Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack - We Are The Mighty
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Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

Army acquisition leaders and weapons developers are increasing their thinking about how future enemies might attack —and looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in their platforms and technologies earlier in the developmental process, senior service leaders told Scout Warrior.


The idea is to think like an enemy trying to defeat and/or out-maneuver U.S. Army weapons, vehicles, sensors and protective technologies in order to better determine how these systems might be vulnerable when employed, Mary Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Research and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The goal of this thinking, she explained, is to identify “fixes” or design alternatives to further harden a weapons system before it is fielded and faces contact with an enemy.

“We have taken it upon ourselves to look at early developmental systems for potential vulnerabilities. As we understand where we might have shortfalls or weaknesses in emerging programs, we can fix them before things go to production,” Miller added.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack
Soldiers with the Army Evaluation Task Force give a demonstration of the small unmanned ground vehicle combat application to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) and fellow committee member Syvestre Reyes (D-TX) at Ft Bliss, TX. | US Army photo by D. Myles Culle

The Army is already conducting what it calls “Red Teaming” wherein groups of threat assessment experts explore the realm of potential enemy activity to include the types of weapons, tactics and strategies they might be expected to employ.

“Red Teams” essentially act like an enemy and use as much ingenuity as possible to examine effective ways of attacking U.S. forces. These exercises often yield extremely valuable results when it comes to training and preparing soldiers for combat and finding weaknesses in U.S. strategies or weapons platforms.

This recent push, within the Army acquisition world, involves a studied emphasis on “Red Teaming” emerging technologies much earlier in the acquisition process to engineer solutions that counter threats in the most effective manner well before equipment is fully developed, produced or worst case, deployed.

Miller explained that this strategic push to search for problems, vulnerabilities and weaknesses within weapons systems very early in the acquisition process was designed to keep the Army in front of enemies.

A key concept is, of course, to avoid a circumstance wherein soldiers in combat are using weapons and technologies which have “fixable” problems or deficiencies which could have been identified and successfully addressed at a much earlier point in the developmental process.

As a result, weapons developers in the Army acquisition world and Science and Technology (ST) experts spend a lot of time envisioning potential future conflict scenarios with next-generation weapons and technologies.

Miller emphasized how the Army is increasingly working to develop an ability to operate, fight and win in contested environments. This could include facing enemies using long range sensors and missiles, cyber attacks, electronic warfare, laser weapons and even anti-satellite technologies designed to deny U.S. soldiers the use of GPS navigation and mapping, among other things.

As a result, Army engineers, acquisition professionals and weapons developers are working now to ensure that tomorrow’s systems are as effective and as impenetrable as possible.

“We need to better understand vulnerabilities before we design something for our soldiers. We need to see if they have inherent glitches. We now face potential adversaries that are becoming technically on par with us,” Miller said. “We are asking the ST enterprise to think ahead to a scenario where our enemies might be using our technologies against ourselves,” Miller said.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack
Soldiers with Bravo Troop, 3rd Battalion, 71st Calvary Regiment of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, fire their 120mm mortars during a live-fire at Forward Operating Base Lightning, in Paktia province, Afghanistan. | Photo by U.S. Army Capt. John Landry 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs

One recent example which advanced the Army acquisition community’s strategy to look for and address vulnerabilities early in the developmental process involved an assessment of Forward Operating Base, or FOB, protection technologies used in Afghanistan.

The “Deployable Force Protection” program focused on protection systems including sensors, towers and weapons systems designed to identify and destroy approaching threats to the FOB. These systems were being urgently deployed to Afghanistan in a rapid effort to better protect soldiers. The Army performed useful assessments of these technologies, integrating them into realistic, relevant scenarios in order to discern where there may be vulnerabilities, Miller explained.

Teams of Warfighters, weapons experts, engineers and acquisition professionals tried to think about how enemy fighters might try to attack FOBs protected with Deployable Force Protection technologies. They looked for gaps in the sensors’ field of view, angles of possible attack and searched for performance limitations when integrated into a system of FOB protection technologies. They examined small arms attacks, mortar and rocket attacks and ways groups of enemy fighters might seek to approach a FOB. The result of the process led to some worthwhile design changes and enhancements to force protection equipment, Miller explained.

“We have focused on small bases in Afghanistan and did Red Teaming here (in the U.S.) to make sure the system was robust. We’ve taken that whole mindset and now merged it into a new program concept,” Miller said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress takes action to deter Russian threats

U.S. Republican and Democratic senators have introduced legislation threatening tough sanctions to discourage Russia from meddling in U.S. elections, Reuters reports.

The Deter Act is intended to sanction Russia’s banking, energy, and defense industries, and sovereign debt for election interference.

