Recently, Army pilots got to tool around with an autonomous helicopter kit that could one day make all Army rotorcraft capable of autonomous flight, completing tasks as varied as take off and landing, flying across the ground and behind trees, and even selecting its own landing zone and landing in it with just a simple command.
US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight
The pilots were given access to the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), an optionally-piloted helicopter filled with tech being developed under a DARPA grant. The idea isn’t to create a fleet of ghost helicopters that can fly all on their own; it’s to give pilots the ability to let go of the stick for a few minutes and concentrate on other tasks.
During the hour-long flight demonstration, [Lt. Col. Carl Ott, chief of Flight Test for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Aviation Development Directorate] interfaced with the autonomous capabilities of the system to conduct a series of realistic missions, including aircrew tasks such as low-level terrain flight, confined area takeoffs and landings, landing zone selection, trajectory planning, and wire-obstacle avoidance.
Lockheed Martin’ MATRIX Technology is created to help pilots by allowing them to focus on complex tasks while the helicopter pilots itself.
“The Army refers to this as Mission Adaptive Autonomy. It’s there when the pilot needs the aircraft to fly itself and keep it free of obstacles, so the pilot can focus on more of the mission commander type role. But the pilot is able to interact with the system to re-suggest, re-route or re-plan on the fly,” said Ott.
But SARA has a pretty robust bag of tricks. When pilots call on it, the helicopter can land or take off on its own, select its own safe landing zones using LIDAR, avoid obstacles including wires and moving vehicles, and can even fly across the ground and behind obstructions, like trees, to hide itself.
A U.S. Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter lands during training with U.S. Marines.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rachel K. Young)
Of course, the Army needs the technology from SARA to be ported over to Army helicopters, like the UH-60 Blackhawk, and that’s coming in the next few months, according to Sikorsky. The package, known as MATRIX Technology, should theoretically work on any aircraft, and porting it to rotary aircraft should be fairly easy.
“We’re demonstrating a certifiable autonomy solution that is going to drastically change the way pilots fly,” said Mark Ward, Sikorsky Chief Pilot, Stratford, Conn. Flight Test Center. “We’re confident that MATRIX Technology will allow pilots to focus on their missions. This technology will ultimately decrease instances of the number one cause of helicopter crashes: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).”
An optionally piloted UH-1H helicopter drops off supplies during a May 2018 exercise at Twentynine Palms, California.
(Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory Matt Lyman)
The Marine Corps has been doing its own experiments with autonomous rotary flight. Their primary program is the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System on the Bell UH-1H platform, which can take off, fly, land, plan its route, and select landing sites on its own using LiDAR. So, similar to the MATRIX platform.
The SSK .950 JDJ is an absolute beast. Made by SSK Industries, each bullet is over four inches long, weighs over half a pound and costs about $40. There are only three rifles ever made that can fire the round. The weapons weigh between 85 and 120 pounds and produce a recoil capable of injuring its shooter.
Russia has a “tattletale” (spy ship) operating off the East Coast of the United States, but they’re not the only ones collecting Signals Intelligence (SIGINT). Here’s how the U.S. does spying of its own.
The Viktor Leonov’s snooping has drawn headlines this year – although a similar 2015 operation didn’t draw as much hoopla. It is one of a class of seven vessels in service with the Russian Navy, and is armed with a mix of SA-N-8 missiles and AK-630 close-in weapon systems.
Still, the Navy needs to carry out collection missions and it does have options.
One is the use of aircraft like the EP-3E Aries II electronic intelligence aircraft. Based on the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, a Navy fact file notes that a dozen were purchased in the 1990s.
The plane was involved in a 2001 mid-air collision with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 Finback. The EP-3E made an emergency landing at Hainan Island and the Chinese pilot was killed.
The Navy also uses its ships and submarines to gather signals intelligence.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, many of its top-of-the-line surface combatants, like the Ticonderoga-class cruisers and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are equipped with the AN/SLQ-32 electronic support measures system for SIGINT collection.
According to the Raytheon web site, this system also has the capability to jam enemy systems in addition to detecting and classifying enemy radars.
U.S. Navy submarines also have a sophisticated SIGINT suite, the AN/BLQ-10.
According to the Federation of American Scientists website, this system is capable of detecting, processing, and analyzing radar signals and other electronic transmissions. It is standard on all Virginia-class submarines and is being backfitted onto Seawolf and Los Angeles-class ships.
In other words, every American sub and surface combatant is able to carry out signals intelligence missions.
