Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

Vowing to have “very hard conversations,” Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy met with soldiers this week at Fort Hood, where at least eight service members have been found dead since March.

Most questions directed at McCarthy during a 24-minute news conference Thursday regarded Spc. Vanessa Guillen, whose remains were identified in early July. Guillen had been missing since late April.


Her family, who met with President Trump last week, has alleged Guillen was sexually harassed at Fort Hood. The case has drawn international media attention and inspired other women to recount their experiences with sexual harassment on social media.

“We must honor her memory by creating enduring change,” McCarthy said.

An independent command climate review will begin at Fort Hood at the end of August, McCarthy said. He also touted Project Inclusion, a recently announced initiative addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault, a lack of diversity, discrimination and suicide in the Army.

Depending on investigators’ findings, McCarthy said changes in leadership at Fort Hood could occur.

“If the conclusions are such that point to leaders or individuals in particular, of course, we would take the appropriate accountability,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said he held nine sessions with soldiers of various ranks during his two-day visit to Fort Hood. His arrival came less than a week after Spc. Francisco Gilberto Hernandezvargas’ body was recovered Sunday.

Besides Guillen, other Fort Hood soldiers who have died in the past several months include Pvt. 2nd Class Gregory Morales, Pvt. Mejhor Morta, Pfc. Brandon Rosecrans, Spc. Freddy Delacruz Jr., Spc. Christopher Sawyer and Spc. Shelby Jones.

Spc. Aaron Robinson served in the same regiment as Guillen, 20, and killed her, investigators said. Robinson killed himself as law enforcement officials closed in on him. Cecily Aguilar, who allegedly helped Robinson dispose of Guillen’s body, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of tampering with evidence. Aguilar is being held without bond.

“These are very difficult things,” McCarthy said. “We’re the Army. We’re a reflection of the country, and at times, some people infiltrate our ranks. We’ve got to find them. We’ve got to root them out.”

Although McCarthy conceded sexual harassment is an issue, investigators have found no evidence so far that Guillen faced such abuse. While admitting that Fort Hood has the most cases of murder and sexual assault of any Army base, he said closing it is not under consideration.

“The anger and frustration in a case like Vanessa is necessary,” McCarthy said. “I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed. We’re heartbroken, but there’s still amazing contributions from men and women at this installation.”

McCarthy’s comments came on the same day that Mayra Guillen posted on Twitter that she received her sister’s belongings. “I don’t even want to open them … find things or clothes that we shared,” she tweeted.

Supporters came together Wednesday in Houston, Guillen’s hometown, to urge Congress to pass the #IamVanessaGuillen bill, which would make it easier for military members to report sexual harassment and assault.

Guillen’s family reportedly intends to be at Fort Hood on Friday afternoon. McCarthy planned to return to the Pentagon on Thursday night but said he would see whether he could adjust his schedule to meet the family. He said he has expressed his condolences in public and shared those thoughts in a letter to the family, but he has yet to meet Guillen’s relatives in person.

McCarthy referred to Guillen’s case as a “tipping point.”

“We are incredibly disappointed that we let Vanessa down and we let their family down,” McCarthy said. “We vow for the rest of our time in service in our life to prevent these types of acts.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why soldiers probably shouldn’t worry that much when studying for the board

It’s one of the most nerve-wracking moments for a young specialist or sergeant hoping to move up in the ranks: stepping in front of the promotion board. In preparation, troops feel compelled to study and memorize every last question that the battalion’s first sergeants and sergeant major could possibly ask.

Throughout the process, each first sergeant will ask you questions that they believe to be paramount to both your role in particular and to NCOs in general. The subjects span the gamut, ranging from something like handling medical emergencies to spouting off regulations verbatim. And there’s no clear way of knowing what they’ll ask, so it’s best to study everything.

With that being said, you don’t have to go insane trying to fit every last regulation number in your head right before stepping into the board. You should still study and if you say that you didn’t because of an article you read on We Are The Mighty, you will be laughed by your chain of command — and me, as I hold my DD-214. Okay, especially by me, who may or may not screencap the conversation and send it to US Army WTF Moments. I digress.

Passing the board is about much more than your ability to parrot off semi-relevant information to higher ranking NCOs. It’s about your chain of command gauging your competency and potential to lead.


Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

If your squad leader didn’t have faith in you, they never would have put you on that list.

(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

Long before your name even appears on any kind of candidate list, your first sergeant will consult your first line supervisor. If they think you’re ready, they will have a quick chat and your squad leader or platoon sergeant will argue for your promotion. If not, they aren’t even going to raise your hopes.

Your squad leader is (or should) always going to fight for you to advance your career. The moment your first sergeant is convinced that you’re ready for the next level of responsibility, you’ve successfully persuaded one-fifth of the board members.

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

It’s the big moment. Don’t lose your cool or else you’ll get rejected and have to come back again when they think you’re ready.

