.S.’ most advanced fighter aside from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, were in the area providing air cover for partner ground forces conducting operations against the Islamic State, he said.

“The F-22s conducted multiple maneuvers to persuade the Su-25s to depart our deconflicted airspace, including the release of chaff and flares in close proximity to the Russian aircraft and placing multiple calls on the emergency channel to convey to the Russian pilots that they needed to depart the area,” Pickart said.

During one maneuver, a Su-25 flew so close to an F-22 “that it had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision,” he said.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
A Russian Su-25. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Alex Beltyukov)

The F-22 also trailed a Su-35 after it flew across the river into territory deemed unsafe to coalition aircraft.

“The incident lasted approximately 40 minutes before the Russian aircraft flew to the west side of the river. During and following the encounter, coalition leaders at the [Combined Air Operations Center in Al Udeid, Qatar] contacted the Russians on the deconfliction line to de-escalate the situation and avert a strategic miscalculation,” Pickart said.

AFCENT officials said the Russians had “verbally agreed” in November through the deconfliction line that they would remain west of the Euphrates River, and the coalition would operate to the East, he said.

Read Also: This is the plane Russia thinks can match the A-10

“Since agreeing to this deconfliction arrangement, the Russians have flown into our airspace on the east side of the river 6-8 times per day, or approximately 10 percent of the Russian and Syrian flights,” Pickart noted.

“If either of us needs to cross the river for any reason, we’re supposed to first deconflict via the line,” he said. “It’s become increasingly tough for our pilots to discern whether Russian pilots’ actions are deliberate or if these are just honest mistakes.”

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
An F-22 Raptor in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Solomon Cook)

Officials have said recently that coalition aircraft — more than a dozen air forces cooperating to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria — are concerned about the shrinking airspace.

“The coalition’s greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our air or ground forces,” Pickart said. “We train our aircrew to take specific actions and to make every attempt possible to de-escalate the situation wherever possible.”

He continued, “We are not here to fight the Russians and Syrians — our focus remains on defeating ISIS. That said, if anyone threatens coalition or friendly partner forces in the air or on the ground, we will defend them.”

Articles

This Midshipman was awarded a Medal for Heroism after saving a Boy Scout troop

A U.S. Naval Academy midshipman received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal Jan. 9 in front of the entire Brigade of Midshipmen assembled in Alumni Hall.


An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
Navy Vice Adm. Ted Carter, the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, left, presents the Navy and Marine Corps Medal to Midshipman 3rd Class Jonathan Dennler during a ceremony at Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Md., Jan. 9, 2017. Dennler received the medal for his heroic actions while leading a Boy Scout troop. (Navy photo by Kenneth Aston)

Midshipman 3rd Class Jonathan Dennler, a member of the academy’s 20th Company, received the medal — the highest non­combat decoration awarded for heroism by the Navy — for his heroic actions while leading a Boy Scout troop in July.

While camping in Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, the troop was caught in a major storm, with wind gusts of up to 80 mph and lightning strikes. Two trees fell on the campsite, killing a scout and an adult volunteer and severely injuring others.

When Dennler couldn’t contact anyone on the radio for help, he canoed more than 1.5 miles at night in 60 mph winds to a ranger station to bring back help and medical supplies.

The Navy and Marine Corps Medal falls in order of precedence just below the Distinguished Flying Cross and above the Bronze Star. It was first bestowed during World War II to Navy Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy. Only about 3,000 sailors and Marines have received the award since. To earn this award, there must be evidence the act of heroism involved very specific life-threatening risk to the awardee.

The award came as a surprise to both Dennler and his classmates, who listened in silence while academy superintendent Navy Vice Adm. Ted Carter read the award citation. His classmates then gave him a rousing standing ovation.

“It was an incredibly humbling and unexpected experience,” Dennler said. “I’m very thankful to everyone who helped to make that happen and for the support of my family and friends.”

The award wasn’t a surprise to his parents, who also attended the award presentation. Dennler’s mother, Monica Dennler, described her son as “persistent and tenacious.”

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
Navy Vice Adm. Ted Carter, the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, right, speaks to the Brigade of Midshipman about the Navy and Marine Corps Medal awarded to Midshipman 3rd Class Jonathan Dennler during a ceremony at Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Md., Jan. 9, 2017. (Navy photo by Kenneth Aston)

“He knows how to persevere, and has a kind heart,” she said. “He was the only one who knew what to do back in high school when a classmate broke their leg at a basketball game, because he was an Eagle Scout.”