Croatian state TV reported Nov. 29 that a convicted Croat war criminal has died after swallowing what he said was poison seconds after a United Nations judge confirmed his 20-year sentence for involvement in crimes during the Bosnian war of the 1990s.
In a stunning end to the final case at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Slobodan Praljak yelled, “I am not a war criminal!” and appeared to drink from a small bottle.
Tribunal spokesman Nenad Golcevski, when asked by AP if he could confirm the death, said, “I have no information to share at this point.”
The courtroom where the dramatic scene unfolded was sealed off and Presiding Judge Carmel Agius said that it was now a “crime scene” so that Dutch police could investigate. Police in The Hague declined comment on the case.
Croatian state TV reported that President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic decided to cut short an official visit to Iceland and the government was holding an emergency session.
Praljak, 72, had been in the tribunal’s custody ahead of the hearing and it was not clear how he could have got access to poison or how he apparently managed to smuggle it into the tightly guarded courtroom.
Agius had overturned some of Praljak’s convictions but upheld others and left his sentence unchanged. Praljak, standing to listen to the judgment, then produced what appeared to be a small bottle, threw back his head and seemed to pour something into his mouth.
Agius shut down the hearing and cleared the courtroom.
The hearing later resumed and, ultimately, all six Croats charged in the case had their sentences, ranging from 25 to 10 years, confirmed. Judges overturned some of their 2013 convictions, but left many unchanged.
A small portion of the 6,100 gravestones at the Potočari genocide memorial near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1995, more than 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks were massacred during the Bosnian War. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Michael Büker)
The other suspects showed no emotion as Agius reconfirmed their sentences for their involvement in a campaign to drive Muslims out of a would-be Bosnian Croat ministate in Bosnia in the early 1990s.
Dutch police, an ambulance, and a fire truck quickly arrived outside the court’s headquarters and emergency service workers, some of them wearing helmets and with oxygen tanks on their backs, went into the court shortly after the incident. An ambulance later left the building, but it could not be confirmed if Praljak was inside.
The Nov. 29 hearing was the final case at the groundbreaking tribunal before it closes its doors next month. The tribunal, which last week convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic of genocide and other crimes, was set up in 1993, while fighting still raged in the former Yugoslavia. It indicted 161 suspects and convicted 90 of them.
The appeals judges upheld a key finding that late Croat President Franjo Tudjman was a member of a plan to create a Croat mini-state in Bosnia, but that finding, which angered Croat leaders, was largely overshadowed by Praljak.
The original trial began in April 2006 and provided a reminder of the complex web of ethnic tensions that fueled fighting in Bosnia and continues to create frictions in the country even today.
As the time drags on that we are left to stick with social distancing, more and more folks are celebrating their birthdays — away from loved ones, isolated from friends, and instead, in the safe quarters of their own homes.
But just because you’re celebrating birthdays far from the masses, doesn’t mean they can’t be made special. Look to these creative tips for social distancing birthday ideas throughout the pandemic, and at future duty stations when living far away from those you love.
1. Have a HouseParty
Join this free app and host live games with video chat. Invite family and friends and take part in trivia, charades, and more. Just make sure you have a full phone battery so the fun can keep on going.
Choose a flick you’ve been waiting to see and ask all your favorites to watch right along with you. This is a free feature for all Netflix subscribers. Simply log into your account and share the link with others so they can join in.
If you plan early enough, have loved ones send a card. With the mail still running as an essential service, those from all over can create and send in special cards. Collect them and give to the birthday boy or girl all at once, or spread the love for fun that keeps on coming.
5. Something special
Finally, consider something special that’s personal. Let the birthday celebrator choose a meal, plan a family activity, or order a meaningful gift. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to be a day that shows they’re loved.
The chief of Naval Operations said today that the collisions in the Pacific that killed 10 sailors aboard the USS Fitzgerald and seven sailors aboard the USS McCain were entirely preventable, and the service is committed to correcting the actions that led to the accidents.
Navy Adm. John Richardson told Pentagon reporters that many aspects combined to cause the accidents, including lack of training, hubris, sleep deprivation, failures in navigation, and failures in leadership.
The guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain sailed when they shouldn’t have, he said, and that decision falls on the commanders, who are responsible for conducting risk assessments.
The demand for ships, or any military capability, is defined by the security environment, Richardson said, adding that the Pacific has been a very demanding environment of late.
