The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys

The U.S. Army has awarded a $49.7 million contract to Robotic Research LLC for autonomous kits to be tested on large supply vehicles in an effort to one day send unmanned resupply convoys across the battlefield.

The three-year award is part of the Expedient Leader Follower program, which is designed to extend the scope of the Autonomous Ground Resupply program, according to a recent release from Robotic Research.


Army leaders have pledged to make robotics and vehicle autonomy one of the service’s top modernization priorities.

The Next Generation Combat Vehicle program will be designed around manned and unmanned combat vehicles, giving commanders the option to send robotic vehicles against the enemy before committing manned combat forces, Army officials said.

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys
A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the Navy Surface Warfare Centeru00a0Dahlgren test range.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

The service plans to build its first Robotic Combat Vehicle technology demonstrator in three years. The early RCVs will help program officials develop future designs of autonomous combat vehicles, officials added.

Army Secretary Mark Esper has stressed that autonomous vehicles have a definite place in what became one of the most deadly mission during the Iraq War — resupply convoy duty.

The Army lost “too many” soldiers to improvised explosive device attacks driving and riding in resupply convoys, he said.

Under the Expedient Leader Follower program, the autonomous kits, made by Robotic Research, will be installed on Army vehicles, such as the Oshkosh PLS A1s. A series of the optionally manned vehicles will autonomously follow the path of the first, manned vehicle, the release states.

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys
The XM1216 Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle.

The program follows the “Autonomous Mobility Applique Systems (AMAS), Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD), and [Autonomous Ground Resupply] programs to develop unmanned prototype systems that address the needs of the Leader Follower Directed Requirement and Program of Record,” the release states.

The AGR architecture is being developed to “become the de-facto autonomous architecture for all foreseeable ground robotic vehicles,” according to the release.

“We are deeply honored to have been selected to perform this critical work for the U.S. Army,” said Alberto Lacaze, president of Robotic Research. “The Robotic Research team shares the Army’s commitment to rapidly fielding effective autonomy solutions to our nation’s soldiers.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How New York is on the frontlines of cyber warfare

Five months before the 9/11 attacks, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to one of his advisers with an ominous message.


“Cyberwar,” read the subject line.

“Please take a look at this article,” Rumsfeld wrote, “and tell me what you think I ought to do about it. Thanks.”

Attached was a 38-page paper, published seven months prior, analyzing the consequences of society’s increasing dependence on the internet.

It was April 30, 2001. Optimistic investors and frenzied tech entrepreneurs were still on a high from the dot-com boom. The World Wide Web was spreading fast.

Once America’s enemies got around to fully embracing the internet, the report predicted, it would be weaponized and turned against the homeland.

The internet would be to modern warfare what the airplane was to strategic bombers during World War I.

The paper’s three authors — two PhD graduates and the founder of a cyber defense research center — imagined the damage a hostile foreign power could inflict on the US. They warned of enemies infecting computers with malicious code, and launching mass denial of service attacks that could bring down networks critical to the functioning of the American economy.

Also read: This cyber threat will exploit almost all PCs, smartphones, and tablets

“[We] are concerned that US leadership, and other decision-makers about Internet use, do not fully appreciate the potential consequences of the current situation,” the report said. “We have built a network which has no concept whatsoever of national boundaries; in a war, every Internet site is directly on the front line. If we do not change course soon, we will pay a very high price for our lack of foresight.”

The US government had a problem on its hands and it seemed a long ways from figuring out how to handle it.

More than 17 years later, that problem seems to have only gotten worse.

Follow the money

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys
In 2016, hackers attacked companies in the financial services sector more than companies in any other industry.

Willie Sutton, the notorious Brooklynite who spent his life in and out of prison, once told a reporter he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. Computer hackers aren’t so different.

In 2016, hackers attacked companies in the financial services sector more than companies in any other industry, according to IBM. Over 200 million financial records were breached that year, a 937% increase from 2015. And that’s not including the incidents that were never made public.

As hackers become more sophisticated and cyber attacks more routine, New York is on notice. Home to the most valuable stock exchange on Earth, New York City is the financial capital of the world. When the market moves here, it moves everywhere.

So it was no surprise when in September 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) was gearing up to implement sweeping, first-of-their-kind cybersecurity regulations to protect the state’s financial services industry — an unprecedented move no other state or federal agency had taken anywhere in the US.

Cybersecurity in New York’s financial industry was previously governed by voluntary frameworks and suggested best practices. But the NYDFS introduced, for the first time, regulations that would be mandatory, including charging firms fines if they didn’t comply.

Related: This is how enemies hack America — according to a cyber warrior

Maria Vullo, the state’s top financial regulator, told Business Insider that her No. 1 job is to protect New Yorkers.

“They’re buying insurance. They’re banking. They’re engaging in financial transactions. And in each of those activities, they’re providing their social security information, banking information, etc.,” she said. “The companies that are obtaining that personal information from New Yorkers must protect it as much as possible because a breach of that information is of great consequence to the average New Yorker.”

On March 1, the regulations turn a year old, although some of the rules are not yet in effect and will phase in over time.

The NYDFS oversees close to 10,000 state-chartered banks, credit unions, insurance companies, mortgage loan servicers, and other financial institutions, in addition to 300,000 insurance licensees.

The combined assets of those organizations exceed $6 trillion, according to the NYDFS — and they’re all in constant danger of being hacked.

Banks are vulnerable

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, second from left, meets with corporate and non-profit veterans organization’s leadership at a round table hosted by J.P. Morgan Chase in New York City, N.Y., on Nov. 1, 2013. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

In the summer of 2014, an American, two Israelis, and two co-conspirators breached a network server of JPMorgan Chase, the largest US bank.

They got hold of roughly 83 million customers’ personal information, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.

The hackers didn’t steal any money from personal bank accounts, but that wasn’t the point.

They wanted access to a massive trove of emails that they could use for a larger, separate money scam. In just three years, that operation netted the hackers more than $100 million.

The JPMorgan hack wasn’t the end game. It was a piece of the puzzle.

The attack began with the simple theft of a JPMorgan employee’s login credentials, which were located on a server that required just one password.

Most servers with sensitive information like a person’s banking data require what’s called multi-factor, or two-factor authentication.

But JPMorgan’s security team had lapsed and failed to upgrade the server to include the dual password scheme, The New York Times reported at the time.

The attack, the breach, and the reputational damage that followed could have been avoided with tighter security. Instead, the hack went down as one of the largest thefts of customer data in US history.

“Banks are especially vulnerable,” Matthew Waxman, a professor and the co-chair at Columbia University’s Cybersecurity Center, told Business Insider. “Disruption to the information systems on which banks rely could have shockwaves throughout the financial system, undermining public confidence in banking or knocking off line the ability to engage in commercial transactions.”

