Here's what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

While the Coast Guard is not slowing down in its most important national security operations as the U.S. enters its fifth week of a government shutdown, some activities have been halted or curtailed, and many newly minted Coasties find themselves stuck at recruit training, without funding to head to their first duty stations.

Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a Coast Guard spokesman, told Military.com that recruits whose new units are not well suited to support them during the shutdown or lack the means to return home in the interim “will remain attached to the Training Center [in Cape May, New Jersey] for the duration of the lapse.”


“There have been no immediate operational impacts related to recruit training; however, it is difficult to project the impact that the lapse in appropriations will have on mission readiness months or years from now,” he said Jan. 23, 2019.

There are currently 395 recruits in training. Seventy-six new Coasties graduated Jan. 18, 2019, he said.

Those who have the option to return home may receive a stipend from the government even as the shutdown continues.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)

“While the partial government shutdown prevents our ability to provide advance payment of reimbursable transfer expenses, it does not prevent us from issuing plane tickets for recruits to travel directly to units with the capacity to support them during the shutdown,” McBride said.

Often, recruits have the opportunity to return home for leave before reporting to their first assigned unit.

“In these cases, we have been able to coordinate temporary hometown recruiting assignments that allow graduates to make their desired trip home for leave, assist the workforce recruiting effort and temporarily defer execution of their permanent transfer and associated costs,” McBride said. “For those who choose this option, there may be out-of-pocket costs, if the cost of a ticket home exceeds the cost allowance of government transportation to their new unit.”

The Coast Guard will continue to monitor the situation but said that it does not plan on letting recruits leave Cape May without an approved transfer plan with appropriately allocated resources.

Elsewhere in the Coast Guard, the shutdown is also taking a toll on operations.

Boardings for safety checks, the issuance or renewals of merchant documentation and licensing, fisheries enforcement patrols and routine maintenance of aids to navigation have been delayed or downsized, McBride said.

Other modified operations include administrative functions, training, and maintenance for surface and aviation fleets, he said in an email.

“The Coast Guard will continue operations required by law that provide for national security or that protect life and property,” he said, including monitoring coast lines, ports, harbors and inland waterways, as well as maritime intercept and environmental defense operations.

But for the men and women conducting these high-stress operations or deploying, the pressure is mounting as they go without paychecks, not knowing how they can provide for their families back home, said Steven Cantrell, who served as the 12th master chief petty officer for the service.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck upon the cutter’s after a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

“They still have to go out and do their job and focus on the mission when sometimes it’s a very unforgiving environment,” he said in an interview with Military.com on Jan. 23, 2019. He retired from the position in 2018.

“I wouldn’t presume to think that anybody wouldn’t give it 100 percent,” Cantrell said, adding that the current situation does “weigh on people.”

Members of the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, missed their first paychecks Jan. 15, 2019. If the shutdown continues, they will miss their second at the end of the month.

While shutdowns have occurred before, support services for members and families “will have to expand if it goes any longer,” Cantrell said.

Coasties have been relying on donations, loans and even food pantries to sustain their families as they take on necessary duties such as search-and-rescue operations.

“It’s one thing to sit back and go, ‘Wow, why would I want to do that?’ Because they don’t have the option to say, ‘Well, I’m just going to go home.’ They’ve been deemed essential,” Cantrell said, adding that morale is “probably low” in places around the country.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons)

Cantrell said he is hopeful the next generation of service members’ desire to serve will outweigh the current problems.

“People know it’s not the Coast Guard that’s doing this. And I’m 100 percent sure [leaders] have prepped the battlespace for those recruits to know what’s going on in the service. And they do a really good job… at the Training Center … [to get them] excited about the Coast Guard,” he said.

While frustrations remain, Cantrell said he thinks it’s unlikely there will be a significant or long-term national security impact, given the service has seen fluctuating or dwindling budgets before and was still able to press on.

But “it’s a bitter pill to swallow even as a retiree, and I just can’t imagine the young folks out there worrying about things that they shouldn’t have to worry about,” he said.

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

Articles

The US wants a laser-equipped drone that would be a silver bullet for stopping North Korea

The US Missile Defense Agency just issued a bold request for proposals for a missile defense system that could change the game and act like a silver bullet against North Korean missile launches.


The MDA asked for proposals to build a high-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned aircraft capable of flying higher than 63,000 feet and carrying a laser to shoot down ballistic missiles as they arc upwards towards the sky.

While the laser system sounds like something out of science fiction, and is something the US Navy has struggled to field for over a decade, Ricky Ellison of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance told Business Insider that this drone could be the perfect application of the technology.

“What it can do is intercept missiles in the boost phase, therefore you don’t need to have billion dollar radars all over the world to intercept with 80 million dollar interceptors,” said Ellison.

Ballistic missiles fly high into earth’s atmosphere before breaking apart, often releasing multiple reentry vehicles, countermeasures, and decoys. This makes them a nightmare for traditional missile defense systems which track the launch and then fire interceptor vehicles to smash them apart upon reentry.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown
Another possible design for the laser interceptor. Photo from missilethreat.csis.org

Even the top-of-the-line THAAD system, recently sent to South Korea, would struggle to destroy a large salvo from North Korea, and the price of installing and using the entire system, interceptors included, would cost into the billions. Additionally, THAAD’s high-powered radar capability makes China extremely nervous, as they believe it could limit their ability to respond to a nuclear strike from the US.

Meanwhile, a solid state laser can be fired continuously for dollars a minute, about what you’d pay for electricity in your home. Though building the platform would cost millions in research, development, and testing.

Traditionally, while boost-phase interception looks more attractive on paper because it hits the missile in a more vulnerable stage, it’s been impractical because the interceptor has to be close to the projectile.

So there’s just no way the US could intercept a missile fired from central Russia or China in its boost phase. With a small country like North Korea though, US drones right off the border could melt down missiles with a light-speed weapon in the cloudless upper atmosphere.

