This year's 'Best Warrior' tests will be based on actual combat incidents - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

New events for this year’s Best Warrior Competition will come from the experiences of operational advisors deployed around the world by the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the lead organizer said Sept. 25, 2019.

The competition will take place Oct. 6-11, 2019, at Forts Lee and A.P. Hill, Virginia, with 22 competitors from the Army’s major commands and components vying for Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. Winners will be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.

A small Asymmetric Warfare Group detachment at Fort A.P. Hill has been preparing for the competition since February 2019 under the leadership of 1st Sgt. Hunter Conrad.


Conrad served as an AWG operational advisor for three years, undergoing half a dozen deployments to nations such as Senegal, Uganda, Somalia and Tunisia. He also served for a year on AWG’s Leadership Development Troop, teaching brigade combat teams how to operate in a subterranean environment.

The competition’s events, though, don’t just come from his experiences; they’re based on real-world situations observed by operational advisors across all combatant commands, he said.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

Spc. Hunter Olson, Maryland National Guard, dominates a water survival event involving a 100-meter swim in full uniform at the 2019 Region II Best Warrior Competition.

(Photo by aj. Kurt M. Rauschenberg)

“It’s been a team effort,” Conrad said, and that doesn’t just stop with the preparations. A team of about 15 soldiers from First U.S. Army at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, will be joining his detachment to conduct the competition.

Another 20 or so soldiers from AWG at Fort Meade, Maryland, will be going to A.P. Hill to help run the competition, he said, and a handful from the Army Medical Command will also be there.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston went to Fort A.P. Hill September 2019 for a validation and mission rehearsal of the competition. He made minor course corrections, Conrad said, based on his preference for enhanced, realistic training.

“The Best Warrior Competition is the essence of what we want to accomplish,” Grinston said. “We want to enhance Army readiness by building cohesive teams who are highly trained, disciplined and physically fit. Cohesive teams are the key to winning on any battlefield.”​

In order to enhance the realism, Conrad spent hours studying after-action reports that describe recent incidents around the world that tested the combat proficiency of soldiers. Many of those incidents will be re-created for the competition.

The competition actually begins at Fort Lee with the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Then competitors depart for the operational phase of Best Warrior at Fort A.P. Hill. There they will be tested on various soldier skills as part of a fictional combatant command scenario, Conrad said.

Every year, different skill level 1 tasks are tested, he said, in order to keep competitors guessing. They don’t know ahead of time what skills will be assessed, or in what order, so Conrad said they must be proficient in all of them.

Competitors won’t be able to “just memorize the sequence of events and perform them in a sterile environment,” like they do in warrior task testing lanes at many units, he said.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

Spc. Collin George, U.S. Army Reserve Soldier of the Year, reassebles an M240B machine gun with his eyes covered during a crew-served weapons class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Long)

“We actually try to place them in a real-world scenario and grade them on their ability to execute the same tasks in a more stressful, realistically-simulated environment,” he said.

Last year the operational phase of the competition began with a ruck march in the dark carrying 50 pounds of gear. The initial event will be different this year, but Conrad added competitors “can expect to exert themselves physically.”

Additionally, Grinston noted, as the Army continues to study ways to enhance readiness, it must better understand biomechanics and cognitive performance to quantify soldier lethality.

“We need to establish a baseline for soldier performance through the Soldier Performance Model,” he said. “We have a team who will place sensors on each competitor to measure everything from stress and fatigue, to how their bodies process nutrition during the competition.”

“This will help us collect data to evaluate the impact of those factors, and others, on soldiers, and what we can do to help them perform better,” Grinston said.

Last year, Cpl. Matthew Hagensick from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, earned the Soldier of the Year title. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, a civil affairs specialist with the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, became NCO of the Year.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy vet built his own car from a top-secret jet engine

The first thing one might notice about the barracks at a military base is that there are a lot of nice, shiny, new cars parked there. It’s not a secret that troops like to buy new vehicles when they join the military. When someone with a love for cars and speed learns how to rebuild and maintain jet engines, like many in the military do, no one should be surprised that they use those skills in their post-military career.


This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

Pictured: The TAPS Class of the future.

Arthur Arfons didn’t actually become a jet engineer when he joined the Navy in 1943. He was a diesel mechanic who worked on landing craft in the Pacific Theater of World War II, even landing at Okinawa to support the Marines invasion of the Japanese island. He may have been a Petty Officer Second Class, but his mechanic’s skills were first-rate. It was just something he loved to do. By 1952, he had returned to his native Ohio and started building drag racing cars with his brother, Walt.

That’s how Art Arfons would make history.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

Art Arfons in the “Green Monster 2.”