That’s the kind of catastrophic damage that worried the authors cited in Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s 2001 memo.

They weren’t only concerned about stolen email addresses and social security numbers. They were worried about the fallout from such activity.

Banking works because consumers trust the system. But what if people lose trust?

Waiting until a catastrophe

News of impending cybersecurity regulations in New York in the fall of 2016 was both welcomed and shunned.

Some companies saw it as a chance to improve their own security standards while others complained of government overreach. Some were relieved to find they wouldn’t have to make any adjustments to the way they operated. Others were overwhelmed by the heavy lifting they would have to do to comply.

How a company views the regulations depends in large part on its size. Bigger institutions with more cybersecurity professionals and more resources at their disposal tend to already have in place much of what the regulations require. Many smaller companies, which tend to be under-staffed and under-resourced, have a lot more work to do to catch up.

The only additional thing Berkshire Bank has to do is sign off on its annual compliance form, which it sends to NYDFS to prove that it’s doing everything it’s supposed to be doing.

“We actually have to do nothing [new] from a compliance standpoint,” the company’s chief risk officer Gregory Lindenmuth told Business Insider.

While several cybersecurity consultants told Business Insider they acknowledge the NYDFS rules as a positive step in the right direction, they also point to a new law in Europe as a leading example of the role government has to play in protecting individuals’ privacy rights and ensuring that companies secure consumers’ personal information.

More: Hackers can take a hidden test to become mid-grade officers in the US Army’s Cyber Command

In 2016, the European Parliament passed a law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — landmark legislation that imposes millions of euros in fines on companies that do not adequately protect their customers’ data.

Whereas the NYDFS regulations cover just one industry in one US state, the GDPR affects companies in all industries across all 28 member states of the European Union. Companies that do not report a data breach or fail to comply with the law more generally could be fined up to €20 million or 4% of its global revenue.

Matthew Waxman, the Columbia professor, says it’s not surprising that the implementation of such a law remains far-fetched in the US.

“It’s sometimes very difficult to get the government to take action against certain threats until a catastrophe takes place,” Waxman said. “But that could change very suddenly if the banking system were knocked offline or another very major disruption to everyday life affected the lives and security of citizens on a massive scale.”

But are the deterrents strong enough?

Data protection advocates calling for stricter cybersecurity regulations in the US are generally happy about the NYDFS rules.

For the first time, a state government is taking seriously the protection of consumer data, they say. It’s giving companies in the financial sector an ultimatum: protect New Yorkers or face punishment.

But the nature of that punishment is not entirely clear.

“My big criticism of the regulations is there’s no clear consequence for non-compliance,” Tom Boyden, a cybersecurity expert who helps companies defend against cyber attacks, told Business Insider. “If companies don’t feel like there’s going to be any consequence for any action on their part, companies aren’t going to take [the regulations] seriously.”

In fact, for many companies, Boyden thinks “that’s the default position.”

More reading: Cyber-attack wreaks havoc on US Internet traffic

Vullo, the head of the NYDFS, said she has the ability to fine companies that are not complying and is willing to exercise that authority, although how much that cost may be would depend case-by-case.

“I don’t want this to be a punitive atmosphere, but obviously if institutions are not taking this seriously, then there will be consequences,” she said. “But it’s not the objective.”

If anything, the objective is to make it clear that cyber threats are real and that New Yorkers and the companies that maintain their personal information are facing higher risks of attack.

Cybersecurity affects everyone, and Vullo said she hopes the regulations will help companies prioritize it.

“Everyone is part of our cybersecurity team,” Theresa Pratt, the chief information security officer at a private trust company in New York, told Business Insider. “It doesn’t matter what myself or my colleagues do from a technical perspective. If I have one user who clicks a bad link or answers a phisher’s question over the phone, it’s all for naught.”

New York leading the way

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys
New York Stock Exchange. (Photo by Beraldo Leal)

The new rules have far-reaching implications beyond New York. A business in the state that has a parent company based in Germany, for example, still has to comply with the regulations.

This leaves some organizations in the precarious position of having to either restructure company-wide cybersecurity practices or build an entirely new and unique security apparatus that is specific to its New York offices.

“I do think that because of the scope of some of these regulations, they’re kind of blurring the lines between countries and continents. I think we’re going to see more and more of this,” GreyCastle Security CEO Reg Harnish told Business Insider. The New York-based consulting firm is helping companies comply with the new regulations.

Further reading: Why the Pentagon will move its data to the cloud

In the absence of leadership from the federal government on certain issues related to cybersecurity and data protection, states like New York are beginning to fill the void. Several cybersecurity experts told Business Insider that the NYDFS regulations could become a model for other industries or even policies at the national level.

In 2017, at least 42 states introduced more than 240 bills or resolutions related to various cybersecurity issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And since the NYDFS rules took effect, financial regulators in Colorado and Vermont have followed New York’s lead with cybersecurity regulations of their own.

Indeed, cyber experts have come a long way in better understanding the threats we face since Rumsfeld’s dire cyberwar memo in 2001. But 17 years on, the former secretary of defense’s concerns still seem as relevant as ever.

Perhaps the memo was a prescient warning — a warning that fell on deaf ears, but is not too late to address.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What life will be like for the first colonists on Mars

Elon Musk said being one of the first people to colonize Mars won’t be glamorous.


Speaking during a QA at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, on March 11, 2018, the SpaceX founder addressed his plans to colonize Mars and what it will be like for those early pioneers on the red frontier.

According to Musk, there’s a misconception that a base on Mars will serve as “an escape hatch for rich people.”

“It wasn’t that at all,” Musk said of his colonization vision. “For the people who go to Mars, it’ll be far more dangerous. It kind of reads like Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers. ‘Difficult, dangerous, good chance you’ll die. Excitement for those who survive.’ That kind of thing.”

“There’re already people who want to go in the beginning. There will be some for whom the excitement of exploration and the next frontier exceeds the danger,” Musk continued.

Speaking to a packed theater in Austin, Texas, Musk said he expects SpaceX to begin making short trips back and forth to Mars in the first half of 2019. His long-term plan is to put 1 million people on the planet as a sort of Plan B society in case nuclear war wipes out the human race.

Also read: This is what Elon Musk had to say at a Marine ball

In the event of nuclear devastation, Musk said, “we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages. I think that’s why it’s important to get a self-sustaining base, ideally on Mars, because it’s more likely to survive than a moon base.”

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys
The surface of Mars. (Photo by NASA.)

In order to “regenerate life back here on Earth,” Musk said he prefers to get the backup civilization on Mars operational before an event like World War III begins on Earth.

“I think it’s unlikely that we will never have another world war,” Musk said.