(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

Then it comes time to actually study. Your squad leader can’t cheat for you and give you the answers, but they can find out which topics each first sergeant might ask about. This means you should definitely take their advice if they advise you to study certain areas.

Next, we arrive at the big day: the promotion board. Keep as level of a head as you can. I don’t know if this will help you or stress you out further, but in the time between the previous person walking out and you showing up, they’re discussing you among themselves. It could be nothing more than a simple nod and a “I like this guy” but, make no mistake, they are talking about you.

Something as small as that nod of approval could seal your fate before you march in. The rest of the proceedings are just to convince anyone still on the fence.

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

Another bit of advice, try to take the board while you’re deployed. The questions tend to be easier (since your deployment is proving your worth to the Army) and you don’t need to get your Blues in perfect order.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

You’re sitting in the chair now and the first sergeants are hitting you with questions. You find yourself stumped. There are two old tricks I’ve heard from NCOs but, as always, read your audience and choose wisely.

Some say you should give an answer and be confident about it, even if you’re not sure that it’s right.This shows that you’ll stick to your guns — but it could also make you seem like a complete dumbass.

Others say you should be humble, and respond with a respectful, “first sergeant, I do not know the answer to that question at this time.” If you admit you don’t know, it shows that you are honest — but it could also mean you’re unprepared if it was an easy question.

Both are technically good responses, but they could bite you in the ass. It all depends on the board members.

The first sergeants may drop some heavy-hitters on you, but the heaviest of all will come from the sergeant major. Impress him and you’re as good as gold.

Every unit and promotion board is different but, generally speaking, the sergeant major will ask you situational questions to determine your worth as an NCO. One question that stuck out for me was as follows:

You and a friend are drinking heavily by the lake. Your friend gets seriously injured and needs to get to the hospital. It’s fifteen minutes away on a path that no one takes, including law enforcement. Your cell phones are both out of service but you know the park ranger will make their rounds in one hour. Do you take the risk and drive there drunk? Or do you wait it out and risk them bleeding out?

It’s a trick question. You should answer in a way that demonstrates your understanding of military bearing and being an NCO. The only correct answers are, “I would never put myself in a position where myself and a passenger get drunk without having a legal way home” or “I would stabilize their wound then get to a point with better reception.”

Then again, I’ve also heard of a sergeant major asking a quiet and shy specialist to sing the National Anthem at the top of their lungs. It’s nearly impossible to know what’s going on in a sergeant major’s head.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Aging Russian fighter spotted with new, mystery weapon

Planespotters found a Russian Mig-31 Foxhound taking off with a never-before-seen mystery weapon that could likely have an anti-satellite role, meaning it’s a nightmare for the US military.

The Foxhound is a 1980s Soviet fighter that remains one of the fastest and highest flying jets ever built. It’s ability to push Mach 3 near the edge of space with large weapons payloads makes it an ideal platform for firing anti-satellite missiles, which Russia appears to have tested in September 2018.

The War Zone noticed Russian aviation photographer ShipSash snapping photos of the Mig-31 armed with a massive missile taking off from the Russian aviation industry’s test center in Zhukovsky near Moscow on Sept. 14, 2018.


Pictures of the Mig-31 at Zhukovsky with the mystery missile can be seen here and here.

The Mig-31 has enjoyed somewhat of a rebirth in recent years as a platform for new Russian super weapons, like the Kinzhal hypersonic anti-surface missile that Russian President Vladimir Putin said could evade any US defenses.

The Mig-31 has a history of use in anti-satellite programs, but the new missile appears to show a renewed effort in that direction.

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

Two Russian MiG-31 Foxhounds with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles photographed over Moscow, May 5, 2018.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

The US, Russia, and China have all demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities in the past, and as war increasingly relies on information shared via satellite, attacking these critical nodes increasingly makes sense.

President Donald Trump has sought to address the threat of space-based warfighting with a new military branch, the Space Force, though experts remain dubious what all such a force could accomplish in this early stage.

It’s unknown if the Mig-31 spotted in September 2018 carried an anti-satellite missile or some kind of satellite launcher, though they both serve a purpose in space-based warfare. Since both sides can destroy satellites, a space-based war would likely involve the downing of old satellites and launching of new satellites at a fast pace.

But that’s where space warfare meets its extreme environmental limit. Space debris orbiting the earth at many times the speed of sound could eventually threaten all existing satellites, plunging the earth back to a pre-Cold War state of relying entirely on terrestrial communications.

While many Russian and Chinese planes still have analog controls and gauges, the US relies most heavily on space assets and GPS, meaning space war would be more of a nightmare for Washington than Moscow.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Exclusive: Pompeo vows U.S. action to ensure ‘good outcome’ for Belarusian people

PRAGUE — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking about the contentious Belarusian presidential election and the ensuing police crackdown against peaceful protesters, says that “we want good outcomes for the Belarusian people, and we’ll take actions consistent with that.”

