VA's 'Borne the Battle' podcast marks 200 episodes - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

This 200th episode of Borne the Battle features Air Force Veteran Aerial Johnson, better known by her wrestling name “Big Swole,” Aerial shares her time in the military and how she transitioned into civilian life to eventually became a professional wrestler.


Johnson joined the Air Force in 2008 to be a fire truck mechanic. She was stationed at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina. On April 3, 2008, on a day she and her family would come to call her “second birthday,” Johnson was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease after being told she had half an hour to live. She survived a round of emergency surgery and was told that she would never be able to have children or engage in high-impact sports. However, Johnson didn’t let her diagnosis stop her from doing what she wanted to do. When her Crohn’s disease worsened, she had to leave Air Force in 2010 but she didn’t stop to pursue other dreams.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CROHN’S DISEASE

Hull returned to her hometown of Clearwater, Florida, where she started interacting with a local community of professional wrestlers. She became an independent wrestler herself, and after a few years she signed with All Elite Wrestling and has appeared on both AEW Dark and AEW Dynamite.

In this episode, Hull discusses how she overcame the struggles of Crohn’s disease and embraced the lessons she learned in the military to develop the “Swole mentality” of giving everything her all. She is a reminder to people everywhere that with discipline, anything is possible.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

Western models of spycraft are failing. Traditional models of spycraft seek to inform decision-making based on predictive analysis, but this is no longer effective in today’s environment. By nature, closed and authoritarian regimes, such as Russia and China, have an easier job of spying on their more progressive and open adversaries — the United States and the West — and currently possess the advantage. What follows is the author’s abridged philosophy of intelligence on this revolution in spycraft.

Last year, Foreign Policy magazine introduced a provocative thought piece highlighting the ongoing revolution in espionage: namely, that intelligence agencies must adapt (or die) to disruptive changes in politics, business, and technology.


At the risk of irrelevance, Western intelligence agencies are learning that traditional models of spying are outdated and losing out to more nimble, collaborative, and less fragile adversaries. As the article adeptly notes, “the balance of power in the spy world is shifting: closed societies now have the edge over open ones. It has become harder for Western countries to spy on places such as China, Iran, and Russia and easier for those countries’ intelligence services to spy on the rest of the world.”

Circumstances such as unprecedented levels of legislative and judicial scrutiny, technological advances in mobile phones and electronic data, public skepticism of domestic and international intelligence activities, and general political scrutiny in liberal democracies are symptomatic of such difficulties. They represent an underlying revolution that is significantly disrupting traditional notions of Western spycraft.

Standards of Cold War-era surveillance detection disintegrate when applied to modern cities rife with CCTV cameras, such as Beijing or even London. The absence of an online “footprint” (i.e. social media or other publicly available data) instantly warrants additional scrutiny.

Thus, we must examine several philosophical nuances of this intelligence revolution, based on the premise that the Western way of spying is indeed losing out to oftentimes less sophisticated but more effective adversaries, who possess fundamentally less fragile models of spycraft than do Western counterparts.

Lest the author receive undue credit, it must be noted that the framework for this analysis is derived from several schools of thought, ranging from the Roman Stoics to economist-turned-philosopher Nassim Taleb. Indeed, the reader may be familiar with the latter’s concept of anti-fragility, or things that gain from uncertainty, chaos, or randomness. Western models of spycraft certainly do not fit this notion and are, in the author’s opinion, quite fragile.

Western intelligence, and other such similarly traditional systems, are based largely on the value of predictive analysis that can be used to inform decision-making and thereby shape understanding and policy. But what if, as we are now seeing, environments far outmatch capability in complexity, speed, or scope? It is the author’s opinion that the U.S. Intelligence Community is designed on an outdated and fragile premise and, in the face of overwhelming environmental dissonance, must be re-assessed in the framework of anti-fragility.

Put differently, the present U.S. model of spycraft plays to the margins. Western spycraft invests inordinate amounts of manpower and resources into its Intelligence Community only to yield arguably disproportionate and marginal gains in understanding. It is not enough that the intelligence is gleaned in the first place (which remains an altogether impressive feat and a testament to the dedication and professionalism of its practitioners).

