As the Florida sun beat down mercilessly on the adaptive athletes, medically retired Army Sgt. Aaron Stewart competed in cycling and swimming at the 2016 Invictus Games here not for medals, but for a fellow fallen soldier.
Stewart dedicated his athletic performances to Leonard Sear, a fellow soldier who saved his life. Stewart, who is transgender, competed in the female category.
Competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, Stewart earned silver medals in the time trial and criterium in cycling. And in swimming, he earned silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle and a bronze medal in the 50-meter backstroke in his disability category.
In the 2014 Invictus Games, before he began hormone treatments, Stewart earned two gold medals in cycling in the time trial and criterium. At the Warrior Games in 2014, he earned seven medals in swimming, air pistol and the air rifle.
Having served in flight operations for eight years, Stewart has injuries to his back, spinal stenosis and sciatica, shoulder issues and also has post-traumatic stress from military sexual trauma. He said he met Sear while they were serving in a wounded warrior transition battalion in 2012.
“They did recovery things there where we got together in groups and did yoga, rock climbing and things like that to help mentally bring us together,” Stewart said. “We were in the same unit. I attempted suicide about six months after we became friends, and he found me and saved my life. And then five months to the day after I attempted suicide, he died, so it’s a huge loss — someone that close to me to be gone.”
Thanks to Sear, support from friends like Army Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, and adaptive sports, Stewart said, he’s still here and doesn’t have suicidal thoughts any more. “”He saved my life, but adaptive sports have kept me alive since.”
Stewart recommends adaptive sports to any disabled service members or veterans who may need help in their recovery.
“When I first got injured, I was extremely depressed. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew my military career was over at that point,” he said. “Sports gave me something to look forward to. It gave me an objective and something to focus on. It got me out of that depression. It essentially saved my life. It’s kept me going.”
He said anyone thinking about taking up an adaptive sport should get out there and try it.
“You’re not accomplishing anything sitting where you are,” he said. “You’re not going to feel any worse getting out there. It was a life-changer for me, so I would definitely recommend getting out there and trying it. You gain a whole new family, a huge support group, and it’s a lifesaver, really.”
In all likelihood, Yang’s described “extreme, hazardous environment” is the North-South Korean border zone, widely known as the DMZ. Its metal arms weigh in at almost 300 pounds each, complete with human-like hands to allow the pilot to manipulate objects with the dexterity of its driver.
“It was quite an ambitious project that required developing and enhancing a lot of technologies along the way,” Bulgarov wrote on Instagram. “That growth opens up many real world applications where everything we have been learning so far on this robot can be applied to solve real world problems.”
The Method-2 project is only one year into development and still needs work on its balance and power systems, but designers hope to have it ready for production by the end of 2017.
The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted an amphibious landing in Alvund, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18. The exercise allowed the MEU to rehearse their amphibious and expeditionary capabilities in a unique environment in support of partner nations.
Norway is a NATO Ally and hosted this year’s exercise which provided challenging terrain and weather for the participating Marines. Training in challenging conditions helps acclimate the forces to the elements and enhances their combat readiness.
The amphibious landing consisted of a surface assault and an air assault to display the MEU’s ability to rapidly project combat power ashore. Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division arrived ashore with roughly 700 Marines, 12 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, six Light Armored Vehicles, and 21 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, all designed to increase the lethality of the infantry Marines. Marines arrived at the beach landing site and transitioned to follow on operations at subsequent objectives around Alvund. All operations were conducted within the exercise scenario against mock enemy forces which required the Marines to make decisions in real time.
Marines establish a bivouac location during Trident Juncture 18 on Alvund Beach, Oct. 29, 2018 after being delivered ashore from USS Iwo Jima.
“We came to the North Atlantic looking for a challenge and Trident Juncture delivered; throughout the exercise the environment forced us to be flexible and adaptive,” said Maj. Anthony Bariletti, the 24th MEU operations officer.
“It is the adaptability that makes Marine Expeditionary Units such a lethal crisis response force. As Marines, we gain our lethality from the ability to operate as part of a naval integrated team. The ability to conduct amphibious operations in the premier core competency of our service and this exercise provided an outstanding opportunity for the 24th MEU to hone its skills and prepare for combat as a forward deployed, sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force.”
