Despite some reports to the contrary, the Army is still looking for a new rifle that uses a 7.62mm cartridge.
“The chief [U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley] wanted an interim combat rifle, or he was only going to fulfill a requirement to have a squad-designated marksman in each squad, called a squad-designated marksman rifle,” said the Army’s top gear guyer, Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings. “So, there are two efforts going on to get a 7.62 inside the squad.”
What are those two efforts? Cummings said that course of action No. 1 is to have one Soldier in a squad carrying the Squad-Designated Marksman Rifle, or SDMR. Course of action No. 2, he said, is to have multiple Soldiers in a squad with the Interim Combat Service Rifle, or ICSR. Both are 7.62mm weapons.
The SDMR is already a program of record for the Army, Cummings said, and there is a weapon already identified to fill that role: the M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System, or CSASS. That weapon is undergoing testing now, Cumming said.
But the ICSR and the SDMR do not represent the future for what weapons will be issued to most Soldiers.
“Right now, many are focused on the ICSR or SDMR,” Cummings said. “But that’s not the long-term way ahead. The long-term way ahead is a brand new rifle for all of the Department of Defense called the Next Generation Squad Weapon.”
The Next Generation Squad Weapon, or NGSW, is actually two weapons, he said. It’ll include one rifle to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and then a carbine that replaces the M4. Both the M249 and the M4 use the 5.56mm cartridge. The NGSW will likely use a different caliber cartridge than 5.56mm.
“For the next-generation, we wanted to make one end-all solution,” Cummings said. “With the M4, when you look at it, it’s got all these things hanging on top of it. We keep evolving by putting on things. The next-generation is going to be kind of like what we did with the pistol, with the modular handgun system. It’ll be one complete system, with weapon, magazine, ammo and fire control on it and we will cut down on the load and integration issues associated with it.”
The general said the U.S. Marine Corps is “on board” with development of the NGSW, and the British are interested as well.
Cummings said the Army can expect to start seeing the Next Generation Squad Weapon by 2022, in about five years. That’ll include the weapon, magazine and bullet. Later, by 2025, he said, Soldiers can expect to see a fully-developed fire-control system.
Until then, Cummings said, the Army is working on an interim solution to get a larger-caliber rifle into the hands of at least some Soldiers. It’ll either be the SDMR in the hands of one Soldier, or the ICSR in the hands of some Soldiers. But, he said, “the final decision has not been made.”
Fielding the M17 pistol
Come November, the XM17 handgun, also called the “Modular Handgun System,” or MHS, will drop the “X,” which designates it as “experimental” and will instead be called the M17.
At that time, the Army is expected to reach a conditional material release for the MHS, and will issue some 2,000 of the pistols to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
The “Screaming Eagles” will be the first in a long line of units to receive the new 9mm pistol, which is meant as a replacement for the existing M9, which is quickly approaching the end of its useful service life.
Also among the first to receive the new pistol will be the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas, as well as one of the Army’s new security force assistance brigades.
All three units will have the new M17 handgun issued to them by the end of the year, Cummings said, who serves as Program Executive Officer Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
While the XM17 pistol is manufactured by Sig Sauer and is based on Sig Sauer’s existing P320 pistol, Cummings brushed off comparisons between the two weapons.
“It’s a different weapons system,” Cummings said.
As the Program Executive Officer Soldier, Cummings is responsible for managing those Army programs that provide most of the things Soldiers carry or wear. That includes, among other things, individual and crew-served weapons, protective gear, weapons sights and sensors, and uniform items.
The general said that both the M17, which is a full-sized version of the pistol, and the M18, which is a compact version, include different safety features than the P320 pistol, as well as different requirements for accuracy and reliability.
Cummings also said that the new pistol may see more action than its predecessor, the M9, which was primarily issued as a personal protection weapon.
“We’re looking at more than the traditional basis of issue, where we are doing a one-for-one replacement,” he said. The M17 and M18, he said, have also proven good for close-quarters combat, and so might be issued to some units and Soldiers to fill that role as well.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Winder Perez was fighting in Afghanistan in January 2012 when he was shot with a rocket-propelled grenade that pierced his leg and remained stuck there without detonating.
A medical evacuation crew ignored regulations against moving unexploded ordnance, picked him up, and flew him to medical care where an explosives technician removed the RPG so a Navy medical officer could operate on him.
