The military needs innovative ideas from small businesses and entrepreneurs now more than ever, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.
McCarthy spoke Feb. 21, 2019, at Muster DC, an event in the nation’s capital for military veterans aspiring to be entrepreneurs.
“If you look at the history of the Department of Defense, we were at our best when entrepreneurs were doing business with us,” he said.
As an example, he cited that the first jeeps for World War II were actually designed and built by a small motor company called American Bantam in Butler, Pennsylvania. Later, the design was shared with Willys-Overland and Ford to produce the jeeps on a larger scale.
1941 American Bantam Jeep Prototype.
DOD was at its best when small businesses brought their ideas and “partnered with big corporations to scale out those ideas,” McCarthy said.
“We got away from that for the last several decades,” he said, adding the Army’s practice has been to put out 1,000-page requests for proposals, or RFPs, specifying the exact size and weight of each component of a system.
Businesses maybe had a better solution, he said, but they would never share it, because that’s not what they were incentivized to do.
That culture needs to change, McCarthy said, and that’s one reason the Army Futures Command was organized. It’s why soldiers have been placed alongside tech innovators at an “accelerator hub” in Austin, Texas.
The purpose of Futures Command is to drive innovation, he said, “so that we can do business faster. So small businesses don’t get their cash flow crushed waiting years for us to make a decision.”
Out of more than 800 programs that the Army oversees, eight have been granted a special “transactional authority” to do business differently, he said.
The Futures Command has eight cross-functional teams: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, Army network, air and missile defense, soldier lethality, synthetic training environment; and assured positioning, navigation and timing.
A soldier with the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System during a live fire training exercise at Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, July 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)
The Army needs a “quick win” in these eight programs, McCarthy said, in order to change the acquisition culture and to keep ahead of near-peer adversaries. The U.S. military has enjoyed a vast technological advantage for years, he said, but competitors are quickly catching up.
McCarthy said he’d like to see soldiers in accelerator hubs across the country so entrepreneurs will have easy access to pitch their ideas.
Entrepreneurs who are military veterans have an advantage, he said, because they are resilient and can deal with stress. They know how to organize and plan.
When getting ready to leave the Army, where he served as a Ranger, McCarthy said at his first interview in Manhattan, he was asked what he knew about finance.
“I said, ‘Nothing. But I know how to plan and I know how to organize and there would be nothing you can put me through that I hadn’t been through already in the form of stress and pressure,'” he said.
After the interviewer stopped laughing, McCarthy said he took a chance and hired him. The company even held the job open for a year, because soon afterward, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred and McCarthy agreed to stay in the Army for a deployment before going to work in New York.
Veterans are not afraid to engage, he said, and have commitment. “Nobody wants to follow a leader that hedges,” he said. “They want somebody that’s playing ‘double-in’ every day.”
Veterans have some of the key attributes business leaders need to have, he said, “especially if they’re going to start their own business.”
Other talents the Army needs most right now include systems engineering and software coding, McCarthy said.
Weapons systems are sophisticated and have millions of lines of coding, he said.
Most failures of weapons systems in the past came from not having the right systems architecture, he said, which resulted in weapons not being able to communicate with other platforms.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently laid out a new U.S. approach to the conflict in Syria, and two things became immediately clear — the U.S. is staying in Syria and conflict with Iran could be coming.
Up until this point, the U.S. presence in Syria has focused on fighting ISIS, the terror group that gained control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014. But with ISIS in rapid decline and its once U.K.-sized territory all but completely removed from their grasp, Tillerson described Iran as the new principal threat to U.S. interests in Syria.
“Continued strategic threats to the U.S. from not just ISIS and Al Qaeda, but from others, persist,” Tillerson said earlier in January. “And this threat I’m referring to is principally Iran.”
Tillerson said Iran “is positioning to continue attacking U.S. interests, our allies, and personnel in the region” through its positioning in Syria.
In no uncertain terms, Tillerson said Iran dreams of a land arch that would connect them to their ally, Lebanon, through Syria, where it can provide weapons support to anti- U.S. and anti-Isreal terror groups. He noted that one of the U.S.’s desired end results is that “Iranian influence in Syria is diminished, their dreams of a northern arch are denied, and Syria’s neighbors are secure from all threats emanating from Syria.”
While the new strategy does not guarantee outright fighting between the U.S. and Iran, it puts the U.S.’s 2,000 or so troops in Syria in direct strategic competition with Iran’s estimated 70,000.
Numbers can be deceiving
Despite an apparent 35 to 1 numbers advantage for Iranian and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria, Iran’s forces are weak, overexposed, and certain to fare poorly in a direct competition with the U.S., according to Tony Badran, a Syria expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
U.S. and U.S.-backed forces have already come into contact with Iranian and Iranian-backed forces in Syria, and the short engagements proved decisive victories for the US, which holds considerable advantages in air power and high-end warfighting.
But those skirmishes only focused on getting Iranian forces off the backs of U.S.-aligned forces while the U.S. focused on defeating ISIS. In the US’s new campaign to shut down Iran’s hoped-for land bridge to Lebanon, the U.S. will likely have to work with local allies, according to Badran.
