Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin was one of four US troops killed Tuesday when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
Sgt. Elchin, a 25-year-old from Beaver County, Pennsylvania, was highly decorated for his age, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Interviews conducted by the newspaper show the sergeant was a devoted hero with a kind heart.
His brother, Aaron Elchin, told the newspaper about the last time he spoke with his younger brother, who was assigned to 26th Special Tactics Squadron.
Sgt. Elchin’s awards included the Bronze Star Medal, the military’s fourth-highest award for meritorious service in a combat zone. He also received a Purple Heart and Commendation Medals from both the Air Force and the Army, according to the Post-Gazette.
“I think it is very unusual to be so highly decorated,” he said. “But you’ve got to understand, Dylan was very dedicated in everything that he did.”
Sgt. Elchin enlisted as a combat controller in 2012. In high school, he had a variety of interests; he played the horn in the high school band and also participated in the school’s shop program, according to the Post-Gazette. He was also known for his kind nature.
“[Dylan] was part of a student group who sent holiday cards to residents at McGuire Memorial, a school for students with individualized special education needs,” said Carrie Rowe, Elchin’s former middle school principal, told the newspaper. “Dylan’s Beaver Area School District family will remember him as a young man with a kind heart, who was studious, curious about life, and loved his family.”
Aaron Elchin told the Post-Gazette his family is living in a state of shock since learning about the explosion, one of the deadliest attacks against American forces since 2017.
“We’re all basically waiting to wake up,” he told the newspaper. “We feel like we’re in a giant fog, and we just don’t want to believe it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The focus of the operation, “was to go after al-Qaida-related targets in the area, and there was an indication that there may have been a hostage being held with them,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen Charles Cleveland told the AP. “So it was a nice surprise to get that.”
Gillani and his father are members of the Pakistan People’s Party, a group which has sponsored and led several major offensives aimed at Islamic militants.
Gillani was originally kidnapped in May 2013 while campaigning for the Punjab provincial assembly. Pakistani leaders are often threatened or attacked by the Pakistani Taliban, especially if the leaders are perceived as likely to threaten the Taliban.
The kidnappers had been attempting to negotiate the release of several high-profile al-Qaeda prisoners in exchange for Gillani’s safe return.
Gillani was flown to Bagram for medical evaluation and is scheduled to return to Pakistan once cleared by doctors.
With soldiers increasingly being asked to shoulder heavier workloads, the Army hopes to compensate them for their efforts with a 3.1 percent pay raise.
The Army’s $182.3 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 includes the highest pay increase for soldiers in a decade. Additionally, the service plans to raise basic housing allowances by 3.2 percent and basic subsistence allowances by 2.4 percent.
After launching a new recruiting initiative this year, the Army is aiming for a modest end-strength target next year, hoping to have 480,000 active-duty soldiers, 336,000 National Guard members and 189,500 reservists by 2020.
While much of the Army’s fiscal year 2020 budget focus has centered on modernization efforts, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the military deputy for Financial Management and Comptroller, discussed the importance of readiness and quality of life during a budget briefing at the Pentagon March 12, 2019.
“Readiness will continue to be the number-one priority for the Army,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said two-thirds of the Army’s brigade combat teams are at their “highest state of readiness.” Army leaders have asked for steady and consistent funding to supplement its readiness efforts, which helped support 32 combat training center rotations this year.
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.
“Because of the consistent funding that we’ve gotten at a higher level here over the last couple of years, [it] has really allowed us to make some readiness gains,” Horlander said.
To meet its readiness goals, the Army proposes to increase its operations and maintenance budget to .6 billion. The plan covers an increase to infantry one-station unit training from 14 to 22 weeks. It will also provide funding to train 58 brigade combat teams, six security force assistance brigades and 11 combat aviation brigades. The service additionally plans to increase spending for flight crew hours for both active-duty and National Guard members.
The operations budget funds multi-lateral exercises in the Pacific region and in Europe to help bolster partnerships with allies, a crucial element identified in the National Defense Strategy.
“There are a lot of efforts to strengthen the partnerships with our allies,” Horlander said.
The service has prioritized improving housing standards, as senior leaders have visited post housing at different installations in recent months. The Army is asking for an additional 0 million for the restoration and modernization of soldiers’ barracks and installation facilities. Some funding will go toward three new housing projects, Horlander said.
The Army is seeking billion for its research, development and acquisition funding that will go toward newer weapons systems.
Capt. Bryson McElyea fires the M16 rifle.
(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)
The Army will cut funding from certain weapons platforms and legacy systems will be cut to funnel more funding toward the Army’s modernization efforts. McCarthy said that 93 programs were eliminated and an additional 93 will be reduced or delayed beginning in fiscal year 2020 to fiscal 2024.
“These choices were complex and difficult. At times people will focus in on … winners and losers,” McCarthy said. “But what we look at is the choices we had to make from a modernization standpoint to be the Army that we need by 2028.
While the Army will shift its focus from legacy programs, McCarthy said that some of the platforms will still be needed. Those programs will be gradually enhanced to bridge the gap between newer and older weapons systems.
