Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

In recent months, the novel Coronavirus, formally known as Covid-19, has begun spreading rapidly throughout communities around the world, and the U.S. military has already begun taking proactive steps aimed at curbing the spread of the infection among service members and their families.


It’s important to note that service members are often not a high-risk demographic even if and when they may be infected by Covid-19. The virus, however, can be dangerous to people with underlying health issues or otherwise compromised immune systems living in the surrounding community. The Pentagon also hopes to minimize the affect Covid-19 has on the military’s overall readiness–which means it’s better to stem the tide of infection than to keep recovering service members in isolation as they rebound from the virus. As a result, making every effort to mitigate the spread of this virus has been deemed a worthwhile enterprise.

The Pentagon has already issued guidance to service members and their families oriented toward protecting themselves from infection and curbing the spread of infection among those who get sick. These practices are not dissimilar from the guidance being provided to the general public through public institutions like the Center for Disease Control.

You can jump directly to coronavirus basic training changes for your specific branch with these links.

Marine Corps

Army

Air Force

Navy

Coast Guard

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

media.defense.gov

The Pentagon’s guidance for preventing the spread of the coronavirus:

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Pentagon. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-percent alcohol
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

What else is the military doing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus?

According to a DoD statement issued on March 9, the military’s response to the Coronavirus can be summed up in three objectives:

  • Protecting service members and their families
  • Ensuring crucial DoD missions continue
  • Supporting the whole go government approach to the unfolding situation

A number of military commands have already initiated what the Defense Department refers to as “pandemic procedures,” which are a series of pre-planned protocols put into place to rapidly identify service members who may have been exposed to the virus and isolating them from the general and service populations. These patients are treated by military medical personnel with appropriate protective equipment, and are re-evaluated on a day by day basis.

Every military branch is also screening all new recruits and trainees for signs of infection, and isolating any who may have been exposed to the virus or may be exhibiting symptoms of infection. The goal of these tests is not to stop new service members from entering into training, but rather to postpone training until after the recruit or trainee recovers completely and is no longer able to spread the virus to others.

Marine Corps Coronavirus Basic Training Changes

Graduation and Family Day events will continue as scheduled aboard MCRD San Diego and MCRD Parris Island. However, the Marine Corps is asking that no one attend these events if they are currently exhibiting active symptoms of Covid-19 or have been in contact with anyone that may potentially have been infected. Thus far, MCRD Parris Island has not made any official statements regarding potential changes to graduation or family day ceremonies.

Parris Island has released this message pertaining to prevention efforts, however:


Novel Coronavirus

www.facebook.com

Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) has released this statement regarding recruit training and the coronavirus as it pertains to MCRD San Diego spefically:

We understand that graduation is a very special event for new Marines and their families. In line with Center for Disease Control’s efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, we ask that if you are actively sick with a cough or fever, or have been in contact with a suspected case of COVID-19, you not attend graduation or its associated events aboard the Depot. Thousands of family members visit the Depot for graduation weekly, so your decision would be in the interest of public health and the health of our recruit population. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s information page, the NMCPHC information page, and the DOD information page. Links are provided below:
CDC.gov
Med.Navy.mil
Defense.gov

Army Coronavirus Basic Training Changes

*Updated March 11

Fort Sill

Fort Sill has announced that beginning March 16, they will suspend attendance at graduation ceremonies until further notice.

Ceremonies will be live streamed for families and supporters on the Fort Sill Facebook page. This is a developing situation with more details to come.

You can read Fort Sill’s full announcement below:

You can watch Fort Sill’s livestream here.

Fort Leonard Wood

Fort Leonard Wood has announced that attendance at Basic Training family day and graduations will be suspended until further notice after this week. Families and supporters will be able to watch the graduation ceremonies on Facebook Live on the Fort Leonard Wood Facebook page.

Family Day activities on Fort Jackson have been canceled going forward, and soldiers will be allowed to make supervised visits to AAFES activities and to make purchases to prepare them for travel to their next appointed place of duty. No travel with family members in their personal vehicles will be permitted after 1-34 IN BN graduates this week.

You can read the full post from Fort Jackson below:

Air Force Coronavirus Basic Training Changes

**UPDATE**

The Air Force has announced that it has suspended family members from attending Basic Military Training graduations, effective immediately and until further notice.

Air Force Basic Military Training graduation ceremonies will be live streamed via 37th Training Wing’s Facebook page every Friday beginning March 13 at 9 a.m.

You can find the steam here.

You can read the Air Force’s complete statement below:

In an effort to minimize the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 and to prioritize the health and safety of Department of the Air Force personnel, the following modifications have been made:
• At the United States Air Force Academy, official travel outside of the United States has been restricted for cadets, cadet candidates and permanent party. Personal/leisure travel to countries with a CDC Level 2 or higher rating is also prohibited. As of now, restrictions will remain in place through the end of March.
• Air Force Basic Military Training has suspended family members from attending graduation until further notice.
• Since South by Southwest events in Austin, Texas, was cancelled, the Air Force’s Spark Collider and Pitch Bowl will now take place virtually, March 12.
• The Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado Child Development Center has been closed for cleaning since a parent (family member) tested positive by the state for coronavirus.
• All Department of the Air Force personnel have been directed to follow Center for Disease Control levels for travel guidance.

The Air Force maintains an actively updated page with frequently asked questions here.

Navy Coronavirus Basic Training Changes

Navy Recruit Training has decided to suspend attendance at their graduation ceremonies until further notice. Liberty associated with recruit training graduation has also been canceled. Graduation ceremonies will be live-streamed for families and supporters to watch.

Friday’s ceremony will be streamed at 0845 Central Standard Time.

You can watch the stream here.

Here is the Navy’s officials statement and associated social media links:

Beginning 13 March, Navy Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s boot camp, will suspend guest attendance at graduation ceremonies to prevent any potential spread of COVID 19 to either Sailors or Navy families.
Graduations themselves will continue, and will be live-streamed on Navy online platforms, including our Facebook page.
Commander, Naval Service training command, which oversees RTC, will continue to monitor the situation and consult with medical experts to decide when it is appropriate to resume guest attendance at graduation ceremonies. There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among recruits, and RTC has robust screening processes in place for those who arrive each week.
This action is being taken out of an abundance of caution, to both ensure the welfare of Sailors and that RTC can continue its essential mission of producing basically trained Sailors. RTC Recruits impacted by this change are being authorized to call home to directly inform their loved ones.
Liberty will be cancelled for graduates of RTC. They will report directly to their follow-on assignments. Liberty or guest access at those locations will be at the discretion of those commands. Families are encouraged to contact their recruits following graduation for details. We cannot speak on behalf of the commands they will be reporting to regarding their liberty policy.

Coast Guard Coronavirus Basic Training Changes

The Coast Guard has requested that family members planning to attend this week’s graduation refrain from attending graduation ceremonies if they are sick, and exercise the CDC and Defense Department’s recommended practices for prevention of the spread of coronavirus or any other illness. The Coast Guard outlines those recommendations as such:

-Stay home when you are sick.
-Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
-Wash your hands often with soap and water.
-Implement social distancing interventions in schools, workplaces, and at large events such as graduation.
-Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects like door knobs.
-Be prepared and stay informed on the latest information.