“The U.S. is going to have to develop local Arab fighting forces,” said Badran, “But you can do a lot more damage a lot quicker by expanding or amplifying the existing Israeli campaign by going after installations, mobile targets, or senior cadres.”
Israel, while it has stayed out of the majority of its neighbor Syria’s civil war, has made no apologies for stepping in with airstrikes when it feels Iran getting to close to Lebanon, where the Hezbollah militia vows to wage war against the Jewish state.
With Israel potentially at its back, the U.S. “has assets far beyond 2,000 guys out in the desert somewhere,” said Badran. The U.S. can call on naval power, aircraft carriers, nearby air bases, allied air power, standoff weapons like cruise missiles, and artillery.
Iran sacrifices asymmetrical advantage
While Iran usually enjoys what military analysts call an “asymmetrical advantage” over U.S. forces in the Middle East, or its ability to fight against U.S. interests using proxy armies and less-than-lethal force, that advantage disappears in a direct confrontation. If Iran mounted a large-scale attack on U.S. forces in Syria, the bases, depots, and planners involved in the attack would be quickly reduced to rubble, according to Badran.
For that reason, Iran may look to avoid direct military engagement with the U.S., and simply continue to support the U.S.’s enemies while playing the long game of aggravating the U.S. and hoping Washington’s will breaks before Tehran’s.
But another prong of the U.S.’s strategy in Syria is to isolate the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
“We’re going to treat Syria like North Korea — an economic, not just a political pariah,” said Badran.
With the U.S. pressuring allies not to do business with the Assad regime and providing no money for reconstruction, the Syrian government, Iran’s ally, may weaken, making way for a less Iran-friendly administration in the future, thereby denying Tehran its land bridge without a shot fired.
The U.S. won’t go it alone
Tehran has its own problems to worry about. Country-wide protests over the country’s steep inequality and billions in spending on foreign adventurism have threatened the very fabric of its leadership. Local Syrians — a diverse, mainly Sunni bunch — also may prove resistant to Iran, the dominant Shiite Muslim power in the region.
Though the U.S. and Turkey frequently clash over differences in their vision for Syria, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Washington Institute expert James Jeffrey says Washington and Ankara ultimately agree on the broad goals.
“Right now, about 40% of Syria is under control of U.S. or Turkey, and while U.S. and Turkey are not all that well coordinated, both U.S. and Turkey see the goal to a transition to a regime that will not do what [Syrian President Bashar] Assad has done,” said Jeffrey.
Jeffrey added that Turkey also would like to reduce the role of Iran in Syria, as Tehran has a “tendency to bully the Sunni Arab population” which could lead to another civil war.
Badran does not question that the U.S. could easily overwhelm or destroy Iranian forces in Syria, and instead believes the real challenge lies in determining who will establish control of southern Syria in the future.
United States troops stationed in Syria have yet to receive guidance on their mission, including the basic rules of engagement, according to a military official in a CNN report published Nov. 4, 2019.
Some military commanders deployed to Eastern Syria were reportedly still waiting to receive their directives to guard oil fields in the region. For some of these troops, it was unclear where their destinations would be and how long they were expected to stay there, according to CNN.
President Donald Trump and his congressional allies in recent weeks have shown interest in the oil fields in the country, even deploying additional troops and armored vehicles to protect the oil reserves.
“What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly,” Trump said on Oct. 27, 2019, adding that he wanted to “spread out the wealth.”
“The oil is so valuable for many reasons,” Trump added.
US troops in northeastern Syria were called back after Trump ordered their withdrawal, ahead of Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish forces earlier this month.
US troops in Northern Syria.
But Trump also ordered troops into the region to protect oil fields from Islamic State militants, Syria, and Russia.
Roughly 1,000 US troops were deployed to the region when Turkey embarked on its offensive on Oct. 9, 2019. After accounting for the new troops, around 900 US service members are expected to remain.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, the majority-Kurdish forces that were allied with the US for the war against ISIS, have operated the oil fields after seizing them from the terrorist group in 2017. The SDF has been selling the crude oil to the Syrian regime through a sanctioned broker, according to a Wall Street Journal report, citing sources familiar with the situation.
The confusion wrought from the abrupt military repositioning also comes shortly after artillery rounds landed about 1 kilometer away from US troops. US forces patrolling northeast Syria on Nov. 3, 2019, reportedly noticed the artillery fire, according to the Military Times. No US service members were injured.
The event follows another similar incident on Oct. 11, 2019, when Turkish artillery fire landed a few hundred meters away from a location with US forces. Following the incident, a US official demanded that Turkey “avoid actions that could result in immediate defensive action.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In Oct. 2014, Pemberton met Laude in a bar while he was on leave. The two checked into a nearby hotel where he attacked the transgendered woman when he found out she was born a male. He admitted to the attack but maintained she was alive when he left the hotel.
Laude was found strangled with her head in the room’s toilet.
