Army reconsidering XM25 'Airburst' weapon in spite of combat successes - We Are The Mighty
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Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

Dodging enemy gunfire in close-quarter urban combat, seeking to destroy enemy fighters hiding behind walls, rocks and trees and firing ammunition especially engineered to explode at a particular, pre-planned point in space – comprise the highly sought-after advantages of the Army’s XM25 “airburst” weapon.


However, despite the initial promise of prototypes of the technology in combat in Afghanistan as an emerging way to bring a decisive advantage to soldiers in a firefight, the future of the XM25 is now uncertain due to ongoing Army needs, requirements, weapons inventory assessments, and budget considerations, service officials told Scout Warrior.

The Army’s XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement airburst weapon system, in development for several years, was used to destroy Taliban fighters hiding behind grape-growing walls in Afghanistan during a Forward Operational Assessment of the weapon several years ago. Extensive analysis and adjustments to the weapon followed this operational combat evaluation, Army officials explained.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
An XM25 airburst grenade launcher in July 2009. | US Army photo

Part of the calculus regarding a production decision about the weapon relates to the possibility of the weapon “misfiring,” several news reports said. Army officials did not comment on this, however a 2015 news report in the Economist said a US soldier was slightly injured during training with the XM 25 when it misfired. It does now, nonetheless, appear as though this problem was pervasive or persistent with the weapon – but it could be a factor amidst ongoing plans for the weapon’s future.

Army and Pentagon weapons developers and budget planners are now deliberating plans for the weapon, which could be formally produced and deployed within the next several years – or passed over due to fiscal constraints.

While the XM25 would clearly be useful in a major force-on-force engagement or great power conflict, airburst attacks have particular value in a counterinsurgency type-fight wherein enemies seek to use terrain, building, rocks, ditches or trees to protect themselves from being targeted.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
US Army photo

By attacking with an “airburst” round, soldiers do not have to have a linear view or direct line of sight to an enemy target; if they know an enemy is behind a rock or tree (in defilade) – the weapon can explode above or near the location to ensure the target is destroyed.

The weapon uses laser-rangefinder technology to fire a high-explosive airburst round capable of detonating at a specific point near an enemy target hidden or otherwise obscured by terrain or other obstacles, Army developers have explained.

Program managers had been seeking to expedite development of the system, refine and improve the technology, and ultimately begin formal production by the fall of 2014, however its current trajectory is now unclear.

“The XM25 brings a new capability to the soldier for the counter-defilade fight, allowing him to be able to engage enemy combatants behind walls, behind trees or in buildings,” former XM25 program manager Col. Scott Armstrong previously explained in an Army statement.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is Israel’s ‘impenetrable’ underwater border around Gaza

Israel has begun construction on a massive underwater barrier with the Gaza Strip which it is calling “impenetrable.”

Israel and the Gaza Strip are both located along the Mediterranean Sea, and are separated by several land borders. But no barrier has ever been erected at sea.


Israel’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that building of the “impenetrable” barrier has begun at Gaza’s northern border, along the beach of a small agricultural community, or kibbutz, called Zikim. The barrier is designed to withstand harsh sea conditions for many years, according to the ministry.

A defense official said the massive barrier will consist of three security layers, which include a layer below sea level, a layer of armored stone, and a top layer of barbed wire. An additional fence will surround the entire area.

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the “one-of-a-kind” security project will “effectively block any possibility of infiltrating Israel by sea.”

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
Location of the Gaza Strip.

Leiberman added that the barrier serves to limit militant group Hamas’ strategic capabilities as tensions continue to flare along the border. At least 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 injured during violent clashes with Israeli soldiers early May 2018. On May 29, 2018, more than 27 rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza into Israel.

The decision to build the barrier was prompted by a thwarted attack by Hamas militants at sea in July 2014, during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Four Hamas naval operatives, referred to as frogmen, swam ashore at Zikim beach and attempted to cross into Israeli territory. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the men were armed with automatic weapons and explosives, and sought to carry out a terror attack. The four men were later killed in combined sea, air, and land attacks by the IDF.

The IDF posted aerial footage of the thwarted attack:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Team Rubicon’s co-founder receives the Pat Tillman Award for Service

Jake Wood has seen and done a lot in his life, so you know when he calls receiving the Pat Tillman Award for Service “humbling,” it’s a meaningful statement. The co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon was a United States Marine and scout sniper in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s testified in Congress on veterans’ mental health and briefed the last three Presidents of the United States about the issues returning veterans face.

Now, he’s been recognized by the ESPY awards, the annual presentation from ESPN and ABC honoring athletes for their performance in sports and sports-related activities. While deploying American military veterans to help disaster areas other rescue organizations won’t touch isn’t necessarily a sport, one can argue it’s definitely athletic.

But you don’t have to argue for Jake Wood.


Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

Tillman as a Ranger and as a Cardinal.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service is presented at the ESPYs to honor an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the Tillman legacy. Previous honorees include 2016’s Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, who overcame hip injuries sustained in Iraq but still became the world’s number one paraswimmer. In 2015, it was awarded to Danielle Green, who joined the military after playing basketball at Notre Dame and lost her arm in Iraq. Green returned to help other veterans struggling to adjust to life after the military.

For Jake Wood, this award hits close to home. Wood was playing on the offensive line at the University of Wisconsin when Pat Tillman was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2004. It was after Tillman died that Wood told his coach he was off to join the Marine Corps, where he spent four years.