You can see the Coast Guard’s full statement below:

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the military tried to create an army of super soldiers

Technology wasn’t actually the method by which the military tried to create an army of super soldiers. It wasn’t a special armor or a Captain America-like serum either. No, like most harebrained schemes of the Cold War, the military tried to create a kind of “warrior monk soldier” with paranormal abilities that would take on the defense of the United States when technology could not.


The Army and the CIA, it turns out, could spend money on anything.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

The Marines got the Warrior Monk anyway.

The First Earth Battalion was more than just a bunch of men staring at goats. The idea was derived from the human potential movement, a counterculture phenomenon of the 1960s which believed humans were not using their full mental and physical capacity in their lives and could thus be and do more when properly trained or motivated. After the end of the Vietnam War, the Army was ready to review how it fought wars and try an approach less focused on filling body bags.

When the Army sent word that it was seeking new ways of fighting and training its soldiers, it was bombarded with suggestions that seemed bogus but had some merit, like sleep learning and mental rehearsal. It was also offered some of the less down-to-earth ideas in American culture. It attempted to create an Army focused on unleashing the human potential locked within the bodies of its soldiers, unused.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

Admit right now that unleashing an army of Tony Robbinses would be terrifying for the enemy.

So the U.S. military was divided over how to proceed. One side wanted to invest in developing weapons, technology, armor, and ways to train its soldiers. You know, Army stuff. The other side wanted to train soldiers to master extra-sensory perception, leaving their body at will to fight on the astral plane, levitation, psychic healing techniques, and the ability to walk through walls – they were asking for a “super soldier.”

Forget that there was no scientific evidence that this stuff actually worked. Or that the Army didn’t really ask if there was concrete evidence. And forget that the Army had no real plans to integrate these super soldiers into its order of battle against the Soviet Union when and if they did work. All they cared about were reports that the Soviets were seeking the same technology and powers, and the Americans wanted it too.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

In Marvel Comics, the Soviet superhero is the “Red Guardian” and I really need him to fight the First Earth Battalion now, thanks.

To settle the matter, the Army researched a report on all things parapsychology, from remote viewing to psychokinesis. This comprehensive study took two years and was released at a whopping 425,000 pages by the National Research Council. Their findings? Spoiler Alert: the evidence in favor of nearly all of these techniques and powers were “scientifically unsupported.”

What they did find to work were things like mental rehearsals before physically performing a task. Still, the 0,000 allocated toward the potential research in 1981 was never spent and was still unspent seven years later.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Army Veteran recalls his time as POW during Vietnam

On Dec. 8, 2020, U.S. Army Veteran David Harker will celebrate his 75th birthday. He may recognize the accomplishment while on his daily five mile walk, or by taking a drive in his 47-year-old car – a 1973 Corvette he’s owned since it was given to him by classmates when he returned from Vietnam after spending more than five years as a prisoner of war.

A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Harker is the third of seven children. He was an athlete in high school and received his associate’s degree from Bluefield College before transferring to Virginia Tech in 1966. By 1967, however, his fortunes had changed.


David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.

Drafted

“I was doing my junior year at Virginia Tech and my grades were low, so I had to take a quarter off in 1967 and during that time, because I wasn’t a full-time student, I had to let the government know. They got me,” he said.

When the draft notice came, Harker’s father, an electrical engineer took the news hard.

“My dad was really upset. He had worked for a power company during World War II and so was exempt from the draft,” Harker recalled. “I didn’t think about the possibility of being killed. My dad’s supervisor said he could get me in the National Guard, but I thought that would be shirking my responsibility. I was called on to serve my country and that’s what I was going to do.”

After basic and advanced infantry training, Harker was approached and offered an opportunity to go to Officer Candidate School.

“I was interested in flying helicopters, but they said I’d have to extend for another year or two, so I said, ‘no, I’ll do my two and go home’.”

Heading to Vietnam

The trip to Vietnam brought Harker through Hawaii, and Guam, before landing in Vietnam Nov. 15, 1967. The recollection of arrival is still fresh even 53 years later.

“There were men on the airstrip who had finished their year and were going to take the plane we had arrived on back home. So, they open the door and it was such a rude awakening when the door opened. The oppressive heat – and I’m sure Vietnam Vets will tell you – the country had a smell of its own.”

The soldiers on their way home watched them deplane and Harker heard them say, ‘there’s my replacement.’

“They wished us well,” Harker said.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.

Although trained on a vehicle-mounted recoilless rifle, Harker was made an infantryman upon arrival in-country and reassigned from the 9th Infantry Division to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Six weeks later, he was a POW.

“I was in the 3rd of the 21st in an area of operations at Que Son,” Harker said. “We operated out of a fire base, with one company pulling security while the other three were out doing search and destroy missions. While out, we’d move about 1,000 meters a day and get resupplied every fourth day with c-rations if the helicopters could get through.”

As a 22 year old, Harker was among the older men in his unit. His commanding officer, Capt. Roland Belcher, told the company while they were enjoying in-country RR at brigade headquarters in Chu Lai, that he was proud of the work they were doing.

“Captain Belcher had been in a province southwest of Saigon where we were providing security for elections,” Harker said. “He said it meant a lot to him that we were able to do that – to make sure those people could go to the polls and not get hurt. I remember that because he died in the rice paddies when we were ambushed.”

Harker’s first sergeant, nicknamed Top, was a 41-year old Veteran of World War II and Korea who had earned a Silver Star before joining the company.

“After the ambush, he was the ranking person and he held us together.”

Capture

Harker and his company were on patrol when they broke contact with the enemy in a creek bed. The North Vietnamese unloaded on the unit and killed two men. As the most forward man, Harker was pinned down.

“I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to die.’ Top is behind me telling me to switch to auto and fire. They tried to get behind us and eventually I hear a Vietnamese voice and do a 90 degree and within arm’s reach at the top of this creek bank is an NVA soldier with a pith helmet and Top is there with no helmet. There’s a guy with a rifle telling me to get up. The NVA are stripping everything off us – anything they can use. I tried to bury my M-16 in the creek bed but I think they got it.”

After being taken, Harker was left with a soldier with a sidearm who walked in front of him, leading him away from the creek.

“I thought it was odd he was in front of me and I had been taught that you always try to escape. Next thing I know my hand is over his mouth and I have his arm at his side. I know I have to kill him and do it silently, but his bayonet won’t come out of the scabbard, and by that time my hand has come off his mouth and he’s yelling bloody murder. Before I could get his .45, he stabs me in the side with his bayonet. By that time there are a bunch of rifles pointing at me. I’m surprised they didn’t just shoot me, but they took some commo wire and duck-winged me that night.”

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

A newspaper clipping from the time shows support from his hometown.