Alas, it is growing increasingly challenging to properly inform policy-making in an aggressively partisan and politicized environment. One only need reflect on the overall character of the ongoing Russian bounties discussion as evidence of this model and its debatable effectiveness. And such debatable effectiveness is certainly not for a lack of trying. The effectiveness of the Intelligence Community is a reflection of the broader environment in which it operates.

In the spirit of ancient Roman Stoic philosophers, we must acknowledge that environments cannot be changed and that at best significant national effort is required to “shape” them (and even then, with limited “control” of the exact outcome). In this instance, it is perhaps useful to examine U.S. strategy (or lack thereof) over the course of 20+ years of engagement in Afghanistan in an effort to reflect on any unilateral or coalition efforts taken to shape any semblance of “success” in the country.

Let us introduce a more tangible instance: That brief electronic communication from a foreign diplomat’s privileged conversation? That was probably the result of many factors: Of 17 years of technological research and development; of several successful (and more failed) recruitments to identify and gain sufficient placement and access for an exploit; and immeasurable bureaucratic “churns” to actually manage and manipulate the complex systems and processes in place designed to collect, process, analyze, exploit, and disseminate the information to its consumers. Entire professional careers are the substance of such churns.

While environments cannot be changed, one’s disposition within an environment most certainly can be. Thus, it is perhaps more useful to explore an intelligence model that divorces success from the ability to accurately predict the future. But then, what does this model look like and how is it employed?

In the author’s opinion, an effective spycraft model would maintain the intent to inform policy-making but disregard traditional models of operational risk management in favor of a more aggressive operational culture. In short, the change intelligence agencies must make is largely cultural, but also procedural.

Rather than embark on “no-fail,” highly sensitive (read: events that would cause inordinate damage if learned, i.e. fragile) operations, and futile attempts to accurately predict the future (read: failure to predict or act upon 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and countless other so-called intelligence failures), it is more useful to focus efforts on intelligence activities that have, in Taleb’s words, more upsides rather than downsides.

This model would remove, within reason, attempts to mitigate risk and would instead truly accept failure and mistakes — regardless of their perceived damage if made public — as a natural feedback mechanism. Rather than the frenetic New York banking system, we have Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” mentality. Rather than the Sword of Damocles, we have Hydra. Rather than post-traumatic stress, we have post-traumatic growth. Instead of isolated muscle hypertrophy, we have complex, multi-functional movements. The comparative benefit of this model is clear and can apply to intelligence systems as well.

So what does this new model of spycraft look like?

For one, it harnesses the power of publicly available data and information to leverage the power of public opinion and access to technology. What previously was known only to few becomes known to many, and with that knowledge comes the ability to influence. Information, which is the bane of closed societies, but also its favorite weapon against open ones, is harnessed to dismantle closed societies from within.

Here’s the bombshell: such a system, albeit in incomplete and slightly “impure” form, already exists in the form of the Russian intelligence apparatus. Indeed, there is a benefit to be gained by examining the nature and relative effectiveness of this chief U.S. adversary.

While far from a perfect comparison, the oftentimes blunt nature of Russian security services does lend itself to a somewhat anti-fragile system. Namely, despite numerous “failures” (in the sense that its operations are consistently made public), the Russian model is such that its public mistakes do not appear to significantly impact the system’s ability to continue to iterate, adapt, and pester its Western opponents.

An additional example can also be found in the spirit of the CIA’s historical predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Known affectionately as the “glorious amateurs,” the OSS was the first of its American kind that weathered many failures but also effectively operated in complex environments. By nature of relative American intelligence inexperience, the OSS succeeded in exploiting the upside of its activities simply by being a young, nimble, and discovery-based (i.e. tinkering, iterating, or “risk-bearing”) organization. The OSS was an anti-fragile organization.

Thanks to many of the same advances in technology, politics, and business that challenge Western espionage efforts, Russian spies have been caught on CCTV footage, publicly outed or arrested, appropriately accused of dastardly acts, and of possessing an intolerable appetite for disinformation targeting open societies and liberal democracies. However, it was presumably in Russia’s best interests that, knowing full well the possibility of such downsides, it chose to pursue such activities given the major upsides they produce (discord, division, polarization, etc.).

Indeed, as Foreign Policy magazine adeptly wrote, and as the reader can observe by way of reflecting on other seeming successes reaped by Russian active measures, there is an unrefined yet effective nature to the blunt manner in which Russian security and intelligence services operate.