The Army’s FY20 budget request now awaits approval from Congress.
It was the first major battle of the U.S.-Mexican War. President James K. Polk’s attempts to annex Texas and buy the lands west of the amiable state had failed, and the Army was sent in under Gen. Zachary Taylor to force the issue, starting at the Battle of Palo Alto where a young West Point graduate would first face the guns of the enemy.
Then-Lt. Ulysses S. Grant, at left. Grant and Lt. Alexander Hays fought together in Mexico and later in the Civil War where Hays was killed.
Cadet Ulysses S. Grant had been an underwhelming student, graduating 21st in a class of 39 students in 1843. But even the lowest West Point graduate commissions as a lieutenant, and Grant was sent to be the quartermaster in the 4th Infantry despite having proven himself as an adept horseman.
Palo Alto was named for the tall trees in the area, and Mexican artillery and cavalry numbering almost 4,000 men and 12 artillery pieces had positioned themselves on a hilltop near these trees. The U.S. forces arrayed against them had almost 2,300 troops and only 8 artillery pieces, and they had to march through tall grass and up the slope to attack.
An illustration shows U.S. troops engaging Mexican soldiers at the Battle of Palo Alto.
As I looked down that long line of about three thousand armed men, advancing towards a larger force also armed, I thought what a fearful responsibility General Taylor must feel, commanding such a host and so far away from friends.
But Grant’s memoirs also provide a window of hope for the U.S. forces. Though outnumbered, they had a clear technological advantage:
an army, certainly outnumbering our little force, was seen, drawn up in line of battle just in front of the timber. Their bayonets and spearheads glistened in the sunlight formidably. The force was composed largely of cavalry armed with lances. Where we were the grass was tall, reaching nearly to the shoulders of the men, very stiff, and each stock was pointed at the top, and hard and almost as sharp as a darning-needle.
So the men were in tall, sharp grass like they were advancing through a sea of rapiers, but their enemy was relying on lances to pierce through the infantry. Lances were a dangerous weapon at the time, but disciplined infantry could still give better than they got under lance attack if they stayed in formation and fired when the horsemen were close.
But if they broke and ran, lancers would slice through the lines and gut one man after another.
As Grant and the men advanced, the Mexican artillery was the first to fire, but they opened fire when the U.S. lines were still too far away, and the grass proved itself to be quite useful to the Yanks.
As we got nearer, the cannon balls commenced going through the ranks. They hurt no one, however, during this advance, because they would strike the ground long before they reached our line, and ricocheted through the tall grass so slowly that the men would see them and open ranks and let them pass. When we got to a point where the artillery could be used with effect, a halt was called, and the battle opened on both sides.
Major Ringgold, an artillery officer, was killed at the Battle of Palo Alto.
It was at this point that the U.S. artillery advantage showed itself. The infantry on either side could still inflict little damage as they were too far apart for accurate musket fire. But while the U.S. soldiers were barely in the effective range of Mexican artillery, American artillery could reach further and with greater effect.
The artillery was advanced a rod or two in front of the line, and opened fire. The infantry stood at order arms as spectators, watching the effect of our shots upon the enemy, and watching his shots so as to step out of their way. It could be seen that the eighteen-pounders and the howitzers did a great deal of execution. On our side there was little or no loss while we occupied this position.
For most of the day, Grant and the infantry would trade limited shots with the enemy infantry while their artillery punished the Mexican forces. The U.S. did suffer losses; Grant makes note of two artillery officers hit nearby, one of them killed. The Mexican cavalry tried to turn the U.S. flank, but disciplined infantry fire drove them back. The limited U.S. infantry advances and the punishing artillery fire made good effect, and the Mexican forces began to withdraw before sunset.
Grant went forward under fire to occupy the vacated positions and saw the effects of Mexican artillery at close range.
In this last move there was a brisk fire upon our troops, and some execution was done. One cannon-ball passed through our ranks, not far from me. It took off the head of an enlisted man, and the under jaw of Captain Page of my regiment, while the splinters from the musket of the killed soldier, and his brains and bones, knocked down two or three others, including one officer, Lieutenant Wallen,—hurting them more or less. Our casualties for the day were nine killed and forty-seven wounded.
When Grant and the U.S. forces advanced the next day, they found that their enemy had departed. The Battle of Palo Alto was over with a decisive U.S. victory. But there was a lot of war left to fight, and Grant was at or near the front for most of the major battles, serving under Gen. Taylor for the start but transferring to Gen. Winfield Scott’s command in 1847 before the battles of Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Churubusco, Molino del Rey, and Chapultepec.
During these engagements, he was twice promoted by brevet for bravery, reaching the rank of brevet captain.
Even though the five-star general rank essentially died in 1981 with Omar Bradley, the idea of a five-star general rising above all others to command so much of the American and allied militaries is remarkably heroic.
The five-star general officer was born in WWII because American generals and admirals were often placed above allied officers of a higher rank. Someone elevated to that position could never retire and was considered an active-duty officer for the rest of their life.
