The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

Just as the cyber threat has continued to evolve and grow, so too have the National Guard’s cyber teams and cyber capabilities, said Guard officials during a cyber roundtable discussion at the Pentagon.

“The cyber domain is constantly changing and it’s very dynamic,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Burkett, the vice director of domestic operations with the National Guard Bureau.

That changing cyber domain also means looking differently at where cyber operators come from within the ranks.


“We tend to be very linear in our thinking sometimes,” said Air Force Col. Jori Robinson, vice commander of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing and former commander of a cyber operations squadron and group. “You have to have a computer science degree, you have to come from a computer background and that is what makes a good cyber operator.”

Turns out, said Robinson, some of the best cyber operations specialists may come from the aircraft maintenance field.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Smith, a cyber systems operations technician with the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron, uncoils cable for a radio frequencies kit.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Wright)

An Air Force study, she said, looked into elements that make an individual have the capacity to understand cyber networks, even if the specific computer network abilities aren’t there.

“That person over in maintenance who has been turning wrenches on a jet for the past 15 years, has the capacity and innate ability to understand networks and get a better idea, and they are turning out to make some of the most prolific and fantastic operators we have,” said Robinson.

For some Air Guard units, that comes as a benefit as missions shift and equipment changes. When the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing transitioned from flying the C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft to the smaller C-17 Globemaster III, that left many maintainers in limbo.

“C-17s don’t require as many maintainers as C-5s, so there was a net loss of people of force structure,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jody W. Ogle, the director of communications and cyber programs with the West Virginia National Guard.

Using workforce development grants, many of those maintainers attended civilian education courses to retrain into the Guard’s cyber force.

“It was met with great success,” said Ogle, adding that about 50 maintainers made the switch.

Robinson echoed his sentiments.

“We’ve taken some of our maintainers and turned them into cyber operators and they are just crushing all of these classes and they are among the most sought-after folks by Cyber Command to come sit in on these teams,” she said.

Having another potential avenue to pull from is important, said Robinson, as the Maryland National Guard has a large concentration of cyber capability.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

A C-17 Globemaster III.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)

“It’s a very robust mission set in the state,” she said. “We run full spectrum operations for Cyber Command and 24th Air Force as well as on the Army side.”

That capability means filling a variety of roles.

“In the National Guard our core missions are one, fight America’s wars, two, secure the homeland and, three, build partnerships,” Burkett said. “We support the warfight by building fully integrated National Guard cyber units into operational federal missions. [We] protect the homeland by providing highly-trained cyber forces available to support mission-partner requirements.”

Those mission-partner requirements often focus on working with state and local agencies to assess and identify potential security risks in their networks.

“We provide vulnerability assessments, we’ll do some mission assurance, predominantly with the government agencies,” said Robinson, adding that Maryland Guard cyber units assisted the Maryland Board of Elections during recent elections in the state.

“We were called in pretty early with the Maryland Board of Elections just to have a conversation,” she said. “We provided a lot of lead up information, a lot of policy review and should they have needed it we were available going into the elections to do more over-the-shoulder monitoring [for potential cyber threats] for them.”

Robinson stressed, the cyber teams were strictly hands-off when it came to using computer hardware.

“We were very clear from the beginning that we were not going to be hands-on-keyboard,” she said. “The Board of Elections felt they had a strong handle on what was happening on the networks on Election Day.”

The Maryland Guard cyber units were able to easily integrate because of partnerships built between the Guard and those local agencies, stated Robinson.

Those partnerships are important.

“We learn a lot from our partners,” said Burkett. “We don’t necessarily have all the answers.”

For the Maryland Guard cyber units, one of the most beneficial partnerships has been an international one.

Since 1993 the Maryland Guard has been partnered with Estonia as part of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program, which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide. Since 2007, that partnership has included a strong cyber component, said Robinson.

That year saw Estonia suffered a massive hack to its computer infrastructure.

“What Estonia brings to the United States is quite fascinating because of the hack that happened in 2007, what it did to their critical infrastructure and their ability and how Estonia responded following that,” said Robinson.

The result was a total redo of network systems.

“They completely revamped their network system and how they do all online transactions,” said Robinson. “It’s a fascinating study in how you can add additional layers of encryption, additional layers of protection to everything that is online.”

It makes for a unique system, Robinson said.

“We’re learning a lot from them from that perspective,” she said, adding that cyber operations have been integrated into training exercises conducted with Estonian forces, including a large-scale training exercise in 2017 that incorporated both flying and cyber missions.

“We created an exercise where a massive attack, a piece of malware, had found its way on to the Estonian air base,” Robinson said, referring to the cyber portion of the exercise. From there, the exercise simulated the malware getting onto the computers used for maintenance of the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft that were used for the flying portion of the exercise.

The cyber operators had to respond quickly, said Robinson, just as if it were a real-world attack. And, it was both Estonian and Maryland Guard cyber elements responding.