It must be stated that this model does not advocate for recklessly “burning” any sources and methods, nor for engaging in renegade covert activity that lacks oversight or grounding in well-formed policy. However, it does require a significant cultural paradigm shift that will provide more space for downsides that have not been historically well-received (e.g. temporary injury to bilateral relationships, strained diplomatic interactions, etc.).

The U.S. Intelligence Community is already a complex system, comprised of 17 unique agencies that seek to inform policy-making. It is a long cry from the “glorious amateur” days of the OSS. Thankfully, we do not require complicated systems, regulations, or intricate policies to ensure the community’s success. The more complicated a system, the more we experience “multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects.” In other words, less is more; simpler is better.

The competitive edge of traditional, risk-based intelligence operations is growing smaller. The state of affairs is such that closed societies find it easier to spy on open adversaries more than the opposite. As such, it benefits Western intelligence to undergo aggressive changes that evolve or significantly alter this paradigm. It is time for the Intelligence Community to become a risk-bearing system, rather than a risk management system. It must experience a culture shift that will make it open to accepting failures. This may create short-term downsides for U.S. statecraft but will allow the system to iterate and improve. In the end, it must become anti-fragile.

Thanks for listening.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how to register for a free, virtual event for veterans using telehealth, sponsored by VA and USAA

VA Office of Connected Care to share solutions to enable veterans to receive the care they need

SAN ANTONIO – USAA and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will host a free, Facebook Live event at 12 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Feb. 23 to discuss how VA telehealth technologies and initiatives are helping bring care to Veterans lacking necessary resources to connect with medical professionals. The use of telehealth services has risen significantly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but for many Veterans in rural areas, or with limited broadband connectivity, accessing these services can be challenging.

“Veterans should have access to high quality VA health care regardless of where they choose to live,” said Dr. Leonie Heyworth, VA’s National Synchronous Lead for Telehealth Services, and a participant in the virtual event. “We look forward to highlighting initiatives that have been created to increase access to care for Veterans everywhere.”

The use of VA telehealth has increased by 1,180% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Jan. 6, the VA provided more than 20,000 Digital Divide Consults enabling more than 12,000 Veterans to receive internet access or a video-enabled device for their care needs.

“Bridging the Digital Divide” will be hosted on USAA’s Facebook page for Veterans, their families and caretakers, and feature leaders from VA’s Office of Connected Care and Office of Rural Health. The discussion will highlight VA technologies that enable Veterans to receive care when they need it and regardless of where they live. The discussion also will cover what the VA is doing to address broadband connectivity issues and provide specific instructions on where Veterans and their families can go for assistance.

“USAA and the VA have worked together for years and believe it’s very important to make Veterans and their families aware of available resources and technology to receive the care they need in these challenging times,” said Mike Kelly, assistant vice president of Military Affairs at USAA and moderator for the virtual event.

To learn more and register for this free, online event, visit the Facebook event page. For more information about the digital divide and ways to connect veterans to resources, read VA’s Digital Divide Fact Sheet. For more information about VA telehealth, visit the Connected Care website.

VA’s partnership with USAA does not imply endorsement of USAA or its products.

USAA

Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to nearly 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, Tex., USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 35,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

In about face, Army restores ability to shoot down Russian jets

The US Army in Europe has made a number of changes in recent months as part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to prepare for a potential fight against an adversary with advanced military capabilities, like Russia or China.

The latest move came on November 28, when the Army activated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, in a ceremony at Shipton Barracks in Ansbach, near the city of Nuremberg in southern Germany.

The battalion has a long history, serving in artillery and antiaircraft artillery roles in the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. It was deactivated in the late 1990s, after the US military withdrew from the Cold War.


VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

Lt. Col. Todd Daniels, commander of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uncovers the battalion colors during the activation and assumption of command ceremony at Shipton Kaserne, Germany, on November 28, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)

Its return brings new and important short-range-air-defense, or SHORAD, capabilities, according to Col. David Shank, the head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the new unit is part.”Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here. It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise,” Shank said at the ceremony.

The battalion will be composed of five battery-level units equipped with FIM-92 Stinger missiles, according to Stars and Stripes.

Three of those batteries will be certified before the end of the summer, Shank said, adding that battalion personnel would also “build and sustain a strong Army family-support program, and become the subject-matter experts in Europe for short-range-air-defense to not just the Army, but our allies.”