Of the 15 men who entered the rice paddy that evening, only four made it out. More men would join Harker in his prison in the Trung Son Mountain Range where he would spend the first three years of captivity. By Harker’s estimation only about 150 U.S. soldiers were captured in South Vietnam – most of whom were taken during the Tet Offensive.

Harker’s first prison was in Quang Nam Province, a difficult, mountainous country that made food scarce and meant deplorable living conditions for the POWs.

“We buried nine Americans there,” Harker said. “That’s how horrific our living conditions were. We had very little to eat so people died from starvation, infectious diseases – malaria was rampant – dysentery. Between September of 1968 and Jan. 4, 1969, we buried six, including the youngest person we had there, a 19-year-old Marine.

“That first year of adjustment to jungle life was really hard on us. You didn’t know what to do. At first you looked out for yourself, but as time went on, you got more altruistic – you realize, it’s not about me, but about the guy next door and you realize you had to take care of each other. We came together really well in that respect.”

During the Vietnam War only one American doctor was ever taken prisoner. Hal Kushner, who grew up in Danville, Virginia, was injured in a helicopter crash in late November. By Dec. 4, North Vietnamese forces found him and marched him toward the camp where he found, according to a speech he gave in February 2018, “four of the saddest looking American creatures I had ever seen in my life.”

“They wouldn’t let him practice medicine,” Harker said of Kushner. “We couldn’t call him doc, but he was a big source of information and help to us. He led the way and showed us how to nurse and take care of men, and that became our goal – to make people in their last hours and days as comfortable as possible – it was our mission, and he was a big inspiration to us.”

In the mountains the men had to forage for food, mostly the manioc root, also known as kasava root.

“There wasn’t a place to grow food, so most of our calories came from manioc,” Harker said. “We were under a 1-to-1 prisoner-to-guard ratio, and the guards would trade manioc and so we would put baskets on our backs and go back and forth over miles of mountain trails carrying 70-80 pounds of root. It’s amazing to think that we could even do it, but we did what we had to do. The little bit of rice they gave us as a ration wasn’t enough to keep a bird flying, so the roots kept us going.”

The guards of Trung Son didn’t physically abuse their prisoners. They didn’t need to.

“We were separated from civilization in the middle of nowhere and we couldn’t communicate; had no food, and no medical attention – that’s torture enough for an individual. We were interrogated when we were captured,” Harker said, “but we knew the Code of Conduct and so we’d give that information. But they’d have a guy with a lantern and they’re asking for information about your unit, it’s size, and I just kept repeating. They didn’t pursue it much. They wanted to get us away from the battlefield but a few days later they did it again. When you have a rifle and you’re in front of the enemy, it’s different. But if they put a blindfold on you and all you can hear is round being chambered – that’s different too. In the north they beat pilots and used a lot of torture techniques.”

Moving day

On Feb. 1, 1971 there were a dozen men still alive in the mountains and they were taken in groups of six to begin their march north up the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Harker watched battalions of Vietnamese troops heading south during the 60-day march, as they ground out 10 to 15 miles a day. During the journey an interpreter would give them extra rice.

“He was a military guy who had fought in Laos as a 17-year old in the early 1960s, and he looked out for us. I think he understood the condition – there was a common situation and appreciation among soldiers.”

“We’d get to a camp every day where we got hot white rice – better than we had at the mountain camp. The next morning they’d put a ball of rice on a banana leaf and we’d carry that with us for lunch as we moved. Eventually we were put on a train, in a box car, and taken to Hanoi, to Plantation Garden, an old French plantation with bars in the walls. We were kept in a 15×17 warehouse – six of us on a wooden pallet. Unlike the mountain camp we couldn’t roam around, and the boredom would overtake you and the heat was oppressive, but we had plenty to eat compared to the south. We also had better medical care there as they had a doctor to attend to us.”

In October of 1972 the Vietnamese allowed prisoners to be outside together for the first time since they arrived, and it looked like the war might be over.

“We had a communication system where we’d put a note on the lid of the waste bucket, or use the tap code, and we had to do that because we were only allowed out of our cell for about an hour a day, and never more than one cell was let out at a time. So, when they let everyone out, and then gave us reading material, they knew it was over. Or they thought it was, because before you know it, the doors are all slammed shut again.”

Soon after, Linebacker II started. From Dec. 18-29, 1972, the U.S. Air Force conducted an operation called Linebacker II, a ‘maximum effort’ campaign to destroy targets using B-52 heavy bombers that dropped more than 15,000 tons of ordnance on more than 30 targets.

“B-52s bombed all night long after talks broke down. The SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) shot down a bunch of planes on the third night, after they figured out the flight patterns, and one night they pulled up a deuce and a half and told us to crawl in the back. We thought we were being taken to China.”

Harker would spend his last three months as a prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton.

Repatriation

Half a world away, in Paris, a peace accord was signed January 27, 1973, and soon after Harker and other American POWs heard the news they had longed to hear.

“We were ecstatic,” Harker said. “We’d hear doors open and activity and they came and said, ‘you’re going, and you’re going, and you’re going’ dividing us up into groups that would be repatriated. They gave us western clothing and a travel bag and when they pulled us out of a holding cell wearing our red-striped pajamas we were given the clothes. By noon, nothing had happened. They gave us food and told us the peace agreement was broken – and we were right back down in the depths of despair. But a few days later we got out.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

A newspaper clipping shows when David Harker returned home.

“I remember saluting an Air Force general who was sitting with a North Vietnamese officer, and when we saluted, we had been officially repatriated. On the plane home, the pilot told us when we had entered international airspace and there was a great cheer.”

The cheers continued when they landed in the Philippines, Hawaii, and Andrews AFB, Maryland. From Maryland, Harker went to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania where he went through medical treatment and rehabilitation, and he was reunited with his family.

“It was different,” Harker said. “I had brothers who were married, and children had been born, but it was exciting coming home. A private airline flew me and my father back and the local TV station had sent a reporter who interviewed me all the way back. There must have been 10,000 people at the Lynchburg airport when we arrived – I had no idea there would be that welcome and response – my big extended family – the high school band was there. It was a long journey and I was glad to be home and for them to be there for me meant so much. I was led to a blue 1973 Corvette and handed the keys. A group of school mates had gotten together and sold bumper stickers for a dollar each to buy me a car and they handed me the keys and a check for id=”listicle-2647726394″,100.”

Being home with his family, Harker said he learned how much anxiety and frustration and worry his parents went through while he was captive.

“Every POW gets a casualty assistance officer whose job it is to let the family know when they hear something – anything – about their son,” Harker said. “My family never heard anything from their CAO. It wasn’t until 1969, when three prisoners were released that they knew I was alive. My parents found out that a couple of those who were released were at Fort Jackson, and so they went there and got onto base and met with them and heard from them that I was alive. That’s all the knew for five years. So they became involved in the National League of Families who organized and tried to have some involvement with North Vietnam to get information about prisoners and try to make the process more transparent as far as information was concerned.”

