China’s military took “immediate action” on May 27, 2018, against “unauthorized” sailing by US warships in South China Sea waters claimed by Beijing.
China’s defense ministry said in a statement that two US warships, the Antiem guided missile cruiser and the USS Higgins destroyer, entered disputed waters around the Paracel Islands before the Chinese navy intervened in what it considers to be a “serious infringement on China’s sovereignty.”
“Chinese military took immediate actions by dispatching naval ships and aircrafts to conduct legal identification and verification of the US warships and warn them off,” Wu Qian, defense ministry spokesman, said.
The spokesman also called the US move “provocative and arbitrary,” which he said “undermined strategic mutual trust between the two militaries.”
China has held de facto control over the Paracel Islands since 1974, however Taiwan and Vietnam also have competing claims to the area. The US warships reportedly came within 12 nautical miles of the islands.
According to Reuters, the US freedom of navigation operation was a targeted measure against China’s growing influence in the region.
The move comes at a sensitive time between the US and China. In May 2018, the Pentagon disinvited China from an international military exercise in an effort to send a message about the country’s activities in the South China Sea.
“China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region,” Department of Defense spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, said in a statement.
Three US Army Special Forces troops were killed and two were wounded while conducting a patrol with Nigerien troops in southwest Niger on October 5, The New York Times reported.
The wounded Green Berets were reportedly in “stable condition” and evacuated to Niamey, the country’s capital, where they were set to then be transported to Germany.
The joint patrol, conducted to train Nigerien troops, was considered routine, according to US military officials cited by Fox News. Eight to 10 US troops were reportedly part of the patrol.
Five Nigerien soldiers were also killed, according to an official for the region of Tillaberi.
“We can confirm reports that a joint US and Nigerien patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger,” a spokesman for US Africa Command said. The US military has had a presence in the volatile region for several years.
The military-news site Sofrep cited a source in the Special Operations community as saying the US troops were part of 3rd Special Forces Group, a military detachment that has shifted its area of operations to Africa in recent years. The site also said about 40 enemy combatants carried out the ambush.
In 2013, the US set up a drone base in Niger to combat extremist organizations in West Africa, including the Islamic State, Boko Haram, and an affiliate of Al Qaeda.
It is a successor to the 1970’s Shkval (Russian for ‘Squall’), which has an impressive speed of over 200 knots, far faster than any NATO torpedo, making it difficult to stop. However, it has range of less than ten miles compared to more than 30 for the US Mk 48. Shkval is also limited by the fact that it cannot use sonar guidance when travelling at speed. Western analysts have tended to be scathing about the Shkval, calling it a suicide weapon because of its short range. One Russian commentator described it as “amusing but useless.”
However, a new Russian torpedo is likely to see the Shkval’s defects remedied. The Khishchnik (“Predator”) is a new supercavitating torpedo at an advanced stage of development. Unlike various supposed super-weapons which they boast about publicly, the Russians are keeping very quiet about Predator.
High-speed underwater projectiles rely on a principle called supercavitation. Rather than being streamlined, Shkval’s nose is blunt, ending in a flat disc. This creates a low-pressure area in its wake – the pressure is so low that a bubble of water vapor forms. This cavitation effect is well known; propellers are designed to minimize it because it reduces contact with the water and causes damage. In supercavitation, the bubble is large enough to enclose the entire torpedo except for its steering fins. By travelling inside the bubble, the torpedo experiences far less drag than a normal torpedo in contact with the water. The low drag means it can reach phenomenal speeds.
Russia has long been the leader in supercavitating weapons. These include the bullets fired by the APS underwater assault rifle, effective at a range of thirty meters underwater – several times greater than any other firearm.
Torpedoes like Shkval use a more advanced version of the effect in which the cavity is ‘ventilated,’ sustained by an injection of exhaust gases. Shkval is not rocket-propelled as many sources assume; there’s a good description (in Russian) here. A rocket boosts the torpedo up to cavitation speed, but after that, a hydrojet takes over, burning magnesium-based fuel and using seawater as the oxidizer.