That’s a lot of trust. The list of the 9 officers we deemed worthy of the honor rightly reads like a “who’s who” of U.S. military history.
1. Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy
Leahy was the first officer to make the rank. He was the senior officer in the U.S. Navy and the senior-most officer in the U.S. military. He retired in 1939 but was recalled to active duty as the Chief of Staff to President Roosevelt and then Truman until 1949. During the latter years of his career, he reported only to the President.
2. General of the Army George Marshall
George Marshall was a major planner of the U.S. Army’s training for World War I and one of Gen. John J. Pershing’s aides-de-camp. He would need those planning skills when World War II broke out, as he oversaw the expansion of the U.S. Armed Forces and the coordination of U.S. efforts in the European Theater. After the war it was Marshall who helped rebuild Western Europe with an economic plan that came to be named after the man himself.
3. Fleet Admiral Ernest King
King was the Commander in Chief of U.S. Naval Forces (the U.S. now only uses the term “Commander-In-Chief” to refer to the President) and the Chief of Naval Operations. Though he never commanded a ship or fleet during a war, as the Navy representative of the Joint Chiefs, he helped plan and coordinate Naval Operations during WWII.
4. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur
MacArthur graduated from West Point in 1903, fought in the occupation of Veracruz, World War I, and resisted the Japanese invasion of the Philippines for six months during WWII. MacArthur, despite having to retreat to Australia, oversaw the defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific and accepted their surrender less than four years later.
He would also orchestrate the occupation and rehabilitation of Japan, and the American counterattack during the early months of the Korean War.
5. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz
Nimitz was the Navy’s leading authority on submarine warfare at the outbreak of World War II. He would rise to be Commander-in-Chief of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet and eventually take control of all U.S. forces in the Pacific Theater. He served the Navy on Active Duty in an unofficial capacity until his death in 1966.
6. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Hitler! Macho Man Dwight Eisenhower coming for youuuuuu OHHHHH YEAHHHHHHH.”
Ike never saw combat as a soldier, but his planning skills were essential as Supreme Allied Commander of all allied expeditionary forces in Europe during World War II. He planned and executed the invasion of North Africa in 1943, and of course the D-Day invasion of France in 1944. After the war, Eisenhower was the first Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and was elected President in 1952.
7. General of the Army and Air Force Henry H. Arnold
“Hap” Arnold is the only officer ever to hold two five-star ranks in multiple branches and is the only person to ever to be General of the Air Force.
Before WWII, Arnold was the Chief of the Air Corps and became commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces when war broke out. He was one of the first military pilots ever, being trained by the freaking Wright Brothers themselves.
If Billy Mitchell is the Father of the Air Force, Hap Arnold helped raise it — he took a small organization and turned it into the world’s largest and most powerful air force during the WWII years.
8. Fleet Admiral William Halsey, Jr.
“Bull” Halsey started World War II harassing Japanese fleet movements in the Pacific in his flagship, the Enterprise. He was later made commander of all U.S. forces in the South Pacific and commander of the Navy’s third fleet. Halsey earned his status after the war ended but took the Navy on a goodwill cruise of friendly countries
9. General of the Army Omar Bradley
As mentioned, Omar Bradley was the last surviving five-star general, dying in 1981. He fought alongside the U.S. Army’s greatest all under the command of Dwight Eisenhower. He excelled during the D-Day landings and subsequent European campaigns. He eventually commanded 1.3 million fighting men as they invaded fortress Europe — the largest assembly of U.S. troops under a single commander.
* General of the Armies of the United States John J. Pershing
Pershing was promoted to this rank and title in 1919, though no official rank insignia existed at the time. It was made by Congress to recognize his role in the American entry into World War I in Europe.
* Admiral of the Navy George Dewey
Dewey received the title “Admiral of the Navy” by act of Congress in 1903. Admiral Dewey’s service during the Spanish-American War made him a national hero and celebrity.
* General of the Armies of the United States George Washington
President Gerald Ford promoted Washington to this rank and title — essentially a six-star general — in 1976 to always ensure Washington would be the senior-most officer of any group.
We all know Stone Cold Steve Austin from his years when he was the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. “The Texas Rattlesnake” was one of the toughest, most badass wrestlers who left an indelible mark in the ring — both on TV and on the silver screen. Recently, we got to see Stone Cold sit down with some gentlemen who exhibited an entirely different type of toughness and heroism. By partnering up with Wargaming, the company responsible for the hit game World of Tanks, Austin recently sat down to interview three World War II tankers about their experiences. Their stories are powerful, harrowing, and heartbreaking.
The second veteran interviewed is Clarence Smoyer.
Clarence Smoyer served in the 32nd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. Hailing from Pennsylvania, Smoyer served as a gunner during World War II. On D-Day, he landed on Omaha Beach. He recounted that, by the time he landed on the beach, things were already under control — but that control didn’t extend far inland. Moving forward, he rapidly found himself in the thick of it.
Smoyer would load his tank’s gun fast and often get blistered up badly as a result. He recalls that once, he went to medical to get the blisters treated and, on the way back, heard a mortar coming in. He ran and took cover just as it exploded nearby. A piece of shrapnel ripped his nose up, but Smoyer didn’t want to go back to medical because, “I was afraid I’d get hit by another mortar,” so he soldiered on.
