US, Japanese, and Indian warships converged in Guam for the 22nd iteration of Exercise Malabar, an annual exercise focused on developing coordination and training to counter maritime threats.
2018’s version of the exercise, which is the first to take place around Guam, runs from June 7 to June 16, 2018, but as the ships involved gathered beforehand, the Chinese navy was keeping an eye on the proceedings.
Indian ships sailing to Guam were shadowed by Chinese warships in the South China Sea, breaking off only when the Indian ships entered the Philippine Sea.
“We had good, polite conversation. They were there for some time, and then broke off,” Rear Adm. Dinesh K. Tripathi, commander of India’s Eastern Fleet and head of India’s delegation to Malabar 2018, told The Economic Times. “The moment we entered the Pacific across the Philippines Sea, they went back. It was interesting.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Stephen W. Rowe)
Surveillance by Chinese ships, which Tripathi said was “not surprising,” comes a few weeks after Indian warships spotted a Chinese ship “tailing them at a safe distance” as they left Vietnam, following the first joint exercise between those two countries.
“We knew we were being tailed, but we were on international waters or global commons, and therefore took evasive measures,” sources told India Today of the incident.
That exercise, which ran from May 21 to May 25, 2018, attracted Chinese ire, with a Global Times op-ed calling it “a futile attempt to flex muscle.”
‘Distance actually does not matter’
Malabar started in 1992 as a US-India bilateral exercise. It has been done annually since then — with the exception of 1998 through 2002, after India’s 1998 nuclear tests — expanding to a trilateral exercise with Japan’s addition in 2015.
Other countries have participated in the past, though Indian has declined Australia’s request to take part for the past two years. (Observers suspect Chinese pressure is behind Canberra’s exclusion.)
(Indian Navy / Twitter)
Malabar 2018 consists of on-shore and at-sea portions. The former ran from June 7 to June 10, 2018, involving expert and professional exchanges on carrier strike group, maritime patrol, and reconnaissance operations as well as on surface and anti-submarine warfare. The latter portion lasts from June 11 to June 16, 2018, in the Philippine Sea, and will include military-to-military coordination, air-defense and surface-warfare exercises, and replenishment while underway.
The US Navy has sent the USS Ronald Reagan, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold, and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
India’s participants include stealth frigate INS Sahyadri and the first-in-class antisubmarine-warfare corvette INS Kamorta, which was trailed by a Chinese ship while leaving Vietnam May 2018. India’s fleet tanker INS Shakti and a P-8I Neptune, the Indian variant of the P-8A Poseidon, are also taking part.
Japan sent its Hyunga-class helicopter carrier JS Ise as well as two destroyers, JS Suzunami and JS Fuyuzuki.
2018’s version of the exercise is also the first since the US Defense Department renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command— a shift that has been interpreted as both a rhetorical swipe at China and an adjustment to the growing interconnectedness of the Pacific and Indian ocean regions.
For India, basing the exercise in Guam reflects the country’s willingness and ability to project power.
“Distance actually does not matter. Wherever Indian maritime interests are, that is our area of operation,” Tripathi told The Economic Times. “Wherever national interest takes us, we will deploy if needed.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
At age 25, Monica Rosario was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer, a diagnosis that would start her on a personal battle, not only for her future as a Soldier, but for her life.
“When they told me, I felt very numb,” Rosario remembered. She was a first lieutenant serving as a company executive officer in the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina at the time.
It never occurred to Rosario, now a captain at Fort Leonard Wood awaiting her pickup in Engineer Captain’s Career Course, that the reason for her frequent visits to her doctor could be so dire. Doctors kept telling her she was just dehydrated and needed to go home and rest.
During one emergency room visit in January of 2015, however, a doctor inquired about Rosario’s frequent medical issues, and her responses prompted him to recommend a colonoscopy.
Her mother and father, who lived not far away in her hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina, accompanied her to the appointment. That’s when they learned it could be cancer. The diagnosis was confirmed at a follow-up exam.
“It really hit [my mom] harder than it hit me,” Rosario said. “She was more emotional than I was because I had no idea what I was getting into.”
Rosario’s mentor and commanding officer at the time, Capt. Chinyere Asoh, said she understood what Rosario was about to endure.
“I served as a commander and, each day, I heard news of Soldiers going through the worst unimaginable concerns of their lives, but I stayed strong for them and their families,” Asoh said.
When Asoh heard the news her executive officer had cancer, she couldn’t hide the emotion.
“For me, this was different,” Asoh admitted. “My fighter [Capt. Rosario] was going down, and there was nothing I could do. The day I found out, I called my battalion commander as I cried.”
Rosario approached her situation from another perspective — one inspired by former ESPN anchorman, Stuart Scott, who fought a seven-year battle with cancer. Scott lost that battle in 2015 at age 49.
“Whenever you are going through it, you don’t feel like you are doing anything extraordinary because you are only doing what you have to do to survive,” Rosario said.
Rosario confessed that, while she was undergoing treatment, it made her uncomfortable when people called her a hero. There was nothing she was doing that made her special, she believed.
“When you have to be strong and you have to survive, you don’t feel like you are doing anything special,” she said.
The Army provided Rosario with the time and support she needed in order to devote herself to recovery, she said.
“I can say the Army served me when I needed it most, and I am forever grateful,” she said. “I know there were many times I could have quit. I could have settled for someone telling me I should medically retire. But I knew the Army had more in store for me.”
Rosario said it took about two weeks to recover from her surgery before she could start chemotherapy. Following six months of chemo, it took another two months before she was able to resume her physical training.
