Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

This week’s Borne the Battle podcast features Marine Corps veteran Chris Burke and the youngest head coach in NCAA Lacrosse, Mitch Shafer.

Burke discussed his service in the Marines, including his injury and recovery from an IED explosion in Afghanistan. However, Burke’s real story begins on what he did after serving in Afghanistan.


When Burke left service, he went back to school, where he planned on joining the lacrosse program in hopes of playing with his younger brother. But his plans didn’t go the way he had hoped. Instead, he found a new sense of purpose, one that reminded him of the camaraderie that he experienced in the Marines. In time, that new sense of purpose led to Burke accepting the position of defensive coordinator at Maryville University.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer


Marine Veteran Chris Burke is now mentoring youth as a the defensive coordinator for the Maryville Lacrosse Program.

Now, at Maryville, with Shafer’s help, Burke uses his Marine Corps leadership experience to to mentor and coach his college lacrosse players for more than just on the field. From visiting local VA hospitals to sending care packages overseas, Burke and Shafer lead the lacrosse team in bridging the military-civilian gap.

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

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US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

A US patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf July 25 after it came startlingly close to to the vessel.


The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone class patrol ship, was forced to fire warning shots from its .50 caliber machine gun after the Iranian boat closed to 150 yards, ignoring radio calls and warning flares along the way, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson.

The Thunderbolt fired five short bursts into the water due to concerns that there may be a collision, according to a CNN report. The ship ceased its actions but stayed in the area for several hours.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are believed to have operated the vessel. The IRGC is Iran’s paramilitary wing that is known to have close ties to the country’s extremist, conservative theocratic leadership. It is primarily responsible for Iran’s operation in the Persian Gulf area and is known to act with hostility toward US forces.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution commandos and missile boats in the Strait of Hormuz. Wikimedia Commons photo by Sayyed Shahab-o-din Vajedi

Encounters with Iranian vessels have become commonplace for US forces patrolling in the Persian Gulf.

“Unfortunately, par for the course with Iran,” said Michael Singh, former senior director at the National Security Council and current managing director at the Washington Institute, in a tweet July 25.

Similar close encounters with Iranian vessels have taken an upswing in recent months, but the July 25 confrontation was one of the closer calls.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Same-sex couples aren’t unicorns

Mallory and Stacy “Lux” Krauss are deeply proud of how far things have come since the riots of Stonewall, but they also know this country still has a lot more work to do.

“When I joined the Coast Guard, it was right after they repealed ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’. Honest to God, I went to the recruiter that very next day,” Lux shared.

She explained that prior to the repeal, she had wanted to join, but said she couldn’t be a part of something that wasn’t inclusive and accepting of all people.


When the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ repeal was being discussed within congress, the Coast Guard and the Navy were the only two branches of service that didn’t initially oppose it.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Courtesy of Military Spouse)

Mallory and Lux met at the 2013 pride parade in San Francisco, while they were both in California attending “A” schools for the United States Coast Guard. It was the first year that the military was allowing participation in pride events and both had been asked to walk in the parade.

“The pride parade is important because it’s a remembrance of Stonewall, but it’s also to say, ‘Hey, we are here and this is who we are’,” Lux shared.

Following that parade, they began dating. They returned to that same parade a year later. It was there that Mallory proposed to Lux. They married not long after that and eventually Mallory decided to leave the Coast Guard. They now have two sons, born in 2016 and 2020. Both boys were carried by Lux and Mallory is also listed on both of their birth certificates as their mother, something that only became legal shortly before their first son was born.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Courtesy of Military Spouse)

Although things are moving forward, a lingering fear is always present for both of them.

“It still makes me nervous to go to any new command and share that I have a wife and children. You never know, you could have that one person who may be of the extreme who has the ability to ruin your career because you are gay,” said Lux.

She explained that even now when the Coast Guard puts something official out about pride or inclusivity on their social media, the comments can turn hateful fast and many of those commenting negatively are in the Coast Guard themselves.