Those troops “will have a hard road in from of them,” Shank said.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

Stinger missiles are fired from the Avenger Air Defense System.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Air Defense Artillery units were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service started divesting itself of those units in the early 2000s, as military planners believed the Air Force could maintain air superiority and mitigate threats posed by enemy aircraft.

But in 2016, after finding a gap in its SHORAD capabilities, the Army started trying to address the shortfall.

In January, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe began training with Stinger missiles, a light antiaircraft weapon that can be fired from shoulder- and vehicle-mounted launchers.

Lightweight, short-range antiaircraft missiles are mainly meant to defend against ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, that target infantry and armored vehicles. Unmanned aerial vehicles — used by both sides in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine — are also a source concern.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

A 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade member loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

US Army Europe has been relying on Avengers defense systems and Stinger missiles from Army National Guard units rotating through the continent as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which began in 2014 as a way to reassure allies in Europe of the US commitment to their defense.

Guard units rotating through Europe have been training with the Stinger for months, but the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, will be the only one stationed in Europe that fields the Avenger, a short-range-air-defense system that can be mounted on a Humvee and fires Stinger missiles.

The Army has also been pulling Avenger systems that had been mothballed in order to supply active units until a new weapon system is available, according to Defense News, which said earlier this year that Army Materiel Command was overhauling Avengers that had been sitting in a Pennsylvania field waiting to be scrapped.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

A U.S. Army Avenger team during qualification in South Korea, October 24, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Marion Jo Nederhoed)

The Army has also fast-tracked its Interim Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) program to provide air- and missile-defense for Stryker and Armored Brigade Combat Teams in Europe.

The Army plans to develop IM-SHORAD systems around the Stryker, equipping the vehicle with an unmanned turret developed by defense firm Leonardo DRS. The system includes Stinger and Hellfire missiles and an automatic 30 mm cannon, as well as the M230 chain gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. It will also be equipped with electronic-warfare and radar systems.

Final prototypes of that package are expected in the last quarter of 2019, according to Defense News, with the Army aiming to have the first battery by the fourth quarter of 2020.

The activation of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, is part of a broader troop increase the Army announced earlier this year, saying that the increase in forces stationed in Europe permanently would come from activating new units rather than relocating them from elsewhere.

The new units would bring 1,500 soldiers and their families back to Europe. (Some 300,000 US troops were stationed on the continent during the Cold War, but that number has dwindled to about 30,000 now.)

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

A member of the Florida National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 265 Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uses a touchscreen from the driver’s seat of an Army Avenger.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

In addition to the short-range-air-defense battalion and supporting units at Ansbach, the new units will include a field-artillery brigade headquarters and two multiple-launch-rocket-system battalions and supporting units in Grafenwoehr Training Area, and other supporting units at Hohenfels Training Area and the garrison in Baumholder.

The activations were scheduled to begin this year and should be finished by September 2020, the Army said in a statement.

“The addition of these forces increases US Army readiness in Europe and ensures we are better able to respond to any crisis,” the Army said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian missile disaster fallout suggests a nuclear reactor blew up

A mysterious explosion at a Russian weapons testing site August 2019 released various radioactive isotopes, creating a cloud of radioactive gases that swept across a nearby town, the country’s state weather agency said Aug. 26, 2019, and experts said the mixture removes all doubt about what blew up.

The deadly Aug. 8, 2019, blast at the Nyonoksa military weapons testing range released a handful of rapidly decaying radioactive isotopes — strontium-91, barium-139, barium-140, and lanthanum-140 — which have half-lives ranging from 83 minutes to 12.8 days, the Roshydromet national weather and environmental monitoring agency said in a statement.

“These are fission products,” Joshua Pollack, a leading expert on nuclear and missile proliferation, told Insider. “If anyone still doubts that a nuclear reactor was involved in this incident, this report should go a long way toward resolving that.”


Alexander Uvarov, the editor of the independent news site AtomInfo.ru, told the news agency RIA Novosti that these isotopes were products of nuclear fission involving uranium, Agence France-Presse reported Aug. 26, 2019. This collection of radioisotopes could be released by a reaction involving uranium-235.

