The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries - We Are The Mighty
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The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

The sheer magnitude of traumatic brain injury in the military is enough to make anyone’s head hurt. Troops can get TBI from any number of actions. Everything carries a TBI risk, from routine training to combat operations, so it’s no surprise the injury is getting more attention in recent years. The U.S. military has counted the number of TBI cases suffered by its troops since 2000, and the numbers are sadly very big.

More than 383,000 American troops have suffered some form of TBI, either in daily operations or in a theater of combat. What is most startling about the numbers isn’t just how many, it’s how many people in each branch suffered such injuries. Soldiers of the U.S. Army are far more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury.


The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

While the numbers of overall penetrating and severe TBI are thankfully relatively low, mild injuries make up a bulk of the cases, even when the injuries are broken down by branch. And while “moderate” TBI may not seem as dire as the word “moderate” sounds, those with moderate brain injuries can find themselves with reduced mobility, motor function, and unable to speak effectively. A recent video highlighting caretakers of TBI veterans by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation highlights just how hard life can be for a victim of moderate TBI.

Unfortunately, moderate brain injuries are the second largest number of injuries suffered by U.S. troops. But the real tragedy is how many TBI sufferers are in the U.S. Army.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

Of the more than 383,000 troops that have suffered TBI since 2000, a staggering 225,144 of them have been in some component of the Army. Some 15.8 percent of that was National Guard troops, while 7.3 percent were Army Reserve. The rest, 76.9 percent, were active-duty troops. The numbers on what types of TBI mirror the numbers of all branches put together, with mild being the most widespread, followed by moderate, penetrating, and severe cases.

The rest of the branches hover between 52,000 and 54,000, the Marines have slightly more TBI reports, probably by nature of what they do. This data also reflects an update to the definitions of TBI, more information about the injuries, and subsequent reviews of existing Pentagon data.

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This is the advice a Navy SEAL has for his younger self

If you can’t control it, your ego can destroy everything in your life.


That’s according to former Navy SEAL commanders Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, who teach this fundamental lesson through their leadership consulting firm Echelon Front.

Business Insider recently sat down with Willink to discuss his new book “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual.” We asked him for the advice he would give his 20-year-old self, and he said it taps into this idea about ego.

While it may seem obvious that you know more about the world at age 30 than age 20, Willink said it’s important to realize that you’re never old enough to outgrow your ego — and it can make you susceptible to reckless decisions.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
Retired Navy SEAL Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink. Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

“If I went back to my 20-year-old self what I would tell my 20-year-old self is, ‘You don’t know anything,'” Willink said. “Because everyone when they’re young, they think they know what’s going on in the world and you don’t. And when I was 25, I thought that 20-year-old didn’t know anything but I thought my 25-year-old self knew everything. He didn’t know anything either. And when I was 30, the 25-year-old didn’t know anything. And then when I was 35, the 30-year-old didn’t know anything.”

Willink reflected on this in a previous interview with Business Insider. “When I get asked, you know, what makes somebody fail as a SEAL leader, 99.9% of the time it doesn’t have anything to do with their physical skills or their mental toughness,” he said. “What it has to do with is the fact that the person’s not humble enough to accept responsibility when things go wrong, accept that there might be better ways to do things, and they just have a closed mind. They can’t change.”

Read More: This SEAL commander has 5 tips to transform your life

He noted that being ego-driven can, at times, be constructive. You want to be competitive, you want to prove yourself, Willink explained — but you need to realize that your opinions may not be the best available.

Willink said that this really crystallized for him when he began training young SEALS and saw how some were headstrong about beliefs that his experience taught him definitively were incorrect.

“And I would do my best to help them along that road and realize, ‘You’re not quite as smart as you think you are,'” Willink said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

VA Secretary David Shulkin suggests he favors expansion of Agent Orange-related health care and disability compensation to new categories of ailing veterans but that factors, like cost, medical science, and politics, still stand in the way.


Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on March 21, 2018, that he made recommendations to White House budget officials in 2017 on whether to add up to four more conditions — bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like tremors, and hypertension (high blood pressure) — to the VA list of 14 illnesses presumed caused by exposure to herbicides used during the Vietnam War.

Also read: VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

“I have transmitted my recommendations to the [White House’s] Office of Management and Budget. I did that by Nov. 1, 2017, Shulkin said. “And we are in the process right now of going through this data. In fact, we met with [OMB officials] on March 26, 2018. They asked for some additional data to be able to work through the process and be able to get financial estimates for this. So, we are committed to working with OMB to get this resolved in the very near future.”

Shulkin didn’t say which of the four conditions, if any, he wants added to the presumptive list, if and when cleared by the White House.

