The U.S. Army’s new boss recently got a chance do shoot-house training with the latest Microsoft-based, smart soldier glasses.
Ryan McCarthy, who is now serving as acting secretary of the Army, and incoming Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville traveled to Fort Pickett, Virginia earlier this spring to try out early prototypes of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS.
The Army awarded a $480 million contract to Microsoft in November 2018 to develop IVAS — a high-tech device that relies on augmented reality to create a synthetic training environment for soldiers. The experience is reportedly similar to first-person shooter video games. The system is being designed to also be worn in combat, projecting the operator’s weapon sight reticle into the glasses.
“He and I literally put them on, and we went through a shoot house together,” McCarthy told Military.com on a flight to Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“Here’s the thing — they are empty rooms, because we had the synthetic feed.”
The Army’s new Integrated Visual Augmentation system is a single platform that uses augmented reality where soldiers and Marines can fight, rehearse, and train.
McCarthy then described how the IVAS device presented targets that resembled enemy fighters from terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“I literally came in a room … and they looked like Taliban targets and ISIS guys with black turbans,” he said. “They had one where they had a guy holding a civilian. It looked like a very good video game.”
IVAS is part of the Army’s effort to create a synthetic training world so soldiers can run through many repetitions of combat scenarios, such as clearing urban areas and engaging enemy forces, without having to leave home station and travel to training facilities.
Leaders can view the data compiled by IVAS during the training to show soldiers where they need improvement.
McCarthy and McConville were joined by Army and Marine Corps sergeants who also took a turn with IVAS.
“We had a bunch of NCOs from the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 1st Marine Division, and they did the shoot house and reminded me that I have been out for a while,” McCarthy chuckled, referring to the days when he served in the Ranger Regiment. McCarthy served in the Army from 1997-2002.
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy.
McCarthy acknowledged that these were early prototypes of IVAS that need further development.
“You would do it for a little bit, and they would go out and [engineers] had to make a tweak and they would get the screen back up,” McCarthy said.
Rangers and Marines liked the technology, he said.
“The one thing that they all really liked about it was the greater depth perception,” he said.
“It was like a pair of glasses … and literally when you are walking through a room and seeing the target, I had depth perception to my left and right, so I could see down the hallway.”
IVAS replaces the service’s Heads-Up Display 3.0 effort to develop a sophisticated situational awareness tool soldiers can use to view key tactical information before their eyes.
Officials hope to complete the prototyping phase on IVAS by 2020; when the system might be fielded to soldiers is still unclear.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Is it time for America to support regime change in Iran? A growing chorus inside the Beltway says “yes.” According to them, the arc of history bends toward freedom in Iran. Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh argue in TheWall Street Journal that “[d]evising a strategy to collapse the clerical regime isn’t difficult” because “the essential theme in modern Iranian history is a populace seeking to emancipate itself from tyranny.” They see the growing economic chaos in Iran as birth-pangs of emancipation and call for America to act as midwife.
Many intellectuals before Gerecht and Takeyh have advanced theories of unstoppable historical change, driven by forces the wise can interpret and accelerate. In the nineteenth century, Hegel thought history was rushing toward human freedom. Marx thought it drove toward the collapse of capitalism and the rise of socialism. More recently, some thought the end of communism foreshadowed an inevitable global shift toward liberal democracy — an “end of history.” Dictatorships elsewhere, they thought, were living on borrowed time. One small push and the tide of history would do the rest.
They put their theory to the test in Iraq in 2003. They promised regime change in Iraq would lead the whole Middle East into the next stage of history: peaceful, tolerant, and democratic. The exact opposite resulted.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Washington’s foreign policy elite used U.S. military power to bring down a brutal autocracy, only to see barbarism follow. Iraq became a land of looting, torture, and beheadings. A sectarian civil war drove out the majority of Iraq’s Christians and sorted Baghdad into a checkerboard of segregated neighborhoods. The Islamic State group sprung up in the chaos. ISIS—not democracy — spread to Iraq’s neighbors. American troops are still cleaning up the mess in Iraq 15 years later. Shaping history had failed. The regime change experiment’s cost was too high and accumulates to this day.
Those now calling for regime change in Iran insist they do not want a repeat of Iraq. That incorrectly assumes the invasion of Iraq was a tactical rather than a strategic failure. They seem to believe overthrowing the mullahs will not only be easier but also lead to even better outcomes — we are asked to suspend reality and ignore the results from Washington’s post-9/11 foreign policy decisions.
It took hundreds of thousands of American troops to remove Saddam Hussein. Iran regime change proponents suggest economic sanctions, a little covert action, and a few mean tweets can do in Ali Khamenei. Even better, democracy is sure to follow, since it is the next stage in Iranian history’s arc.
(U.S. Army photo)
And that’s possible. Iran is home to a great people with a terrible government. Things can get much better. However, as the regime changers learned the hard way in Iraq, they can also get much worse. Deeper pressure on Iran could strengthen the regime. Sanctions on Saddam’s Iraq did exactly that. As Peter Beinart observed, “sanctions shift the balance of power in a society in the regime’s favor. As sanctions make resources harder to find, authoritarian regimes hoard them. They make the population more dependent on their largesse and withhold resources from those who might threaten their rule.”