He was out for just three months before he saw the devastation in Haiti. It was in Port-Au-Prince that a handful of volunteers formed the first heartbeat of what would be come Team Rubicon. Now, the organization is 80,000 members strong.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

Wood in Haiti on Team Rubicon’s first mission.

And Jake Wood, the former o-lineman for the Badgers, is being recognized for forming a group that helps those most in need while giving struggling military veterans a new mission in life.

Pat Tillman would be proud.

Articles

After a century of shame and silence, a soldier’s family gets the medals he earned

When Charles Monroe Baucom returned home in 1919 after his third and final tour of duty with the Army, he struggled to cope.


He had apparently been exposed to a mustard gas attack during World War I, and when he began losing his hearing and vision, he worried he’d also lose his job with the railroad.

Baucom died by suicide five years after he returned to his home in downtown Cary, N.C., leaving behind five children and a cloud of silence around his military record.

Nearly a century after his death, Baucom’s granddaughter, Joy Williams, has worked to restore his legacy to the place of pride she believes it should have always held.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
Solders during WWI donning gas masks. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

Williams, who lives in Dunn, contacted the Veterans Legacy Foundation, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that tracks down military histories and awards mislaid medals during ceremonies around the country. Williams, 70, showed the organization letters her grandfather had written and asked what it could find out.

On March 26, Baucom, who served as a lieutenant in the Army, was finally awarded the recognition he had earned. During a ceremony in Raleigh, the Veterans Legacy Foundation gave Williams two medals for her grandfather – one for his service in the Spanish-American War and one for service in World War I.

“Most people get so wrapped up in the day that they don’t appreciate the past,” Williams said. “I wish he could have received these when he was living, but I’m proud to have them now in his honor.”

It was tough in the early 20th century for the military to track down veterans, said John Elskamp, who served in the Air Force for 24 years and founded the Veterans Legacy Foundation in 2010. As a result, many soldiers never received their medals.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
US Victory Medal from WWI. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

For Baucom’s family, the foundation bought the Spanish-American War medal from a private collector and received the World War I victory medal directly from the Army.

Thirteen other families were also honored during the event in March. Some received original medals unearthed from a state government building in Raleigh, commissioned in 1919 for North Carolina veterans of World War I.

“People are curious,” Elskamp said. “They want to know, and it’s their family’s legacy. And we think it’s important for everyone to remember that legacy, that this country was built, in my opinion, by veterans and their families. They did a lot of the work.”

No one in Baucom’s family knew if he had ever received medals from his service. He fought in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and then took part in the China Relief Expedition during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. During that effort, the military rescued US citizens and foreign nationals.

He volunteered when he was 38 to serve in World War I.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
District of Columbia War Memorial in West Potomac Park, Washington, D.C. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Williams’ mother, who was Baucom’s daughter, was 9 when her father died. So Williams, a semi-retired insurance agent who moved to Dunn from Cary 25 years ago, never knew much about her grandfather.

“She never spoke of him,” Williams said of her mother.

Her great-aunt told her the pastor at Baucom’s funeral said the lieutenant’s decision to end his own life would keep him out of heaven. Thinking about that still puts a lump in Williams’ throat.

“My mother, that probably affected her greatly,” she said. “Instead of being proud, they were kind of quiet about their father. It’s really a shame. When you die on the battlefield, that’s honorable. But if you die afterwards, it’s not as much.”

Williams saw a newspaper article about the Veterans Legacy Foundation two years ago and decided to reach out to the group. It appealed to her sense of duty to those forgotten and misremembered by history.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
Photo courtesy of the Veterans’ Legacy Foundation Facebook page.

She and her husband, Martin, who are white, are part of a years-long effort in Dunn to preserve and maintain an old cemetery where many of the town’s black residents were buried. Until 1958, it was the only cemetery that would accept them.

Her home in Dunn – her husband’s childhood residence – is full of photos, artifacts and heirlooms from her family, which she said has “been in North Carolina since before it was North Carolina.”

“I don’t like home decor,” Williams said. “I like to be around things that have some kind of meaning.”

Among the items are original letters Baucom wrote while stationed at various military bases and while abroad in Cuba, China, and France. Those, as well as letters he and his wife received, have been painstakingly preserved by Williams.

A letter from Baucom’s attorney gives a sense of the former soldier’s state of mind in the days before he died. The attorney and longtime friend wrote to Baucom’s widow in the days after his death, recounting a meeting less than two weeks earlier.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright The British Library.

“He seemed very interested and very much worried over his physical condition,” the attorney wrote of Baucom, “realizing that if he did lose his hearing and his eyesight, that the position he now held (with the railroad) he could not hope to keep.”

Another, from Baucom to his wife, reveals more of what Williams hopes will be remembered about her grandfather – his love of family and pride in his service.

“Tell the boys we will play catch and I will tell them stories when I get there,” Baucom wrote from Camp Merritt, New Jersey, as he awaited a train home to Cary. “Expect to get home in a week or two. Much love from Pop.”

After so many years, Williams is happy to feel pride where her mother felt shame, to have something in her house she can point to as proof that her flesh and blood had something to do with securing the life she now enjoys.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s lack of sailing skills could cost it the next war

The US Navy has some of the world’s most advanced ships with electronics and automated systems that handle much of the manual tasks involved in the millenias-old craft of sailing — but that same technological strength may be its downfall in a fight against Russia or China.