The case strained relations between the two countries. The Philippines, a former U.S. territory, will hold Pemberton until the two governments reach a consensus on where he should serve his prison term. There are calls in the Philippine government to end its military relationship with the United States.
Laude with her German fiancé, Marc Sueselbeck
The current status of forces agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines allows the Philippines to prosecute members of the U.S. military, but the U.S. government is to hold them until all court proceedings are finished.
Pemberton is also ordered to pay the U.S. equivalent of $95,350 to the family of the victim.
A purple heart recipient and Vietnam war veteran, Dan Osteen, 69, sacrificed his life saving his 3-year-old granddaughter after the Oklahoma house they were in exploded.
Dan Osteen, 69, with granddaughter Paetyn, 3.
Dan Osteen’s son, Brendon, says his father looked forward to every single moment he could spend with his granddaughter, “That’s what he was first and foremost I mean he was all about that baby and she was all about him.”
On Sept. 19, Brendon said his father was lighting a candle next to the stove, when there was a powerful propane gas explosion. Brendon spoke to the immediate selflessness about his father’s actions, “He wasn’t worried about himself at all. I’ll leave it at that, but save [to] her was the message he was trying to get across and he did exactly that.”
Osteen suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs, and severe burns when the blast ripped through the house. Against all odds, he was able to carry his granddaughter out of the explosion into safety—going so far as to traverse a steep driveway that winds over a quarter mile through the woods, with his sustained injuries.
“He just got out of the house and headed straight to where he knew help was. He tried to get in his truck and his keys were melted to him. His phone was exploded in his pocket” Brendon said.
Don’s wife was the first to make it to the scene. There she found the pair in the front pasture of the family’s property, where Don had laid Paetyn in the shade. Brendon said that before he died, Osteen told his wife, Brendon’s mother, that the roof had fallen on top of Paetyn. Miraculously he was able to recover Pateyn and return her to safety, where she was treated for burns on 30% of her body.
Dan Osteen passed away from a heart attack during emergency surgery after spending days fighting for his life. “He was a man set in his faith and he knew where he was going” Brendon added. “He knew that he did his job by saving the life of his Boo Boo Chicken,” he said. “He loved my daughter beyond unconditionally. And he gave it all for her to live.”
Brendon said the Oklahoma house belonged to his parents and brother. The house, along with all their belongings, were destroyed.
Osteen was an Army veteran who received a purple heart from a grenade explosion in Vietnam. He was a man of service to others, who paid the ultimate price to save his granddaughter. A GoFundMe page has been set up by the family.
The U.S. Coast Guard performed two daring rescues at sea over the past week. The first, on November 13, involved a stroke victim aboard a commercial fishing vessel. Then, just six days later, Coast Guard aircrews were tasked with the rescue of another fisherman who had fallen overboard. Footage of both rescues has been released.
On Friday, November 13, at approximately 6:00 p.m. EST, Coast Guard watchstanders received word that a fisherman had suffered an apparent stroke some 60 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was able to locate the vessel and rescue the fisherman by 7:30 that evening.
On Thursday, rescue crews out of Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod were once again tasked with saving an injured fisherman. This time, as a result of a man falling overboard.
At approximately 3:30 a.m. EST, a watchstander from Coast Guard District One received word of an emergency situation unfolding aboard a 72-foot fishing vessel called the Jennifer Anne. According to a Coast Guard statement, the 35-year-old fisherman had fallen overboard and had been recovered by other members of the crew. However, he had suffered a number of lacerations and was exhibiting signs of hypothermia.
The Coast Guard deployed an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft to locate the vessel, some 160 miles out to sea. By 6:51 a.m. EST, the vessel had been located, and rescue crews were able to safely hoist the injured fisherman from the deck of the Jennifer Anne. The injured man was stabilized and brought to Massachusetts General Hospital for further care.
This dramatic footage of the rescue highlights the incredible skill and bravery on display from the Coast Guard crew.
The Pentagon is planning to cut its force size in Afghanistan by half, but special operations strike units will remain in country to carry out raids on Taliban and Islamic State fighters, a Defense Department official with knowledge of the withdrawal plans said Jan 2, 2019.
Press reports of a decision by President Donald Trump to begin removing U.S. forces from Afghanistan began emerging in late December 2018, shortly after the White House declared victory over ISIS fighters in Syria and ordered that American troops be pulled from that war-torn country.
U.S. military leaders since have downplayed the reports of an Afghanistan departure as rumors. Following a Dec. 23, 2018 meeting with the governor of Nangarhar district, Gen. Scott Miller, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told Afghanistan’s TOLOnews agency, “I have seen the same rumors you have from the newspapers [on withdrawals], but all I would assure you is, first of all, I have no orders, so nothing changed. But if I do get orders, I think it is important for you to know that we are still with the security forces. Even if I have to get a little bit smaller, we will be OK.”
Lt. Gen. Scott Miller.