Pompeo, who earlier condemned the conduct of the election that handed authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth-straight term by a landslide, said in a wide-ranging interview with RFE/RL in Prague on August 12 that “we’ve watched the violence and the aftermath, peaceful protesters being treated in ways that are inconsistent with how they should be treated.”


The August 9 vote, which the opposition has called “rigged,” has resulted in three-straight evenings of mass protests marred by police violence and thousands of detentions.

Pompeo said that the United States had not yet settled on the appropriate response, but would work with Washington’s European partners to determine what action to take.

Asked whether the election and its aftermath would affect the future of U.S.-Belarus relations, including the promised delivery of U.S. oil, Pompeo said: “We’re going to have to work through that…we were incredibly troubled by the election and deeply disappointed that it wasn’t more free and more fair.”

U.S. Troops In Afghanistan

Pompeo, who was in Prague at the start of a five-day trip to Europe that will also take him to Slovenia, Austria, and Poland, discussed a number of other issues, including allegations that Russia was involved in offering Taliban militants bounties to attack U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; expectations that Washington will seek to extend the UN arms embargo against Iran; and the effect violence against protesters in the United States might have on Washington’s image abroad.

The U.S. secretary of state declined to comment on whether he believed U.S. intelligence reports that reportedly said Russia had offered money to the Taliban and their proxies in Afghanistan to kill U.S. soldiers, saying he never commented on U.S. intelligence matters.

“What we’ve said is this: If the Russians are offering money to kill Americans or for that matter, other Westerners as well, there will be an enormous price to pay,” Pompeo said. “That’s what I shared with [Russian] Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov. I know our military has talked to their senior leaders as well. We won’t brook that. We won’t tolerate that.”

Regarding the prospect of resistance among European allies to U.S. efforts to extend the expiring arms embargo on Iran indefinitely, Pompeo said it “makes no sense for any European country to support the Iranians being able to have arms.”

“I think they recognize it for exactly what it is,” he said of the U.S. proposal, a draft resolution of which is reportedly currently being floated in the 15-member Security Council. “And I hope that they will vote that way at the United Nations. I hope they will see.”

“The resolution that we’re going to present is simply asking for a rollover of the extension of the arms embargo,” Pompeo said. “It’s that straightforward.”

Asked specifically about the prospect that Iranian allies Russia and China could veto such a proposal, the U.S. secretary of state said: “We’re going to make it come back. We have the right to do it under 2231 and we’re going to do it.”

UN Resolution 2231 was passed unanimously by the United Nations in 2015, endorsing the Iran nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

The United States withdrew from the deal, which offered sanctions relief to Tehran in exchange for security guarantees aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, in 2018.

Russian Media Pressure

Pompeo also discussed recent efforts by Russia to target foreign media operating there, which the secretary of state earlier warned would “impose new burdensome requirements” on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice Of America.

In an August 10 statement, Pompeo said that the two U.S.-funded media outlets already faced “significant and undue restrictions” in Russia, and that a recent draft order by Russia’s state media regulator requiring all media registered as “foreign agents” to label their content as such or face fines of up to 5 million rubles (,000) had left Washington “deeply concerned.”

In Prague, home of RFE/RL’s headquarters, on August 12, Pompeo said that he believed that “we think we can put real pressure and convince them that the right thing to do is to allow press freedom.”

“We’ve condemned it. We’ve also imposed enormous sanctions on Russia for other elements of their malign activity,” Pompeo said. “We hope that the rest of the world will join us in this. We hope that those nations that value the freedom of press, who want independent reporters to be able to ask questions, even if sometimes leaders don’t like them, will join with us.”

Asked whether the recent handling of protests against social injustice in the United States, which has included the use of police force against civilians and journalists, had harmed Washington’s image and weakened its moral authority in scolding authoritarian regimes, Pompeo called the question “insulting.”

He said that the “difference between the United States and these authoritarian regimes couldn’t be more clear.”

“We have the rule of law, we have the freedom of press, every one of those people gets due process. When we have peaceful protesters, we create the space for them to say their mind, to speak their piece,” he said.

“Contrast that with what happens in an authoritarian regime. To even begin to compare them, to somehow suggest that America’s moral authority is challenged by the amazing work that our police forces, our law enforcement people do all across America — I, frankly, just find the question itself incomprehensible and insulting.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here are the changes to the combat uniform the Army is testing right now

In January 2018, some Soldiers within the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii will receive new uniforms and a new set of boots as part of Program Executive Office Soldier’s continued testing and evaluation of the improved hot-weather combat uniform and jungle combat boot.


Keeping in line with the modernization and readiness initiatives set by Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark T. Esper, and Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the new versions of combat uniforms and boots will allow Soldiers to better operate in hot, extremely hot, and hot/wet environments.

“Today’s Soldier must be ready to execute the mission in any operational environment,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, project manager with Soldier protection and individual equipment, during a Dec. 7 media roundtable here. “[We’re] providing a capability to Soldiers that may give them a decisive edge in that type of environment.”