Western efforts to copy Russian supercavitating technology have not so far been successful. There have been great successes in the lab, but these have not translated into deployed hardware. DARPA had an ambitious plan for a 100 mph+ supercavitating submarine called the Underwater Express. They had a three-year contact with sub makers Electric Boat from 2006-2009, but it came to nothing. The US Navy RAMICS project involved busting underwater mines with a supsercavitating projectile fired from a helicopter, the project ran from 1997 to 2011 before funding was terminated without the system being fielded. The US Navy’s supercavitating torpedo project has been on hold since 2012; a spokesman says that improved understanding of the basic physics of supercavitation is needed.
The Western work may give us some insight into how the Russians are improving on Shkval. The reason why it cannot carry sonar is because the cavitating disc is much too small for a sonar system, and the engine is too noisy. General Dynamics patented a new type of cavitator in the early 2000’s. Rather than being flat, this is a parabolic curve, giving gives enough surface area for the sonar receiver. In the GD design, the sonar emitters are mounted separately on the fin tips, and filters block out engine noise.
This suggests that a guided supercavitating torpedo is now feasible; a 2015 article on the Shkval suggested that one was under development.
The other issue with the Shkval is its short range. Georgiy Savchenko of the Institute of Hydromechanics at Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences works on supercavitating designs and says that improved fuel will make a dramatic difference – he estimates that the range could be improved by a factor of ten.
Very little information is being released on Khishchnik apart from the fact that it is being developed by Elektropribor, a design bureau which makes instruments for ships and subs as well as aviation components. Its existence was revealed in documents uncovered by Russian defense blog BMPD, which revealed that the company had been working on Khishchnik since 2013 and that launch tests were expected in 2016 as part of a contract worth 3 billion rubles ($53m). There have been no official comments or announcements.
Other companies may also be working on the project. In 2016, Boris Obnosov, CEO of Russian company Tactical Missiles Corp, mentioned work in this area to Rambler News Service
“Take, for instance, the well-known unique Shkval underwater missile. We are working on upgrading it heavily.”
The ‘heavily upgraded’ Shkval seems likely to be the Khishchnik.
Shkval has been upgraded several times previously, with improvements in range and guidance. A new name suggests a more significant upgrade. An export version of the Shkval, the Shkval-E was produced in 1999. There would be a big market for an unstoppable, carrier-killing torpedo.
Several small groups of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division have deployed in early 2017, bound for the Middle East and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
That fight, according to U.S. officials, includes the “most significant urban combat to take place since World War II.”
“It is tough and brutal,” Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said from Baghdad late March, describing the ongoing operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS.
“House by house, block by block fights. Despite that, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to press ISIS on multiple axes, presenting them with multiple dilemmas. We know the enemy cannot respond to this. Tough fighting in one sector provides the opportunity for other elements to advance in other areas, and that’s what the Iraqi Security Forces have been doing.”
Townsend is the commander of the anti-ISIS coalition, known as Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve. He’s also the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana and Sgt. Cory Ballentine, both 82nd Airborne Division, pull security with M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner/Released)
The coalition he leads includes dozens of countries making varied contributions to the fight. The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team is a key contributor among U.S. forces, with more than 1,800 paratroopers deployed in support of an advise-and-assist mission, training and equipping Iraqi forces before battle and providing intelligence, artillery support and advice during combat.
The latest 82nd Airborne troops to deploy in support of the fight are also from the unit, known as Falcon Brigade. Although they are not expected to remain in country for the entirety of what’s left of the nine-month deployment.
Army leaders first discussed the additional deployments last month, when a three-star general told members of Congress up to 2,500 soldiers from the brigade could join the rest of their unit on the deployment.
But officials have said more recently that it’s unclear if that number will be called forward. Instead, smaller groups — such as the two companies of about 200 soldiers who left Fort Bragg last Tuesday — have been deployed.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via telephone last week, Townsend said ISIS was causing massive human suffering and would continue to do so if the Iraqi forces and their coalition partners do not prevail.