A landing craft air cushion lands on Alvund Beach, Norway during an amphibious landing in support of Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 29, 2018.
Throughout the training exercise, the MEU was able to provide strategic speed and agility while operating in international waters and retaining flexibility in support of NATO Allies and partners. Trident Juncture allowed the Marines to operate from the sea with their Navy counterparts and increase interoperability. The success of Trident Juncture will lead to more combat-ready forces capable of proficiently supporting combat operations and humanitarian activities across the globe.
A Marine guides vehicles off of a landing craft air cushion during an amphibious landing in support of Trident Juncture 18 on Alvund Beach, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale)
“I’m extremely proud of how hard the Marines and sailors have been working throughout the exercise,” said Sgt. Maj. Christopher Garza, the 24th MEU sergeant major.
“They have endured the challenging cold weather conditions and long work days. It’s great to come together and display our capabilities as a MEU and the Marines and sailors are the ones who make it happen. All the training and preparation they put in has paid off and my hat’s off to them on a job well done up to this point.”
One of the highest-ever ranked defectors from North Korea said Feb. 14, 2018 that Kim Jong Un is now engaging in diplomacy with South Korea because he fears a US military strike on North Korea.
“Kim Jong Un is afraid that the US will launch a preventative strike, and he is trying to buy time to complete his nuclear and missile programs,” said Ri Jong Ho, Yonhap News Agency reported. Ri, who worked for three decades in the North Korean office responsible for raising funds for Kim, was speaking at a Wilson Center Forum in Washington.
According to Ri, not only are President Donald Trump’s threats of military action having an effect on North Korea, the US’s diplomatic efforts to lock Pyongyang out of international trade have also started to bite.
“Kim Jong Un is struggling under the strongest-yet sanctions and military and diplomatic pressure, so he is trying to improve the situation by putting on a false front,” Ri said.
Ri, who defected in 2014, likely doesn’t know the current thinking in Pyongyang, but may have knowledge of the economic situation before the sanctions. Ri’s statements follow a handful of moves from the Trump administration that appeared to signal that they were on the verge of striking North Korea.
But Ri’s statements also conjured up one of the US’s worst fears in North Korea by suggesting that Kim did not legitimately want to pursue peace with South Korea, but rather that he wanted to use the ruse of diplomacy to buy time while he advances his nuclear program and continues to hold South Korean civilians at risk.
“Depending on the circumstances, North Korea could hold South Koreans hostage and continue its threatening provocations,” Ri said.
Ri’s thinking seems to agree with US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, who recently assumed command of the US military’s Pacific and Asian theater of operation, PACOM.
Kim is “after reunification under a single communist system, so he is after what his grandfather failed to do and his father failed to do,” Harris said, in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.
But Kim’s end game is irrelevant at the present. There’s evidence that a US-led sanctions campaign has begun to work against the Kim regime, and North Korea could be hurting economically. Moves in Trump’s inner circle seem to heavily suggest he’s considering responding to future North Korean provocations with force.
No president before Trump has coordinated as great an international sanctions regime on North Korea, and none have so seriously offered up use of military force as an option.
In response, Kim has made the unprecedented move of agreeing to meet with a foreign head of state for the first time, and abandoned talk of preconditions beforehand, which some see as a concession.
Royal Danish Army Premierløjtnant Mads, a coalition member attached to the Building Partner Capacity team, Task Force Al Asad, practices combat movement up a flight of stairs alongside Iraqi security-force personnel during an urban combat and tactics course at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, May 9, 2015. | CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve
Behind the successes in Ramadi and elsewhere lay the efforts of the US-led coalition to train and equip credible regional forces that can reclaim their country from the scourge of ISIS.
In addition to an impressive air campaign, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Hungary, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portrugal, Spain, and the UK have all contributed to the US-led effort to train and empower regional forces to defeat ISIS.
In the slides below, find out what the brave recruits go through when training with the US-led coalition to counter ISIS.
Here is a quick overview of Operation Inherent Resolve’s members and initiatives.
CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve
Before the training started, the coalition had to move in with supplies. The coalition arms and equips Iraqi national forces and other regional groups like the Kurds.