Life after war

After he returned from Vietnam, Harker took some time off, but eventually returned to Blacksburg and finished his business degree from Virginia Tech in 1976 and found his way to work as a probation and parole officer. In 1977 he married Linda, his high school sweetheart whom he had dated since 1962.

His family now includes his two children, Megan and husband Mike, and Adam and his wife Anza. David and Linda also enjoy their grandchildren: 13-year old Emily, 11-year old Ethan, and 6-year old Eli, children of Megan; and Adam’s 23-month old daughter Ava.

While Harker is open to discussing his time in Vietnam to serve as an education for younger people, he said it was a part of his life that he’s put behind him.

“Kush and I talk about that all the time – we’re not professional POWs. By the grace of God and the help of other men, we made it out. We all serve our country one way or another. This country is what we love. My life has been a real blessing since then, and the staff at the VA hospital, what they do is marvelous, and I appreciate each one of them. I know they have a heart for those Veterans, or they wouldn’t work there,” Harker said. “I love the Veterans, too, and appreciate their service, and institutions like the VA are a great service to our country.”

In the early 2010s Harker had the Corvette he received in 1973 – the car he and his youngest brother Louie drove across the country after his return – restored. He still drives it today.

“I think of all the love behind it every time I drive it.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hackers are trying to bring down entire countries, and it’s a matter of time

Gatwick Airport is Britain’s second busiest by passenger volume, and Europe’s eighth. And yet it was brought to a standstill for two days by two people and a single drone.

Its vulnerability reminded me of a conversation I had two years ago, at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon with cybersecurity investor Sergey Gribov of Flint Capital. He was talking up one of his investments, an industrial cybersecurity firm based in Israel called CyberX. Half-bored, I girded myself for his pitch. They usually go like this: “The internet is full of hackers! They want to steal your data and your money! If only companies used my company’s awesome product, we would all be safe!”


I have heard hundreds of pitches like this.

But my conversation with Gribov was different. It was … extreme. The criminals who break into the web sites of banks or chainstores and steal personal data or money are not the scariest people out there, he told me. The hackers we really ought to be worrying about are the ones trying to take entire countries offline. People who are trying to take down the internet, switch the lights off, cut the water supply, disable railways, or blow up factories.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

(Flickr photo by Richard Patterson)

The West’s weakness is in the older electronics and sensors that control processes in infrastructure and industry. Often these electronics were installed decades ago. The security systems controlling them are ancient or non-existent. If a hacker can gain control of a temperature sensor in a factory, he — they’re usually men — can blow the place up, or set it on fire. “The problem people don’t realise is it becomes a weapon of mass destruction. You can take down a whole country. It can be done,” he said.

And then, how do you respond? Does the country that was attacked — the one struggling to get its power grid back online — launch nukes? Probably not, he said, because “you have no idea who did it.”

“You can have a team of five people sitting in a basement and be just as devastating as WMDs,” he said. “It’s really scary. In some sense it’s a matter of time because it’s really easy.”

At the time, I discounted my conversation with Gribov. His VC fund was invested in CyberX, so he had an obvious interest in propagating the idea that the world is full of bad guys.

But in the years since we talked, two unnerving things happened.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

The scope of the 2016 internet outage after the attack on Dyn.

(Wikimedia, CC)

“Someone is learning how to take down the Internet,” Bruce Schneier, the CTO of IBM Resilient believes

Both attacks were conducted by relatively unsophisticated actors. The Dyn attack was done by three young men who had created some software that they merely hoped would disable a competitor’s company, until it got out of control. The Mauritania attack was probably done by the government of neighbouring Sierra Leone, which was trying to manipulate local election results by crippling the media.

Apparently, it is possible to take the world offline.

It’s not merely that “someone” out there is trying to figure out how to take down the internet. There are multiple someones out there who want that power. In June 2018, Atlanta’s city government was hobbled by an attack that wiped out a third of its software programs. The FBI told Business Insider earlier this year that it believed terrorists would eventually attempt to take America’s 911 emergency system offline.

Someone is learning how to take down the Internet,” Bruce Schneier, the CTO of IBM Resilient believes.

Three major power suppliers simultaneously taken over by hackers

Next, I talked to Nir Giller, cofounder and CTO of CyberX. He pointed me to the December 2015 blackout in Ukraine, in which three major power suppliers were simultaneously taken over by hackers. The hackers gained remote control of the stations’ dashboards, and manually switched off about 60 substations, leaving 230,000 Ukrainians in the cold and dark for six straight hours.

The hack was almost certainly done by Russia, whose military had invaded Crimea in the south of the country in 2014.

“It’s a new weapon,” Giller says. “It wasn’t an accident. It was a sophisticated, well-coordinated attack.”

The fact that the hackers targeted a power station was telling. The biggest vulnerabilities in Western infrastructure are older facilities, Giller believes. Factories, energy plants, and water companies all operate using machinery that is often very old. New devices and software are installed alongside the older machinery, often to control or monitor it. This is what the industrial “internet of things” looks like. Hackers don’t need to control an entire plant, the way they did in Ukraine. They only need to control an individual sensor on a single machine. “In the best-case scenario you have to get rid of a batch” of product, Giller says. “In the worst case, it’s medicine that is not supervised or produced correctly.”

CyberX has done work for the Carlsbad Desalination Plant in California. It claims to be the largest seawater desalination plant in the US. And it serves an area prone to annual droughts. Giller declined to say exactly how CyberX protects the plant but the implication of the company’s work is clear — before CyberX showed up, it was pretty easy to shut down the water supply to about 400,000 people in San Diego.

2010 was the year that cybersecurity experts really woke up to the idea that you could take down infrastructure, not just individual companies or web sites. That was the year the Stuxnet virus was deployed to take down the Iranian nuclear program.

“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking”

The principle behind Stuxnet was simple: Like all software viruses, it copied and sent itself to as many computers running Microsoft Windows as it possibly could, invisibly infecting hundreds of thousands of operating systems worldwide. Once installed, Stuxnet looked for Siemens Step7 industrial software. If it found some, Stuxnet then asked itself a question: “Is this software operating a centrifuge that spins at the exact frequency of an Iranian nuclear power plant that is enriching uranium to create nuclear weapons?” If the answer was “yes,” Stuxnet changed the data coming from the centrifuges, giving their operators false information. The centrifuges stopped working properly. And one-fifth of the Iranian nuclear program’s enrichment facilities were ruined.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

Anti-aircraft guns guarding Natanz Nuclear Facility, Iran.

“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking,” Giller says.

Groundbreaking, but extremely sophisticated. Some experts believe that the designers of Stuxnet would need access to Microsoft’s original source code — something that only a government like the US or Israel could command.

Russia is another state actor that is growing its anti-infrastructure resources. In April 2017 the US FBI and the British security services warned that Russia had seeded UK wifi routers — the little boxes that serve wireless internet in your living room — with a hack that can read all the internet traffic going through them. It’s not that Vladimir Putin wants to see what you’re looking at on Pornhub. Rather, “What they’re doing there is building capability,” says Andrew Tsonchev, the director of technology at Darktrace Industrial, a London-based cybersecurity firm that specialises in artificially intelligent, proactive security. “They’re building that and investing in that so they can launch attacks from it across the world if and when they need to.”