Specialist Mark Edens was the first member of the MEDEVAC crew to see the Marine. The flight had originally been briefed that they were receiving an injured little girl as a patient, but they arrived to find the lance corporal with a large wound and an approximately 2-foot long rocket protruding from his leg.
When Army pilot Capt. Kevin Doo was told about the embedded RPG, he asked his entire crew to vote on whether to evacuate the patient. They unanimously voted yes despite the dangers.
“There was no doubt to anyone that we were going to take this Marine and get him the medical attention needed to save his life,” Doo told Army journalists. “When dealing with this — not knowing that any moment could be your last — 18 inches from the patient’s legs was about 360 gallons of aviation fuel.”
“After Lance Cpl. Perez was loaded on the Black Hawk, it was a total of 11.2 minutes of flight time where every minute felt like an hour,” Doo added. “During that time, we were on the radio coordinating with our escorts, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and medical personnel who were going to treat Perez.”
Gennari later said that the Perez’s wounds were so severe that he would’ve died without the quick MEDEVAC. Edens, Doo, and the rest of the Army MEDEVAC team then transported Perez to Camp Bastion where he began the long road to recovery.
The Air Force recently released a bunch of crazy pictures of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs getting refueled over Afghanistan, where the US recently redeployed a squadron of 12 Warthogs.
The A-10s were deployed in late January 2018 to Kandahar Air Base as part of a new campaign announced in November 2017. The US is increasing airstrikes on Taliban revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin drug-producing facilities.
Since then, the US has released several videos of A-10s striking Taliban vehicles, as well as training and drug-producing facilities.
An active-duty US Marine captain wrote a stinging op-ed for the Marine Corps Gazette, going through all the problems he sees with the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps in addition to recent failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The biggest problem, according to Capt. Joshua Waddell, is “self-delusion.”
“Let us first begin with the fundamental underpinnings of this delusion: our measures of performance and effectiveness in recent wars,” he wrote. “It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The active-duty infantry officer, who served with and lost Marines under his command with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, in Afghanistan, didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. He said it took several years for him to accept that, with the goal of improving the system.
A case in point, he says, is a comparison of the US military with other adversaries.
The Pentagon’s budget dwarfs the combined defense spending of the next 10 countries. The Army and Marine Corps are arguably the best-trained fighting forces in the world. The Air Force has the most high-tech aircraft and weaponry, while the Navy maintains nearly 20 aircraft carriers — far more than adversaries like Russia and China that have only one each.
These stats should mean the US military is unstoppable, but the budget, talk of being the best in the world, and other claims it makes don’t square with measures of effectiveness, Waddell writes.
“How, then, have we been bested by malnourished and undereducated men with antiquated and improvised weaponry whilst spending trillions of dollars in national treasure and costing the lives of thousands of servicemen and hundreds of thousands of civilians?” he wrote.
“For example, a multibillion-dollar aircraft carrier that can be bested by a few million dollars in the form of a swarming missile barrage or a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capable of rendering its flight deck unusable does not retain its dollar value in real terms. Neither does the M1A1 tank, which is defeated by $20 worth of household items and scrap metal rendered into an explosively-formed projectile.
“The Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization has a library full of examples like these, and that is without touching the weaponized return on investment in terms of industrial output and capability development currently being employed by our conventional adversaries.”
His article isn’t just a critique; Waddell offers several solutions to get the military out of the “business-as-usual” mindset that looks good in PowerPoint briefs but doesn’t translate to success on the ground.
While military leaders typically complain to Congress that constrained budgets have a “crippling” effect on the military, Waddell says the military should work more efficiently with the money it has. He gives an example of a nation already doing this: Russia.
Moscow’s military budget is about $52 billion, versus Washington’s proposed defense budget of $583 billion. Yet with far less money, Russia has been a consistent thorn in the US’s side in Syria, Ukraine, and now Afghanistan. That’s not to mention Moscow’s success in cyberwarfare.
“This is the same Russian military whom the RAND Corporation has estimated would be unstoppable in an initial conventional conflict in the Baltic states, even against the combined might of the NATO forces stationed there,” Waddell wrote. “Given the generous funding the American people have bequeathed us to provide for the common defense, is it so unreasonable to seek an efficient frontier of that resource’s utility?”
Waddell’s critique includes a call to fix inefficiencies between the Defense Department getting gear to war fighters, as some have to buy things they need because they don’t get there before they deploy. Waddell also calls for an audit of the Marines to see whether there are redundant efforts among contractors.