“Our enemy, ISIS, are evil and murderous butchers, engaged in purposeful and mass slaughter,” he said. “There are countless mass graves surrounding Mosul. ISIS put those bodies in there…the savages that are ISIS deliberately target, terrorize, and kill innocent civilians every day. The best and fastest way to end this human suffering is to quickly liberate these cities and Iraq and Syria from ISIS.”
Townsend said officials have observed civilians fleeing ISIS-held buildings. They’ve heard reports that ISIS was shooting civilians trying to leave Mosul. Iraqi forces have reported houses filled with hostages and rigged to explode.
“This is a difficult and brutal fight on multiple fronts,” he said. “…it is the toughest and most brutal phase of this war and…the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced in my 34 year of service.”
“ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis,” Townsend added. “ISIS is cutting off heads. ISIS is shooting people, throwing people from buildings, burning them alive in cases, and they’re making a video record to prove it. This has got to stop. This evil has got to be stamped out.”
The key difference between the global influence campaigns of China and Russia is that Beijing is just better at it, according to John Garnaut, a former adviser on China to Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Speaking to the US House Armed Services Committee on March 21, 2018, Garnaut was giving national-security advice on influence operations when Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard asked him to compare China’s influence methods to Russia’s.
“Why is it that all we hear about is Russia’s actions, whereas there are countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other countries that purchase TV ads, fund think tanks here in Washington, that fund institutions in our universities seeking to achieve that same objective. Why is it that Russia’s actions stand out?” Gabbard asked.
Garnaut was short and to the point: “I think one answer may be because China is very good at it,” he said.
Part of this reason is the very different approaches the two countries take.
“Unlike Russia, which seems to be as much for a good time rather than a long time, the Chinese are strategic, patient, and they set down foundations of organizations and very consistent narratives over a long period of time.”
“So, often its quite incremental in the way that China behaves, whereas Russia tends to do these focused, sharp strikes,” Garnaut said, stressing that the distinction doesn’t mean that China’s methods are less important.
“They put an enormous amount of effort into making sure we don’t talk about what it’s doing,” he said, referring to world’s second-largest economy.
“I think we’ve just failed to recognize a lot of the activity that has been going on and that needs to change and its starting to change, certainly in Australia, and starting to change in the US.”
While the US has largely been focused on Russia’s meddling in its 2016 presidential election, Australia has been grappling with how to handle apparent attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to subtly influence its politics and society at large.
In response, Australia’s government in 2017 introduced a new law to target and broaden the definition of foreign interference.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is not the madman he is often made out to be, a senior CIA official revealed Oct. 4.
Many have speculated that that a crazed Kim Jong Un might just wake up one morning and order a nuclear strike on another country, but experts and officials argue that this is an extremely unlikely situation, as the young dictator, while brutal, is a rational actor.
“Kim Jong Un is a very rational actor,” Deputy Assistant Director of CIA for Korea Mission Center Yong Suk Lee explained at a conference at George Washington University.
“The last person who wants conflict on the peninsula is Kim Jong Un,” he argued, asserting that Kim wants what all authoritarian rulers want — “he wants to rule for a long time and die peacefully in his own bed.”
“Bluster and rhetoric aside, Kim Jong Un has no interest in going toe-to-toe with combined forces command,” Lee explained. “That’s not conducive to his long-term rule.”
Lee, who has analyzed North Korea for more than two decades, also countered arguments that Kim needs to wage war to satisfy the hawkish demands of the North Korean elites. “Believe me, North Korean elites are not interested in getting their faces on a deck of cards and being chased after by [Joint Special Operations Command],” he said.
“Beyond the bluster, Kim Jong Un is a rational actor,” Lee said.
Assuming that Kim is not crazy, then a random attack on the US or an American ally is not realistic or in the interests of a regime that is focused on maintaining its existence.