That feeling of nervousness is ever present in everything they do and it’s something that many in the LGBTQ community are deeply familiar with. Despite multiple laws being passed to assure equality, there are still those in this country who are adamantly opposed to acknowledging and accepting them.

Once while standing in line at a candy story in Tennessee, a man behind them asked if they were gay. Although this was the first time they’d ever been rudely asked that question, they were very familiar with stares of others. Everywhere they go, especially in the southern states, they wonder if they’ll be accepted.

Now, they have to worry for their children too.

While getting one of their boys registered for a recent medical procedure, Mallory was filling out the paperwork when she was asked who the mom was. She explained that both she and Lux were his moms. The response was one they had always dreaded hearing, ‘but who is the real mom?’ This is a question that most straight couples will never have to face hearing.

Most will also never have to worry about legal custody being questioned either.

“There’s a grey area, if something were to happen to Lux and her parents wanted to take our children, they might legally be able to,” said Mallory.

She explained that although she is on their birth certificates, because she isn’t biologically related to them that risk is present unless she legally adopts them or specific laws are passed to protect them. Although Mallory said she knows her in-laws would never do that, it’s still something that no parent should ever have to think about.

Every time they move on Coast Guard orders, they wonder how the new doctor or school will react to their family. They both shared that so far, their experiences have been positive but they look forward to the day they don’t have to think about it. Although this country has come a long way since Stonewall, more work still has to be done. When asked what pride month means to them and what they want other military families to know, it was easy for them to respond.

They don’t want to be treated like unicorns.

“People need to realize, we are not any different from any other family,” said Mallory with a laugh. “We have our kids and we are worried about their future, there’s nothing special about us. We just want to be like everyone else,” Lux shared.

To learn more about the history of oppression and violence those in the LGBTQ community experienced and the inequality they still face today, click here.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army uses lessons from pilot to build task forces

As the Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program nears its end, the Army is now using lessons from it to establish three similar task forces.

Assigned under U.S. Army Pacific Command in 2017, the pilot has participated in several exercises, including nine major joint training events across the region, to focus on penetrating an enemy environment.

With the 17th Field Artillery Brigade as its core, the task force also has an I2CEWS detachment testing intelligence, information operations, cyber, electronic warfare and space assets that can counter enemy anti-access/area denial capabilities.


“It’s predominately network-focused targeting and it’s echelon in approach,” said Col. Joe Roller, who heads future operations, G35, for I Corps. “So it’s not taking down the entire network, it’s focusing on key nodes within that network to create targets of opportunity and basically punch a hole in the enemy’s threat environment in order to deliver a joint force.”

Run by USARPAC’s I Corps, the pilot has already uncovered ways to improve future formations as it prepares to become a permanent task force itself at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord in September 2020.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Timothy Lynch, commander of 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, shakes hands with the battalion commander of Western Army Field Artillery of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, Sept. 16, 2019. The brigade, along with other elements of the Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program, participated in the Orient Shield exercise to test its capabilities with their Japanese counterparts.

(Photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

In 2021, the Army plans to establish a second stand-alone MDTF in Europe that will merge the 41st FA Brigade with an I2CEWS element. The following year, a third task force, which is yet to be determined, will stand up in the Pacific.

One lesson so far from the pilot is for the task force to better incorporate its joint partners. Leaders envision the specialized units to be about 500 personnel, including troops from other services.

“It needs to be a joint enterprise,” Roller said. “The Army will have the majority of seats in the MDTF, but we don’t necessarily have all the subject-matter expertise to combine all of those areas together.”

The Joint Warfighting Assessment 19 in the spring, he noted, highlighted the task force’s need for a common operating picture to create synergistic effects with not only the other services but also allied nations.

“It goes back to communication with our joint partners and our allies,” he said, “and the infrastructure that’s required to create that communications network and shared understanding of the environment that were operating in.”

Last month, the task force also took part in the Orient Shield exercise with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, which recently created its own Cross-Domain Operations Task Force to tackle similar challenges.

For the first time, Orient Shield was linked with Cyber Blitz, an annual experiment hosted by New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst that informs Army leaders how to execute full-spectrum information warfare operations.