Musk’s plan to build giant reusable spaceships for colonizing the red planet is an ambitious one. He and SpaceX have yet to detail exactly how hypothetical Mars colonists will survive for months or years on end. Many people still have practical questions for the tech billionaire.

Musk has ideas for how Mars might be governed

Musk instead offered some predictions for what he thinks governance on Mars might look like.

The SpaceX founder suggested his title might be “emperor,” adding that it was only a joke.

“Not everyone gets irony,” he said.

Related: Russia claims its T-14 Armata tank can run on Mars, because why the hell not

Musk said he imagines Mars will have a direct democracy instead of the system of government used in the US — a representative democracy — whereby elected officials represent a group of people. On Mars, Musk expects people will vote directly on issues.

He said that the centuries-old representative democracy made more sense during the nation’s founding, before the government could assume most people knew how to read and write.

Musk urged future colonizers to “keep laws short,” so that people can easily read and digest the bills before voting on them. He warned that long laws have “something suspicious” going on.

“If the law exceeds the word count of Lord of the Rings, then something’s wrong,” Musk said.

More: Classified US spy satellite is missing after SpaceX mission failure

The quote got a laugh from the audience and sparked speculation that Musk was taking a jab at the Republican tax bill that was passed in December 2017. The bill came in at 503 pages and ran over 1,000 pages including the related conference committee report.

Musk also recommended that laws be easier to repeal than install. Doing so would prevent arbitrary rules from accumulating and restricting freedoms over time, he said.

On creating culture on Mars, Musk said that “Mars should have really great bars.”

“The Mars Bar,” he laughed.

Articles

Army preps for massive, Great Power land war

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Aura E. Sklenicka


The Army’s “live-fire” combat exercises involve large-scale battalion-on-battalion war scenarios wherein mechanized forces often clash with make-shift, “near-peer” enemies using new technologies, drones, tanks, artillery, missiles and armored vehicles.

The Army is expanding its training and “live-fire” weapons focus to include a renewed ability to fight a massive, enemy force in an effort to transition from its decade-and-a-half of tested combat experience with dismounted infantry and counterinsurgency.

Recent ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created an experienced and combat-tested force able to track, attack and kill small groups of enemies — often blended into civilian populations, speeding in pick-up trucks or hiding within different types of terrain to stage ambushes.

“The Army has a tremendous amount of experience right now. It has depth but needs more breadth. We’re good at counterinsurgency and operations employing wide area security. Now, we may have to focus on ‘Mounted Maneuver’ operations over larger distances,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, Training and Doctrine Command, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

While senior Army leaders are quick to emphasize that counterinsurgency is of course still important and the service plans to be ready for the widest possible range of conflict scenarios, there is nonetheless a marked and visible shift toward being ready to fight and win against a large-scale modernized enemy such as Russia or China.

The Army, naturally, does not single out these countries as enemies, train specifically to fight them or necessarily expect to go to war with them. However, recognizing the current and fast-changing threat environment, which includes existing tensions and rivalries with the aforementioned great powers, Army training is increasingly focused on ensuring they are ready for a mechanized force-on-force type engagement.

At the same time, while large-scale mechanized warfare is quite different than counterinsurgency, there are some areas of potential overlap between recent warfare and potential future great power conflict in a few key respects. The ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over a period of more than a decade, involved the combat debut of various precision-guided land attack weapons such as GPS guided artillery and rocket weapons.

Weapons such as Excalibur, a GPS-guided 155m artillery round able to precisely destroy enemy targets at ranges greater than 30-kilometers, gave ground commanders an ability to pinpoint insurgent targets such as small gatherings of fighters, buildings and bomb-making locations. Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket System, or GLMRS, is another example; this precision guided long-range rocket, which can hit ranges up to 70-kilometers, was successful in killing Taliban targets in Afghanistan from great distances, among other things.

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys
Soldiers with Charlie Battery, 1-377 FA fire an M198, 155mm howitzer during a recent combined live-fire exercise. | U.S. Army photo

These kinds of precision munitions, first used in Iraq and Afghanistan, are the kind of weapon which would greatly assist land attack efforts in a massive force-on-force land war as well. They could target key locations behind enemy lines such as supplies, forces and mechanized vehicles.

Drones are another area of potential overlap. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan featured a veritable explosion in drone technology and drone use. For example, the Army had merely a handful of drones at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, the service operates thousands and has repeatedly relied upon them to find enemy locations, spot upcoming ambushes and save lives in combat. These are the kinds of platforms which would also be of great utility in a major land war. However, they would likely be used differently incorporating new tactics, techniques and procedures in a great power engagement.

“This is not back to the future…this is moving towards the future where Army forces will face adaptive enemies with greater lethality.  This generation of Army leaders will orchestrate simultaneous Combined ArmsManeuver and Wide Area Security” Smith said.

Nevertheless, many Army leaders now experienced with counterinsurgency tactics will need to reexamine tactics needed for major conventional warfare.

“You have a generation of leaders who have to expand learning to conduct simultaneous ‘Combined Arms’ and ‘Wide Area Security” Smith said.

“The Army has to be prepared across the entire range of military operations. One of these would be ‘near-peer’ operations, which is what we have not been fighting in recent years,” Smith explained.

Massive Land War “Decisive Action”

The new approach to this emerging integrated training is called “Decisive Action,” Maj. Gen. Wayne Grigsby, Commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said.

Grigsby explained that live-fire combat at Fort Riley, Kan., affords an opportunity to put these new strategies into effect.

“Every morning I could put a battalion on the north side and a battalion on the south side – and just joust working “Combined Arms Maneuver.” I can do battalion-on-battalion and it does involve “Combined Arms” live fire,” said Grigsby. “Because of the airspace that we have here – and use the UAS – I can synchronize from 0-to-18,000 feet and do maneuver indirect fire.”

This includes the use of drones, Air Force air assets, Army attack aviation along with armored vehicles, artillery, tanks and infantry units equipped for small arms fire, he explained.

Some of the main tactics and techniques explored during “Decisive Action” live fire exercises include things like “kill what you shoot at,” “move to contact,” “synchronize indirect fire,” and “call-in 9-line,” (providing aircraft with attack coordinates from the ground), Grigsby said.

Grigsby explained that “live-fire” combat exercises now work to incorporate a wide range of emerging technologies so as to better anticipate the tactics, weapons and systems a future enemy is likely to employ; this includes the greater use of drones or unmanned systems, swarms of mini-drones in the future, emerging computing technology, tank-on-tank warfare tactics, electronic warfare, enemy aircraft and longer-range precision weaponry including anti-tank missiles, guided artillery and missiles.

In order to execute this kind of combat approach, the Army is adapting to more “Combined Arms Maneuver.”  This warfare compentency seeks to synchronize a wide range of weapons, technologies and war assets in order to overwhelm, confuse and destroy an enemy force.