Russia Missile Explosion: Govt tells Nyonoksa residents to leave village

www.youtube.com

Nils Bohmer, a Norwegian nuclear-safety expert, told The Barents Observer that “the presence of decay products like barium and strontium is coming from a nuclear chain reaction,” adding that it was evidence that it “was a nuclear reactor that exploded.”

Edwin Lyman, an expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Guardian that the fission products detected pointed to a reactor release.

Russia has been cagey with the details of the accident, which killed at least five and as many as seven people and triggered a radiation spike in nearby Severodvinsk, a detail Russia has flip-flopped on acknowledging.

In the aftermath of the explosion, Russia’s explanation of the accident and its risks varied, several nuclear monitoring stations in Russia mysteriously went offline, doctors treating the wounded said that they were forced to sign nondisclosure agreements and that hospital records were destroyed, and one doctor was found to have a radioactive isotope in his muscle tissue. Russia has insisted that the cesium-137 detected was the result of something the doctor ate.

Russian authorities claimed that the incident happened “during tests of a liquid propulsion system involving isotopes,” but Bohmer argued that short-lived radioactive isotopes would not have been produced by that sort of test.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear agency, said Russia was working on new weapons when the explosion occurred, but it did not offer any details, simply saying that tragedy sometimes “happens when testing new technologies.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said that Russia was not hiding the details of the accident. He then said that “this is work in the military field, work on promising weapons systems,” adding that “when it comes to activities of a military nature, there are certain restrictions on access to information.”

US experts and intelligence officials suspect that Russia tested the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a superweapon that NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. In a tweet about the incident, President Donald Trump called it the “Skyfall explosion.”

Andrei Zolotkov, a chemist who spent more than three decades working on Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet, told the Guardian that the nuclear reactor involved in the recent failed test appeared to be an unusual reactor, which would make sense if Russia was, as is suspected, working with a compact reactor for a new nuclear-powered missile.

Putin has boasted that the Burevestnik will be “invincible,” with “an unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory and ability to bypass interception.” But right now, it doesn’t actually work and might be a greater threat to the people of Russia than any adversary.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes
The prototypes for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (U.S. Army)
VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes
The SPIW on display at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum (Public Domain)

 

1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon

The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?

Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T

hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes
Top to bottom: AAI, HK, Steyr, and Colt ACR prototypes (Public Domain)

 

2. Advanced Combat Rifle

Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.

The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes
A soldier with the XM29 Block 3 prototype (U.S. Army)

 

3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29

In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.

The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes
Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Shoomaker, and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston fire the compact variant of the XM8 at Fort Benning, August 2004 (U.S. Army)

 

4. XM8

Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.

The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes
Soldiers fire the HK HK416 (U.S. Army)

 

5. Individual Carbine

The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.

Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.

Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes
A Marine armed with an M27 IAR covers his team in Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps)

 

6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle

The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.

In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”

The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.

Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.

Articles

A US Navy Blue Angels jet has crashed in Tennessee

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes


A US Blue Angels jet has crashed in Smyrna, Tennessee.

According to local ABC affiliate WKRN, citing the fire chief of the neighboring town of La Vergne, the crash took place around 3pm local time. The Blue Angels were scheduled to perform in Tennessee this weekend.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

The Blue Angels are the US Navy’s flight demonstration team. Aviators in the Blue Angels come from both the Navy and the Marines and fly F/A-18 Hornets.

The crash of a Blue Angel comes on the same day that a US Air Force Thunderbird also crashed after completing a flyover at the US Air Force Academy commencement.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Support for Veterans facing homelessness

Having to stay home for your health is challenging enough. Imagine being told to stay home when you had no home or were worried about losing it. What would you do? Where would you turn?

Tens of thousands of Veterans in the United States live that reality. In January 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) counted more than 37,000 Veterans living in emergency shelters, in transitional housing, or without any housing at all. Many more Veterans are at imminent risk for losing their housing in the coming months. Precise data is nearly impossible to collect because the population is transient by definition.

We do know that too many Veterans experience homelessness.


Any effort to help these Veterans must address not only their housing but also their mental health. The relationship between homelessness and mental health challenges is complicated, with each potentially impacting the other. For example, mental health issues might prevent a Veteran from holding a job that would allow them to afford stable housing. Similarly, homelessness is considered a traumatic event that can worsen mental health; it’s associated with issues such as increased alcohol use and lower recovery rates from mental illness.