(U.S. Army photo by Whitney Hughes)
On Jan. 2, 2019, U.S. military officials remained reluctant to discuss withdrawal plans from Afghanistan, but a source familiar with the strategy told Military.com that Miller plans to pull about 7,000 of the estimated 14,000 U.S. troops out of the country over the next eight to 12 months.
Currently, the bulk of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is dedicated to advising and training Afghan security forces to be able to operate without American assistance, but the fledgling force remains inexperienced in complex warfighting skills, such as combat aviation, combined arms operations and logistical support, military officials say.
The direct-action portion of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan — made up of a small contingent of U.S. Special Operations Forces, such as units from the Army‘s 75th Ranger Regiment; 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, known as Delta Force; and the Navy‘s Special Warfare Development Group, or SEAL Team Six — will continue to carry out strike missions against enemy positions in the country, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official is not authorized to speak to the press.
“We will have a strike force in country,” the source told Military.com.
U.S. military officials maintain that the Pentagon has received no official orders or guidance on withdrawal plans, despite reports Trump wants a plan to cut the number of troops in Afghanistan by half.
President Donald Trump.
(DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
“Nothing has changed,” said Lt. Col. Koné Faulkner, a Pentagon spokesman, on Jan. 2, 2019. “As peace talks with the Taliban continue, we are considering all options of force numbers and disposition.”
While not confirming plans for withdrawal, Miller said Jan. 1, 2019 at an event in Kabul that a major policy review is underway on the overall U.S. objective of driving the Taliban to a peace agreement with the Afghan government.
“The policy review is going on in multiple capitals, peace talks [are] out there, regional players pressing for peace, the Taliban talking about peace, the Afghan government talking about peace,” Miller said, according to TOLOnews.
The Taliban has thus far refused to meet with Kabul representatives while they continue to maintain contact with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
In addition to the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, there are about 16,000 service members from 30 NATO and partner nations, all in non-combat or advisory roles, according to a November NATO release.
At the height of the U.S. and NATO commitment to Afghanistan in 2012, there were about 130,000 troops in Afghanistan from the U.S., NATO and other coalition countries.
Despite the continued U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents control nearly half the country and are more powerful now than they have been at any time since a 2001 U.S.-led invasion, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The 17-year conflict has cost the U.S. about 0 billion and resulted in more than 2,400 American deaths.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
“It is with our deepest sympathy that we tell you both service members on board the air craft are deceased, our thoughts and prayers are with their family,” CW5 Glen Webb of the Texas Army National Guard said in a statement.
The AH-64 Apache is the Army’s helicopter gunship. According to a fact sheet released by the United States Army, it entered service in 1984, and can carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 70mm Hydra rockets, and is also armed with a M230 cannon holding 1,200 rounds of ammunition. The Army plans to manufacture 690 Apaches for service.
Apache crashes are not unheard of, with ArmyAirCrews.com listing 43 incidents involving 73 fatalities over the last 36 years, to include one during a test flight. The list includes seven combat losses due to enemy fire (six during Operation Iraqi Freedom, one during Operation Enduring Freedom).
The cause of the crash is under investigation, but KHOU.com reported that bystanders were taking photos of parts from the stricken attack helicopter that were lying near the crash site off the Bayport Cruise Terminal.
The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Every Marine knows the saying, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body.” It’s the motto that drill instructors use to encourage recruits to dig just a little deeper during boot camp and it’s often repeated when physical training takes a turn from hard to brutally hard. The military, especially the Marines, know that pain is the beginning of resilience, our ability to bounce back from difficult situations and complete the mission. But while some pain often prepares our servicemen and women for strength in war, we are often at a loss for what to do when our families or even children are challenged with pain and stress once we return. So when the VA wanted to start helping veteran families they smartly turned to one of the few and the proud.
Marine Veteran Tess Banko is no stranger to pain. By twenty three years old, she had survived homelessness, a massive back injury (for which she was medically discharged) and the suicide death of her husband, also a Marine. When her world seemed to be coming apart, Tess did the opposite of what most of us would do. Instead of allowing her pain to overwhelm her, she fought back. She dug into her pain both physically and mentally. Along the way, she volunteered to empower and assist others, went to college (she was crowned homecoming queen), and ultimately, found the tools inside to help her (and her family). Tess is the epitome of resilience and now she’s bounced back to take on a new mission.
Today, Tess is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center, a one of a kind partnership between UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA system. Tess and her team are part of the first VA program specifically designed to help not only veterans, but their families. To support their work, the team is relying on cutting edge research from UCLA just a few blocks from the VA campus. UCLA, the university which revolutionized kidney transplants and invented the nicotine patch, is now offering veterans and their families a state of the art resiliency program. Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) is a resiliency training regimen for individuals, families with children and couples facing adversity or issues like traumatic stress.
With Tess at the helm, she’s not only pioneering a new way of thinking for the VA, she’s also helping others find their path through trauma. Tess sat down with We Are The Mighty to discuss her work, passion and journey into resilience.
WATM: First things first, thank you for everything you do for military families. How do you describe yourself and your work here at VFWC?