A simple extortion device disabled Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon

Then, in 2017, the Wannacry virus attack happened. Like Stuxnet, Wannacry also spread itself through the Microsoft Windows ecosystem. Once activated, it locked up a user’s computer and demanded a ransom in bitcoin if the user wanted their data back. It was intended as a way to extort money from people at scale. The Wannacry malware was too successful, however. It affected so many computers at once that it drew attention to itself, and was quickly disabled by a security researcher (who ironically was later accused of being the creator of yet another type of malware).

During its brief life, Wannacry became most infamous for disabling hundreds of computers used by Britain’s National Health Service, and was at one point a serious threat to the UK’s ability to deliver healthcare in some hospitals.

The fact that a simple extortion device could disable Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon did not go unnoticed. Previously, something like Stuxnet needed the sophistication of a nation-state. But Wannacry looked like something you could create in your bedroom.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand.

Tsonchev told Business Insider that Wannacry changed the culture among serious black-hat hackers.

“It managed to swoop across, and burn down huge sectors in different countries for a bit,” he says. “In the course of that, the shipping industry got hit. We had people like Maersk, and other shipping terminals and operators, they went down for a day or two. What happened is the ransomware managed to get into these port terminals and the harbours that control shipping … that intrigued attackers to realise that was something they could deliberately try and do that wasn’t really in their playbook at that point.”

“Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry”

“So this year, we see follow-on attacks specifically targeting shipping terminals and ports. They hit the Port of Barcelona and the Port of San Diego and others. That seemed to follow the methodology of the lessons learned the previous year. ‘Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry.’ A couple years ago they were just thinking about stealing credit card data.”

Another scary thing? The Wannacry attack was in May 2017. By December 2017, the US government confirmed that the North Korean government was responsible for the attack. The North Koreans probably just wanted money. The hermit-communist state is chronically poor.

But it may have taught North Korea something more useful: You don’t need bombs to bring a nation to its knees.

Oddly, you have a role to play in making sure this doesn’t happen. The reason Russia and North Korea and Israel and the US all got such devastating results in their attacks on foreign infrastructure is because ordinary people are bad at updating the security software on their personal computers. People let their security software get old and vulnerable, and then weeks later they’re hosting Stuxnet or Wannacry or Russia’s wifi listening posts.

National security is, somehow, about “the absurdity of the mundane,” says Tsonchev. “These little annoying popups [on your computer] are actually holding the key to national security and people are just ignoring them. Individuals have a small part to play in keeping the whole country safe.”

So if you’re casting about for a New Year’s resolution right now, consider this one: Resolve to keep your phone and laptop up to date with system security software. Your country needs you.

Featured image by Ivan David Gomez Arce.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Sept. 14 he will retaliate against a US halt on the issuing of most visas to senior foreign ministry officials and their families by suspending missions by US military-led teams searching for the remains of Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War.


Cambodia’s pro-government Fresh News website reported that Hun Sen said cooperation with the United States on the MIA search would be suspended until the two countries resolve several issues, especially the visa ban. Government spokesman Phay Siphan confirmed the report.

The US government lists 48 Americans still unaccounted for in Cambodia.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

The dispute comes at a time of sharp tensions between Hun Sen’s government and Washington. As part of a general crackdown on critics ahead of next year’s general election, Cambodian authorities recently arrested the head of the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and accused the United States of colluding with him to overthrow the government.

The United States has rejected the accusation and criticized the arrest, along with a crackdown on the media that shut an independent English-language newspaper and about a dozen radio stations that broadcast opposition voices or programming by the US government-financed Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

The US Embassy instituted the visa ban on Sept. 13, saying that Cambodia had refused or delayed accepting Cambodian nationals being deported by the United States after being convicted of crimes. Similar measures were taken against the African nations of Eritrea, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch
Kem Sokha, Acting President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and the country’s opposition leader, sits across from former Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo from US State Department.

Hun Sen said in an interview with Fresh News that the foreign ministry would send a notification of the MIA search suspension to the US in the near future. Earlier Sept. 14, the ministry denied that Cambodia had halted or delayed the acceptance of deportees, saying its main interest was amending a 2002 agreement under which it agreed to take them.

Hun Sen described the repatriation of convicts from the United States to Cambodia as an action that “breaks apart parents and children” and is “bad and inhumane.” He said some of the repatriated Cambodians had committed suicide.

Some human rights groups agree and note that some convicts had spent little time in Cambodia, going to the United States as children.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey has to make its biggest decision since joining NATO

Turkey has always been at the intersection of two different worlds, bridging the gap where Europe meets Asia, where East meets West, and where many cultures historically clashed. During the Cold War, it was in Muslim Turkey’s interest to become a NATO ally. It had remained firmly in the NATO sphere until recently. Now the U.S. is giving the Turkish government an ultimatum.


Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

Guess why.

Within the next two weeks the Turkish government has to decide whether it will maintain its complete alliance with NATO partners and go all-in with the F-35 or risk a severe penalty and buy Russia’s S-400 missile system. The Turkish government has already inked a deal to buy Russia’s missile defense system, which would remove them from eligibility to buy the 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters it was promised – while facing the possibility of U.S. sanctions and other NATO fallout.

The U.S. Department of State gave Turkey until the first week of June to make the call.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.

Russia called Washington’s warning an “ultimatum,” and condemned the threat of sanctions as an attempt to strong-arm Ankara into buying Raytheon’s Patriot batteries and Lockheed’s Joint Strike Fighter. Turkey agreed to pay .5 billion for the S-400 system, one of the most advanced defense systems in the world. Turkey is also one of the manufacturing partners for the world’s most advanced fighter. But Turkey is already building the infrastructure for the S-400.

No one has stated exactly what the economic and military consequences for Turkey will be if they fail to reject the S-400.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How ‘1917’ military advisor prepares actors to fight WWI’s devastating battles

Creating a realistic battle scene — whether it’s from World War II or the Napoleonic Wars — demands technical know-how and precise attention to detail.

Paul Biddiss, the military technical adviser on the upcoming World War I movie “1917,” taught the actors everything they needed to know, from proper foot care to how to hold a weapon, “which allows the actor to concentrate on his primary task. Acting!” Biddis told Insider.

Biddiss has worked on projects from a variety of time periods — “large Napoleonic battles through to World War I, World War II, right up to modern-day battles with Special Forces,” Biddiss said.

Read on to learn about how Biddiss prepared “1917” performers for the gruesome, grueling warfare of World War I.


Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Javier Alvarez)

Biddiss spent 24 years in the British military before finding a career in film.

Biddiss, a former paratrooper, started his film career as an extra on the movie “Monuments Men.”

Since then, he has worked on projects like “Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation,” HBO’s “Catherine the Great,” and “The Crown.”