At the same hearing, the VA chief was asked his position on Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War who also suffer from illnesses on the VA presumptive list but aren’t eligible to use it to facilitate claims for care and compensation.

They “have waited too long for this,” Shulkin agreed, but then suggested the solution for these veterans is blocked by medical evidence or swings on the will of the Congress.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
Barrels of Agent Orange being stored at Johnston Atoll.

“I would like to try to find a way where we can resolve that issue for them, rather than make them continue to wait,” Shulkin said. “I do not believe there will be scientific data [to] give us a clear answer like we do have on the Agent Orange presumptive” list for veterans who had served in-country. “For the Blue Water Navy… epidemiologic studies just aren’t available from everything I can see. So, we’re going to have to sit down and do what we think is right for these veterans.”

Vietnam veterans who served even a day in-country who have illnesses on the presumptive list can qualify for VA medical care and disability compensation without having to show other evidence that their ailments are service-connected.

Shulkin said VA “recently” received the last report of the National Academy of Medicine, which found a stronger scientific association than earlier studies between certain ailments and herbicide exposure. In fact, however, the VA has had the report, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014, for two years.

More: 5 life lessons today’s troops could learn from Vietnam vets

It was written by a committee of medical experts that reviewed medical and scientific literature on select ailments and herbicide exposure published from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2014. Released in March 2016, the report found evidence to support raising the strength of association between herbicide exposure and bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. The report upgrades the link from “inadequate or insufficient” evidence to “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association.

In years past, VA decided that for some ailments, such as Parkinson’s and ischemic heart disease, “limited or suggestive evidence” was enough to add these illnesses to the Agent Orange presumptive list. For others, including hypertension, a more common disease of aging, VA deemed it wasn’t enough.

This last NAM report, however, looked again at cardiovascular conditions and herbicide exposure. It didn’t upgrade the link to heart ailments but it did affirm limited or suggestive evidence that hypertension is linked to herbicide exposure.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.

It also studied whether Parkinson’s-like symptoms should fall into the same limited or suggestive category as Parkinson’s disease itself. The 2016 report found “no rational basis” to continue to exclude Parkinson-like symptoms from the same risk category. Parkinson’s disease itself was added to presumptive list in 2010.

VA secretaries under both the Obama and Trump administration reacted more slowly on the last NAM perhaps, by law, they could. Congress in 2015 let a portion of the Agent Orange law expire, language that required the VA Secretary to decide on new presumptive conditions within 180 days of accepting a NAM report.

The impact was immediate. Though a senior VA official tasked with reviewing this last NAM report said then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald would make his decisions within three months, it didn’t happen. McDonald left it to his successor. Shulkin waited more months and, in July 2017, vowed to decide by Nov. 1, 2017 OMB blocked an announcement, however, presumably over projected costs.

Related: A Vietnam veteran is returning to thank the doctors who saved his life

Cost has been a factor, too, in Congress not passing legislation to extend VA benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans diagnosed with illnesses on the presumptive list. Budget analysts a few years ago estimated a cost of $1.1 billion over 10 years.

Also, NAM did conduct a review of medical and scientific evidence regarding Blue Water Veterans’ possible exposure to herbicides and concluded in a May 2011 report that “there was not enough information… to determine whether Blue Water Navy personnel were or were not exposed to Agent Orange.”

Blue Water Veterans remain ineligible to use the Agent Orange presumptive list. A lone exception is granted for veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Vietnam veterans with this ailment may be granted service-connection without showing inland waterway service or that they set foot in-country.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

In every session of Congress, going back years, Blue Water Navy bills have been introduced. They would, if passed, “include as part of the Republic of Vietnam its territorial seas for purposes of the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure [to] herbicide agents while in Vietnam.”

The current House version of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), introduced in January 2017 by Rep. David Valado (R-Ga.), has 327 co-sponsors. Yet prospects of passage remain dim. Valado reminded Shulkin at a mid-March 2018 hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that, six months ago, Shulkin said he was seeking more recommendations from “subject matter experts” on the issue and would be ready to update Congress in the coming months.

“Have you come to a decision on Blue Water Navy veterans?”

Also read: This is what the average ‘doc’ carried on patrol in Vietnam

“I am aligned with you that these veterans have waited too long,” Shulkin said, “and this is a responsibility that this country has. And, as our veterans get older, it’s unfair.…I believe it is imperative upon us to resolve this issue.

“I also believe,” Shulkin continued, “that there will not be strong scientific data to help resolve this,” in other words to justify benefit expansion. “This is going to be an obligation that we feel as a country, that these veterans shouldn’t be waiting any longer. And I am on the side of trying to find a way to resolve this for the Blue Water Navy veterans.”

Shulkin said his staff is “working hard to look at offsets” which means cuts to other parts of the VA budget to pay for Blue Water Navy benefits, or to find “other ways to be able to do that. And it is a high priority for us.”