Smith likened “Combined Arms” to being almost like a symphony orchestra where each instrument is geared toward blending and contributing to an integrated overall musical effect.

In warfare, this would mean using tank-on-tank attacks, indirect fire or artillery, air defenses, air assets, networking technologies, drones, rockets, missiles and mortar all together to create a singular effect able to dominate the battlespace, Smith explained.

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys
U.S. Army photo by Capt. John Farmer, 1st BCT, 1st CD Public Affairs

For example, air assets and artillery could be used to attack enemy tank or armored vehicle positions in order to allow tank units and infantry fighting vehicles to reposition for attack. The idea to create an integrated offensive attack – using things like Apache attack helicopters and drones from the air, long-range precision artillery on the ground joined by Abrams tanks and infantry fighting vehicles in a coordinated fashion.

Smith also explained how preparing for anticipated future threats also means fully understanding logistics and sustainment — so that supplies, ammunition and other essentials can continue to fortify the war effort.

Current “Decisive Action” live fire training includes an emerging emphasis on “expeditionary” capability wherein the Army is ready to fight by tonight by rapidly deploying over large distances with an integrated force consisting of weapons, infantry, armored vehicles and other combat-relevant assets.

At the same time, this strategy relies, to some extent, on an ability to leverage a technological edge with a “Combined Arms” approach as well, networking systems and precision weapons able to destroy enemies from farther distances.

In order to incorporate these dynamics into live-fire training, Grigsby said the battalion -on-battalion combat exercises practice a “move to contact” over very large 620 kilometer distances.

“This builds that expeditionary mindset,” he explained.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

On Sept. 11, 2019, the Global War on Terrorism turned 18. The GWOT is by far the longest military conflict in U.S. history, eclipsing the previous contender (the Vietnam War) by at least eight years. In 2014, a group of like-minded individuals — veterans, spouses of veterans, and civilians — felt it was time to pay formal tribute to those who have served, and continue to serve, in the GWOT. These patriots formed the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, which officially became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization on May 15, 2015.

The foundation’s mission is to become the Congressionally designated entity authorized to build a permanent GWOT memorial in Washington. According to the GWOT Memorial Foundation website, the memorial will “… honor the members of the Armed Forces who served in support of our nation’s longest war, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice … as well as their families and friends.”


The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys

Signing of HR873.

(Photo courtesy of GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

Unfortunately, the effort encountered an obstacle right out of the chute. The Commemorative Works Act of 1986 imposed a 10-year waiting period after the end of a conflict before it could be memorialized in our nation’s capital. Therefore, one of the first tasks was to lobby Congress for an exemption. In early 2017, two GWOT veterans, U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., led the effort to do just that. They introduced HR 873, the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Act, which proposed the GWOT memorial as a commemorative work on federally owned land in the District of Columbia and exempted the project from the 10-year moratorium. Furthermore, the act authorized the GWOT Memorial Foundation as the organization with exclusive rights to commission the work.

In just six months’ time, despite a polarized political climate dominated by gridlock, the legislation swept through Congress with unanimous support — a testament to the project’s worthy goal. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump in August of the same year. GWOT Memorial Foundation president and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez said he and his leadership were certainly pleased with HR 873’s speedy trip through Congress, but they weren’t surprised.

“[The fast turnaround] just speaks to the broad support that exists,” he said. “This really is a nonpartisan issue. We introduced the legislation shortly after President Trump’s inauguration — we weren’t really worried about it because there are no politics behind what we’re trying to do.”

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys

(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

Rodriguez, who took the reins in 2018, shortly after the bill was passed, refers to himself as the man who has the “undeserved honor” of leading the project. However, he is immensely qualified to do so. The 21-year U.S. Army veteran is a former Green Beret with multiple post-9/11 deployments under his belt. Rod retired in 2013 as a result of injuries sustained in combat.

In addition to being the longest war in U.S. history, the GWOT also represents the first multi-generational conflict — which means we are now seeing soldiers who are the children of veterans who deployed early in the conflict. Rodriguez’ wife is also a 21-year Army veteran, and their son is an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division and recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan. The three have 16 deployments between them.

“My son patrolled the same areas of Afghanistan in the Helmand province that my wife and I did,” Rod said. “I was there in 2005, she was there in 2006, and our son was there in 2017.”

Looking ahead to the completion of the memorial project, the foundation has narrowed down the location to three pre-established sites in the “reserve” — an area of the National Mall that stretches north/south from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial and east/west from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol building. The construction of anything within the reserve requires Congressional approval.

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys

GWOT Memorial Foundation president and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez with President George W. Bush, who is the honorary chairman of the project.

(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

The reserve is a logical choice for the GWOT Memorial because it’s home to many of the existing war memorials in Washington. However, the foundation still did a great deal of research before settling on that location.

“This memorial does not belong to any one individual,” Rodriguez explained. “It’s to all those who served. So, in 2018, along with our architectural firm, we began conducting discussion groups across the country … to determine what the American people wanted. We talked to hundreds of people, [including] Blue Star families — families of those who are actively serving — and Gold Star families, obviously families who lost a loved one to the Global War on Terrorism. We spoke with veterans from all our country’s wars since World War II. We spent three days on Fort Bragg, sponsored by FORSCOM, talking to peer groups. We spoke to faith leaders to get their thoughts. And we also spoke to the greater part of our population — those who never wore the uniform.”

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys

(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

Rod and his team took great care to educate the groups, explaining the GWOT Memorial project and showing the location and topography of the National Mall and its surrounding area. These groups were asked to complete surveys, not only to gather input on site selection but also ideas about the physical design of the memorial itself — hard structures, water features, shrubbery and other vegetation, etc. After synthesizing the qualitative and quantitative data collected in the surveys, the foundation confirmed that America overwhelmingly supported a plan to select a site within the reserve.

Rodriguez said that respondents were aware that Congressional approval would be required to build within the reserve. “I told them not to worry about the extra work,” he said. “It was the foundation’s responsibility to carry out the wishes of the American people.”

To obtain the required approval, the GWOT Memorial Foundation partnered with For Country Caucus, a bipartisan alliance of 19 veterans dedicated to finding areas of compromise to move the country forward. With a mantra of “policy over politics,” the caucus was an ideal group to champion the cause. On Nov. 12, 2019, the day after Veterans Day, House Representatives Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., introduced the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act, seeking permission to commission the GWOT Memorial on one of three sites near the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II memorials.

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys

Proposed GWOT Memorial locations in the National Mall in Washington.

(Graphic by Tim Cooper/Coffee or Die.)