Austin asks Smoyer if his tank ever got hit. Smoyer tells us that his tank got hit with an armor piercing shell and it took a chunk out of the tank. If it had been six inches over, it would have gone through his telescopic sight and he would have died. It’s a harrowing thought.
(Photo Courtesy of Clarence Smoyer)
In one of the most heart-wrenching accounts of losing a buddy, Smoyer relates a story about losing his tank commander who was also his best friend. When one of the open-top vehicles was hit, his friend ran toward them to assist — despite Smoyer’s warnings. “He always ran to help someone if they were in need.” Just before he reached the vehicle, he was killed instantly by two mortar shells as Smoyer watched in horror.
Smoyer’s stories are so powerful, in fact, that they’re the subject of a New York Times bestselling book, Spearhead, which is a great read if you’re looking for all the gritty details.
Austin asks Smoyer to recount the first time he took on a German tank. Smoyer tracked down a tank, but it backed off behind a building. Smoyer shot through the building and hit a pillar which caused the building to collapse. Smoyer learned later the building collapsed on the tank and put it out of actions. Years later, on his return to Europe, he met one of the occupants of the German tank after they fished him out from under the building’s rubble. “I hesitated, I didn’t know how he was going to feel about me. After all I dropped a building on him.” The meeting went well, and they shook hands. Smoyer told him, “The war is over now, we can be friends.”
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How does one define the best anti-aircraft gun of all time? The specs on paper do not tell the whole story. That is because there are always tradeoffs to be made in this, or any field of military weapons. High performance comes with costs – not just financial, but in terms of weight, complexity, maintenance needs, and proper training of the operators – to name just a few of the things that have to be balanced.
When a system gets it right, it becomes a classic. For anti-aircraft guns, the standard is arguably the 40mm Bofors. It packed a punch – about two and a half ounces of high explosives as used by the United States. But this wasn’t an American-designed weapon. Bofors is actually a Swedish company, and Sweden was neutral in World War II. The gun is still produced today, and is still seeing action.
What did that mean? Well, this gun was bought by the United Kingdom before the war, and in 1940, the United States began to build it (the Army having tested a version in 1937, according to NavWeaps.com). And they weren’t the only users. Hungary, a German ally, built some for the Nazis, who also captured a large number of these guns in the early years of World War II. Japan also built some, copied from captured British mounts.
The typical U.S. Navy mount for the Bofors 40mm was a quad mount, which accounted for many an Axis plane.
(U.S. Navy photo)
The Bofors 40mm saw action from land and sea mounts. The land versions were usually single mounts, but twin mounts were also used in vehicles like the M42 Duster and the failed M247 Sergeant York. On sea, the primary mount – and most effective version – was the quad 40mm mount, but twin and single mounts were also used.
The Bofors gun’s shells packed about two and a half ounces of high explosives. And this gun could send as many as 120 rounds a minute at an enemy plane.
(U.S. Army photo)
The Bofors had a maximum range of 11,133 yards and could hit targets just over 22,000 feet high. It could fire as many as two rounds a second, but given the need to manually reload with five-round clips, it was more likely to fire about 90 rounds a minute tops.
The M42 Duster was built around a twin Bofors 40mm gun.
(U.S. Army photo)
The Bofors 40mm was barely enough to handle the kamikazes that the United States was facing in 1945, but the end of World War II meant its replacement by a new three-inch gun was only a partial one. The mounts hung around through parts of the 1980s with the United States Navy.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.
Being the unit’s cartoonist is an incredible responsibility. For one, you have to decide what will live on in the annals of history and two, you have to find stories that are funny. A gift that has come to me throughout my life. Yes but a gift… or a curse?
I was approached on so, so many occasions by a chuckling brother to the effect: “Geo! ha ha ha, hey listen, ha ha ha, how ’bout you do a cartoon of Bob spilling his juice in the chow hall and all the guys are saying, like: ‘awww man… you spilled your juice!” ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
The inherent humor in Bob spilling his juice is debatable at best, but let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s there. The narrative of the man’s snappy comeback… not so funny. I had two choices in the matter strictly from my perspective:
1. Let the man down gently: “Man, I’m really sorry, but that scenario just doesn’t pass the acid test, my brother. Look, it has nothing to do with you personally; it’s really just a business decision, a very difficult business decision. I got mad love for you my brother, but I have a reputation to maintain here in the Unit. I’m sorry, but my hands are tied.”
2. Freakish exaggerations are the very core of the power of the cartoon. I can take the pallid tale of Bob spilling of his juice coupled with the vapid remarks from the men and wildly exaggerate the whole scenario to make it so ridiculous as to be funny.
I can show a dozen men being washed out of the chow hall door by a flood of red liquid (Bob’s juice), with men donned in various levels of gear associated with waterborne operations and perhaps one man yelling: “Hey, do we get paid dive credit this month for this?!?