“This would be far more efficient to have boost-phase intercept capability over that territory at that height to handle that,” said Ellison. “As North Korea develops countermeasures, decoys, multiple reentry vehicles, and all the things that will continue to evolve, you have a great opportunity to eliminate all those advancing technologies before all that gets dispersed.”

The MDA hopes to field this technology by 2023, at which point most experts agree North Korea will have perfected an intercontinental ballistic missile.

MIGHTY FIT

So your joints ‘creak’ and ‘pop’…big deal

We’re surrounded by machines: computers, cars, HVAC systems, TV’s, lawnmowers, airplanes, etc. It’s not crazy to start viewing our bodies in the same way that we view those machines. Mainly, if there is a noise, a weird vibration, or a “creak,” or “pop” we’ve got a problem.

It turns out, you aren’t a machine, and the research agrees that periodic or even reliable creaks and pops of the joints aren’t death sentences or even guaranteed arthritis waiting to happen.


If your joint make noise… Don’t do this!

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What the pros have found out

Medical personnel have been interested/concerned about the sounds our bodies make since before the invention of the automobile. If that “pop” your knee makes when you fully straighten it is on your mind, rest assured it’s also on the mind of your doctor.

That’s just it though; it may only be in your mind. In this study, researchers asked people with crepitus (that’s the nefarious name given to your body’s “pops” and “creaks”) their perception of what the sound meant.

Patients often felt that they were weaker in that specific joint or capable of less activity. BUT, when actually tested for strength and range of motion, researchers found no difference between those with the “condition” and people who reported no “creaks” or “pops.”

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

All that kneeling may not be as bad for your knees as you think. Take a knee and listen up.

(U.S. Army photo by SFC Claudio Tejada/Released)

In this other study, when researchers looked at individual’s perceptions on their joint noise, they found that people often thought the noise meant that they were:

  • Getting old
  • Falling apart
  • On the verge of a serious medical condition

The great news is that you aren’t alone. If you have a “creak” or “pop” that keeps you awake at night, the sound isn’t uncommon. 99% of all people evaluated in this study, whether they thought they had crepitus or not, had an audible noise in one of their joints.

You read that last one right: 99% of people have a noisy joint.
Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

“It’s a boy!”….ummm I think that’s a knee.

(U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel, Naval Hospital Jacksonville/Released)

How perceptions form

We don’t catastrophize on our own. We get these dreadful, anxiety-inducing fears about how our bodies are going to let us down from the world we live in. Particularly two places.

Doctors: There are two scenarios that tend to happen in the doctor’s office that leads people to believe that their joint is going to explode.

In scenario A, your doctor says something like: “Hmmm, that’s not normal.” or, even worse, “Aren’t you in a lot of pain?”

In scenario B, the exact opposite happens, but it results in the same outcome. Your doctor may say something like, “That’s nothing; don’t worry about it.” If you aren’t a fan of your doctor, though, or if they’ve been wrong before you will just assume that he/she is just stupid or lazy and in fact you are doomed!

REMEMBER: Your doctor, although a trained professional, is human. Everything they say or do may not be a direct reflection on you. He/she might just be having a bad day. Go into every visit open-minded but skeptical and get a second opinion before you decide to label yourself as broken.

Family and friends: Just because Aunt Becky has bad knees doesn’t mean your elbow “pop” is the first stage of osteoarthritis.

I’ll leave this one at that.

Gather your own information, experiment on yourself, and measure your performance in the gym. Those are the only ways you’ll be able to make the best decision for your body.

Aunt Becky is a pessimist anyway. Don’t paint yourself into the same sh*t-colored corner she’s been in for the last 47 years.

WHY YOUR KNEES CRACK | Joint Crepitations

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Don’t stop training

The one thing that is for sure when it comes to a potential chronic joint or bone issue is that if you stop training, you are more likely to have a negative outcome.

We damage our muscles when we lift. They grow back stronger each time.

Higher impact activities like running send a signal to our bones that they need to stay strong and dense to keep us survivable.

When you stop training your muscles and bones think they can become weak and flimsy. They need constant daily stimulation to stay at their strongest.

That’s how we’re different from machines.

Parts of your car have a certain number of repetitions or miles traveled that they are guaranteed to work before they fail. Our body parts don’t have a terminal date.

Of course, you can overwork certain joints, but that’s a conversation for a different time.

Think about your training like a Momma bear, Poppa bear, Baby bear situation.

Too little is bad.

Too much can also be bad.

But, there’s a sweet spot right in the middle that will promote a long and high-quality life.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico

The Army Corps of Engineers is installing up to 500 temporary generators until Puerto Rico’s old and deteriorating power grid can be made operational again, but long-term total power restoration could take nearly a year, the Corps’ chief of engineers told reporters at the Pentagon today.


The Corps is starting with public facilities and it faces power restoration to 3.4 million houses on the U.S. territory, some of which are in remote areas, Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite said.

Semonite said the island governor’s immediate goals are to restore power to 30 percent of Puerto Rico by the end of October and to 50 percent by the end of November, which the general said he considers a challenge.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown
Soldiers from the Puerto Rico Army National Guard and the South Carolina Army National Guard team up to clear debris that blocks roads in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The Soldiers were working in the vicinity of Cayey, Puerto Rico. (36th Infantry Division photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell)

The Corps is responding to the effects of four major hurricanes that struck the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands within a six-week span. Puerto Rico remains a challenge in part because it is an island, making it difficult to receive supplies, such as the 62,000 utility poles needed for power restoration.

Also read: 6 of the largest humanitarian missions in US military history

“Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is a completely different paradigm,” he said. “People have asked me in the last several weeks … ‘Why don’t you do in Puerto Rico what you could have done in Florida?’ Because it is an island and it is very, very hard to just drive hundreds of pole trucks … down into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.”

The Corps also needs about 338 utility towers, Semonite said, noting that each one is 75 feet long and must be flown in. “And then we need an awful a lot of connectors and cable, as well. But the whole goal is to get the transmission up and running,” he added.