The legislation was introduced on April 3, 2019, by Senators Chris Van Hollen (Democrat-Maryland) and Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida).


The two legislators offered a similar bipartisan measure in 2018, which was never brought up for a vote by the Senate’s Republican leaders, who have close ties to President Donald Trump.

Such an approach is thought to have better prospects this year, because control of the House of Representatives is in the hands of Democrats.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Reuters reports that the measure would require the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to determine, within 30 days of any federal election, if Russia or other foreign actors had engaged in election interference.

If such interference is detected, the act would require that mandatory sanctions be imposed within 10 days on Russian banks and energy companies among others.

The act would provide for sanctions to be imposed on two or more of the following Russian banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank, and Rosselkhozbank.

It also would ban all transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Russian sovereign debt, Russian government bonds, and the debt of any entity owned or controlled by Russia’s government.

Moscow has denied trying to influence U.S. elections. But U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have established that Moscow sought to interfere with the 2016 poll to boost Trump’s chances of winning the White House.

The Deter Act is aimed at Russia but notes that China, Iran, and North Korea are other major foreign government cyberthreats.

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

Articles

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus

Disney’s “The Finest Hours” tells the story of a Coast Guard motorboat crew dispatched into an Atlantic storm after two 500-foot tankers break apart in 1952.


The crew is led by Boatswain’s Mate Bernard Webber, played by Chris Pine. Webber is second string, the junior ranking boatswain assigned to Chatham lifeboat station in Massachusetts.

The senior boatswain leads the rescue effort to the first tanker reported broken in the storm, the Fort Mercer. So when a Coast Guard plane spots the broken Pendleton, it falls to Webber and a few volunteers to attempt to rescue the 33 survivors in a small motorboat.

The movie does a good job of showing the perils of a rescue at sea in a severe winter storm. The waves crash onto a deadly sandbar with ominous booms, the boat is flipped in the waves, and the compass is ripped from the boat by a severe wave crash.

Crossing the sandbar was one of the most dangerous parts of the mission. Attempts to cross it could have easily destroyed the boat and left the crew drowning in the icy waters.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack
Photo: Youtube/Disney Movie Trailers

These details and others come from the factual book the movie is based on, and they’re brought to life by Craig Gillespie, the film’s director who spent his young life near the ocean.

“I grew up on the water in Australia, and I have a lot of respect for the ocean,” Gillespie told We Are The Mighty. “I sailed, I grew up surfing.

“When there’s a huge swell, you can hear it a mile and a half from the ocean, and it’s scary,” he said.

While the movie depicts the events on the boat and the Pendleton largely right, it takes more liberties with the story of Webber’s girlfriend, Miriam. During the real rescue, Miriam and Bernard were already married and Miriam was too ill to comprehend when told of Bernard’s mission.

But the movie Miriam is healthy and attempts to aid Bernard from the shore. She first argues with his commanding officer. When that doesn’t help, she seeks ways of ensuring that Bernard, if he’s successful in the rescue, will be able to make it home without a compass or any visible stars to follow.

Actress Holliday Grainger shaped her portrayal of Miriam after speaking to the Webber family and spending time at Chatham lifeboat station that the Coast Guard still operates.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack
Photo: Youtube/Disney Movie Trailers

She said that Miriam’s journey in the movie is about learning what it takes to be a Coast Guard wife.

“He will always be in danger,” Grainger told We Are The Mighty when discussing Miriam’s attitude toward Bernard, “and if she wants to be with him, she has to live with that, because he does it for the greater good. He can’t always put their family first. He has to put others lives first.”

“The Finest Hours” deftly weaves Bernard and Miriam’s stories, breaking up the chaos at sea with the tension on the coast.

“The Finest Hours” opens in theaters nationwide on Jan. 29.

MIGHTY SPORTS

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media

The alarm goes off early, like it always does.

Melissa Stockwell has another busy day at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where she’ll swim, run, bike, and go through strength training for hours on end.

Then, like most moms, it’s a rush to fit in as much family time with her husband and 2- and 4-year-old children as the clock allows: pick up the kids, take them to swim lessons, grab dinner, read them a story, and get them tucked into bed.

In between, she might send an inspirational photo or tweet to her 7,000-plus social media followers.

It’s not just the mom-athlete thing that makes Stockwell special.

She does it all with one leg.


Stockwell was an Army officer in Iraq when she lost her left leg in a roadside bomb. She competed in swimming in the 2008 Paralympic Games, won the bronze medal in triathlon for the 2016 Games, and is currently training with hopes of making the U.S. team for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

And people think she’s pretty rad.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

Melissa Stockwell shows her Purple Heart certificate while still recovering in the hospital. She said there were others in the hospital worse off than her, so she didn’t feel sorry for herself.