Airmen from the 386th Expeditionary Operations Group and the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Squadron load two Mine Resistant Armored Personnel carriers (MRAPs) on a C-17 Globemaster III bound for Erbil, Iraq, December 30, 2014. | CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve
A large part of the coalition’s efforts in training local forces is to build their confidence and capacity with thorough hands-on training.
Sgt. Jeremiah Walden, assigned to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, checks to ensure an Iraqi trainee is observing his assigned sector of fire during infantry-squad tactical training, January 7 at Camp Taji, Iraq. | Master Sgt. Mike Lavigne, 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs | U.S. Army
Virtually every phase of the training touches on marksmanship and weapons discipline. Here, a US soldier instructs an Iraqi army recruit.
CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve
Iraqi recruits are put in high-pressure simulations of real combat. Trainers light fires to simulate the chaos of combat.
An Iraqi Army soldier with the 72nd Brigade, 15th Iraqi Army Division, simulates shooting at the enemy during a combined training exercise at Camp Taji, Iraq, Sunday, March 22, 2015. | Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs | U.S. Army
The training is not limited to infantry operations. Coalition forces also train the troops on proper tactics and deployment of tanks and armored vehicles.
An Iraqi Army tank clears an obstacle while an Iraqi Army Soldier the 72nd Brigade, 15th Iraqi Army Division, looks on at Camp Taji, Iraq, Sunday, March 22, 2015. | Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs | U.S. Army
As with any military training, there is a grueling physical-training component.
Iraqi soldiers from the Noncommissioned Officer Academy perform push-ups as part of their physical-training test at the Iraqi Military Complex, Iraq. | CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve
But not all of the training focuses on fighting. Here Iraqi army medics are being trained to save lives on and off the battlefield.
Iraqi army medics treat a simulated casualty during an exercise with Australian army nurses and medics at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq. | CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve
As IEDs are a preferred method of attack for ISIS and other insurgent groups, the Iraqis are trained in the removal of improvised bombs.
A US soldier leads a counter-IED demonstration for Iraqi troops. | CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve
The fight against ISIS happens in a number of locations, so coalition forces train the troops for urban combat and clearing houses.
Royal Danish Army Premierløjtnant Mads, a coalition member attached to the Building Partner Capacity team, Task Force Al Asad, practices combat movement up a flight of stairs alongside Iraqi security-force personnel during an urban combat and tactics course at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, May 9, 2015. | CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve
As chemical warfare is a reality in Iraq and Syria, the soldiers practice operations while wearing gas masks.
Iraqi soldiers assigned to the 71st Iraqi Army Brigade prepare to breach a door during protective-mask training at Camp Taji, Iraq, October 15, 2015. | Spc. William Marlow | U.S. Army
Should the fight get up close and personal, Iraqi troops are trained to use bayonets.
An Australian soldier, assigned as a Task Group Taji Trainer, demonstrates the en garde position during the instructional portion of bayonet training at Camp Taji, Iraq, January 3, 2016. | Sgt. Kalie Jones | U.S. Army
By February 13, 2015, 1,400 Iraqis had graduated from the intensive six-week basic-training course. Thousands more would follow in their footsteps during the coming months.
From left: US Army Lt. Col. Scott Allen, with 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Division, presents a ceremonial knife to Staff Brig. Gen. Sa’ad during a graduation ceremony for Sa’ad’s brigade, February 13 at Camp Taji, Iraq. | Staff Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire, 1st. ABCT, 1st Inf. Div. | U.S. Army
Once forces like the Iraqi army reclaim a piece of territory, military police are needed to make sure the area stays safe. The Italian Carabinieri (military police) train Iraqi military police on marksmanship and search and policing procedures.
An Italian Carabinieri officer coaches an Iraqi policeman as he fires an M16 rifle during advanced marksmanship training at Camp Dublin, Iraq, January 23, 2016. | Staff Sgt. William Reinier| U.S. Army
In addition to the Iraqi national army and police forces, coalition troops are on the ground training the Kurdish Peshmerga, a group that has had particular success in booting ISIS out of the north of Syria and Iraq.
Peshmerga soldiers participate in a live-fire-assault drill under the supervision of Italian trainers near Erbil, Iraq, January 6, 2016. Coalition trainers in Northern Iraq have trained more than 6,000 Peshmerga soldiers in basic and advanced infantry skills. | Cpl. Jacob Hamby/Released | U.S. Army
Ultimately, the goal of Operation Inherent Resolve is to train credible ground forces in Iraq and Syria that can defeat ISIS and reclaim their countries on their own terms, with training, assistance, and air support from partner nations all over the world.