In their first outings, they used a classic V6 Oldsmobile engine that barely peaked at 85 miles per hour. Their next attempt was a significant step up. They put an Allison V12 aircraft engine, normally used in a Curtiss P-38 Lightning fighter plane. Called the “Green Monster 2,” and painted to resemble the nose of a P-38, it would break the existing land speed record by clocking at 145.16 miles per hour.

When Art Arfons split from Walt, he somehow picked up a General Electric J79 jet engine from a scrap dealer. The engine had sucked up a bolt and was considered unsalvageable by the U.S. military. Art bought it from scrap for just 0. GE and the U.S. military were very much against Arfons purchasing the J79, considering it was Top Secret technology at the time.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

The “Green Monster” featuring a Starfighter engine arrives to set a record.

Arfons rebuilt the jet engine, capable of 17,500 pounds of static thrust with its four-stage afterburner. His newly rebuilt engine, normally used in an F-104 Starfighter, was put into the next iteration of his “Green Monster” vehicles (he named all his vehicles “Green Monster”), where he used it to set the land speed record three more times between 1966 and 1967, topping out at 576 miles per hour.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The weapons the Army, Air Force, and Navy all want desperately

Russian and Chinese advancements in hypersonic weaponry are driving the US military to field a viable hypersonic strike weapon within the next couple of years.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly developing a common boost-glide vehicle to clear the way for each of these services to bring American hypersonic weaponry to the battlefield in the near future.

For the Army, that’s the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). The Air Force is building the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) and the Navy is pursuing its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon, The Drive reported Oct. 11, 2018, citing an Aviation Week report. There is the possibility these systems could be deployed as early as 2021.


“There is a very aggressive timeline for testing and demonstrating the capability,” Col. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC on Oct. 10, 2018. The progress already made “is a result of several months of cooperation between all three services to collaborate on a common hypersonic glide body.”

The Navy is responsible for designing the boost-glide vehicle, as the fleet faces the greatest integration challenges due to the spacial limitations of the firing platforms like ballistic missile submarines, the colonel explained.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

U.S. Army Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers from the 1-426 Field Artillery Battery operate an M109A6 Paladin Howitzer at at Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 18, 2018

(US Army photo by Spc. John Russell)

“Everybody’s moving in the same direction,” he added, further commenting, “The Army can get there the fastest. It will be in the field, manned by soldiers, and create the deterrent effect that we are looking for.”

As the boost-glide vehicle is unpowered, each service will develop its own booster technology for launching the relevant weapons, which fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The goal for the Army’s AHW is for it to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 8, giving it the ability to cover 3,700 miles in just 35 minutes, The Drive reported.

The Air Force has already awarded two hypersonic weapons contracts in 2018, and the Navy just awarded one in October 2018. The Army’s LRPF CFT is focusing on producing a long-range hypersonic weapon, among other weapons, to devastate hardened strategic targets defended by integrated air defense systems.

The US military’s intense push for hypersonic warfighting technology comes as the Russians and Chinese make significant strides with this technology. Hypersonic weapons are game-changers, as their incredible speeds and ability to maneuver at those speeds make them invulnerable to modern air and missile defense systems, making them, in the simplest of terms, weaponry that can not be stopped.

Russia is expected to field its nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle in 2019, and China has conducted numerous tests of various hypersonic glide vehicles and aircraft, most recently in early August 2018, when China tested its Xingkong-2 hypersonic experimental waverider, which some military experts suspected could be weaponized as a high-speed strike platform.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

The way the leader of tightly controlled Turkmenistan sees it, there’s an ancient remedy for warding off the coronavirus: burning a wild herb known as hamala.


Belarus’s authoritarian president had similarly folksy advice for cabinet ministers and his fellow countrymen: go out and work in the fields. And ride a tractor.

Global leaders and medical experts are struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, imposing quarantines, shutting down borders, mandating mask use, and bolstering the capabilities of infectious disease-fighting medical workers. Scientists, meanwhile, are rushing to find a vaccine and a cure for the disease that has killed more than 7,500 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many officials are also struggling to prevent the spread of half-truths, misinformation, and unscientific remedies — something that is even harder in the era of social media and instantaneous communication — and even propaganda.

The coronavirus “outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ — an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” the WHO said in a report issued in early February.

Garlic, vitamin C, steroids, essential oils? Despite what you might read on Facebook or VK, the Russian social network, there’s no scientific evidence any of these things will combat the coronavirus.

With a view to highlighting the problem of misinformation, and nudging people toward reliable, authoritative sources, here’s a look at some of the more outlandish remedies that some leaders have – wrongly – suggested would help fight the coronavirus.