“I always tell people military film advising is 60% research and 40% of my own military experience added in to the mix,” Biddiss told Insider by email.

To prepare for a shoot, Biddiss obtains authentic training manuals appropriate to the conflict.

“I like to first understand the recruitment and training process, the rank structure and attitude between the ordinary ranks and officers,” he said. “This helps me better understand the battles and tactics used by the men and what must have been going through their heads at the time.”

That helps him structure a training program appropriate to the conflict, and safe for the performers — even when he’s short on prep time.

“When tasked to train 500 supporting artists for [the BBC’s] ‘War and Peace,’ I only had three days to research Napoleonic warfare and prepare a safe structured training program before flying out to Lithuania to train the men before a large battle sequence.”

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

Director Sam Mendes with actors Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay on the set of “1917.”

Training on “1917” started from the ground up — literally.

“Foot care was one of the first lessons I taught George [MacKay] and Dean [Charles Chapman], the importance of looking after their feet daily,” Biddiss said, referring to two stars of “1917.” “Basic recruits are taught this still even today.”

Trench foot, a common condition in World War I, is caused by wet, cold, and unsanitary conditions. It can be avoided by keeping the feet dry and clean, but left untreated it can lead to gangrene and amputation.

“The boys were wearing authentic period boots, walking and running in the wet mud all day and if not addressed early would have cause them major problems on set,” Biddiss said. “I taught them how to identify hot spots on the feet where the boots rubbed, taping up those hotspots to prevent blisters and applying talc and clean socks at every opportunity.”

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

A battle scene in “1917.”

Battle scenes require a lot from performers, but Biddiss said he “would never dream of asking an actor to do something I was not physically able to do myself.”

“I naturally train most days to keep myself in shape” and to instill confidence in his abilities, Biddiss told Insider.

“It’s not a good look if you’re a military adviser and you’re carrying around excess weight” and get winded after a short walk, he said.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

Shooting a scene from “1917.”

(Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)

With hundreds of extras, making sure all the performers were right for the movie was a massive task in itself, Biddiss said.

“We first ran local auditions,” Biddiss said. “I then ran assessments before boot camps to make sure we had the right people who not only looked right, but were coordinated and physically robust to take on the task.”

After the performers were selected, “I started with basic arms drill to test coordination, fitness to test stamina,” he said. “Then to weapon handling, historical lessons, and tactics.”

“There so much attention to detail, like I’ve never seen before on set,” Biddiss said.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

Mendes with Chapman and MacKay on the set of “1917.”

Biddiss has to teach the performers how to look and feel both natural and accurate when using their weapons.

Weapons handling is one of the main hurdles in preparing an actor for battle.

“There could [be] over 500 supporting artists on set with bayonets fixed and firing blank rounds,” Biddiss said. “The blanks used are very powerful and can still do permanent damage, so if time is not invested in training it could all go horribly wrong.”

It’s also one of the things he notices other productions often don’t get right. Biddiss said he notices performers never reloading their weapons or always having their fingers on a gun’s trigger.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

MacKay in a scene from “1917.”

Throughout the production, the mindset of the performers has to be just like that of a soldier, Biddiss said.

“I like to impress on one aspect,” Biddiss said. “Fear and anger.”

“I tell actors and supporting artists that they need to show both feelings on their faces when about to act a battle sequence,” he said. “Fear of dying, but anger towards the people who have brought them to this situation.”

“There is nothing ninja about soldiering,” Biddiss tells the performers he trains. “You have one job. Close in and kill the enemy.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this gun was the premier anti-aircraft gun of all time

How does one define the best anti-aircraft gun of all time? The specs on paper do not tell the whole story. That is because there are always tradeoffs to be made in this, or any field of military weapons. High performance comes with costs – not just financial, but in terms of weight, complexity, maintenance needs, and proper training of the operators – to name just a few of the things that have to be balanced.

When a system gets it right, it becomes a classic. For anti-aircraft guns, the standard is arguably the 40mm Bofors. It packed a punch – about two and a half ounces of high explosives as used by the United States. But this wasn’t an American-designed weapon. Bofors is actually a Swedish company, and Sweden was neutral in World War II. The gun is still produced today, and is still seeing action.


What did that mean? Well, this gun was bought by the United Kingdom before the war, and in 1940, the United States began to build it (the Army having tested a version in 1937, according to NavWeaps.com). And they weren’t the only users. Hungary, a German ally, built some for the Nazis, who also captured a large number of these guns in the early years of World War II. Japan also built some, copied from captured British mounts.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

The typical U.S. Navy mount for the Bofors 40mm was a quad mount, which accounted for many an Axis plane.

(U.S. Navy photo)

The Bofors 40mm saw action from land and sea mounts. The land versions were usually single mounts, but twin mounts were also used in vehicles like the M42 Duster and the failed M247 Sergeant York. On sea, the primary mount – and most effective version – was the quad 40mm mount, but twin and single mounts were also used.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

The Bofors gun’s shells packed about two and a half ounces of high explosives. And this gun could send as many as 120 rounds a minute at an enemy plane.

(U.S. Army photo)

The Bofors had a maximum range of 11,133 yards and could hit targets just over 22,000 feet high. It could fire as many as two rounds a second, but given the need to manually reload with five-round clips, it was more likely to fire about 90 rounds a minute tops.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

The M42 Duster was built around a twin Bofors 40mm gun.

(U.S. Army photo)

The Bofors 40mm was barely enough to handle the kamikazes that the United States was facing in 1945, but the end of World War II meant its replacement by a new three-inch gun was only a partial one. The mounts hung around through parts of the 1980s with the United States Navy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS latest attack was on a children’s charity in Afghanistan

As ISIS appears to crumble on its home turf in Iraq and Syria, the group’s chapter in Afghanistan — known as ISIS-K — has shown remarkable resilience.


ISIS-K took credit on Jan. 24th for an attack on an office belonging to the Save the Children charity, showing that, despite serious battlefield defeats and senior leadership loses, it remains a capable terrorist group. At least three people were killed in the attack.

The attack on Save the Children has already had a direct effect on the charity’s operation, as they announced the Afghanistan office would close. Similarly, the Red Cross said in October that it was drastically reducing operations in the country following attacks that killed seven of its staff, according to Reuters.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

ISIS-K has been effective at attacking forces in the country even in the heart of Afghan government territory and has been involved in dozens of high profile attacks since 2016. Before this recent attack in Jalalabad, an ISIS-K suicide bomber killed 41 people and wounded more than 80 others in Kabul in December.

Fighting back against the group has proven difficult. General John Nicholson, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan summed it up in a press briefing in November; “It’s like a balloon: We squeeze them in this area and they’ll try to move out elsewhere.”

After the attack on Save the Children, Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia Program and South Asia senior associate at the Wilson Center, tweeted that it’s “a perfect example of the indiscriminate savagery of ISIS.”

“U.S. airstrikes, including the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used, have been targeting them for months,” Kugelman wrote. “Hasn’t worked.”