Not really funny? I feel you, dawg. There isn’t a set “formula” for hilarity, but two variables that help are mistakes and commanding officers. The poor Commanding Officer of our squadron had been out on the flat range one day with a new assault rifle in an effort to adjust his gun sites for accuracy. In some cases, new gun sites can be wildly off the bull’s eye.
(Outdoor shooting flat range where the distance to the target is Known Distance, or KD)
His first mistake, well… his ONLY mistake, was to guest himself onto a range where the boys were already conducting *Blaze Ops. There are always those occasional line-walkers that feel the urge to stroll the target line to see how those around them fair in accuracy. Well, a brother noted that the boss’ cupboard was bare; he had slick paper with no bullet impacts on it. The launch sequence was initiated; the man couldn’t get to me fast enough to tell me all about how the boss himself had flown all of his rounds off his target:
“Ha, ha ha… Geo, you could show — ha, ha, ha, — the boss with a clean target — ha, ha, ha, — and the guys could all be saying, like, ‘Hey there boss… it looks like you missed your target!’ — ha, ha, ha!”
“Yeah, man… that’s a total riot — I’ll get right to work on that.”
Hence the morass (morass is what you use when you don’t have enough ass). I didn’t think it was necessarily funny that the boss had rounds off paper, but if anyone else had done that his chops would have been busted. I couldn’t let the boss off the hook so easily. I ginned up ideas that came to mind.
What is generally said to a person who launches with poor accuracy whether it a gun or a rock or a baseball? One of my more obscure phrases is: “He couldn’t hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle,” said during WWII of the inaccurate pilot of a dive bomber.
(American SBD Dauntless dive bomber. It was this same bomber that sank all fourJapanese aircraft carriers during the pivotal battle of Midway.)
Ok then: “He couldn’t hit the side of a barn.” That nicely anchored the theme: Everyone’s target is the usual half man-sized cardboard target on a plank, with the boss’ target being an entire barn facing sideways… silo and hay loft… the nine yards. Then I added a Range Safety Officer in the parapet calling out the disposition of the bullet strikes to the men at the firing line.
It was a done deal. All that was left was to jones over that future moment when the boss and I would inevitably pass each other in the hall, just he and I… awkward!
The charge for marijuana reform is being led mainly by representatives from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
It’s no secret that veteran issues of post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries have been pushed to the forefront of thought of the general public. Vincent Lawrence, commander-in-chief of VFW, claims that this alone could call for the VA to look into the potential benefits of medical cannabis.
Lawrence went on to say that VA patients who also use marijuana for medical purposes are doing so without regimented care from the VA and therefore it is unregulated. However, he then went on to say, “This is not to say VA providers are opting to ignore this medical treatment, but that there is currently a lack of federal research and understanding of how medical marijuana may or may not treat certain illnesses and injuries, and the way it interacts with other drugs.”
This idea is not revolutionary or specific to the VA, Lawrence continued, “There is currently substantial evidence from a comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academic Press that concludes cannabinoids are effective for treating chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, sleep disturbances related to obstructive sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms, and fibromyalgia –– all of which are prevalent in the veteran population…”
There are already some bills that have been submitted for the advancement of medical marijuana research–such as the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act which would mandate that the VA conduct trials on the effects of medical marijuana for veterans afflicted with PTSD and chronic pain.
A similar piece of legislation was proposed last year but did not pass a floor vote.
Medical marijuana has also been linked to lowering instances of opioid abuse as well. Lawrence even mentions this before congress explaining, “states that have legalized medical cannabis have also seen a 15-35 percent decrease in opioid overdose and abuse.” Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) echoed Lawrence’s statements in support.
The momentum of medical marijuana in the VA is gaining some bipartisan steam, too. Recently, a similar proposal was brought to the floor by the ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs– Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) when he said, “The VA is where cannabis should be studied[…] Let’s find out the risks, the benefits, the black box warnings and so on. I could not agree more with you there.”
Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)
While it’s clear that there is support for medical marijuana within the structure of VA, there is a long way to go before its application is widespread. The positive links between marijuana for medical purposes and veterans dealing with afflictions derived from service are apparent and numbered–and congress is starting to take notice.
As the Marine Corps continues its quest to get more capability from long-range precision fires, it’s asking industry for proposals on a portable system that can fire high-tech attack and reconnaissance drones on the go.
The service released a request for proposals April 23, 2018, describing a futuristic system unlike any of its existing precision-fires programs.
The theoretical weapons system, which the Corps is simply calling Organic Precision Fire, needs to be capable of providing fire support at distances of up to 60 kilometers, or more than 37 miles, according to the RFP document.
This range would exceed that of the M777 155mm howitzer, which can fire Excalibur rounds up to 40 kilometers, or around 25 miles.
(Photo by Gertrud Zach)
The system, which ideally would be light enough for just one Marine to carry, would launch loitering munitions from a canister or tube no larger than 10 inches across and eight feet long. The projectile would be able to loiter for up to two hours, according to the solicitation, while gathering data and acquiring a target
Loitering munitions, known informally as suicide or kamikaze drones, are unmanned aerial vehicles, typically containing warheads, designed to hover or loiter rather than traveling straight to a target. They’re becoming increasingly common on the battlefield.