The task force’s I2CEWS personnel and their Japanese counterparts were able to conduct operations together in both exercises via networks in Japan and New Jersey.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Japanese soldiers with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force observe and facilitate reload operations on the U.S. Army High Mobility Artillery Rocket System with Soldiers from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, Sept. 16, 2019. The brigade, along with other elements of the Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program, participated in the Orient Shield exercise to test its capabilities with their Japanese counterparts.

(Photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

“If there was a culminating event thus far, that was about as high level as we’ve gotten to with real-world execution of cyber, electronic warfare and space operations in coordination with a bilateral exercise,” said Col. Tony Crawford, chief of strategy and innovation for USARPAC.

In an effort to embolden their defense, the Japanese published its cross-domain operations doctrine in 2008, Crawford said. Its defense force is now working with USARPAC in writing a whitepaper on how to combine those ideas with the U.S. Army’s multi-domain operations concept in protecting its country.

“They’ve been thinking about this for a long time as well,” Crawford said.

The Australian Army has also worked with the task force, he added, while the Philippine Army has expressed interest along with the South Korean military.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is making the Army’s MDO efforts its foundational concept as it develops its own joint warfighting concept for the region. Crawford said this comes a few years after its former commander, Adm. Harry Harris, asked the Army to evolve its role so it could sink ships, shoot down satellites and jam communications.

“Moving forward, MDO is kind of the guiding framework that were implementing,” Crawford said.

The colonel credits I Corps for continually educating its sister services of the Army’s MDO concept and how the task force can complement its missions.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Judy, commander of Bravo Battery, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery, 17th FA Brigade, examines a field artillery safety diagram alongside members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, Sept. 16, 2019. The brigade, along with other elements of the Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program, participated in the Orient Shield exercise to test its capabilities with their Japanese counterparts. Three similar MDTFs are now being built using lessons from the pilot.

(Photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

“The level of joint cooperation has grown exponentially over the last two years,” he said. “That’s definitely a good thing here in the Pacific, because it’s not a maritime or air theater, it’s a joint theater.”

But, as with any new unit, there have been growing pains.

Crawford said the biggest challenge is getting the task forces equipped, trained and manned. Plans to build up the units are ahead of schedule after former Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley decided to go forward with them earlier this year.

“We’re so accelerated that we’re all trying to catch up now,” he said. “This is literally a new force structure that the Army is creating based upon these emerging concepts.”

The fluid nature of these ideas has also presented difficulties. Roller said they are currently written in pencil as the task force pilot continues to learn from exercises and receives input from its partners.

“It’s taking concepts and continuing to advance them past conceptual into employment,” Roller said, “and then almost writing doctrine as we’re executing.”

While much of the future remains unclear, Roller does expect the task force to participate in another Pacific Pathways rotation after completing its first one this year.

In the long term, he also envisions a more robust training calendar for the task force so its personnel can maintain their certifications and qualifications.

“We’ll have some culminating training events purely MDTF focused,” he said.

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

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Lawmakers team with SecDef Mattis to help get Iraqi interpreters visa waivers

Interpreters who have been caught up in the executive order by President Donald Trump suspending immigration from seven countries have picked up some high-powered help from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and some veterans in Congress.


According to a report by the Washington Examiner, Mattis has begun to compile a list of interpreters and other Iraqis who provided assistance to the United States during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Sergeant Warren Sparks, squad leader, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is assisted by an interpreter to gather intelligence from a local Afghan during a mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 1, 2014. (U.S. military photo)

“There are a number of people in Iraq who have worked for us in a partnership role,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told the Examiner. “They are fighting alongside us or working as translators, often doing so at great peril to themselves, and we are ensuring those who have demonstrated their commitment tangibly to fight alongside us and support us that those names are known.”