“There is no reason we should be paying twice for the same work or, as is often the case, paying government personnel for work that they have instead outsourced to more capable contractors for tasks within the government worker’s job description,” he wrote. “I would be willing to bet that a savvy staff officer with access to these position and billet descriptions as well as contracting line items could save the Marine Corps millions of dollars by simply hitting Control+F (find all) on his keyboard, querying key tasks, and counting redundancies.”
It’s unclear how much of an effect this op-ed would have on any changes. The Marine Corps Gazette is read mostly by senior Marine leadership, but whether that translates to taking this captain’s advice in an institution that is resistant to change is an open question.
“I have watched Marines charge headlong into enemy fire and breach enemy defenses with the enemy’s own captured IEDs in order to engage in close combat,” Waddell wrote. “This same fighting spirit from which we draw so much pride must be replicated by our senior leaders in leading comprehensive reform of our Corps’ capabilities and in creating a supporting establishment truly capable of fostering innovation.”
Members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, inspect the Tabqa dam on March 27, 2017, which has been recently partially recaptured, as part of their battle for the jihadists’ stronghold in nearby Raqa.
Clashes raged around a key northern Syrian town on Tuesday after the Islamic State group launched a counter-attack to fend off a U.S.-backed advance near the jihadists’ stronghold Raqa.
Backed by air power from an international coalition bombing, the Syrian Democratic Forces are laying the groundwork for an assault on the heart of the jihadists’ so-called “caliphate.”
A key part of the campaign is the battle for the ISIS-held town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River, as well as the adjacent dam and military airport.
The SDF seized the Tabqa airbase late Sunday and began pushing north towards the town itself, but ISIS fighters doubled down on their defenses on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“The fighting is a result of ISIS launching a counter-offensive to exhaust the Syrian Democratic Forces around the Tabqa military airport,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said the SDF was working to “consolidate its positions” near the airport ahead of a final push for the town.
SDF fighters are also bearing down on the Tabqa dam after capturing its northern entrance on Friday from ISIS fighters.
The fight around the structure has been backed by forces from the US-led coalition, with American-made armoured vehicles bearing the markings of the U.S. Marine Corps seen moving along a nearby road.
An AFP correspondent at the dam on Tuesday said it was generally quiet around the dam itself, despite the occasional ISIS-fired mortar that landed in SDF-controlled parts of the riverbank.
Airplanes could be heard humming above as SDF forces patrolled the northern entrance of the structure.
On Tuesday, coalition forces could be seen standing near military vehicles less than one mile from the dam, their mortar rounds casually stacked nearby.
After a brief pause in fighting on Monday to allow technicians to enter the dam complex, SDF fighters resumed their operations around the structure, said spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed.
“ISIS amassed its fighters and attacked our forces in the area, which forced us to respond and resume the operations to liberate the dam,” she said.
Earlier this year, the United Nations raised concern about the prospect of damage to the dam in fighting, warning that water levels — which put pressure on the structure — were already high.
ISIS has also issued warnings through its propaganda agency Amaq that the dam “is threatened with collapse at any moment because of American strikes and a large rise in water levels”.
On Tuesday, technicians accompanied by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent could be seen examining the dam to assess whether water levels had risen in recent days.
“The explosions and the clashes are threatening the dam, and we ask for all sides to distance themselves from it,” said Ismail Jassem, an engineer from the SDF-controlled Tishreen Dam in neighbouring Aleppo province.
“The water levels are acceptable now. We came to open up one of the gates to relieve the pressure,” he told AFP.
The SDF launched its offensive for Raqa city in November 2016, seizing around two thirds of the surrounding province, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
At their closest point, the forces are just five miles from Raqa city, to the northeast.
But they are mostly further away, between ten to fifteen miles from Raqa.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of source on the ground in Syria, said ISIS had deployed around 900 fighters from Raqa city to various fronts in the wider province.
“Fighting is raging on every front around the city of Raqa, accompanied by non-stop air strikes,” Abdel Rahman said.
Syria’s conflict began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 but has turned into a brutal war pitting government forces, jihadists, rebels, and Kurds against each other.
UN-mediated talks between government and rebel representatives continued Tuesday in Geneva, aimed at bringing an end to the war that has killed 320,000 people.
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.
A Coast Guard member became the second woman in its history to receive the Silver Lifesaving Medal.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Sector Mobile, received the medal for saving two swimmers off the coast of Long Island Sound, New York.
Vanderhaden received the medal in July. Photo courtesy of Facebook.