The California-based company AeroVironment’s Switchblade loitering munition is now in use by the Marine Corps and Army. It is described as small enough to fit inside a Marine’s ALICE pack. The Blackwing UAV, also made by AeroVironment, is tube-launched, but designed to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, rather than to attack.
The Marines want whoever can make the system they seek to give it the ability to communicate securely with a ground control system at a distance of up to 60 kilometers. It should also be advanced enough to perform positive identification on a target, and engage and attack a range of targets including personnel, vehicles and facilities.
Companies have until May 18, 2018, to submit proposals to the Marine Corps on such a system.
Service leaders have publicly said they’re planning to make big investments in the field of long-range precision fires as they prepare for future conflicts.
The commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, told Military.com in December 2017, that the service was making decisions to divest of certain less successful weapons systems in order to shift more resources to developing these capabilities. The service had already done so, he said, with its 120mm towed mortar system, the Expeditionary Fire Support System.
“We made that decision to divest of it, and we’re going to move that money into some other area, probably into the precision fires area,” Walsh told Military.com. “So programs that we see as not as viable, this [program objective memorandum] development that we’re doing right now is to really look at those areas critically and see what can we divest of to free money up to modernize.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
If you love military movies, then it’s safe to say you’d recognize Max Martini. While his film career doesn’t only include military-centric roles, he’s built a reputation among the military community as both a proud supporter of service members and one of the most badass actors ever to portray them on screen.
I first remember recognizing Max Martini as a mil-actor way back during his days filming “The Unit,” a popular CBS TV series about elite special operators assigned to 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-D), commonly known by those of us outside their elite fraternity as Delta Force. Since then, Max has played war fighters of all sorts in fan favorite movies like Saving Private Ryan,13 Hours, Spectral, Captain Phillips, and one of my favorite sci-fi movies, Pacific Rim.
Max Martini in “Pacific Rim”
His most recent foray into the military genre was Sgt. Will Gardner. The film depicts a Marine veteran who has struggled since separating from service and is now trying to reestablish a relationship with his young son. The movie was a passion project for Max, who wrote, produced, directed, and acted in the titular role.
Importantly, however, making the movie wasn’t just about telling a powerful story about service and redemption, it was also about helping veterans in the real world. He’s pledged 30% of the film’s profits to veteran charities.
Sgt. Will Gardner
(Mona Vista Productions)
I was fortunate enough to get to sit down with Max (digitally) during this coronavirus quarantine, and ask him some questions about his career, his work on behalf of the military and veteran communities, and just what it takes to play some of the most badass characters ever put on screen.
Max has played both real and fictional special operators, and has made a name for himself among veterans for it. I asked Max what keeps him coming back to these sorts of challenging roles.
“My dad was an artist living in New York City, so I sorta grew up in the Arts. But that said, my mother was a cop. I grew up in the arts, went to art school, got my degree in fine arts and came out owing, ya know, a hundred and fifty gazillion dollars without a way to pay it off,” Max explained.
Max Martini in “Saving Private Ryan”
“I got asked to audition for a movie because I’d dabbled in acting, and then the second movie I got was Saving Private Ryan. That was transformational for me. I had just just graduated from art school and I didn’t have much of a sense of politics or appreciation for the military. Then I did this movie, and I really started to understand more about our service members, and I really loved the community because there was obviously a lot of former military involved in making that movie.”
It wasn’t just that he developed an appreciation for service through filming Saving Private Ryan, he also quickly established himself as a solid actor capable of playing military roles.
“I don’t know, it’s like Steven Spielberg gives you this stamp of approval that says, ‘okay, he makes a good soldier,’ and everybody jumps on board,” Max joked.
Of course, because Max has played a member of Delta Force before, I felt the need to speak to one of my friends that actually served in that elite unit to see what he’d be interested to learn about acting in such a role. So I gave legendary Delta Force operator George E. Hand IV a call–and he wanted to know how actors like Max go about playing military roles in a realistic way on screen.
“Well, I think it’s a combination of things. Like, for instance, when I did Captain Phillips, we had a technical advisor from the Navy but it wasn’t somebody showing you how to soldier, it was somebody showing you the functionality of the ship,” he recalled. “But the guys around me were all former [special operations] team guys and they’d be like, ‘Dude, you should say this.’ One of the guys was about to relieve the team that was on the ship that took the shot, so he was familiar with the operation.”
He went on to talk about his time specifically playing a Delta Force operator in The Unit.
“The Unit was adapted from a book that Eric Haney wrote. He was one of the original Delta guys. So Eric was a producer on the show and he put us through a lot of training, and then he was there every day to watch over us technically.”
Max Martini on “The Unit”
Max points out that his resume isn’t all that helps him win military roles. Now, he’s close friends with a number of veterans and does a lot of firearm training on his own. He might do it because it’s fun, but the technical capability he develops by shooting with special operations veterans tend to translate into his realistic handling of weapons on screen.