Reminded by Valado that “with these types of cancers, time is of the essence,” Shulkin replied, “Absolutely.”

The Senate version of Blue Water legislation, S 422, was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), has 49 co-sponsors and, so far, equally dim prospects of passage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s longing for former Soviet Union hits 14-year high

More Russians regret the breakup of the Soviet Union than at any other time since 2004, an opinion poll shows.

In a survey whose results were published on Dec. 19, 2018, two-thirds — or 66 percent — of respondents answered “yes” when asked whether they regret the 1991 Soviet collapse.

That is up from 58 percent a year earlier and is the highest proportion since 2004, the last year of President Vladimir Putin’s first term, Levada said.


One-quarter of respondents said they do not regret the Soviet breakup, the lowest proportion since 2005, and 9 percent said they could not answer.

Putin, president from 2000-08 and 2012 to the present, has often played up the achievements of the Soviet Union while playing down some of its darkest chapters.

In 2005, Putin called the Soviet breakup the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, citing the large numbers of Russians it left outside Russia.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

In March 2018, when asked what event in the country’s history he would like to have been able to change, he named the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Levada said that Russians’ concerns about their economic security today were among the main reasons for the increase in the number voicing regret.

A highly unpopular plan to raise the retirement age by five years has stoked antigovernment sentiment and pushed Putin’s own approval ratings down in 2018.

The peak of regret over the Soviet collapse came in 2000, when 75 percent of Russian polled by Levada answered “yes” to the same question.

In 2018, Levada surveyed 1,600 people nationwide in the Nov. 22-28, 2018 poll.

The pollster said that 52 percent of respondents named the collapse of the Soviet Union’s “single economic system” as the main thing they regretted.

Worries about their current economic situation and prospects were a major factor for many of those respondents, Levada said.

At the same time, 36 percent said they miss the “feeling of belonging to a great power,” and 31 percent lamented mistrust and cruelty in society.

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

Articles

This is what the US cyber command could look like

After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation’s military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America’s ability to wage cyber war against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to US officials.


Under the plans, US Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency.

Details are still being worked out, but officials say they expect a decision and announcement in the coming weeks. The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter so requested anonymity.

The goal, they said, is to give US Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet, and other intelligence data from around the world — a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Making cyber an independent military command will put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea, and in space.

The move reflects the escalating threat of cyberattacks and intrusions from other nation states, terrorist groups, and hackers, and comes as the US faces ever-widening fears about Russian hacking following Moscow’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 American election.

The US has long operated quietly in cyberspace, using it to collect information, disrupt enemy networks, and aid conventional military missions. But as other nations and foes expand their use of cyberspying and attacks, the US is determined to improve its ability to incorporate cyber operations into its everyday warfighting.

Experts said the command will need time to find its footing.

“Right now I think it’s inevitable, but it’s on a very slow glide path,” said Jim Lewis, a cybersecurity expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But, he added, “A new entity is not going to be able to duplicate NSA’s capabilities.”

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
U.S. Air Force photo by Raymond McCoy

The NSA, for example, has 300 of the country’s leading mathematicians “and a gigantic super computer,” Lewis said. “Things like this are hard to duplicate.”

He added, however, that over time, the US has increasingly used cyber as a tactical weapon, bolstering the argument for separating it from the NSA.

The two highly secretive organizations, based at Fort Meade, Maryland, have been under the same four-star commander since Cyber Command’s creation in 2009.

But the Defense Department has been agitating for a separation, perceiving the NSA and intelligence community as resistant to more aggressive cyber warfare, particularly after the Islamic State’s transformation in recent years from an obscure insurgent force into an organization holding significant territory across Iraq and Syria and with a worldwide recruiting network.

While the military wanted to attack IS networks, intelligence objectives prioritized gathering information from them, according to US officials familiar with the debate. They weren’t authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly and requested anonymity.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
Former United States Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter.

Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter sent a plan to President Barack Obama last year to make Cyber Command an independent military headquarters and break it away from the NSA, believing that the agency’s desire to collect intelligence was at times preventing the military from eliminating IS’ ability to raise money, inspire attacks, and command its widely dispersed network of fighters.

Carter, at the time, also pushed for the ouster of Adm. Mike Rogers, who still heads both bodies. The Pentagon, he warned, was losing the war in the cyber domain, focusing on cyberthreats from nations such as Iran, Russia, and China, rather than on countering the communications and propaganda campaigns of internet-savvy insurgents.

Officials also grew alarmed by the growing number of cyberattacks against the US government, including several serious, high-level Defense Department breaches that occurred under Rogers’ watch.