“An out-of-the-blue attack is not conducive to his regime interests and his longevity,” Lee explained, adding that nuclear weapons and missiles give the North some strategic maneuverability. The CIA appears to assume that North Korea’s interests are regime survival, deterring US aggression, and gaining acceptance as a nuclear power.
North Korea’s strategic thinking is important to understanding its frequent provocations. “North Korea is clearly testing the tolerance of the United States and the international community to manage its increasingly provocative behavior aimed at establishing itself as a recognized nuclear and missile-armed state. They are raising the threshold for the United States and others to accept or press back against them,” argued Michael Collins, the Deputy Assistant Director of CIA for East Asia Mission Center.
“I expect that this tension will continue,” he said.
Lee actually suggested, as have officials in South Korea and Japan, that North Korea might engage in provocative behavior around Oct. 10, the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean communist party. The North has a tendency to mark major events with its own brand of fireworks.
In one fell swoop, a series of aerial strafing and bombing runs destroyed 83 oil tankers belonging to ISIS forces in Syria.
USA TODAY reports that after a pilot witnessed a gaggle of vehicles in the oil-rich, ISIS-held region of Deir ez-Zor province, US-led coalition forces sent a surveillance aircraft to provide intelligence on the area. After confirming the targets, A-10s and F-16s were scrambled to dispense more than 80 munitions against the vehicles.
After the dust settled, an estimated $11 million worth of oil and trucks were destroyed in the largest single airstrike against ISIS forces in Syria this year.
“You’re going to have multiple effects from this one strike,” said Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian.
The vehicles, which were reported to have been out in the open, may be indicative of the declining state of ISIS’ leadership and control. After a series of devastating airstrikes from both coalition and Russian forces, ISIS militants have grown accustomed to evade aerial threats by avoiding traveling in large convoys; however, this latest lapse in judgment could be a sign of worse things to come for the militants.
“This is a very good indication that they’re having trouble commanding and controlling their forces,” Harrigian explained to USA TODAY.
The bombing campaign, otherwise known as Tidal Wave II, was enacted to wipe out ISIS’ oil market that was generating more than $1 million a day during its peak.
At the beginning of this operation, coalition aircraft would drop leaflets on the oil tankers prior to their bombing runs to provide the option for drivers to escape. However, after new military rules were implemented, leaflets are no longer required to be dropped.
Instead, pilots are now firing warning shots to indicate their arrival.
In the days after the September 11th attacks on the United States and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban leader known as “Mullah Omar” fled the state he’d helped form after fighting to liberate it from the Soviet Union. The CIA believed he’d fled to Pakistan and the U.S. military issued a reward of $10 million for his capture.
His real hiding place was just three miles from the U.S.’ FOB Wolverine in Siuray. He was never more than 80 miles from Kandahar, the site he fled when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan.
The governing body of the Taliban operated out of Quetta, Pakistan after being forced out of Afghanistan in 2001. Afghanistan’s Defence Ministry, the Pentagon, and the CIA all agreed that until his death in 2013, Mohammed Omar was there with them all. But what international intelligence agencies didn’t know about Omar could fill a warehouse. Very few photos of the man were ever taken, and he let very few people into his inner circle. Foreign intelligence services didn’t even know that Omar had died for two years following his death from Tuberculosis in 2013.
A new report from the Zomia Center, a think tank dedicated to studying ungoverned spaces, says that Omar died just three miles from FOB Wolverine, a base full of hundreds of American troops.
Omar in 1992.
Bette Dam, a Kabul-based journalist, working in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2014, traveled around the country trying to find a more complete picture of Omar. She spoke with friends, relatives, bodyguards, drivers, and other insurgent leaders, many of whom had fled and lived with Omar in the days following the U.S. invasion. Mullah Omar never left Afghanistan. The man who refused to give up Osama bin Laden renounced his leadership of the Taliban and then disappeared.
He found himself in two remote villages, each house close to an American military forward operating base. The first was in Qalat, near FOB Lagman. He hid there for four years, coming close to capture by U.S. troops only twice. The next village was Siuray, three miles from FOB Wolverine. Mullah Omar lived behind a larger family home in the traditional mud hut that is often found in rural Afghanistan. He lived there until his death in 2013.