A note from a 1955 Ballantine Book remarked about how one author – a former serviceman – arrived in their New York offices with his Stars and Stripes drawings and a story of a “brilliant military career, where he rose through the ranks to become a PFC.”
That newly-minted civilian was Shel Silverstein. And he did rise through the ranks to become one of the most celebrated American writers.
A quick perusal of the books on his website will show a body of work that uses all his many talents.
For decades, Silverstein entertained and delighted children with poetry like “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and stories like “Giraffe and a Half.” His children’s book “The Giving Tree” is widely considered one of the best, though to some divisive, of its genre.
But there is at least one book missing from that list.
It was during his time in the military that Silverstein began to draw cartoons, at times finding himself at odds with military censors. He later wrote enough cartoons to make a compendium of his best works.
“Drop Your Socks” was published in 1955 to the delight and entertainment of the new peacetime Army and the old war veterans alike.
The young artist was attending the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts when he was drafted into the Army in 1953. According to his biography in “Stars and Stripes,” the Army “without realizing its error, assigned him to the Pacific Stars and Stripes, read by thousands of Army men in Japan and Korea.”
But Shel Silverstein didn’t join the Army of WWII or Korea. It was a new Army, one not at war, but supposedly at the ready to fight for peace. Silverstein never knew the Army that “fought the wars with live ammo and read V-mail and liberated towns and kissed French girls and caught bouquets and wore baggy pants and a six-day growth of beard.”
Shel Silverstein’s Army was made up of “ordinary guys” who “dragged through two years [the amount of time a peacetime draftee normally spent in the service] cleaning grease traps, bugging out of details, and forgetting their general orders.”
As he wrote in the book’s introduction, “there’s no war now, no casualties, no rationing, and no immediate danger … people’s attitudes are bound to change.”
But legendary military cartoonist Bill Mauldin, in writing the book’s introduction said, “the thing about real military humor is that when a soldier says something funny, he is mainly trying to ventilate his innards … he expresses himself in a wisecrack because if he said it straight, he’d simply bust down.”
“Motives and methods of warfare change from generation to generation,” Mauldin continues. “But soldiering stays pretty much the same messy proposition. … I suspect Shel Silverstein would have amused the cootie-pickingest Roman centurion.”
Last weekend, we got to spend time with a hero named Walter Jorgensen. Mr. Jorgensen is one of the oldest living U.S. Marines to survive the bloody battles in the Pacific Theater during World War 2.
Alongside a group of fellow veterans, Mr. Jorgensen attended the graduation of our youngest Marines at the USMC Recruit Base.
This is the same place Mr. Jorgensen went through boot camp and graduated at in 1939. Seventy-seven years ago. From here, he would prepare for America’s entry into WW2.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, his path into war would send him and his buddies to the islands of the Pacific to battle the Japanese Empire.
There he would fight in 3 of the deadliest conflicts: Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan. During these battles, Mr. Jorgensen served as a Company Commander with the 2nd Division, 2nd Battalion from the 6th Marines.
The following photos are just a glimpse of the horrors Mr. Jorgensen experienced as a leader of the legendary “Easy Company”.
The battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands began on August 7th of 1942.
The Marines were tasked with securing airfields for our aircraft to take-off from for both aerial defense of our Navy’s ships and ultimately to send bombers to the main land of Japan. This was the objective of America’s “Island hopping” campaign.
Unlike the battle at Normandy (D-Day), this beach landing was uneventful…however, holding the airfield at Lunga Point would cost thousands of lives.
In total, 1,600 were killed with 4,200 wounded along with 24,000 Japanese soldiers killed during the first island destination of the Pacific Campaign.
Bullets weren’t the only killers during these campaigns. Malaria ran rampant in parts of the Pacific.
The next island would be one of the costliest battles for the Marines of “Easy Company”. This was War; this was the battle for Tarawa.
“There were 180 of us from Easy Company that hit the beach that morning. No more than 40 of us walked off the island.” — Marine Schultz Miller
“Early on the morning of Nov. 20, 1943, the order came: ‘Hit the beach with everything you’ve got’. It was the first day of the assault on Betio Island – the struggle would come to be known as the Battle of Tarawa.”