Four-fold Strategy

The Corps’ power strategy is fourfold, starting with the temporary generators. As of today, 148 have been put in place, Semonite said.

The second line of effort is generation from the power plants.

“We need about 2,500 megawatts of power … to be able to restore the power back up to where it was at the beginning of the storm. Today, right now, we’ve got about 21.6 percent of that up,” he said.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico—Temporary power generators staged in a yard in Fort Buchanan are prepared for installation in critical facilities throughout Puerto Rico, October 8, 2017. Soldiers assigned to 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), along with civilian U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responders are working with FEMA to provide power generators to support disaster relief emergency operations throughout Puerto Rico. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr, 24th Press Camp HQ)

Transmission is the third line of effort in the strategy to restore power, Semonite said. “The No. 1 goal right now of what the Corps is doing is to be able to move this electricity that’s in the south up to the north,” he explained.

The fourth line of effort is distribution — getting power to homes and other buildings along terrain that is a massive logistics challenge, the general said.

“There are seven large power plants that normally run off of fossil fuel,” he said. There are also about seven solar or wind power plants and 21 hydropower plants, Semonite added. But, the general explained, the majority of that power is generated in the southern part of the island, while the majority of the need is in the north — particularly around San Juan.

Moving Power

And though transmission and distribution remain a challenge, there just isn’t enough capacity in Puerto Rico’s existing power plants to provide electricity to the island, Semonite said.

“Even if in fact all of the power plants are up and running, we would have a generation shortfall,” he said. “So about a week and a half ago, we cut a contract to a large company to come back in and place a temporary power plant in San Juan.”

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begins the installation of two power generators at the Palo Seco Power Plant in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Oct. 17, 2017. The power plant which was damaged by Hurricane Maria is currently operating at very low capacity. USACE is working with local and national contractors and the Puerto Rico Electric Authority to stabilize the power plant. Once the generators are operational they will provide 50 megawatts of power, which will be able to power over 11,000 homes. The Department of Defense is working with USACE, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the local government and other organizations to provide disaster relief in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Colletta)

The Corps and the Defense Department are working alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rico’s local government to restore power to the island, he emphasized.

Restoring power to the island is going to take a massive, long-term rebuild of the power grid, Semonite said.

“So what we are doing is to go all-out and put as many generators in as we can, mainly in public facilities. We got a list from the governor, and all the mayors donated to that list,” the general said. “And the list has got about 428 different requirements on it today.”

Articles

World War II vet gets awesome 99th birthday present

Staff Sgt. Eugene Leonard served in the Marine Corps during World War II and was wounded in action. But he never lost a love for aviation, also serving in the Air Force and as an airplane mechanic in his civilian life.


Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown
Staff Sgt. Eugene Leonard (Youtube screenshot)

So, for his 99th birthday, one friend decided to pick up the former Marine’s spirits after Leonard became a widower and moved to the Phoenix area, Fox10Phoenix.com reported.

What was selected for that task was another World War II veteran — a restored B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown
B-17 formation over Schweinfurt, Germany, Aug. 17, 1943. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In a day and age where we lose 492 World War II veterans a day, according to the National World War II Museum, those few remaining are a link to the heroic history of that conflict.

The same can be said for the planes. In this case, one World War II vet was able to give another one a brief pick-me up.

Here is Fox10Phoenix’s report on Staff Sgt. Leonard’s flight:

Articles

This is why it’s better to be shot by an AK-47 than an M4

Admittedly, I’d rather not be shot with either, but if I had to choose, I’d take a round from the AK47 over the M4 any day of the week. To understand why, it’s important to have a very basic look at the physics behind terminal ballistics, in this case being the science of what happens when a penetrating missile enters a human body. The first place to start is the Kinetic Energy Equation:


KE = ½ M (V12 – V22)

Breaking this equation down into its components, we have Kinetic Energy (KE) influenced by the Mass (M) of the penetrating missile, as well as the Velocity (V) of the missile. This make sense, and it is logical that a heavier, faster missile is going to do more damage than a lighter, slower missile. What is important to understand is the relative influence that Mass and Velocity have on Kinetic Energy, as this is key to understanding why I’d rather be shot by an AK than an M4.

You’ll notice that the Mass component of the KE equation is halved, whereas the Velocity component is squared.

For this reason, it is the Velocity of the projectile that has far more bearing on the energy that it dissipates into the target than the mass.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown
Bang. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

The V1-V2 component of the equation takes into consideration that the projectile might actually pass straight through the target, rather than coming to rest in the target. In this instance, the change in the Velocity of the projectile as it passes through the target (V1 being its velocity as it enters, and V2 being velocity on exit) is the factor that is considered when calculating how much energy the missile delivered into the target.

Naturally if the projectile comes to rest in the target (ie: no exit wound) then V2 equals zero and the projectile’s velocity as it entered (V1) is used to calculate the KE.

That’s enough physics for now, but you get the concept that the optimum projectile to shoot someone with is one that has a decent mass, is very, very fast, and is guaranteed to come to rest in your target, as to dissipate as much energy as possible into them, and hence do maximal damage.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown
M4 Carbine. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The next concept to grasp is that of permanent cavitation versus temporary cavitation. Permanent cavitation is the hole that gets left in a target from a projectile punching through it. You can think of it simply like a sharp stick being pushed through a target and leaving a hole the diameter of the stick. The permanent cavity left by a bullet is proportionate to the surface area of the bullet as it passes through the tissue.

For instance, if an AK47 round of 7.62mm diameter at its widest point passes cleanly through a target, it will leave a round 7.62mm hole (permanent cavity). If this hole goes through a vital structure in the body, then the wound can be fatal. However, if the bullet passes through soft tissues only, then the permanent cavity can be relatively benign.

This is a slight oversimplification of the concept, as bullets will rarely remain dead straight as they pass through human bodies, as they have a tendency to destabilize, and the heavier back-end of the bullet will want to overtake the front.