“He is a quiet young man who would not want a big fuss, but rightfully deserves it,” said Chief Petty Officer Nicholas Howell, the senior enlisted leader of 20th Company. “Out of his classmates, he is the one who has the level head to think clearly and decisively act to contain the situation and help bring about the best possible solution.”

Dennler is a political science major and completed two years of college at George Washington University before transferring to the Naval Academy.

“USNA has taught me how to work and think in environments where many things are out of my control, and I think the academy helps to create mindsets that put others first,” he said. “I am incredibly thankful for those lessons.”

An active member of the academy’s Semper Fi Society, he hopes to serve in the Marine Corps after graduating in 2019.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How this one-handed Seahawk proves anything is possible

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome, a fetal congenital disorder that affected his left hand in utero. By age four, he was in so much pain he wanted to cut the appendage off himself. He did have the hand amputated – but still grew up doing everything a young boy from Florida would do, including playing football.

But Griffin didn’t just play football, he excelled at it. He and his brother played football together their whole lives, including at the University of Central Florida, where Shaquem was named 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and the 2018 Peach Bowl MVP. The league watched as the talented one-handed linebacker went up for the 2018 NFL Draft – and was picked up in the third round.

One-handed athletes everywhere rejoiced.


It’s not a PR stunt. The one-handed Griffin is a talented back, and his missing hand doesn’t cause him to miss a beat. In the NFL combine, he performed 20 reps on the bench press wearing a prosthesis and ran the fastest 40-yard dash for a linebacker since the NFL started tracking the numbers.

When the Seahawks drafted him, he signed a four-year deal worth .8 million.

The spotlight on Griffin was almost unbearable but, luckily for him, his brother Shaquill is still playing right along with him, playing cornerback for Seattle. While the team itself may not have the record they hoped for, the two brothers are having quite a season themselves, and Shaquem is an inspiration for everyone who might have been told they couldn’t do the same.

The six-foot, 227-pound rookie linebacker is now a shining example for not only children with a similar issue, but anyone missing an appendage or anyone in a circumstance that might otherwise keep them from competing at the highest levels.

The boy in the video is 11-year-old Daniel Carrillo, a California boy who was born without his right hand, a result of the same affliction Shaquem Griffin had when was born. He cried tears of joy as he opened his gift in time for the Seahawks play the 49ers on Dec. 2, 2018. Carillo is a junior Spartan, and wants to play high school football to be a Spartan. He wants to then go on to Michigan State – the Spartans – to play. He has NFL dreams, of first being a player and then a coach. Now he knows it’s possible.

Carillo knows he’s going to the 49ers-Seahawks game. What he doesn’t know is that he’s going to meet Shaquem Griffin – on the field.

Who says athletes can’t be heroes anymore?

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new Air Force Secretary is a trained astronaut – and so much more

It’s time to put your politics away for a moment and prepare yourselves for the most badass service secretary since Teddy Roosevelt left his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. President Trump nominated Ambassador Barbara Barrett to be the Air Force’s new civilian leader. She already has close ties to the Air Force as a former administrator at the FAA and board member of the Aerospace Corporation.

Even though outgoing SecAF Heather Wilson was an Air Force officer and Barrett has never served in the Air Force, Barrett is still an accomplished aviator, scholar, and astronaut.


I wanted to make a joke about how much more accomplished and awesome she is than every previous SecAF, but have you seen the resumes of these people? Air Force Secretaries are the real Illuminati.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

Except I guarantee Barbara Barrett can take all four of these guys in a fistfight.

Time will tell if Barrett will take the job. The lawyer turned Harvard-educated diplomat is probably busy heading the boards of some of the most influential and brilliant institutions of our time, including the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, The Smithsonian Institution, and the RAND Corporation. But the former Ambassador to Finland founded the Valley Bank of Arizona, partnered at a large law firm in her native Arizona, and worked at the top levels for Fortune 500 companies before age 30 – at a time when many women were relegated to getting coffee for middle management.