She fought hard to keep herself ready to return to full-duty so she could continue her career. Her will to fight was an inspiration to her husband.
“My wife is literally the strongest person I know,” said Bernard McGee, a former military police officer. “She has been through it all and has mustered the strength to take on even more challenges. She is a true warrior.”
“Monica is a true fighter, and I am happy to state that she is a survivor,” Asoh said. “Her illness did not define her. Rather, it broadened her view of life.”
Rosario credits positive thinking and the support of her Army family for keeping her in the Army so that she could make it to Fort Leonard Wood to complete the Engineer Captain’s Career Course.
“The Army’s resiliency training has instilled in me the ability to stay strong and stay resilient in all aspects of life,” she said. “Being resilient has helped me and still helps me on a daily basis. Seeking positive thought, and staying away from negative thoughts impact how we feel and how we live every day.”
Through the darkness, the Soldiers pushed forward toward their objective. Sweat was dripping off the chins of some, hitting the ground as each mile passed. This is only the beginning of earning the Army Expert Infantryman Badge.
Their rucksacks seemed heavier with each passing step, their helmets weighing down like lead covers on their heads. They had to complete a full 12 miles before their trek was done.
Once they reached their destination, there was one more task at hand: each Soldier had to treat a simulated casualty and carry him out on a litter.
This was the final event for the Expert Infantryman Badge testing that took place Dec. 11-15, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Out of the 324 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team Soldiers who started the Expert Infantryman Badge testing, only 73 successfully completed all the required tasks and earned their Badge — making the attrition rate 78 percent.
“The test has evolved over the years,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Walter A. Tagalicud, the I Corps command sergeant major. “It certainly differs from the one I participated in to earn my EIB in 1989. But, the spirit and intent remain. There is no greater individual training mechanism to building the fundamental warrior skills required in our profession, than the EIB.”
There is a lot of train up to the EIB, said Spc. Tyler Conner, an infantryman with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. Even if a Soldier is not trying out for the EIB, the train up for the testing is valuable to see the right way of doing infantry tasks. When a Soldier finally earns the EIB, it shows that they have honed their skills enough to be called an expert infantryman.
The EIB evaluation included an Army Physical Fitness Test, with a minimum score of 80 points in each event; day and night land navigation; medical, patrol, and weapons lanes; a 12-mile forced march, and Objective Bull (evaluate, apply a tourniquet to and transport a casualty).
“These crucial skills are the building blocks to our battle drills and collective gates,” Tagalicud said. “The Expert Infantryman Badge is as much about the training, leading up to and through the testing, as it is about proving your mettle.”
“Earning the EIB was one of the best experiences I had in the Army,” said Sgt. Wilmar Belilla Lopez, a Soldier with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. “Being tactically and technically proficient is the core of being a Soldier. When a Soldier earns their EIB, it signifies they have achieved a level of proficiency all Soldiers should strive for.”
“The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said, ‘Out of every 100 men, 10 shouldn’t even be there, 80 are just targets, 9 are the real fighters and we are lucky to have them – for they make the battle. But the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back,'” Tagalicud said while addressing the new EIB holders.
“You are that warrior. You Infantrymen, you Soldiers, you leaders, and candidates are the one in a hundred,” he said. “Many stepped forward to answer the question am I good enough. For you the answer in a resounding yes!”
The Expert Infantryman Badge was developed in 1944 to represent the infantry’s tough, hard-hitting role in combat and symbolize proficiency in infantry craft.
For the first Expert Infantryman Badge evaluation, 100 noncommissioned officers were selected to undergo three days of testing. When the testing was over, 10 NCOs remained. The remaining ten were interviewed to determine the first Expert Infantryman.
On March 29, 1944, Tech. Sgt. Walter Bull was the first Soldier to be awarded the Expert Infantryman Badge
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but they’re also great building materials. And the Department of Defense is eyeing a return to stick-based construction in some places where it currently uses concrete and similar materials. Fire and blast tests have already gone well, and the Army is working with universities to test its performance against ballistic weapons.
It’s all thanks to a new material that all the cool architects are talking about: cross-laminated timber. The footnotes version on this stuff is that it’s timber assembled in layers, and each layer is placed at 90 degrees from the previous one.
So, think of a Jenga tower, but with lots of glue so the blocks don’t slide apart. Believe it or not, this actually creates a super-strong structure, so strong that architects are certain they can make skyscrapers with the stuff, though buildings of about five stories are the norm right now and the tallest completed so far is 14 stories.
Believe it or not, this is a passing fire test. Cross-laminated timber passed the test for fire resistance, but organizers were a little disappointed that it never self-extinguished. It was hoped that as the wood charred, which greatly reduces its flammability, the flame would run out of fuel.
But the Pentagon isn’t eyeing the material for tall office structures, or at least not exclusively for that. They allowed the Forest Products Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to test CLT structures against blasts. Yeah, they want to know how the buildings will do against bombs.
The FPL has already tested the material when set on fire, when exposed to extreme moisture, and when shaken as it would in an earthquake. The wood did great in the earlier tests, but the military didn’t want to adopt new materials that would get destroyed the first time a big, bad wolf tried to blow it up.
That blast looks stronger than the Big Bad Wolf, but somehow, the stick-buildings are still standing.
(Air Force Civil Engineering Center AFCEC, Tyndall Air Force Base)
The wood performed well during the tests, flexing and twisting in some cases but—in most of the tests—surviving the blasts. The panels did rupture during the final test, a test designed to overwhelm the timbers and push them well beyond their design limits. But even then, the buildings were safe to enter and walk through.