“I think that’s also a consideration when people hire me. People go, ‘we’re not going to have to do much with him to get him ready for the show.’
Max’s appreciation for service members isn’t just born out of his real life friendships with veterans. He’s also made a number of trips overseas to visit deployed service members. Max’s decision to donate 30% of the profits from Sgt. Will Gardner speaks to his passion for supporting the military, which is something he says is a responsibility American’s share.
“I feel very strongly that if somebody enlists in the military, that we as Americans share a responsibility to ensure that when they return from combat, they have red carpet healthcare treatment and every resource available to them that’s need to reintegrate properly back into civilian life.”
Max Martini’s latest movie, Sgt. Will Gardner, is now streaming on a number of platforms, but Max points out that paying to see the movie on Amazon Prime helps support not only his endeavor to make more movies in that vein, but also supports the three veteran charities he’s splitting the profits with.
American playwright Arthur Miller once observed that an era has reached its end “when its basic illusions are exhausted.”
Congress, the defense industry, academia, and the U.S. Army all believe the Pentagon must fundamentally change the culture and performance of its acquisition enterprise after decades of tweaks and inertia.
Since Vietnam, the most significant reform to the Defense Department, the United States Army, and Army Acquisition Enterprise was the Goldwater-Nichols DOD Reorganization Act of 1986. It changed who controlled budgets, project management, research and development, and aspects of modernization. Since then, numerous institutional adaptations and reorganizations have been initiated, many of which have led to familiar conditions: cumbersome spans of control; complex communication and procedural (bureaucratic) structures; difficulty prioritizing competitive programs and budget requirements; decreased accountability and effectiveness; and, disconnects between futures and acquisition procurement strategies, to name a few.
For the Army, those conditions materialized into “a lost decade of procurement” marked by, “reductions in modernization, procurement, and RDTE funding”; and a “wave of [OSD] requirements,” according to Lt. Gen. Mike Murray, Army Deputy Chief of Staff (G-8). While the present Army reorganization should address many of these concerns, a critical purpose of any new command, regardless of structure, is to obtain a central authority for translating futures and modernization activities into a smart acquisition strategy; activities that haven’t been under a single command since 1940.
With Futures Command
While the existing structure managed victory on global battlefields from Grenada to present operations, the U.S. Army has determined that long-delayed reforms in acquisitions require the most significant reorganization of modernization functions in 40 years. Because the overmatch our Army has enjoyed for the last 70 years is closing quickly across all domains of warfare, it is clearly understood that early successes are going to be essential for the new Army Futures Command.
While some may think this new command is a strategy of creating a new bureaucracy to address bureaucratic cultural concerns, the new command will be challenged to:
Streamline the requirements process, which averages three to five years, and major weapons systems development, which averages 10 years. A major contributing factor for such lengthy delays is the current command structure requires dozens of flag officer board and committee hearings within multiple multi-star command to approve requirements (if one includes the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System).
Overcome a risk-averse acquisition culture optimized for individual and organizational outcomes within stove-piped organizations, thus requiring synchronization at HQDA level.
Provide a vision-to-victory or futures strategy that alleviates tensions between present requirements and future readiness.
Improve integration of operational concepts into acquisition strategies, presently determined and developed by multiple disjointed multi-star commands. At present, there is no single point of contact (command) with ownership of futures to formulate consensus on a long-term procurement strategy within the United States Army.
Overcome the stale reforms and existing RD structure by leverage industries leadership of advanced technologies and modernization in order to decrease procurement and acquisition timelines, increase innovation, and, address cultural “contrast in approaches to research and development that differentiates defense firms from their commercial counterparts.”
Improve and balance the research and development strategy; establish conditions for a “succeed-fast” and “fail-fast” strategy throughout the defense acquisition life cycle.
Elevate the confidence of stakeholders, particularly Congress, in our ability to manage major Army defense acquisition programs. For the Army, recent “failures” have cost tax payers billions and are the most obvious reason why oversight and authorities is overly centralized (by Congress). Since 2011 alone, the Army has ended 20 programs, delayed 125 and restructured 124 others.
and, ultimately, establish a wartime acquisition enterprise capable of rapid adaptability to threat capabilities today and in the future.
On this last point, recent acquisition enterprise efforts to synchronize and create a shared visualization stem from a current state assessment that “acquisition’s underlying problems are exacerbated during conflict, when warfighters are in harm’s way. Therefore, the natural tendency has been to work around the system rather than fix it,” according to a previous Army Futures Studies Group cohort. Reflecting on these truths, the Army has determined that now is the time to fix the system, as “wartime adaptation against a peer adversary will require capability generation to be exponentially faster than it was for recent operations”, according to Maj. Hassan Kamara of the Army Future Studies Group.
So the Army has started its most significant organizational redesign in four decades to meet futures and modernization challenges to do its part. Let’s look at how it got here.
A Short History of the Army’s Modernization and Futures Enterprise
Since the dawn of World War II, the Army has maintained a flexible organizational structure to meet significant overseas and continental commitments and challenges. Hundreds of congressional panels, committee hearings, and operational research projects have created new commands to address niche requirements but rarely resulted in the birth of a major command.