This concept, known as yaw, increases the frontal surface area of the bullet as it passes through tissue, and hence creates a larger permanent cavity.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Far more damaging than the permanent cavity left by a projectile is the temporary cavity that it creates. Anyone who has ever watched the TV show MythBusters will have some familiarity with this concept, and it is best demonstrated using slow motion video imagery of bullets being shot into special jelly known as ballistic gelatin, which is calibrated to be the same density as human soft tissues.

What can be seen in these video images (below) is the pulsating dissipation of energy that emanates out from a bullet as it passes through the gelatin.

Also read: This is perhaps the fastest shotgun in the world

This is a visual illustration of the concept of temporary cavitation, and it allows the viewer to begin to appreciate the devastating effect that a high velocity missile can have once it enters a human body. The temporary cavitation is the transfer of Kinetic Energy from the projectile into the tissues of the target, and as we learned above, is relative to the mass and, more importantly, the velocity of the projectile.

As the energy of the projectile is dissipated into the tissues of the target the temporary cavitation pulverizes structures adjacent to the bullet’s tract, including blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and any solid organs that may be in close proximity.

For that reason the high velocity projectile does not need to pass directly through a structure in the body to destroy it. The higher the Kinetic Energy of the projectile the further out from the permanent cavity the temporary cavity extends.

Below is a slow motion video of a 5.56x45mm round (same as the M4 fires) hitting ballistic gelatine in slow motion. After watching, the medical provider can begin to appreciate the damage that gets done to tissues by the pressure wave of the temporary cavitation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRbAfdoU9vY

(Brass Fetcher | YouTube)

Another characteristic of the M4 round is the tendency for the bullet to disintegrate if it strikes tissue at a decent velocity. Despite being a jacketed round, owing to it being smaller, lighter, and faster than an AK47 projectile, it tends to yaw faster once it hits tissue and the shearing forces on the bullet once it is traveling at 90 degrees through the tissue often tears the bullet into pieces, thus creating multiple smaller projectiles and increasing the chances of all of the bullet parts remaining in the target, and hence dissipating more energy.

The AK47 round, being slightly heavier and slower than the M4 round will have a tendency to remain intact as it strikes tissue, and whilst it will penetrate deeper, it tends to remain intact and not yaw until it has penetrated much deeper than the M4.

More: This Marine tweaked his body armor to instantly treat a gunshot wound

The video below shows a soft point round being used, which theoretically should be more destructive than its full metal jacket counterpart, the video still illustrates nicely the significant penetration of the AK47 round without it yawing significantly or disintegrating.

I once saw a good case study illustrating this point nicely where a casualty had sustained an AK47 gunshot wound to the right lateral thigh and we recovered the intact bullet from the inside of his left upper abdominal wall. It had passed through approximately 1 metre of his tissues and shredded his small bowel, but the projectile hadn’t fragmented at all, and the temporary cavitation hadn’t done enough damage to be lethal. The casualty required a laparotomy to remove multiple sections of small intestine, but made a good recovery. That one is a story for another time.

(The Ammo Channel | YouTube)

Although an unpleasant injury to have, the fact that the AK47 round was travelling slower than an M4 at the same range would have been, coupled with the fact that the projectile remained intact and didn’t yaw significantly as in passed through him, meant the wound was nowhere near as devastating as the above-mentioned M4 injury in the same area.

It must be noted however that the comparison is far from perfect given that the M4 injury involved the bone, with the one immediately above passing solely through soft tissues.

So there it is, all things being equal, when all is said and done I’d rather be shot with an AK47 than an M4 on any day of the week. Naturally, as medical responders, it is always important to treat the wound and not the rifle that inflicted it, and I have certainly seen some horrendous AK47 wounds over the years and some relatively minor ones from M4s, so it all depends.

The main take home points for medicos are to be aware of the magnitude of damage that can be caused by the temporary cavitation resulting from high velocity missile wounds, and also if you find an entrance wound, there’s no telling where in the body the projectile might have ended up!

MIGHTY CULTURE

100 year old sentinel returns to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

At 100, Jack Eaton is the oldest living, oldest known sentinel of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His and other sentinels’ names are there on plaques, commemorating their service. Sentinels, all volunteers, are members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard.”

Life in the Army for Eaton began when he left coal country in southeastern Pennsylvania to enlist in 1937 at age 18. Stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, he said, he fired expert with his rifle and was very competitive in military training and other activities, and that got him selected for the job. Sentinels are also usually tall, and Eaton’s height also helped. At 6-feet, he was considered tall at the time.


Eaton spoke during a tour of the Pentagon, where he met with Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist and others.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

Army Capt. Harold Earls, right, commander of the Tomb Guard, presents World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, with a signed photo and challenge coin from the Tomb Guard.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa N. Atchley)

Earlier in the day, he also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, after arriving on an Honor Flight from Burton, Michigan, where he now lives.

While at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Eaton said he was struck by the elaborate, precision movements of the sentinels, although he remembers it being similar during his time there, with knife-edge creases on the soldiers’ uniforms. He recalls the snap and pop sounds of doing the manual of arms with his rifle.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, visits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Dylan C. Overbay)

One thing that has changed since Eaton’s days as a sentinel is that the changing of the guard ceremony is now every hour instead of every two hours. Eaton said he was told that the change was made so more visitors could view the ceremony, and he said that’s a good thing for the public to see.

Eaton picked up rank quickly and eventually became corporal of the guard, responsible for ensuring that the changing of the guard and other activities went smoothly.

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World War II veteran Jack Eaton, left, and Army Capt. Harold Earls, commander of the Tomb Guard, speak to new recruits in the Tomb Quarters at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

Eaton’s enlistment expired in 1940, and he went to work for Hudson Motor Car Company. His work there was short-lived, however, because the United States entered World War II after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Eager to get into the war, Eaton returned to Fort Belvoir. His old unit had disbanded, but his old company commander was still there and remembered him. He got Eaton into welding school in Washington, where he trained daily on the use of oxy acetylene and various forms of electric welding. The training soon paid off, he said.