Now, Georgia Tech in Atlanta is working on a ballistics test with the Army at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. The tests are slated to include additional blast testing as well. So, yeah, the Army wants to figure out whether it makes tactical and strategic sense to have wood buildings and structures, even in some places where it might currently use concrete.
All-in-all, CLT is a promising material for the military, and it’s achieved a lot of acceptance in the civilian world. It’s much better for the environment than concrete, which releases CO2 both in production and construction, and steel, which is energy intensive to mine, smelt, forge, and ship.
Timber, in contrast, actually removes carbon from the atmosphere as it’s created and grown, and it’s very lightweight, so it doesn’t cost as much fuel to move the material.
Currently, though, the material is quite expensive to purchase as there are only a few manufacturers making it. Prices are expected to come down over the next couple of decades. An ambitious plan for a 7-story building is slated for completion in 2041, partially because building right now would require that the builders buy up all available CLT, making the project cost as much as double what normal construction would.
Insurgents posing as friendly militia members lured a U.S. and Afghan team to a meeting in eastern Afghanistan, triggering a shootout and a coalition airstrike on the compound, the U.S. military said Jan. 12.
U.S. Navy Capt. Tom Gresback said the insurgents baited the team, inviting an Afghan militia leader, a U.S. service member, and an interpreter to a security shura meeting Jan. 11.
Once the meeting was over, the Taliban-linked insurgents opened fire, killing the militia leader and wounding the American service member and the interpreter. The Taliban quickly claimed credit for the attack but overstated the casualties, the U.S. military said.
The Taliban said the attack was carried out by two insurgents disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.
In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.
Gresback said that after the wounded were moved to safety, a coalition airstrike targeted the compound, killing 10 insurgents.
The mission was in Mohmand Valley, in Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.
According to Gresback, local Afghans began moving back to Mohmand Valley earlier last summer after being forced from their homes in 2015 when the Islamic State group affiliate began to take hold in the southeastern portion of Nangarhar.
The U.S.-led coalition, working with the Afghan forces, has waged a persistent campaign against the IS group.
Well guys, the Army’s slogan of “Army Strong” has officially been put on the chopping block. It had a solid run between 2006 and now, but it’s time to close that chapter and move on to the next slogan.
“One of the major responses we get when we survey folks who don’t have experience with military service is strength, so we know the ‘Army Strong’ resonates… but I don’t think it tells the story, the full story of being a soldier,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey told defense reporters.
(DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
The U.S. Army has had a mixed bag of slogans, from the out-freaking-standing, like “Be All You Can Be” and “I Want You,” to that awkward, blue falcon-inspired “Army of One.” Using those guidelines and past experiences, let’s focus in on what makes a good recruiting slogan. For all practical purposes, the slogan should be on par with a commercial product’s brand — after all, both try to entice the public and leave a lasting impression.
First thing to look for is how well it will stick in someone’s head. The idea of any slogan, for recruitment or otherwise, is to build brand recognition. The Navy ran an ill-fated “A Global Force for Good” slogan back in 2009. It sounds polite and it puts the Navy in a positive light, but it’s not turning any heads — it’s simply literal.
Just hearing that, even in context, doesn’t make any random person think, “Oh! I should join the Navy!” Their response to selling America’s Navy better in the eyes of younger potential sailors? Simply, “America’s Navy.” That lasted a whole two years before going to the objectively better “Forged by the Sea.” The Army needs a slogan that is uniquely Army.
(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)
Audiences have been quick to ask, “why not go back to ‘Be All You Can Be?'” The fact is, there’s no way of knowing whether young adults today will share the same connection with it as older Army vets once did. Put bluntly, the new slogan isn’t meant to reenlist retirees, but those who lived by the words should still be proud to say them. So, the goal is to make the slogan resonate with today’s young adults without making something embarrassing years down the line.
Brevity is also the key to a great slogan. The Army isn’t looking for some tired, furniture-salesman jingle. Something short, sweet, and to the point. “Army Strong” was good for this — keeping a two-to-four-word limit is a must. These slogans are easier for audiences to remember. After all, leaving a lasting, positive image of the Army is the goal. Many of the greatest ad campaigns in history have all been short and direct.
A great slogan subconsciously tells people of the benefits of their brand. In the Army’s case, it’s the benefit of being a soldier. At their cores, that’s why “Be All You Can Be” and “Army Strong” worked. They tell potential recruits that enlisting will improve their lives — and just as importantly, that they’re missing out on something if they don’t enlist.
Finally, the slogan should tell the truth of what it means to serve and should apply to all soldiers, from the beastly Special Forces operator to a regular training room clerk in the National Guard. Slogans like, “Be a Bad Mother F*cker” may grab eyeballs, but it isn’t exactly applicable.
Following all of these guidelines, the best slogan for convincing young adults who are thinking of enlisting is something along the lines of, “Become greater than yourself.” Simple, effective, true, and it’s a feeling that all soldiers feel when they serve — regardless of generation.
Only time will tell when the Army will adopt a new slogan. I wouldn’t be worried though. The bar is set at pretty low — just do better than “Army of One.”
About the time this issue hits the newsstands, the U.S. Special Operations community will likely be taking a look back at one of the most high-profile operations in their history: Operation Gothic Serpent, which included the infamous Battle of the Black Sea, made famous by the book-slash-movie Black Hawk Down. That mission, which took place in October of 1993, is officially 25 years old this fall.
Several veterans of that operation are currently active in the firearms industry and have given their historical accounts of the mission to various media outlets. Instead of trying to retell someone else’s war story, we wanted to take this anniversary to examine the progress of America’s everyman rifle over the ensuing two-and-a-half decades, and perhaps reflect on just how good we have it now.