“The next war will be analog, and the surface Navy is unprepared for it,” Jonathan Panter, a former US Navy Surface Warfare Officer begins an article in the US Naval Institute’s April edition of “Proceedings,” its monthly publication.


“Reliance on digital technologies is particularly acute in the realms of communications, propulsion systems, and navigation and has produced a fleet that may not survive the first missile hit or hack,” Panter writes.

Panter’s comments follow a 2017 incident that saw two US Navy destroyers suffer massive collisions with container ships. These ships are among the world’s best at tracking and defending against incoming missiles flying at hundreds of miles an hour, yet they failed to steer well enough to avoid getting hit by a relatively slow container ship the size of a small neighborhood.

“Navigation and seamanship, these are the fundamental capabilities which every surface warfare officer should have, but I suspect if called to war, we’ll be required to do a lot more than safely navigate the Singapore strait,” US Navy Capt. Kevin Eyer, former skipper of the cruisers Shiloh, Chancellorsville, and Thomas Gates said in December 2017. Eyer was speaking in reference to the USS John McCain’s crash with a container ship in the Singapore strait, as Breaking Defense noted at the time.


Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields)

“If our surface forces are unable to successfully execute these fundamental blocking and tackling tasks, how can it be possibly be expected that they are also able to do the much more complex warfighting tasks?” Eyer asked.

The Navy responded to the two major crashes by replacing the commander of its Pacific fleet, but concerns about its reliance on mutable, fallible electronic and automated systems remains an issue. Additionally, the Navy has begun teaching navigation based on the stars to its sailors in an effort to mitigate over-relaince on technology.

From Panter:

Navigation, that quiet background endeavor without which missiles cannot be launched or guns fired, is similarly teetering one casualty away from disaster. For a loss of GPS, you switch to another; for a loss of a VMS console, you switch to another. But what happens in a total loss-of-power casualty? Wait until the 30-minute batteries on the GPS and VMS wind down, then switch to a laptop version—also battery-powered. The assumption, of course, is that help will be on the way.

China has deployed jamming equipment to the South China Sea. Russia has already begun jamming US Air Force platforms over Syria. All expert accounts say that electronic warfare, possibly even space-based attacks on GPS infrastructure in the sky will factory heavily into future warfare, making Panter’s assessment all the more ominous.

Russia operates a more analog fleet than the US in both at sea and in the air, and China’s sea power is concentrated near its own shores where ground assets can back it up.

Through electronic warfare and a misstep in US Navy strategy, the world’s biggest, most powerful Navy could lose its next war as its strengths turn to weaknesses in the face of technological over-reliance.

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

Articles

The 7 Thoughts That Go Through Your Head When You Can’t Find Your Rifle

One minute you set your rifle down against a tree to go take a leak, the next minute you realize it’s nowhere to be found. Your rifle — the one thing you cannot lose during this training exercise — is missing. Here is what goes through your head in that moment:


Oh my God. Oh God. Oh no. I’m doomed. My life is over.

Well, maybe my platoon sergeant won’t notice.

If I just pray enough, it will appear and everything will be just fine.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

Jones over there isn’t paying attention. Maybe I can steal his.

Crap, that won’t work. My rifle is serialized, so they are going to know it’s a different number.

Ok that’s it. I’ll fake an injury and tell the Lt. I fell down and my rifle was lost in a swamp.

No that’s not going to work. There are no swamps anywhere. Oh my God. Oh God. I’m doomed. My life is over.

Good luck. Hopefully it turns up.

NOW WATCH: ‘Canadian Sniper’ — a hilarious parody version of ‘American Sniper’

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

Country music star and Army veteran Craig Morgan is releasing his newest album — God, Family, Country on May 22. “God, Family, Country” pays tribute to his past and his future both in the music industry and in his amazing life story.

He will also be part of the Grand Ole Opry’s Memorial Day Special. The venerable show that made country music famous will salute the United States Military with its annual Memorial Day Salute the Troops Opry performance on Saturday, May 23.


Joining Craig are Steven Curtis Chapman and Kellie Pickler. This year, the Opry will also honor essential workers who are on the frontline against the war on COVID-19. You can watch it live on Circle and Gray TV stations, DISH Studio Channel 102, Sling TV and other TV affiliates in addition to live streams on Circle All Access Facebook and YouTube channels.

We Are The Mighty talked to Craig about his album and what influenced some of the songs on it. Craig talked to us about his faith, family and love of our country. His faith is a big part of his life and Craig shared how it carried him through personal tragedy. That was the cornerstone of this album and Morgan does what a lot of great musical artists do. He takes his life and puts them into words that everyone else can relate to.

Before his long career in country music, Craig served in the United States Army. He took part in Operation Just Cause, during which the United States removed General Manuel Noriega from power in 1989. He later deployed with the 82nd Airborne as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After service on both active duty and the reserves, Craig left the military in 2004.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

He then began a career as a chart-topping country music singer, songwriter and live performer. Craig returns now with his first new music in nearly four years.

“God, Family, Country”, however, is a little different. It combines five new songs with some of the most powerful tracks he recorded previously in his career including, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Almost Home,” and “God, Family, Country”.

Craig came onto the country-radio scene with hits like, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Redneck Yacht Club,” “International Harvester” and “Little Bit of Life.” These songs showed off his unquenchable spirit and joy for life and resonated with fans of all walks of life.