But let’s talk about feats of strength and athleticism that will win her the respect of all the troops, not just the ones under her command. An accomplished aviator, Barrett was the first civilian woman to land an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier, she’s an inductee in the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, and even trained with the Russians in Kazakhstan to be a backup astronaut on a 2009 international spaces station mission.

Back on Earth, she’s just as impressive. She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Barrett didn’t stop there. As Ambassador to Finland, she biked hundreds of kilometers all around the country.

That’s a service secretary you can get behind… which you’ll have to because most of us would have trouble keeping up.

Articles

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

The Marine Corps is accepting delivery of its first new Amphibious Combat Vehicle that can fire stabilized weapons, maneuver in littoral areas and launch faster, more survivable ship-to-shore amphibious attacks from beyond-the-horizon.


Referred to by Corps developers as ACV 1.1, the new vehicle is engineered to replace the services’ current inventory of Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or AAVs – in service for decades.  There is an existing effort to upgrade a portion of its fleet of AAVs to a more survivable variant with spall liner and other protection-improving adjustments such as added armor.

Also read: Meet the Army’s new stealthy hydrogen fuel cell vehicle

Nevertheless, despite the enhancements of the AAV Survivability Upgrade, or AAV SU, the Corps is clear that it needs a new vehicle to address emerging threats, Kurt Mullins, ACV 1.1 Product Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“ACV 1.1 gives us the ability to operate throughout the range of operations. The current AAV is limited because of its survivability. The new vehicle will be significantly more survivable than a standard AAV,” Mullins said.

The Corps is now in the process of acquiring a number of Engineering, Manufacturing Development vehicles for further testing and evaluation from two vendors – SAIC and BAE Systems. Mullins said the Marine Corps plans to down-select to one manufacturer by 2018 and have an operational new ACV 1.1 by 2020.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
The Marine Corps’ current AAV in Iraq. | Wikimedia Commons

Marine Corps fleet plans call for more than 200 of the new vehicles to support attacking infantry battalions. They are building both personnel and recovery variants, he explained.

The ACV 1.1 will serve alongside and improve upon the upgraded portion of the existing AAV fleet. The Marines have operated a fleet of more than 1,000 AAVs over the years ; some will “sunset” and others will receive the survivability upgrade.

Stabilized .50-cal machine guns and Mk 19 grenade launchers will make the new ACV for lethal and accurate in attacks against enemies; engineers are building in an up-gunned weapons station operating with Common Remotely Operated Weapons Systems, or CROWS, able to allow attackers to fire weapons from beneath the protection of the vehicle’s armor.

Unlike the tracked AAVs, the new ACV 1.1 is a wheeled vehicle designed for better traction on land and operations involving enter and egress from Amphib ships.

“Wheeled vehicles are more reliable, when operating across the range of military operations.”

Given that the new vehicle is being built for both maritime and land combat operations, requirements for the emerging platform specify that the platform needs to be better equipped to defend against more recent threats such as IEDs and roadside bombs. This, at least according to BAEs offering, includes the construction of a “V” shaped hull in order to increase the vehicle’s ground clearance and deflect blast debris away from the crew compartment.

“It needs to be able to provide significant armor and stand-off distance from the ground to the bottom of the hull,” Mullins added.

An ability to better withstand emerging threats and new weapons likely to be used by enemies is said to be of crucial importance in today’s evolving global environment; enemies now have longer-range, more precise weapons and high-tech sensors able to find and target vehicles from much further distances.

Accordingly, emerging Marine Corps amphibious warfare strategy calls for an ability to “disaggregate” and spread approaching amphibious vehicles apart as necessary to make the much more difficult for enemies to target. They are also being engineered operate more successfully in ground combat environments wherein approach vehicles need to advance much further in from the shoreline.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
Assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45) | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger

The new ACVs are also being designed to work seamlessly with longer-range, more high-tech US Navy and Army weapons as well. As US Navy weapons and sensors operate with a vastly improved ability to detect and destroy enemy targets – on land and in maritime scenarios – amphibious assault strategy will adjust accordingly.

BAE Systems ACV 1.1

The first BAE Systems ACV 1.1 vehicle has been delivered to the Marine Corps for additional assessment and testing, company officials said.

In a special interview with Scout Warrior, BAE weapons and platform developers explained that their offering includes a number of innovations designed to best position the vehicle for future combat.