Of relevance to the present era, the first significant organizational overhaul was in 1940, when the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the United States Army was established. The GHQ struggled to manage training, support, modernization, and ground combat functions. In 1942, these functions were separated when the War Department reorganized itself and assumed command and control over ground combat troops and formed Army Ground Forces (AGF) command which assumed responsibility for training troops.
At the end of the war Congressional and industrial committees and boards reformed the War Department and the Army. Unfortunately, a mix of incremental and disruptive structural alterations was implemented which left the service with an uncoordinated command structure and in need of significant reorganization by 1955, when the Davies Committee formed the Continental Army Command (CONARC) which assumed command and control of ground forces and training functions.
Almost immediately, various panels recognized CONARCs structural challenges as the Cold War stressed the nation’s resources, but most recommendations went ignored throughout the remainder of the decade. By 1962, following the Hoelscher and Traub Congressional Committees, the Army was thoroughly reorganized. The Technical and Administrative Services; all support functions were centralized under Army Materiel Command; and the Combat Developments Command (CDC) were created under Continental Army Command (CONARC) to support modernization.
Within a decade CONARC’s span of control had become a significant concern and Gen. Creighton Abrams, Army Chief of Staff, initiated Operation STEADFAST under Lt. Gen. William DuPuy to fix it.
Operation STEADFAST led to the creation of Forces Command (FORSCOM) and Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), the latter assuming control of training centers, Army schools, and doctrine development and CONARC was abolished. Later that same year, TRADOC assumed the mission for modernization and CDC was deactivated. As a result of this restructuring, similar to today, modernization and research development (RD) activities were scattered among major commands but all other functions were represented by a major command.
While significant structural change has occurred since 1973, they have not fundamentally changed how TRADOC and AMC function.
Key challenges we’re dealing with now, like the construct, function, and institutional integration of Futures Command, which were factors in the failures of structural changes in the past, must be clearly understood. There is never a time in the Army where a need to repair something structural isn’t required. Therefore, considering historical examples above, the question we must ask today is, are we in need of “incremental” or “disruptive” reform? If “disruptive” change is in the cards, the alignment of forces, sustainment, training, and combat developments (or modernization) functions within streamlined commands is one potential course of action. However, what the Army is ready for, what the specific content of the reform will be, and its tolerance levels for disruption while heavily engaged in current operations are yet to be determined. If history is any guide, this will be determined based on whether or not senior defense leaders perceive the current state as one in crisis or this is just an opportune time for reform.
It is clear that any new modernization command must demonstrate value to industry, academia, research and development communities within and external to the U.S. Army, but, even more so to the warfighters whose equipment readiness is one of four pillars of readiness.
The Senate voted Jan. 18 to extend a controversial surveillance program for six years, ending months of debate over a law that has been the linchpin of post-9/11 U.S. national security.
The bill essentially reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the U.S. government to collect the communications of foreigners overseas without a warrant, even if Americans’ communications are picked up and searched by officials along the way.
The measure passed 65-34, with support from Republicans and Democrats.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the extension into law by Jan. 19, despite reservations he expressed in a tweet last week.
Before the vote Jan. 18, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina called the 702 provision “the single most important intelligence tool that exists for us to keep Americans safe.”
Opponents say the program allows the government to sweep up Americans’ communications under the guise of targeting foreigners abroad. Privacy rights advocates argue that this so-called “incidental” collection doesn’t happen by chance.
“Individual decision making about whom to target is warrantless,” Sarah St. Vincent, a surveillance researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Business Insider. “There’s no oversight on a case-by-case basis. The FBI can warrantless search data, and they can do that at any stage, even if a formal investigation is not open.”
On Jan. 16, the Senate voted 60-38 to invoke cloture on the bill, effectively ending debate and moving forward with a vote. A bipartisan group of senators, including Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, Steve Daines, Patrick Leahy, and Elizabeth Warren, held a press conference shortly after the decision to urge their colleagues to support a warrant requirement to search Americans’ data.
“Most of us agree the program has value and is useful, but we should not use information that is collected on Americans,” Paul said. “The database is enormous. Maybe millions of Americans are caught up in this database.”
Paul has consistently railed against the law arguing that it violates Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.
Trump tweets, confusion ensues
Just hours before the House was set to vote on the bill last week, Trump interjected in the debate with a tweet that appeared to contradict the official White House position, setting off confusion on Capitol Hill as to where the president stands on the issue.
“‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT today,'” Trump tweeted. “This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”
An hour later, after House Speaker Paul Ryan privately explained the importance of the bill to Trump, the president attempted to clarify his position.
“With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land,” he tweeted. “We need it! Get smart!”
Section 702 became law in 2008 when Congress amended FISA rules. The public was left mostly in the dark about warrantless surveillance until 2013, when former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden leaked an estimated 1.7 million classified intelligence files, covering a wide range of secret government surveillance tactics and programs.
The files revealed that Section 702 was being used to justify the PRISM program, which allowed the government to collect communications from tech companies.