Production is near competition on 65,000 uniforms and approximately 750 new boots that will be sent to 25th Infantry Division Soldiers in time for the upcoming Pacific Pathways exercise in February, according to Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, assistant product manager for environmental clothing and footwear.

In March, PEO Soldier will then collect feedback from Soldiers and use that information to modify future versions of both systems, Ferenczy added.

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood
Program Executive Office Soldier officials discussed improvements to the hot weather uniform and jungle combat boot programs during a media roundtable event on Fort Belvoir, Va., Dec. 7, 2017. The 25th Infantry Division is slated to field test the new uniform and boot starting in January. (U.S. Army photo by Devon L. Suits)

Improvements to the combat uniform

To make the new uniform more breathable and lightweight, Ferenczy said that excess layers and seams, which often lock in heat and moisture, have been removed. Furthermore, the new uniform can be dried in 60 minutes, compared to the 90 minutes dry-time of the current uniform.

In addition, program officials have incorporated feedback and made changes to the uniform design from previous field tests. Changes include:

  • mandarin collar eliminated.
  • shoulder pockets open from top rather than sides.
  • zipper closures replaced by buttons.
  • breast and back trouser pockets removed.
  • crotch gusseted for better fit, prevent chafing or blowouts.
  • knee articulated for better maneuverability.

Moving forward, program officials will continue to evaluate other fabric compositions and uniform design elements through 2018, Ferenczy said.

Also Read: Army goes dark with new PT uniform

Depending on the feedback received during the upcoming field test, and the requirements set by Army headquarters, a newer version of the hot-weather uniform could be requested and tested by the 25th Infantry Division around the same time next year.

Jungle Combat Boots Version 2

In addition to the new uniform, 25th Infantry Division Soldiers will have a chance to try out five versions of footwear that represent a “Version 2” of the jungle boot. These five variants are based on “Version 1” of the boot Soldiers field-tested earlier this year.

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood
Program Executive Office Soldier officials discussed improvements to the hot weather uniform and jungle combat boot programs during a media roundtable event on Fort Belvoir, Va., Dec. 7, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Devon L. Suits)

After field testing Version 1, Soldiers determined that they wanted a combat boot that was lighter and more flexible, and which also had less stack-height off the ground. Ferenczy said the five types of Version 2 jungle boots meet all those Soldier demands, while also remaining puncture-proof and quick-drying.

The Version 2 boots also provide increased traction in the mud. Furthermore, he said, all the Version 2 boots are better designed to not hold in any moisture, and incorporate larger-sized drainage vents on both sides.

Come January, the Version 2 boots — 150 from each of five manufacturers — will be distributed to 25th Infantry Division Soldiers to be field-tested until March. The goal is for this current evaluation of Version 2 boots, and subsequent feedback, to be combined into a final offering.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It looks like the North Koreans uncovered secret plans to assassinate Kim Jong-un

South Korean lawmaker Lee Cheol-hee said that North Korean hackers have stolen classified military documents, including the US and South Korea’s most current war plans and plans to kill Kim Jong Un, the Financial Times reports.


Lee said that defense officials revealed to him that 235 gigabytes of data had been stolen, 80% of which has yet to be identified.

But Lee said the theft included Operational Plan 5015, the US and South Korea’s current plan for war with North Korea.

The news follows a May announcement from South Korea’s defense ministry saying its military network had been breached.

“This is a total failure of management and monitoring [of classified information],” Shin Jong-woo, a researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum told the Financial Times of the hacks.

The US and North Korea have been engaged in a secretive cyber war for some time, with the US reportedly conducting a large-scale attack against Pyongyang in early October on the instruction of President Donald Trump.

Since then, Russia has provided internet infrastructure support to North Korea in a move that would diversify and strengthen Pyongyang’s cyber war capabilities.

North Korea has been found responsible for a number of high-profile attacks over the years, and is still technically at war with the US and South Korea.

Articles

Reaper drones can now be armed with JDAMs

Airmen from the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing and the 26th Weapons Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, made history earlier this week by employing the first GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition from an MQ-9 Reaper.


While the JDAM has been around since the late ’90s, the munition has just recently been validated and now proven for real world engagements marking a significant step in the Reapers’ joint warfighter role.

“We had a great opportunity to drop the first live GBU-38s in training,” said Capt. Scott, a 26th WPS weapons instructor pilot. “The GBU-38 is a weapon we’ve been trying to get on the MQ-9 for several years now and we had the opportunity to be the first to drop during training.”

While waiting for the aircraft to approach the target area, members of the weapons squadron waited anxiously. After the bombs successfully struck their practice targets in a controlled environment, the entire room cheered.

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood
The MQ-9 Reaper can be armed with Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 laser guided bombs. Now the Air Force has added the JDAM to the drone’s arsenal. (Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

For the past 10 years skilled MQ-9 aircrew have been employing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, but the JDAM brings new global positioning system capabilities to the warfighters.