“It was 2018 and I had just moved to New York and was trying to hit every beach in the area. I hadn’t been to Fire Island yet but heard the sunset there was amazing. I have the surf report app on my phone and it said it was going to be six feet. There were people and beach deer everywhere. … But I saw two guys pretty far out in the water and it was like a washing machine out there [with the waves],” Vanderhaden said.
She says she slowly grew more alarmed as she watched and heard someone on the shore yelling “ayúdenme.” Although she couldn’t understand the Spanish word, Vanderhaden sensed something was wrong. Turning to the couple next to her, she asked if they knew what that word meant. They did: Help me.
Turning to the couple next to her, she asked if they knew what that word meant. They did: Help me.
Vanderhaden immediately headed to the water, instructing people to call the police and the nearby Coast Guard station. She took off her shoes, sweater and started swimming. The rip current was so strong, it pulled her to the first man pretty quickly. Since the other man in the water was in more trouble being further out, she let the first know she’d be back for him and to try to stay afloat.
“When I got to the next guy, he was freaking out and climbing on me a lot. I was propping him up on my knee, holding him and telling him it was going to be okay. I don’t even know if he could understand me. Finally, he calmed down and I started swimming with him, pulling and pushing him. Then, we got to the second guy and that’s when things got hard,” Vanderhaden said.
When she reached the second man in the water, he began grabbing at her in obvious terror. Managing him while also keeping the other man and herself above water was a struggle. It took about 10 minutes just to calm them down.
“I started pushing one and pulling the other. I couldn’t see the beach because it had gotten dark and the waves were so high. We finally made it to shore and then the guys were hugging me and thanking me,” Vanderhaden said.
She found out later they were in the water almost 45 minutes.
Once she finished giving her statement to the police, she called her senior chief who was the OIC of her assigned duty station. Vanderhaden just briefly told them she had to talk to police but didn’t go into detail of what happened.
The police thought she was assigned to Coast Guard Station Fire Island but she was actually part of Coast Guard Station Eatons Neck. For about a week, they couldn’t figure out who she was and the sector jokingly started referring to her as the “Ghost Coastie.” It wasn’t until her mom happened to overhear some of the story that the dots finally got connected back to Vanderhaden.
“It was about a week before anyone knew it was me,” Vanderhaden said with a laugh.
Roughly two years later, she received the Silver Lifesaving Medal, with the presenting officer being a familiar face: her father. Vanderhaden’s father, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason M. Vanderhaden, is the top senior enlisted leader for the Coast Guard. Her brother currently serves too.
“For me, the other military branches making fun of us is one thing but I feel people [the public] think we are just police officers on the water. But it’s so much more than that,” she said.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden with her parents. Courtesy photo.
Vanderhaden’s father has served since 1988, making the culture of the Coast Guard all she’s ever known. She was asked if she thinks she would have jumped in to rescue the men if she hadn’t been a coastie.
“That’s a difficult question, because I don’t know anything but the Coast Guard. In my world and for all of people I live with and work around — all of us would do the same thing,” she said.
Then she added a recent conversation she had with a retired Coast Guard master chief who told her that some people think and some people do. He then said, the people who join the Coast Guard do.
The Veterans Affairs Make the Connection team is looking for veterans who want to share their stories about seeking support for mental health challenges and take part in a national mental health campaign.
The same obstacles that may, at first, seem insurmountable to an individual are much less daunting when faced by a team. More than 500 veterans and military family members have already stepped up to be that team for their brothers and sisters by sharing their stories in videos on MakeTheConnection.net, a mental health website from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Make the Connection helps veterans and their loved ones realize that reaching out for support and seeking mental health treatment is a sign of strength, and thousands of veterans have found help to overcome their challenges.
The Make the Connection team will be conducting more on-camera interviews in Los Angeles on Friday, Feb. 23, and Saturday, Feb. 24, and is looking for veterans who want to share their stories about seeking help and overcoming mental health and other challenges. Veterans who participate in the video shoot will receive a stipend to offset their expenses for time and travel. When the videos are posted on the Make the Connection website, only the first names of participants are used.
Since its launch six years ago, the Make the Connection campaign has spread positive stories about veteran mental health via Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Veterans featured on the website and in social media have served across all branches of service in every U.S. conflict, from WWII to today. They also represent the full diversity of the military community. Each veteran has coped with conditions, such as addiction, anxiety, depression, serious mental illness, PTSD, and the effects of military sexual trauma and traumatic brain injury.