Blast from the past
As the rise of the retro rifle continues to gain momentum, several companies are now producing period-themed AR-pattern rifles to commemorate past iterations of Stoner’s most famous design. Troy Industries was one of the first to offer an out-of-the-box solution to collectors and enthusiasts wanting a “period” rifle with their My Service Rifle line, commemorating famous military operations, and the associated rifles used to win the day.
Their recent release of the M16A2 SFOD-D carbine made an all-too-appropriate cornerstone for this project. This no-frills rifle was state of the art at the time it was used by small-team elements of the U.S. Army and Air Force in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s a 14.5-inch barrel, carbine-length gas system affair with traditional CAR handguards, iron sights, and an A2 carry handle upper. The gun ships with a length of rail mounted on both the carry handle and the 6 o’clock position at the forward end of the handguard.
This carbine was considered state-of-the-art around the time Meatloaf topped radio charts with “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).” If that doesn’t make you feel old …
As a preface to all of you firearm historians out there, please note that this was an “in the spirit of” build and does features accessories in the style of this period, as opposed to the actual items. Attempting to procure the actual lights, sights, and mounts from two-plus decades ago was hardly conducive to deadlines or production budgets. So, in several cases, we had to make do with “close enough.” Good enough, as the saying goes, for government work. This particular Gothic Serpent sample is outfitted with a SureFire 6P, complete with a whopping 60-lumen incandescent bulb, mounted on a single scope ring with their push-button tactical tail cap. The optic is an Aimpoint 9000, which uses the longer tube style of the older 5000 with updated electronics.
While the idea of mounting a light to a weapon isn’t exactly new, the technology to do so in a manner that’s both convenient and ergonomic is a relatively recent development. As late as the early years of Operation Iraqi Freedom, line units were using duct tape and hose clamps to hold D-cell mag lights onto their rifles. The SOF community, having a larger budget and more time dedicated to RD, found that you could use weaver scope rings to mount the then-new smaller lights made by SureFire onto their guns. Certainly better than the methods used by conventional units even a decade later, this small measure of convenience came with two primary pitfalls — actuating the light and lumens.
Though night vision, and the earlier starlight technology, dates back to Vietnam and somewhat before, dedicated night-fighting gear isn’t a catchall for “intermediate” lighting situations. Think about entering a dark room in the middle of a bright desert afternoon in Africa. You need some kind of artificial light to see your target, but early night vision goggles — prone to washout or permanent damage from ambient light through a window or hole in the ceiling — were the wrong answer. So weapon lights became the best compromise.
Even though any advantage is better than no advantage, less than 100 lumens doesn’t buy you much reaction time. As your eyes are rapidly adjusting from bright light, to no light, to a little bit of light the “increased” ability to identify friend from foe is marginal at best. Tape switches were available at the time, but far from universal and far from reliable. They had to be taped on and, if you’ve ever had a piece of tape peel off something in the heat, you know that taping things together isn’t the most ironclad attachment method.
Once you get the light mounted, you have to be able to actually turn it on. With the light at the bottom of the handguard, thumb activation is out of the question. To make this placement work, we had to shift our support handgrip to just past the magwell and use the index knuckle of that hand to trip the light. It works, but not well. While firing, we had trouble keeping enough pressure on the switch to keep it on. The other option is to twist the tailcap for constant-on, but then you run into the fairly obvious issues of battery life, and of giving away your position between engagements.
Synergistic advances in handguards, lights, and forward grips provide a support-hand hold that’s more ergonomic and offers better control over the weapon.
Once you can see your target, you gotta hit it. The early electro-optical sights, also of Vietnam vintage, were a huge boon for rapid shots under tight constraints. The optics themselves, to include the Aimpoint 3000s and 5000s of the Black Hawk Down era, didn’t have the kind of battery life or reliability that we now expect from any red dot worth its salt. But mounting them on an A2-style receiver created an additional issue: height over bore.
For the uninitiated, height over bore is exactly what it sounds like. Mounting your scope several inches above your barrel creates the need for both mechanical offset when you zero as well as for manual holdover when trying to make precise shots — like headshots, which are a common point of training for hostage rescue units. Furthermore, these high-mounted optics require a “chin weld” on the stock, which is unnatural, uncomfortable, and offers a floating sight picture at best, particularly while shooting on the move.
Latest and greatest
As a demonstration of the technical progress that’s been made in configuring the AR or M4-style rifle, we contrast Troy’s My Service Rifle SFOD-D gun to their own cutting-edge carbine, the SOC-C. The SOCC (Special Operations Compatible Carbine) also sports a 14.5-inch barrel chambered in 5.56mm — which is squarely where the similarities end. The SOC-C features a mid-length gas system. Recent testing by USSOCOM has proven what the commercial market has known for years —that the longer gas tube makes for a cleaner and softer shooting weapon.
The SOCC covers that gas tube with a 12-inch M-LOK handguard. This single feature offers the warfighter a level of modularity that hasn’t been known since the M16’s introduction six decades ago. Now you can mount your lights and any other accessory wherever you want. In our case, we used SureFire’s new 600DF weaponlight attached to the rifle by way of an Arisaka Defense inline mount. The 600DF produces 1,500 lumens, which not only restores small rooms to broad daylight conditions at the push of a button, but can probably be used to signal low-flying aircraft or heat up your MRE.