Turkmen Fumigation​

In Turkmenistan, one of the most oppressive societies in the world, the country has been ruled for years by authoritarian leaders with a penchant for quixotic quirks and health recommendations.

Before his death in 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov, who called himself the Father Of All Turkmen, routinely dispensed spiritual guidance, not to mention public-health advice, to the country, messaging that was widely disseminated by state TV and newspapers. In 2005, the country’s physicians were ordered to spurn the Hippocratic Oath — the ancient pledge used worldwide by medical workers — and instead swear an oath to Niyazov, an electrical engineer by training.

His successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, is a dentist by training. But that hasn’t stopped him from building a personality cult similar to Niyazov’s — or from offering unfounded medical advice, most recently on March 13, when he chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the looming dangers of the coronavirus.

“Over the millennia, our ancestors have developed proven national methods of combating addictions and preventing various infectious diseases,” he said.

He went on to suggest that burning an herb known as hamala, or wild rue, would destroy viruses “that are invisible to the naked eye.”

In fact, this is not true.

In December, Turkmen state TV featured a program discussing veterinary remedies for farmers coping with an outbreak of disease among cattle. Among the remedies being offered were those featured in a book authored by Berdymukhammedov.

A year earlier, the Health Ministry offered medical advice to Turkmen dealing with summer respiratory ailments. Among the tips: “use medicinal teas scientifically described in the book of … Berdymukhammedov’s Plants of Turkmenistan.”

As of March 18, Turkmenistan had reported no confirmed cases of infection.

Reap What You Sow

Over more than two decades of ruling Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has also routinely dispensed folksy wisdom to his countrymen.

Prior to the presidency, Lukashenka headed a Soviet-style collective farm operation, which is where he has drawn his suggestions and medicinal folklore from in the past.

On March 16, he hosted a meeting of cabinet officials in Minsk, where he sought to head off mounting concerns about the coronavirus in the country. As of March 17, it had 17 confirmed cases.

At the meeting, which was televised on state TV, he told officials “we have lived through other viruses. We’ll live through this one,” he said.

“You just have to work, especially now, in a village,” Lukashenka said. “In the countryside, people are working in the fields, on tractors, no one is talking about the virus.”

“There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone,” he said.

Lukashenka wished his ministers good health and offered this other piece of health advice: Go have a good sweat in a dry sauna; the coronavirus, according to Lukashenka, dies at 60 degrees Celsius.

In fact, there’s no evidence that tractors, saunas, or fieldwork have any effect on the coronavirus.

Vodka Elixir

As of March 18, Serbia had 83 confirmed cases of the virus.

Three weeks prior, as officials across the world were beginning to take concerns about the coronavirus’s spread seriously, President Aleksandar Vucic met with health specialists to discuss the measures being taken by his government.

He joked that alcohol — ingested — might very well be a useful salve.

“After they told me — and now I see that Americans insist it’s true — that the coronavirus doesn’t grow wherever you put alcohol, I’ve now found myself an additional reason to drink one glass a day,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with that alcohol [liquor], I just made that up for you to know.”

It didn’t help matters that, earlier on, Vucic’s foreign minister, had gone on Serbian TV to suggest that the virus was a foreign plot targeting the Chinese economy.

Belarus’s Lukashenka, meanwhile, echoed Vucic’s quip about vodka himself earlier this week.

“I’m a nondrinker, but recently I’ve been jokingly saying that you should not only wash your hands with vodka, but that probably 40-50 grams of pure alcohol will poison this virus,” Lukashenka said.

In fact, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure the coronavirus, or any other virus inside the body. Alcohol can, in fact, help kill germs and viruses externally, but washing your hands with vodka will not.

Holy Water, Holy Virus

While political leaders have been confusing people with unhelpful medicinal folklore, they aren’t the only leaders to do so.

Some clerics in a number of Orthodox countries — Russia included — have spurned medical guidance that has warned the coronavirus can be transmitted via close physical contact, or bodily fluids, such as droplets in the air, or saliva on utensils.

Metropolitan Ilarion, a top official in the Russian Orthodox Church, told state media that the church will not be closing parishes for services during the period leading up to Easter, which is to be celebrated on April 19.

Ilarion also told Rossia-24 TV that church leaders do not believe that any “virus or disease can be transmitted through communion” — the religious rite of eating bread and sipping wine during a church service.

Still, he indicated that the church would consider changes to things like the use of a communion spoon, used to give blessed wine to parishioners.

“But if it comes to bans or recommendations that we are obliged to follow, then in some cases single-use [disposable] spoons will be used,” he said.