The demand of the security environment must match against the resources that can be applied. “When you have a gap between those two, that’s risk,” the admiral said. “It’s all part of that … day-to-day assessment. Every commander has to wake up each day at their command level and say, what has changed in my security environment? What is my new risk posture? And how am I going to accommodate or mitigate that risk?”
At some point, commanders cannot mitigate the risk, and they should say no to the mission, he said, but the present culture is such that commanders will assess the risk to be acceptable when it is not.
Changing that culture is one goal for the chief — he wants commanders to be honest about assessments and the shortfalls they have.
While the changes are in the 7th Fleet area, the Navy is on all the seas. “A review of your Navy today shows that this morning there are 100 ships and 64,000 sailors and Navy civilians who are deployed,” Richardson said.
“This includes three carrier strike groups and their embarked air wings, three amphibious readiness groups, and their embarked Marine expeditionary units, six ballistic missile defense ships on station, 11 attack submarines, five [ballistic missile submarines],” he said. “The vast majority of these ships are conducting their missions, some of them extremely difficult, effectively and professionally, protecting America from attack, promoting our interests and prosperity, and advocating for the rules that govern the vast commons from the seafloor, to space, and in cyberspace.”
The Navy and its sailors are busy, and they have been integral to the wars America has fought since 9/11. “Recent experience has shown that if we’re not careful, we can become overstretched, overextended. And if we take our eye off the fundamentals, we become vulnerable to mistakes at all levels of command,” the admiral said.
To address this, the Navy has taken some immediate actions, including restoring a deliberative scheduling process in the 7th Fleet, conducting comprehensive ready-for-sea assessments for all Japan-based ships, establishing a naval service group in the Western Pacific — an independent body in Yokosuka, Japan that will keep their eye on readiness generation and standards for the Pacific Fleet commander — establishing and using a near-miss program to understand and disseminate lessons learned, and establishing policies for surface ships to routinely and actively transmit on their automatic identification system, Richardson said.
Midterm actions will emphasize training, establishing comprehensive policies on managing fatigue and accelerating some of the electronic navigation systems upgrades, he said.
“Long-term actions include improving individual and team training skills, with an emphasis on basic seamanship, navigation and integrated bridge equipment; evaluating core officer and enlisted curricula with an emphasis on fundamentals [and] navigation skills,” the admiral said.
“I have to say that fundamental to all of this is how we prepare leaders for command,” Richardson said. “We will deeply examine the way that we prepare officers for increasing leadership challenges, culminating in assumption of command with the capability and the confidence to form, train and assess warfighting teams on the bridge, in the combat information center, in engineering and throughout their command.”
Few know mission command better than retired Gen. Carter F. Ham. In the time between his enlistment as an infantryman in 1973 and his retirement as a geographic combatant commander in 2013, Ham experienced the Army from a variety of perspectives, including as the commander of U.S. Army Europe and as the director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As the current president and chief executive officer of the Association of the U.S. Army, Ham continues to make a difference on behalf of the men and women who serve. Here are his insights on mission command as the Army looks to the future.
Q: After having a career that spanned four decades, what does mission command mean to you?
A: When I think of mission command, it is getting the right process by which leaders make decisions to employ their forces from the strategic to tactical levels. It is freedom to act within intent and established parameters, and it’s achieving the right blend of initiative and control.
I’ve thought about this a lot as the Army sometimes has a tendency to rebrand old ideas with new names. The term “mission command” started gaining momentum over “command and control” in the late 2000s, particularly when Gen. Martin Dempsey was at Training and Doctrine Command. A lot of talk within the profession suggested this really wasn’t anything new but, rather, what the Army had always done in terms of mission-type orders and building trust.
General Carter F. Ham.
My sense was that it wasn’t quite the same. The cohort of senior Army officers at the time, myself included, grew up mostly in the Cold War era with very clearly defined boundaries, rear areas, adjacent units, and the like. When that era changed and the Army found itself in highly irregular warfare, leaders recognized command and control wasn’t adequate for the new environment.
The command piece was okay, but the control piece was overly regulated given the circumstances in which the Army was anticipated to operate. It was time for a change, and I think mission command was exactly the right focus. With varying degrees at varying levels, and certainly as circumstances change, we must enable leaders to operate with empowered, disciplined initiative and higher degrees of flexibility.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as commander of U.S. Africa Command?
A: Most Americans think of Africa as a single place; it’s not. It is huge; at the very least, Africa is 54 countries with vast geographic differences, linguistic challenges, and economic, cultural, and ethnic diversity. It’s an exceedingly complex area of operations.