BAE’s emerging vehicle uses no axl but rather integrates a gear box for each wheel station, designed for better traction and mission such as driving up onto an amphibious vehicle or rigorous terrain on land.

“It has positive drive to each of the wheel stations so you don’t have gear slippage and have positive traction at all times. All eight wheels are driven at the same time,” Swift said.

The absence of an axl means engineers can create greater depth for the vehicle’s “V-shaped” hull, he added.

Their vehicle is built with a 690-horsepower engine, composite armor materials and can travel up to 12 nautical miles with a crew of 13; also, the BAE ACV 1.1 can travel 55mph on land, and six mph in the water, BAE developers said.

Blast attenuated seats where seat frames are suspended from the ceiling are another design feature aimed at further protecting Marines from attacks involving explosions underneath the vehicle.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
Marines with Combat Assault Battalion, Ground Combat Element, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade Forward, III Marine Expeditionary Force, in amphibious assault vehicles train with smoke grenades. | III Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs photo by Pfc. Mark Stroud

Fuel tanks on the new ACV 1.1 are stored on the outside of the vehicle as part of a method of reducing damage to the crew and vehicle interior in the event of an attack.Finally, like many emerging platforms these days, BAE’s offering is being engineered with an often-used term called “open architecture” – meaning it is built for growth such that it can embrace and better integrate new technologies as they emerge.

The Marine Corps awarded BAE a $103 million deal in November of last year; the company has delivered its first of 16 prototypes planned to additional testing.

 The Marine Corps’ Future of Amphibious Attack

The Marine Corps future plan for amphibious assault craft consists of a nuanced and multi-faceted plan involving the production of several more vehicles. Following the ACV 1.1, the Corps plans to engineer and produce a new ACV 1.2 variant with increased combat and technical mission abilities.

“We are working on requirements for ACV 1.2, which will be informed by our ACV 1.1 experience,” Mullins said.

However, this next ACV 1.2 will merely serve as an interim solution until much faster water-speed technology comes to fruition, a development expected in coming years.

Meanwhile, Corps weapons developers from the advanced Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory are already in the early phases of preparation for when that much faster water speed exists. A future mission ability or vehicle of this kind, to be operational by 2023, could involve a number of different possible platform solutions, Mullins explained.

“Some sort of high-water speed capability that may not be a single vehicle solution. It could be a high-water speed connector that gets that vehicle to shore,” he said.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
Marines posts security at the rear of an Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda

Amphibious Assault Vehicle “Survivability Upgrade”

The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.

The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior.

“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.

The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.

“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior last year.

The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has farther to travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.

The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.

“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines.  We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.

A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.

The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.

In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.

The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.

“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.

The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.

“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.

The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.

“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.

In total, the Marines plan to upgrade roughly one-third of their fleet of more than 900 AAVs.

The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.

Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.

AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS still has 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria

Despite the military defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and most of Syria, the extremist group still has around 20,000 to 30,000 militants in the two countries, according to a United Nations report.

The report circulated on Aug. 13, 2018, said the estimate came from governments it did not identify. It includes a “significant component” of foreign fighters.


The militants were equally divided between Iraq and Syria, said the report to the Security Council by experts monitoring sanctions against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

Many of the key IS operatives were being relocated to Afghanistan, where the group has between 3,500 and 4,000 fighters and is growing, the experts said.

The militant group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also has significant affiliated supporters in Libya, Southeast Asia, and West Africa.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

Military training in Erbil, Iraq, Jan. 25, 2018. This training is critical to enabling local security forces to secure their homeland from ISIS. Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Anthony Zendejas IV)

Islamic State overran large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, but by January 2018, the group was confined to small pockets of territory in Syria.

According to the UN report, IS “is still able to mount attacks inside Syrian territory. It does not fully control any territory in Iraq, but it remains active through sleeper cells.”

The flow of foreign fighters to IS in Syria and Iraq has come to a halt, the experts said, but “the reverse flow, although slower than expected, remains a serious challenge.”

They said Al-Qaeda’s global network also “continues to show resilience,” with its affiliates and allies much stronger than the IS group in some spots, including Somalia, Yemen, South Asia, and Africa’s Sahel region.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan

A U.S. service member has been killed in action in Afghanistan, the second American to die while supporting operations in the country in January 2019.