But, he and his family have also known great loss: particularly the death of their son Jerry in 2016. Needless to say, the tragic death of Jerry had a great impact on Craig. Being the artist he is, he took that emotion and that unimaginable tragedy led to him writing his most stunning song to date, “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost.” The achingly personal ballad is an emotional journey for the listener and is the centerpiece of both God, Family, Country and of Craig’s story itself.

“We’ve never had a song like this. If you put ‘Almost Home,’ ‘What I Love About Sunday’ and ‘Tough’ all together, they didn’t have the emotional impact that this song is having,” Craig says. “It’s a very tough song to sing, and sometimes I can’t even look at people when I perform it, but it’s amazing to know what God has done, and how He has used something so traumatic in my life for good.”

When asked about the song and the process he went through to write it, Craig said, “Overall, it took four hours to write. But it was a painful four hours. Writing the song didn’t take away the pain of losing my son. But it’s going to help others.” And it has. Since the song’s release, people from all walks of life have reached out with messages telling him how it really helped them emotionally. “It’s given people hope. We all have a cross we have to bear, but if my pain brings comfort then that’s what I am supposed to do.”

The story of other songs on the album is absolutely epic. For “Sippin’ on the Simple Life,” he teamed with a pair of active duty Army Airborne Rangers who were about to deploy to Afghanistan for an impromptu writing session. Craig was speaking at a USO event when two soldiers came up to him.

“These two guys came up to me after a show in Washington, D.C., and said, ‘We want to write a song with you tonight.’ I joked with them and told them it doesn’t work that way!” Craig recalls.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

But after realizing they weren’t kidding, he sat down with the servicemen, ordered drinks and started putting pen to paper. just before they deployed to Afghanistan. “I thought, ‘This is a tailgate drinking song,’ and I fell in love with it. I called them and told them I’m putting it on the record. They lost their minds.”

Morgan also features a cover of the Gavin DeGraw song, “Soldier.” “I loved the lyrics but the melody is what got me,” Craig said, “As a dude, we almost always listen to the melody first and that’s what caught me.” Listening to the song, it really resonates with anyone who served. Morgan said, “It truly exemplifies the personality and the character of a soldier and I just had to record it.”

“Whiskey” is another great track on the album. A song that talks about the pain people go through and how they try to find ways to ease that pain was something that really resonated with Morgan. After the death of his son, he was tempted to find outlets to mask the pain, but his faith was able to carry him through. However, many others don’t and turn to vices like drugs or alcohol and Morgan said the emotion of the song led him to record it.

“God, Family, Country” is an incredible album that features Craig taking us on an emotional journey that most veterans (and Americans for that matter) can relate to. We have dealt with loss, pain, challenges, uncertainty, and despair. But we have also relied on things important to us, like faith, family, and our patriotism to guide us through dark times.

The album comes out on May 22 on Broken Bow Records.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US

There’s one thing everyone can agree with President Donald Trump on about the street gang MS-13: The group specializes in spectacular violence. Its members attack in groups, in the woods, at night, luring teens to their deaths with the promise of girls or weed. One Long Island boy told me he doesn’t go to parties anymore because he worries any invitation could be a trap. A victim’s father showed me a death certificate that said his son’s head had been bashed in, then lowered his voice and added that the boy’s bones had been marked by machete slashes, but he didn’t want the mother to know that. A teenager who has left the gang told me he considers himself dead already, and is just trying to make sure MS-13 doesn’t kill his family.

I’m spending the year reporting on MS-13 members and their associates. I’ve been combing through their text messages. I’m talking with the detectives building cases against killers not yet old enough to buy cigarettes. And I’ve been spending long evenings with the gang’s victims, who often start crying as soon as they start talking about the violence that has marred their lives. Everyone agrees the gang is bloodthirsty. Most of the other assertions I’ve heard from the Trump administration about MS-13 have almost no connection to what I’m seeing on the ground.


1. MS-13 Is Not Organizing to Foil Immigration Law

Trump often talks about how MS-13 has carried out a string of murders in the suburbs outside New York City. One of the first things I did when I started reporting was talk to the ex-girlfriend of the gang leader charged with ordering six of those killings in 2016 and 2017. The girl sat at a Panera Bread in a Long Island strip mall and told how he had kidnapped and raped her shortly after her 15th birthday, threatened her family, and forced her to get a tattoo of his name on her arm. As I talked to her, I imagined a man like the ones I had seen in news reports on MS-13 — chins jutted out, arms strong from lifting weights, and gothic tattoos of the letters M and S on their faces and chests. I was shocked when I eventually saw this gang leader in court; he was a baby-faced 19-year-old who blushed when girls waved to him from the gallery. The indictment against him laid out killings that were ordered in response to adolescent trash talking.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
A member of MS13 gang.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called MS-13 the most brutal of the gangs driving the drug trade, and promised to go after the group like the government went after mob boss Al Capone. Really, experts have found the gang has barely any role in the international drug trade. The Congressional Research Service said that it could be misleading to call MS-13 a transnational criminal organization at all, because it has no central leader or global ambitions. The gang is made up of sometimes competing cliques, often led by teenagers most interested in wielding power over other young people in their immediate circles.