Veterans who want to tell their stories to help fellow veterans like them can email their name, phone number, and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org or call our outreach team directly at 1-323-813-1426.
Just as a step away from the regularly scheduled news that is probably left in better hands than the “meme guy,” did you know that former President George W. Bush had his museum debut at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C. this week?
Yeah. And I mean, they’re actually pretty good. He’s got plenty of artwork that you can find around, but his most recent series has been stylized portraits of wounded Post-9/11 veterans – with the exception of the veteran’s eyes, which are drawn realistically. I’m no art critic, but I can tell that it draws you in, and you find yourself staring into the very souls of the veterans, and the rest kinda pulls you into how they feel.
I guess that goes to show you that after he got his “Presidential DD-214,” even the former commander-in-chief made a name for himself in the art world. See? Now can you all get off my back for using my GI Bill on a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree?
Anyways, here are some memes while I reevaluate my creative endeavors.
When Johnny Cash took the stage at California’s San Quentin State Prison on Feb. 24, 1969, one of the songs he would record there was destined to become one of Cash’s most iconic songs, as well as one of his biggest hits: “A Boy Named Sue.” It held the top spot on the country charts for five straight weeks and it was his biggest hit, climbing to the second slot on the Billboard 100 chart.
“The Man in Black” was a veteran of the United States Air Force, a morse code operator who spent much of his career spying on the Soviet Union. In fact, Cash was the first person in the West to learn that Stalin died in 1953. As a matter of fact, his distinctive facial scar was the result of good ol’ military medicine.
“A Boy Named Sue” is the story of a boy who was abandoned by his dad at a young age — after giving the boy a female name. Sue finds his dad at a bar years later and gets into a pretty nasty brawl with the old man. That’s when his dad reveals he named the boy Sue so as to make Sue tough even when his dad wasn’t around to raise him.
The song about a boy trying to kill his father probably resonated with Cash’s audience that day.
The author of the song was also a veteran. Shel Silverstein, beloved around the world for his poetry, humor, and illustrations, was drafted by the U.S. Army to fight in Korea — but by the time he arrived the war was over. He was assigned to Stars and Stripes in the Pacific, part of the new peacetime Army. And thus a legendary military writer was born to the veteran community.
It was Silverstein who penned Cash’s now-famous song about the boy with a girl’s name, although Cash put his own twist on it. During the original San Quentin recording, Cash added the line, “I’m the son of a bitch that named you Sue!” In Silverstein’s original writing, there were no curse words used. Even so, the “son of a bitch” line was censored out of the album.
A U.S. Marine Corps photographer took some incredible portraits of Marines assigned to the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group. (The photos were taken in 2017, but they’re worth seeing again).
The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group “support[s] maritime security operations, provide[s] crisis response capability, and increase[s] theater security cooperation while providing a forward naval presence in Europe and the Middle East,” according to the Navy.
The photographer, Sgt. Matthew Callahan, took portraits of Marines assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Kuwait and in Romania, as well as the Marines’ Romanian counterparts with whom they were training.
Check out his photos below:
Pfc. Ken Sicard, a rifleman assigned to Lima Co., 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, poses at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. He said his uncle, who has since passed away, worked to put his three kids to college. In honor of his uncle, Sicard said he puts a portion of every paycheck in a savings account for his cousins.
US Marine Cpl. Rachel Warford is part of the Female Engagement Team, which is deployed with male infantry units and tasked to help communicate with local families and women.
Cpl. Sunsette Winsler, a military working dog handler assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, poses at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. “I knew I was going to be a Marine when I was 12 years old,” she said, despite what her mom imagined. “I didn’t tell [her] for about two months,” after enlisting.
Winsler and her military dog, Bella, have been together “since day one,” she said. “I got to train with Bella for six weeks, certify her, bring her to the fleet and stay on her. I am her first handler and she’s my first dog. I have to rely on her for my life and she has to rely on me for everything else.”
An Alabama native and gunner with Tank platoon, US Marine Sgt. Seth Mullins’ duties are operating and firing the weapons systems on board the M1A1 Abrams.
Lance Cpl. James Nemger, a dog handler assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, poses with his military dog, Caesar. “Caesar has taught me to love life … We can be in the field working on no sleep, out all day in the hot sun doing patrols and Caesar is always having a good time.”
US Marine Gunnery Sgt. Santana Jimenez, platoon sergeant for Tank Platoon and an Arizona native, stands in front one of the Abrams Tank.