Fundraising is ongoing, with a present goal of million. This is a modest number considering that the World War II Memorial cost more than 0 million and the final tab for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was approximately 0 million. The actual design process for the GWOT Memorial has not yet begun, but Rodriguez and the foundation established the million goal as a starting point. Once the site is selected, he acknowledged that the price tag could potentially increase. Assuming Congress passes a GWOT Memorial Location Act bill quickly, the foundation hopes to dedicate the memorial by 2024.

Some critics might point out that the U.S. has never built a national memorial for an active war — so why start now?

“The Global War on Terrorism is old enough to vote, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon,” said Gallagher. “Honoring the service, as well as the sacrifices of all those who have served in the Global War on Terrorism, is overdue.”

“Just like this war has no precedence, this memorial has no precedence either,” Rodriguez added. “We really want to avoid what happened to the Greatest Generation. [Many of those veterans] never saw the World War II Memorial. They passed before it was completed. Furthermore, parents of fallen GWOT service members are in their 60s, 70s, and even older. If we don’t do this now, when is the right time? We share a sacred duty to honor all those who have selflessly served in our nation’s longest war. This is a charge [the foundation] does not take lightly — a charge we will remain loyal to and a charge we intend to keep.”

Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Remains of Korean War dead could be Army killed at the Frozen Chosin

The remains returned by North Korea are possibly those of Army troops who fell in the brutal 1950 battle at the Chosin Reservoir, Pentagon POW/MIA officials said on Aug. 2, 2018.

The returned remains are associated with the fight at what was called the “Frozen Chosin” for the sub-zero temperatures in which Marine and Army units fought their way out of encirclement by Chinese forces and were evacuated by sea, said Dr. John Byrd, a forensic anthropologist.


Byrd, who went to Wonsan in North Korea late July 2018 as part of the team that brought back the remains, said he was told by North Korean officials that the remains were recovered from the village of Sin Hung-ri on the east side of the reservoir.

Marines fought on the west side of the reservoir, “and the east side — that’s where the Army was,” said Byrd, laboratory director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

At a Pentagon briefing with retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague, the DPAA director, Byrd said his initial examination of the remains, and his discussions with the North Koreans, led him to believe that further analysis will show that the remains are those of Americans.

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Honor guard from NATO countries participate in a dignified transfer as part of a repatriation ceremony on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Aug. 1, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Benjamin Raughton)

In addition, the 55 transfer cases handed over by the North Koreans contained equipment associated with the American military, such as boots, canteens, buttons and buckles, Byrd said.

There also was one dog tag, he added. He declined to disclose the name on the tag but said two family members had been notified and are expected to be in the Washington, D.C., area with family groups for a detailed briefing from DPAA on the next steps in identifying the remains.

Byrd said the 55 transfer cases brought by two Air Force C-17s to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii could represent more than 55 individuals, due to remains possibly being mixed.

“You should not assume one box is one person,” he said. “We couldn’t be sure how many individuals were in each box.”

McKeague said that DPAA has a DNA database from 92 percent of the families of the estimated 7,700 U.S. service members still listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War and DNA comparisons with the remains from the 55 cases would begin shortly.

He said samples from the remains would be sent to the Armed Forces Identification Laboratories at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to begin the DNA process.

“Where we have compelling DNA matches, identifications could come quickly,” McKeague said, but he and Byrd also cautioned that the process could take years.

Identifications could also come quickly if teeth are found among the remains, McKeague said.

“We could immediately compare dental records,” he said.

Another method of identification was through chest x-rays that were on file for those who served in the Korean War, McKeague said. He said that DPAA has chest radiographs for about three-quarters of the missing from the Korean War.

The key to identifications from chest X-rays was the clavicle, or collarbone, said Chuck Prichard, a DPAA spokesman. Clavicles are unique to each individual, “as unique as a fingerprint,” he said.

McKeague said he was “guardedly optimistic” that North Korea would agree to the return of more remains and also to joint recovery operations with the U.S. at former battlefields and prison camps.

Byrd cautioned that, “at this point, at least, there’s no way to tell” how many more sets of remains the North Koreans might already have in their possession.

Featured image: This blown bridge blocked the only way out for U.S. forces withdrawing from Chosin Reservoir. Air Force C-119s dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm, allowing men and equipment to reach safety.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA’s still flying to the moon but not how you think

NASA has selected 12 science and technology demonstration payloads to fly to the Moon as early as the end of 2019, dependent upon the availability of commercial landers. These selections represent an early step toward the agency’s long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and, later, Mars.


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“The Moon has unique scientific value and the potential to yield resources, such as water and oxygen,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Its proximity to Earth makes it especially valuable as a proving ground for deeper space exploration.”

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) initiated the request for proposals leading to these selections as the first step in achieving a variety of science and technology objectives that could be met by regularly sending instruments, experiments and other small payloads to the Moon.

“This payload selection announcement is the exciting next step on our path to return to the surface of the Moon,” said Steve Clarke, SMD’s deputy associate administrator for Exploration at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The selected payloads, along with those that will be awarded through the Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payloads call, will begin to build a healthy pipeline of scientific investigations and technology development payloads that we can fly to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial landing delivery services. Future calls for payloads are planned to be released each year for additional opportunities,” he said.

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Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon July 20, 1969.

(NASA image)

The selected payloads include a variety of scientific instruments.

  • The Linear Energy Transfer Spectrometer will measure the lunar surface radiation environment.
  • Three resource prospecting instruments have been selected to fly:
    • The Near-Infrared Volatile Spectrometer System is an imaging spectrometer that will measure surface composition.
    • The Neutron Spectrometer System and Advanced Neutron Measurements at the Lunar Surface are neutron spectrometers that will measure hydrogen abundance.
  • The Ion-Trap Mass Spectrometer for Lunar Surface Volatiles instrument is an ion-trap mass spectrometer that will measure volatile contents in the surface and lunar exosphere.
  • A magnetometer will measure the surface magnetic field.
  • The Low-frequency Radio Observations from the Near Side Lunar Surface instrument, a radio science instrument, will measure the photoelectron sheath density near the surface.
  • Three instruments will acquire critical information during entry, descent and landing on the lunar surface, which will inform the design of future landers including the next human lunar lander.
  • The Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies will image the interaction between the lander engine plume as it hits the lunar surface.
  • The Surface and Exosphere Alterations by Landers payload will monitor how the landing affects the lunar exosphere.
  • The Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing payload will make precise velocity and ranging measurements during the descent that will help develop precision landing capabilities for future landers.
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Celebrating Apollo as We Push Forward to the Moon

There also are two technology demonstrations selected to fly.

  • The Solar Cell Demonstration Platform for Enabling Long-Term Lunar Surface Power will demonstrate advanced solar arrays for longer mission duration.
  • The Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator will demonstrate a navigational beacon to assist with geolocation for lunar orbiting spacecraft and landers.