On Long Island, a detective told me police officers call MS-13 members “mighty munchkins,” because they have often not yet hit their growth spurts and tend to commit their crimes in large groups. They meet at night because, while other criminal organizations have massive international revenue streams, these guys — even the leaders — have to work menial jobs and sometimes go to school during the day. Each clique has its own shot caller, and its own hyperlocal focus. On Long Island, the gang’s focus has often been on controlling the halls of a single high school.

2. MS-13 Is Not Posing as Fake Families at the Border

In justifying the policy of child separation, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said, “The kids are being used as pawns by the smugglers and the traffickers. Those are traffickers, those are smugglers and that is MS-13.” The theory is that Central American gang leaders are showing up at the border falsely claiming to be the parents of children, and are also instructing unaccompanied minors to go to the U.S. and claim territory.

Actually, there have been fewer than 200 cases of false family claims this year — a fraction of 1 percent of the total number of families apprehended at the border — and there is no indication that any of those cases involved MS-13. Of the hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minors that have come to the U.S. since 2012, Border Patrol says only 56 were suspected of MS-13 ties.

The gang is trying to find new members, but there’s no need to step on the toes of the Mexican gangs that control human smuggling to do it. Long Island teenagers tell me that when they show up to school, gang members sit down next to them at lunch and ask them to join. Many— worn down by loneliness, boredom and the threat of violence if they try to refuse — accept the invitation.

People who study MS-13 agree that when young gang members travel from El Salvador to the U.S., they are driven by the same economic factors driving other Central American immigrants. Even the 19-year-old gang leader charged with six murders on Long Island told his ex-girlfriend he was not a member of the gang when he came to the U.S. from El Salvador. He said it was only later, in the New York suburbs, that he was recruited.

And some MS-13 members are born right here. The Suffolk County Police Department examined a sample of active MS-13 members and found that just a quarter had come to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. The natural conclusion: This is not a border issue. It’s a recruitment issue.

3. MS-13 Is Sticking Around, but It’s Not Growing

Trump talks about the gang as if it is suddenly taking over. “The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S.,” he wrote in a tweet.

MS-13 has been stubbornly persistent, but it remains a boutique criminal organization, accounting for a tiny portion of 1.4 million gang members nationwide. Trump’s Justice Department says there are about 10,000 MS-13 members in the U.S., the same number as 10 years ago. There’s also nothing new about MS-13 alarmism. Back in 2005, Newsweek ran a cover story about the group, citing its 10,000 members, under the headline, “The most dangerous gang in America.”

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
An MS gang sign and tattoos.

On Long Island, the murder people cite most often when talking about MS-13’s brutality is the killing of a two-year-old and his mother back in 2010. But the gang’s history goes back much further than that; the FBI set up a Long Island task force to crack down on the gang in 2003. And MS-13 never invaded the U.S at all. It was founded in Los Angeles in the 1980s, and then mixed with California prison gang culture and was exported to El Salvador.

The group remains significantly smaller than the Crips, the Bloods and the Latin Kings; it’s also smaller than several gangs you’ve probably never heard of, like the Gangster Disciples in Chicago. Even the Center for Immigration Studies, which has been labeled an extremist group for its anti-immigrant ideology, can’t come up with more than an average of 35 murders per year attributed to MS-13 — far fewerthan that Chicago gang you didn’t know existed.

MS-13 is not the largest, the most violent, or the fastest-growing gang, but it is the U.S. gang most strongly tied to Central America, which is where the majority of asylum-seeking teenagers come from. In that way, it’s the perfect focal point for Trump’s message of closed borders.

4. MS-13 Is Preying on a Specific Community, Not the Country at Large

When confronted in June 2018 with audio obtained by ProPublica of wailing children separated from their parents, White House Communications Adviser Mercedes Schlapp said, “What’s very heartbreaking is to watch Americans who have lost their children because of the MS-13 gang members.” But the vast majority of MS-13 victims are young immigrants, many of them undocumented.

I often think about this when I’m out reporting. In 2018 I have reached out to current gang members and added them as friends on Facebook. I’ve visited the homes of people on the local clique’s kill list, and heard their police-issued panic buttons hum under tables and behind doors. I’ve explored the wooded areas Long Island police call “the killing fields,” where bodies have been found. I feel safe doing this because MS-13 rarely goes after true outsiders — people who are not friends with any gang members or targets for recruitment. The closest I’ve found in Long Island to a totally random victim was a worker at a Central American deli who was hurt when a bullet passed through the head of a targeted victim.

The White House put out a statement in May 2018 that described recent murders carried out by “MS-13 animals.” Lost in the controversy over whether it was OK to call gang members animals was the fact that of the six identified victims, five were immigrants and the other was a child of immigrants.

5. Immigration Raids and Deportation Can Only Go So Far

Secretary Nielsen said in June 2018 that the presence of MS-13 in the U.S. is “the exclusive product of loopholes in our federal immigration laws.” The loopholes she is talking about are actually specific protections contained in United Nations conventions on refugees and torture, which the U.S. ratified. The U.S. is obligated to allow Central American immigrants to stay in the country while their asylum claims are processed, which can take years. If the person pleading asylum is a minor, they are supposed to be released to relatives.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
Mara Salvatrucha Graffiti

But if U.S. officials determine that a teenager is a gang member, they stay in custody. And immigration officials can also re-detain teenagers who are recruited into MS-13 once they get here. Dozens of Long Island teenagers were re-detained in 2017 on suspicion of gang ties. The problem is that it can be hard to tell who is in the gang and who is just adopting gang style. MS-13 has its own music and aesthetic, bound up in Central American pride. On Long Island, some immigrant teens use MS-13 markers as a fashion statement, the way American kids might once have worn the blue bandanas associated with the Crips because they liked Snoop Dogg.