In Iran, the hardline Revolutionary Guards have the inside track on those resources. The last round of sanctions let them buy up struggling businesses and run smuggling rings. New pressure could leave the Guards with an even bigger slice of an even smaller pie.
And if new unrest leads to the clerics’ fall, the Guards have the money and the guns. A military dictatorship may be more likely than a democracy. At a minimum, the military would have a veto over the new government. Revolutions can end up in unexpected places. We need to look no further than Iran’s 1979 uprising for evidence. Few realized Khomeini would be more than a figurehead. Intellectuals and left-wing groups that backed Iran’s revolution faced serious persecution after it. Women’s rights supporters held a massive demonstration against mandatory hijab just weeks after the revolution’s success, chanting “We did not make a revolution to go backwards.”
Even if we do provoke an uprising in Iran, uprisings often fail. As Takeyh and Gerecht note, they failed in Iran in 1999, 2009, and late 2017.
History is full of thwarted revolts and broken rebellions: Tiananmen Square in China, the Prague Spring, the Fronde, the Vendee Rebellion, the 1959 Tibetan Uprising, the 1953 East German protests, the March 1st Movement in Korea, the 2.28 Incident in Taiwan, the 1956 Hungarian revolution, the 1848 Hungarian revolution, the Basmachi revolt against the Soviet Union, the Constitutionalist Revolution in Brazil, and many more. The regimes that led the crackdowns on these uprisings lasted for many more years — and they were often more brutal than before.
Americans should reject calls for new regime change plans abroad. But that does not mean ignoring dictators, abandoning our values, or espousing moral relativism.
Instead, we should embrace the tradition of humility in foreign policy exemplified by our Founders. They, too, witnessed repression abroad. They, too, loved our system of government and hoped for its spread. They wanted America to be, in John Quincy Adams’ words, “the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.” But they prudently worried that getting involved in other nations’ internal politics would entangle America in new conflicts it could barely understand, let alone solve. (Iraq showed the price of ignoring their wisdom.)
Freedom is not something to be given away or imposed. It emerges organically, and often slowly, in a people. Its success is difficult to predict. This is why the Monroe Doctrine emphasized America would recognize new states that “maintain” their freedom, not those who merely declare it, and why Adams warned that backing revolts abroad “involve [America], beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.”
They were heirs to the complicated, uncertain, centuries-long rise of the rights of Englishmen. The Magna Carta was in its sixth century when the Constitution was written. They were also heirs to the classical tradition and thus knew that the establishment of the Republic in Rome or democracy in Greek city-states had not brought about an end to history. They put checks and balances in the Constitution because they knew their project was uncertain. The same uncertainty helped foster their disinterest in using American power to boost foreign revolutions. Lasting republics take time, and they aren’t inevitable.
Unlike today’s regime changers, America’s founding generations realized that history is not predictable.
It was around lunchtime when the shots rang out across Camp Maiwand in eastern Afghanistan.
Two gunmen — one armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and the other operating a mounted PKM machine gun in the rear of a pickup truck — had just opened fire on a group of soldiers from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade visiting the Afghan base.
“The plan was the fully automatic machine gun was going to open up on us, and the AK was going to pick us off one by one,” said Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen, assigned to the brigade’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.
Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen accepts his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet from Program Executive Office Soldier officials during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“It just so happened that the terrain we were operating in, there was a choke point that we were walking through — it was a perfect opportunity to attack us,” he added.
During the insider attack, McQueen was struck in the back of the helmet with a 7.62x54mm Russian round at a distance of about 20 feet, knocking him off his feet, he said. Understanding the gravity of the situation, McQueen quickly recovered and started checking on his soldiers as they worked to secure their position.
“It’s nothing that I’ve experienced in my life that I can relate it to,” McQueen said. “If I had to guess, [it would feel like] you stood there and let a horse kick you in the back of the head.
Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“I was surprised that I was able to react as quickly as I did because I knew what had happened … I knew I was shot,” he added.
The attack lasted about 10 minutes before Afghan National Army forces moved in to apprehend the rogue policemen, McQueen said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard was fatally shot in the attack and was laid to rest at the West Virginia National Cemetery later that month. McQueen was sent to Germany and treated for a traumatic brain injury.
Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“I had no surgeries. Basically, the eight days that it took me to get [from Germany] to Fort Benning [in Georgia], the brain bleed was healed,” he said. “Other than some physical therapy to correct some balance issues, that’s the only treatment I’ve had.”
On March 4, 2019, leaders at Program Executive Office Soldier presented McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony.
Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, Program Executive Office Soldier officer in charge, presents Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“My dad used to have this saying. He would say, ‘Son, Superman is not brave,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, said at the ceremony. “My dad was telling me [that] Superman was invincible. He couldn’t be hurt. The reality is our servicemen and women can be hurt.”
Affixed to a plaque, the section of McQueen’s damaged headgear shows clear signs of distress with a portion ripped open to expose layers of shredded padding underneath.