Tess: Well it’s really easy to give a title. I’m the executive director of the UCLA/VA. Veteran Family Wellness Center. But really, I’m a social worker and public administrator.
WATM: And a Marine? What made you join the Corps?
Tess:I think it was really a lot of wanting to be part of something that made a difference. When I was younger I used to go to the [El Toro] airshow with my grandfather and that’s the first time I ever laid eyes on a Marine standing there in the uniform. You know guiding people, I mean it was airshow duty. I didn’t know at the time probably how much fun that wasn’t, but they were motivating and just really interacting with the public, and there were are all these exciting machines and demonstrations. So, it really made an impact on me as a little girl. The wider world was calling.
WATM: Did your family have a history of military service?
Tess: I didn’t find out until many years later that my own grandfather was actually in the Army. He never told those stories to the family because I think he was embarrassed. He said that a lot of his friends were being sent off to war but he served two years in a non-combat role, got out and went into aerospace engineering and he was one of the first Mexican-American designers of bomb and missile systems at White Sands, NM. I personally saw the military as one of the only places that you could go as far as your own two feet would take you basically or your hard work that you put into it. That’s one of the reasons why I was excited to join.
Tess: And I like a good challenge. The Marine Corps seemed like a good fit. So I joined [as] an engineer.
WATM: Did you find the challenge you were looking for? Especially as a female Marine in the engineers.
Tess: When I joined it was very idealistic. I wanted to be just one of the guys and I saw myself in that way. I never saw myself in terms of being a woman, only a Marine and that actually caused a lot of problems and disappointment at the time as we have only just begun to move more fully into gender integration among the services. And it was really challenging for me because as I said I never saw myself as anything other than a Marine. I always just wanted to do my job.
WATM: What made you transition out of the Marine Corps?
Tess: I got hurt.
WATM: You got hurt?
Tess: Yes. We were training and I noticed that there was something wrong with my back because my leg had stopped functioning. I was in my early 20’s and the command atmosphere gave this impression that you had to white knuckle it through anything. I was told, ‘There’s no problem, there’s no problem. You just need to keep going.’ It turned out that I had a herniated disc in my back and it was it was crushing the nerve to the point where it began to permanently kill the nerves. I was standing there on the rifle range and I just fell over on my side because my leg finally gave up. They called an ambulance and rushed me into emergency surgery in Japan.
WATM: Did you feel like you had the resiliency skills that prepared you for that experience?
Tess: My life growing up was challenging. My parents were very young when they had children. I was the only person in my immediate family to successfully graduate from high school. My parents had dropped out at 17, which kind of spells disaster for a young couple with four children. And so it was really a life of learning to adapt, moving from place to place, experiencing homelessness as a child, living between motels and being chased by bill collectors. You know all that bad stuff for [a child] but even from a young age I adopted a viewpoint of life that was more curious than anything. It was less ‘Oh my God, why is this happening to me?’ and more ‘huh this interesting.’ It was just a minor shift of perspective. I developed that curiosity and a different way of looking at problems and I think that’s a key part of resilience.
WATM: Did you know what resilience was growing up?
Tess:I did not. I think it was something that I saw modeled by example. My grandmother was a very kind and giving woman, she taught me so much. She always went out of her way to help people in the community even when she seemed in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in life. So, paying that forward, even on active duty I was volunteering in the local community teaching English to Okinawan children. I’ve always been so curious about other people and their lives. It’s a great education.
WATM: And then you lost your husband (also a Marine). How do you process all of that?
Tess: It was a surreal experience having the casualty assistance team knock on the door. I can remember I opened it a crack. It didn’t make sense in my mind what was happening so I opened the door a crack and a Marine stuck his foot to keep me from shutting it. Then I saw the Colonel. And then it finally hit me that it was real. My husband wasn’t coming home. When you’re actively experiencing shock, pain or trauma it’s less thinking about resilience and more survival mode kicking in. It was one second, one minute at a time. The days blurred together. I mean being emotionally injured is much like being physically injured, it can take a long time to wrap your head around. There’s no linear pathway. Also, processing trauma is not just about moving through pain but about overcoming fear. There’s the fear that you as a person or things in your life will never be the same. Sometimes you don’t know what other people are going to think. Usually some of the fear ties back to being afraid that people are going to judge you if you feel broken. And I think that really was hard for me to overcome, but it was necessary. I think that being gentle with yourself is a skill.
WATM: You not only survived but thrived? You went back to college and grad school and now you literally work with Neuroscientists.
Tess: The science behind the brain fascinates me because people that are in pain sometimes seem to think, ‘I’m damaged forever and I’m never gonna be able to do or be anything. There is no coming back from this.’ I understand where you’re at if it’s crossed your mind, I’ve been there too, but there’s so much possibility. We can’t change what happened but our brain is essentially plastic and able to rewire. The body and mind actively try to repair themselves, and we can support our own process through building resilience. There are a lot of tools for that belt, resilience isn’t just a buzzword.
WATM: Is that thesis behind your team’s work at the VFWC?