The Examiner also reported that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a combat veteran and Marine Corps Reserve officer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who currently serves in the Air National Guard and who received six Air Medals for service in Iraq and Afghanistan, have written President Trump in support of Mattis’s request for exemptions for the interpreters.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
An Afghan man talks with Cpl. William Gill and his interpreter in a village in southern Uruzgan. (DoD Photo by CPL (E-5) Chris Moore Australian Defence Force /Released)

“We are concerned that, with specific application to individuals who worked with the U.S. Government on the ground, certain immigrants deserving prompt consideration are likely to be overlooked,” Hunter said in a statement. “We encourage you to make special consideration in the review process for these individuals, who are certain to face threats to their own lives as part of the broader pause in refugee and immigrant admissions.”

The Examiner noted that the Special Immigrant Visa program for interpreters and others who have aided the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan has seen a flood of applications. As many as 12,000 interpreters and family members re seeking entry into the United States from Afghanistan.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Veterans surf their way to recovery

Michael Fumarola didn’t see the rush of ocean as he sped toward the beach and toppled from his surfboard. He face-planted in the wet, goopy sand and gulped the salty water.

Red-faced and gasping for a quick breath, the blind veteran with multiple sclerosis from the Cincinnati VA Medical Center sucked in some San Diego air and couldn’t help but smile.

“That was great!” he yelled.

His instructor, Felipe Rueff, slapped his hands on both sides of his face.

“Atta boy! Do it again?”

“You betcha!”


Fumarola is one of more than 130 veterans from across the nation in San Diego, California, Sept. 15 to 20, 2019, for VA’s National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. The annual event, presented with the Wounded Warrior Project, brings amputee, paralyzed, blind, and other veterans to learn adaptive surfing, kayaking, sailing, hand cycling and more.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Michael Fumarola gives a high five after coming in from the surf.

(Photo by John Archiquette)

Empower and develop

“This is one of the highlights of VA’s commitment to veterans,” said Dave Tostenrude, acting director of the Summer Sports Clinic. “This is one of those events that reaches a broader range of vets.

“What we’re looking for are vets looking to make changes in their lives, and we don’t care where they come from or what their issues are, we’re going to work with them, we’re going to empower them and develop a plan to be active at home.”

Dana Cummings, a Marine Corps veteran who only learned to surf after he lost a leg in a car accident, brought his company, AmpSurf, to the clinic to give the veterans one-on-one training.

“Listen,” he told the veterans before they hit the water, “Don’t worry. You’re going to be fine. I tried this before I lost a leg and failed miserably, now I do it all the time. It’s going to be a lot of fun and you’re going to have a great time.”

Cummings went over the basics of surfing, then vets, instructors and volunteers hit the surf.

“Hell, yeah, let’s do it!” said Brandon Starkey, a veteran who lost his leg in a car crash 15 days after coming home from Iraq. “If someone says they can’t do this, I call them a liar, because the only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves.”

Fumarola was wheeled down to the surf in a special wheelchair with wide wheels, made to run over the wet sand.

“You think you’ll be able to do it?” someone asked.

“I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out,” he laughed. “I’ve never done it. But you gotta do it to find out. Someone doesn’t want to try it, that’s just B.S.”

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Bobby Hutchinson says coming to Summer Sports was part of his transformation to get out of the house, despite an amputation.

(Photo by John Archiquette)

First time for everything

A few feet down the beach, Bobby “Hutch” Hutchinson, who lost a leg in Desert Storm, was still able to get up on one knee as he rode the surf to the beach.

“Hey, I’m surfing, or trying to, anyway,” he said. “I got up on one knee, tried to get up and kind of wiped out, but I’m having a blast. There’s a first time for everything and here I am. I told some friends I was doing this and they said I’d better videotape it because they want to make fun of me.”

But for Hutchinson, from the St. Louis VA, it was about more than just a day at the beach.

“It’s about getting out of the house and having something to look forward to,” he said. “It gives you hope, you know? It gives you something to try, something different. It’s always good to try something new and color outside the box.”

It was also emotional for the instructors.

“I’ve been surfing for 47 years and teaching for 11,” Rueff said. “You see these guys drain the water, riding it all the way into the beach, it’s great. There is a healing power to the water. You can’t tell because I’m all wet, but I get really emotional.”

Fumarola said it was an experience he’ll never forget.