“Easy Company was a bonded group. I was part of a replacement unit, which was reinforcing Easy after the battle for Guadalcanal,” the 79-year old veteran recounted. “If there was one thing that was easy about Easy Company, it was that they really took all the younger fellows in. They didn’t treat us bad like some other units did with their new guys.”
“We were taking machine gun fire from both sides of us as we came up to the beach,” he said. “Easy was one of the first companies to assault the island. Soon after that, all of our officers were dead.”
With the absence of commissioned leadership, Schultz described how the non-commissioned officers took over the company and carried on with the mission.
“At one point the highest ranking person was a sergeant. However, we were trained well and every man knew the job of the guy above him. If a machine-gunner went down, the guy behind him picked up the weapon and kept moving forward,” Schultz said.
It was all close combat as we took the island, Schultz said. Japanese were deeply entrenched in concrete and metal pillboxes with machine guns, cutting down Marines with raking fire right and left.
“I saw a few Marines make suicide runs, sprinting into the pillboxes with grenades or satchel charges,” he said. “After losing so many Marines, it was a last (recourse).”
The next destination was Saipan in the Mariana Islands.
In Saipan a total of 3,426 Americans died with 10,364 others wounded.
Like the horrors on our side, 29 thousand Japanese soldiers died with an additional 22,000 civilians lost (many from suicide).
Walter Jorgensen said little about what he experienced during the first 3 battles. He simply told me the following: “We began those campaigns with 29 Commanding Officers, all of them died on the battlefield.”
The loss of leaders would result in the following for Mr. Jorgensen, he would become a leader of his men at the battle for Okinawa. His new title was Executive Officer of the 6th Div., 3rd Battalion with the Marine’s 29th Regiment.
Like the first 3 battles, the numbers lost were unimaginable. The totals are so high that it becomes an estimate.
That estimate ranges from 77-110,000 Japanese killed. Along with the men from multiple Divisions of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps., the Marines battled for this final runway.
America’s total lost at Okinawa was 55,162 wounded and Thirty-Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Fifteen men killed in battle.
Back to the Marine’s graduation.
That morning we got to watch the band play as they raised the flag on base.
While driving into the base, Mr. Jorgensen pointed to a small building which he said, “that use to be the main entrance to the base”. The building in front of us, during the raising of the flag, was “new”.
After the band played, we introduced Mr. Jorgensen to Brigadier General Jurney, the Commander of Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. Their conversation would later be called out during the up-coming graduation.
After the soon-to-be United States Marines marched onto the grounds, Brigadier General Jurney asked any Vietnam Vets to stand in the crowd followed by calling out any Veterans from the Korean War.
Finally he said, “We have a guest in the crowd. This man fought as a Marine in Guadacanal, Tarawa, Saipan and Okinawa. Please stand Walter Jorgensen”.
The pride and power of his memories were both unmistakable.
This is what a 95 year old United States Marine looks like…this is “Easy Company” Commander Walter Jorgensen.
Nykeshia Jordan from Melba’s Poboys donates food to the Expeditionary Medical Facility New Orleans Detachment at the personal housing unit (PHU) April 16, 2020, in support of the Department of Defense response. The PHU is designed for symptomatic patients with pending COVID-19 test results. The EMF works in coordination with federal, state, and local health officials to ensure equipment and resources are in place and are operationally capable to safely treat patients. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need.
Navy medical personnel assigned to Expeditionary Medical Facility-M (EMF-M) have deployed as part of a U.S. Northern Command-led COVID-19 response to support civil health authorities in existing facilities in New Orleans and Dallas.
The first 50 personnel with EMF-M deployed to New Orleans April 1, followed by more than 60 additional personnel on April 4. They will work at the temporary federal medical station at New Orleans’ Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Cameron King, left, with the Expeditionary Medical Facility New Orleans Detachment checks the temperature of Ralinda Guss from Melba’s Poboys who donated food to the personal housing unit (PHU) April 16, 2020, in support of the Department of Defense response. The PHU is designed for symptomatic patients with pending COVID-19 test results. The EMF works in coordination with federal, state, and local health officials to ensure equipment and resources are in place and are operationally capable to safely treat patients. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need.