Tess: Exactly. The center is a place of hope and healing. We teach tangible skills, identifiable tools, for veterans and their families to be able to overcome challenges and build better relationships. The FOCUS model that’s our cornerstone is pretty incredible.
WATM: Is there anybody else out there that’s focusing on families like this?
Tess: Not in this way. From a wellness-based resilience perspective this is the first center of its kind, especially paired with the VA which traditionally only sees individual veterans. They took a huge step to open their doors to couples and families too. When you think about it, though, our families, friends and communities are on the front lines supporting after military service.
WATM: So this is a groundbreaking VA partnership all based in science?
Tess: Yep. That’s why UCLA is such an amazing partner because the VFWC is just blocks away from world class researchers. The Center falls under the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Nathanson Family Resilience Center which focus on resilience for all families, not just veterans. The research behind our programs is about understanding what drives human behavior and growth. Based on that, VFWC programming is tailored to veterans and their families with really firm research and evidence backing it up.
WATM: Classic, intel drives operations model. But you have specific model for your programs as well. What is FOCUS?
Tess: FOCUS is Families Overcoming Under Stress. It’s a holistic model that was co-created between UCLA and Harvard University and currently in use on over 30 active duty military bases around the world. Our center represents the first wider translation of FOCUS from active duty into the veterans community, which are distinctly different populations. It’s a departure from traditional therapy models.
WATM: What can veterans and their families expect when they come to the center?
Tess: When somebody comes into the center in general we start with a consultation that helps us to really guide veterans and family members to the resources that they might be needing. It’s starting where the individual is. We have individual, couples, early childhood, military sexual trauma, and combat veteran adaptations, plus group sessions and special workshops and events. We keep our doors open for veterans and family members regardless of discharge, benefits or when they got out. The building we’re housed in also offers veterans with VA benefits massage, reiki, mindfulness and yoga. There’s even a drum circle and Taichi.
WATM: And children?
Tess: Especially children. Research that was done as far back as the Holocaust indicates that trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. In cases of post-traumatic stress, suicide and even repeated deployments, the effects of secondary trauma is a very real thing. A lot of the times we see families with children who don’t know how to talk to them about certain issues or there’s not a huge understanding of the developmental piece of what’s behind behaviors. Kids aren’t just mini-adults, the human brain is still developing until the age of 25! So, we support both the parents and children to find a closeness and ability to communicate more as they move through the journey.
WATM: That sounds pretty awesome especially for the VA. How would you describe starting the center?
Tess: It’s been a lot of pioneering. Improvising. Being resilient. There are so many people who care in the VA system and a whole lot of need. Offering another avenue for assistance is important to the team here.
WATM: What is your vision for the center and the future of resilience in the VA?
Tess: I would love to see the VA expand the VFWC’s holistic wellness model to include centers in every facility, especially coupled with a research institution. Veterans and their families would really benefit. Both our families, and wider communities for that matter, are really impactful in our individual wellness. One of the great things about the VFWC is our ability to seek additional community resources. It’s a long table and there is no one size fits all for wellness, reintegration, and healing.
WATM: So now you you’ve gone through your own experience gone through two years here. What does resilience mean to you?
Tess: I think the Marine Corps says it really, well you adapt and you overcome. Sometimes it seems like pull-through comes from out of nowhere because we’re born with it, but sometimes life can bring those levels low. Resilience is that wellspring that allows for course correction and being able to bounce back. Resilience to me also means working on saying, “hey something’s wrong here” and being open to assistance. First step for me personally of breaking the cycle was my own acknowledgment of what I was facing. For instance, I couldn’t talk to my family being sexually assaulted on active duty and I now know that’s common to those who have experienced trauma. I simply didn’t have the vocabulary, I had to organize the words in my own mind. We really need each other to get through hard times, so it’s crucial to develop.
WATM: What does 2019 look like for you and VFWC?
Tess: We’re working on piloting a new transition program, TEAM, for those at any point after active service based on the core FOCUS model paired with the ideas of identity ,mission, meaning and purpose. These are four essential elements of transition. Your perception changes along the transition to civilian life just like my perception changed of myself when I got out of the Marine Corps. It really was a rediscovery of who I was, where I was. I had to find a new mission. For me that happened to be serving people, but it could be different for others. It can be challenging to figure these things our while also providing for yourself or a family. We want to offer veterans and their families the resilience tools before they even need them.
WATM: Do you have any advice specifically to the families
Tess: There is no one size fits all to happiness, health and healing. If one thing doesn’t work, move forward. No matter what you face, keep reaching out and moving forward. Families, you are vital to service. You’re heard and seen. You matter.
The most secretive parts of America’s defense apparatus have a missile covered in swords, and they’re using it to take out terrorists in Syria.
One significant change to warfare that’s come about in recent decades has been the advent of precision guided munitions and the resulting shift in the way America, and the world at large, sees collateral damage. During World War II, massive fleets of heavy bombers dotted the skies above Europe, laying waste to vast areas of territory in an effort to damage a nation’s industrial infrastructure and force submission.