I sat in on one hearing for a Long Island 17-year-old who had been detained for half a year after he wrote the El Salvador telephone code, “503,” in a notebook at school. He had spent some of that time in a detention center now under investigation for child abuse. At the hearing, an immigration judge ordered the teen released and openly mocked the gang charges. “I note that ‘503’ is an area code,” the judge said. “He may have had his grandmother’s phone number written in his notebook. We don’t know. But I think this is slim, slim evidence on which to base the continuing detention of an unaccompanied child.”

That’s not to say that all of the immigrant teenagers accused of gang affiliation are innocent. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested some 8,000 suspected MS-13 members in the past decade. If deportation was all it took, the gang would be gone by now.

So What?

This all matters because the gang really is terrorizing a portion of the population: young Latino immigrants in a few specific communities.

In May 2018, I accompanied the mother of a high school freshman killed by MS-13 to a Trump event on Long Island. Inside a government building, the president railed against the gang. “They killed a cop for the sake of making a statement. They wanted to make a statement, so they killed a cop,” he said. (They did not kill a cop.)

Outside, the mother drifted between a pro-Trump rally and a counter protest. She took tranquilizer pills so she could face local reporters, and then told them she was unsure if Trump really cared about victims like her. She said she hoped the president’s fixation on MS-13 might spur changes that will keep other kids from being attacked and recruited by the gang.

But for any policy to work, it needs to be rooted in reality.

Articles

Army moves ahead with pistol program despite chief’s pushback

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
U.S. Army Sgt. Angel Suarezelias, assigned to 11th Aviation Command, shoots an M9 at a target as part of the joint Best Warrior Competition hosted by 84th Reserve Training Command at Ft. Knox, Ky. | U.S. Army photo by Josephine Carlson


The U.S. Army will continue with its Modular Handgun System effort despite heavy criticism from the service’s own chief of staff who called it too bureaucratic and costly for a low-tech item such as a pistol.

Army acquisition leaders recently attended a high-level meeting with Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to determine what to do about the Modular Handgun System, or MHS, effort — keep as is, restructure or cancel it and start over, according to an Army acquisition official, who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

“The decision was to stay the course with MHS,” the official said.

This will likely ease a lot of worry from gun-makers competing in the effort since Milley has made no secret about his contempt for service’s effort to replace the current M9 9mm pistol.

The general has used recent public appearances to chastise a bureaucratic acquisition system for making it overly complicated to field equipment in a timely manner, citing the service’s MHS effort as a prime example.

But behind the scenes, Milley moved beyond criticism. His office recently asked the Army Special Operations Command’s G-8 office, which oversees fielding of equipment, if there is room for the Army to join its pistol contract to buy Glock 19s, according to another Military.com source who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The compact Model 19 is one of Glock’s most popular handguns. New Glock 19s retail for $500-$600 each. USASOC is currently paying a base price of about $320 for each Glock 19, the source said.

With that price, the Army would pay about $91.8 million if the service were to buy 287,000 pistols, the quantity requirement outlined in the MHS effort, which is currently set to cost at least $350 million.

“The thing no one is talking about is the can of worms the chief has opened,” the Army acquisition said.

“I think it is good that the Army leadership is taking a bigger role in acquisition. On the other hand, there are huge risks when people like the chief have wrong or incomplete information, or jump into the middle of an active competition, the source said. “There are certain things one does not do, unless one is willing to live with the consequences.”

In this case, consequences mean the possibility of protests or lawsuits by gun makers participating in the MHS completion.

“Enough companies have submitted bids for there to be a good MHS competition,” the acquisition official said. “No one is saying how many that is or who they are. If they include the larger companies … it increases the prospects for litigation because they have the requisite resources, and that is what they do.”

Milley’s stance on MHS continues to draw attention from Congress.

Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, questioned senior Army officials about it at an April 5 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland Subcommittee hearing.

“This has been a real big issue,” she said. “Why is it so difficult for the Army to buy a basic item like a pistol?”

Lt. Gen. John M. Murray, deputy chief of staff of the Army’s office for programs, or G-8, agreed that the service has been down a “torturous path” on the handgun program.

“I will guarantee you [Gen. Milley] is involved with the testing, requirements and source selection, when we get to that point, in every intimate detail,” Murray said, describing how he has had “several very long and painful meetings with him in the past week or two and dug into how we got where we are and how do we fix this.”

The Army launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol. One of the major goals of the effort is to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm. The U.S. military replaced the .45-caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.

Gun-makers had until Feb. 12 to submit proposals to the Army.

The request for proposal calls on gun-makers to submit packages that include full-size and compact versions of their handgun as well as hundreds of thousands of rounds for testing.

One of Milley’s biggest criticisms of MHS is that the testing program is scheduled to last two years and cost $17 million.

In a break from tradition, the Army is also requiring competing firms to prove that they are capable of delivering millions of rounds of pistol ammunition per month in addition to delivering thousands of new handguns per month, according to the request.