In December, Kugelman wrote that he worries about the group’s resilience. He laid out three reasons why ISIS-K is able to survive — the difficult terrain of the country, homegrown radicalization, and a “steady supply of recruits” from the Pakistani Taliban.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch
Gen. John Nicholson. (Photo from Dept of Defense.)

There is no question that ISIS-K has suffered large losses, as NATO forces, the Afghan Security Forces, and even the Taliban are all fighting ISIS’ Afghan chapter.

Founded in 2015 and made up mostly of Taliban defectors and militants from Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials estimated last April that ISIS-K had 700 members. In November, Afghan officials said the number may be as high as 3,000.

Also Read: Increased number of casualties among Afghan women and children

ISIS-K has had all three of its top leaders (called “emirs”) killed since the group was founded; Hafiz Sayed Khan in an airstrike in July of 2016, Abdul Hasib in a special forces raid last April, and Abu Sayed just a few months later in another special forces raid in July.

Additionally, just weeks after it was declared, the terror group lost its deputy commander Abdul Rauf Aliza in a NATO drone strike. In 2016, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that “Afghanistan will be their graveyard,” after announcing that at least 200 ISIS militants had been killed over a 21-day operation in Nangarhar province.

More recently, 94 militants — including four commanders — were killed when the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS stronghold last April.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Eerily lifelike robot dog is working with the police

It seemed like only a matter of time before the sometimes silly, sometimes terrifying robots from Boston Dynamics made their way into police work.

That time has come, apparently: The Massachusetts State Police employed the dog-like Spot from Boston Dynamics from August until early November 2019, Boston public radio station WBUR reported on Nov. 25, 2019.

So, what was the Massachusetts State Police doing with a robot dog?


The loan agreement between Boston Dynamics and Massachusetts State Police explains it’s being used, “For the purpose of evaluating the robot’s capabilities in law enforcement applications, particularly remote inspection of potentially dangerous environments which may contain suspects and ordinances.”

Videos of Spot in action depict the dog-like robot opening doors and performing surveillance — it was used by the Bomb Squad and only the Bomb Squad, according to the lease agreement.

Though Spot was loaned to the Massachusetts State Police for testing, a representative told WBUR that Spot was deployed in two “incidents” without specifying details.

Both Boston Dynamics and the Massachusetts State Police say that the agreement didn’t allow robots to physically harm or threaten anyone.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

A fleet of Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini pull a Boston Dynamics truck.

(Boston Dynamics)

“Part of our early evaluation process with customers is making sure that we’re on the same page for the usage of the robot,” Boston Dynamics VP of business development Michael Perry told WBUR. “So upfront, we’re very clear with our customers that we don’t want the robot being used in a way that can physically harm somebody.”

State police spokesman David Procopio echoed that sentiment. “Robot technology is a valuable tool for law enforcement because of its ability to provide situational awareness of potentially dangerous environments.”

Moreover, that’s how Boston Dynamics is handling the first commercial sales of Spot.

“As a part of our lease agreement, for people who enter our early adopter program, we have a clause that says you cannot use a robot in a way that physically harms or intimidates people,” Perry told Business Insider in a phone call on Nov. 25, 2019.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

Boston Dynamics has a range of different robots.

(Boston Dynamics)

Boston Dynamics announced earlier this year that Spot would be its first robot to go on sale to the public.

Those sales have already begun through the company’s “Early Adopter Program,” which offers leases to customers with certain requirements. If a customer violates that agreement, Boston Dynamics can terminate the relationship and reclaim its robot — it also allows the company to repair and replace the Spot robots it sells.

Perry said the Massachusetts State Police is the only law enforcement or military organization that Boston Dynamics is working with currently.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

There are plenty of lofty quarantine goals going on right now. We stand firm that using this time to start marathon training, grab a new certification or simply up your nap game are all worthy endeavors. However, there is one thing which all service members should be checking in on right now: their benefits.

Beyond the paycheck, there’s plenty of benefits offered to military personnel that way too often go unutilized. The second we can all get back to “normal” life again is the second things like “use or lose days” and tuition assistance packets should be tossed into play. We’ve conveniently outlined everything you should square away while we all know you have the time.

Use or lose days 

Americans have a weird unspoken tradition of taking pride in hoarding (and never using) vacation days. “Use or lose” refers to the unused vacation days service members accrue that are carried over into the next fiscal year. Anything above 60 days of leave “in the bank” will be slapped with an expiration date, which is when you either use them by a certain date or lose them. At 2.5 days per month earned, things can add up at high tempo locations.

We’re fiercely advocating to end that weirdness right now and mandating that you book a trip to go on before the end of the year once all the travel bans are lifted, get out, and enjoy the freedom you protect. A long weekend getaway, a surf trip, or a drive down the 101 highway are all exactly what you need to recharge and show back up to work even better than before.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

Tuition assistance

Tuition assistance is one of the best benefits available to service members across multiple branches. It’s not the GI Bill and it’s not a loan. Plainly put, tuition assistance is a certain dollar amount you are eligible for per semester to use toward earning college credit.

Participating universities often offer flexible online courses that can accommodate for field training, deployments and occasionally give credit for military training courses you have already completed depending on your degree.

If you’re sitting on your couch, three years into active duty and haven’t used a penny, we suggest starting. Earning a degree slowly while on active duty, all without touching your GI Bill benefits is smart.

Pay changes after a PCS 

Ok so this isn’t a benefit per se, but it’s a big mistake we see made way too often that can send your finances into a death spiral that is hard to recover from. Special pay options like hazard, jump, flight or any other hardship or incentive pay you’re receiving thanks to specific circumstances don’t always transfer with you from one PCS to another.

Knowing exactly what special pay benefits will or will not transfer with you in addition to the incoming new BAH and BAS rate you fall under is essential. Why? Because nothing is worse than earning an extra few hundred dollars each month, having the military find the mistake (they will) and then having it all taken from your next paycheck leaving you with next to nothing to cover your bills.

There is no such thing as tricking the military in terms of pay. Making a mistake with your pay will never be a “my bad” situation that you benefit from. Always know exactly what you should be paid, put in the correct paperwork to stop special pay, and meticulously check your LES statements to ensure the figures are correct.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

Special programs for dependents

There’s enough out there in terms of programs, scholarships, grants, loans and more that it would take an entire other article (or three) to outline, so we’ll keep it brief. Just like service members, military dependents should investigate opportunities first before tackling any educational costs out of pocket.

The Army Emergency Relief rolled out an exciting new program offering up to ,500 that spouses can apply for toward professional relicensing expenses when they PCS. Also new from AER is a Child Care Assistance Program created to help offset areas with high living expenses at up to 0 per month per family in the few months after a PCS.

Military spouses are offered preference when applying for certain DoD and other governmental jobs, including working for USDA, US Fish and Wildlife jobs and more.