“As we see more and more hospitalizations, this medical monitoring station will play an essential role in freeing up ICU beds for the most critically ill,” said New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Collin Arnold.
The EMFs work in coordination with federal, state, and local health officials to ensure equipment and resources are in place and are operationally capable to safely treat patients in an effort to lessen the strain on hospitals in the New Orleans region. Personnel assigned to the EMF will provide acute and emergency care in the personal housing units at the convention center.
The personal housing units will serve as isolated individual housing units for symptomatic patients transferred from area hospitals and who require observation, housing, meals and isolation while awaiting their COVID-19 test results.
U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to the Expeditionary Medical Facility-M, officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services conduct a patient scenario exercise in Dallas, Texas in support of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need.
Once results are received, patients will be either released or transferred to the appropriate level of care depending on the patient’s COVID-19 status. If the patient tests positive for COVID-19, they may be transferred to the medical monitoring station across Convention Center Boulevard.
Additionally, over 170 personnel deployed to Dallas, April 3 to work in a temporary federal medical station established there to assist local medical personnel. Both locations will treat recovering COVID-19 patients and “low-acuity patients” — those who are ill but whose symptoms don’t require intensive or emergency care. All patients will be screened first at a local hospital.
USAA and the NFL are displaying military appreciation across the league through Salute To Service.
Fox Sports host Jay Glazer interviews SOCOM Para-Commandos as they prep for a jump into Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These professionals train day after day, jump after jump, to perform better as a team and execute with precision.
A computer scientist has pioneered an artificial intelligence-driven method of modeling the behaviors of militant groups, and the Department of Defense is interested.
In a paper titled “Mining for Causal Relationships: A Data-Driven Study of the Islamic State,” presented at the 2015 Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, a team led by Paulo Shakarian of Arizona State University used 2,200 individual data points on ISIS-related incidents from the Institute for the Study of War to build a descriptive model — an algorithm that models ISIS’s behavior.
Shakarian, who is a former Army officer, DARPA military fellow, and assistant professor at West Point, applied principals of computer science to turn the raw reports from ISW into a database which he could then analyze.
As the paper notes, “ISIS has displayed a high level of sophistication and discipline in its military operations.” Even so, it’s possible to glimpse patterns in their operations, and the paper found strong correlations between certain tactics.
For instance, a spike in car bombs in Baghdad was very often followed by ISIS attacks in northern Iraqi cities. Based on this relationship, the paper suggests that ISIS uses the car bombs to draw Iraqi security forces away from ISIS infantry pursuing other targets.
In the paper, Shakarain and his research partners identified two targets that ISIS seems to value especially highly: Balad and Baiji. Baiji is home to a major oil refinery and Balad is near an important government air base.
Shakarain described the paper as a “proof of concept,” telling Business Insider that “it’s not a really big data set, but it’s still significant.” Based on limited data from the only the second half of 2014, the paper focused only on modeling the past behavior of the elusive terror group.
“We came up with a description of their behavior, not any predictions,” explained Shakarian.
Shakarian said that there were people in the Department of Defense who “found the study very interesting.” And he thinks that his kind of computer science-driven research methods will become more accepted inside the Pentagon.
“It’s been revolutionary for DoD to see what you can do with this much data,” Shakarian told Business Insider. The ASU algorithm, updated with real-time data from the Pentagon, could be a powerful analytical tool.
Shakarian is excited at the prospect of applying his machine-learning methods to complex security situations around the world. “People are going to the battlefield with computers and recording data. We all forget how new this stuff is.” Shakarian noted that “It’s only been happening in the last 10-15 years where you have this much high-resolution data.”
The US military’s special operations forces (SOF) are increasingly returning to their roots of advising foreign militaries to fight for them — and it seems to be paying dividends in Iraq and Syria.
The campaign against ISIS is being fought less by US troops on the front lines, but instead is being conducted ” by, with, and through” local forces, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of CENTCOM, told Congress.
There have been three big changes in how SOF has been used against ISIS, and if successful, these new tactics might be used in future conflicts, Linda Robinson, a senior analyst with RAND, writes at The Cipher Brief.
As Robinson notes, special ops are on the ground in ideal numbers, they accompany and are dispersed with local forces at the front, and they provide crucial fire support to local forces.