When Super 6-4 went down near the Bakara Market in Mogadishu, soldiers had to mount a rail to the handguard, a scope ring to the rail, and the light into the scope ring. This system creates poor ergonomics and multiple points of failure for your light to shoot loose or fall off completely. With the 600DF/Arisaka combo, the mount is screwed directly into the body of the flashlight, and then attached directly to the handguard. Not only is this a simpler system less prone to mechanical failure, but the advent of modular handguards provides adjustability in where the light is placed, both lengthwise along the fore-end and around its circumference. The biggest single benefit to come from this advancement is that, now, you can configure the gun around the operator’s natural stance and hand placement instead of changing how you fight just to accommodate a flashlight.
Things like lower height-over-bore and shorter overall length give the SOCC carbine a distinct edge over its partner. Internals and fire controls are also highly improved over Mil-spec.
Optics have gotten smaller, smarter, tougher, and more diverse in the last 25 years. Our SOCC sports an Aimpoint Comp M5. It’s their smallest and most efficient rifle-mounted red dot. With battery life measured in years and a slew of brightness settings that include night vision compatibility. The move from carry-handle upper receivers to full-length top rails provide a laundry list of benefits on a fighting rifle. The aforementioned height-over-bore issue all but disappears. This simplifies zero. It also simplifies unconventional shooting positions like shooting over or under a barricade and allows a proper cheek weld. Additionally, the full-length top rail allows end users to utilize different types of optics. The vast increase in mounting space means that force multipliers like variable-power glass and clip-on thermal or night-vision units can be mounted quickly and securely with no tools, as the mission changes.
All the small things
While lights and sights were our two most obvious observations, there are other less prominent improvements that are equally important. One is the advent of ambidextrous controls. While, statistically, the number of left-handed shooters is pretty low throughout the ranks, if you happen to have one on your team you want them to reap all the same benefits everyone else in the stack does. Ambi selector levers, charging handles, and mag and bolt releases all create a perfectly mirrored manual of arms, regardless of which hand is pressing the trigger. But it’s not only southpaws who get something out of it.
The advent of urban warfare has forced U.S. soldiers to enter a battle space full of walls, windows, and hard angles. Being able to transition your carbine from strong side to support side as you adapt to available cover offers a very real increase in soldier survivability. Ambidextrous buttons and switches allow all shooters to switch-hit off of barriers without having to change anything about how they drive their gun.
Things like lower height-over-bore and shorter overall length give the SOCC carbine a distinct edge over its partner. Internals and fire controls are also highly improved over Mil-spec.
The last, but perhaps most critical upgrades we’ll discuss come in the form of the almighty bang switch. After executing proper stance/grip/sight alignment/sight picture, trigger press is the shooter’s last physical input into the weapon before that round leaves the barrel. Sloppy or harsh trigger press can throw a shot even if you do everything else right. This becomes a literal matter of life and death for units that fight in very close quarters where hostages and innocents are all in play.
The M16A2 SFOD-D sports a standard Mil-spec trigger that was delightfully rocky and inconsistent. By comparison, the SOCC comes out of the box with a Geissele G2S trigger. While not marketed as a match trigger per se, it offers a gliding smooth take-up with a consistent break that snaps like a carrot each and every time. It’s this consistency and predictability that gives a shooter an opportunity to improve their marksmanship more quickly, as well as imparting a confidence that the trigger will do exactly what you want it to every single time — a not insignificant comfort when entering situations measured in tenths of a second.
Newer shooters, and older ones who have embraced progress, get quickly adjusted to the ease with which a modern, properly configured rifle can be run hard under demanding conditions. While the events of Operation Gothic Serpent can be labeled as both tragic and heroic, the lessons learned from those units and their experience cobbling together a “best possible” solution with the parts they had set in motion a ripple effect that helped birth the cutting-edge carbines we now use to defend our country and our homes.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
G-forces don’t translate to the big screen, or to video games, but they are a major aspect of flying fighters. Movies like Top Gun show the characters easily moving around the cockpit while chatting on the radio during a dogfight. In reality, during a sharp turn under peak G, you’re spending the majority of your effort pancaked into your seat, trying not to pass out.
Right now, as you’re reading this, you’re probably at 1G, or one time the force of gravity. Your weight is what you see when you stand on a scale. I weigh approximately 200 pounds, 230 with my gear on. For most people, the peak G-force they’ve experienced is probably on a rollercoaster during a loop—which is about 3-4G’s. It’s enough to push your head down and pin your arms by your side. Modern fighters like the F-16 and F-35 pull 9G’s, which translates to over 2,000 pounds on my body.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Patrick P. Evenson)
Under 9G’s, the world appears to shrink until it looks like you’re viewing it through a toilet paper roll. Blood is being pulled out of your head towards your legs and arms, resulting in the loss of peripheral vision. If too much blood is pulled out, you’ll pass out, resulting in incapacitation for around half a minute. Due to the speeds we fly, there’s a high probability the jet will crash before you wake up.
As a fighter community we, unfortunately, have had more than one death per year, due to G’s, for the last 30+ years. This has led to a multi-pronged “systems mindset” for preparing pilots to endure them.
The first step in combating G’s is the Anti-G Straining Maneuver (AGSM). Through a combination of special breathing and tensing our lower body we can squeeze the blood back into our head. This not only prevents us from passing out, but increases our peripheral vision, which is critical during a dogfight.
The AGSM requires a high amount of physical conditioning. We spend a lot of time in the gym, working out our lower bodies, so we can push the blood against the force of gravity during high-G maneuvers. Because our flights average one to two hours, cardiovascular fitness is important as well. During my time in the F-16, I gave a dozen, or so, people backseat rides—after the flight, due to exhaustion, every one of them had to be helped out of their seat.