“To the mailman who yelled out ‘you’re an American badass’ as I was on #6/10 of my hill repeats, thank you. You sure lit that fire for the last 4,” she tweeted out Aug. 16, 2019.

“There weren’t a lot of ‘poor me’ kind of days. I did my rehab at Walter Reed, and was surrounded by a lot of soldiers who lost a lot more than I did. It almost wasn’t fair to feel sorry for myself. I chose to accept my leg early on.” — Melissa Stockwell, discussing her recovery after losing her leg in Iraq

Stockwell is just as likely to post a video of herself training in the gym, a poolside photo with her prosthetic leg, or a poignant goodbye letter to her service dog, Jake, she lost last year. Plus, there are plenty of posts about her children and mom life.

“I just saw a mom grocery shopping with 2 sets of twins, and another boy who all looked to be under 6 years old. If I ever get overwhelmed with momming for two, I’ll remember her. Her and my sister with 5 kids. Ah, perspective… ” she tweeted recently.

Or this inspirational burst first thing in the day: “This morning I took a moment to look around and just appreciate being alive. Take some time to do that today, it’s a day changer.”

And on many Fridays, you can find her posing with Old Glory for a #FlagFriday post.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

Army Veteran Melissa Stockwell typically posts photos of herself and her love of the American flag on her Twitter feed. “This is me,” she said. “This is the beauty of America.”

“I’m proud of our country, that’s all,” she said. “This is me. This is the beauty of America. We all get to think and choose what we want, whether or not we agree on what everyone says or how they express it. I’m going to choose to express myself this way, but that’s the beauty of our country.”

Whatever she posts, she said, it’s not for ego.

“I do the things in my life because I enjoy them,” Stockwell said. “I like to be busy. I like having dreams. I don’t do anything to impress anybody. I guess I do it so I can inspire someone else — if not for those who came before me, but those who came after who can think, ‘I can do this, also.’

“Look, I have hard days, too,” she added. “Not everyone is perfect. I post pictures of my kids and dreams because that makes it more real. If someone is having a hard day and sees my posts, maybe they’re a mom, maybe they’re having trouble with their kids, I want to inspire them that there’s always tomorrow.”

That’s pretty much been her attitude since April 13, 2004, when she lost her leg.

“There weren’t a lot of ‘poor me’ kind of days,” she said. “I did my rehab at Walter Reed, and was surrounded by a lot of soldiers who lost a lot more than I did. It almost wasn’t fair to feel sorry for myself. I chose to accept my leg early on.”

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

Melissa Stockwell fits a lot into her day between family life and training. She posts regularly about her life for more than 7,000 followers on Twitter.

Getting into adaptive sports

Despite countless surgeries and infections, she took her first steps on her prosthetic leg 52 days after getting injured. Stockwell started adaptive sports and hasn’t looked back. She focused on the Paralympics after meeting fellow athlete and veteran John Register in 2005. She made the 2008 team, but didn’t medal.

“I learned that in life, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination,” she wrote on her web site. “And as I carried that American flag into that sold out Bird’s Nest Stadium at the closing ceremony, I had never been so proud. A proud American. And a proud Paralympian.”

Her friend, Keri Serota, said the Melissa Stockwell people see online, is the same in person.

“You know, I think what she does is amazing,” Serota said. “It’s hard not to be motivated, moved and inspired by Melissa. I always considered myself a proud American, but I learned more about what that means from Melissa. She makes you pause and realize what it means to be an American and why we have that freedom.

“But she’s also my best friend and I get to spend a lot of time with her and she has no ego. It’s this relatability. She has been in the room with all the living presidents, but she doesn’t take that for granted or have an ego about it. It’s very much Melissa. She can be with President Bush one day and buying ice cream for her kids the next day. She shares all of it — the highlights, lowlights, successes and losses. People, whether they know her or not, have that relationship with her because she is so impressive and exciting, but humble and grateful.”

She first met Bush after he invited her and other wounded Veterans to his ranch, and got to dance with him, a moment caught in an iconic photo shared around the world. She also gave the Pledge of Allegiance at his library opening.

“He’s amazing,” she said of the former president. “He is accountable for the actions taken while he was in office, and he has always gone above and beyond to show he has not forgotten the lives he impacted. I think that’s wonderful. That’s a pretty great man.”

Besides training, she also started the nonprofit Dare2Tri along with Serota and another friend, and signed endorsement deals with Toyota and Under Armour.

Back on the home front, beyond the training center and social media spotlight, Stockwell focuses on raising her son, Dallas, born in 2014; and daughter, Millie, born in 2017.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

Melissa Stockwell posted a tweet of thanks to Barbie after her daughter got a doll with a prosthetic leg for her birthday.