Omar spent much of his time alone or with his bodyguard, Jabbar Omari, who provided journalist Bette Dam with much of the information she would later corroborate. The Taliban’s leader ate and prayed alone, and even cooked for himself much of the time. The two men were always afraid of being found out and took great pains to stay indoors and speak very softly, if at all. In the evenings, Omar would listen to BBC Pashto while his bodyguard listened to Voice of America’s Dari service on the radio.
Omar never mentioned Osama bin Laden or why he refused to hand the al-Qaeda leader over to the U.S. Even when bin Laden was killed in 2011, Omar didn’t say anything in response, he only ever criticized al-Qaeda’s view of Islam. When Omar died, his bodyguard buried him in the sand without a coffin, though he would later be dug up and given an Islamic funeral at a nondescript location. He died without appointing a successor to the Taliban movement and without leaving a message to his family or followers. He just died.
Though former national security adviser Michael Flynn was rather controversial — the retired general peddled conspiracy theories and ultimately resigned because of his ties to Russia — I don’t suspect anything other than professionalism and solid advice being given to the president by McMaster.
He commands a great deal of respect among his troops.
Much like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who was revered by his troops while serving as a general in the Marine Corps, McMaster has earned a great deal of respect from soldiers. That’s because his career has been marked by personal heroism, excellent leadership, and his tendency to buck traditional ways of thinking.
As a captain during the Gulf War in 1991, McMaster made a name for himself during the Battle of 73 Easting. Though his tank unit was vastly outnumbered by the Iraqi Republican Guard, he didn’t lose a single tank in the engagement, while the Iraqis lost nearly 80. His valor and leadership that day earned him the Silver Star, the third-highest award for bravery.
Then there was his leadership during the Iraq War, during which he was one of the first commanders to use counterinsurgency tactics. Before President George W. Bush authorized a troop “surge” that pushed US forces to protect the population and win over Iraqi civilians, it was McMaster who demonstrated it could work in the city of Tal Afar.
He’s far from a being a ‘yes’ man.
McMaster is the kind of guy who says what’s on his mind and will call out a wrongheaded approach when he sees one. That tendency is something that junior officers love, but those maverick ways are not well-received by some of his fellow generals. Put simply: McMaster isn’t a political guy, unlike other officers who are trying to jockey for position and move up in their careers.
In 2003, for example, McMaster criticized then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s Iraq War plan that placed too much of an emphasis on technology. McMaster also pushed back on his boss’ refusal to admit an insurgency was starting to take hold in 2004.
He’s been held back in his career because of it — he was passed over two times for his first star — but it wasn’t due to incompetence. Instead, his fight to be promoted from colonel to brigadier general was seen as pure politics, and McMaster doesn’t like to play. He was eventually promoted in 2008, but that hasn’t made him any less outspoken.
He’s a strategic thinker with a Ph.D.
McMaster has a lot in common with another famous general: David Petraeus.
In fact, he was one a select few officers that were in the Petraeus “brain trust” during the Iraq War.
McMaster is an expert on military strategy, counterinsurgency, and history. And he, like Petraeus, stands out among military officers, since both earned advanced degrees. McMaster holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina, where his dissertation went far beyond the readership of just a few professors.
Titled “Dereliction of Duty,” McMaster’s dissertation became an authoritative book on how the United States became involved in the Vietnam War. Much of the book’s focus is on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were heaped with criticism for failing to push back against President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“McMaster stresses two elements in his discussion of America’s failure in Vietnam: the hubris of Johnson and his advisors and the weakness of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” reads a review on Amazon.
Whether McMaster can transition well from the Army to the White House is the big question now, but he’s one of the best people Trump could have picked. And like Mattis, he’s not afraid to challenge the president’s views.