“NSA is truly an intelligence-collection organization,” said Lauren Fish, a research associate with the Center for a New American Security. “It should be collecting information, writing reports on it. Cyber Command is meant to be an organization that uses tools to have military operational effect.”

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
Director of United States National Security Agency, Mike Rogers. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

After President Donald Trump’s inauguration, officials said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis endorsed much of the plan. But debate over details has dragged on for months.

It’s unclear how fast the Cyber Command will break off on its own. Some officials believe the new command isn’t battle-ready, given its current reliance on the NSA’s expertise, staff, and equipment. That effort will require the department to continue to attract and retain cyber experts.

Cyber Command was created in 2009 by the Obama administration to address threats of cyber espionage and other attacks. It was set up as a sub-unit under US Strategic Command to coordinate the Pentagon’s ability to conduct cyber warfare and to defend its own networks, including those that are used by combat forces in battle.

Officials originally said the new cyber effort would likely involve hundreds, rather than thousands, of new employees.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
Graduates from the Master of Cyber Systems and Operations program inside NPS’ Hamming High Performance Computing Center. Navy photo by Javier Chagoya.

Since then, the command has grown to more than 700 military and civilian employees. The military services also have their own cyber units, with a goal of having 133 fully operational teams with as many as 6,200 personnel.

Its proposed budget for next year is $647 million. Rogers told Congress in May that represents a 16 percent increase over this year’s budget to cover costs associated with building the cyber force, fighting IS, and becoming an independent command.

Under the new plan being forwarded by the Pentagon to the White House, officials said Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville would be nominated to lead Cyber Command. Leadership of the NSA could be turned over to a civilian.

Mayville is currently the director of the military’s joint staff and has extensive experience as a combat-hardened commander. He deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, leading the 173rd Airborne Brigade when it made its assault into Iraq in March 2003 and later heading coalition operations in eastern Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.K. charges 2 alleged spies with infamous nerve poisonings

Britain is charging two Russian men over the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, early 2018.

Prosecutors said they had sufficient evidence to charge two men, identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with attempted murder over the attack.


Prime Minister Theresa May on Sept. 5, 2018, added that the two men were officers from the Russian intelligence services, also known as the GRU.

“Security and intelligence agencies have carried out their own investigations,” May told Parliament on Sept. 5, 2018. “I can today tell the House … that the government has concluded that the two individuals named are officers from the Russian intelligence services.”

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

Surveillance footage shows the two suspects leaving London for Moscow at Heathrow Airport hours after Skripal collapsed on March 4, 2018.

(London Metropolitan Police)

Skripal previously worked as a military-intelligence colonel at the GRU but was recruited by British spies to pass on state secrets. He was later arrested and imprisoned but was pardoned and released to the UK by the Russian government in 2010.

May said authorization for the attack “almost certainly” came from the senior levels of the Russian government. She added that she would push for more European Union sanctions against Russia over the poisoning.

The two men are now believed to be in Russia. Authorities plan to formally request via Interpol that the Russian police arrest them.

The British police also released a detailed description of the suspects’ whereabouts in the run-up to the attack as well as a series of images taken from surveillance footage of the two men in London and Salisbury.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

Surveillance camera footage of Petrov and Boshirov in Salisbury, England, on the day the Skripals were poisoned.

(London Metropolitan Police)

Neil Basu, a senior officer with the London Metropolitan Police’s counterterrorism unit, said that the two men most likely traveled under aliases and that Petrov and Boshirov might not be their real names. Both suspects are estimated to be 40 years old.

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, collapsed in Salisbury in March 2018 after being exposed to Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent that was developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The poison had been applied on Skripal’s front door, police said.

Both father and daughter were eventually discharged from the hospital.

Poison in a perfume bottle

A British couple in Amesbury, a town near Salisbury, was exposed to the poison after coming into contact with a perfume bottle containing it in late June 2018.

It resulted in the death of Dawn Sturgess, who fell ill after applying the substance to her wrists. The other victim, Charlie Rowley, was discharged from a hospital about two weeks after collapsing.

Rowley told the police he found a box he thought contained perfume in a charity bin in late June 2018, more than three months after the Skripals collapsed.

The box contained a bottle, purported to be from the designer brand Nina Ricci, and an applicator, and Rowley got some of the poison on himself when he tried to put the two parts together at home.

Tests run by the Ministry of Defense found that the bottle contained a “significant amount” of Novichok, the police said.

“The manner in which the bottle was modified leaves no doubt it was a cover for smuggling the weapon into the country, and for the delivery method for the attack against the Skripals’ front door,” May said.

The police on Sept. 4, 2018, said they thought the two incidents were linked.

Authorities said they believed the couple were not deliberately targeted but “became victims as a result of the recklessness in which such a toxic nerve agent was disposed of.”