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World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, points to his name on a plaque at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Oct 23, 2019.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa N. Atchley)

Eaton was assigned a truck full of welding gear and mechanical tools and parts, as well as a full-time mechanic. In 1942, just months after the war started, Eaton, his mechanic and the truck were shipped off to England, where they went from airfield to airfield repairing heavy equipment such as bulldozers, graders and cranes used to build runways.

It was a lot of work, he said, because many new runways were being built. This required a lot of heavy equipment, which frequently broke down.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, is greeted by Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

As the war progressed, Eaton, his truck and his partner were transferred to France, and eventually to Germany. By the end of the war, he had attained the rank of technician fourth grade.

After the war ended in 1945, Eaton said, he went back to Hudson to work, but only for a short time, because he found a better job in the window replacement industry.

After a while, he said, he decided he could make a lot more money starting up his own window business, and he did so after purchasing a 2,100-square-foot factory and showroom. His business was such a success that he was able to retire at the ripe young age of 55.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director, Arlington National Cemetery and Army National Military Cemeteries, World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, and Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan walk at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

Eaton said he’s impressed with the service members he meets today. As for advice to give them on how to succeed, he offered: “Accept responsibility, don’t shirk your duty, honor your oath, be proud of what you do and try to do better each time.” He also said that healthy competition with other soldiers will do much toward self-improvement.

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, and Army Capt. Harold Earls, commander of the Tomb Guard, point to Eaton’s name on a plaque at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Oct 23, 2019.

(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

As for his secret to living to be 100 and walking around the Pentagon at a fast pace without a wheelchair, Eaton credited the genes of his mother, who lived to be 100. He also said he quit smoking in his early 30s, drinks moderately — or not at all for long periods of time — eats right and gets up every morning to do rigorous exercises.

Eaton said he’s lived a full and happy life and was blessed to have the chance to serve his country and contribute to society afterward.

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

Intel

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment

Anticipating a deployment is at once stressful, exhilarating, and boring as hell. Here are the 8 basic steps:


1. Announcement

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Photo: US Marine Corps Land Cpl. Katelyn Hunter

The announcement comes down from the Pentagon that your unit is headed overseas at some point. Everyone will respond to this differently. Newer troops will walk with a swagger as they think about becoming combat veterans. Actual combat veterans will sigh heavily.

2. Keeping it a secret (while telling everyone)

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Sure, operational security and all that. But you have to tell your family. And your best buddies need to know. Also, those guys at the bar won’t buy you drinks just for sitting there. Is that hot girl over there into deploying troops?

3. First stage of training

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Photo: US Army Capt. Lisa Browne Banic

“Time for pre-deployment training! Time to become the most elite, modern warriors in the world!” you think for the first 15 minutes of the first training session.

4. The rest of training

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“Oh my god, how much of this is done via PowerPoint?” Also, your weapon will be completely caked in carbon from those blanks.

5. Culmination exercise

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Suddenly, it’s exciting again. Pyrotechnics, laser tag, a bunch of awesome pictures that can become your Facebook cover photo so those girls from high school can see them. Someone in your squad can edit out the blank firing adapters.

6. Packing (and packing, and packing …)

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That brief adrenaline rush at the final culmination exercise will not last. You will realize you still have to clean and pack the gear to go home. Then pack the connexes to send to country. Then pack your bags to go into other connexes. Then pack the …

7. Pre-deployment leave

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Finally! After months of hard work, a brief rest before more months of hard work. Also, a chance to “not” tell more hometown girls that you’re deploying.

8. Getting on the plane (or ship or whatever)

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julio Rivera

Time to go somewhere really “fun” and live there for a year or so. But hey, only [balance of deployment] left until redeployment.

MIGHTY GAMING

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Violent video games have become embedded within American culture over the past several decades and especially since 9/11. First-person shooters, in particular, have become increasingly popular.

These games – in which players are positioned behind a gun – have turned a generation of kids into digital warriors who fight terrorists and battle alien invaders. Many play first-person shooters for pure, innocent enjoyment. Some like achieving objectives and being a part of a team. And, for others, it simply feels good to eliminate an enemy – especially someone who’s trying to harm them.


For the U.S. military, the rise of first-person shooters has been a welcome development. In recent years, the military has encouraged many of its soldiers to partake in the thrill of violent video games as a way to continue combat training, even when not on active duty. (In fact, using games to teach military tactics has been a longstanding practice in the U.S. military: Before video games, troops were encouraged to play military-themed board games.)

The games allow soldiers to take their combat roles home with them and blur their on-duty responsibilities with their off-duty, noncombat routines and lives.

But what effect have these video games had on U.S. soldiers? How accurately do they depict military life? And do they actually help recruit, train and retain troops?

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The games in the Arma series strive to simulate combat. In this sequence from Arma 2, a helicopter insertion goes wrong as troops try to take a contested airfield.

(YouTube/GamerDudester)

From battle screen to battlefield

As part of a study, we interviewed 15 current and former members of the U.S. military who were between 24 and 35 years old to understand the role violent first-person shooter games played in their recruitment and training.

The majority of interviewees told us it was important to stay in the mindset of a soldier even when not on duty. To them, first-person shooters were the perfect vehicle for doing this.

Game preferences varied among the soldiers we interviewed, but popular titles included “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2” and “ARMA 2,” which a current member of the Army said was “one of the most hardcore assault experiences in gaming.”

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In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players fight a campaign across the world and in space during a war between the U.S. and Russia.

(YouTube/Bolloxed)

Meanwhile, an Iraq War veteran described “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” as “the ultimate first-person shooter experiences ever” and “intensive and highly realistic approaches to tactical combat. The choice of attacking with stealth or unleashing an all-out frontal assault full of mayhem is yours. It’s violent, it’s chaotic, it’s beautiful.”