While there is still a use for this method of ordnance delivery, precision guided munitions have become the common platforms of choice for commanders in theater. (US Air Force Photo)
Thousands died in these large scale bombing campaigns, and today, many of those deaths would be considered unacceptable by the international community. Precision guided munitions with ever greater range and accuracy have replaced the carpet-bombing doctrine with the more cost effective and civilian friendly precision strike mindset. Today, collateral damage is not a thing of the past, but its metrics have shifted significantly. While carpet bombing raids may have killed hundreds or even thousands, the loss of a dozen civilian lives is now often considered too big a price to pay to engage many dangerous targets.
All that remained of the German town of Wesel after allied bombing. (WikiMedia Commons)
This shift is undoubtedly a good thing from the macro perspective for humanity, but it raises a number of new challenges for America’s defense apparatus that’s tasked with engaging terrorists outside of America’s borders. It takes weeks, months, even years to gather all the necessary intelligence on a target before you might have an opportunity to take him out, and if the target is surrounded by civilians (as they tend to do for protection from air strikes), there’s a chance the U.S. military may miss its opportunity to strike.
That’s where the AGM-114R9X comes in. While it’s official name may be a mouthful, the missile itself utilizes a fairly simplistic approach to killing specific targets while minimizing the chances that anyone nearby will be hurt.
The AGM-114R9X is, at its most simplistic levels, a Hellfire missile with the explosive warhead removed from the center portion of its body. In the warhead’s place are six extendable blades that bear a striking resemblance to swords. As brutal as this method of engaging a target may seem, the use of this missile actually makes going after these high value targets significantly safer for the civilians in the area.
Rather than utilizing explosive force or shrapnel from the missile’s body to kill its target and anyone else in the vicinity, the AGM-114R9X deploys its six swords upon impact with a target. Each blade is approximately 18 inches long, giving the missile a “kill radius” of only about three feet. Couple that with the Hellfire missile’s extremely accurate targeting capabilities, and you have a weapon that can take out the bad guys without worrying about a large explosion that could potentially hurt others.
The weapon’s development began under the CIA during the Obama Administration, and to date, has only been used in combat a handful of times. In each of these instances, these precision weapons appear to have been employed by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, though it’s not entirely clear as to whether or not there is any overlap between CIA and JSOC operations in terms of leveraging the AGM-114R9X in combat.
Charles Lister on Twitter
The “ninja sword” Hellfire missile saw a sharp uptick in press late last year after it was used twice in less than a week to kill different terrorists in Syria. The first strike took place on December 3, when an AGM-114R9X was used to engage the passenger seat specifically of a minivan in the Syrian city of Atmeh. The second took place somewhere between Afrin and Azaz, once again killing its target without injuring any bystanders. As pictures of the strikes and their aftermath hit social media, the U.S. government’s sword-wielding missile was introduced to the world, despite the general lack of formal acknowledgement from the Pentagon.
All told, this missile covered in swords is believed to have only seen use a half a dozen times, which coupled with the small amount of information released about the platform suggests that the missile is a limited production run that may be the result of modifying existing Hellfire platforms. Either that, or JSOC would just prefer to keep this secret close to the chest.
In any regard, it just got a little bit tougher to be a terrorist, and that’s always good news.
As a young man growing up in the 60’s I wrestled with some of the same issues many young people did at that time. What was I going to do with my life? What was really important to me and what were my priorities? I had difficulty narrowing it down to a specific path, so I decided to go to college. I figured I may find something that would pique my interest and give me a little more definition to my search.
Little did I realize that definition would come from negative experiences and not positive ones. I graduated from high school in June of 1967 and attended college that fall. It was a time of great protest against the Vietnam war and the nightly news showed the intensity these protestors showed towards their country. It was a confusing time for myself and some of my best friends. On campus, I discovered the professors mostly felt the same way as the protestors and they showed favoritism towards those with the same views and condemnation towards those that differed from their own.
Having traveled out of the country some during my teenage years, I could not understand how individuals could burn the flag of their own country when that very same country provided so much more protection and freedom than others. Especially while young men were dying overseas to help protect that very freedom that seemed to be taken for granted. It turned out that one of my best friends at another college was feeling the same way, and that summer of ’68 we decided that we would quit college, join the Marines and serve our country. We felt it was our obligation as a citizen and that we needed to do our part.
The Marine Corps turned out to be everything I had hoped for and then some. In boot camp I was one of just four individuals out of 80+ in my platoon who had enlisted. The vast majority of the rest were there because they had a choice of jail time or the Marines. It made for an interesting melting pot.
Through all the training, one learned to depend on others, considering myself an independent cuss, this concept was quite difficult to grasp but once bitten, it develops a feeling of camaraderie that lasts a lifetime. I was accepted into the Scout Sniper group and we shared a building with the Recon group. Even though we were all in the Marines, we brawled with each other about once every 3-4 weeks in the common area in the middle of the barracks. But when we were outside that area, we were brothers to the core.