Britain’s diplomatic relationship with Russia suffered after London accused Moscow of being behind the Skripals’ poisoning. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied knowing about the attack.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

Surveillance camera footage of Petrov and Boshirov at a Salisbury train station the day before Skripal collapsed.

(London Metropolitan Police)

The suspects’ whereabouts

The police believe the two suspects were in the UK for just three days to carry out the attack. On Sept. 5, 2018, the force outlined the two suspects’ whereabouts in the run-up to the Skripals’ poisoning in March 2018:

  • March 2, 3 p.m.: The suspects arrive at London’s Gatwick Airport after flying from Moscow on Aeroflot Flight SU2588.
  • 5 p.m. (approx): They travel by train into Victoria station, central London. They then travel on London public transport.
  • 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.: They spend about an hour in Waterloo before going on to the City Stay Hotel in Bow Road, east London, where they stay for the next two nights.
  • March 3, 11:45 a.m.: They arrive at Waterloo station from their hotel, where they take a train to Salisbury, where Skripal lives.
  • 2:25 p.m.: They arrive at Salisbury. The police believe this trip was for a reconnaissance of the area and do not believe they posed a risk to the public at this point.
  • 4:10 p.m.: They leave Salisbury and arrive at their hotel four hours later.
  • March 4, 8:05 a.m.: The two men arrive at Waterloo station again to go to Salisbury.
  • 4:45 p.m.: They return to London from Salisbury.
  • 10:30 p.m.: They leave London for Moscow from Heathrow Airport on Aeroflot Flight SU2585.

Skripal and his daughter collapsed on a bench at a Salisbury shopping center at about 4:15 p.m. on March 4, 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. Marine veteran kept in Russian custody for espionage charges

A Moscow court denied release on bail for Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Russia on an espionage charge. After the bail hearing on Jan. 22, 2019, Whelan’s attorney suggested his client was the victim of a setup. Whelan, who also holds citizenship from Ireland, Canada, and Britain, was arrested in Moscow by Federal Security Service (FSB) agents on Dec. 28, 2018.


American Jailed On Spy Charge In Russia Kept In Custody

www.youtube.com

Moscow court rejects bail appeal of US citizen suspected of spying

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marine Corps is taking a hard look at the Army’s new pistol

The Army plans to start distributing its new Modular Handgun System, the Sig Sauer P320, to soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, this fall.


The rollout would come less than a year after the Army awarded the $580 million contract to Sig Sauer to produce the gun, also called the XM17.

And Marine Corps officials have said their personnel may soon adopt a more compact version of the pistol, called the XM18.

Chief Warrant Office 5 Christian Wade, the small-arms expert for the 2nd Marine Division, told Marine Corps Times that the service would perform a review in the near future to learn which positions need the new weapon.

“We prefer our pistol be as compact as possible without loss of capability,” Wade said. “After all, it’s a pistol.”

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
A service member fires the Sig Sauer P320 during Modular Handgun System tests for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, N.C. Aug. 27. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Lewis Perkins)

Earlier this month, the Army assembled soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen at Fort Bragg in North Carolina to put the new handgun through a round of testing, using it alongside the M4 rifle and cold-weather gear.

The Army-led training mainly featured soldiers from the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and Army officials have not said what other units were present.

Earlier this year, an official from the Marine Corps Capabilities Development Directorate’s Maneuver Branch said the Corps was taking part in the Army’s Modular Handgun System selection effort in order facilitate its own search for a new sidearm.

The official also displayed a chart showing the Marine Corps’ current side arms, the Beretta M9 and Colt M45A1, in service until 2025, overlapping with the XM17, which would come into service in 2023 and stay through 2035.

“As soon as the U.S. Army is ready to sell them to us,” Wade said of the XM18, “we will begin this program.”

A new handgun is not the only change that may come to the Army and Marine Corps arsenals.

Both service branches are considering setting aside the M16/M4 rifle platform in favor of a new rifle that offers more range and stopping power, potentially firing a different caliber bullet as well.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
Marines with Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, sight-in with M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 16, 2016. As the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed unit, the 31st MEU air-ground-logistics team provides a flexible force, ready to perform a wide range of military operations, from limited combat to humanitarian assistance operations, through the Indo-Asia Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Rosales/ Released)

The Corps is considering replacing the M4 carried by most of the branch’s infantry riflemen with the M27, the infantry automatic rifle first introduced in 2010 and currently carried by one member of each Marine infantry fire team.

The M27 was brought in to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon, though some officials have touted intermediate-caliber weapons as a potential replacement for the infantry rifle and squad automatic weapon, with one size bullet catering to a family of weapons.

Col. Mike Manning, the chief of Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems, also said this week that the service would soon send a request for weapons suppressors from the arms industry, according to Marine Corps Times.