“We worked side by side,” she said. “It was a fantastic exercise that we’re looking at expanding in 2020.”

Those exercises, and partnerships, only expand the Guard’s cyber capabilities, said Burkett.

“Learning and building those relationship and partnerships is what the National Guard does naturally,” he said, adding that’s critical as the cyber threat continues to evolve.

“There is nothing that cannot be hacked,” he said. “We are dependent upon our cyber infrastructure for critical systems to support our way of life. As long as we are dependent upon those systems, we are going to have to defend them.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military fathers are our daughters’ heroes

My daughter is six, an only child, a military child, and a true Daddy’s girl. I recently asked her the following:


  • Q. What makes Daddy a good daddy?
  • He takes me on bike rides and fishes with me.
  • Q. Why is Daddy important to you?
  • Because he works in the Coast Guard.
  • Q. What do you like about Daddy being in the U.S. Coast Guard?
  • He flies airplanes.
  • Q. What do you dislike about Daddy being in the U.S. Coast Guard?
  • He has to work a lot and has a lot of long work trips.

My daughter’s answers to these questions made me think about how she sees, loves, and respects her father as a hero. Every little girl deserves a father figure who is a hero in their eyes. How are military fathers equipped to be heroes to our daughters?

Military Fathers are Leaders

Serving in the military requires courage, strength, selflessness, resilience, and confidence. Leaders in the military are those whom subordinates rely upon for wisdom, direction, sound judgment, and guidance. Leaders must be determined, confident, able to delegate authority, and thoughtful. Daughters need leaders with similar qualities. The skills learned within the military are transferrable to parenting. Military fathers have a unique skill set that can help lead and guide our daughters.

There are many different types of families, extended families, relationships, and dynamics that may surround any daughter. However, fathers are often the first man in a girl’s life. Military fathers are well-equipped to excel in this role despite the time they are required to spend away from family. Leaders and mentors in the military can help shape lives, influence the decision-making skills of others, and help subordinates find their way. Couldn’t the same be said for fathers leading daughters at home?

Military Fathers Know How to Defend

When joining the military, one chooses to defend, protect, and fight for our country and our freedom. How do we teach our daughters to defend themselves both figuratively and literally? How do we, as parents, encourage them to protect their rights, health, safety, values, morals, and beliefs?

The military is rich with honor and codes of conduct, outlining what members can and cannot do. Dedication to duty, honor, service, and respect are of the highest importance. Military fathers can use these codes as moral and ethical roadmaps for our daughters.

From the first day of basic training until a member of the armed forces leaves the service, they are training for the next mission, preparing for future roles, and learning new skills. Military members are always ready. Training in this manner equips military fathers to teach our daughters to be prepared for challenges, face adversity, choose right over wrong, and take responsibility for their actions.

Military Fathers Are Heroes

The definition of a hero is a person admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. We certainly have endless examples of heroism and ultimate sacrifice in the military. Look at any Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, or Distinguished Service Cross recipient, and you will find a hero. Military members are heroes for serving their country.

Daughters need heroes as strong role models to show them leadership, perseverance, and courage. If any father can fulfill this role and do it well, it is one in the military. Military fathers might not realize it, but they are superheroes in our daughters’ eyes.

Heroes protect others and know how to do the right thing. What better way to set an example and express love to a daughter than by being a hero for your country and family? Happy Father’s Day to all of our military heroes. May you never forget just how heroic you are to our daughters.

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

Articles

See DARPA quadcopter drones fly an obstacle course without GPS

Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones or UAVs, have become a very essential part of warfare for the United States. Some have even taken out some terrorist bigwigs, including Anwar al-Awlaki, who was connected to the 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood.


That said, drones rely on one of two things: They need to be flown by a pilot who knows where the drone is in relation to its destination (or target), or they need to know how they will get to Point A from Point B. Usually, this is done via the Global Positioning System, or GPS. But what if GPS is not an option?

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks
Members of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program used the 102nd Intelligence Wing’s hangar to test small UAVs in an indoor, controlled environment. (U.S. Air Force photo)

That situation may not be far-fetched. GPS jammers are available – even though they are illegal – and last year, the military tested a GPS jammer at China Lake. Without reliable GPS, not only could the drones be in trouble, but some of their weapons, like the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, a 500-pound bomb guided by GPS, could be useless. There are also places where GPS doesn’t work, like inside buildings or underground.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, though, has been on the case. In Florida, DARPA ran a number of tests involving small quadcopter drones that don’t rely on GPS. Instead, these drones, part of the Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program, carried out a number of tests over four days.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks
Members of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program used the 102nd Intelligence Wing’s hangar to test small UAVs in an indoor, controlled environment. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The UAVs, going at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, ran through a number of obstacle courses set in various environments, including a warehouse and a forest. These DARPA tests were part of Phase I.

Check out the video below to see some highlights from the tests!

Articles

Copy of Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and called it a piece of garbage

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and dubbed it the “Mattel 16” because it felt more like a toy than a battle rifle.