Hydration and nutrition also play an important part in the amount of G’s a pilot can handle. Studies have shown that with only three percent dehydration, G-tolerance time can be reduced by up to 50%. As with any athletic endeavor, it’s important we eat nutritious foods and avoid high sugar “junk food.”
Sleep is also a contribution factor to G-tolerance. Poor sleep decreases alertness and G-awareness, which is what signals a pilot to start their G-strain. In fact, it’s so important that we’re legally required to go into crew rest 12 hours before a flight, with an uninterrupted 8 hours to sleep.
Over the years, technology has allowed us to pull more G’s for longer amounts of time. We wear G-suits, which are pants with air-bladders in them. As we enter a turn, the bladders inflate, squeezing our legs and preventing blood from rushing towards our feet. To increase endurance, we have pressure-breathing, which forces air into our lungs during high-G’s. Instead of struggling for a breath, with what feels like an elephant on our chest, we can take a small sip of air and rely on the pressure-breathing to fill our lungs.
The current G-suit is shown on the left, with the older version on the right.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. C.J. Hatch)
After high-G flights, my arms and legs will have what appears to be chickenpox—blood has pooled in my extremities and caused the blood vessels to rupture. It’s similar to a bruise and usually dissipates within a few days. The long term effects of high-G’s can result in neck and back issues—most pilots deal with some level of general pain due to G’s.
With our helmets on, over 135 pounds of force is applied to the neck at 9G’s. In my squadron of 30 people: one pilot is unable to fly while his neck heals, another has been told by the flight doctor that he has the spine of someone in their mid-fifties (he’s 39), and another is only able to fly low-G sorties. A few months ago, I had to get X-rays on my back to determine if I’d damaged a vertebra. As a community, we’ve started to introduce physical therapy and dedicated stretching routines after each flight, in order to extend our careers.
I often get asked why we can’t do all of our training in a simulator—G’s are one of the reasons why. It’s one thing to make decisions sitting on the ground, it’s another when you feel the world closing in as the blood is being drained from your head. One of the sayings we have in the fighter community is: as soon as you put the helmet on, you lose 20 IQ points. During a max performance turn, without extensive training, it’s probably a lot more.
Retired Air Force Colonel Merryl Tengesdal was the first and only Black female U-2 pilot. For her, it’s all about finding opportunity and seizing it.
Born in the Bronx and raised by a single mother, Tengesdal was obsessed with Star Trek. “When I was 7 years old I decided I wanted to be an astronaut and be like Kirk exploring space,” she said with a smile. That show would be a pivotal moment for her life, leading her to set what she called her framework. “I knew I needed to do well in math and science, go to college and become a pilot.”
But she didn’t want to become just any kind of pilot, either. “I wanted to go high and fast with weapons, that’s just how I roll,” Tengesdal said with a smile.
While still in high school, she attended college level programs for science and electrical engineering, which is what she would major in. When Tengesdal graduated, she was only one of three women in the program. “I did ROTC in the Air Force for two years but thought it probably wasn’t the best fit for me. It’s funny how that comes back full circle,” she laughed.
Instead of the Air Force, Tengesdal started talking to a Navy recruiter. Although she was told there were no pilot slots by them, that didn’t stop her. She’d end up on a five-day bus trip to San Diego where she took the required test to become a pilot. Tengesdal was picked up for Officer Candidate School in 1994. “I got wind in ‘96 and picked up helicopters, H60 Bravos and did that for four years. Deployed to the Mediterranean and Arabyian Gulf, doing missions out there,” she explained.
Tengesdal did two more years with the fleet before becoming a T-6 instructor. When that was finished, she went back to where it all started. The Air Force.
She was actually contemplating getting out, her goals still being on getting into space. But then she heard about the U-2. “The mission was beautiful, the aircraft was tough. I wore a pressure suit going above 70,000 feet. All of that was very appealing to me,” Tendesdal shared.
The Lockheed U-2 is actually nicknamed the “dragon lady” and used to be the aircraft of choice for the Central Intelligence Agency. Pilots are required to breathe in pure oxygen for the hour prior to takeoff and wear partially pressurized space suits before they board for missions over 10 hours long. It is so challenging and difficult that it comes with a suicide needle, should the pilot opt to take it. Tengesdal was only one of ten women in around 1100 pilots in the aircrafts history. She is still the only Black woman to fly it.
“I was driven toward a goal and flying. I didn’t say I wanted to be a first because no one else had done it, I didn’t even think of it that way. I looked at the U-2 community as a brother and sisterhood that I wanted to be a part of,” Tengesdal explained. “The progression of myself as a Black American during my time on this earth has been a very good one…I saw opportunity, my mom made sure there was and then I would take advantage of it.”
Her advice is to take everything as if it’s the only shot you have and make the best of it. “I try to create those opportunities for people regardless of what they look like or who they are, based on their skillset. I think that’s how I went through life. People saw something in me, I had the skill and aptitude and it’s worked out…All you have to do is look at it and not limit yourself,” Tengesdal shared.
“When I was deployed with the Navy, I saw what poverty could really look like. It gives you that perspective of ‘we don’t want that here,'” she explained. With her time in service, she’s witnessed how bad it can be and although recognizes America is far from perfect – it’s a beacon of hope for so many for a reason. Tengesdal remains hopeful that American resiliency will shine through.
Promoted to Colonel, she eventually retired in 2017. These days she’s wearing the hats of personal trainer, motivational speaker, wife and mom. She’s also fostering to adopt, in an attempt to give a child a starting opportunity, like she had.
We can also add reality TV star to the mix now, too.