“He’s not just a great fighter, and not just a conscientious leader,” one Army officer told me of McMaster. “He’s also an intellectual, a historian and a forward-thinking planner who can see future trends without getting caught up in bandwagon strategic fads.”
The Pentagon has known for at least two decades about failures to give military criminal history information to the FBI, including the type the US Air Force didn’t report about the accused Texas church killer who assaulted his then-wife and stepson while serving as an enlisted airman.
The Air Force lapse in the Devin P. Kelley case, which is now under review by the Pentagon’s inspector general, made it possible for him to buy guns before the murderous attack Nov. 5 at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twenty-six people were killed, including multiple members of some families. About 20 other people were wounded.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was appalled at the Air Force mistake and unsatisfied by its plans to investigate the matter.
“I don’t believe the Air Force should be left to self-police after such tragic consequences,” he said, adding that he fears the failure to report domestic violence convictions may be more widespread.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Nov. 7 he has directed the Pentagon inspector general to review circumstances of the Kelley case and “define what the problem is.”
At its core, the problem is that military criminal investigative organizations have too frequently, for too long, failed to comply with rules for reporting service members’ criminal history data to the FBI.
As recently as February 2015, the Pentagon inspector general reported that hundreds of convicted offenders’ fingerprints were not submitted to the FBI’s criminal history database. The report found about a 30 percent failure rate for submitting fingerprints and criminal case outcomes. It did not determine the reasons for the lapses.
In February this year, the inspector general’s office launched a new review to assess compliance with updated reporting requirements. A spokesman, Bruce Anderson, said that review is ongoing.
The problem has persisted much longer.
A February 1997 report by the Pentagon inspector general found widespread lapses. Fingerprint cards were not submitted to the FBI criminal history files in more than 80 percent of cases in the Army and Navy, and 38 percent in the Air Force.
Failure to report the outcome of criminal cases was 79 percent in the Army and 50 percent in the Air Force, the report said. In the Navy, it was 94 percent.
“The lack of reporting to the FBI criminal history files prevents civilian law enforcement agencies from having significant information on military offenders,” the report concluded. It cited several reasons for the lapses, including ambiguous Pentagon guidelines and a lack of interest among the military services in submitting information to an FBI viewed as chronically overburdened with data.
“In their view, little benefit in solving cases is achieved by providing timely information,” the report said.
The 20-year-old review was prompted by an act of Congress rather than a specific instance, like the Kelley case, in which a reporting lapse allowed a violent offender to purchase weapons. Federal law prohibited him from buying or possessing firearms after his conviction. But because it was never added to the FBI’s database for background checks, Kelley was able to buy his guns.
Air Force records show Kelley initially faced charges of domestic violence for seven alleged incidents in 2011 and 2012. Five were withdrawn as part of a plea agreement, including two involving Kelley pointing a loaded gun at his wife. He pleaded guilty to striking, choking, and kicking his wife and hitting his stepson “with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.”
He was sentenced in November 2012 to one year in confinement and reduction in rank to E-1, the lowest enlisted rank. He was given a bad conduct discharge, which was carried out in 2014. The officer overseeing the case was Robin Rand, then a three-star general and now the four-star commander of Air Force Global Strike Command in charge of the service’s bomber force and nuclear missiles.
One of the challenges facing Army leadership as they transition to the new Army Combat Fitness Test, which will be fully implemented by October 2020, is preventing musculoskeletal training injuries. Physical training is necessary to develop and maintain the fitness required to accomplish military missions, but is also known to cause injury.
According to Army Public Health Center experts, MSK injuries and related conditions led to an average of 37 limited duty days per injury. This translates to 2 million medical encounters across the Army annually and an estimated 10 million lost training days due to limited duty.
“Seventy percent of all limited duty profiles are for MSK injuries,” said Dr. Michelle Chervak, acting manager for the APHC Injury Prevention Program, which identifies causes and risk factors for Army training-related injuries. “We can show that greater amounts of training (for example, of running or road marching) result in more injuries. Civilian data show us that there are levels of training above which injury rates increase, but fitness does not improve — two signs of overtraining.”