As part of its commitments to improve Veterans’ mental health and relieve housing instability, VHA has developed a guidebook to provide Veterans facing homelessness with information about local resources and options.

“Connecting Veterans With VHA Homeless Programs: A Patient-Centered Booklet to Help Veterans Navigate VHA Resources” isn’t your typical informational resource. It’s a “graphic medicine” booklet, with information presented in graphic novel style, using stories and illustrations to convey important messages that makes the guidance easy to follow.

Because VA facilities vary in scope and size, the printable, 10-page booklet is designed to be customizable. Each facility can include local contact information for asking questions about program eligibility and how to access VHA and community-based services for Veterans who are homeless.

A VHA homelessness program manager said the booklet “gives providers another way to put a tangible reminder in a Veteran’s hand,” showing that VA has something for them.

One Veteran described the booklet as “in-depth and helpful” and noted that “everything is useful if you need the services.”

Why a graphic booklet?

The use of comics in graphic medicine guides has been around for decades. Today’s versions are in the graphic novel style, which gives room for the content writers to tackle more-serious-than-traditional comic books in both their topics and tone.

The combination of storytelling and expressive art can convey complex, layered ideas and information that neither writing nor pictures can achieve alone. With graphic medicine, the comic style can give even bland clinical data a familiar, approachable feel. Plus, its unique appearance stands out among VA waiting room pamphlets and may attract those who either need housing support or know a Veteran who does.

This patient-centered form of communication is gaining wider acceptance in the medical community, in part because it works. A study found that in one hospital’s emergency room, 98% of patients who received their discharge instructions in comic form read them, while only 79% read their traditional discharge instructions.

Experts also say graphic medicine books can have an emotional impact on readers because they often include authors’ personal experience with the issue at hand. In the case of “Connecting Veterans,” members of the book’s advisory committee at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System included Veterans — some with firsthand experience of housing challenges — and professionals from VA’s homelessness programs.

Ray Facundo, a social worker, researcher and Army Veteran, played an integral, hands-on role in developing the booklet. He explained that it was important to include input from other Veterans: “We should never do something for them without them.”

Integrating a range of resources

VHA took the lead in creating the guide because homelessness is associated with health concerns — some that one might expect, such as exposure, untreated injuries or being subjected to violence, as well as a suicide risk that’s 10 times that of the general population.

Even though “Connecting Veterans” is distributed by VHA providers, the booklet combines resources from VA offices that are often viewed as separate entities. The booklet takes a team approach in working toward improving stability and mental well-being through a range of programs and services, including:

Independently and in collaboration with federal and community partners, VA programs provide Veterans with housing solutions, employment opportunities, health care and justice- and reentry-related services.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan nabs dozens of suspected militants in sweep

Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency says its officers have arrested at least 26 suspected members of the extremist group Islamic State (IS), accusing them of plotting attacks on members of the Shi’ite minority.

The militants, including an alleged IS leader, were detained in separate operations in Kabul, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said on Sept. 18, 2018.

A statement said they planned to target Shi’a during this week’s commemoration of Ashura, the holiest celebration in the Shi’ite religious calendar.


The IS affiliate in Afghanistan has stepped up attacks on minority Shi’a across Afghanistan.

The group claimed responsibility for a Sept. 9, 2018 twin bomb attack at a wrestling club in a predominately Shi’ite neighborhood of Kabul that killed more than 20 people.

IS militants assert that Shi’a are apostates who deserve death.

Afghan forces have struggled to combat the Taliban and IS since the United States and NATO formally ended their combat mission in the country in 2014.

In the northern province of Balkh, a local official said on Sept. 18, 2018, that nine members of the Afghan police force were killed when another officer shot them at a checkpoint.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

An Afghan National Police officer stops a vehicle for a random inspection at one of the inner city checkpoints on June 5, 2010, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Mohammadudin Khanjer, a police official in the district of Char Boldak, said one officer was wounded and three others were missing after the shooting late on Sept. 17, 2018.

The attacker was a policeman from another checkpoint in the same district who fled the scene after seizing all weapons from the checkpoint, apparently to join the Taliban, Khanjer said.

The Taliban did not immediately comment on the attack but the militants are active in the area.

Insider attacks, in which members of Afghan security forces or assailants dressed in Afghan uniforms fire on coalition troops, have become less common in recent years but remain a persistent worry.