You’ll find Tengesdal on the CBS reality series, Tough As Nails. It’s a show featuring every day Americans who don’t hesitate to roll up their sleeves and get the job done; a mantra deeply familiar to her. Things like mental toughness, strength, life skills and endurance will be tested. Basically, it was a show made for Tengesdal.
For a woman who’s accomplished so much already and continues to strive for even more, she has some shockingly normal hobbies and enjoyments. “I am above level 8,000 on candy crush and I play Pokemon go,” she laughed.
Her message to women or anyone who feels underserved wondering if they should go for something because it’s going to be too hard, Tengesdal says yes. “You may struggle and even struggle really hard. Do it anyway.”
For more amazing Black veterans, check out this post.
A decade ago, he was a young Army soldier training Iraqi troops when he noticed their primitive filing system: handwritten notes threaded with different colors of yarn, stacked in piles. For organization’s sake, he built them a simple computer database.
Now an Army reservist, the major is taking a break from his civilian high-tech job to help America’s technological fight against Islamic State extremists, part of a growing force of cyberexperts the Pentagon has assembled to defeat the group.
“The ability to participate in some way in a real mission, that is actually something that’s rare, that you can’t find in private sector,” said the 38-year-old Nebraska native who is working at U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland.
“You’re part of a larger team putting your skills to use, not just optimizing clicks for a digital ad, but optimizing the ability to counter ISIS or contribute to the security of our nation.”
Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter expressed frustration that the United States was losing the cyberwar against Islamic States militants. He pushed the Cyber Command to be more aggressive.
In response, the Pentagon launched an effort to incorporate cyber technology into its daily military fight, including new ways to disrupt the enemy’s communications, recruiting, fundraising, and propaganda.
To speak with someone at the front lines of the cyber campaign, The Associated Press agreed to withhold the major’s name. The military says he could be threatened or targeted by the militants if he is identified publicly. The major and other officials wouldn’t provide precise details on the highly classified work he is doing.
But Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command, said the major is bringing new expertise for identifying enemy networks, pinpointing system administrators or developers, and potentially monitoring how the Islamic State’s online traffic moves.
He “has the ability to bring an analytic focus of what the threat is doing, coupled with a really deep understanding of how networks run,” Nakasone said, describing such contributions as “really helpful for us.” He outlined a key question for the military: “How do you impact an adversary that’s using cyberspace against us?”
The military services are looking for new ways to bring in more civilians with high-tech skills who can help against IS, and prepare for the new range of technological threats the nation will face.
Nakasone said that means getting Guard and Reserve members with technical expertise in digital forensics, math crypto-analysis and writing computer code. The challenge is how to find them.
“I would like to say it’s this great database that we have, that we’ve been able to plug in and say, ‘Show me the best tool developers and analysts that you have out there,'” Nakasone said. “We don’t have that yet. We are going to have one, though, by June.”
The Army Reserve is starting a pilot program cataloging soldiers’ talents. Among 190,000 Army reservists, Nakasone said there might be up to 15,000 with some type of cyber-related skills. But there are legal and privacy hurdles, and any database hinges on reservists voluntarily and accurately providing information on their capabilities.
Normally, Nakasone said a reservist’s record includes background, training, assignments, and schools attended.
“I would like to know every single person that has been trained as a certified ethical hacker,” he said.
Nakasone said officials were still working out costs.
“The money will come,” he said, because building a ready cyber force is necessary.
The Army major said others in the civilian high-tech industry are interested in helping.
Many would like to participate “in something bigger than themselves, something that has intrinsic value for the nation,” he said.
The major said he has signed up for a second one-year tour in his cyber job. He is looking at options for staying longer.
“I find what I’m doing very satisfying, because I have an opportunity to implement things, to get things done and see them work and see tangible results,” he said. “I’m not making as much as I was on the civilian side. But the satisfaction is that strong, and is that valuable, that it’s worth it.”
Going to sick call is seen as optional by many troops. I mean, who wants to waste a nice morning run when you can just treat whatever ails you on your own? After all, it worked that one time, so why wouldn’t it work again now?
There’s a tendency among troops to take it upon themselves to try and fix minor medical problems without bothering the doc and missing out on a super critical 6-mile ruck. You wouldn’t want to be accused of malingering, would you?
In the minds of troops, it’s often better to roll the dice and hope you can treat yourself — and, as you can imagine, this isn’t always the best answer.
The truth is that some of the common “treatments” employed by troops are either not all that helpful or they make matters worse. Here’s the best advice we can offer: Don’t be an friggin’ idiot. Use common sense. If the sickness or injury is bad enough, go see the doc. The only prize for “toughing it out” is a f*cked up body. And by skipping out on a visit to sick call, you miss out on putting your issue on your medical records, which can be a big problem down the road.
The following are the unofficial tools for avoiding sick call — and why you might want to reconsider:
If you don’t feel it immediately, you’ll sure as hell feel it in the morning…
(U.S. Air Force)
“It ain’t called “Grandpa’s cough syrup” for nothing! It’s like taking Benadryl — only more fun, right? After all, you can’t feel sick if you’re passed out!”
Ask anyone who’s ever tried drinking while sick and they’ll probably tell you it’s a terrible idea. Being sick dehydrates you — so does drinking. By consuming alcohol, you’re flushing the water your body needs to heal itself. In the end, this just prolongs your recovery.
Beware the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide…
(U.S Army photo by Sgt. Leo Jenkins)
2. Guzzling down water
“If there’s one thing that the medic kept getting on your ass about, it was to keep drinking water. The surest way to detect how healthy your body is by comparing your pee to that chart that’s hanging in the latrine. It’s like a check-engine light for your body.”