When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me he intended to recommend the president nominate me for [commanding general of] the Africa Command, I had two feelings simultaneously. First was pure exhilaration: “Holy smokes, you’re going to be a combatant commander! You get your picture hung on the entryway of the Pentagon!”
But instantaneously, the second feeling hit: “You don’t know anything about Africa.” At the time, it was not a part of the world any of us in the military thought much about.
Carter F. Ham as lieutenant colonel commanding U.S. forces in Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia, speaking to Admiral William Owens in 1995.
I was going from a very Europe-centric career — frankly a very comfortable setting for me because I had relationships with many of the senior leaders — to exceeding discomfort in Africa. It was intellectually stimulating, but I just didn’t have that foundational understanding of the area of operations as I did in Europe.
For me, this was mission command in practice at the upper operational and strategic levels. Despite the dispersed nature of U.S. forces, the requirement to work with host-nation forces, and the diversity of missions — ranging from very precise targeted activities and hostage rescue to maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and veterinary teams helping with herds of animals — there was still an expectation from the Secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the other service chiefs. They were empowering me to make decisions in this vast and complex area of responsibility.
You can’t do that with a highly structured, highly controlling style of leadership. I had to catch myself sometimes, and my senior enlisted leaders would often remind me, “General, they don’t need you to tell them how many times to turn the screwdriver; they need your intent.”
If you can describe your intent, subordinate leaders will accomplish the mission.
Q: How does mission command need to evolve to maximize readiness for the future operational environment?
A: There is recognition that the Army has to refocus after 15-plus years of irregular warfare and counter-insurgency operations. Gen. [Mark] Milley has it right; we have to get back to preparing for combat operations across all domains against a very capable, state-based adversary. It’s a much more complex environment in which to operate.
The first half of my career was highly structured and very clearly focused on a state-based adversary, the Soviet Union. It was a very dangerous, but also very predictable, period. We knew their doctrine and organizational structure; they knew ours. We knew their equipment and capabilities; they knew ours. Our war plans were incredibly detailed: we knew exactly where we were going to fight and exactly where almost every soldier was going to go in the defense of Western Europe. Control was dominant.
That is not the environment in which the Army will operate in the future. We have to develop leaders who can thrive in the ambiguity that is certain to exist in future combat. Leaders must know how to exercise mission command and make proper decisions without linkages to their higher and adjacent units, or when communications are degraded. That, I think, is the great challenge the Army faces today.
Carter F. Ham speaking to reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon in October 2005.
Q: Can you discuss the importance of mission command for sustainment formations?
A: I’m not a logistician, but I learned the importance of sustainers early. When I was a division operations officer, I had some great mentoring from my division commander. The simple message was, “The brigades, they’re going to win the fight; you don’t need to spend time mapping things out for them. Your job is to set the conditions for those brigades to operate, and the biggest piece of that is sustainment.”
In the Cold War, sustainment was a complex operation; it’s tenfold more complex today. There are no longer safe rear areas, secure supply routes, or the ability to move “iron mountains” of supplies to the point of need at a moment’s notice.
In my era, sustainment was mostly a math problem: how do you move stuff from point A to point B? Today’s sustainment challenge is much more of an art than it is a science. How will sustainers make sure that dispersed, often separated, units have what they need to fight and win on the future battlefield?
The science is certainly still there; you still have to make sure fuel, water, chow, and ammunition are at the right place at the right time. But now, more than ever, sustainers have to be inside the heads of maneuver commanders, understanding what they want to achieve. That’s where it becomes more of an art, and I think that’s where mission command enters into the realm for sustainment leaders.
Q: How important is training?
A: I’m old enough to have been in the Army before there were combat training centers, and it’s night and day. I was an opposing force guy at the National Training Center in the mid- to late-1980s, and you could see the Army get better. Repetition matters. Complexity matters. The difficulty created in the training base matters.
We want Army leaders to be more challenged in their training than they will be in combat. That’s tough to achieve these days, particularly given multi-domain operations. How do you create that cyber, electronic warfare, or geographic complexity leaders will have to deal with? The more we invest in the rigors of our training, the better off we will be. That certainly applies to the sustainment force.
There are tremendous opportunities in the Synthetic Training Environment that allow for repetition and increased difficulty without great expense. At some point you still have to put Army units in the dirt to train, but it’s the most expensive way to do so. There’s so much you can do prior to that point so that units enter that phase at a much higher level. For all of our forces, the Synthetic Training Environment will yield a stronger Army that is able to train at levels we can’t imagine today.