NASA facilities across the nation are developing the payloads, including Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; Glenn Research Center in Cleveland; Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; Johnson Space Center in Houston; Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Nine U.S. companies, selected through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) in November 2018, currently are developing landers to deliver NASA payloads to the Moon’s surface. As CLPS providers, they are pre-authorized to compete on individual delivery orders.

NASA also released the Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payload (LSITP) call in October 2018 soliciting proposals for science instrument and technology investigations. The final LSITP proposals are due Feb. 27 and awards are expected to be made this spring.

“Once we have awarded the first CLPS mission task order later this spring, we will then select the specific payloads from the internal-NASA and LSITP calls to fly on that mission. Subsequent missions will fly other NASA instrument and technology development packages in addition to commercial payloads,” said Clarke.

Commercial lunar payload delivery services for small payloads, and developing lunar landers for large payloads, to conduct more research on the Moon’s surface is a vital step ahead of a human return.

As the next major step to return astronauts to the Moon under Space Policy Directive-1, NASA has announced plans to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems for astronauts to land on the lunar surface. The agency is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface by 2028.

Articles

The vulnerability of US Navy ships to computer hacking is scarier than you’d think

The collision of guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain with a tanker near Singapore was the fourth accident involving ships from the US Navy’s 7th fleet in less than a year.


Two of the incidents — collisions involving the USS McCain and the USS Fitzgerald earlier this summer — have left a total of 17 sailors dead or missing, more than the 11 service members killed in Afghanistan so far this year.

After the McCain collision, the Navy relieved the commander of the 7th fleet “due to loss of confidence in his ability to command,” according to the Navy.

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Honoring the seven Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald who were killed in a collision at sea. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Raymond D. Diaz III

The service also planned a temporary halt of operations around the world and to launch a fleet-wide review in search of systemic issues that could have contributed to the most recent incidents.

The Navy is known for its thorough and unsparing reviews, which have been undertaken in the aftermath of each incident, and analysts are already pointing to internal issues, as well as high operational tempos in heavily trafficked waterways, that could be related to the mishaps.

But the number of accidents involving warships in the western Pacific — during “the most basic of operations” — has stirred concern that outside factors are affecting the ships and their crews.

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Commanding officer of the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) oversees operations from the bridge wing of the ship. Navy photo by Patrick I Crimmins.

“There’s something more than just human error going on because there would have been a lot of humans to be checks and balances” when transiting the Strait of Malacca, the narrow, heavily trafficked waterway the McCain was approaching, Jeff Stutzman, a former Navy information warfare specialist, told McClatchy.

“I don’t have proof, but you have to wonder if there were electronic issues,” said Stutzman, who is now chief intelligence officer for cyber-intelligence service Wapack Labs.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, tweeted on August 21 that there were “no indications right now” of “cyber intrusion or sabotage.” But, he added, the “review will consider all possibilities.”

 

The admiral said the McCain’s collision with the tanker was the second “extremely serious incident” since the Fitzgerald’s collision with a Philippine cargo ship off the coast of Japan in mid-June. The nature of the incidents and the narrow window in which they occurred “gives great cause for concern that there is something out there that we’re not getting at.”

Experts have downplayed the likelihood of such attacks on US warships, noting that infiltrating Navy guidance systems would be very hard to do and instead citing human negligence or error as likely causes. Others have dismissed the likelihood of state-directed attacks on ships at sea, noting that such efforts would be a misuse of resources, strategically unwise, and generally harmful to maritime conduct.

But recent high-profile cyberattacks around the world have brought new attention to the security of maritime navigation, which is highly reliant on computer networks.

The US Navy uses encrypted navigation systems that would be difficult to hack or deceive, and there’s no sign satellite communications were at fault in the McCain’s collision. But there is technology out there to misdirect GPS navigation — typically through a process known as “spoofing” that leaves the system thinking it is somewhere it’s not.

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USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sits in Dry Dock after sustaining significant damage. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Leonard Adams.

The software and electronic gear needed to spoof a GPS system has become easier to get in recent years, particularly for private or nonstate actors.

In 2013, a team of graduate students led by Todd Humphreys, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and satellite-navigation expert, were able to spoof the GPS on an $80 million yacht, directing it hundreds of yards off course without the system detecting the change.

In late June, GPS signals for about 20 ships in the eastern Black Sea were manipulated, with navigation equipment on the ships, though seeming to be functioning correctly, saying the ships were located 20 miles inland. An attack on thousands of computers later that month also disrupted shipping around the world.

Global commercial shipping is more vulnerable to such attacks and cargo ships are more exposed — the number of them plying the high seas has quadrupled over the past 25 years. And causing a collision by hacking or hijacking a commercial vessel’s GPS is seen as increasingly possible.

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The crowded seas of the Strait of Malacca. Photo from Safety4Sea.com

Most commercial and passenger ships use the Automatic Identification System, or AIS, to locate other ships and avoid collisions. But the AIS has weaknesses, and hackers could in theory send out a signal claiming to be a phantom ship, affecting navigation decisions by other ships in the area.

Dana Goward, former chief of Marine Transportation Systems for the US Coast Guard, said hackers could go after the unsecured navigation system on a commercial or private ship while simultaneously jamming a Navy ship’s guidance systems. Or they could misdirect the commercial ship’s guidance system, sending the ship off-course.

In the aftermath of the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions, the demands facing the US Navy, and the Pacific fleet in particular, have gotten renewed focus. Greater operational demands on fewer ships have cut into time for rest as well as time dedicated to training (and the nature of that training has changed as well).

In light of such demands, experience suggests that in high-traffic areas mistakes by humans manning the ships remained a likely culprit, said Goward, a former Coast Guard captain. “It’s a difficult environment to be in and human error is always present,” he told USA Today.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China is about to build a real ‘Red October’

When The Hunt for Red October came out in 1984, and with it the invention of the techno-thriller genre (author Tom Clancy’s claim to literary greatness), one of the stars was a modified Typhoon-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). That novel, of course, was adapted to film in 1990.


The book and the film featured two different versions of the silent drive. The book used impellors, while the film used magneto-hydrodynamic propulsion. Now, something that is somewhat similar to the latter version of the Red October’s silent drive could be a reality… thanks to the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

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A 1993 photo of a Chinese Han-class submarine. These vessels were very noisy, and thus, easy to track. Newer Chinese submarines could have a very quiet permanent magnet motor. (US Navy photo)

According to a report by Popular Mechanics, the Chinese have tested a drive using a “permanent magnet motor” near Hainan Island. A release by the Chinese military noted that China was also experimenting with a “shaftless” pumpjet propulsion system.

Permanent magnet motors run much more quietly than conventional types currently in use on submarines. This is due to their “brushless” nature, which also means they can be smaller, taking up less volume on submarines (which are notoriously cramped) and increasing their reliability and also improving their endurance.