Dr. Bruce Jones, senior scientist, APHC Clinical Public Health and Epidemiology Directorate, explained further that part of the problem for the Army is that the thresholds of training above which injury rates increase and fitness does not have not been established. However, commanders have the information necessary to make decisions about the thresholds — they know the amount of training, physical fitness of their soldiers, and the number of soldiers on profile.
This infograph offers several tips for leaders to help their soldiers avoid MSK injuries.
“What we need to provide commanders are the general principles of training injury prevention; and an understanding of the relationships between training, fitness, and injuries,” said Jones. “They have to determine the risk of injury they are willing to accept.”
APHC Injury Prevention is working on updating financial and readiness costs to the Army due to MSK injuries.
“At this time, the only formal cost estimate that we have comes from a National Safety Council report for the Secretary of Defense,” said Chervak. “That report stated the annual costs ranged from -20 billion (2001 data). Roughly 40 percent of all injuries across the Department of Defense occur to Army personnel, so the Army costs are approximately .8-8 billion.”
The 2018 Health of the Force report highlights a previous Army success in reducing injury by changing its approach to fitness training.
In 2003, the Army evaluated a new standardized physical training program designed to enhance fitness while minimizing injuries through avoidance of overtraining. An evaluation group implemented the new standardized program and a comparison group conducted traditional PT (running, calisthenics, push-ups, and sit-ups). After nine weeks of basic combat training, the evaluation group had fewer injuries and a higher APFT pass rate.
Army Physical Fitness Test at the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition.
The modified program reduced the total miles run by trainees, conducted distance runs by ability groups, added speed drills, executed warm-up exercises instead of pre-exercise stretching, progressed training amount and intensity gradually, and provided a wider variety of exercises.
In 2004, the new standardized PT program based on this evaluated program was mandated for all BCT units across the Army. It was also incorporated into Army physical training doctrine. From 2003 to 2013, a 46 percent decrease in all injuries and a 54 percent decrease in lower extremity overuse injuries among Army trainees was observed.
Jones recommends a five-step public health approach as the most effective construct for Army public health to organize and build an injury prevention program. Steps include surveillance to define the magnitude of the problem, research and field investigations to identify causes and risk factors, intervention trials and systematic reviews to determine what works to address leading risk factors, program and policy implementation to execute prevention, and program evaluation to assess effectiveness.
Jones also notes that both overweight and underweight soldiers who are the least physically fit are at the highest risk for injury compared to their most fit peers.
“The highest risks occur among the most underweight (leanest), least physically fit (slowest run times) men and women in basic training,” said Jones. “This is probably because underweight soldiers lack the muscle mass necessary to perform soldiers tasks and withstand the vigorous physical activity required.”
Injury risks are also 20 to 50 percent higher for soldiers who smoke cigarettes.
“A variety of hypotheses explain this relationship; the most feasible is that smokers have a reduced ability to heal following injury,” said Chervak. “Overuse injuries result from an inability to repair damage due to daily training; smokers repair that cumulative microtrauma less rapidly.”
U.S. Army Spc. Cameron Hebel, assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, performs sit-ups during the Army Physical Fitness Test at Joint Multinational Training Command Best Warrior Competition at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 8, 2013.
(U.S. Army Photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)
APHC is currently piloting a program through the Army Wellness Center at Fort Campbell focused on identifying soldiers at highest injury risk based on APFT run time, the leading predictor of active-duty Army injury risk.
APHC is working with specific units and the Fort Campbell Community Ready and Resilient Council to identify soldiers who meet the criteria for referral (men: run time slower than 15 minutes; women: run time slower than 19 minutes), said Chervak. These soldiers are offered AWC fitness assessments to assist with improving aerobic fitness, physical activity, sleep, and body composition.
“AWC education efforts focus on physical activity, sleep, nutrition (weight loss), and tobacco cessation; all factors that influence injury risk,” said Chervak. “There is a natural partnership with APHC’s Health Promotion and Wellness directorate. Key avenues of influence are Performance Triad-related communications and referral of high risk soldiers to the AWCs.”