General Carter F. Ham being sworn into office as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe by Cairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen on Aug. 28, 2008.
Q: Where does integration with our allies and coalition partners fit into mission command?
A: In our guiding documents, including the National Military Strategy and Army vision, we’ve established a recognition that the Army will always operate with allies and partners. The scale will vary from time to time, but we’re always going to do so in some form. As fast as the Army is changing, we have to be careful we don’t leave our allies and partners out of our modernization efforts.
We also have to become increasingly comfortable with the idea of U.S. maneuver forces being sustained by forces of another country and vice versa. This became almost normal for us when our force presence in Iraq and Afghanistan was very high. Now that force levels are significantly lower, junior leaders have less opportunity to interact with our allies and partners. We have to find a way to replicate those kinds of activities in the training base.
Again, I think it is more art than science. Part of the art is making sure each of the partners has responsibility for support, for sustaining, and for direction in a coalition-type operation. That doesn’t happen by accident. Through the exercise of mission command, we want to create leaders who are comfortable in multinational environments.
Q: How are we doing as an Army when it comes to soldier resilience?
A: When I came home from Iraq, I think like many soldiers, I felt incomplete. I felt I had left soldiers behind; I came home and those I had served with were still there. I came to the Pentagon, the five-sided puzzle palace, and my work just didn’t feel very fulfilling. I had this tremendous longing to go back.
As a one-star general at the time, I don’t pretend I was on patrol facing hard combat every day like a squad leader or platoon sergeant. That’s an extraordinary kind of stress I frankly didn’t see on a daily basis. I think for leaders the effect is a little different; it’s a different kind of stress. Particularly for commanders, when you lose soldiers in combat — soldiers who are wounded or killed executing orders you issued — that stays with you.
When I came home, it was my wife who said, “Hey listen, you’ve changed.” That was important. It was recognition that a normal person can’t be exposed to combat and be unchanged. A lot of soldiers go through combat and deal with it very effectively. They’re resilient, they deal with it openly and confront it, and they continue to move forward. But there’s a spectrum, and on the other end are soldiers who have post-traumatic stress or, in more severe cases, traumatic brain injury. I was one of those who needed a little bit of help; mine came from an Army chaplain.
I’ll confess I was outed publicly. It wasn’t me coming forward; it was someone else talking about it. But as a general officer, my sense was [that] many other soldiers were having the same challenges readjusting to a nondeployed environment. If coming forward publicly would encourage one other soldier to get help and to say, “I’m having a tough time,” to his or her spouse, a chaplain, a social worker, a commander, a first sergeant, to somebody — then my speaking out was worthwhile.
I think the Army is once again leading the nation in matters like this. The senior leadership — the Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Sergeant Major of the Army — are coming forward and saying, “Hey, it is strength to step forward and say I need a little bit of help.”
Carter F. Ham listens to a soldier’s comments during a visit to the headquarters of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Reserve.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Mark Bell)
That’s what the Army needs. We need soldiers who can take a blow, whether physical or psychological, recover, and be stronger in continuing their mission.
There’s still a lot of work to be done; we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the stigma is gone. We have to keep it as a frontline Army effort and continue to say, “This can make you stronger; and when you’re stronger, our Army is stronger.” But I’m really proud of our efforts thus far.
Q: You’re one of only a few to rise from private to four-star general. What advice do you have for soldiers today?
A: First, recognize I didn’t go from private to four-star overnight; there were just a few intervening steps along the way. When I was enlisted, I rose to the exalted position of being our battalion command sergeant major’s driver. He was, to me, the model of the noncommissioned officer: mission-focused, hard on soldiers, and always fair. He made me a better soldier. And after all these years, it comes back to one question, “Why do you serve?”
We get so busy sometimes that we forget this. We talk a lot about what we do; we talk less about what we’re for. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to young leaders, both enlisted and officers, I ask them to think about the oath they took. It is the bond that ties us together, the shared commitment each one of us made to serve the nation.
In my mind, it’s what makes the Army such a unique organization. I have lots of experience as a joint officer, and I truly value the other services. We have the best Marine Corps, the best Navy, and the best Air Force. But of all the services, I think the Army is uniquely of the people. We’re the biggest and most diverse. I think it’s worthwhile to sit back and say, “What is this Army for, and why is it that more than one million women and men have raised their right hand and said I’m willing to do this?”
Every now and then, take time to think about it. Don’t get consumed by it, but take pause and remember why you chose to serve this nation. I found when I did, it caused me to reflect as a professional soldier and “re-green” myself. For any Army leader — enlisted, officer, or civilian — it’s a worthy endeavor to remember why.