“I want our equipment to make our soldiers invincible,” Potts added. “We’re going to do our best to provide you the equipment that you need to go out there and fight and return.”
Soldier protection system
After the presentation, PEO Soldier officials met with the media to discuss the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS. The new system provides soldiers with a modular, scalable integrated system that can be tailored to meet their mission requirements.
The fact that McQueen is still alive today is “a testament to what we do as acquisition professionals, in terms of providing capabilities that will bring our soldiers home safely,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, soldier protection and individual equipment project manager.
The Enhanced Combat Helmet, he noted, resulted from collaboration between the services after it was procured by the Marine Corps.
“This allowed us to provide the highest level of capability to our warfighters going into harm’s way,” Thomas added.
The new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, is displayed at Fort Belvoir, Va., March 4, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
The new SPS features an Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, a modular scalable vest, a ballistic combat shirt, and the ballistic combat belt. Overall the new system is said to weigh less while maintaining the same level of ballistic protection and mobility than current systems, officials said.
The IHPS, for example, has shown a 100 percent improvement against a blunt force impact, when compared to the ECH, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, soldier protective equipment product manager.
In simple terms, blunt force protection refers to the way the energy is dissipated after a round strikes the helmet, Whitehead added.
Additionally, the IHPS will feature a boltless retention system, making it easier for soldiers to mount accessories to their helmet, or have the ability to integrate a visor or mandible protection device. When compared to current head protection technology, the boltless retention system eliminates the need for pre-drilled holes, which has the potential to weaken the ballistic material, she said.
Program Executive Office Soldier displays the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS, at Fort Belvoir, Va, March 4, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
Security force assistance brigades are currently using a version of the SPS, Thomas added. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be the first conventional force to receive the upgraded personal protective equipment.
Even if it is the new SPS or the current equipment, McQueen has a newfound appreciation for his military-issued gear.
“Before this incident, I thought the helmet was cumbersome, and it was overkill,” said McQueen, joking that he once preferred to wear a ball cap and a plate carrier. “I was sorely mistaken. This helmet works, and I’m a living testament to it.”
A lot of science and a lot of innovation go into producing the helmet and other protective equipment, he said.
“From now on, all my soldiers will wear [their helmet] — and if they are in a hostile environment, they won’t take it off,” he said.
Having served for seven years, McQueen is determined to meet the goals he set for his Army career. And while he is slightly delayed, he said. The sergeant is still committed to making the selection for Special Forces and completing Ranger training.
It’s easy to laugh at Hollywood when filmmakers use a basic blueprint to create one-dimensional “war hero” characters who are clearly clobbered together using stereotypes. But that got us thinking: What if Hollywood sees something in our military and veteran community that we’re too close to see for ourselves?
We talk so much about the disconnect between being a member of the military or being a civilian. It’s easy to see the differences and spotlight them – from language to attitude to what we choose to wear, a veteran always knows another veteran. But can a civilian spot one, too? Or is our community reduced to what film portrays us to see?
To help answer these questions, we turned to some of our favorite war movies and took a critical look at the main characters. We explored how they were presented – either as the hero, the anti-hero, the wildcard, or the leader, and then tried to distill what Hollywood is saying about us. What we discovered was pretty surprising. It turns out that Hollywood might just be onto something when they give us characters like Lt. Aldo Raine in Inglorious Basterds.
Here are the 5 most common archetypes we found in film.
Goose’s character in Top Gun did a lot to create this sort of irreverent service member who always has something quippy to add to briefs. Of course, we all know this person in real life, but the military is all about doing what we’re told to do, so when we see these jokester characters, it doesn’t totally ring true.
Ask civilians, and they’ll tell you that everyone in the military is just like Rambo … or at least, wants and tries to be as Rambo-esque as possible. We all know the type: a gym bro who spends all his extra hours building tree trunk thighs and a thick neck. Unfortunately, when we get characters like this in film, they’re all too trigger happy to be authentic. They’re so far from what real service members would consider a “superman” that the trope falls flat.
We’re really looking for a superman character who cares about those they lead, someone whose loyalty is unflinching and unwavering. A person who can take charge when needed and who possesses that rare confluence of confidence and competency. Sort of like Staff Sgt. Sykes in Jarhead. Sykes is funny, cares about his job, and those in his unit, traits that, by our count, make him a superman.
The strong, reserved and humble leader
Strong, humble leaders should be the cornerstone to our military, just like Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins in Glory. Rawlins’ insight helps him gain the trust of his command, which leads him to promotion. But even as he gets his stripes, Rawlins is still questioning his ability to lead well. That’s a big distinction here since most films show us leaders who are so overly confident and never do any self-assessments. We’d much rather see more Rawlins-type characters than leaders who lead their units into peril.
Lifers are only golden for a few years in the middle of their careers – somewhere between years eight and twelve when they have enough experience to see things differently and still have enough relevance to make change happen. At least, that’s the way we see it on film. Just take a close look at Heartbreak Ridge. Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway is all Marine, all the time. But as his years stack up and his influence begins to lessen, the lifer ultimately comes to a crossroads where reinvention is required in order to keep on living.