This is a fantastic idea. Drinking water is a perfectly healthy thing to do. But if you quickly go from consuming barely any water at all to chugging gallons of it, you can actually become overhydrated. Your kidneys can’t process that much water and you’ll lose it all — along with some other needed stuff, like sodium. If you really want to use the pee chart, know that “pale lemonade yellow” is the healthy medium.
At least get a sick call slip. It’s an official order from a medical officer that says you can be lazy for a few days.
3. Ignoring it
“Sometimes, all you need is a good night’s rest and you’ll be right as rain. If that doesn’t work, ignore whatever’s going on until things get better. If it still hurts, well, just toughen up and stop complaining.”
If it’s a cold or a sore muscle, roger — get some rest and carry on. This mentality becomes a problem when whatever’s ailing you doesn’t show signs of improving. Say you tear some kinda muscle — if your body is given the proper time to heal and you take it easy, it could heal on its own. If you try to shrug it off and continue to push yourself, things are only going to get worse with each passing day.
If it remains a problem, get some help.
If you are going to pop the blister, at least use extreme care to keep it clean. Bandage it and use moleskin.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Brian A. Barbour)
4. Popping blisters
“It’s only natural to poke at something when it hurts. See that blister? Screw waiting around! Pop that sucker with a needle so it can start healing and let’s get a move on.”
It doesn’t take a medical degree to know that popping blisters on your feet is a terrible idea. For starters, blisters are your body’s way of repairing itself. Popping blisters only prolongs the healing process and leaves the wound open for infection. And since it’s oftentimes on your nasty-ass feet, it’s definitely going to get infected.
If you don’t want to be literally sh*tting out blood, don’t exceed 800mg per 6 hours.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Spain)
5. Lots of ibuprofen
“Why bother the corpsmen when you already know what they’re going to give you? No matter what you tell them, the solution is always the same: Motrin and a bottle of water. Skip the line and just pick some up at the local grocery store and pop a few. Besides, it’s totally funny to watch peoples’ reactions as you down three 800mg pills of ibuprofen and wash it down with an energy drink.”
Ibuprofen is not a super drug that can cure everything. First of all, it’s really only used to treat fevers and soothe pains and inflammations. Secondly, despite what you might think, there’ is such a thing as too much ibuprofen — quit popping 800mg pills whenever you start feeling a cramp. Finally, don’t be taking the huge-ass ones without food or water unless you feel like ripping your stomach and intestines up.
The new Infantry Squad Vehicle (Photo by GM Defense)
On June 29, 2020, the U.S. Army selected GM’s submission for the new Infantry Squad Vehicle. Beating out submissions from a joint Oshkosh Defense-Flyer Defense team and an SAIC-Polaris partnership, GM has been awarded a $214M contract to build 649 of the new ISVs over the next five years. Additionally, the Army has already been approved to acquire 2,065 of the new trucks over the next decade.
In 2003, GM sold its defense division to General Dynamics for $1.1B. In 2017, GM saw renewed opportunity in adapting its civilian vehicles for the defense market and created the subsidiary GM Defense. In 2019, GM Defense became a finalist in the Army’s Infantry Squad Vehicle procurement competition along with the two aforementioned teams. The three teams were given $1M to build two prototypes of their proposed vehicle which were tested and evaluated at Aberdeen Test Center, Maryland and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
(Left to right) SAIC-Polaris DAGOR, Oshkosh-Flyer Defense GMV, and GM Defense ISV concepts (Photo from NationalDefenseMagazine.org)
Contract specifications called for the ISV to weigh no more than 5,000, carry nine soldiers and their gear at highway speeds in extreme conditions both on and off-road, capable of being slung under a UH-60 Blackhawk, and fit inside of a CH-47 Chinook. To meet these requirements, GM Defense based its design on the popular Chevrolet Colorado and its ZR2 and ZR2 Bison variants.
Chevy’s popular midsize truck, the Colorado ZR2 (Photo by Chevrolet)
The ISV is powered by a 2.8L 4-cylinder Duramax diesel engine that produces “significantly more power than the Colorado ZR2 known for delivering 186 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque,” mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission according to the GM Defense ISV product sheet.
Overall, the ISV retains much of the DNA of the Colorado variants it is based on, featuring 70% off-the-shelf components. “The chassis — which is the frame, the suspension, driveline, engine, transmission, transfer case, axles, brakes — all of that hardware comes from the Colorado ZR2,” said GM Defense Chief Engineer Mark Dickens. “Somebody could walk into a Chevy dealership and purchase those parts.”
Per the Army’s specifications, the ISV seats nine soldiers: two in the front, three in the second row, two rear-facing seats in a third row, and two outward-facing seats in a fourth row. Gear is stowed between the third and fourth rows, strapped to webbing that acts as the roof over the roll cage cabin, or slung from the roll cage itself.
The ISV on display at the 2019 SEMA Show (Photo from GMAuthority.com)
In addition to the Army contract, GM Defense President David Albritton told Detroit Free Press that, “[The ISV] platform can be used for international sales to other militaries, other government agencies like Border Patrol, the Marine Corps, Air Force and Special Forces,” since future variants, “would be a totally different design.”
The ISV follows a trend that the military is setting of purchasing readily-available commercial technology for tactical use. On June 5, 2020, Polaris was awarded a 9M contract to supply USSOCOM with its MRZR Alpha Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle. The LT-ATV is a redesigned Polaris RZR that has been in use with the Army’s light infantry units like the 82nd Airborne Division and 10th Mountain Division.
10th Mountain LT-ATVs (left) alongside a Humvee and an LMTV flanked by 2 M-ATVs