The competition will also evaluate expanding or fragmenting ammunition, such as hollow-point bullets, that have been used by law enforcement agencies for years. The Army’s draft solicitation cited a new Defense Department policy that allows for the use of “special purpose ammunition.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 facts you didn’t know about the US Coast Guard

Today marks 230 years that the Coast Guard has been serving the United States. The Coast Guard supplies a unique and valuable service to our country and is the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. To help celebrate its 230th birthday, let’s take a look at some fun facts about the Coast Guard that you might not know.

1. Writers, take heart.

Alex Haley, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Roots,” was the Coast Guard’s first journalist. After graduating high school at age 15, Haley enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939 at the age of just 18 as a Mess Attendant Third Class, one of the only two ratings available to Black service members at the time. During his long patrols, Haley started writing letters to his friends and family – sometimes as many as 40 a week!

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
(U.S. Coast Guard Photo)

 

2. Swimmers, brush up on your freestyle.

Becoming a Coast Guard rescue swimmer is exceptionally difficult. In fact, more than half the people who try out for this assignment fail. Fitness standards for rescue swimmers include being able to function for thirty minutes in heavy seas. Swimmers must be able to think, perform challenging tasks and react, all while either being submerged, holding their breath or being tossed around by high waves.

3. Flags for all occasions.

The Coast Guard has two official flags – the CG Standard and the CG Ensign. The Ensign is flown by cutters and shore units, while the Standard flag is used at ceremonies. The Standard is used to represent the Coast Guard, but the Ensign flag is something altogether different. Since law enforcement is one of the Coast Guard’s core missions, the ensign flag is the visible symbol of law enforcement authority and is recognized globally.

4. Coast Guard deploys. No, really.

Service members of the Coast Guard have served valiantly in 17 wars and conflicts in US history. The CG was America’s first afloat armed force. It predates the Navy by several years and is older than most other federal government organizations. The Coast Guard’s motto, Semper Paratus (Always Ready), is proven time and again in its readiness to deploy.

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
(NOAA/Flickr)

5. Protecting the US is just a small part

In addition to protecting the United States’ coastlines, Coast Guard service members serve all over the world. You can find CG ships as far north as the Arctic, as far south as Antarctica and everywhere in between.

6. The Coast Guard isn’t very big

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class NyxoLyno Cangemi

With roughly 40,000 active duty service members, the Coast Guard is just a little larger than the NYPD. Compared with over 554,000 in the Army and roughly 200,000 in the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard is definitely much smaller. What the branch doesn’t have in personnel, it makes up for in might. Since its service members have acting law enforcement authority, their mission goes a long way to keeping America’s coastlines safe.

7. Coast Guard families don’t have the same resources

Resources available to other military families like Military One Source and MyCAA are inaccessible to CG families. In most situations, these DoD resources aren’t inclusive to members of the Coast Guard. Instead, CG personnel and families receive support through the Coast Guard Office of Work-Life, as well as the CG SUPRT organization.

8. It’s not easy to join 

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm

The Coast Guard is one of the most difficult branches of the military to get into because it accepts such a low number of recruits. In addition to having to undergo a credit check and a security clearance, you should probably also have a college degree in hand. The branch requires a minimum of 54 points on the ASVAB, and if you have a shellfish allergy, you’re eliminated from applying! Basic training takes place at just one location, Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, in Cape May, New Jersey. It’s a good idea to know how to swim before joining, and if you’re selected, you should be comfortable jumping off a five-foot platform into a pool, swimming for 100 meters and then treading water for five minutes.

So there you have it! It turns out that the Coast Guard is one of the most elite branches of our military. As part of DHS, its service members help keep America’s 95,000 miles of shoreline safe. Maybe in time, DoD resources will open up to these valuable service personnel and their families. Until then, happy birthday, Coast Guard!

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Jun. 17

We know that most of you are just here to steal memes for your arsenal. That’s fine. We’re doing the same thing when we go to the pages linked in blue above each meme.


If you don’t already, though, click on the links and show those page admins some love. They and their audiences are the hard workers who keep the meme currency flowing.

1. You could just get a job backpacking (via Pop Smoke).

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
You’ll get to travel in all sorts of exotic locales and meet lots of interesting people.

2. Energy drinks win wars. That’s a fact (via Air Force Nation).

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
DFAC: Get on this. The caffeine situation is unacceptable.

SEE ALSO: This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

3. “But, first sergeant said we should personalize our desks.”

(via Air Force Memes Humor)

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

4. When you get the counseling statement that you’re falling a little short in some areas:

(via Air Force Memes Humor)

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

5. 10 bucks says people were finding excuses to go into the room (via Pop Smoke).

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

6. “And now we’re headed to berthing where we’ll be conducting nap time.”

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

7. Actual image shared on an Air Force Facebook page (via We Are The Mighty).

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
Maybe the F-35 is so expensive because it’s secretly an X-wing.

8. Remember to paint your face, Homer. Your jaundice makes you easy to pick out (via The Salty Soldier).

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
Homer Simpson really is the shammer/skater spirit animal.

9. Combat outposts don’t have regs or Charms candies (via Military Memes).

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
You will need helmets, though.

10. “Don’t know why we need some fancy, new-fangled CD players in the Navy.”

(via Military Memes)

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

11. George Washinton was so cool, he wore aviators before aviation was a thing (via Grunt Style)

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
Pretty sure he was rocking a 50-star flag before there were even thirteen states, too.