Here’s the thing: yes, many lifers have this experience, but many don’t. We all know plenty of people who have done their 20, gotten out, and started new and successful careers in civilian sectors. What we need to see more of is the way that the military helps shape second careers and how the lessons learned in uniform translate to what happens once the boots come off.
What’s not to love in a mentor character? Well, of course it’s all about recognizing talent early on and honing it. Pushing younger military members further than they think they can go is a big part of mentorship. Getting down in the weeds and explaining to younger members of a unit just what life is like is the only way to pass on lessons learned. Except all too often, we see mentors use this platform to their own advantage and to advance their agendas. Hollywood does a decent job of this – we’re thinking about Maverick and Viper in Top Gun.
Explaining the military culture to outsiders can be tough, especially if all they know about us is by watching war movies. What people seem to understand is that there are certain archetypes. Now it’s up to scriptwriters and Hollywood to make sure we get a clearer and more accurate picture of life in the military.
With millions of boats and ships plying the waves, it’s easy to forget that mankind isn’t made to survive in the ocean — and the dangers inherent to the sea are compounded when you’re trapped a few decks below the waterline in a huge iron bubble filled with ammunition and fuel that’s on fire as it sinks into icy waters.
A ship goes down, circa 1943.
(John Atherton, CC BY-SA 2.5)
For sailors, attempting to save their vessel and then, if necessary, abandoning it while trying to survive is a real process that they must be prepared to complete. Based on testimony from those who have survived torpedo hits and other attacks that doom a ship, the experience is even more nightmarish than most would imagine.
“The steamer appeared to be close to us and looked colossal. I saw the captain walking on his bridge, a small whistle in his mouth. I saw the crew cleaning the deck forward, and I saw, with surprise and a slight shudder, long rows of wooden partitions right along all decks, from which gleamed the shining black and brown backs of horses. ‘Oh heavens, horses! What a pity, those lovely beasts!’ ….
“The death-bringing shot was a true one, and the torpedo ran towards the doomed ship at high speed. I could follow its course exactly by the light streak of bubbles which was left in its wake….
“I saw that the bubble-track of the torpedo had been discovered on the bridge of the steamer, as frightened arms pointed towards the water and the captain put his hands in front of his eyes and waited resignedly. Then a frightful explosion followed, and we were all thrown against one another by the concussion, and then, like Vulcan, huge and majestic, a column of water two hundred metres high and fifty metres broad, terrible in its beauty and power, shot up to the heavens.”
For men not on the deck, the end of the ship can come as even more of a surprise.
“I awoke. I was in the air. I saw a bright light before I felt the concussion of the explosion that threw me up in the air almost to the overhead. A torpedo had detonated under my room. I hit the edge of the bunk, hit the deck, and stood up. Then the second explosion knocked me down again. As I landed on the deck I thought, ‘I’ve got to get the hell out of here!’ I grabbed my life jacket and started to go out the door. My room was already on fire.”
The German battleship Admiral Graf Spee in flames after being scuttled in the River Plate Estuary off Montevideo, Uruguay.
(Imperial War Museums)
For men on sinking ships, fire is a real hazard despite the water rushing to fill the ship. The water is the greatest threat to the ship floating for the moment, but fire can quickly kill all life aboard and cause explosions or melt bulkheads, disabling pumps or allowing even more water in.
Damage control parties move through the ship, attempting to patch holes, pump out flooded compartments, and douse fires. But if they can’t get the damage under control, the ship’s captain has to make one of the hardest decisions: to abandon ship.
Sometimes, it’s the only way to save the crew, giving them the chance to fight another day or to return to their families, but it consigns thousands of tons of American steel and aluminum to the sea, along with the remains of any sailors already dead or too injured or trapped to escape.
The rest of the crew heads for the lifeboats, helping each other through listing decks and smoke-filled compartments that are often without power and light.
But there’s not always room enough for everyone in the lifeboat. This is extremely dangerous, even when the water is warm. The water is often filled with oil and diesel, and the sinking ship is drawing literal tons of water towards itself, creating a situation where even the strongest swimmer can get slowly pulled under and drown.
The HMS Legion, at left, rescues survivors from the slowly sinking HMS Ark Royal near the coast of Gibraltar.
(Royal Navy photo by Lt. S.J. Beadell)
From Dr. Haynes’ account of the Indianapolis sinking:
“I slowly walked down the side of the ship. Another kid came and said he didn’t have a jacket. I had an extra jacket and he put it on. We both jumped into the water which was covered with fuel oil. I wasn’t alone in the water. The hull was covered with people climbing down.
“I didn’t want to get sucked down with the ship so I kicked my feet to get away. And then the ship rose up high. I thought it was going to come down and crush me. The ship kept leaning out away from me, the aft end rising up and leaning over as it stood up on its nose. The ship was still going forward at probably 3 or 4 knots. When it finally sank, it was over a hundred yards from me. Most of the survivors were strung out anywhere from half a mile to a mile behind the ship.