On March 17, he went further.

“This does not mean that the church underestimates the threat. If the virus spreads and the number of infected grows, if new orders from the authorities appear regarding the fight against the coronavirus, the church will respond to them,” he was quoted as telling Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

He said church leaders were taking other unusual steps, including the use of disposable cups, disposable rubber gloves, and a suspension of the practice of kissing the cross or religious icons — a common practice in Orthodox tradition.

Two days earlier, however, at least one Orthodox parish, in the Volga River city of Kazan, was using a reusable “holy spoon” to administer communion wine.

As of March 18, Russia had 114 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, in Georgia (38 confirmed cases), Orthodox priests were reportedly continuing to use a common spoon to ladle communion into the drinking cups of worshippers who chose that option. And the Greek Orthodox Church also echoed Ilarion’s unfounded insistence that viruses could not spread via Communion.

Other Georgian Orthodox priests, meanwhile, took to the roads this week to try and curtail, or cure, the coronavirus, driving around Tbilisi sprinkling holy water on cars and drivers alike.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China just mounted a futuristic railgun onto one of its ships

Photos have been circulating on social media that show a Chinese ship with what could be a prototype railgun on its bow.


The photos, taken at the Wuchang Shipyard in China’s Hubei Province, show a Type 072III-class landing ship identified as the Haiyang Shan with a much larger gun on its mount than its usual twin 37mm cannon.

The size and shape of the weapon are roughly the same as the U.S. Navy’s own prototype railgun, and the shipping containers on the deck could be used as control rooms or to house the power supply. Moreover, the location of the photographs may hint as to the gun’s true nature — the Wuchang Shipyard has been the sight of previous tests for the Chinese Navy.

 

 

It also comes at a time when the U.S. has been scaling back their efforts on developing railguns and other electromagnetic technologies. The Navy has spent more than $500 million on the project, which will likely never see combat.

Officials at the Department of Defense “don’t want to fund the railgun because they’re simply not buying it,” a senior legislative official with direct knowledge of the U.S.’ railgun project recently told Task Purpose.

“Promising technologies fall into the ‘valley of death’ all the time,” another legislative source told Task Purpose. “Testing is great, but unless you want to put money into transitioning that tech into an actual weapons system then what the hell are you doing? We’re afraid to take a risk and try to get things moving.”

Also Read: China might have radar tech that can see the F-35

Railguns are cannons that can shoot inert projectiles without gunpowder. They achieve this by using magnetic energy sent through rails on the projectiles as they make their way down the barrel, allowing the projectile to reach hypersonic speeds.

The technology would allow for faster target acquisition, increased range, and could free up space for more projectiles because propelling charges would not be needed — something that may also make the railgun cheaper than its current counterparts.

The photos suggest that the set up is still in a testing phase. A Type 072III-class landing ship would be a good candidate; the ship can hold 500 tons of cargo, and has enough open space to fit large components.

China’s military has a well known history of being interested in electromagnetic technologies. The country has been researching how to build and deploy a Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for its aircraft carriers.

 

EMALS would require less maintenance that current systems, which rely on compressed steam to launch aircraft, and could allow Chinese aircraft carriers to carry and launch larger aircraft, increasing the range and strike power of a Chinese carrier force.

Railguns are something that China has been pursuing for decades. While the research has been going on since the 1980’s, China has recently claimed to have made massive progress on the program, with Rear Admiral Ma Weiming boasting of China’s breakthroughs in October 2017.

Though there has been no official confirmation that the pictures show a railgun, China would be the first nation to successfully install a railgun prototype onto a sea-worthy vessel if the reports are true.

Articles

US military helicopter crashes off southern coast of Yemen

A US military Black Hawk helicopter crashed off the southern coast of Yemen while training its crew, leaving one service member missing, officials said.


Five others aboard the aircraft were rescued, officials said in a statement issued by US Central Command.

The crash took place on August 25. Officials said the accident was under investigation.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents
Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from Company C, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment. Photo from DoD.

Asked if the crash involved another special forces raid, Central Command told The Associated Press that “this was a routine training event specifically for US military personnel.”

“Training events such as this are routinely held by US forces within a theater of operations in order to maintain their proficiency within the operating environment,” CENTCOM told the AP in a statement.

“Commanders deemed this location appropriate and safe for a routine training event, considering both the operational environment and weather conditions at the time.”

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents
A Missouri Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter (left) sits next to an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter on the flightline. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Michaela R. Slanchik.

Yemen is located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

The United States has been carrying out airstrikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen, with at least 80 launched since the end of February.

A small number of ground raids using US Special Operations forces have also taken place, including one in January which resulted in the death of a US Navy Seal.