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USS Dallas (SSN 700) conducting training operations in 2000. This vessel was another star in the book and film versions of The Hunt for Red October. (U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Jason E. Miller)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, China has a small number of nuclear submarines at present, roughly a half-dozen attack subs and four ballistic missile submarines. While greatly outnumbered by those of the United States, China is planning to build many more nuclear-powered subs by 2030, including versions more modern than the Shang and Jin classes that are their current state of the art.

The United States is not standing still. Reportedly, the new Columbia-class SSBNs will also be using a magnetic-drive technology. That said, it should be noted that in both the book and movie versions of Hunt for Red October, the United States Navy was able to track the titular submarine.

MIGHTY CULTURE

When was the last time you chose Deliberate Discomfort?

There’s a reason why elite Special Operations courses always begin with intense physical training. The shock value of initial stress overload is the best discriminator while assessing an individual or group’s willingness and capacity to accomplish difficult tasks. It’s because after twenty minutes, when you are tired of holding a log over your head, you can’t fake it any longer. When the pressure is on and the stress increases, your true personality comes out.


The vocal, motivated cheerleader types who try hard to encourage others? They suddenly shut up. The pessimists who are there because they were told to be there but don’t really want to be there? They suddenly quit. The eternal optimists who are always positive and see the good in everything? They suddenly wonder if they have what it takes to make it in the first place. The playing field is now even because everyone is in survival mode and doing whatever it takes to get by. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

Eventually, there is a moment when everybody is miserable and focused on themselves. Our heads are down, and we are contemplating when the suffering will end. As the level of stress increases, our brains narrow our focus, and our sensory attention goes inward. Our body language reflects, as the pupils dilate, heart rate increases, breathing intensifies, heads go down, shoulders slump, and our thoughts begin to race: What in the hell did I get myself into? When will it all end? How much longer can I keep this up? Is it all worth it?

During log PT on day one of selection, for whatever reason, almost counterintuitively, even though it spent energy on something that was risky, I looked up. I looked up and looked around. I deliberately chose discomfort. The guys around me were all suffering just as badly as I was, if not worse. In that moment, my friend Pat lifted his head up as well. He looked around, and we looked at each other. He shouted, “Let’s go, J. You got this!” I shouted words of encouragement back at him, even though it required energy that could have been used on myself.

More guys lifted their heads and looked around. We began to focus on one another rather than on ourselves. Looking up became infectious. Strangely enough, we began to forget about our pain, the time seemed to move faster, and the log felt lighter. The reality is that nothing changed about the situation except our attitudes. The conditions still sucked, it was hot as hell, our bodies still strained, and the logs didn’t get any lighter. It was our minds that had changed. We began choosing how we thought, deciding where to direct our attention and energy.

In these difficult moments, situations that make or break individuals and teams, we find our collective purpose. When the pressure is on and you’re on a team, it’s never about you. It’s about the people to your left and right who are going through the experience and process with you. In this moment, I found purpose. My purpose was to make the team succeed.

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Misery is suffering without a purpose. The guys who make it through these types of courses are the guys who experience an aha moment. When they realize that they’re not alone. That they are on a team and the success of the team is more important than their own personal success.

The people who don’t make it are the guys who are self-centered, who don’t risk any energy that doesn’t immediately serve their own interests. The people who don’t look up.

The secret to the elite mind-set of Special Operations Forces, no matter how many books you read or podcasts you listen to, is to look up.

The same “look up” mind-set applies to the everyday mundanity of real life. As a lot of well-intending families do, my wife and I are committed to attending church services every Sunday. As a couple with young children, parenting lessons come early and often. Our daughter is a toddler with boundless energy, which means that we spend a good majority of the service outside in the foyer. Whenever she acts up, screams, or causes a distraction during the sermon or in Sunday school, we do the polite and sensible thing and remove her from the situation.

After several months of faith in the foyer went by, my wife and I looked up at each other and asked ourselves, “What are we doing here?” We don’t hear the sermon; we don’t hear the Sunday school lesson. We just sit out in the foyer and distract our daughter. What’s the point of getting up early and getting dressed to come to church and play with our daughter in the foyer?

I thought back to my experiences during log PT. I was embarrassed that I had forgotten that critical lesson from years ago. I realized that I wasn’t going to church for myself. I was going for the other members of the congregation. I asked myself, “What can I do this Sunday to serve the church and church members’ needs?” Sitting out in the foyer with a screaming daughter, maybe all I could give was a hello or a smile. If that was all I could give, then I would give that. For me, Sundays are sacred because they represent our commitment to spending that quality time together in fellowship to reflect and celebrate our common values and beliefs. This is the foundation of our collective purpose. Is the quality of time we invest now showing an immediate return? Certainly, not immediately, but that’s a limited and short-sighted way of looking at the situation. That’s the same reason why people decide to quit: the log is too heavy right now, and they want to make the pain stop. It’s not about the log, and it’s not about the foyer. It’s about the people to our left and right.

We chose a different perspective and approach to the situation. Through this choice, we realized that if we continued our routine, our daughter’s behavior would eventually improve. By the time she is old enough to know better, this routine as a deliberate and weekly choice will not just be something she does but an integral part of who she is. Suddenly on Sundays, chasing my daughter in the foyer doesn’t seem as bad as it once did.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

Terry Hunt, a blind veteran who receives health care at the Kernersville VA Health Care Center (HCC), mentioned several years ago that he wished he could participate in water sports.

Around the same time, Terri Everett, a Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist at the HCC, became a chapter coordinator for the national kayaking organization Team River Runner.

Team River Runner helps veterans and their families find health, healing, community purpose, and new challenges through adventure and adaptive paddle sports. It is funded through VA grants.


All Hunt needed to say was, “Let’s get on the water!” and Everett was ready to go. Shortly after they connected, Hunt began regular kayaking with the Triad Chapter of Team River Runner. He has been doing so for the past five years. Everett or other volunteers guide him on the water.

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(Photo by Nil Castellví)

Guides use voice commands and music

Guides use several methods to help blind people kayak, including voice commands, music and tethering, if necessary.

Hunt purchased his own kayak last year. He also participated in the 2018 High Rock Lake Dragon Boat Race, where he placed first in one of the races. He will compete in the Dragon Boat Race again this year as one of the lead rowers.

Everett has worked in blind rehabilitation for 38 years. She has participated in adaptive sports for disabled veterans for most of that time. She is a certified, level 2 American Canoe Association kayak instructor with adaptive endorsement.

Hunt has been kayaking for five years and loves every minute of it.

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(Photo by Murat Bahar)

New remote guiding system with sensors in vests

This past summer, Team River Runner and Hunt took kayaking to a new level for visually impaired and blind kayakers. They used a new, remote guiding system, developed and engineered by Team River Runner Chapter Coordinator Jim Riley.