Officials with Operation Resolute Support announced Jan. 22, 2019, that the death of the service member, whose service branch was not identified, is under investigation.

It’s not clear where the service member was killed. Defense Department policy is not to release the names of those who died supporting combat operations until 24 hours after next-of-kin is notified.


This most recent death comes five days after Army Sgt. Sgt. Cameron Meddock, of the 75th Ranger Regiment, died from combat wounds at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Jan. 17, 2019. Meddock was shot during combat operations in Badghis province, Afghanistan, on Jan. 13, 2019.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

Sgt. Cameron A. Meddock, 26, of Spearman, Texas.

(U.S. Army Special Operations Command)

Earlier January 2019, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer and Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent were killed, along with an American DoD contractor and civilian worker, in a bombing in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. Three other American troops were wounded in the bombing.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 8 most useless pieces of gear ever issued

Quality of gear aside, when the U.S. military is equipping its troops, it tries to ensure they have everything they need to defeat the enemy and – if funding permits – not be entirely miserable in the meantime. Given the Pentagon’s track record with winning battles, one would have to concede they’re doing a pretty good job. Operationally, however, the troops figure out very quickly what’s going to work and what they need to improvise.

1. Mosquito Nets – Vietnam


An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
Somewhere in there is a troop still trying to get out of his mosquito net.

One private in the Army who was deployed to an aircraft maintenance detachment in Vietnam mentions using the mosquito net diligently, just as he was trained. Except, when the base was attacked, he stumbled in the dark looking for the zipper, nearly getting himself killed in the process.

He, like many in Vietnam, never used the mosquito net again.

2. Army Cold Weather Mask

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
“Bring out the E-3”

3. Black Berets

Are you into bondage? Then this is the issued gear for you. If you hate how much it itches your face or if you wear glasses, it definitely is not.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
If they only wore them in dress blues, that would be one thing.

 

Patrol caps and boonie hats serve the dual purpose of protecting your head from the sun while giving your kevlar a place to rest. They’re also both breathable and prevent the interior of the hat from becoming a swampy mess. The beret did none of these things, but the Army insisted every soldier wear one.

4. Sun-Wind-Dust Goggles – Iraq & Afghanistan

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

The only Sun-Dust-Wind goggles that couldn’t protect your eyes from sun, dust, or wind. All that and after a while, the padding slips out of place, the elastic wears out, and they become unwearable. Which isn’t a big deal because they get so scratched up you can’t see from them anyway.

5. NBC Gear – U.S. Navy

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

The U.S. military’s old MOPP system used what is essentially a charcoal suit to protect troops from chemical agents in the air. The only problem was they were useless when wet – which is exactly what happened to the sailors during nuclear, biological, chemical warfare drills when they had to start cleaning the ship.

6. Black Leather Gloves with Wool Inserts

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

The dual glove system pretty much meant any fine motor skills you needed weren’t going to happen while wearing these things. Many troops would take off the leather gloves to use their fingers, which promptly froze because the liners themselves were useless in the cold.

7. M65 Field Jacket

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
Have at it hipsters, you poor deserving bastards.

Speaking of things that are useless in the cold, there was a time when the only jacket issued for the battle dress uniform was this cruel joke.

8. Load-Bearing Equipment

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

Presenting the most miserable troop of the 1980s.

This is a great way to carry many different kinds of gear. Until someone starts shooting at you and you need to get down on the ground, stay low, and/or maneuver while you’re down there.

Articles

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD


Army veteran Russell Davies knows all about taking the big plunge back into civilian life after military service. As a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, he served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and became a recipient of the Purple Heart.

Now a professional whitewater kayaker, Davies has made a name for himself both in competition and as a dominator of the biggest, burliest whitewater on the planet.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack
“Yeah, sometimes Class V just isn’t enough.” “Totally.” (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

“Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis caught up with Davies in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, to see what a day on the water is all about, but what he found there goes a whole lot deeper.

As a civilian, Davies has given himself a new mission: to help returning veterans address the challenges of PTSD and depression through participation in extreme sports. His organization aims to connect vets to the kind of positive, purpose-driven adrenaline rush that he found through kayaking.

But, lest you fear the day was all mutual support and quiet healing, our host — true to form — came through with an 11th hour challenge that once again pushed him to the brink of washing out.