“Sometimes I forget she is an amputee,” said her husband, Brian Tolsma. “She doesn’t let it define her, and she is so driven and motivated. She does a lot of things people with two legs can’t do.

“But it always goes back to the kids for me,” he said. “I know the regiment she does during the day, beating up her body daily to get faster, to reach that goal. Then she comes home and it’s just an abundance of energy and patience with the kids. She’s always going, and always has time for the kids, always coming up with new activities. That’s the most impressive thing about her.”

Millie recently celebrated her 2nd birthday. She received a Barbie Doll with a prosthetic leg from Serota, which also made its way to Stockwell’s Twitter page.

“It just shows kids we are just like anybody else,” she said. “Why can’t we have parties and dolls? Kids can play with them and see we are normal, no different,” Stockwell said.

And that’s why she doesn’t mind posting photos online or showing off her red, white and blue, American-themed prosthetic in public.

“If I can educate, I will,” she added. “I am proud to have worn the uniform. I’m proud of how I lost my leg. Plus, it’s really cool to look at. Technology has come so far, even in the past 10, 15 years. Veterans are coming back home and they’re young, they’re active.

“They’re going to continue to help advance the field of prosthetics because they aren’t going to take no for an answer.”

You can follow Melissa’s journey on her web site, Twitter and Facebook.

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

Articles

9 seriously strange designs showcased at drone conference

It’s no secret the military is committed to drones, and manufacturers from around the world are coming up with crazy designs to capture defense dollars. To wit, at this year’s Atlanta Unmanned Systems conference, drones that resembled everything from miniature death stars to flying saucers were showcased. Check out this video to see some of them in action:


And see the designs and full story at Defense One.

NOW: The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

OR: Take the quiz: How well do you know the predator?

Articles

What’s going on with Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets this year?

Search and rescue efforts are underway for the pilot of a United States Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornet who was forced to eject from his aircraft 120 miles southeast of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.


According to a Marine Corps news release, the Hornet was assigned to the 1st Marine Air Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force and was on what the Marines described as a regular training mission when it went down.

An investigation into why the pilot was forced to eject is underway.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack
Cpl. Chris Lawler, a crewmaster with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152, observes an F/A-18C Hornet with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 approach the refueling hose during Exercise Pitch Black 2016 at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia, Aug. 9, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Nicole Zurbrugg)

This latest mishap marks the fourth crashed or badly damaged Marine Corps Hornet so far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

In October, an F/A-18C crashed on approach at Twentynine Palms, California, and in November, two Hornets collided in mid-air, losing one plane and badly damaging another.

So far the Marine Corps has suffered five major flight mishaps this year, while the service suffered eight in all of fiscal 2016.

The Marine Corps has had serious problems with its Hornet fleet specifically, including the need to pull nearly two dozen from the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base this past summer. It was unclear whether this one was of the “boneyard” birds, a Navy hand-me-down or a plane in the Corps’ regular inventory.

Marine Hornets had a rough summer, with a number of crashes prompting a 24-hour stand-down.

However, the August timeout seems to have had little effect, as FoxNews.com reported that there have been four incidents since October, including a mid-air collision between two Hornets in November.

The baseline F/A-18 Hornet has been out of production since Fiscal Year 1997, and the line now only produces the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare plane.

The Marines plan to replace both their F/A-18 Hornets and AV-8B+ Harriers with the F-35B Lightning II. The F-35B has seen some delays, but was introduced in July, 2015. Marine Corps Lightnings are expected to operate off HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2021 due to a shortage of airframes in the Fleet Air Arm.

Articles

Foreign misinformation in American media will make you question everything

Just four days into September, a story out of Iraq caught the attention of Western media. Burqas, the traditional, full-body covering on Muslim women living under some Islamic traditions, were reportedly banned by Islamic State commanders.


According to the story, women in burqas opened up on Islamic State fighters with pistols hidden under their thick garments.

The only problem was, it never happened.

We took the bait, as did many other media sites — The Daily Caller, the UK’s Daily Mail, U.S. News and World Report, and Foreign Policy were among the many news outlets that posted stories on the bad information.

Katie Zavadski at the Daily Beast tracked exactly how the story came to the West. Women in ISIS-controlled territory are routinely forced to wear the niqab, a gown-like garment that covers the head and includes a veil for covering the face. They are also forced to wear gloves and other accessories – but never a burqa.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack
Afghan women wait outside a USAID-supported health care clinic.

There is also the question of an Iranian news source in the reporting.

“I’m thinking, why would anyone in Mosul contact an Iranian [news] agency,” Rasha al-Aqeedi, a Mosul native and research fellow at the al-Mesbar Studies and Research Center in Dubai, told The Daily Beast.

These planned campaigns of “covert influence” are more common than one might think.