“Suddenly, the ship was gone and it was very quiet. It had only been 12 minutes since the torpedoes hit. We started to gather together. Being in the water wasn’t an unpleasant experience except that the black fuel oil got in your nose and eyes. We all looked the same, black oil all over — white eyes and red mouths. You couldn’t tell the doctor from the boot seamen. Soon everyone had swallowed fuel oil and gotten sick. Then everyone began vomiting.”
USS Indianapolis survivors are moved to the hospital in August 1945.
Best case scenario, the sailors are now safely in the water, attempting to tend to wounds and keep people afloat while awaiting rescue. But, they may still be under attack or could be captured by enemy forces. In the case of the Indianapolis, the crew was returning from the top-secret mission to deliver the atomic bomb to Allied forces for use against Japan.
No one knew where the ship was, and the men were left at sea for four days in shark-infested waters. The crew had 1,195 members when it went down in 1945. 300 men are thought to have gone down with the ship, and nearly 600 more died in the water while waiting for rescue. Only 316 survived.
An amended executive order gave the Defense Department the authority to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots to address a personnel shortage.
The Air Force says it doesn’t currently intend to recall those pilots however.
The Air Force says it doesn’t plan to use new authority granted by an amended executive order to recall retired pilots to correct an ongoing personnel shortage.
“The Air Force does not currently intend to recall retired pilots to address the pilot shortage,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said on Oct. 22. “We appreciate the authorities and flexibility delegated to us.”
A Pentagon spokesman said on Oct. 20 that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis requested the move.
Mattis was expected to delegate to the Air Force secretary the authority to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots for up to three years.
The Air Force is currently about 1,500 pilots shy of the 20,300 it is mandated to have. About 1,000 of those absent are fighter pilots. Some officials have deemed the shortage a “quiet crisis.”
Under current law, the Air Force was limited to recalling 25 pilots; the executive order temporarily lifts that cap.
The Air Force has already pursued a number of new policies to retain current pilots and train new ones. In August, the service announced that it would welcome back up to 25 retired pilots who elected to return to fill “critical-rated staff positions” so active-duty pilots could continue in their current assignments.
A senior Marine Corps drill instructor forced a recruit to give up his Facebook password so he could hit on the recruit’s sisters and made others complete his college homework, witnesses said in an Article 32 investigative hearing at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, on Thursday.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Burke, whose identity was publicly revealed at the hearing for the first time, may face trial on charges including two counts of cruelty and maltreatment; two count of failure to obey an order or regulation; one count each of false official statement, wrongful appropriation, and insubordination; and five counts of general misconduct. Thursday’s hearing will determine whether he will go to court-martial or face a lesser form of adjudication.
Four former recruits from Kilo Company, Platoon 3044, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, testified that Burke, an administrative Marine by trade with nearly 10 years of service, frequently called them names including “stupid” and “f—-t,” among other unprintable expletives, and allowed other drill instructors to do the same.
Multiple recruits testified that the drill instructors would bring members of the platoon into “the dungeon”– an unoccupied building with an abandoned squad bay in disrepair and filled with a fine yellow dust. When the recruits were made to conduct incentive training, or strenuous physical exercise designed for correction, they would cough and struggle to breathe as the dust swirled, they said. These sessions, recruits testified, would last from 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
To demonstrate the hazards of the dungeon, military prosecutor Maj. Gregg Curley presented Col. James Bartolotto, the preliminary hearing officer, with a large jar containing a sample of the dust, shaking it to show how easily it became a thick cloud.
Witnesses also testified that Burke recruited self-identified “smart” recruits to come into the drill instructor hut to help him complete his college homework, a non-authorized activity for recruits, as Burke believed he was falling behind.
Appropriate levels of training and stress are very strictly designed by military education personnel. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)
The allegations against Burke came to light as part of a wide-ranging series of investigations regarding alleged mistreatment of recruits at Parris Island — a pattern that was found to include abuse that prompted one recruit, Raheel Siddiqui, to take his own life last March.
The alleged misconduct of Burke and a number of other drill instructors in Platoon 3044 was revealed after an anonymous letter from “Concerned loved ones of innocent recruits in Kilo Company” was sent to President Barack Obama in April 2016. In all, 56 recruits and three family members were interviewed as a result of the investigation.
After the investigation was launched, all of the platoon’s drill instructors were relieved of their duties and replaced by new ones last summer.
Also accused were Staff Sgts. Matthew Bacchus and Jose Lucena-Martinez, and Sgt. Riley Gress, all of whom face similar charges and are set to be arraigned Friday.
Lance Cpl. Kelvin Cabrera, a reservist with 4th Civil Affairs Group, out of Hialeah, Florida, testified that Burke would force recruits to show him photographs they received from home, sometimes keeping them for himself. After being forced to turn over a family photograph against his will, Cabrera said, he was summoned to the drill instructor hut in April 2016 and told Burke found one of his sisters attractive and wanted him to log onto Facebook so Burke could send messages to her.
When Cabrera refused, he was made to perform burpees, or squat thrusts, until he complied, he said. Bacchus, he said, was also present. After logging on to his Facebook account on Burke’s smartphone, Cabrera said the drill instructor expressed interest in another one of his sisters and forced him to call her. Then, Cabrera said, Burke grabbed the phone and tried to ask her out.