Watch as Davies shows Curtis why real men wear (spray) skirts and the only water worth knowing is white in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

This Army vet is crazy motivated

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

Six years ago, Dutch intelligence agents reportedly infiltrated a malicious group of hackers working out an office building not far from the Kremlin. Dutch agents hacked into a security camera that monitored people entering the Moscow building, according to the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant; they also reportedly monitored in 2016 as the hackers broke into the servers of the U.S. Democratic Party.

The hackers came to be known as APT-29 or The Dukes, or more commonly, Cozy Bear, and have been linked to Russia’s security agencies. According to the report, the Dutch findings were passed onto U.S. officials, and may have been a key piece of evidence that led U.S. authorities to conclude the Kremlin was conducting offensive cyberoperations to hack U.S. political parties during the 2016 presidential campaign.


Fast forward to 2020: the Cozy Bear hackers are back — though for those watching closely, they never really went anywhere.

British, American, and Canadian intelligence agencies on July 16 accused Cozy Bear hackers of using malware and so-called spear-phishing emails to deceive researchers at universities, private companies, and elsewhere.

‘Totally Unacceptable’

The goal, the agencies said, was to steal research on the effort to create a vaccine for the disease caused by the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

“APT-29 is likely to continue to target organizations involved in COVID-19 vaccine research and development, as they seek to answer additional intelligence questions relating to the pandemic,” the British National Cyber Security Center said in a statement, released jointly with the Canadian and U.S. agencies.

“It’s totally unacceptable for Russian intelligence services to attack those who are fighting the coronavirus pandemic,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the accusations “unacceptable.”

“We can say only one thing: that Russia has nothing to do with these attempts,” he told reporters.

The advisory did not name which companies or organizations had been targeted, nor did it say whether any specific data was actually stolen. The head of the British National Cyber Center said the penetrations were detected in February and that there was no sign any data had actually been stolen.

The advisory did say the hackers exploited a vulnerability within computer servers to gain “initial footholds” and that they had used custom malware not publicly associated with any campaigns previously attributed to the group.

Russia’s main intelligence agencies are believed to all have offensive cybercapabilities of one sort or another.

Sophisticated Techniques

Cyber-researchers say Cozy Bear most likely is affiliated with Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, known as the SVR, possibly in coordination with the country’s main security agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB).

According to researchers, the group’s origins date back to at least 2008 and it has targeted companies, universities, research institutes, and governments around the world.

The group is known for using sophisticated techniques of penetrating computer networks to gather intelligence to help guide Kremlin policymakers.

It is not, however, known for publicizing or leaking stolen information, something that sets it apart from a rival intelligence agency whose hacking and cyberoperations have been much more publicized in recent years — the military intelligence agency known widely as the GRU.

GRU hackers, known as Fancy Bear, or APT-28, have been accused of not only hacking computer systems, but also stealing and publicizing information, with an eye toward discrediting a target. U.S. intelligence agencies have accused GRU hackers of stealing documents from U.S. Democratic Party officials in 2016, and also of leaking them to the public in the run-up to the November presidential election.

“The GRU had multiple units, including Units 26165 and 74455, engaged in cyber operations that involved the staged releases of documents stolen through computer intrusions,” Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrote in a July 2018 indictment that charged 12 GRU officers. “These units conducted large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

Three months later, U.S. prosecutors in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, issued a related “Fancy Bear” indictment accusing some of the same officers of conducting a four-year hacking campaign targeting international-sport anti-doping organizations, global soccer’s governing body, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and other groups.

A GRU officer named in the Mueller indictment has also been named by German intelligence as being behind the 2015 hack of the Bundestag.

But unlike the GRU and the Fancy Bear hackers, there has never been any public identification of specific Cozy Bear hackers or criminal indictments targeting them.

The U.S.-based cybersecurity company Crowdstrike, which was the first to publicly document the infiltration of the Democratic National Committee, said in its initial report that both the Cozy Bear and the Fancy Bear hackers had penetrated the committee’s network, apparently independently of each other.

Unclear Motives

It’s not clear exactly what the motivation of the Cozy Bear hackers might be in targeting research organizations, though like many other nations, Russia is racing to develop a vaccine that would stop COVID-19, and stealing scientific data research might help give Russian researchers a leg up in the race.