Jones said the most important step forward is for leadership to recognize that training-related injuries are a problem and they can be prevented.
“Commanders need to recognize that there are no magic bullets,” said Jones. “Training causes injuries and modifications of training will prevent injuries. Commanders have the information to monitor injuries and fitness, and modify training to prevent injuries. We still need to determine the thresholds of training by unit at which injuries increase, but fitness does not improve.”
The one-of-a-kind helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean, has found a new home in the Southern Hemisphere. The Brazilian Navy has acquired the carrier and will use it to replace the French-built Clemenceau-class carrier Sao Paolo (formerly known as Foch).
According to a report by TheDrive.com, the Royal Navy is letting HMS Ocean go despite an extensive and expensive refit. According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, HMS Ocean displaces 21,578 tons, is capable of operating 12 transport helicopters and six attack helicopters, and is armed with three Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems and five 20mm cannon. The vessel also operates four Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP), modern versions of the World War II “Higgins boats.”
HMS Ocean was commissioned by the Royal Navy in 1999 and had served for 19 years. The vessel was used to provide security support for the 2012 Olympics in London. While designed to haul 500 Royal Marines, HMS Ocean also carried out humanitarian missions, including relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Irma last year.
Brazil was seeking a replacement for the French-built Clemenceau-class carrier Foch, which they chose to decommission and scrap after 17 years of service. Known as Sao Paolo under Brazilian service, the carrier displaced just under 31,000 tons and was able to operate up to 37 aircraft. The Sao Paolo operated 14 Skyhawks and five helicopters.
While the former HMS Ocean is not able to operate the Skyhawks, it will still give Brazil a measure of power projection. The vessel is still quite young (France operated the Foch for 37 years before handing it over to Brazil), so Brazil may be able to get a lot of use yet from this ship.
For more on the sale of HMS Ocean, check out the video below:
After a century, World War I is finally getting the treatment in American cinema it so richly deserves. While some of the best war movies were World War I movies, Paths of Glory, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Lawrence of Arabia, there were also many misses. What’s surprising is that there are relatively few WWI movies, when compared to those depicting other wars.
No longer. 1917 is a new movie based on the Great War, coming in December. And it looks like it could be the definitive WWI movie.
The film takes place during the Third Battle of Ypres, where a British contingent of 1,600 men is due to walk into a German trap. Two Tommies are given the assignment to proceed on foot to warn the unit about their orders – the ones that take them directly into an ambush. Their mission takes them across the Ypres battlefields and through the deadly trench warfare that is now synonymous with the Great War.
What’s more remarkable about 1917 is that it’s based on a true story, one told to director Sam Mendes by his own grandfather, Alfred. Alfred Mendes received the Military Medal for “acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire” during the war. The Military Medal was replaced by the Military Cross in the UK armed forces in 1993, and would be the fifth-highest medal awarded by the United Kingdom today.
Relentless rain, mud, and death marked the Battle of Ypres.
The elder Mendes ran through snipers, trenches, moving artillery barrages, and machine-gun fire to deliver messages for two full days during the Battle of Poelcappelle. Mendes’ grandfather was raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad but left to join the fight against Germany, joining the British Army in 1916, at the age of 19. He saw action at the WWI Battles of Passchendaele (Ypres) and Poelcappelle. He was sent to go find survivors of a failed attack during Poelcappelle. It was a dangerous assignment, one his commander said he might not return from.
Despite encountering all of World War I’s signature death traps, he still managed to find survivors while surviving himself. He made it back to his company’s shell hole intact.
“In spite of the snipers, the machine-gunners and the shells, I arrived back at C Company’s shell hole without a scratch but with a series of hair-raising experiences that would keep my grand and great-grandchildren enthralled for nights on end,” he would later write in his autobiography.
1917 is based on Medes’ experiences on this mission. The film is set to release on Dec. 25, 2019.