“The GBU-38, just like the Hellfire and GBU-12, is a very accurate weapon and the fact that it’s GPS-guided gives us another versatile way to guide the weapon, specifically, through inclement weather onto targets,” Scott said.

The JDAM being added to the arsenal is another step in furthering the attack capabilities of the MQ-9 Reaper force.

“There’s definitely times when I could’ve used the GBU-38 in combat prior to this,” Scott said.

Not only does the GBU-38 perform through poor weather conditions, it also helps the munitions Airmen and the weapons load crew members who load them.

“The GBU-38 has a 20 minute load time compared to the GBU-12, which has a 30 minute load time,” said Senior Airman Curtis, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member. “The GBU-38 is a quicker load compared to the GBU-12 and gets the plane in the air quicker.”

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

Incorporating this new munition into the total strike package will give MQ-9 aircrews additional capabilities.

“Our job at the weapons school is to train to the highest standard possible,” Scott said. “We’re going to take the GBU-38 and incorporate it into our advanced scenarios, prove the weapon and integrate with all Air Force assets. What that gives us is the ability to take it downrange and employ in the most demanding circumstances possible.”

The JDAM will add flexibility and efficiency to the targeting process. Aircrews will continue to employ the AGM-114 Hellfires and GBU-12s downrange in addition to the GBU-38 that is now ready for combat.

“The overall impact of the GBU-38 is aircrew will have more versatility for the commanders to provide different effects and make a difference for the guys on the ground,” Scott said. “It has a different guidance system and it opens the bridge to more GPS-guided weapons in the future.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US and Polish combat controllers train near Krakow

Clouds make way for the first pass of combat controllers from the U.S. and Polish forces as they free fall out of an MC130J Commando during a culmination exercise near Krakow, Poland recently. The joint team is determined to put all their recent training into action as they steer their parachutes onto the calculated target.

“We are in Poland to strengthen our already capable POLSOF allies by advising them on how we conduct special operations air land integration,” said the 321st Special Tactics Squadron commander, assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, based in the United Kingdom. “This will give our Polish allies the ability to survey, secure and control an austere airfield anywhere in Poland.”


The exercise was based on a real-world scenario which featured jumping into and seizing an unimproved airfield, where they completed tasks such as deploying undetected into hostile combat and austere environments, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and command and control.

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

Pararescuemen from the U.S. Air Force’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, conduct a medic response scenario during a culmination exercise near Krakow.

(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

“The CULMEX was our final chance to see everything we’ve trained with our Polish counterparts,” said the 321st STS mission commander. “The 321 STS is extremely impressed with the high level of partnership and competency demonstrated by the soldiers of the Polish Special Operations Forces from Military Unit NIL.”

By sharing methods and developing best practices, U.S. and NATO partners around the world remain ready to respond to any potential real-world contingencies in Eastern Europe.

The team deployed to Poland months prior, in order to build upon Polish Special Operations Command’s ability to conduct special operations air-to-land integration.

“We’ve been planning for two months,” said a 321st STS combat controller. “We’ve practiced basics of assault zones, air traffic control, completing surveys and what we call the global-access piece; our capability to find airfields anywhere in the world to forward project highly trained manpower and equipment whenever needed.”

Along with developing joint leaders, this deployment gave the units the opportunity to establish professional development at the tactical level.

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

A combat controller from U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, prepares to free fall out of an MC130J during a culmination exercise near Krakow.

(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

“It helped us to learn our job better too; I feel like anytime you’re training with another unit, it makes you that much better at your own skills. It allowed some of our younger guys to become leaders and put them in positions where they may not have been before,” said a 321st STS combat controller.

“We are very proud of our relationship with POLSOF and other NATO allies,” said the 321st STS commander. “We look forward to building and maintaining our abilities to conduct special operations (air-to-land) integration in Europe as a joint and ready force.”

Through these types of joint training exercises, special operation commands across the force stand ready to operate anytime, anyplace.

“This will ultimately increase the reach and the responsiveness of U.S. and NATO forces, deterring enemy aggression in Eastern Europe,” said the 321st STS commander. “Should the day come where we have to fight together in combat, I am confident in our joint capabilities.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A short history of America’s only tank factory

President Donald Trump toured the US’s last tank facility on March 20, 2019, in a move to highlight the impact of his soaring defense spending in a politically crucial state.

The Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio, has been building Army tanks and armored vehicles since World War II. It nearly shuttered in 2012 under the drastic “sequestration” cuts, but it now produces about 11 tanks a month and employs a growing workforce of 580.

The plant’s assembly line is roaring back under Trump’s defense spending hikes, including $718 billion proposed for fiscal year starting in October 2019.


“In terms of economic security, the Trump defense budget is helping to create good manufacturing jobs at good wages, including in communities like Lima that have fallen behind economically,” Peter Navarro, White House director of trade and manufacturing policy, wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “The revitalized Lima plant will directly employ a little more than 1,000 employees.”