Manning didn’t talk numbers — noting only that the suppressors would be used “across the forces” — or say whether the suppressor would be designed for the M4 or the M27, but he did say commercial suppressors were already being tested and suggested suppressors built into weapons would be preferred.

The Army and the Marine Corps have been evaluating suppressors for regular infantry as a way to add stealth and boost tactical capabilities. Some Marines have been training or deployed with suppressors for both weapons.

A Marine rotational force deployed to Norway earlier this year was the first unit to be outfitted with suppressors on every weapon.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The most muscular unit in the Marine Corps is accepting applications

If you can squat more than 300 pounds — and then do it again nine more times — the Marine Corps may have an elite job for you.

The Corps is accepting applications to join its legendary cadre of body bearers, a small unit of roughly a dozen men headquartered at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., whose primary responsibility is to carry the caskets of Marines to their final resting place.

According to a Marine Corps administrative message, the service is looking for Marines who “possess a high degree of maturity, leadership, judgment and professionalism, as well as physical stamina and strength.” To be eligible, Marines must be male, between 70 and 76 inches tall, in the rank of corporal or below, and able to serve 30 months following check-in to ceremonial drill school.


The physical strength requirements are truly daunting. Marines must be able to conduct 10 repetitions of the following exercises:

  • Bench press 225 lbs.
  • Military press (a variant on the overhead press) 135 lbs.
  • Straight bar curl 115 lbs.
  • Squad 315 lbs.
The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

Body bearers from the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. (8th and I), help conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for Col. Werner Frederick Rebstock in Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 13, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery)

Those selected to join the Body Bearers Section can expect to train for up to a year before they’re considered ready to participate in military funerals. Once they join the section, body bearers participate in the funerals of Marines, Marine veterans and family members at Arlington National Cemetery and military cemeteries in the National Capital Region; they may also be asked to travel across the country to conduct funeral honors for former presidents and other senior dignitaries.

There’s no room for error; the word “flawless” is used no fewer than four times on the Body Bearers Section web page. And while other services use eight body bearers to carry coffins, the Marine Corps uses only six.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

Marine Corps Body Bearers carry the body of Maj. Gen. Warren R. Johnson Sr. inside the Memorial Chapel at Fort Meyer.

(Photo by Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

“This billet is not for everyone. Marine Corps Body Bearers serve as a tangible, physical manifestation of the institution that our fallen brothers and sisters have poured their hearts and souls into fortifying,” the page reads. “As such, the mental, emotional, and physical toll this responsibility exacts from the Body Bearers as well as Ceremonial Drill School students is immense. That being said, the honor and pride the Body Bearer Section takes in caring for Marines the way they do is one of the most gratifying experiences of their lives.”

In addition to all the strength requirements, Marines must meet conventional height and weight standards and maintain first-class scores on their physical fitness and combat fitness tests. While the job was once reserved for infantry Marines, it’s now open to all military occupational specialties in the Corps.

Troops who meet eligibility requirements and are interested in the opportunity should contact Company B, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the Coast Guard’s new class of cutters

One thing is glaringly obvious about the Coast Guard’s medium endurance cutters: they are old. Real old. According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 15 of the Coast Guard’s 28 medium endurance cutters are over 45 years old, and only three of them were commissioned after music superstar Taylor Swift was born. You could say they are due to be replaced.


Fortunately, the Coast Guard has been working on a replacement. They call it the Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter, and according to a handout WATM obtained at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, it will be replacing all 28 of the medium-endurance cutters currently in service.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

A Reliance-class medium endurance cutter. Most of these ships are over 50 years old.

(USCG photo)

These cutters, the first of which will be named USCGC Argus, will pack a 57mm gun (like the National Security Cutter and Littoral Combat Ship), as well as be able to operate a helicopter. Globalsecurity.org notes that the cutters will displace 3,200 tons and will have a top speed of at least 22 knots.

The Coast Guard currently operates 14 Reliance-class cutters, from a class of 17 built in the 1960s. Three of the vessels were decommissioned and transferred to allied navies. These vessels displace about 879 tons and have a top speed of 18 knots. Their primary armament is a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, like that used on the M2 Bradley.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

A Famous-class medium endurance cutter. These vessels can be equipped with Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Phalanx close-in weapon system.

(USCG photo)

The other major medium endurance cutter is the Famous-class cutter. This cutter comes in at 1,200 tons, and has a 76mm OTO Melara gun as its primary armament. It has a top speed of just under 20 knots, and is also capable of carrying two quad Mk 141 launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS).

Finally, there is the Alex Haley, an Edenton-class salvage tug acquired by the Coast Guard after the United States Navy retired the three-ship class. Two sisters were transferred to South Korea. It does remain to be seen how 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters can replace 28 older hulls, though.