In this, the Iraq War veteran seems to say that video games can reflect real-life combat situations, an attitude that others share.

Altered realities

But it’s tough to make the case that games accurately simulate what a soldier’s life is really like. First, military tours of duty are not solely made up of hard-charging, chaotic battles, like those in first-person shooters. The majority of soldiers won’t participate in any full-frontal combat operations.

Second – and, most importantly – in the digital world there are no legal and ethical considerations. When things go wrong, when innocent people are killed, there are no ramifications. If anything, the games warp these real-world consequences in the minds of players; in 2012, psychologists Brock Bastian, Jolanda Jetten and Helena R.M. Radke were able to use brain scans to show that playing violent video games had the potential to desensitize players to real-life violence and the suffering of others.

In a 2010 article for the Brookings Institution, political scientist Peter Singer quoted a Special Forces soldier who was involved in the production of “America’s Army 360,” a video game developed to recruit and train enlistees.

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An American city burns in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

(YouTube/Bolloxed)

“You lose an avatar; just reboot the game,” the soldier said. “In real life, you lose your guy; you’ve lost your guy. And then you’ve got to bury him, and then you’ve got to call his wife.”

Indeed, journalist Evan Wright wrote in his book “Generation Kill” that solders were on “intimate terms with the culture of video games, reality TV shows and internet porn.”

Real-life combat, however, was something entirely different.

“What I saw was a lot of them discovered levels of innocence that they probably didn’t think they had,” Wright wrote. “When they actually shot people, especially innocent people, and were confronted with this, I saw guys break down. The violence in games hadn’t prepared them for this.”

Thus video games might suck soldiers in – offering a tantalizing taste of the glory and excitement of battle. But they do little to prepare them for the types of threats that actually exist on the battlefield.

“When I really think of the government seeing that as training, I laugh,” one of our interviewees told us. “But I also feel a bit uneasy.”

Militarizing legions of gamers

Regardless of their effectiveness as training tools, violent video games can certainly act as a valuable tool for connecting the military with potential recruits. In addition to influencing the decisions of gamers to pursue military service, they can also be used to promote the geopolitical goals of the military.

Journalist Hamza Shaban, in a 2013 article for The Atlantic, described just how deep the Army’s relationship had become with the commercial gaming industry, creating what he dubbed a “military-entertainment complex.” According to Shaban, the games that emerged from this relationship – an exciting, simplified, easy-to-play version of warfare – encouraged gamers to consider a career in the military.

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Frontlines: Fuel of War attempts to simulate what World War 3 in the near future would look like.

(YouTube/Best War Games Channel)

Meanwhile, games such as “UrbanSim,” “Tactical Iraqi” and “Frontlines: Fuel of War” teach players and potential recruits about the discourse of modern-day warfare. Missions include battling Islamic militants, winning over potentially hostile populations and establishing pro-Western, pro-democratic societies. They engage with the fundamentals of insurgency and counterinsurgency, present the dangers of improvised explosive devices and highlight the military usefulness of weaponized drones.

However, to some of the soldiers and ex-soldiers we spoke to, the value of playing first-person shooters amounted to little more than propaganda.

“The idea of us training using these games is a bit of a [disaster],” one said. “What the U.S. seeks to achieve through the use of these games is not entirely within their control. It might be a cheap way of getting us involved … but it’s hardly ‘training.'”

Another called first-person shooters “more like brainwashing than anything.”

“But you have to be pretty stupid to buy into all this,” he added. Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown


This article was created by Scott Nicholas Romaniuk, University of Trento and Tobias Burgers, Freie Universität Berlin.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 things to know about the Navy’s newest attack sub

Below are five things that you should know about the Navy’s newest submarine.


1. The Virginia-class, fast-attack submarine, USS Colorado (SSN 788) is equipped with non-penetrating, digital-camera periscopes called Photonics Masts.

Normally, submarines are built with two, classic-style periscopes. The Technical Insertion, called TI-14, and Advanced Processing Build APB-13 allows the Photonics Masts the option to be controlled with wired video game controllers. Though others have tested prototypes, Colorado is the first submarine operating from the start with the gaming controllers.

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Lt. Anthony Matus uses an XBox controller to maneuver the photonic mast aboard Pre-Commissioning Unit Colorado. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)

2. USS Colorado’s crest was designed during a contest held by Colorado’s Commissioning Committee and USS Colorado.

Many submissions came in, and the winning design was submitted by Ens. Michael Nielson, who, at the time, was a student at the Navy’s Nuclear Power Training Unit in Ballston Spa, New York. After contacting Nielson to let him know that his design was selected, USS Colorado found out that he was actually from Arvada, Colorado. Two days after finding out he won the design contest, he received orders to report to USS Colorado.

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USS Colorado’s crest.

3. USS Colorado is the third ship to bear the name of our 38th state.

The first Colorado, named after the Colorado River, was a steam screw frigate that launched in 1856 and commissioned in 1858. Her service included serving as flagship to Commodore William Marvine while he ran a blockage squadron during the Civil War. During the Battle of Fort Fisher in Wilmington, North Carolina, she was pivotal in the fort’s capture. The battle was heralded by the New York Times as “the most beautiful duel of the war.” The first Colorado was decommissioned June 8, 1876.

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USS Colorado, circa 1856-1885. (Photo by U.S. Navy)

The second ship was a Pennsylvania-class cruiser. She was commissioned in 1903 and joined the Atlantic Fleet in 1905. She was ordered to the Asiatic Station where she saw service in China and Japan as well as the Hawaiian Islands and Mexico. In 1916, she was re-commissioned under the name USS Pueblo so the name Colorado would be free to use on the Colorado-class battleship. She was decommissioned in 1927.