Arpi Dilanian is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. She holds a bachelor’s degree from American University and a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Matthew Howard is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgetown University.
This article was published in the January-March 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.
On his second deployment to Afghanistan, then-Sgt. Sean Karpf led his squad along a narrow pathway between two streambeds in Kandahar.
Up ahead, about 300 meters, a group of suspicious men scrambled on the rooftop of a building. He and his squad moved in closer to pull security.
As he walked on the pathway, which had been previously cleared, his left boot stepped on a pressure plate. A buried bomb exploded.
In a daze, Krapf remembered looking down at the cloud of smoke. He had ringing in his ears; he could taste the chemicals from the bomb.
“It was just chaos,” he recalled of the June 2012 incident. “I could hear people yelling my name, but I was still stunned at that point and I really did not know what was going on.”
Today, Karpf, 33, wears a prosthetic on his left leg that was later amputated below the knee.
Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, who lost his lower left leg after he stepped on a pressure plate that detonated a buried bomb in Afghanistan, now works as a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He can often be seen in the weight room or on the practice field for the Jacksonville Jaguars — his favorite NFL team since he was 10 when they began to play in his hometown.
In his first year as a full-time strength and conditioning associate for the team, Karpf has found a new purpose in life that drives him.
Helping players get ready for each weekly battle on the gridiron against opposing teams reminds Karpf of his days as an Army sergeant.
“I love the preparation that goes into the games,” he said in a phone interview Dec. 18, 2018. “It brings me back to military training.”
Former Sgt. Sean Karpf was a squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division.
Once the smoke cleared, the squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division saw his injured leg and began to push himself out of the crater the bomb had left.
A medic put a tourniquet on him and he was placed onto a litter. As a medevac helicopter began to land, the Taliban insurgents fired a machine gun toward it and it lifted back up.
A firefight ensued and Karpf, who was still calling out orders to his squad, said an Army attack helicopter swooped in to make a few gun runs so the other helicopter could pick him up.
Karpf, who had played linebacker for a semipro football team in North Carolina, was about to face the biggest test in his life.
He spent over a year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and had more than 20 surgeries.
The following year, he returned to sports. He competed in several swimming and track and field events in the Warrior Games and took home four gold medals.
“When I was working with the physical therapist, I made sure I got in extra work,” he said. “I had that goal in mind and I think it helped with my recovery.”
He also received a presidential send-off at the White House for a four-day bicycle ride that he and other wounded warriors participated in.
To the sergeant’s surprise, then-President Barack Obama spoke of his recovery and training in his speech.
“I didn’t even know that he was going to talk about me,” Karpf said, laughing. “I was sitting there on the bike and he mentioned my name and told the crowd I was competing in Warrior Games. I was like, wow, that was pretty cool.”
Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, left, who lost his lower left leg after he stepped on a pressure plate that detonated a buried bomb in Afghanistan, now works as a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Once he left the Army after almost six years, Karpf moved back to Jacksonville. No longer in uniform, depression began to set in and he stopped staying active.
He then started a program through a nonprofit that allowed him to take college courses and do an internship in the local community. He chose his favorite sports team.
At first, he did various office jobs for the Jaguars but then gravitated toward the weight room to help out players.
When his brief internship ended, the father of two was asked to come back to intern for the entire season in 2017.
Following the Jaguars loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, Karpf came in for his last time with the team to clean out his locker.
Karpf was asked to report to Tom Coughlin, a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach who now serves as the Jaguars’ executive vice president of football operations.
Coughlin decided to take on the former soldier full time.
“I thought this would be a heck of a guy to hire for our strength and conditioning program because of what he brings to the table,” Coughlin said in a recent ESPN video about Karpf. “And also for our players to maybe get to know a young man who had made those kind of sacrifices for his country.”
Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars, gave U.S. flags encased in shadow boxes to players who support the local community, including veterans and their families.
(Photo by Alex Brooks)
Being able to be around the game he loves has been therapeutic for Karpf, who has just started on a master’s degree in injury prevention.
“As far as with the [post-traumatic stress disorder], it’s made it easier,” he said.
He also shares a special bond with those on the team, a similar connection he once had with his fellow soldiers.
“You can see a brotherhood, but it’s not as prevalent as in the military,” he said. “But it’s still that team atmosphere and everybody coming together with that same goal in mind.”
As he was preparing to leave after last season’s final game, he gave folded U.S. flags encased in shadow boxes to players who volunteer in the community, some of those efforts helping veterans and their families.