It is widely believed Russia is trying to tamper with the November elections in the United States by manipulating American media. Recent hacks to the Democratic National Committee and to Hillary Clinton’s email server are said to be providing “propaganda fodder” to disrupt U.S. democracy-building policies worldwide.

During the Cold War, the United States had its own foreign influence machine. The CIA program dubbed “Mockingbird” placed reports from the agency to unwitting reporters in over 25 major newspapers and wire agencies, including the New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, and Time magazine.

Mockingbird was very influential in the overthrow of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in 1954.

The Guatemalan military never fully trusted Guzmán. So when a shipment of arms bound from Soviet-dominated Poland arrived in the country, it was outed by The New York Times, who quoted “Guatemalan Army officers” saying “some of the arms … were duds, worn out, or entirely wrong for use there.” It was the first anyone in the Guatemalan military knew of the secret shipment and created even more mistrust in the government.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

In addition, the now-defunct U.S. Information Agency wrote hundreds of articles based on CIA reports, distributing them throughout Latin America.

Even though agencies in the U.S. are prevented by law from influencing American media, this doesn’t mean wire stories don’t end up there. And some misinformation campaigns can become real in the minds of people, regardless of how true the stories are.

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, the KGB planted a story in an Indian newspaper, The Patriot, that AIDS was a product of a U.S. biological warfare program. That story has since shifted to include other diseases and has even traveled to the United States itself. Similar stories evolved about Sickle Cell Anemia and even crack-cocaine.

Propaganda stories like these work for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they represent a fear that is logical. They also play to the core values of the target country; people want to believe these stories.

The West wanted to believe that women under ISIS domination would use the tools of their oppression to strike back at their oppressors. Some would like to believe they would do the same in similar situations.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack
Another false story is that ISIS fighters believe they go to hell if they’re killed by a woman. (YPG photo)

Iran’s goal with stories like these is to limit the scope of our discussion in Iraq and Syria, to remind us that ISIS is evil and any action in support of ending their reign of terror should generally be seen as a good thing, some experts claim.

It is also to remind the West that secular and Shia-dominated countries like Iran, Iraq, and Syria are not as oppressive of women as Sunni areas of the Middle East. Where ISIS and Saudi Arabia (Iran’s chief foes in a greater ideological war) force women to wear full-body coverings, face veils, and even gloves, Syrian and Iraqi women are not forced to do these things. In Iran, a simple head scarf and loose coverings are sufficient.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack
Women in Iran.

The important thing to remember – for all of us to remember – is the old adage that sometimes what seems “too good to be true” probably isn’t.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How West Point football games recruit soldiers

Each week during the season, Army West Point Football players wear a decal on the back of their helmet honoring an Army division the current cadets may one day serve with.

During Aug. 30, 2019’s season opener against Rice, the team honored the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division with the red, white, and blue AA decal proudly displayed on the back of their helmets along with the American flag.

The commanding general and command sergeant major of the 82nd Airborne Division attended the game, the division’s chorus performed before the review parade and has become the norm over the last couple years soldiers from the division who are eligible to attend the U.S. Military Academy were invited to visit for the game.


This season marks the third year of the Soldier Visit Program where five to 10 West Point eligible soldiers from the honored division for home games are invited to attend the game and learn more about West Point.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division pose for a photo with their host cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after the Army vs. Rice football game at Michie Stadium Aug. 30, 2019, at West Point, N.Y.

(Photo by Cadet Samuel Wehrli)

The visits are structured much in the same way as an official visit for an athlete being recruited by one of West Point’s corps squad teams. The soldiers arrive the Thursday before the game and are paired with a prior-service cadet currently attending West Point who hosts them for the weekend. The soldiers stay in the barracks with their host cadet, attend classes and eat in the cadet mess hall.

They are also given a tour of both West Point and the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School and the chance to meet with leadership from both West Point and USMAPS.

They then attend the football game with the corps of cadets and are honored along with division leadership on the field during a break in the game.

The goal of the program is to introduce eligible soldiers, meaning those who are under 23 years old, unmarried and have no dependents, to the possibility of applying to attend West Point.

“I go out to the Army a lot and I’ll talk to command sergeant majors or sergeant first classes who are senior noncommissioned officers and they’ll be like, ‘I had no idea that West Point was an option as a soldier.’ It blows my mind,” Capt. David Mason, the soldiers regional commander and founder of the Soldier Visit Program, said.

As part of each year’s incoming class, West Point has available slots for 85 current active duty soldiers and 85 Reserve/National Guard soldiers. Typically, the full allotment of Reserve/National Guard soldiers are admitted, but less than 50 of the spots for active duty soldiers are filled, Mason said. There are also additional spots available for soldiers to attend the prep school for a year.