“I enjoyed the hell out of it. I learned I can do it. There ain’t nothing I can’t do. Life is great. Love it! Live it!”

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

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President Trump proclaims Armed Forces Day

In a proclamation signed before he left on the first foreign trip, President Donald Trump proclaimed the third Saturday of May to be Armed Forces Day.


“For almost 70 years, our Nation has set aside one day to recognize the great debt we owe to the men and women who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard,” Trump said in a statement. “On Armed Forces Day, we salute the bravery of those who defend our Nation’s peace and security.  Their service defends for Americans the freedom that all people deserve.”

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
(DOD Poster)

According to the Department of Defense website, the celebration of Armed Forces Day first began in 1950, following a proclamation on Aug. 31, 1949, by then-Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. Johnson’s intention was to replace separate holidays for the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

“I invite the Governors of the States and Territories and other areas subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to provide for the observance of Armed Forces Day within their jurisdiction each year in an appropriate manner designed to increase public understanding and appreciation of the Armed Forces of the United States.  I also invite veterans, civic, and other organizations to join in the observance of Armed Forces Day each year,” Trump said in the proclamation, which has been issued by his predecessors in virtually the same form, including George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
West Point U.S. Military Academy cadets march in the 58th Presidential Inauguration Parade in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Trump’s proclamation did make special note of the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I, citing the 4.7 million Americans who served in that conflict. Trump also re-tweeted a Defense Department tweet featuring a video.

“Finally, I call upon all Americans to display the flag of the United States at their homes and businesses on Armed Forces Day, and I urge citizens to learn more about military service by attending and participating in the local observances of the day,” Trump’s proclamation concluded.

 

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That time the Air Force landed bombers on tank treads

During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.


The B-36 Peacemaker was the largest plane ever built by America. Originally designed before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the B-36 was supposed to be a cross-ocean bomber that could drop 10,000 pounds of ordnance on Berlin or Japan while taking off and landing in the U.S.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.

The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.

There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Convair XB-36 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.

So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Side view of Convair XB-36. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.

The weight-to-surface-area problem would come up again with the B-47, the Peacemaker’s successor. B-47s dispersed during the Cuban Missile crisis sunk into the concrete of Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts and pilots had to hire a tow truck driver to pull them out of the holes they created.

MIGHTY CULTURE

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does this new model of spycraft look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for listening.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the biggest ways the Marines prepares you for college

College is an amazing thing. In fact, there’re few better ways to spend your time after the Marines than going to get an education in whatever way you see fit. Chances are, you got out because you were done with the military lifestyle and you were ready to move forward with your life. You were ready to find the next big challenge.

Contrary to what your chain of command told you, getting out of the military does not guarantee that you’ll spend your days living in a van down by the river. Not only did you build an arsenal of great life skills while in the service, you also earned yourself the G.I. Bill, which, in some cases, pays you to go to college.

Don’t be nervous at the prospect. The truth is, the Marines (or any other branch for that matter) has prepared you for the adventure of college in ways you might not have noticed.


Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Take the big tasks, break them into smaller ones.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucas Hopkins)

Task organization 

Organizing your college life is a lot like writing a mission order: You take the biggest task and break it into manageable chunks. Having this kind of organizational talent can make group projects easier, too — if you think you can trust the other group members to carry out their assigned tasks, anyways.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Hurry up and wait will definitely apply in a lot more areas of your life.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Master Sgt. Keith A. Milks)

Time management

When you get out of the Marines, it’s going to be hard to break out of the “fifteen minutes prior” mentality. You’ll be showing up everywhere super early, even if no one is waiting to yell at you for being late. Unlike a lot of kids fresh out of high school, you’ll already know how to make the time you need to do the work that needs to be done.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

You know where your limits are and you’ll continue pushing them.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle)

Not settling for bare minimums

As Marines, we’re taught to never settle. We’re taught to push ourselves to be our absolute best — and this helps a lot in college. You might experience a little anxiety over an exam or project, but when it comes time to deliver, you’ll exceed your expectations — because that’s just who you are now.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