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

Main entrance to Joint Systems Manufacturing Center. An M1A1 Abrams sits on a display platform to the left of the entrance gates.

Here’s a history of the sprawling tank plant, a still-operating legacy of World War II America’s so-called arsenal of democracy.

World War II

The facility opened in 1942 and soon began to build and test vehicles to be sent to the Pacific and European theaters. It built M-5 Light Tanks and T-26 Pershing tanks, according to the website Global Security. By the end of the war it had processed 100,000 combat vehicles.

The facility is owned by the US Army and operated by a contractor.

Korean War

An expansion began after the Korean War broke out in 1950. The Army built new structures, including two massive warehouses that each had 115,000 square feet of storage, according to an official history of the site.

Construction fell off sharply after the war and didn’t pick up much during the Vietnam War.

‘Supertank’

The Army introduced the M-1 Abrams in 1980 and called it a “supertank” that would be faster, better armored, and have more firepower than is predecessors.

The early M-1 Abrams tanks weighed 60 tons, carried a 105 mm cannon, and could speed across fields at 30 mph. The armor used a “new super alloy, composite-material” to protect against rockets and artillery, according to the history.

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

105-mm M1 Abrams tank of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Grafenwöhr Training Area in Germany, 1986.

Chrysler Defense began production of the M-1 tanks at Lima in 1979.

In 1980, the first M-1 Abrams rolled out of Lima. It was named “Thunderbolt,” in homage to the name Gen. Creighton Abrams gave to his tanks in World War II, according to Global Security.

Trump’s tanks

General Dynamics Land Systems bought Chrysler Defense in 1982. The plant became the sole US tank factory in when the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant closed in 1996.

The deep sequestration budget cuts nearly shuttered the plant in 2012, and tank production languished under the Obama administration, which oversaw counter-insurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a large force of tanks wasn’t needed.

In 2017, the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center was producing about one upgraded M-1 tank a month; a year later it was producing about 11, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Two factors have seen the Lima’s tank plant roar back to life: Trump’s massive defense-spending hikes and the US’s assessment that rivalries with China and Russia are now the country’s foremost threat.

Deterring a major power like them may rely on the US Army fielding the upgraded, 80-ton Abrams tanks now rolling off Lima’s assembly lines.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time that the British conquered Manila

The Philippines is a diverse country that draws from an eclectic mix of cultures. Much of the Filipino culture and heritage was influenced by trade with China and other Southeast Asian countries, as well as occupation by foreign countries like Spain, America, and Japan. In the Philippines, you can eat Chinese rice noodles, hear Indonesian, Malay, and Spanish words in the same conversation, and ride a jeep that’s been converted into a public bus to visit WWII historical sites. However, most people would be surprised to learn that the Pearl of the Orient was once under the control of the British Empire.

The Seven Years’ War lasted from 1756-1763 (fighting in the Americas started in 1754 with the French and Indian War, but fighting didn’t begin in Europe until 1756). The conflict between the great European powers spanned the globe, making it the first true world war. During this time, the Philippines was a wealthy Spanish colony made famous by its grandeur and the Manila Galleon Trade. Eager to take a piece of this wealth, Britain planned an invasion of Manila with four store ships, three frigates, eight ships of the line, and 10,300 men.


The invasion force sailed from India and anchored in Manila Bay on September 23, 1762. Not expecting the European war to come to the Philippines, the 9,356 Spanish and Filipino defenders were caught off guard. Outnumbered and unprepared, the Spaniards enlisted the help of native Kapampangan warriors to resist the British invasion. The fighting was fierce, with the British firing more than 5,000 bombs and 20,000 cannonballs on the city. Spanish resistance did not last long and a formal surrender ended hostilities on October 6. The greatest Spanish fortress in the Western Pacific capitulated after just two weeks.

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A map depicting the British attack on Manila (Source: Library of Congress)

The Spanish defeat resulted in the sacking and pillaging of Manila. Houses and buildings were pillaged and burned, people were killed, tortured, and raped, and countless treasures were looted, lost, or destroyed. Not even the churches of the archbishopric in Manila were spared from the violence. To spare the city from further destruction, the British demanded a ransom of four million Mexican silver dollars which acting Governor-General Archbishop Manuel Rojo del Rio y Vieyra agreed to, preventing further loss of life.

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The British occupation of Manila (Source: The Filipinas Heritage Library)

With the help of the Kapampangan, Spanish forces retreated from Manila to the Bacolor, Pampanga where they established a new colonial capitol. There, the Spanish organized a resistance to contain the British invasion. An army of over 10,000, most of them natives, was raised for this cause. Although they lacked sufficient modern weapons, resistance forces managed to keep the British confined to Manila and Cavite.