Articles

How today’s veterans are the new ‘hipsters’

There’s always a certain tension when two servicemen meet for the first time. The nature of the tension often varies based on branch, job, and life experience. One might reasonably expect a grunt, for instance, to size up another grunt, the tension of two warriors vying for dominance. When fellow Havok Journal denizen and POG Paul and I met up to discuss life, the universe, and the peculiarities of Fort Bragg, the tension was less caveman and more tired old men trying not to pick up hepatitis at any of Fayetteville’s fine dining establishments.


As tends to happen when two writers meet, the conversation meandered around, covering everything from sports (if you think men are less emotional than women, wait til football season) to observations on military culture. Paul had one observation in particular that, try as I might, I was utterly unable to refute.

When you get down to it, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the apocryphal hipster and the GWOT vet.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
Creative commons photo

Think about it for a moment. Beards- check. Tattoos- check. Insular culture that seems strange and unwelcoming to the outsider- check. Highly specific and objectively strange tastes in fashion (clothing, haircuts, etc)- check.

The only real differences are the typical veteran’s penchant for guns and hyper masculine attitude. Both communities eat some weird-ass food. Which is more strange, Mongolian Tex-Mex fusion, or dumping a bunch of MRE entrees in a pot and drowning it in Texas Pete? Both communities tend to enjoy things ironically. You can’t tell me you haven’t seen a bunch of dudes blasting Katy Perry in the motor pool, dancing, and lip-syncing their little hearts out.

I had the dubious privilege of being dragged through the Williamsburg community in Brooklyn a few months back, and I have to say, I was reminded of nothing so much as a trip to the PX on Bragg. Swap out T-shirts proclaiming one’s status as a sheepdog for highwater jeans and up the average muscle mass by about 30% and you’d hardly be able to tell the difference.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
Beanie? Check. Beard? Check. Ironic print T? Check. Veteran? Check.

And as much as the veteran community likes to rag on hipsters for being whiny and entitled, we’re just as bad, when you get right down to it. Attack any one of our sacred cows and we come out in force, screaming and hollering and slinging mud at anyone who dares disrespect us.

And yet, despite our vast collection of similarities, the veteran community and hipster community more or less hate each other. To the hipster, the average veteran is an uncultured killer who is just a swastika away from being a Nazi. To the veteran, the average hipster is an emasculated crybaby who’s just a stubbed toe away from dissolving into tears and blaming Trump for hard surfaces.

Where does all this hate come from?

There’s a phenomenon known as the narcissism of small differences. The term was first coined by Sigmund Freud in 1917 to describe the reason why similar communities so often find themselves at each other’s throats. We’ll gloss over the psychobabble and get down to the meat of the matter: In order to preserve a sense of uniqueness, communities often become hypersensitive to the little things that separate them from other groups. By exaggerating the differences and attacking them, individuals and groups can maintain their sense of identity in the face of overwhelming similarities.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries
These hipster-chic glasses are the standard military issue. USMC photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga.

This phenomenon has been witnessed time and time again over the centuries. Ever wonder why two tribes who live a short distance away from each other and have broadly similar cultures and beliefs have so often tried to kill each other? That’s why. They get all hung up on the little things, and the next thing you know, Catholics and Protestants spend a couple centuries tearing Europe apart in war after war.

In this case, hipsters and veterans have been locked in a culture war for the last decade. Only, the veterans have won. Hipsters don’t really exist anymore, outside of a few enclaves like Williamsburg, or in the fevered ranting of veteran Internet personalities. Veteran culture has swelled and expanded, united by a common experience provided by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and empowered by the World Wide Web.

We have all but supplanted hipsters in modern society, and in the process, we’ve become the new hipsters. We have stared into the abyss, and the abyss gave us a sense of entitlement and way, way too much beard.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

When General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. was named the next Air Force Chief of Staff, it was extraordinary for many reasons. As 2020 comes to a close, we examine this leader who was recently named one of Time’s most influential 100 people. 

Brown was formerly the commander of the Pacific Air Forces and also led as Executive Director of the Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff and Deputy Commander of United States Central Command.  Brown’s legacy of strong leadership and experience made him a strong candidate for the Air Force’s highest position of authority. As the first Black chief of staff to command a force, it was a historic moment for America. His confirmation was cheered far and wide across the country and the military community.  

He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in a historic 98-0 vote. 

After being officially sworn in as the new Air Force Chief of Staff, he talked about the men and women of color who came before him saying, “It is due to their trials and tribulations in breaking barriers that I can address you today as the Air Force Chief of Staff.” Watching in the wings of his swearing in ceremony were the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-Black unit of fighter pilots who served bravely and faithfully during World War II. The Airmen willingly fought for their country despite facing deep racism and ongoing segregation, creating a legacy that still reverberates today.  