In the late 1940s, SOF were seen to have little purpose in a new world where atomic weapons and strategic bombers reigned. But that changed with the emergence of the Cold War, where proxy wars and insurgencies became more prevalent.
One of the first examples of the new way SOF were used was in the 1950s when the 10th Special Forces Group was tasked with establishing guerrilla forces behind Communist lines in eastern Europe. “That was the moment Special Operations warriors point to as their birthday,” Dwight John Zimmerman and John D. Gresham write in “Beyond Hell and Back: How America’s Special Operations Force Became The Best Fighting Force In The World.”
After 9/11, however, SOF began to be used in more “precision, highly kinetic strike forces enabled by technology and linked through a digitally networked battlefield.” But by and large, the new counter-terrorism strategy in Iraq and Syria may prove to be something of a reset to SOF’s former tactics.
The number of SOF in Iraq and Syria has now reached about 10,000, giving them the means to provide “meaningful support to the variety of indigenous forces fighting ISIS,” Robinson writes.
Furthermore, SOF now accompany local forces to secure locations near the front lines. They no longer give tactical advice from distant headquarters, where they had to analyze operations through “the soda-straw perspective of drone feeds,” Robinson says.
This allows them to see local forces in action, and therefore give better advice.
Over the last year, SOF has increasingly provided more fire support. US Apache helicopters were first used in June 2016 to capture Qayyarah, which is now a staging base for coalition forces’ assault on Mosul. This base now has an ICU, and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems set up to support the assault.
US howitzers are also set up at a base in Hamman al-Alil, providing support to Iraqi CTS and Federal Police advancing into West Mosul.
This support has been even more helpful to Syrian Democratic Forces, an irregular force that is not heavily armed but nevertheless is the main force fighting ISIS in Syria.
Members of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit have also moved into Syria with 155mm howitzers to assault Raqqa. It was reported in March that US Marines near Raqqa “had killed hundreds of enemy fighters and destroyed more than 200 fortifications.” One of the canons they used in these strikes was the M-777 Howitzer, which fires 155mm shells and has a range of up to 25 miles.
SOF has also recently helped position 500 local forces near the strategic Tabqah Dam, which was eventually wrested from ISIS.
However, the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is far from over. ISIS has dug bunkers, trenches and tunnels, and laced Raqqa with mines, while in western Mosul, there are still more than 400,000 civilians caught in the middle of heavy fighting.
But if the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria succeeds, “this new way of combining forces and using SOF to direct a ground war, could become a model for conducting low- to mid-level combat.”
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency held a massive scavenger hunt in the nation’s capitol to collect data on how to find dirty nuclear bombs planted by terrorists.
Participants in the scavenger hunt, mostly ROTC cadets and midshipmen from the nearby Naval Academy, were playing a game to find a geneticist who was “mysteriously abducted.” But they carried cell-phone sized sensors that sniffed out radioactive material as they moved around the city for hours, allowing DARPA to test the ability of the sensors to search for a covert nuke.
The sensors, part of DARPA’s SIGMA program, are low-cost gamma and neutron radiation sniffers that are networked with smartphones so they can relay information to a central point.
Before this scavenger hunt, DARPA had only tested up to 100 sensors at a time. But the network of sensors is supposed to provide coverage of entire cities or regions, allowing law enforcement to search for and find stolen or smuggled nuclear material before it can be used in a weapon.
In a real attack, police would need to scan vast areas using hundreds or more sensors. So, the Nov. 10 test featured 1,000 sensors feeding their information into the program’s software.
The scavenger hunt scenario was developed to keep the cadets and midshipmen engaged as they carried the devices around Washington, D.C., for hours. Even larger tests are planned for 2017 and DARPA partners hope to push the final version of SIGMA to local, state, and federal police in 2018.
Dirty bombs are conventional explosives with nuclear material mixed in or layered on top of the main charge. The nuclear material does not significantly add to the total blast force of the weapon, but it is spread over a large area to frighten residents and to force a costly and time-consuming cleanup process.
Dirty bombs are easier to make than standard nuclear devices, and the government has worked to prevent a dirty bomb terrorist attack for years.
In the summer of 1966 the United States was ramping up operations in Vietnam. For the Marines of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, this meant deep infiltration and reconnaissance into the Que Son Valley.