MIGHTY BRANDED

This Army veteran and family man still finds time to pursue education with Grantham University

This article is sponsored by Grantham University.


Troy Green is an Army veteran with a full range of responsibilities, from being a father and leading his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop to fundraising for the Missouri Veterans Home. After coming home from the Army, Troy dove headfirst into his hometown. He’s deeply involved in his community and spends an incredible amount of time devoted to significant causes. On top of his heavy schedule, Troy wanted to pursue the education afforded to him by the GI Bill.

Bricks-and-mortar schools don’t work for everyone, especially adults with jobs and families. Online education is a great option for busy active duty service members, veterans, and military families because students can matriculate anywhere and the hours are flexible. But not all online institutions are created equal, especially when it comes to providing value to the military community. Finding one that truly understands the military way of life is essential . . . and rare.

Grantham University is one of the best online colleges for military service members because the institution strives to make a service member’s college experience fit his or her life. Grantham’s range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs help troops prepare for promotion opportunities or even career changes.

The military has always been in Grantham’s DNA. Grantham University was founded in 1951 by WWII veteran Donald Grantham to provide other veterans a way to better their lives through distance learning. That spirit combined with the latest online technologies, including effective use of social media, allows Grantham to offer military students targeted online degree programs in the most affordable manner possible. A flexible, self-paced curriculum allows military students to work at their own speed when they have the time. Grantham also assists in creating military-only study groups so classmates can relate to each other in all the ways that matter and make the educational experience more enjoyable and effective. And Grantham helps students choose a targeted degree that complements military experience.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS’ last town in Iraq falls to Iraqi security forces

On Nov. 17, Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition retook the last town in the country that was held by the Islamic State group, more than three years after the militants stormed nearly a third of Iraq’s territory, the Defense Ministry said.


At dawn, military units and local tribal fighters pushed into the western neighborhoods of Rawah in western Anbar province, and after just five hours of fighting, they retook the town, according to Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, the ministry’s spokesman.

Related: Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated his forces on retaking Rawah. In a statement released on the afternoon of Nov. 17, Al-Abadi said Iraqi forces liberated Rawah in record time and were continuing operations to retake control of Iraq’s western desert and the border area with Syria.

Rawah, 175 miles (275 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, lies along the Euphrates River Valley near the border town of Qaim that Iraqi forces retook from IS earlier this month.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents
The city of Rawah, Iraq. (Photo from Flickr user Jayel Aheram)

U.S.-led coalition forces supported the operations to retake Rawah and Qaim with intelligence, airstrikes, and advisers, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said.

IS blitzed across Iraq’s north and west in the summer of 2014, capturing Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and advancing to the edges of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Later that year, the United States began a campaign of airstrikes against the militants that fueled Iraqi territorial gains, allowing the military to retake Mosul in July this year.

Also Read: Iraq to ISIS: surrender or die

All that now remains of IS-held Iraq are patches of rural territory in the country’s vast western desert along the border with Syria.

IS has steadily been losing ground across the border in Syria as well where its so-called “caliphate” has basically crumbled with the loss of the city of Raqqa, the former Islamic State group’s capital, which fell to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in October.

Both the U.S. and Russia have embedded special forces with their respective partners and are supporting their advances with airstrikes. Russia backs Syrian government forces of President Bashar Assad.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Syrian President Assad. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin)

The last urban areas controlled by the militants in Syria are parts of the border town of Boukamal and a patch of territory near the capital, Damascus, and in central Hama province.

Syrian government forces, backed by Russian troops and Iranian-backed militias, originally pushed IS out of Boukamal earlier this month, but the militants retook a large part of the town, mostly its northern neighborhoods days later. Since then, IS has repelled government forces trying to push back into the town.

Meanwhile, U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are also approaching Boukamal from the eastern side of the Euphrates.

Despite IS’ significant territorial losses, the group’s media arm remains intact, allowing it to still recruit supporters and inspire new attacks. Iraqi and American officials say IS militants are expected to continue carrying out insurgent-style attacks in Syria, Iraq, and beyond.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Avengers: Endgame’ is returning to theaters with a deleted scene

At the end of June 2019, a new version of Avengers: Endgame will hit theaters, with a post-credits scene and new “surprises.”