Despite the tremendous honor of being nominated as the next Chief of Staff for the Air Force, the appointment came with a tremendous weight for Brown. In his acceptance speech he shares that he alone cannot “fix centuries of racial discrimination in our country” and that despite the hope his nomination brought, it also carries a burden for him. 

Months before his swearing in, Brown released a raw and direct video on social media in June of 2020 following the death of George Floyd captured on video at the hands of police. It was a event that sent shockwaves across a country already experiencing deep divisiveness on matters of race and the current pandemic. Brown’s decision to make a statement was nothing short of courageous and admirable. In an interview with Dan Lamothe of The Washington Post, Brown shared that his video response to the killing of George Flloyd was promoted by his son Ross. He told Lamothe that he became emotional over their shared experiences as Black men. Despite the looming confirmation hearing and not knowing what current leadership was going to say, he knew what he himself needed to do. 

After looking into the camera, he told viewers exactly what was on his mind. “I’m thinking about a history of racial issues and my own experiences that didn’t always sing of liberty and equality.” He also went on to share experiences where, despite wearing the same flight suit as his fellow pilots, he was questioned on whether he was one or not. 

The video has now been seen by millions of people. Not long after his response and other military leaders’ similar and united statements, the Air Force announced plans to review racial disparities within the force as it pertained to military justice. It was a step in the right direction. 

Since taking the leadership role of the Air Force, he has focused on change and innovation, from the bottom up. In an interview with Stars and Stripes, he encouraged young airmen in particular to focus on creativity and to use their voice without fear of consequences for speaking up. His message of unity and collaboration from the junior enlisted to the ranking highest officer is another reason he has already established himself well among Airmen and the military as a whole.  

air force chief of staff
Maxwell AFB; Ala. – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown; Jr.; speaks with senior leadership and Air University faculty on his vision for AU; Aug. 26; 2020. (US Air Force photograph by Melanie Rodgers Cox/Released)

Seeing Brown’s name among the expected celebrities, athletes presidents and Supreme Court Justices – is an impressive feat in itself. But it is the history and struggles he endured within his story that brings the significance home to so many who are desperate for change. Brown is a symbol of not just courage and strength but also, hope. Hopefully one day soon, we won’t be celebrating firsts anymore. Instead, diversity and inclusion will just be exactly who we are, not just who we promised to be.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s $13 billion supercarrier continues to have serious issues

Shipbuilders and sailors have fixed the propulsion plant problems on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class of supercarriers that is behind schedule, over budget, and still struggling with development issues.

Work on the ship’s propulsion plant was completed toward the end of July 2019, the Navy announced in a statement Aug. 12, 2019.

Problems with the carrier’s propulsion system first popped up in January 2018 during sea trials. A “manufacturing defect” was identified as the problem. Troubles were again noted in May 2019 just three days after the ship set sail for testing and evaluation, forcing it to return to its home port early.


In March 2019, James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisition boss, told US lawmakers that scheduled maintenance on the Ford would require another three months beyond what was initially planned to deal with problems with its nuclear power plant, weapons elevators, and other unspecified areas.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

The USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

The Navy said that the “Ford’s propulsion issues weren’t with the nuclear reactors themselves, rather the issues resided in the mechanical components associated in turning steam created by the nuclear plant into spinning screws that propel the ship through the water.”

While the completion of the work on the Ford’s power plant moves the ship closer to returning to sea, the carrier is still having problems with a critical piece of new technology — the advanced weapons elevators. The elevators are necessary for the movement of munitions to the flight deck, increased aircraft sortie rates, and greater lethality, but only a handful of the elevators are expected to work by the time the ship is returned to the fleet this fall.

Lawmakers recently expressed frustration with the Navy’s handling of the Ford-class carrier program.

“The ship was accepted by the Navy incomplete, nearly two years late, two and a half billion dollars over budget, and nine of eleven weapons still don’t work with costs continuing to grow,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said late July 2019.

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

Sailors man the rails of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer)

“The Ford was awarded to a sole-source contractor,” which was asked to incorporate immature technologies “that had next to no testing, had never been integrated on a ship — a new radar, catapult, arresting gear, and the weapons elevators,” he continued, adding that the Navy entered into this contract “without understanding the technical risk, the cost, or the schedules.”

Inhofe said that the Navy’s failures “ought to be criminal.”

The Navy has been struggling to incorporate new technologies into the ship, but the service insists that it is making progress with the catapults and arresting gear used to launch and recover aircraft, systems which initially had problems. The elevators are currently the biggest obstacle.

“As a first-in-class ship, some issues were expected,” the Navy said in its recent statement on the completion of relevant work on the Ford’s propulsion system.

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

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