Dubbed Operation Kansas, the recon teams moved deep into enemy-held territory to observe and strike at the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong operating in the area.
This mostly consisted of calling for artillery or air support to take out small concentrations of enemy fighters. When larger groups were observed, they were dealt with by calling in reinforcements in the form of Marine rifle companies and battalions.
There was little intention of the recon Marines making direct contact.
Thus, 18 Marines from Team 2, C Company, 1st Recon inserted onto Hill 488 to begin their observation mission.
The team was led by Staff Sgt. Jimmie E. Howard. Howard had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950 and was assigned to the 1st Marine Regiment in Korea.
While serving as the forward observer to the regimental mortar company in 1952, Howard was awarded a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts while defending outposts along the Main Line of Resistance.
After his tour in Korea, Howard stayed in the Marine Corps and entered Marine Reconnaissance. In early 1966 he returned to combat in Vietnam, leading a platoon of Reconnaissance Marines.
On the night of June 13, 1966, Operation Kansas began with the insertion of numerous recon teams into the Que Son Valley. Team 2 on Hill 488 quickly set up positions to observe the valley. Over the course of the next two days, the recon teams disrupted enemy activity with air and artillery strikes. Howard and his team were doing so well that they turned down an offer to be extracted in order to remain one more day.
Unfortunately, the accuracy and effectiveness of the firepower Howard’s team brought to bear also served to alert the Viet Cong that these were not simply random attacks; they were being watched. The enemy had also surmised that the observation must be coming from Hill 488. Alerted that a Viet Cong battalion of approximately 200-250 men was heading their way, the Marines prepared to defend themselves.
As the Marines waited for the inevitable, the Viet Cong were creeping up the hill toward the Marine positions. Howard had ordered his men to pull back to a rocky knoll at the top of the hill the moment contact was made. Under the cover of darkness, the first Viet Cong made it to within 20 feet of the Marine perimeter. The first shots from the Marine defenders rang out. Under a hail of gunfire and grenades, the Marines fell back to the final defensive position.
The Marines took casualties almost instantly but they responded with determined resistance. Grenades and mortars rained down on their position as heavy machine gun and rifle fire covered the advance of the attackers. But the Marines mowed down the first wave of attackers and blunted the advance. The remaining enemy took a more cautious approach and searched for an opening.
Howard used the brief lull in fire to call for extraction. Before help could arrive, the Viet Cong mounted another determined charge to take the hill but were again driven back. By this time the Marines were out of grenades, running low on ammunition, and all eighteen had been wounded or killed. But there was still more fighting to do.
After some three hours of fighting, air support arrived overhead. As Air Force planes dropped flares to illuminate the valley, gunships and fighters made strafing runs. They dropped napalm on the advancing enemy. To say the air support was danger-close would be an understatement. Despite the air attack, the enemy was persistent and continued to charge the hill.
At one point the Viet Cong began yelling at the Marines, taunting them. The young Marines of the recon team looked to Howard who gave them the go-ahead to yell back.
Then, with the enemy still shouting taunts, the remaining Marines literally looked death in the face and laughed their heads off. The whole team joined in a chorus of laughter that silenced the Viet Cong.
The Viet Cong came again.
With the enemy still probing their lines, the beleaguered Marines relied on their expert marksmanship and a little trickery to even the odds. Out of grenades, the Marines would watch for movement and then hurl a rock at the enemy.
Intending to escape the impending explosion the Viet Cong would expose their position. Then with deadly accuracy the Marines would take a single shot, conserving ammunition and racking up the body count.
A rescue attempt at dawn resulted in one lost helicopter, with a medevac waved off due to the intense fire. Eventually it was decided to bring in a Marine infantry company to clear the hill and allow the recon team to be pulled out. Reportedly there remained only eight rounds of ammunition between the survivors; the rest had picked up enemy weapons.
Howard’s steadfast leadership and cool under fire during the battle for Hill 488 earned him the Medal of Honor. He was also awarded a Purple Heart, along with every other member of the team. Thirteen members of the team were awarded the Silver Star for their bravery. The remaining four members of the team received the Navy Cross. Six of the Marines of Team 2 received their awards posthumously. The recon platoon was the most decorated unit for its size ever in the history of the American military.