Regardless of whether we were enlistees or draftees, we all felt a common respect for our flag and detested those that would defile it. With no TV’s or radios allowed, conversations at night became very intense and focused. But that respect was a common thread.
In Vietnam, the respect for the flag did not change but respect for some of the leadership took different courses. In the Scout Snipers, there were only some 20-or-so of us per regiment so we were a pretty tight group. Typically, we worked in 2-man teams and were assigned to companies as needed. Those assignments rotated and so there was never much time to develop close friendships with others outside the Sniper community. But we were all Marines and that bond never goes away.
This was proven to me on many occasions but was definitely driven home to me the night I was wounded. It was a nighttime attack and bullets and explosions were coming from every direction. My partner was trying to navigate with me to an aid station and a young Marine grabbed us and pulled us into his hole for some protection. It was not big enough for the three of us so he climbed out and laid across the edge of the hole, offering us more protection while seriously exposing himself. I was evacuated to a hospital ship that next morning and never had a chance to properly thank him or get his name. That is my only regret of the war.
Returning home, I was not prepared for the disdain I was to receive from so many different quarters of society. I proudly wore my Marine Corps patch on my favorite jacket but after so many fights and arguments that ensued, I had to finally decide to take it off. That was a tough decision. I was still proud to have served my country, but I felt a little like I was betraying my brothers by not wearing my patch.
I returned to college and started over as a freshman. (Of course, those upperclassmen, who liked to haze freshman, got a little different response this time, then they were used to) I also found that the issue with professors had actually gotten worse over time. But this time I had the foundation, confidence, and independence to fight back, and I decided to slug it out with them and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes successfully and sometimes not. While attending college I wanted to still serve in some capacity, at that time the Reserve and National Guard seemed to me somewhat of a joke, so I steered clear.
After getting married and starting a family I volunteered with the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts. I also volunteered with several community agencies as my career progressed. After my children were grown and gone, I volunteered with the U.S. Forest Service, work which I still do.
Then I discovered Team Rubicon, and everything I have been trying to accomplish has seemed to come together in one organization: Volunteer work that can actually make a difference. The camaraderie of shared experiences and the desire to serve. Respect for flag, country, and individuals. All that which I have sought, from various channels throughout my career, I have found in one organization: Team Rubicon.
The United States military has relied on drone aircraft for years, but to date, few other automated platforms have made their way into America’s warfighting apparatus — that is, until recently anyway. After achieving a number of successes with their new 132-foot submarine-hunting robot warship the Sea Hunter, the Navy is ready to pony up some serious cash for a full-sized drone warship, and the concept could turn the idea of Naval warfare on its head.
Earlier this month, the Navy called on the shipbuilding industry to offer up its best takes on their Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LUSV) ship concept, and they mean business. According to Navy officials, they want to have ten of these drone warships sailing within the next five years. The premise behind the concept is a simple one: by developing drone ships that can do what the Navy refers to as “3-D” work (the stuff that’s Dull, Dirty, or Dangerous) they’ll be freeing up manned vessels for more complex tasks.
The Navy expects these ships to be between 200 and 300 feet long with about 2,000 tons of water displacement, making them around half to two-thirds the size of an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, potentially landing in the light frigate classification. To that end, the Navy has already requested $400 million in the 2020 budget for construction of the first two vessels for the purposes of research and development.
The Sea Hunter, a Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV)
US Navy Photo
In order to manage a variety of tasks, the Navy wants its robot warship to be modular, making it easier to add or remove mission-specific equipment for different sets of circumstances.
“The LUSV will be a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force,” The Navy wrote in their solicitation.
“With a large payload capacity, the LUSV will be designed to conduct a variety of warfare operations independently or in conjunction with manned surface combatants.”
The Navy also requires that the vessel be capable of operating with a crew on board for certain missions. That capability, in conjunction with a modular design, would allow the Navy to use LUSV’s in more complex missions that require direct human supervision simply by installing the necessary components and providing the vessel with a crew.
The solicitation included no requests for weapons systems, but that doesn’t mean the LUSV would be worthless in a fight. The modular design would allow the Navy to equip the vessel with different weapons systems for different operations, or leave them off entirely during missions that don’t require any offensive or defensive capabilities.
Swapping drone ships in for monotonous work could free up the Navy’s fleet of manned vessels for more important tasks.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate)
By equipping these ships with modular vertical launch systems, for instance, a fleet of LUSVs could enhance the Navy’s existing fleet of destroyers and cruisers in a number of combat operations, and eventually, they could even be equipped with the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, allowing them to bolster or even replace destroyers currently tasked with steaming around in defensive patterns amid concerns about North Korean or Chinese ballistic missile attack.
Like the Sea Hunter, the LUSV represents little more than the Navy dipping its toe in the proverbial drone waters, but if successful, it could revolutionize how the Navy approaches warfare. Manning a ship remains one of the largest expenses associated with maintaining a combatant fleet. Capable drone ships could allow the Navy to bolster its numbers with minimal cost, tasking automated vessels with the monotonous or dangerous work and leaving the manned ships to the more complex tasks.