On June 19, 2019, Insider reported that during a press junket for Spider-Man: Far From Home, Marvel president Kevin Feige confirmed the “rerelease” will happen on June 28, 2019, right before Far From Home hits theaters the following week. Feige made it clear that this wasn’t an extended cut but that “there will be a version going into theaters with a bit of a marketing push with a few new things at the end of the movie.” He continued: “If you stay and watch the movie, after the credits, there’ll be a deleted scene, a little tribute, and a few surprises. “


The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a long history of including post-credits scenes, with mixed results. In April 2019, audiences who were excitedly anticipating the post-credit scene after Endgame were treated to a trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home instead. Chris Hemsworth later teased a “deleted scene” from the film on Jimmy Fallon. However, the “scene” ended up being a clip of the Australian actor singing a few lines of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails.

The point is when it came out in April 2019, Endgame was unique because it was the first MCU film that didn’t have a post-credits scene setting up what would happen in future installments. Now, apparently, that will no longer be the case.

As for the “surprises,” that’s anyone’s guess. Maybe one deleted scene will help explain what the hell happened to Loki and how he has his own time-traveling TV show?

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US grounds B-1 fleet over ejection seat precautions

The U.S. Air Force has grounded the entire B-1B Lancer bomber fleet, marking the second fleetwide stand-down in about a year.

Officials with Air Force Global Strike Command said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet.

“The drogue chute corrects the seat before the parachute deploys out of the seat,” said Capt. Earon Brown, a spokesman with Air Force Global Strike Command.


The issue is “part of the egress system,” or the way airmen exit the bomber in an emergency, Brown told Military.com on March 28, 2019. The problem does not appear to be related to the issues that occurred last year, AFGSC said.

“There are procedural issues of how [the drogue chute is] being put into place,” Brown said.

Officials will “look at each aircraft [para]chute system and make sure they are meeting technical order requirements to employ” the drogue chute appropriately, he added. The B-1 has four seats, for the pilot, co-pilot and two weapons systems officers in the back.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, maneuvers over New Mexico during a training mission on Feb. 24, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

AFGSC commander Gen. Timothy Ray on March 28, 2019, directed the stand-down for “a holistic inspection of the entire egress system,” according to a press release. “The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft.”

Brown said the Air Force does not have a timeline for when fleet will be back in the air, but said the fixes are a “high priority.”

The bombers will return to flight “as the issues, any issues, get resolved,” he said, adding that B-1s are not currently deployed overseas.

In 2018, the command grounded the fleet over safety concerns related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. The stand-down was a result of an emergency landing by a B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation at the time that the B-1, out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

A B-1B Lancer.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)

The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a May 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.

Local media reported at the time the B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land because of “an engine flameout.” Weeks later, images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show the aircraft with a burnt-out engine. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.

Officials ordered a stand-down on June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected. Months after the incident, UTC Aerospace Systems, manufacturer of the bomber’s ACES II ejection seat, said the seat itself is not the problem.

After coordinating with the Air Force, UTC determined “there’s an issue with the sequencing system,” said John Fyfe, director of Air Force programs for UTC.

It had been implied “that the ejection seat didn’t fire, when in fact the ejection seat was never given the command to fire,” Fyfe told Military.com in September 2018.

“This particular B-1, [the sequence system] was not ours,” he said, adding that there are multiple vendors for the sequencing systems.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Navy SEAL Google hired as its security chief

As corporate America recruits veterans who have led men and women under fire, Google has skimmed the cream of the crop to manage its global security.


Veteran Chris Rackow heads the team that protects the company’s 80,000 employees, its offices and property, in more than 150 cities across almost 60 countries. Google tapped Rackow’s experience just over a year ago, recognizing the value the former warrior would bring to the search powerhouse. He had spent years in two of the most elite military and paramilitary organizations in the world: the U.S. Navy SEALs and the FBI Hostage Rescue Team.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents
A group of U.S. Navy SEALs clear a room during a no-light live-fire drill near San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Stevenson)

Rackow’s leadership illustrates how corporate America has caught on to the resource created by veterans of U.S. foreign interventions. An ability to manage complex, risky, and dynamic problems, especially in the rapidly changing technology industry, carries a premium.

Google brought Rackow on board in September 2016 as vice president of global security. He is one of many veterans at Google, which does not disclose the number it hires, but says they’re employed in every job category, including software engineering, sales, finance, and security.

Related: Fortune 500 CEOs who served in the military

“One of the highest values of veterans is leadership just because it is such a core element within the military, from junior-enlisted all the way up to senior officers,” Rackow said. “Everybody’s expected to exert some type of leadership, and that is baked into recruits from day one all the way through.”

“It’s a quality that I have seen to be slackening across the business world,” Rackow said. “That’s, I think, where veterans really can play a huge part – coming in and providing positive, respectful, and dignified leadership for organizations, especially multinationals.”