The veteran wears a vest with sensors and Everett uses a paddle with a switch, guiding him based on where he feels the sensors. The vibrating sensation of sensors on his sides, chest and back let him know where he needs to concentrate effort.

It was an incredible success. On that day, they paddled four miles, in and out of coves, under bridges, in and around piers and then back to the dock. The guiding system will be featured at the VA Summer sports clinic in San Diego in September.

Reflecting on his experience, Hunt jubilantly declared, “This life vest, having pulsating areas at the right, left, front and back, to let the visual impaired person know which way you want them to go, was awesome!”

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(Photo by McKayla Crump)

“How awesome to feel independent!”

“This is incredible because it gave me a sense of greater independence,” Hunt said. He continued, “I feel this life vest is a breakthrough for help in enjoying the kayak trip for the visual impaired person.

“How awesome to feel independent on this day! I think this not only shows Team River Runners’ commitment to visual impaired persons, but also shows VA’s willingness to help our visual impaired community in ways not just connected to health care.

“It is a great feeling to do things you never thought you would ever do again.”

Hunt will continue his kayaking adventures with Team River Runner and beyond. He will attend the VA Summer Sports Clinic in September 2020. There, he will have the opportunity to kayak, sail, ride a tandem bike and participate in other activities. Kudos to Mr. Hunt for the positive example he is setting for other disabled veterans!

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis isn’t sure he can work with John Bolton

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is reportedly not happy about the new appointment of noted foreign policy hawk John Bolton as President Donald Trump’s national security advisor.


Mattis “told colleagues before the appointment was announced that he would find it difficult to work with Mr. Bolton,” according to the New York Times.

The reason, the Times reports, has to do with Bolton’s aggressive rhetoric when it comes to the US’s adversaries, especially Iran and North Korea.

Also read: 9 John Bolton quotes that prove he’s the worst national security ‘expert’

As a general in the Marine Corps, Mattis himself was aggressive towards Iran — so much so that former President Barack Obama replaced him as CENTCOM commander. His selection as Trump’s secretary of defense led some to worry that he would bring that attitude to the White House.

But since Mattis’ appointment, he has seemingly reversed his course. He argued in support for the continuation of the Iran deal in October 2017, something that Bolton has repeatedly said should be torn up.

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John Bolton. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The defense secretary joins prominent Democrats, as well as former Bush and Obama administration officials, who have reservations about Bolton’s hiring.

With the appointment of Bolton, Mattis looks even more like a moderate — and if the recent shake-ups in the White House are any indication, that may put him on the wrong side of the president.

More: These 3 active duty officers served as National Security Advisor before McMaster

Mattis was a close ally of now-fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, reportedly having breakfast with him every week. He has notably been reluctant to talk about military actions in North Korea.

“This is a diplomatically led effort,” Mattis told reporters asking for details on his plans regarding North Korea in early March 2018. “So I do not want to talk about Korea at all. I’ll leave it to those who are leading the effort, the State Department, and the NSC.”

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is also said to be unenthusiastic about Bolton’s appointment, reportedly because he is worried that Bolton will “behave like a cabinet official rather than a staff member.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 5 strangest military mission names from the Iraq War

If you think Operation Inherent Resolve is a mission name that makes no sense, you’re not alone. The U.S. military operation against ISIS in Iraq and Syria was supposed to have a different name altogether. The Pentagon initially rejected OIR and only accepted it as a placeholder. Somehow it stuck, and that’s what we’re left with.

Strange, silly and absurd names shouldn’t be the standard for military operations. Or at least so said Winston Churchill back in 1943. In a WWII memo on the subject of mission names, Churchill said, “Do not suggest the character of the operation or disparage it in any way, and do not enable some widow or some mother to say her son was killed in an operation called ‘Bunnyhug’ or ‘Ballyhoo.'”

It seems that the military isn’t exactly following Churchill’s recommendation. There’s rarely a public explanation about mission names, but that doesn’t make them any more questionable. Here are a few of the most memorable mission names.

Operation All-American Tiger

Tigers are pretty amazing in their own right, but what would be more American than having an All-American tiger? That’s a question the brass asked themselves, apparently, in 2003, when they settled on this mission name during a November 2003 Iraq War mission. Operation All-American Tiger’s objective was to search and clear farms and villages around the Euphrates River in the Northern Iraqi town of Al-Qaim. Service members detained twelve people as a result, including a few who were on a “Most Wanted” list.

While it’s fun to think about what the military was considering when creating codenames for missions, this one is actually pretty easy to figure out. The nickname for the 82nd Airborne Division is “All American.” The Tiger Squadron of the 3rd Armored Cav assisted the 82nd on this mission.

Specifically, it was the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment from the 82nd who worked with the Tigers. The 504th even have their own absurd nickname – The Devils in Baggy Pants – taken from a diary entry of a Wehrmacht officer in WWII.

Operation Beastmaster

Doesn’t this sound like a mission from the 1980s? It feels decidedly vintage, but Operation Beastmaster actually took place in 2006. OB cleared three neighborhoods in the Baghdad suburb of Ghazaliya, which itself was subject to a codename, albeit one that was far easier understood. Service members in IED Alley East, as Ghazaliya was known, worked together with the Iraqi Army to uncover weapons caches and a deposit of roadside bomb-creating supplies and tools. Operation Beastmaster also captured one high-ranking (and still unnamed) official, and the Army counted it as a complete win.

Operation Grizzly Forced Entry

In the summer of 2004, U.S. service members went on a counter-insurgency raid in Najaf, Iraq, a city south of Baghdad. The forced entry part of this code name is pretty self-explanatory, as service members were tasked with entering private homes to search for high-value targets who were suspected of attacking coalition forces.

Operation Power Geyser

This counterterrorism unit included 13,000 top secret service members who served as military security to support the 2005 inauguration of George W. Bush. Taken from a video game series, the name Power Geyser refers to a character who was able to blast the ground with his fist and create a field of explosive energy around him that sent his opponents flying. In real life, these elite troops carried top of the line weaponry and lurked in the shadows around the White House and the Capitol building while the inauguration took place.

Operation Safe Neighborhood + Operation Safe Market

These 2007 missions were efforts to make residential neighborhoods, areas with lots of traffic, and marketplaces safer for Iraqis to live and work during the American involvement of the Iraq war. Service members combed these areas looking for car bombs and IEDs with a decided effort to cut down on sectarian violence in the city. The codenames were pretty easy to figure out, proof that sometimes the most basic name is the best one.

Whoever was thinking up mission names during the Iraq War was definitely trying to keep the plans top secret to ensure the missions were successful. With names like All-American Tiger and Grizzly Forced Entry, someone was trying to make sure no one knew our military’s plans.

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