Russia has reported more than 765,000 confirmed cases. Its official death toll, however, is unusually low, and a growing number of experts inside and outside the country say authorities are undercounting the fatalities.

In the past, Western intelligence and law enforcement have repeatedly warned of the pernicious capabilities of Russian state-sponsored hackers. In the United States, authorities have sought the arrest and extradition of dozens of Russians on various cybercharges around the world.

As in the Mueller indictments, U.S. authorities have used criminal charges to highlight the nexus between Russian government agencies and regular cybercriminals– and also to signal to Russian authorities that U.S. spy agencies are watching.

For example, the Mueller indictment identified specific money transfers that the GRU allegedly made using the cryptocurrency bitcoin to buy server capacity and other tools as part of its hacking campaigns.

As of last year, those efforts had not had much effect in slowing down state-sponsored hacking, not just by Russia, but also by North Korea, Iran, China, and others.

“[I]n spite of some impressive indictments against several named nation-state actors — their activities show no signs of diminishing,” Crowdstrike said in a 2019 threat report.

Gleb Pavlovsky, a Russian political consultant and former top Kremlin adviser, downplayed the Western allegations.

“We are talking about the daily activities of all secret services, especially regarding hot topics like vaccine secrets,” he told Current Time. “Of course, they are all being stolen. Of course, stealing is not good, but secret services exist in order to steal.”

In the U.S. Congress, some lawmakers signaled that the findings would add further momentum to new sanctions targeting Russia.

“It should be clear by now that Russia’s hacking efforts didn’t stop after the 2016 election,” Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These flashbang grenades are legal for civilians

IWA International is a company based out of Miami, FL that specializes in importing unique tactical gear from all around the world. We recently got a chance to play with a couple of their latest releases — civilian-legal flashbang grenades.

Actual flashbangs produced for military and law enforcement use are classified as destructive devices by the ATF and are not available on the commercial market. They typically consist of an explosive charge and fuse mechanism inside a steel or aluminum grenade body. We have seen simulators and training aids available for unrestricted purchase that use shotgun blanks or even CO2 cartridges to create the bang, popular for use in airsoft and paintball matches.


An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

But the IWA bangs are a little different. They consist of a small charge inside a cardboard tube. The design actually reminds us of some of the first-generation concussion grenades that used a similar cardboard or paper body. The IWA grenades are classified as pyrotechnics and are governed by the same restrictions that apply to fireworks. Because of this, shipping is limited to ground-transport only which means only those in the Lower 48 will be able to purchase them, state and local laws notwithstanding.

There are currently three models available from IWA – the M11 multi-burst, the M12 Distraction Device, and the M13 Thermobaric Canister. The M11 gives off a single loud bang followed by two smaller bangs. The M12 is a single charge, and the M13 Thermobaric produces a single loud bang and a “mild overpressure” as described by the folks at IWA. Fortunately, they sent us a couple of each for testing. All three models sport OD green cardboard bodies and pull-ring fuses with a safety spoon that flies free when the safety ring is pulled. Each grenade is individually labeled and, though the bodies look identical, the labels are large and clearly marked so you know what you’re getting when you pull the pin. They are roughly the same size as an actual flashbang and seem to fit in most nylon pouches made for the real deal.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

There are, of course, some differences between the IWA products and the real thing. The biggest difference is sound output. The products made by DefTec and ALS produce about 175 decibels on detonation. The IWA grenades are rated for 125 decibels. The other major difference is time delay. Tactical-grade flashbangs usually have a 1.5-second delay, while the IWA versions are currently advertised at 2.5 seconds. They tell us they are working on an improved fuse that will bring the delay down to 2 seconds or less.

The folks we spoke to at IWA say that these are meant primarily for training and simulation purposes. Not to mention the obvious f*ck-yeah-factor of getting to toss grenades for whatever special occasion you can come up with. The lower sound output makes them a more akin to a sophisticated M80 than a tool for post-apocalyptic home defense, but we don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Who needs a reason to set off explosives? All three versions of the IWA flashbang are available for .99 each, with bulk pricing available.

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

The photos here will have to hold you over for now but stay tuned to RecoilWeb and RecoilTV for video of our tests of these unique products. In the meantime, check out iwainternationalinc.com and pick up one or two for yourself.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information