12. “Sry, chief. Still waiting. The dentists are moving super slow.”

(via Coast Guard Memes)

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

13. Of course, if it has no ammo, it’s probably not the last one you’ll ever see (via Military Nations)

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
Maybe there are a few rounds left in the gun.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD aids victims of violence in South America, Yemen

Progress is being made to assist civilians in several parts of the world, including in Colombia and Yemen, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said.

The USNS Comfort, a hospital ship, is now docked in Colombia as part of an 11-week voyage to ports of call that have so far included Peru and Ecuador, said Mattis, speaking at a Pentagon press briefing on Nov. 21, 2018.

Thus far, 14,500 people have been treated by a team of doctors and other health providers aboard the ship from 10 partner nations, he said, adding that it’s an international mission.


Colombia, in particular, needs the aid because there are over a million refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis and violence in neighboring Venezuela, Mattis said. Other countries such as Brazil, have also taken in a number of refugees.

Mattis said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is “creating a refugee crisis of enormous proportions for our friends and partners … and destabilizing neighboring nations.”

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Fighting in Yemen

Meanwhile in Yemen, progress is being made to end the fighting, Mattis said. In recent days, the level of fighting has decreased considerably.

Peace talks will take place in Sweden in early December 2018, with representatives present from the Houthi rebel side; the government of Yemen, under the leadership of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi; and Martin Griffiths, the United Nations special envoy.

Mattis credited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for being “fully onboard” with this effort.

Also, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are providing relief supplies to feed about 10 million Yemenis for a 30-day period. The aid will be distributed by local and international nongovernmental organizations. This is just the initial effort, he added.

The Saudis also approved moving wounded Houthi rebels to hospitals for treatment.

In Afghanistan, the Saudis, assisted by the UAE, Qatar and others are also working to get reconciliation talks going with the government and the Taliban, he added.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

popular

7 ooh-rah tips from the career of R. Lee Ermey

R. Lee Ermey, better known as “The Gunny”, had a very impressive film and television career following his 11 years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps, before his death in 2018. The former drill instructor and Vietnam War veteran acted in numerous films, hosted television shows, and was also an author. Of course, the Gunny is best known for his portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the 1987 Stanley Kubrick classic film “Full Metal Jacket,” a role that earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.


If you scour his body of work closely, Ermey offers some tips that can serve as a guide to living a successful life. Here are some of them:

1. Leadership

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

A decade before Ermey played a drill instructor in “Full Metal Jacket,” Gunny donned the brim hat in the 1978 movie “The Boys in Company C.” During the boot camp scenes, Ermey’s character Staff Sgt. Loyce challenges one of the recruits named “Washington” to step up his game and become a leader. Loyce tells Washington he needs him to be the type of leader that fellow Marines can trust and count on in combat. His also stresses the importance of supporting his fellow comrades, not being selfish, and working as a team. He inspires the character to seek his potential as a leader.

2. Loyalty

Ermey lent his voice to the “Toy Story” animated trilogy playing “Sarge,” a leader of plastic Army men. In the first movie, Woody tells Sarge to perform a reconnaissance mission during Andy’s birthday. Woody and his fellow toys fear they will be replaced when Andy gets new toys as birthday presents. Like a loyal team player, Sarge leads his men to scope out the party and report back to Woody. When one of his fellow army men gets stepped on by Andy’s mom, Sarge refuses to leave the man behind and carries the minesweeper to safety saying “a good soldier never leaves a man behind.”

3. Sportsmanship

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

In the 2001 comedy “Saving Silverman,” Gunny played a no-nonsense football coach who gives his players pieces of advice throughout the film. During the locker room scene, he stresses the importance of sportsmanship. He also said some other things that may not suitable for younger audiences.

4. Life-long Commitment

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

In his 2013 self-help book Gunny’s Rules: How to Get Squared Away Like a Marine, Ermey talked about being a ‘life-long’ Marine even after retiring for medical injures while in service. In the book, he said, “The Marine Corps had retired me, but I kept showing up for work.”

Ermey talked about using his celebrity status to serve his beloved Corps and his desire to contribute any chance he got. In 2002, his life-long service was recognized by the Marine Corps, and he was given an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sergeant.

5. Don’t give up

Of course, it wouldn’t be right to have a list about Ermey’s career without talking about “Full Metal Jacket.” However, Ermey was not originally cast to be Gunny Sgt. Hartman. During a 2009 interview, the actor talked about serving as a technical advisor for the film. He took the job to get his foot in the door in hopes to convince director Stanley Kubrick that he should be given the role. After lobbying for the job and impressing Kubrick’s ‘right-hand’ man during an interview session with movie extras where he played the Hartman character, he was offered the role.

In the interview, he said, “They had already hired another actor to play Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, but Marines don’t just say ‘Oh’ and give up. We continue to march and we attack until we achieve our goal, and we accomplish our mission.”

6. Embrace your talent

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

The former Marine was definitely a typecast actor playing similar authority figures in films. Whether he is the police captain in “Seven or a mean boss in the horror film “Willard,” Gunny used his acting chops, quick wit and background to make each character unique. Like Ermey, it’s important to embrace what you’re good at.

7. Don’t forget your roots

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes
One of then-Cpl. Ermey’s platoons

Despite working beside some of Hollywood’s greatest actors and actresses, Ermey remained humble and never forgot where he came from. 

Oorah!

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

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