You won’t stop until the job gets done.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Discipline

This can’t be stressed enough. Marines are able to train themselves to set a goal and work toward it at any cost. Our laser focus helps us avoid distractions until the mission is not only accomplished, but done with 110% effort.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Good thing you can sleep anywhere, right?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Slaght)

Sleep deprivation

In college, there are times where you’ll miss out on plenty of sleep because of deadlines. Luckily, you’ve spent enough time in fighting holes and on duty that you know how it feels to be truly tired, and it’ll never stop you from continuing to perform like you’ve had plenty of sleep.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The infamous Polish cavalry charge against the Nazis actually worked

On Sept. 1, 1939, the Nazi war machine rolled into Poland, touching off World War II in Europe. Nazi propaganda would have the world believe Polish cavalry were intentionally charging Nazi tanks, thinking they were no more than the toothless dummies the Treaty of Versailles allowed them. In the aftermath of these battles, the dead horses and cavalrymen appeared to back this claim and the world would believe the myth of the Polish cavalry for much of the war. But in reality, there was a Polish cavalry charge that was a tactical success.


Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Laughs in Polish)

The Poles had very little chance of retaining their country during World War II. The Nazis invaded Poland at one of the heights of their military power. The Soviets invaded Poland from the other side. Poland stood little chance of fighting them both off – but that doesn’t mean the Poles didn’t try. The Polish had already fought off the Red Army in the 1919-1921 Polish-Russian War, but this time, things would be different.

Poland has a pretty spectacular military history, even if it wasn’t a country for much of that time. Napoleon recruited Polish troops, as did the Russian Tsar and the Hapsburg monarchy. It was probably Polish forces who kept Eastern Europe from falling to Muslim invaders in the 1600s, as Polish troops were critical to winning the Battle of Vienna. The final death blow to the Ottoman invaders was the now-famous cavalry charge led by the elite Polish Winged Hussars. The Hussars cleared the Ottomans from the battlefield and delivered a rout so hard, Muslim armies would never threaten Vienna or Western Europe again.

So yeah, the Poles are no joke – but time passed, and Poland fell behind in its military development while Nazi Germany famously re-armed in a way that would make any dictator’s mouth water. The Soviet Union had a large army, even if it wasn’t as well-trained or well-equipped. The Poles still fought both valiantly and nowhere was that more apparent than at Krojanty.

On the first day of the Nazi invasion, the Germans broke through the Polish Border Guard very early in the day, which forced the rest of the Polish defenders in the area to fall back to a secondary defensive position. In order to make an orderly retreat and not lose all of the defenders to German infantry, someone had to cover the retreat and force the Germans to slow their advance. That fell to the 18th Pomeranian Uhlan Regiment, a cavalry regiment that saw action fighting the Red Army in the 1919 war with the USSR. They would make one of history’s last great cavalry charges.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

No, they weren’t wearing wings but that would have been awesome.

The 18th Pomeranian Uhlan Regiment found the Nazi German 76th Infantry Regiment, comprised of 800 armored reconnaissance vehicles along with 30 heavy guns, waiting to advance on the free city of Danzig. The 76th was actually part of the left wing of the XIX Panzer Corps under Gen. Heinz Guderian, which had been slowed across the line by Polish resistance. In order for the Poles in the area to get to the secondary defense of the River Brda, the 76th would have to take heavy losses, which would cause a delay for the entire motorized division on the Nazi left flank.

What would a cavalry unit do in a situation where the enemy is sitting around, waiting for orders? Charge, of course. The Poles took the enemy by surprise with a heavy cavalry charge of two squadrons, consisting of 250 angry Poles on horseback. They completely disbursed the German 76th. It was a complete tactical success, allowing for the rest of the defenders to make it to the relative safety of the River Brda. The Polish cavalry was quickly disbursed itself, however, by a German counterattack of heavy machine guns from nearby armored vehicles. They lost a third of their cavalry, but the rest of the defenders lived on to fight again.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 28th

It looks like the list for the Army’s senior enlisted promotions got pushed out — which is fantastic news for everyone who got picked up. Congratulations! You worked hard and it’s paying off.