The U.S. military said one of its servicemen was killed and another was wounded in eastern Afghanistan on Sept. 3, 2018, in an attack carried out by a member of the Afghan National Police.

It came nearly two months after a member of a U.S. Army training unit was shot dead by an Afghan soldier in the southern province of Oruzgan.

Featured image: The militants, including an alleged Islamic State leader, were detained in separate operations in Kabul.

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

popular

Shipping costs to troops spiked in 2018 and need to switch back

Care packages are how troops stay connected with the ones they love back home. Most troops will have their family send them little trinkets or mama-made cookies to make things better while troops without families have their day brightened by a sweet, heartfelt thank-you card sent by a grade schooler.

These packages are the one constant that every troop, regardless of where or when they served, can depend on. But on January 21st, 2018, the shipping costs for postage to and from all APO/FPO/DPO addresses increased substantially. Thankfully, this increase can be reverted and the rate for shipping can be permanently fixed, benefiting the troops.


VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

Nothing can bring joy to troops like a care package from home.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

The increases in shipping costs to APO/FPO/DPO addresses were part of an overall increase in the price for all mailing services, across the board. Rates for APO/FPO/DPO mailing addresses were hit hardest — almost doubled. In the defense of the United States Postal Service, the APO/FPO flat-rate box was only increased by five cents and they’ve always supported the troops, but a recently proposed bill can take that support further.

If there were a separate, fixed rate for all postage going to and from troops at APO/FPO addresses, it would be classified as Zone 1/2 postage from any CONUS location. Meaning, that if you were to ship a big ol’ care package not in a APO/FPO flat-rate box, it would cost the same as sending a letter to a soldier stationed in Germany.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

But mainly, you don’t want to screw over the nice people who just want to help support the troops.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot)

In addition to offering a single, fixed rate for those who want to send a care package abroad that might not fit within a fixed-rate box, this could also open up companies to more readily offer online shopping opportunities to deployed troops.

This also means that troops would be more able to ship things from deployed environments back to the States. So, a deployed parent could pick up souvenirs at a local bazaar for their kid while crafty troops could ship certain personal belongings home before they return stateside so don’t need to wait for the connex to return months later.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

The bill would apply to all troops everywhere, even if they’re sailing in the middle of nowhere.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lorenzo J. Burleson)

The bill that includes this fixed cost, H.R.6231 – Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018, has been introduced to Congress by Rep. Thomas MacArthur. It would permanently establish a single rate for mail and packages being sent to and from at APO/FPO/DPO addresses.

Congressman MacArthur has championed veteran issues since his assignment to the Armed Services Committee and its two subcommittees, the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces and the Subcommittee on Military Personnel. He also introduced the Veterans’ Mental Health Care Access Act, which would have allowed veterans to access any mental health care facility and eligible for reimbursement — but it failed to garner approval.

To help make sure that this bill makes it through Congress, contact your representative and let them know how you feel. Let them know that this bill will greatly benefit the morale of our fighting men and women. According to Skopos Labs, the bill only has a 3 percent chance of being enacted, so if you feel passionately about it, don’t wait; act.

If you’re unsure of who your representative is, you can use this tool right here and let them know you support H.R.6231 — the Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018.

Articles

U.S. detects, tracks multiple North Korea missile launches

Defense Department officials detected and tracked multiple missile launches out of North Korea Monday, four of which landed in the Sea of Japan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.


Davis said the four medium-range ballistic missiles were launched from the northwest corner of North Korea, traveled over the Korean Peninsula and out into the sea, totaling about 1,000 kilometers in distance, or more than 620 miles.

Related: 4 things you need to know about North Korea’s missile program

Missiles Land Off Japan’s Coast

The missiles landed in the vicinity of Akita Prefecture off the coast of Japan near that nation’s exclusive economic zone, he said. The EEZ is defined as a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians prepare for an EOD mine-countermeasure exercise with members of a South Korean navy underwater dive team off the coast of Jinhae, South Korea. | Navy Combat Camera photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alfred A. Coffield

“The North American Aerospace Defense Command detected that the missiles from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” Davis said. “This [North Korean missile launch] is very similar in terms of the path and the distance of the three missiles that flew into Japan’s EEZ in September 2016.”