“I couldn’t explain [to my sister] what was happening,” he said. “She told me not to do that again, to call her and give the phone to a random man.”
While Burke did not testify in his defense, he said in a recording played for the court that his habit of forcing the recruits to show him their photos was an “inside joke” and he never kept them.
Zachary Mosier, a former recruit who was medically separated from Platoon 3044 as a result of an irregular heartbeat after passing out on three separate occasions during intensive physical training, testified that he had received inconsistent levels of medical attention on these occasions, and, under Burke’s oversight, had not been seen by a corpsman or medical professionals on the second occasion.
Another former recruit who left the Marine Corps shortly after boot camp due to injury, Evan Murdoch, said Burke had tried to cover up the first incident in which Mosier passed out, falling flat on his rifle during push-ups in what Murdoch described as “excessive” incentive training, lasting longer than the 15 minutes that is allowed.
“He said, ‘Look, that didn’t happen today, did it,’ hinting that no one should say anything,” Murdoch testified.
The commander of Marine Corps Training and Education Command, Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, is expected to make a decision this month on whether to send Burke’s case to court-martial.
If you’re a fan of the Houston Astros, Friday, July 27, was a miserable night. The Astros suffered a humiliating 11-2 defeat on their home field, Minute Maid Park, at the hands of their same-state rivals, the Texas Rangers. But by the game’s end, nobody was talking about the 9-run deficit. Instead, they were talking about a Marine Corps veteran — and true American hero — dropped trow and ran across the field at the game’s conclusion, wearing only a pair of Ol’ Glory silkies and shoes.
Chris White, a Houston native and president of Freedom Hard, took to the field in front of 42,592 baseball fans in a display that would bring a tear of joy to any red, white, and blue-blooded American. He made it all the way across the outfield, dodging security guards who were no match for his skill. White eventually put his hands up, surrendering after earning the love and admiration of the country.
In case you’ve missed this beautiful display of patriotism, here’s the video:
All joking aside, Chris White’s Freedom Hard is a veteran owned and operated company that uses humor (like the now-infamous streak) to raise awareness of issues within the veteran community. When he was interviewed by Houston’s KPRC 2, he opened up about his motivations.
The streaking, as hilarious as it was, gave him a soap box to briefly stand on and speak to the world about a deadly serious issue that affects many veterans: suicide.
“If I can make you laugh for at least five minutes, then you’re not thinking about that dark space you could potentially be in,” he said. “If I can gear it toward patriotism, to me, I consider that the Holy Grail.”
You bring credit upon the Corps, the military community, and the United States of America.
A GoFundMe campaign was started in his honor (to post his bail) and it quickly raised 0.00. Instead of using cash, he donated every last cent to Camp4Heroes, a North Carolina resort that provides a tranquil environment for struggling veterans to enjoy nature.
Every aspect of Freedom Hard is geared towards giving back to the veteran community. A dollar of every sale is directly donated to the buyer’s choice of a non-profit organization supporting veterans.
Cars drive past the headquarters of Russia’s military intelligence directorate, known as the GRU, in Moscow, where all six Russians are alleged to be officers.
The United States has charged six Russian military officers with a “destructive,” global criminal cyber-campaign that included the worldwide distribution of destructive malware and attempts to undermine the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine.
The indictment, announced by the Justice Department on October 19, also accuses the men of hacking French elections, the Seoul Olympics, and an international organization investigating Russia’s use of a deadly nerve agent.
The charges are the latest in a series of cybercriminal indictments leveled by the United States against Russian state and nonstate actors.
The six Russian nationals are all alleged to be officers in a unit of the Russian military intelligence directorate, known as the GRU, which the United States in 2018 accused of hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Convention two years earlier.
U.S. Attorney Scott Brady called the officers’ campaigns “the most destructive and costly cyberattacks in history.”
“No country has weaponized its cyber-capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” according to Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers.
Also on October 19, Britain’s Foreign Office said GRU hackers had targeted organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials declined to give specific details about these attacks or say whether they were successful, but said they had targeted the Olympics’ organizers, logistics suppliers, and sponsors.
“The GRU’s actions against the Olympic and Paralympic Games are cynical and reckless. We condemn them in the strongest possible terms,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said
The United States received help in its years-long investigation of the GRU officers from foreign governments as well as some of the largest U.S. companies, including Google, Cisco, Facebook, and Twitter, the Justice Department said in its statement.
Even though the United States is unlikely to ever bring the men to justice, the charges essentially prevent the men from traveling to countries that have extradition agreements with the United States.
The six men indicted are Yury Andrienko, Sergei Detistov, Pavel Frolov, Anatoly Kovalev, Artyom Ochichenko, and Pyotr Pliskin.
They are charged with developing NotPetya, the malware that spread globally in 2017, causing upwards of billion in damages and impairing critical medical services in western Pennsylvania.
They are also blamed for the cyberattacks against a series of Ukrainian targets from December 2015 through 2016, including the nation’s power grid and Finance Ministry, and cyberattacks against the Georgian parliament in 2019.