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An undated photo of USS Colorado (BB 45), circa 1906. (Photo by U.S. Navy)

The third USS Colorado (BB 45) was the lead ship in the Colorado-class of battleships and she served our Navy from 1923 to 1947. Battleship Colorado engaged in combat in the Pacific, supporting landings on Tarawa, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam and Tinian. During the Battle of Tinian, she was hit 22 times by shore batteries but stayed in the fight. Colorado continued to serve bravely in Leyte, Mindoro, Luzon, and Okinawa. In the Philippines, on November 27, 1944, she was hit by two kamikazes which caused moderate damage. She earned seven battle stars for her service in the Pacific and continued to serve valiantly throughout the war. When the unconditional surrender was signed aboard USS Missouri, Colorado stood guard proudly in Tokyo Bay. She was decommissioned on January 7, 1947.

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An undated photo of USS Colorado (BB 45). (Photo by U.S. Navy)

4. USS Colorado galley is named “Rocky Mountain Grille.”

This name was selected after a naming contest at the command. The crew’s mess and the serving line in front of the galley are adorned with landscape photographs by John Fielder, a photographer in Colorado. The photos were given and installed by USS Colorado’s Commissioning Committee. The photographs remind Colorado Sailors of the great people of the beautiful state they represent.

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Culinary Specialist (Submarines) Seaman Carlos Sifontes poses for a photo while unloading food from the dry provisions store room aboard Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Colorado. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)

5. A Colorado Sailor, Sonar Technician (Submarine) 3rd Class Brayden Kane, was awarded his Submarine Warfare Insignia, referred to as “dolphins,” by retired Lt. Col. Andy Palenchar at the Colorado State Capitol building.

Palenchar enlisted in the Navy and qualified aboard USS Finback (SS 320) in 1943. While USS Finback was deployed, serving “lifeguard duty,” rescuing downed Navy pilots, Palenchar was the one who hoisted a pilot named Lt. j.g. George H.W. Bush aboard after the future president was shot down over the Pacific. After World War II, Palenchar joined the Army and retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1978.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korean letter threatens missile tests and derails peace talks

North Korea warned the US in a recent letter that talks are “again at stake and may fall apart,” adding that it may resume “nuclear and missile activities” if its demands are not met.

President Donald Trump unexpectedly canceled what was expected to be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fourth trip to Pyongyang due to insufficient progress on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The decision was preceded by a “belligerent” letter that criticized his administration for failing “to meet (North Korean) expectations in terms of taking a step forward to sign a peace treaty,” CNN reported Aug. 28, 2018, citing people familiar with the matter.


The receipt of the letter, which was sent by the former head of North Korea’s spy agency, Kim Yong Chol, occurred just hours after Pompeo’s trip was first announced in August 2018, The Washington Post reported Aug. 27, 2018. “The exact contents of the message are unclear, but it was sufficiently belligerent that Trump and Pompeo decided to call off Pompeo’s journey,” The Post’s Josh Rogin reported.

Pompeo’s last trip to North Korea ended with a message from the foreign ministry characterizing meetings with the US as “regrettable.” Those negotiations came amid troubling reports from multiple outlets indicating that North Korea had yet to suspend its weapons programs in keeping with its commitment to denuclearize.

In recent months, media reports have indicated that North Korea is making infrastructure improvements at nuclear reactors, research facilities, and missile development sites and increasing the production of fuel for nuclear weapons. The North has also reportedly halted the dismantlement of a key facility Kim promised to destroy as a concession to Trump in Singapore.

Over the past few weeks, North Korean media has railed against US attitudes and actions, especially the sanctions that continue to hobble North Korea’s limited economy.

Speaking to the press at the Pentagon Aug. 28, 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis refused to suggest that North Korea is acting in bad faith, but he left the door open to the possibility of restarting war games should North Korea’s behavior warrant such a step.

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Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.

“As you know, we took the step to suspend several of the largest exercises as a good faith measure. We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises,” he said at the briefing. Emphasizing that his team will work closely with the secretary of state, he explained that “at this time, there has been no discussion of further suspensions.”

Mattis added that there are smaller exercises ongoing on the peninsula at all times. “The reason you’ve not heard much about them is [so] North Korea could not in any way misinterpret those as somehow breaking faith with the negotiation,” he told the media.

Pentagon officials told Business Insider that there are numerous exercises happening all the time as South Koreans and US personnel train together to enhance their interoperability.

During the briefing, the secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said they would let diplomacy lead, stressing that they did not want their comments to influence negotiations. “We stay in a supporting role,” Mattis noted.

Mattis said this would be a “long and challenging effort.”

The recent moves and comments from both sides indicate that there is growing frustration between Pyongyang and Washington. For the time being, it appears that North Korea is resistant to denuclearization and the US is hesitant to sign a peace treaty ending the Korean War without those disarmament steps.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

But can it fight? Russian tank filmed using turret to cut fruit

Russia’s T-80 battle tank was once expected to be among the best in the world. They were the first tanks developed by the Soviet Union to utilize a gas turbine engine, giving it an impressive top speed of 70 kilometers per hour and a far better power to weight ratio than its predecessors. It was even dubbed the “Tank of the English Channel,” because Soviet war games calculated that it could plow through Europe and reach the Atlantic Coast in just five days.


Then it went into battle, and like so many Russian efforts since, reality failed to live up to the hype. When called into service to fight in 1994’s separatist war in Chechnya, the latest iteration of the T-80 (The T-80B) absorbed heavy losses against the lesser equipped Chechnyans. Inexperienced operators combined with fuel-hungry engines left some T-80s useless, as they burned through their fuel reserves idling before the fighting even began.

Others were quickly destroyed by Chechnyan RPGs thanks to a significant design oversight. The T-80 was among the first Russian tanks to utilize an auto-loader for its main gun, which kept stored propellant in the vertical position beneath the tank where it was only partially protected by the tank’s wheels.