US Marine Sgt. Elia Balbaloza, part of the Female Engagement Team, poses during a live-fire training exercise in Romania.
For three days, the Marines participated in Spring Storm 2017 at Capu Midia, training with Romanian soldiers in radio communication, detainee handling, personal security detail, tactical site exploitation and more. It culminated in a live-fire rifle and pistol swap between the two forces.Sgt. Matthew Callahan/US Marine Corps
Romanian Sailor Cpl. Pintilie Madalina, a communications specialist, poses during Spring Storm 2017.
The purpose of the exercise was to provide US amphibious forces with operational training with Romanian Allies in order to enhance interoperability and strengthen enduring partnerships.
US Marine Sgt. Tyler Holcomb is an ordnance maintenance chief with Amphibious Assault Platoon. He’s responsible for inspecting, repairing and maintaining weapons systems for the Marines.
Cpl. Joshua Montgomery, an infantry team leader assigned to Lima Co., 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, poses at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. “I didn’t want to go to school. I wanted to travel the world and shoot big guns … I got all my wishes,” he said with a laugh.
US Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Hecht, an assault amphibian crewman, smokes a cigarette in front of an assault amphibious vehicle, which he’s tasked with operating and maintaining.
Romanian Navy Lt. Zbrnca Mariuta-Lucia was one of 750 Romanian soldiers to participate in Spring Storm 2017.
US Marine Capt. Rebecca Bergstedt is the officer in charge of the Female Engagement Team.
US Marine Lance Cpl. Clayton McCabe, a driver with Amphibious Assault platoon and Missouri native, poses in front one of his AAV.
Romanian Army Lt. Preda Laura poses during Spring Storm 2017. In 2015, the Associated Press reported that Romania began making specialized flack jackets for female soldiers.
Romanian Navy Sgt. Ramona Griguta poses during Spring Storm 2017. By 2008, more than 50 Romanian women had served in combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Romanian Sailor Cpl. Pintilie Madalina, a communications specialist, stands with her rifle during Spring Storm 2017.
The United States is still grappling with the legacy of the Civil War, but legislators in the House of Representatives are moving to prevent the military from naming any assets — including bases and warships — after Confederate soldiers or any locations of Confederate victory, Politico reported.
A draft of the National Defense Authorization Act passed the House July 2019, and contains explicit language barring the practice. Even if this amendment is signed into law, it wouldn’t retroactively apply to assets currently honoring the Confederacy like the cruiser USS Chancellorsville, named for an important Confederate victory.
After a significant cultural reckoning with the legacy of the Confederacy, including the removal of statues and monuments honoring the Confederate dead, the military still uses 10 bases that honor Confederate soldiers — men that fought to uphold the practice of slavery.
“We are naming ships of the United States Navy after people who fought war against the United States,” a veteran told Navy Times.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers jump out of a UH-60 Blackhawk, while fellow Soldiers swim to shore, as part of a Helocast event at Mott Lake at the 2019 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., June 27, 2019. This year’s Best Warrior Competition will determine the top noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted Soldier who will represent the U.S. Army Reserve in the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Rognstad)
Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina is named for Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg.
Fort Bragg is home to the Airborne and Special Operations Forces. Established in 1918 as Camp Bragg, the base is one of the largest military installations in the world and employs about 57,000 military personnel, according to the Army.
Fort Bragg is also named after Braxton Bragg, a Confederate general and West Point graduate who was born in Warrenton, North Carolina. The Army’s history of the base doesn’t mention Bragg’s Confederate ties, saying instead that the base bears his name because of his success in the Mexican-American War that began in 1846.
According to the National Park Service, Bragg had resigned from the Army and “was overseeing his Louisiana plantation when the [Civil] war began.”
Bragg was apointed a brigadier general in 1861, commanding defenses from Pensacola, Florida to Mobile, Alabama. He later commanded the Army of Tennessee, and after a series of defeats, went to Richmond to advise Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He died in 1876.
Marines with 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, head toward shooting point 26 aboard their Amphibious Assault Vehicles during a live fire exercise in participation with Mission Readiness Exercise at Fort. A.P. Hill, Va., June 18, 2019. The Reserve Marines are undergoing MRX to prepare for Integrated Training Exercise, which is an even larger scale training event that is necessary for the unit to operate efficiently for their upcoming deployment.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Markeith Hall)
Fort A.P. Hill is named for Ambrose Powell Hill, who was killed in the Civil War.