The bottom line here is that when the quarantine is over, we should all emerge smarter, stronger and ready to take charge of our lives. So check your benefits and make sure you’re getting all you can out of your paychecks.

popular

Top-tier special operators of the Cold War worry about modern ‘soft skills’

As the shadow operators of the Cold War reveal more and more about their formerly classified service, they’ve highlighted the wide set of soft skills necessary for finding success as they stared into the eyes of one of the greatest adversaries the U.S. ever faced — and they’re worried that today’s military might not have the same, broad toolkit.


Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch
Soviet tanks disperse protesters in the Soviet Sector of Berlin in 1953. Blending into Cold War Berlin was a must as Soviet forces outnumbered those of the former Allied forces by a massive amount, necessitating that elite operators blend in to the local populace in order to gather intelligence and prepare for combat operations.
(U.S. Army)

 

For former Special Forces soldiers Master Sgt. Robert Charest and Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Stejskal, those skills were needed while they were assigned to West Berlin during the Cold War as part of a top-secret Army unit known as Detachment-A.

“We did everything,” Charest told WATM in an interview, “direct action, guerrilla warfare, unconventional warfare, stay behind, anti-terrorist. These all changed with the situation, year by year, as it happened in Europe.”

The members of Detachment-A, which Stejskal said included roughly 800 people over its 34-year lifespan, from 1956 to 1990, were tasked with monitoring Soviet activities in the city and surrounding areas and slowing or halting a Soviet invasion of the rest of Europe for as long as possible in the case of war.

To do this, the men tailed Soviet operatives; practiced crossing the city in secret, even after the Berlin Wall went up; and practiced digging up caches of secret radio equipment, weapons, and medical supplies that were placed there by the CIA in case war broke out.

While preparing for these missions required a lot of cool-guy, “hard skills,” like SCUBA diving through Soviet canals and shooting enemy role-players in the face and chest, they also required that the men develop “soft skills,” like diplomacy and psychological operations.

A lot of their skills, from using knives and forks the German way and speaking like a Berliner, were learned from Germans and other Europeans recruited into the military under the Lodge Act.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch
Everyone is interested in the “sexy” skills, like SCUBA diving, marksmanship, and demolitions, but special operators also have to rely on language and civil affairs skills.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

“One of my favorite quotes,” Stejskal told WATM, “is, the guy talking to the [Commanding Officer] and the guy, he’s a reporter, and he asks the CO what languages he speaks and the CO comes back, ‘Why would I want to learn a foreign language? I’m just going to kill the guy.’ It, kind of, sums up how I feel about the hard-skill people these days.”

“You can only kick doors for so long before you realize that it’s not going to solve the issue,” Stejskal said. “There’s always going to be a door to kick down. So, I think, things like psychological operations are good. Emphasis on intelligence collection, finding out what the problems are, and figuring out how to solve them.”

The intelligence-gathering issue is one that Robert Baer, a former top-CIA case officer in the Middle East, has addressed in his non-fiction books and writings.

Baer talked about the run-up to the September 11th attacks in his book, See No Evil, in 2002 and said:

“As for Islamic fundamentalists in particular, the official view had become that our allies in Europe and the Middle East could fill in the missing pieces. Running our own agents — our own foreign human sources — had become too messy. Agents sometimes misbehaved; they caused ugly diplomatic incidents. Worse, they didn’t fit America’s moral view of the way the world should run.”

In the next paragraph, Baer writes:

In practical terms, the CIA had taken itself out of the business of spying. No wonder we didn’t have a secure source in Hamburg’s mosques to tell us Muhammad Atta, the presumed leader of the hijacking teams on September 11, was recruiting suicide bombers for the biggest attack ever on American soil.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch
A civil affairs soldier trains alongside African wildlife students. Civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers specialize in some of the soft skills that were crucial for operators during the Cold War.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Megan Coin)

This isn’t meant to say that the military or the CIA has completely abandoned soft skills or that soft skills could’ve necessarily prevented the 9/11 attacks, but it is to say that men and women who carried the mantle against the Soviets in the Cold War and against Islamic extremists in the 80s and 90s have seen a lapse in the kind of skills they once used to assure victory.

Stejskal specifically mentioned future conflicts while lamenting the loss of soft skills, and he mentioned a new domain where we need experts besides the trigger pullers.

“I think that the next wars are going to be fought as a complete combination of military, civil, and in the cyber arena. I think those are areas that we need to look at.”

So, what would an increase in soft skills look like? More language experts, like those in Special Forces and psyops units but spread further through the force. It would include, like Stejskal mentioned, additional cyber and civil assets. We need to be ready to defend our networks and to rebuild cities after we take them, hopefully addressing the concerns of scared citizens before they grow into an insurgency. But, certainly addressing the issues if an insurgency is already in place.

“If you go to the insurgency in the El Salvador in the 1980s, 1990s, you can see a good resolution for a problem and it wasn’t just military,” he said. “It was us working with the local government, with people and, eventually, with the insurgents to determine what the problems were and find a solution for them. Killing people is not going to solve the problem of why they’re out there in the first place.”

Articles

Gurkha soldiers are rebuilding vets homes after massive earthquake

When a massive earthquake struck two years ago in Nepal, a sudden coalition formed to help. Service organizations, allied militaries, and others rushed from near and far to dig out survivors and provide help. And some native Gurkha soldiers are still there, lending their expertise to the rebuilding of hundreds of homes.


A total of 8,891 people are thought to have died and another 22,300 injured in the earthquakes on April 25 and May 12, 2015.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch
A Nepalese soldier carries a young earthquake victim from a U.S Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom helicopter assigned to Joint Task Force 505 to a medical triage area at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal, after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the country, May 12, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Ricardo Morales)

One of the military forces that rushed in were Gurkha soldiers from the British Army in Operation Leyland. The Gurkhas are recruited from the same region of Nepal that was worst hit, and the troops were deployed to help their own families and forebears.

But the Gurkhas didn’t leave once the emergency passed. They’re still taking turns rotating into the area to help rebuild the homes of Gurkha veterans. Operation Marmat was a deliberate deployment of about 100 Gurkhas at a time to build homes with materials purchased by the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch
A Gurkha soldier helps rebuild the home of a former Gurkha rifleman during Operation Marmat, an ongoing effort to rebuild the homes of Gurkha veterans. (Photo: Facebook/British Army)

In addition to their labor in the mountains of Nepal, the Gurkhas have raised money — approximately $65,000 — across the world with an emphasis on the United Kingdom where they are based.

An update from the British Army Facebook page says that 800 homes have been rebuilt by the trust and 61 of them were built with labor from the active duty Gurkha soldiers in the past two years.

Another 300 homes are still slated for reconstruction. People who want to help can visit the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch
A Nepalese soldier from the Royal Gurkha Rifles regiment of the British Army stands guard in Sanger, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan David Chandler)

Gurkha soldiers have served the British Army with distinction for over 200 years, including deployments to both world wars, Iraq, and Afghanistan where they served alongside American troops.

To learn more, check out this short video from the British Army (you must be logged into Facebook to see the video):


Do Not Sell My Personal Information