According to Capt. Brian Gaudette, an officer in the West Point Directorate of Admissions, on average 53% of prior service applicants are admitted to the academy, a much higher percentage than applicants coming directly from high school.

“They see it as more attainable,” Mason said of the soldiers’ reactions after visiting for a football game. “They learn more about USMAPS because people have this pie in the sky view of what a West Point cadet is, and that it is the all-star captain of the football team, and they’re on all-state and they do all these things. They don’t see themselves as that mold. I think it definitely opens their eyes.”

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division talk to Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, West Point senior enlisted leader during their visit before the Army vs. Rice football game Aug. 30, 2019, at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

(Photo by Robert Luna)

Once the soldiers return to their division, even if they don’t end up applying to West Point, the academy still gains a benefit from them telling their friends about the program and spreading the word that West Point is an option for soldiers on active duty.

Pfc. Abdiel Leon was one of 10 soldiers from the 82nd airborne Division to visit for the Rice game. Prior to being invited on the trip, he said he had heard of the prior-service program at West Point but knew next to nothing about it. In the month since being invited, and even before arriving at West Point for the visit, he’d done enough research to compel him to go ahead and apply to the academy.

“So far, after seeing all the things that I saw and all the good opportunities and the things I could do here, I’m definitely going to go through and finish that application,” Leon said. “I never even thought about West Point. I never even thought that I would be given the opportunity. So, now that I was given the opportunity just to even come here, it has definitely changed my mind a lot.”

During the trip, the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers had the chance to spend time with prior-service cadets, meet with Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, the senior enlisted Leader at West Point, and attend a spirit dinner in the cadet mess hall along with going to the season opener for the Black Knights.

“I plan on staying in the Army for 20 years, and there’s no better place to try to stay in than USMA,” Sgt. Levi Aslani said of why he is interested in West Point. “The connections you make here, the opportunities you make, or are given to you, no other place compares.”

Aslani applied to West Point for the Class of 2023 and after not getting in on his first try he is taking this year to improve his application with the hope of being accepted to the prep school for the next academic year. After visiting West Point for the first time, he said his desire to attend West Point has only increased.

“I paired up with a prior service E-5 as well,” Aslani said. “He was in the boat of either staying enlisted or being an officer and he chose the officer route and he’s really reaping the benefits from it.”

The visits are a chance for the soldiers to meet with current cadets who have taken the same path as them and ask questions they couldn’t get answered elsewhere. After being invited to take part in the visit, Pfc. Mackenzie Hochstetler said she talked with officers who are West Point graduates to learn more about the academy. But it was not until she arrived at the academy that she has come to realize why it is special.

“It’s definitely a place that you see a lot of competitiveness,” Hochstetler said. “A lot of times, you don’t really see that in the regular Army, but everyone wants to be the best. I think that’s a really cool atmosphere. I think that’s really important, especially being at West Point and that reputation of being a West Point grad, I kind of understand it now. Because it’s a pretty big deal. It’s pretty prestigious.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy chief goes home on medical support mission

For some, reunion is a simple and hollow engagement ­— existing in great frequency, and holding little weight on an individual’s life. For others, it is a sought-after moment, a serendipitous experience that is immediately followed by the feel of a warm embrace and serenaded by sobs of joy. The latter has the undeniable potential of being a rock-solid memory, one that would never be forgotten. This feeling is amplified considerably when someone reunites with the one place that gives them all the comfort and joy in the world; home.


In this case, Chief Personnel Specialist Angie Burns, from Cali, Colombia, reunited with the country of her birth when the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived in Turbo, Colombia, Nov. 14, 2018. Burns was born in Cali, Colombia, several hours south of Turbo, and feels that this mission is important to her and all of her countrymen.

“It’s a great experience for me to see all of this,” said Burns. “I always hear about missions like this, but I haven’t done one yet. Especially coming down to Colombia where I know there are so many people in need.”

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

Chief Personnel Specialist Angie Burns shows Juan Sebastian, a Colombian boy and former patient, a map during his tour of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, in celebration of his 10th birthday.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob Waldrop)

In 1994, Burns moved to the U.S. to follow her mother when she was 13 years old. She lived in New Jersey in her mother’s home and in the community. She barely spoke English before joining the Navy in 1999.

“I was not really exposed to it that much,” said Burns. “All of my friends spoke Spanish. All of my friends were Colombians. You always find the comfort zone and the comfort zone for me was to still be around Colombians and people who spoke Spanish. So, there wasn’t really a need for me to speak English prior to the Navy, because everyone spoke Spanish.”

Fast-forward 19 years and Burns is underway with Comfort supporting Enduring Promise 2018 as the deputy dispersing officer. Along with her daily duties of managing money for the ship and the crew, Burns found a niche that has been highly sought after on the mission; translating for Comfort’s leadership.