Fort A.P. Hill, located near Bowling Green, Virginia was established June 11, 1941 as a training installation, a role it still serves today. The Army estimates that 80,000 troops from all branches of the military trained here each year during the War on Terror. It also hosted the Boy Scout Jamboree every four years from 1981 to 2005, and in 2010 as well.
The Army calls A.P. (short for Ambrose Powell) Hill a “distinguished” Confederate general, and notes that John Wilkes Booth was killed nearby.
Ambrose Powell Hill was a Lieutenant General in the Confederate Army.
(Library of Congress)
A.P. Hill served in the Confederate army.
Hill was born in Culpeper, Virginia, and was a graduate of West Point. He died in 1865 at the Third Battle of Petersburg, according to Military.com.
Paratroopers file onto a C-17 aircraft for an airborne operation over Blackstone Army Airfield June 6. Many of the parachutists attended a morning ceremony at Fort Lee commemorating the airborne and other operations occuring 75 years ago on D-Day.
(Terrance Bell / US Army Garrison Fort Lee Public Affairs)
Fort Lee is named for Gen. Robert E. Lee, perhaps the most famous Confederate general.
Fort Lee, in Prince George County, Virginia, is named for Robert E. Lee, the Virginia general who was a slave owner. Fort Lee was established as Camp Lee in 1917, but the original site was dismantled after the end of World War I, but re-established during World War II. In 1950, it was formally renamed Fort Lee, and it’s now the Army’s third-largest training site.
(The Library of Congress)
Robert E. Lee was one of the Confederacy’s most famous figures. He surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865, ending the Civil War.
Parachutists line up for their flight on a Chinook helicopter Nov. 29 at Blackstone Army Airfield.
(Terrance Bell / US Army Garrison Fort Lee Public Affairs)
Fort Pickett is named for Maj. Gen. George Pickett, who led an eponymous, ill-fated charge in the Battle of Gettysburg.
Fort Pickett is a Virginia National Guard installation near Blackstone, Virginia. It was established as Camp Pickett on July 3, 1942 at 3:00 PM — 79 years to the hour after Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett began his charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, as the Virginia National Guard notes.
Fort Pickett hosts the Virginia National Guard and Air Guard.
Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett.
(Library of Congress)
Maj. Gen. George Pickett left the US Army to join the Confederate Army in 1861.
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Darius Davis, a Combat Documentation Production Specialist with the 982nd Signal Company (Combat Camera)(Airborne), fires from the kneeling position during the M16 qualification range of the 335th Signal Command (Theater) Best Warrior Competition 2019 at Fort Gordon, Georgia, April 19, 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Leron Richards)
Fort Gordon is home to the US Army Cyber Corps and Signal Corps.
Soldiers conduct pathfinder training at the Liberty Pickup Zone on post March 21, 2019. During this portion of the training Soldiers conduct a VIRS Transmission and airborne operations from UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The U.S. Army pathfinder School teaches Soldiers to infiltrate areas and set up parachute drop zones for airborne and air assault operations.
(U.S. Army photo by Patrick Albright)
Fort Benning, also in Georgia, is named for Brig. Gen. Henry Benning, who was born in Georgia.
A C-12 Huron, from Fort Rucker, Alabama, arrives on the flight line at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Sept. 12, 2018. The aircraft evacuated to Barksdale as a proactive measure to prevent possible damage from Hurricane Florence.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lillian Miller)
Fort Rucker is named after Col. Edmund Rucker.
Fort Rucker, an Army Aviation training base in Alabama, was established May 1, 1942. Edmund Rucker was a Confederate colonel — not a general — and became an industrial leader in Alabama after the war. German and Italian prisoners of war were held nearby during World War II, according to the Army.
Louisiana National Guard Airmen and Soldiers compete in the Adjutant General’s Match at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana, Oct. 19-20, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Noshoba Davis)
Louisiana’s Camp Beauregard is named for Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard.
Louisiana’s National Guard calls Camp Beauregard, located in Pineville, Louisiana, home. Beauregard was a West Point graduate, and championed the use of what we now recognize as the Confederate flag, according to The Washington Post.
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), clear an urban environment during brigade live fire exercise at Fort Polk, La. Mar.11, 2019
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Justin Wright)
Louisiana’s Fort Polk is named for Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk.
Polk was a second cousin of US President James Polk, and died during the Battle of Atlanta. Polk was a West Point graduate but served as an Episcopal priest until he joined the Confederacy, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Fort Polk, located in central Louisiana, hosts the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center.