“I did that before I realized that I was coming back,” Karpf said. “It was my way of saying thank you for everything you do in the community.”
As an honor to Karpf, some players even kept the flags on display in their lockers.
“It’s pretty cool going through the locker room and seeing the flags,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”
But back then he was just Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry, a civilian detainee. He was one of some 80,000 detainees who were held at one of four detention facilities throughout Iraq. They were a mix of petty criminals and insurgents captured in house raids over the course of the war.
It was the Iraqi government who released Baghdadi.
Eventually, the 2008 U.S. Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq would set the terms for closing the prison system and moving the detainees to Iraqi custody. The American government was primarily concerned with some 200 prisoners they deemed most dangerous.
Baghdadi was not one of them.
At the time of his release, Baghdadi and the others who were released were considered “low level” and not much of a threat. After his release, he gravitated to the insurgent group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which came to be known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in 2006. The Americans continued to systematically eliminate AQI’s leadership. In 2010, Baghdadi was promoted to a leadership position in what was left of the network.
No one really knows how Baghdadi rose in the ranks. When his name was revealed as one of the group’s leaders (which then started calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq), no one in U.S. intelligence knew any of their names. The seeds of what would become ISIS were sown.
One file exposed a plot crafted by senior leaders in the Kennedy Administration encouraging Cubans to kill government agents for financial rewards.
The bounties for targeting Communist informers, cell leaders, department heads, foreign supporters, and government officials ranged from $5,000 to as much as $100,000. The plan, according to the newly released file, was to drop leaflets from the air in Cuba advertising the rewards.
A meager $0.02 was offered for the killing of Fidel Castro, then Cuba’s prime minister.
In 1975, Edward Lansdale, a prominent CIA intelligence official, testified to the Senate that the pocket-change offering for the Cuban leader was meant “to denigrate … Castro in the eyes of the Cuban population.” Lansdale was known for leading counter-insurgency missions in developing countries, especially in Vietnam and the Philippines.
The recently released JFK file goes on to say that once the plan was implemented, US agents would “kidnap known [Communist] party members thereby instilling confidence in the operation among the Cuban populace and apprehension among the Cuban hierarchy.”
The kill-for-pay plan — dubbed “Operation Bounty” — never took hold. Lansdale said he “tabled” the concept because he didn’t think “it was something that should be seriously undertaken or supported further.”
It’s unclear why exactly he thought the plan should have been scrapped. The CIA had, on numerous occasions, attempted to assassinate Castro and overthrow his Communist government.
Norway will ask the United States to more than double the number of U.S. Marines stationed in the country in a move that could raise tensions with neighboring Russia, top ministers have said.
The move announced by Oslo’s foreign and defense ministers on June 12, 2018, comes amid increasing wariness among nations bordering Russia after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.
Nine nations along NATO’s eastern flank last week called for an increased presence by the military alliance in their region amid concerns about Russian aggression.
Some 330 U.S. Marines currently are scheduled to leave Norway at the end of 2018 after an initial contingent arrived in January 2017 to train for fighting in winter conditions. They were the first foreign troops to be stationed in Norway, a member of NATO, since World War II.
The initial decision to welcome the Marines in 2017 irked Russia, with Moscow warning that it would worsen bilateral relations with Oslo and escalate tensions on NATO’s northern flank.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told reporters on June 12, 2018, that the decision to increase the U.S. presence has broad support in parliament and does not constitute the establishment of a permanent U.S. base in Norway.
Oslo will ask Washington to send 700 Marines starting in 2019, she said, with the additional troops to be based closer to the border with Russia in the Inner Troms region in the Norwegian Arctic, about 420 kilometers from Russia, rather than in central Norway.
“There will still be a respectful distance with the Russian border,” Soereide said. “We can’t see any serious reason why Russia should react, even if we expect it will again this time since it always does about the allied exercises and training.”
The Russian Embassy in Oslo was not available for comment.
To ease Moscow’s concerns, before becoming a founder member of NATO in 1949, Oslo said it would not station foreign troops on its soil unless it was under threat of attack.
The ministers said Norway still abides by that commitment and claimed that the new U.S. troop presence would be “rotational,” not permanent.
The new troops will be rotated in for five-year periods, they said, while the posting of U.S. troops in Norway since 2017 was only for six-month intervals that were extended repeatedly.
Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told reporters in Oslo that the expanded military force in the country is intended to improve the training and winter fighting capability of NATO troops.