To the rest of you, my condolences. But let me be clear here: I’m not pitying the NCOs — oh no, they’ll get their time to shine (or get RCPed for staying in at the same rank, whichever comes first). My heart aches for the soldiers beneath the NCOs that didn’t make the list. Get ready for a world of hurt because your platoon sergeant is about to take their frustrations out on you.

Let these memes help soothe the pain.


Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme via Lock Load)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme via Shammers United)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme via PNN)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme via WWII Pattonposting)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Meme by Ranger Up)

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what North Korea has to do to live up to the Singapore Agreement

North Korea returned the remains of 55 bodies , thought to belong to US service members on July 27, 2018, coinciding with the 65th anniversary of the armistice that paused the Korean War.

The symbolic move represents the single, hopeful thread of President Donald Trump’s North Korea policy, as the rest of it crumbles.

“After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un,” Trump tweeted .


“We are encouraged by North Korea’s actions and the momentum for positive change,” the White House said in a statement.

Benjamin Young, a North Korea expert from George Washington University previously told Business Insider : “The repatriation of the Korean War remains is significant in that it partially closes a painful chapter in US-Korea relations.”

“It’s significant from a historical perspective and is symbolic.”

That Trump and Kim Jong Un’s joint statement at Singapore lists the “immediate” repatriation of the bodies shows the historical and symbolic importance of the repatriations, but it wasn’t easy getting here.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

US Treasury photos show a ship-to-ship transfer with a North Korea-linked vessel.

Trump agreed to the summit with Kim on vague promises of denuclearization which met with near universal doubt.

Many former top experts advised Trump to skip the meeting entirely, seeing it as providing Kim with international legitimacy even though he oversees some of the worst human rights violations in the world, including keeping an estimated 2.6 million “modern slaves.”

Trump’s policy hangs by a thread

After the summit, Trump saw his greatest success on the North Korean front swiftly undone.

The “maximum pressure” regime of economic, diplomatic, and military pressure completely evaporated, even though the administration insists it is still in effect.

The China-North Korea border again hums with commerce and activity, and Chinese tourists again crowd the streets of Pyongyang, analysis from NK News points out . Fuel prices have dropped, indicating an increased supply.

“Numerous” sanctioned North Korean ships have appeared in South Korean ports, NKNews found .

North Korea has realized a primary goal of its US-facing diplomacy — sanctions relief — while only providing minimal, reversible, and unverifiable dismantlement of a tiny fraction of its nuclear arsenal.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Meeting between United States North Korea delegations in Singapore on June 12, 2018

The audacity of hope

Viewed as a transaction, the North Korea process has ripped off the US by handing over international legitimacy and an end to US-South Korean military drills in exchange for baby steps towards disarming .

Viewed as a budding relationship, Trump has made unprecedented progress in healing relations with Pyongyang.

Returning the bodies of US soldiers doesn’t change anything on the ground in the Koreas. North Korea still has artillery guns and missiles ready to bear down on Seoul, and possibly the US, and they haven’t budged.

But the measure builds confidence and trust, which is sorely needed. North Korea dragged its feet and stood up US officials in previous talks about repatriating the bodies, but eventually came through.

No other US president has been willing to talk to North Korea , citing its illegal nuclear program , serious human rights violations , and countless kidnappings and attacks on civilians. But Trump took a unique approach in meeting Kim, and has earned a unique result.

At the Aspen Strategy Forum, Commander of the US forces in Korea General Vincent Brooks shed light on how US objectives in North Korea have shifted from military to diplomatic:

“Our challenge now, candidly, is to continue to make progress but to make that progress in an environment that is essentially void of trust, and without trust, we’ll find it difficult to move forward.
“So, building that trust while that pressure continues and while the efforts for diplomacy continue is the order of the day. In many ways, the lack of trust is the enemy we now have to defeat.”

Trump has not denuclearized North Korea, or even gotten close. But he’s presented a different US position and in doing so offered a path, however perilous, towards a new future between Washington and Pyongyang.

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