Students at Fort Hood Air Assault school conduct rappel operations. The Soldiers who participated in the training learned the basics of Air Assault operations from the instructors of the Phantom Warrior Academy.
(Photo by Sgt. Gregory Hunter)
Fort Hood is named for Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood.
For the last three years, engineers and project officers from Marine Corps Systems Command have descended on the island of Oahu to put new technology to the test.
In the fall, MCSC — along with Marines from the 3rd Marine Regiment and partner organizations from the requirements community — conducted the “Island Marauder” technology demonstration to integrate and evaluate emerging technologies with existing Marine Corps gear to help inform future capability decisions for the Corps.
“We conducted the Island Marauder technology demo to see if mature but leading edge command and control technologies work when we integrate them with our fielded systems,” said Basil Moncrief, Networking-on-the-Move team leader at MCSC. “We also wanted to see what fleet Marines thought about the emerging technology. [Island Marauder] helps Headquarters Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group validate that the emerging technology supports or enhances the latest warfighting tactics and strategies they want to pursue.”
Marines use an armored vehicle equipped with the Networking-on-the-Move satellite communication system during the Island Marauder Technology Demonstration.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
The demonstration included one week of intensive, hands-on field engineering and system integration, and a second week of VIP demonstrations. Most of the tactical command and control — or C2 — capability was integrated into a battlefield network controlled through the 3rd Marines’ Networking-on-the-Move Systems. NOTM is a vehicle-mounted satellite communication system that extends C2 for commanders and their staffs while on the move and beyond line of site at the tactical edge.
Developed by MCSC, NOTM has been fielded to all three Marine Expeditionary Forces.
“One of the powerful elements of the Island Marauder demonstration is a challenging tactical scenario that requires insertion of new technology and warfighting approaches while using currently-fielded equipment and fleet Marine operators,” Moncrief said. “The 3rd Marine Regiment gives us extremely useful information during Island Marauder that influences engineering, sustainment and user interface. This, in turn, assists HQMC with advanced concepts and out-year planning.”
During one demo, Marines on the ground used NOTM to simulate calling in air strikes and a medical evacuation — a feat that had not been successfully performed with live aircraft in past demonstrations.
Island Marauder also enables MCSC to perform integration engineering, troubleshoot any related issues and train Marines on how to use new equipment, Moncrief said.
“This year, we brought in some other MCSC programs that have a direct relationship with NOTM,” he said. “For example, the project officer for Identity Dominance Systems-Marine Corps recognized early on that NOTM could be a game changer for that program.”
“When Marines downrange encounter a person of interest, they use IDS-MC to collect biometric data,” said Teresa Sedlacek, lead engineer for Identity Operations at MCSC.
A Marine from the 3rd Marine Regiment uses a Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld to call for simulated casualty evacuation during the Island Marauder Technology Demonstration.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)
Typically, Marines then have to get to a forward operating base or Combat Operations Center to download the information to receive feedback on submissions, she said. During Island Marauder, the demonstration team successfully connected IDS-MC wirelessly with NOTM, which enabled them to receive data retrieval and feedback almost immediately.
“That’s the kind of thing that’s important to us on the Island Marauder Team because it improves combat capability for other programs and for the Marine operating forces,” Moncrief said.
The command also demonstrated the ability to integrate the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld — or MCH — with NOTM, the Joint Tactical Common Operating Picture Workstation and Target Handoff System II. The MCH is a handheld C2 program that enables dismounted Marines to use tactical software applications on commercial handheld computing devices while securely accessing higher-level C2 systems for data, services and tactical sharing.
“Island Marauder 2018 was invaluable in generating user feedback for follow-on development and helping to inform future programmatic purchases,” said Maj. Travis Beeson, MCH project officer at MCSC. “Island Marauder continues to be MCH’s go-to event to demonstrate interoperability with other MCSC systems and to assess innovative developments in a tactical relevant environment.”
Other programs and technologies that were part of the Island Marauder demonstration included the Secure Tactical Terminal and secure wireless networking techniques.
“Since the beginning, Island Marauder has been super useful in helping us push the envelope for technology exploitation,” Moncrief said. “As C2 technology continues to accelerate and Marine warfighting strategies adapt to new challenges, we need to show decision-makers some potential match-ups demonstrated together. In this way, Island Marauder enables a better understanding of the near-term possibilities by integrating new technologies with existing capabilities.”
Planning for Island Marauder 2019 is already in progress with the focus on joint C2 and disconnected operations.