He added, “These launches, which coincide with the start of our annual defensive exercise, Foal Eagle, with the Republic of Korea’s military, are consistent with North Korea’s long history of provocative behavior, often timed to military exercises that we do with our ally,”

Also read: Navy fleet commanders warn of potential fight in North Korea

The United States stands with its allies “in the face of this very serious threat and are taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, such as the deployment of a [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense] battery to South Korea, which will happen as soon as feasible,” Davis said.

U.S. Strikes AQAP in Yemen

Also overnight, the United States made an airstrike on Yemen’s Abyan Governorate against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighters, bringing to 40 the strikes there in the past five nights, Davis said.

Since the first airstrike against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen on Feb. 28, “We will continue to target [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] militants and facilities to disrupt the organization’s plot and protect American lives,” the captain said.

The strikes have been coordinated with and done in full partnership with the government of Yemen with the goal of denying al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists’ freedom of movement within traditional safe havens, Davis emphasized.

The captain also confirmed the deaths of three al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in March 2 and 3 airstrikes in Yemen.

Usayd al Adani, whom Davis described as a longtime al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula explosives expert and facilitator who served as the organization’s emir, was killed in a U.S. airstrike March 2 within the Abyan Governorate. Killed with him was former Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee Yasir al Silmi.

Killed March 3 was al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighter and communications intermediary for Adani, Harithah al Waqri, Davis said.

“[Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies,” he said. “And we will continue to work with the government of Yemen to defeat [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula].

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why you shouldn’t take a cruise when you desert from the Army

Sircaria Coleman deserted her post as a U.S. Army company commander more than five years ago, but her run from the law ended when she walked onto a cruise ship dock in New Orleans this week, authorities said.


Coleman was arrested on the morning of Jan. 29 when the Carnival Triumph set sail on a five-day Caribbean cruise. While documents don’t specify whether the Shreveport native was going on the trip, cruise passengers with outstanding arrest warrants are occasionally captured when they check in for boarding.

According to authorities, Coleman posted bond on Aug. 15, 2012, following an arrest somewhere in Louisiana on unspecified allegations. She never returned to her post in Fort Carson, Colorado, and the Army issued a warrant to arrest Coleman on a charge of military desertion several months later.

Also Read: Here are a few more reasons not to be a deserter (in case you needed them)

Coleman turned 30 four days before her arrest. She was working at a cellphone dealership when she was captured, court records said.

Orleans Parish Criminal Magistrate Court Judge Harry Cantrell ordered Coleman held without bail. She waived extradition proceedings and as of Jan. 31 was awaiting to be transferred out of New Orleans.

It is not all that common for the military to prosecute charges of desertion. Only once since the Civil War has the maximum punishment for desertion during a declared war, execution, been carried out.

Five years’ imprisonment is the second-worst punishment.

Articles

U.S. Navy vet and comedian Charlie Murphy has died

Charlie Murphy, a standup comedian and Navy vet known for his work on the “Chappelle’s Show,” died after a battle with leukemia. He was 57.


Murphy joined the Navy after being released from a stint in jail. His mother wanted him to get out of the neighborhood to prevent him relapsing into his old habits and he enlisted the same day. He had to lie to get in, but has told interviewers ever since that he doesn’t regret it.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes
Charlie Murphy played himself in skits with Dave Chappelle dramatizing Murphy’s run-ins with Rick James. (Photo: YouTube/TV One)

“I became a man in the Navy,” he said in a PR.com release. “That’s where I got my first apartment, my first marriage, my first bank account, my first car… it all happened there. That was a good experience.”

Somehow, Murphy made it through his service without ever being issued dog tags.

“I’ll tell you something bizarre. I was never issued dog tags. It’s part of your uniform, but I never got them. I thought it was for ID. But it’s not to ID you. It’s to ID your corpse. That’s why they make them out of metal,” he was quoted as saying.

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes
Comedian and Navy veteran Charlie Murphy performs standup. (Photo: YouTube/Leon Knoles)

After separating from the military, Murphy became the head of security for his little brother, Eddie Murphy, before launching his own career as a writer, actor, and standup comedian. The older Murphy helped write the movies “Vampire in Brooklyn” and “Norbit” which his younger brother starred in.

Charlie also played small parts in “Night at the Museum,” “The Boondocks,” and the 2012 reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

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