Any part she can do to help the Comfort team work to complete the mission at hand, she is happy to support.

“The mission is mainly a medical mission and I am not in that field,” said Burns. “I can’t take someone’s blood pressure. But, it’s an honor to be out here and helping whoever needs it with the little bit I can give to the mission.”

Burns has enjoyed her time being back in Colombia and believes that this mission has been making a great impact on people’s lives in this part of the world.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

Chief Personnel Specialist Angie Burns gives Juan Sebastian, a Colombian boy and former patient, Task Force 49 patch during his tour of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, in celebration of his 10th birthday.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob Waldrop)

“I spoke to some of the patients and they are so grateful,” said Burns. “They don’t get tired of telling you how grateful they are. One day, a little boy was onboard and I was translating for him. Everywhere he and his mother went, they kept saying they were so grateful and thanking everyone for everything we were doing for her son. I think that we are making a great difference.”

In a couple of days, Burns will say, “goodbye” to Colombia and will continue to support the Enduring Promise mission in Honduras during Comfort’s next scheduled mission stop.

Comfort is on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative. Working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Honduras, the embarked medical team will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by an increase in cross-border migrants. The deployment reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with the Americas.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

300 Marines heading back to Helmand

The US Marine Corps has returned to Helmand, the restive province in southern Afghanistan where it fought years of bloody battles with the Taliban, to help train Afghan forces struggling to contain the insurgency.


Many of the 300 Marines coming to Helmand as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support training mission are veterans of previous tours in the province, where almost 1,000 coalition troops, mostly US and British, were killed fighting the Taliban.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dustin D. March)

When they left in 2014, handing over the sprawling desert base they knew as Camp Leatherneck to the Afghan army, the Marines never expected to return. The fact that they are back underlines the problems Afghan forces have faced since being left to fight alone.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Kentucky militia was most feared by America’s enemies

“These Kentucky men are wretches,” wrote British Redcoat NCO Sgt. James Commins, ” suborned by the government and capable of the greatest villainies.” The War of 1812 was in full swing by the end of that year, and fighting the war on the British side were contingents of Native American tribes while the Americans called up state militias.

The one thing the British didn’t want was to face the militias from Kentucky. Those guys were maniacs.


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(Laughs in Kentuckian)

(Wikimedia Commons)

Kentucky, being on the American frontier at the time, had no fortifications and didn’t have to defend any structures, so its militiamen spent much of their time fighting the enemy wherever they were to be found. Being on the frontier, they spent a lot of time fighting the British Army’s Indian allies. The Indians were really good at taking the scalps of their enemies, a story which the U.S. government used as propaganda. The British tried to get the Indian tribes to cool it with the scalping, but it was too late. The story spread, and the Americans soon had their own savage band: Kentuckians.

The men from Kentucky were reported to have fought almost naked when weather permitted, painting themselves with red all over their body, sometimes carrying only a blanket and a knife with which to take their own enemy scalps. When the British sent Indian Tribes into the Michigan territory, Gen. William Hull, commander of the Michigan forces and governor of the territory, threatened to send Kentucky troops into Canada as a response.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

Redcoats must have been sad to find Kentuckians in New Orleans.

(Kentucky National Guard)

And they did invade Ontario.The redcoats weren’t thrilled to be fighting the Kentuckians either. They took enemy scalps not just a war tactic, but as a token of pride in their masculinity. The Kentucky penchant for taking scalps was so well-known, the Indians began to call their militiamen “Big Knives” because of the size of their scalping knives. As a matter of fact, the Indians agreed to stop scalping until the Kentucky militia began their own scalping campaign, and the practice was revived for another half-century or more.

When Redcoats found their pickets and sentries dead and scalped in the mornings, they knew there were Kentucky men in the area, and it made them uneasy. But Kentucky men were not invincible. The Kentuckians took more casualties than all the other state militias combined, fighting in every neighboring state and territory as well as helping the defense of New Orleans while supplying the U.S. with saltpeter.

That’s punching above your weight class.

MIGHTY TRENDING

CIA director doesn’t trust Taliban during peace talks

In a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Jan. 29, 2019, CIA Director Gina Haspel was asked point blank if she trusts the Taliban to uphold promises they made to work with the Afghan government and never allow the country to again be a safe haven for terrorists.

“If there were an eventual peace agreement, a very robust monitoring regime would be critical,” she responded. “We would still need the capability to act in our national interest if we needed to.”


The peace talks, which began Jan. 21, 2019, are focused on settling the terms for a complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has said that significant progress has been made during the negotiations, according to the Associated Press.

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Zalmay Khalilzad.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

On Jan. 30, 2019, the Taliban said in a recorded statement to AP that it had no intentions of creating a monopoly on Afghan institutions.