“The defense of Norway depends on the support of our NATO allies, as is the case in most other NATO countries,” he said. “For this support to work in times of crises and war, we are are totally dependent on joint training and exercises in times of peace.”
In addition to posting more troops in Norway, the ministers said the United States has expressed interest in building infrastructure to accommodate up to four U.S. fighter jets at a base 65 kilometers south of Oslo, as part of a European deterrence initiative launched after Crimea’s annexation.
The Breadwinner, a new, critically acclaimed animation film that depicts the heroic struggles of a young Afghan girl under hard-line Taliban rule, is a testament to the desire for storytelling “when our world tips upside-down,” says its award-winning Irish filmmaker.
Adapted from Canadian author Deborah Ellis’s bestselling children’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of 11-year-old Parvana, who disguises herself as a boy to support her family after her father is wrongfully imprisoned.
Undaunted by oppression and the horrors of war around her, the heroine embarks on a quest to free her father. To console her younger siblings and find refuge from her struggles, Parvana invents a fable about a courageous boy who stands up to the so-called Elephant King.
“As the film is set around 2001, all of the characters in this film are a product of decades of war, each character deals with their challenges in different ways,” director Nora Twomey, whose other credits include the Academy Award-nominated The Secret Of Kells and Song Of The Sea, tells RFE/RL. “The film explores the idea of transformation, how small actions, or words, have the potential to become a catalyst for change.”
During its brutal rule of Afghanistan from 1996-2001, the fundamentalist Taliban banned women and girls from attending school, working outside the home, or even venturing outdoors unless accompanied by a male relative.
The Breadwinner has earned plaudits and been well received by audiences around the world since its November release, and has been nominated for the Best Motion Picture, Animated, at the Golden Globes.
Oscar-winning actor-director Angelina Jolie is an executive producer.
Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland when Northern Ireland was engulfed in war and sectarianism, Twomey says she feels an affinity for Afghans who have endured nearly four decades of almost uninterrupted bloodshed.
“As an Irish woman, having grown up as Northern Ireland experienced conflict and reconciliation, I have some small understanding of a few of the issues facing Afghan people,” she says.
“Afghans, much like the Irish, are a nation of storytellers,” she adds. “I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The Irish experienced occupation, famine, and war yet the storyteller was a welcome visitor to any house they came to. When our world tips upside-down, we all look to stories to try to make sense of what is going on inside of us.”
Twomey says her film is not just an appeal for women’s rights or a critique of misogyny in Afghanistan.
“By telling a story like this through animation, there is the potential to create empathy,” says Twomey, “whether that be empathy between the genders or between different parts of the world.”
Twomey has said she hopes the film will prompt discussions about the West’s involvement in wars in the Muslim world and evoke compassion for immigrants and refugees amid growing anti-Islam and anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe and the United States.
Twomey and her Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon studios gained international fame with The Secret Of Kells, which she co-directed.
The Breadwinner marks her solo directing debut with a feature-length film.
“I believe animation can allow an audience to identify more closely with a character,” she says. “If you express a character with a few drawn lines, that character could be you or me. The more detail you add, the more ‘other’ it becomes. There is a language created between the characters, their environment, reality, and the animator which says something new.”
The Breadwinner might have raised some red flags for international audiences increasingly aware of cultural appropriation. It is set in Afghanistan but made mostly by Westerners and based largely on the accounts of Ellis, the book’s activist author, who interviewed Afghan refugees in Pakistan in the 1990s.
But Twomey, who has not visited Afghanistan, says that at every stage Afghans were involved in crafting the sensibility of the film. She says it is based on the interviews conducted by Ellis for her novel and the testimonies of Afghan members of her cast.
“We found moments that ring true, like the dread of a knock at the door, the smell of fresh bread, [or] the VHS tapes strung up on electricity poles as a warning against media of any kind,” Twomey says. “These moments in the film come from Afghan memory, and it seems fitting that these moments are translated through the hands of artists and animators to reflect back these words in an empathetic way.”
The Breadwinner is not the first film to delve into the issue of bacha posh — literally “dressed like a boy” in Dari, the form of Persian spoken in Afghanistan. The device of a girl dressing as a boy was central to the award-winning film Osama (2003), directed by Siddiq Barmak; the Disney animated film Mulan (1998); and even Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
“Parvana and Osama are very different characters, who undergo different journeys, with different relationships,” says Twomey.” With The Breadwinner, I wanted to make a film that was accessible to young adults and also one that leaves our audience with hope. Hope in the form of Parvana herself.”