Rackow’s military career started in 1988 when he joined the SEALs, a Navy special forces unit known for its punishing selection program and high-stakes covert missions. He was a SEAL for nearly 23 years. He also spent 13 years in the FBI, for five years as a member of the Hostage Rescue Team, a counter-terrorism unit operating at home and abroad, and, like the SEALs, famed for its harsh induction and commando-style operations.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents
Members of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team spring into action. (Photo courtesy of FBI)

Now he works in an industry where the weapons of battle are code and silicon chips.

“I know I’m not the smartest guy in the room,” Rackow said. “In fact, I’m probably at the very low end of the totem pole based on the amazing skills we have here at Google.”

And for veterans, the corporate world has some significant differences from the armed services.

“The government and the military really are quite homogeneous. It really is not as truly diverse as a company is, and especially a global company,” he said.

“You really are presented with 360 degrees of various belief systems and ideas and concepts. That’s probably just the unique challenge for veterans, is to understand … the larger landscape that they need to be able to understand and learn how to operate within.”

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents
Google employees participate in Pride 2016 in London. As a company, Google promotes, exhibits, and supports diversity. (Photo by Katy Blackwood, cropped for viewing)

Still, his service gave him deep expertise in areas where the skills needed for military operations overlap with those required in a global technology firm — teamwork, for example.

“A team is really a group that understands that we are sacrificing a small part of our individuality, but we’re coming together for a common good, a common goal,” Rackow said. “Whether you call it a common goal or you call it a mission, it’s all the same thing.”

“True leadership really means there’s no one model, and oftentimes within a team, let’s say of 10 people, you might have to exercise 10 different leadership styles … without it looking as if you’re catering to individual needs,” he said.

Along with his background in warfare, Rackow brought into the tech industry a solid civilian education – thanks to realizing during his time with the FBI that he was getting intellectually out-gunned.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents
Graduations aren’t just for basic. Getting a degree helps propel vets into higher positions post-service. (DoD Photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay)

“I was coming to the conclusion that I was going after people that were way smarter than I was, and I needed to go back to school,” he said.

He spent two years getting two degrees simultaneously: an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and a master’s in global management from Arizona State’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, the latter teaching him “how to be successful across different cultures and belief systems.”

See Also: 20 private security contractors that hire vets with the skills

Rackow, married with a teenage daughter, has bounced around the world for decades, mostly in the Middle East and the western Pacific. Now, working at Google and living in Half Moon Bay, he’s not so far from where he spent his formative years. Born in Los Angeles, he lived in Lake Tahoe from kindergarten through fourth grade.

When he was in fifth grade his family moved to San Diego. “I grew up pretty much a California water kid. I was always out in the water, surfing, sailing, diving. Surfing stuck with me – I go out when it’s appropriate for my age,” he said. “I’m not charging anything big anymore. But I love to go out and stand-up paddleboard, or go out and surf.”

He considers his hiring by Google “a stroke of luck” that started with a call from one of the company’s recruiters.

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents
Kerry-Ann Moore, left, an advisor from the Jacksonville Military Affairs and Veterans Department, shakes hands with Army Capt. Jessie Felix during a military job fair in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, May 2, 2015. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.)

“It was of great interest to see if I could actually come and work and provide value here, and especially after doing the research on what Google believes and what they think they can do for the planet in general, I looked at it as another service-based environment,” he said.

Google supports veterans through grants to an education group and scholarships. It also hosts a veterans’ network among employees and resume-writing workshops pairing Google employees with veterans entering the civilian workforce, Rackow noted.

Though a commando for most of his career, he had prefaced his service with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy.

“I’m an engineer at heart,” he said. “But as my counselor in college told me, I probably should never practice engineering.”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

U.S. Air Force relief mission to COVID-19 crisis in Italy begins from Ramstein AB

USAF C-130s Flew Self-Contained Care Unit to Aviano Air Base in Italy on Friday.


The U.S. Air Force has deployed a C-130J Hercules transport from the 86th Airlift Wing from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Italy’s Aviano Air Base in the ongoing coronavirus relief mission. The U.S. aircraft arrived on Mar. 20, 2020, and joins other relief aircraft in the region, including a number of Russian Aerospace Forces Il-76 transports that departed Russia earlier today.

Photos released by the USAF show Airmen from the 721st Aerial Port Squadron loading pallets of medical equipment on board a Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules transport.

Part of the cargo deployed to Italy in the U.S. relief mission is the En-Route Patient Staging System, or “ERPSS”. The system can support the medical transport of up to 40 patients in a 24-hour period. It is equipped with 10 patient staging beds for treatment of patients.