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Russian T-80 Main Battle Tank shown while not serving as a fruit chef

(Vitaly Kuzmin)

All it took was a few well-placed shots with RPG-7V and RPG-18 rocket launchers to literally pop the top off of a T-80, as the propellant exploded and destroyed the vehicle. T-80s, the Chechnyans quickly assessed, were easy targets — especially when they were out of gas. All told, nearly a thousand Russian soldiers and 200 vehicles were lost in the conflict, with the T-80s serving as both the most advanced vehicles present and the most often destroyed.

Today, the 51-ton T-80 remains in service in the Russian military in rather large numbers, despite its embarrassing debut. Some 5,500 total tanks were produced during its run, and thanks to Russia’s stagnant economy and the limited production run of their latest advanced tank, the T-74, it seems likely that Russia will continue to rely on the T-80 as a main battle tank for years to come.

History may have already shown that the T-80 is a troubled platform that’s perpetually thirsty for fuel and that harbors at least one fatal flaw along with a laundry list of lesser issues. But that doesn’t mean it’s without its uses. Sure, the T-80 may not hold up to ground troops armed with RPGs, but it actually makes for a pretty decent stand-in for your SlapChop.

T-80 tank VS battle group of fruits (watermelon, pear and apple) ARMY-2019, Kubinka, Russia

youtu.be

As you can see in this footage, surely meant as a demonstration of the stability and precise control allotted by the T-80s 125mm main gun, this vehicle really can do a passable job at slicing fruit.

Of course, you’ll need a Russian soldier that’s willing to stand there and do most of the busy work (like moving the fruit into the tank’s reach, separating it, and moving it away again) but that’s just the price you pay for a fresh fruit Soviet-Smoothie. I suppose this video would still be pretty impressive, if Russia weren’t the first to show off their tank skills using food. Long ago, Germany released a video of their own Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank (designed and built in the same era) hitting the trails with a stein of beer sitting comfortably on its turret.

If you think chopping a watermelon is good, you’ll love this.

Leopard 2 Beer Test

youtu.be

Unlike slicing fruit, this actually serves as a good demonstration of the Leopard 2’s ability to keep its main weapon pointed at distant targets, even as it traverses all sorts of terrain. In a fight, that serves a far greater purpose than any fruit salad might, no matter how well prepared.

The Russian video does, however, offer a glimpse into what may be another secret weapon Russia has maintained since the cold war. If all else fails, their tanks can always fix bayonets.

Articles

The ‘most hated units’ in the Army are some of the best

They’re the units that everyone wants to beat, that every commander wants to squash under their heel, and that most average Joes accuse of cheating at least once — the “Opposing Forces” units at military training centers.


The OPFOR units are comprised of active duty soldiers stationed at major training centers and are tasked with playing enemy combatants in training exercises for the units that rotate into their center. They spend years acting as the adversary in every modern training exercise their base can come up with.

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American Army Pfc. Sean P. Stieren, a rifleman with A Company, 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), fires a mock Stinger missile launcher at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., April 19, 2014. Paratroopers with 1st Bn., 509th Inf. Reg. (A), act as insurgent and conventional opposing forces during decisive action training environment exercises at JRTC. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts)

So while most units do a rotation at a major training center every couple of years, soldiers assigned to OPFOR units often conduct major training rotations every month. This results in their practicing the deployed lifestyle for weeks at a time about a dozen times per year.

Through all this training, they get good. Really good.

And since they typically conduct their missions at a single installation or, in rare cases, at a few training areas in a single region, they’re experts in their assigned battlespace.

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A U.S. Army soldier with 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) fires blank rounds at soldiers from a rotational training unit during an exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., April 22, 2014. Paratroopers with 1st Bn., 509th Inf. Reg. (A) role-play as multiple enemy forces including a near-peer military, insurgent cells and a crime family. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts)

All this adds up to units with lots of experience against the best units the military has to deploy — units that are at the cutting edge of new tactics, techniques, and procedures; units that have the home field advantage.

“The first time you fight against the OpFor is a daunting experience,” Maj. Jared Nichols, a battalion executive officer that rotated through the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, said during a 2016 training iteration. “You’re fighting an enemy that knows the terrain and knows how American forces fight, so they know how to fight against us and they do it very well.”

So yeah, despite typically fighting at a 2-to-1 or even a 3-to-1 disadvantage, OPFOR units often decimate their opponents.

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An OPFOR Surrogate Vehicle from Coldsteel Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, travels through the city of Dezashah en route to the objective, during NTC rotation 17-01, at the National Training Center, Oct. 7, 2016. The purpose of this phase of the rotation was to challenge the Greywolf Brigade’s ability to conduct a deliberate defense of an area while being engaged by conventional and hybrid threats. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. David Edge)

For the military, this arrangement is a win-win. First, rotational units cut their teeth against realistic, experienced, and determined opponents before they deploy. This tests and stresses deploying units — usually brigades — and allows them to see where their weak points are. Do their soldiers need a tool they don’t have? Are there leaders being over or under utilized? Does all the equipment work together as expected?

But the training units aren’t expected to get everything right.

“One of the largest challenges I face as the OPFOR battalion commander is conveying the message to the other nations that it’s OK to make a mistake,” Lt. Col. Mathew Archambault said during a 2016 training rotation. “When they come here it’s a training exercise, and I want them to take risks and try new things. I want them to maximize their training experience; it helps them learn and grow.”

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A UH-72 Lakota helicopter from the OPFOR Platoon, NTC Aviation Company provides air support to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment ground forces during an engagement during rotation 16-08 at the National Training Center, Aug. 3, 2016. The Lakota aircraft participated in an exercise that challenged the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division’s ability to conduct a deliberate defense. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. David Edge)

But the military also gets a group of soldiers that, over a two or three-year tour of duty at a training center as opposing forces, have seen dozens of ways to conduct different missions. They’ve seen different tactics for resupplying maneuver forces in the field, different ways of hiding communications, different ways of feinting attacks. And, they know which tactics are successful and which don’t work in the field.

When it’s time for these soldiers to rotate to another unit, they take these lessons with them and share them with their new units.

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