“After the end of the occupation, Afghans should forget their past and tolerate one another and start life like brothers,” Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman said in the statement.

Other major concessions to the US include promises that the group would not allow terrorist groups to plan attacks from Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But Haspel’s comments Jan. 29, 2019, reflect a troubling concern that a complete withdrawal of the 22,000 troops in the US-led coalition will allow the Taliban to regain control — a concern shared by former US ambassador Ryan Crocker.

“You will simply see the Taliban move in and retake the country,” Crocker told Foreign Policy. Even as the peace talks began, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a devastating attack against Afghan forces, giving credence to the concerns over the group’s sincerity.

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

MIGHTY FIT

March virtually with fellow vets and soldiers in Iraq this Saturday

Looking for a way to get in a great workout? Want to get in a great PT session with your fellow vets and service members? Need to get out of the house while still practicing social distancing?

Dawn your patriotic swag, grab your pack and head to your favorite hiking spot.


This Saturday, March 28, 2020, 23rd Veteran is hosting a Virtual Ruck March that you can participate in from anywhere in the world.

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The event was originally supposed to be held in Los Angeles and Minnesota as a fundraiser for 23rd Veteran. However, as we all know, the coronavirus outbreak forced mass gatherings to be canceled or postponed. Yes, even marching one arm’s distance from each other would not be a good thing.

So Mike Waldron, Marine veteran and founder and executive director of 23rd Veteran came up with a great way to still have the event and get people moving, while still keeping smart about social distancing.

“We have lost a lot as a country these past few weeks,” Waldon told We Are The Mighty. “We had to cancel all our fundraising events to help our troops, but we don’t want to give up on them. Join this free virtual event to walk side-by-side with those defending our freedom on the front line.”

The original event had participants in Iraq that included both US and Allied service members so this is also a way to march with them in solidarity. The forward deployed troops will still be participating and will be able to be seen via the event’s Facebook page.

This also brings attention to an amazing nonprofit that helps veterans overcome a lot of the mental and emotional obstacles that we face when we transition out of military service.

23rd Veteran is a program that encourages veterans to overcome their challenges by engaging in rigorous exercise, group outings and therapy in a structured, 14-week program. This program originated from Mike’s own experience as a Marine grunt. He served in the 1st Marine Division with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines from 2000 to 2004. He was in the initial push into Iraq and upon EASing out of the Marines went to college and majored in business. He found a career managing federal buildings when he went through what a lot of us go through years after getting out. He started having panic attacks, anxiety and nightmares which were impeding his life. He initially refused to attribute it to his service in Iraq because, well, it was five years after the fact. Wouldn’t he have had issues before that?

When he got help, he learned, as many of us do, that PTS might not surface until years later. As he got help, he decided to look deeper as to why that delay occurs.

Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

What he found was that your brain changes when experiencing a traumatic event. It makes itself remember the event and files it away. Your brain recognizes that there was a threat and you survived the threat. But the problem that many service members face is that you go from a high threat atmosphere to one that isn’t. However, your brain remembers; it’s called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is a protein that affects long term memory.

When your brain sees a threat (even if it isn’t there), it remembers the traumatic event so you can remember it as a survival skill.

Why Post-Traumatic Stress is Supposed to Happen

www.youtube.com

Using this knowledge, Waldron created a 14-week program to help veterans who are dealing with mental health issues.

The program starts with a one week excursion out of their town (the program is currently in four cities and growing) and puts them in nature, with just themselves as company. The point is to team build and put them in activities that will engage their bodies and brains.

After that one-week indoc, they go back home and three times a week, work out together in high intensity training. This gets the blood flowing and body moving but also engages the BDNF in your brain. Immediately afterward, the group will go and have some type of outing that will put them in a public spot and force them to face their triggers.

Starting out small and with just the group, the outing eventually moves to more public spots with civilians joining. This process of having vets engage after a high intensity workout allows them to retrain their brain to be accepting of situations instead of triggering a fight or flight reaction that comes with PTS. Vets are then given assignments for each week which help them overcome their triggers and face their PTS head on.

There are only four rules:

  • No drinking
  • No bitching
  • No news (local news but not to take in negative)
  • No war stories

Using advice from personal trainers, positive psychologists and military personnel, Waldron created the 23V Recon playbook which is the backbone for the program. The result has been a resounding success and has led Waldron and his team to seek to expand their program to other cities. Based out of Minnesota, 23V is looking to expand into Los Angeles, which one of the canceled ruck marches was supposed to raise money for.

This is where you come in.

If you want to get out of the house, raise awareness for a great cause and help 23V grow, sign up and march on Saturday. Get outside, put on your pack and take to a trail and show your support. Let others know too, but make sure if you do it together you stay a safe distance apart. Get to stepping!

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