Russia has tense relations with both countries, having invaded Georgia in 2008 and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Russia is also backing separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The Justice Department said the men were also behind a series of international spear-phishing campaigns, including against the political party of French President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, the International Olympic Committee in 2017 and 2018, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Spear-phishing is an e-mail or electronic communications scam targeting a a specific individual, organization, or business with the intent to steal data for malicious purposes or install malware on a targeted user’s computer.
The attack on the OPCW came just a month after Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer, and his daughter were found unconscious in the British city of Salisbury in 2018.
The British authorities and OPCW confirmed the Skripals had been poisoned with the Russian nerve agent Novichok. Britain accused two GRU officers of carrying out the attack.
Landing Home takes you right into the trenches, forcing you to acknowledge the impacts of America’s 20-year war. Viewers must confront the reality of veterans struggling after they return home.
Douglas Taurel plays Luke, an Army veteran returning home after serving in Afghanistan. Taurel himself is best known for his gripping one-man play, The American Soldier, in which he plays multiple characters, bringing the viewer from the Revolutionary War to the current conflict in the Middle East. The play itself and all of his unforgettable relationships built with veterans of every walk of life inspired Landing Home.
The child of Jewish Argentinian immigrants, he grew up with his father who was in love with America and her promises. A deep love he passed to his son.
“The thing that got me going was being involved in 9/11. I was coming out of the second tower when that second plane hit it,” Taurel shared. “I couldn’t join [the military] because I was blind in my left eye. But that’s what got me involved in working with veterans.”
Taurel began furiously reading and following America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. While researching other wars he read letters from soldiers who’d been involved in all of America’s conflicts, describing their experiences. As he was reading, he made a shocking revelation. They were all the same, whether it was written during the Civil War or modern times, the struggles of these veterans couldn’t be differentiated. That discovery led him on a six-year journey to creating The American Soldier.
But he wasn’t done yet.
“The series really came from the QA we always have after the play. Vets would come up to me after the show and share their stores. Everyone always said ‘you have to turn this into a movie’,” Taruel said. While he didn’t think it was feasible to fit all his characters into a movie, he decided to create a modern soldier who embodied those characters for a web series.
Taurel wanted it to be a real and true compilation of all of the veteran stories he’d been privy to. On set, 17 of the cast and crew were veterans themselves. Launched through Vimeo, the first episode is an immediate poignant reminder of how difficult reintegration is for veterans. Something as simple as a birthday party is overwhelming for a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Landing Home brings viewers along on the journey of a former soldier trying to reintegrate into civilian life. The obvious struggle Luke walks through is a heartbreaking reminder of the cost of war, as his story is an accurate depiction of a true veteran. Each episode is filled with moments that bring you deep inside to feel the effects of combat.
“We have a history as a nation of not taking care of our veterans, that goes back to the Revolution,” Taurel said. “It is a beautiful country, but it has been paid in blood. If we honored our veterans more, we’d think about war a whole lot differently. It’s easy to go to war when you aren’t involved.”
There’s another scene, in a bar that stands out. Luke is obviously struggling and an older gentleman sits beside him. A quiet and heavy silence sits in the air. Then the man says, “Where did you serve?” This moment stands out because one veteran immediately knew another and their fight, on sight.
“We owe our veterans so much. I think we’ve become selfish as a country. We’ve forgotten the people who have given us the liberties and freedoms we have,” Taurel explained. He continued, “That’s why I do the projects that I have, I want people to understand what service really means.”
The series does not hold back. The raw and true compilations of the experiences of America’s veterans in Landing Home will move you. Taurel hopes that viewers walk away with a deep understanding of what “Thank you for your service” really means.
You can watch Landing Home by going to Vimeo. To learn about the other work Taurel is involved in, click here.
A quite interesting and somehow weird demo took place on Nov. 21, 2019, on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, hosting the 2019 Atlantic Future Forum (AFF) at anchor off Annapolis, Washington D.C., during UK’s largest aircraft carrier’s deployment to the US.
Ex-Royal Marines Reservist Richard Browning flew with a jet-powered flying suit from the aircraft carrier and welcomed journalists on a boat carrying journalists before returning to the landing platform adjacent HMSQE.
A video of the demo was shared on the Instagram account of Gravity Industries, a British aeronautical innovation company founded by the former Royal Marines reservist.
The view from the yacht is also pretty impressive. Take a look at it:
The Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy are currently involved in the Westlant 19 cruise off the East Coast of the United States to test the F-35B in an operational environment aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth. After the initial carrier qualification during daylight, the pilots are now undergoing the night carrier qualification process.
The demo was conducted during the AFF 2019 event, a full day conference “bringing together the brightest minds and most influential thinkers-from defence and beyond-to strengthen the US-UK special relationship and encourage collaboration between the public and private sector.”
Browning is not the only one to fly around with a sort-of jet pack. In July 2019, during Bastille Day festivities in Paris, inventor and jet skier Franky Zapata flew a hoverboard in front of French President Emmanuel Macron. Zapata carried a rifle during his demo over French military forces parading down the Champs-Élysées.