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British troop movements during the Occupation of Manila (Source: Malacanang.gov.ph)

During its occupation of Manila, Britain took advantage of its location to increase trade with China. The British were unable to capitalize further on their conquest, since the Seven Years’ War ended with the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763. That said, news of the peace agreement did not reach the Philippines until early 1764. The British ended their occupation, departing Manila and Cavite, in the first week of April 1764.

Over a century later, the Filipino nationalist and vocal opponent of Spanish occupation, Jose Rizal, lived in London from May 1888 to March 1889. He was astounded to find Filipino artifacts in the British Museum. Among the cultural treasures were the Boxer Codex (c. 1590) and a rare copy of Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (1609). According to Kirby Araullo, author and co-founder of the Busolan Center for Filipino Studies, the two artifacts are among the most important primary sources of early Philippine history.

The Spanish defeat was also a turning point for the Spanish Empire; it showed that Spain was no longer the dominant world power that it once was. The Spanish vulnerability emboldened many uprisings against Spanish occupation, including an ill-fated revolt by the national hero couple, Diego and Gabriela Silang. The Sultan of Sulu, a former Islamic state that controlled islands in the present-day southern Philippine Islands and north-eastern Borneo, was also freed from Spanish imprisonment during British occupation. He aligned with the British against the Spanish and increased pirate raids by the Sultanate of Sulu against Spanish colonies.

The Battle of Manila was a major military, political, and financial blow to the Spanish Empire. Although the British were unable to carry out a full conquest of the islands, the Spanish defeat was the catalyst for continued Filipino uprisings and resistance to Spanish occupation.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s why millennial veterans home ownership is on the rise

Many millennials and members of generation Z are putting off buying a home. It’s not hard to blame them for that. Housing prices have gone up, and it is a lot harder to save for that big down payment when purchasing your first home. Home purchasing among millennials has dropped with the exception of one demographic: veterans.


There has been an eight-year increase in veterans using the VA home loan, up 43 percent. In 2019 alone, there were 624,000 loans backed by the VA, and a majority of these loans were held by millennials.

That number will go up even more in 2020 thanks to a change in benefits.

A new law signed by President Trump this past June, the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, makes it even easier for veterans to move into the home of their dreams. The part of the law that affects homebuyers was the limit on how much veterans could borrow without a down payment.

There is no longer a limit on how much a veteran can borrow. If you qualify, you can now take out a bigger loan with no down payment.

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The VA home loan is a wonderful resource for qualified veterans. VA loans are mortgage options issued by private lenders with zero down and backed by the VA. The loans can only be used for primary residences, not properties used for investment. However, they can be used to refinance an existing mortgage.

With housing prices soaring in certain parts of the country, there was a major roadblock to the VA home loan. The loan would only cover the value of the house up to a certain amount. As a result, if a veteran wanted to use the VA home loan to purchase a house that was more to their needs and desires and it was over the limit, they had to front a portion of the extra amount as a down payment.

Jeff Jabbora is a Marine veteran who has spent the last seven years as a real estate agent in San Diego County. When asked about the new law, he said the new law “enables qualified veterans, who qualify for a loan amount over the local area maximum to be able to not have to put money down on the loan. For example, if the local/county loan limit for where the veteran is buying the home was 0k, and the veteran was buying a 0k property, with the previous program, the veteran buyer would need to bring money to the table on the overage. Most often, 25 percent. So in that scenario, it would be 25 percent of the overage of, 0k, which would be k.”

Before the law went into effect, the limit dissuaded veterans from moving into houses that were more suitable for them and limited their housing options. This was most noticed in areas like California, the D.C. area, the Northeast and cities with high housing costs. According to data from Realtor.com, a whopping 124 U.S. counties had a higher average list price than the 2019 loan limits. When you compare the cities with the highest median housing cost versus the cities where veterans use their VA home loan, you see that 50 percent of those cities are similar.

Veterans in Los Angeles will see the biggest savings. The average listing price in L.A. is id=”listicle-2645370998″,655,468. Based on that number, VA borrowers would have had to come up with a down payment of 2,236. Now they don’t have to.

Here is an example of how it works.

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With the new law in effect, there should be a marked increase in homeownership among veterans.

As with the VA home loan, steady and suitable income as well as credit comes into play.

Owning a home is a point of pride..thanks to this new law, more veterans can have the opportunity.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army reveals new insignia for Futures Command

The Army Futures Command now officially has a shoulder sleeve insignia and distinctive unit insignia that its soldiers will wear while they work toward modernizing the Army.

With a golden anvil as its main symbol, the shoulder patch and unit insignia are a nod to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms that used a blue-colored anvil.

The command’s motto “Forge the Future” is also displayed below the anvil on the unit insignia, while both the patch and unit insignia have black and white stripes stretching outward from the anvil.


“Symbols mean things just like words do,” said Robert Mages, the command’s acting historian. “It’s a reminder to the soldiers that wear the patch of the mission that they’ve been assigned and of the responsibilities that come with that mission.”

Since last year, the four-star command has been at the heart of the most significant Army reorganization effort since 1973.