Commander of U.S. Air Force, Europe (USAFE-AFAFRICA), General Jeff “Cobra” Harrigian, told reporters, “The COVID-19 pandemic requires that we work with our allies and partners to [meet] the challenges together. This effort demonstrates our mutual support as we team together in response to this public health crisis. We are working closely with our Italian friends, the U.S. Department of State, and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) to ensure we provide the right equipment in a safe and timely manner. It’s our privilege to support the Italian response, and our continued commitment reflects the values of the American people to provide to whenever and wherever it is needed.”

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

A USAF Airman assigned to the 721st Aerial Port Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, loads pallets of medical supplies and equipment onboard a C-130J Super Hercules in preparation for relief flights to Aviano Air Base in Italy on March 20, 2020 in support of the COVID-19 relief effort.

(Photo: USAF Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)

The 86th Airlift Wing received one of their most recent, new C-130J Super Hercules transports from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Marietta, Georgia in early December, 2017. The C-130J Super Hercules is the most advanced version of the celebrated C-130, which first flew over 65 years ago in 1956. The C-130J is the only version of the C-130 that remains in production today. The aircraft features a fuselage that is 15-feet longer than previous versions of the C-130. The aircraft is also designed to work with advanced loading/unloading equipment for specialty palletized cargo like the En-Route Patient Staging System.

The aid from the U.S. military several days ago, and Russia’s air force beginning today, along with missions from China, Cuba and other nations, support the Italian government’s escalating response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Italian government has deployed troops in some areas to monitor quarantine and help slow the spread of the deadly disease.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about latest talks in Korea

North Korea and South Korea sent 20 diplomats to the “truce village” on Jan. 9, where the two states, technically still at war since 1953, talked about the coming Winter Olympics.


But early indications show that rising nuclear tensions remained the elephant in the room.

“This winter has seen more snowstorms than ever, and rivers and mountains across the country are frozen,” Ri Son Gwon, the chairman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, said to open the discussion, according to Reuters.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say that inter-Korean ties were even more frozen, but public yearning for improved relations was so strong that today’s precious event was brought about,” he said.

He also expressed “high hopes” for the dialogue and promised an “invaluable result as the first present of the year” to South Korea.

All eyes on Panmunjom

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents
Panmunjom village, located in the DMZ between ROK and DPRK. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

In Panmunjom, the village in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas where an armistice halted fighting in the Korean War, diplomats from the two countries labored while microphones and cameras recorded their every word and move.

Both South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had access to live streams of the discussions, but no special message was made to either leader, according to reports.

The goods delivered

While many have maligned the talks as a North Korean attempt to drive a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea, the talks resulted in a few tangible results on their first day.

Related: North and South Korea just took an enormous step back from war

Even better, the highest-level talks between the countries since 2015 did not just focus on the Olympic Games, but veered into other important inter-Korean relations, as U.S. President Donald Trump and many others hoped they would:

  1. North Korea will send performing artists and a taekwondo team to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, as well as possibly a pair of figure skaters who may compete in the games.
  2. The Koreas will reopen a military hotline, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. Military-to-military hotlines serve as a first line of defense for de-escalation. Having the line in place greatly reduces the chance of accidental military escalation.
  3. Denuclearization came up. Though CNN reports that North Korea’s delegation remained silent and did not respond to the mentions of South Korea’s aim that Pyongyang fully denuclearize, the issue was broached in talks with North Korea for the first time in years.
  4. South Korea mulled relaxing bans on North Korean officials, who have not been allowed south of the DMZ since nuclear tensions ratcheted up. South Korea may also allow North Korean citizens to visit the games.

Additional discussion took place around whether North Koreans could march with South Koreans in the ceremonies around the games and whether families separated by the DMZ could be reunited.

Long-term implications

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents
Kim Jong Un in a nuclear facility in North Korea. (KCNA)

In the short term, South Korea’s Winter Olympics seems to have gained a massive vote of confidence from its often troublesome neighbor.

The presence of North Korean performers, athletes, and citizens at the games all but guarantees that the games will go over without a hitch from Pyongyang.

In the longer term, the situation remains fraught. The US still rejects North Korea’s status as a de facto nuclear nation and refuses to talk without the precondition that Pyongyang must denuclearize.

But the talks have reversed the momentum of a spiraling series of nuclear threats and military escalations.

“Washington should build on what has happened so far to signal to Kim that the diplomatic door is being cracked open,” Joel Wit and Robert Carlin, two former State Department officials with experience with North Korea, wrote in The Atlantic.

Despite the risk that North Korea may be trying to trick the US and South Korea or stall until it can perfect its nuclear arsenal, there are few opportunities for dialogue and even greater risks involved with not talking.

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