On Nov. 14, 1910, the U.S. military took its first step toward linking flight and naval operations when Eugene Ely made the first carrier takeoff, guiding a Pusher biplane off the deck of the light cruiser USS Birmingham in the waters of Norfolk, Virginia.
The Navy tapped Capt. Washington Irving Chambers — who has been called “the father of naval aviation” — earlier that year “to observe everything that will be of use in the study of aviation and its influence upon the problems of naval warfare,” according to the Smithsonian.
Chambers recognized the utility of shipborne landings and takeoffs. At a flying event in Belmont Park, New York, in October 1914, Chambers asked planemaker Glenn Curtiss and Ely if they would attempt to land on a ship if he supplied one. (Another account has Curtiss and Ely making the offer, and Chambers saying he had no money to finance the experiment but would provide a ship.)
On November 14 — a Monday soiled by fog and intermittent rain — a Curtiss Pusher biplane with floats mounted under the wings was loaded aboard the Birmingham. The US Naval Institute identifies the aircraft as a Hudson Fulton Flyer.
The cruiser was equipped with an 83-foot runway on its deck, but that length meant Ely only had 57 feet to take off.
Though the original plan was to steam into the Chesapeake Bay and launch the plane while underway, which would provide extra lift, it was foiled by the weather. That afternoon, Ely launched his biplane from Birmingham’s deck while the ship was as anchor.
After his wheels left the deck, Ely guided the plane toward the water to build up speed. But he miscalculated, and witnesses watched as the plane smacked into the water and bounced back into the air. The collision damaged the propeller and sprayed Ely’s goggles with saltwater.
After less than five minutes in the air, Ely set the plane down on a nearby beach. He had flown less than 3 miles.
‘The most important landing of a bird since the dove flew back to the ark’
A reporter for the Indianapolis Star noted afterward that, “Aerial navigation proved today that it is a factor which must be dealt with in the naval tactics of the world’s future.”
Ely and the Curtiss team had plans to fly on the West Coast in January 1911, and Chambers made arrangements to follow up their feat in Norfolk by landing on a ship.
The armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania, anchored in San Francisco Bay, was outfitted with a 120-foot platform. Ely, wearing a padded football helmet and bicycle inner tubes around his body for protection, took off from a nearby race track on the morning of January 18, 1911, flying a Curtiss Pusher with hooks on the landing gear.
Thousands of spectators watched as Ely made a safe landing on the Pennsylvania, with the plane’s hooks catching ropes stretched across the ship’s deck. After lunch with the captain, Ely took off from the Pennsylvania, landing safely at the race track.
Capt. C. F. Pond, commander of the Pennsylvania, called Ely’s feat “the most important landing of a bird since the dove flew back to the ark.”
Ely continued flying at sites around the country, earning acclaim. But his life was cut short by a crash at the Georgia State Fair on October 19, 1911. Though he was a civilian flier, Ely was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Navy in 1933.
Tank Marines and other leathernecks in specialties that won’t play a role in the service’s future will get the option of transferring to another branch or military occupational specialty, the Corps’ top general said this week.
Commandant Gen. David Berger spoke to reporters Wednesday about the long-awaited force-redesign plans. One of the biggest changes to the future Marine Corps of 2030 will be its size. The total number of personnel will drop by 16,000 over the next 10 years to a 170,000-person force.
That includes ditching its tank battalions, law-enforcement units and bridging companies. The Marine Corps will also drop its total number of infantry battalions and cut several aviation squadrons as it shifts its focus toward countering China in the Asia-Pacific region.
Marines won’t face the same hardships some endured during the post-war drawdown though, when thousands were cut from the ranks. This change, Berger said, “is intentionally drawn out over time so we can make the right decisions.”
“No one’s getting a pink slip saying time to go home,” the commandant said. “… We’re not forcing anybody out.”
The Marine Corps will rely on attrition to shed personnel from the ranks, Berger added.
“In other words, people [will be] out as they normally would,” he said. “We might recruit less … but there’s no intent at this point to issue a whole bunch of go-home cards for Marines.”
The Marine Corps got rid of about 20,000 people over four years starting in 2012. It involved putting sometimes-painful involuntary separation plans in place that cut short some people’s hopes of making the Marine Corps their career.
Berger said Marines affected by the changes in the force redesign will “have some choice” in what happens next. That will depend on where they are in their careers though, he said.
“They can choose another military specialty to go into; they can, in some instances, make a transfer to another service,” Berger said.
Some may be eligible to move into career fields that don’t exist yet.
“We are fielding new capabilities that we don’t have right now, so we will need Marines in specialties that we either don’t have at all or we don’t have nearly in the numbers that we’re going to need,” the commandant said.
The Marine Corps plans to spend money it will save on having fewer personnel and ditching some aging equipment on new capabilities. The service will invest in equipment for long-range precision fires, new air-defense systems and unmanned aircraft, among other things.
When it comes to tanks, the Marine Corps found “sufficient evidence to conclude that this capability, despite its long and honorable history in the wars of the past, is operationally unsuitable for our highest-priority challenge,” the report adds.
“Heavy ground armor capability will continue to be provided by the U.S. Army.”