In July 2018, senior leaders picked Austin, Texas, for the AFC headquarters. Cross-Functional Teams were also stood up within the command to tackle the Army’s six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.

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Shoulder sleeve insignia for Army Futures Command. With a golden anvil as its main symbol, the shoulder patch and distinctive unit insignia are a nod to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms that used a blue-colored anvil.

(Photo by John Martinez)

The patch and unit insignia represent the command’s most recent move toward full operational capability, which is expected in 2019.

Andrew Wilson, a heraldic artist at The Institute of Heraldry at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, worked with command leadership since December 2017 to finalize the designs.

“This is something that is supposed to stand the test of time and just to play a part in it, it’s an honor,” he said.

The main piece — the anvil — is meant to represent fortitude, determination and perseverance. The black, white, and gold resemble the colors of the U.S. Army.

Wilson said he got the idea for the anvil during a design meeting that mentioned the command’s new motto — Forge the Future.

Wilson, who once took a blacksmithing course in college, was immediately reminded of reshaping metals on an anvil.

“Taking away from the meeting, I tried to come up with something that would play off of that,” he said. “The first thing that popped in my head with ‘forge’ was blacksmithing and one of the key features of that is an anvil.”

Once he spoke of his idea, Charles Mugno, the institute’s director, then advised him to look at the anvil used in Eisenhower’s coat of arms.

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The coat of arms granted to Eisenhower upon his incorporation as a knight of the Order of the Elephant in 1950.

“And from there the spark of creativity just took off,” Wilson said.

The Institute of Heraldry was also involved in the organizational identity of the Security Forces Assistance Brigades, one of which just completed its first deployment to Afghanistan.

“Whenever you have a new Army unit, you do end up doing a heraldic package of shoulder sleeve insignia, distinctive unit insignia and organizational colors,” Mugno said.

Heraldic conventions, he added, is a time-honored process that dates back to the 12th century.

With a staff of about 20 personnel, the institute also helps create the identity of other federal government agencies. Most notably is the presidential seal and coat of arms.

“We have a very unique mission,” Mugno said. “We all share a sense of honor and purpose in being able to design national symbolism for the entire federal government.”

Until the new patch was created, soldiers in Army Futures Command wore a variety of patches on their sleeves. Those assigned to ARCIC, for instance, wore the Army Training and Doctrine Command patch and those in research laboratories had the Army Materiel Command patch.

Now, the golden anvil has forged them all together.

“It’s a symbol of unity — unity of effort, unity of command,” said Mages, the historian. “We no longer report to separate four-star commanders. We now report to one commander whose sole focus is the modernization of our Army.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

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

With the news that Army Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster has been chosen to serve as National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump, this marks the fourth time an active-duty military officer has filled this position.


Here is a look at the previous three.

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Air Force Lt. Gen Brent Scowcroft meeting with Vice President Nelson Rockefeller during his tenure as Deputy National Security Advisor. Scowcroft would later become the National Security Advisor – serving 28 days until retiring from the Air Force. He later served under George H. W. Bush. (White House photo)

1. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft

Brent Scowcroft was active-duty for less than a month while serving as National Security Advisor to President Gerald Ford, taking the job on Nov. 3, 1975, and retiring on Dec. 1, 1975. Still, he is technically the first active-duty military officer to serve in this position.

Scowcroft served for the remainder of the Ford administration, then was tapped to serve as National Security Advisor for a second stint under George H. W. Bush – holding that post for the entirety of that presidency. During his second run as NSA, Scowcroft’s tenure saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, Operation Desert Storm, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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(Official U.S. Navy biography photo)

2. Navy Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter

Perhaps the most notorious active-duty officer to hold the position due to his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, Poindexter was National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan during the 1986 Freedom of Navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra that turned violent, Operation El Dorado Canyon, and the Reykjavik Summit in October, 1986.

Poindexter was initially convicted on five charges connected with Iran-Contra, but the convictions were tossed out on appeal. In 1987, he retired at the rank of Rear Admiral (Upper Half).

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Colin Powell briefing President Ronald Reagan in 1988. (Photo from Reagan Presidential Library)

3. Army Lt. Gen. Colin L. Powell

Probably the most notable active-duty officer to serve in the post, Colin Powell served as National Security Advisor from November 1987 to the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term. While he was in that position, the U.S. and Iran had a series of clashes culminating in Operation Praying Mantis and the downing of an Iranian Airbus by the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes (CG 49).

After his tenure as National Security Advisor, Powell went on to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – then was Secretary of State during George W. Bush’s first term as president.

As a note for the fashion-watchers, while all three predecessors wore suits, We Are The Mighty has learned from a source close to senior Trump staffers that incoming Nationals Security Advisor McMaster has been given the option to wear his uniform while holding the post.

A spokesperson for Scowcroft noted, “It is not against the law but it is not usually done.”

Neither Powell nor the White House Press Office responded to a WATM request for comment by post time.

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