“We called it the Mattel 16 because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki in the video below. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”

It weighed about half as much as the AK-47 Kalashnikov and fired a smaller bullet – the 5.56 mm round. In short, the troops didn’t have faith in the rifle’s stopping power.

Related: This is what happens when the rules of engagement are loosened

Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.

“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”

The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.

“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.

Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the Small Arms Review.

Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.

This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:

LightningWar1941/YouTube
MIGHTY CULTURE

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks

It’s never too soon to start planning an epic spring or summer vacation. For disabled veterans living stateside, 2020 could be the best year yet for outdoor recreation. This is because the National Parks Service offers disabled veterans an amazing deal on their next visit. From Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to Dry Tortugas National Park and the Mt. Zion and the Smokey Mountains in between, they’re all at our fingertips – and it’s now totally free.


More than 330 million people visit America’s most beautiful parks every year, and the parks are about to see a huge influx from American veterans due to this partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Disabled veterans can get free access with an Access Pass on their cars, granting free access to anyone in that vehicle. On top of access, the access pass gives holders a discount on expanded amenity fees at many National Parks sites, which can include campsite fees, swimming, boat launches, and group tours.

All a veteran has to do to be one of those who enter the parks for free is submit proper documentation of his or her service-connected disability, along with proof of identification and a processing fee. A Veterans Administration letter of service connection is enough to satisfy this requirement, and the passes can even be ordered online.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

This could be you.

(Emily Ogden/National Parks Service)

On top of the disability award letter from the VA, qualified veterans can also use a VA summary of benefits, or proof of SSDI income to prove their disability status. Once proof of residency is also established, and the processing fee is paid, all the veteran has to do is wait. Their new lifetime access pass will arrive 3-5 weeks after sending the application. If online payments aren’t available to the veteran, the passes can also be acquired by paper mail or by stopping into an access pass-issuing facility. The documentation is still required, but getting the pass is a breeze.

The National Parks Service really is full of amazing natural wonders, which make this lifetime pass one of the biggest benefits of having served. The NPS is full of places you’ve always heard about, but likely have never seen: Big Bend, Arches, Denali, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Petrified Forest, Glacier Bay, Hot Springs, and so much more. Summer vacations will never be the same.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This year’s Army/Navy game uniforms are everything we hoped they’d be

In the 121st iteration of their rivalry, the Black Knights will face off against the midshipmen next Saturday in the Army/Navy game brought to us by the great folks at USAA. The game marks the end of the regular college football season and is expected to be one of the year’s best. This year’s game will be played at Michie Stadium in West Point, New York. West Point isn’t an unusual location since most Army-Navy games are played in the northwest region of the country. The only two exceptions of the entire series are the 1926 game in Chicago and the 1983 game in Pasadena, California. This year’s game is the first time it’s been played on campus in several years, so expectations that the Black Knights win are high. 

Even though the Black Knights will have a home-field advantage, the midshipmen have historically proven that they’re the superior team. Not only does the Navy hold the largest victory – 51-0 in the 1973 game, but the midshipmen also hold the longest winning streak, having successfully defended their title for 14 years in a row, from 2002 to 2015. Overall, the Navy leads the series with 61 leads, 52 losses, and just seven ties. 

The Army/Navy rivalry dates back to 1890 when cadet Dennis Michie accepted a football challenge from the Naval Academy. The two football teams faced off at West Point for the first game on November 29, 1890, and have met every year since 1930. 

But this interservice rivalry football game isn’t just about the game. It’s also about the uniforms and what they mean to the players who are wearing them. 

Last weekend, the Army released the uniform the Black Knights will be wearing. The “Tropic Lightning” uniforms were constructed to honor the 25th Infantry Division and their efforts during the Korean War. The 25th ID was the second unit to arrive on the Korean Peninsula and participated in some of the Korean War’s most difficult battles. The Division is known as the Wolfhounds because it served with the American Expeditionary Force in Siberia during WWI. 

army uniforms

The Army website says that the uniforms help embody the spirit of the soldiers from the 25th ID. “Among their division, the wolfhounds struck fear into their enemy with their ferocious fighting nature in combat.” 

To celebrate the Navy’s 175th anniversary, the midshipmen’s uniforms were inspired by history. The Navy website says that the midshipmen will be wearing uniforms inspired by “historic architecture.” The uniforms have been crafted to highlight “the marble stone pattern featured in its landmark buildings: the Naval Academy Chapel and Bancroft Hall.” To be fair, the midshipmen will look like marble because of the “high contrast of the white veins on the navy stone,” an aesthetic effort that’s supposed to create the feeling of “whitecaps on the rough open seas.” 

navy uniforms

These Ocean Camo uniforms might not have the history of the 25th ID as their impetus, but they were designed with a nod to history in mind – especially to the Navy’s history. The blue and white pattern is supposed to reflect the Naval Academy grounds and is a subtle nod to both John Paul Jones and George Bancroft. Jones was a Naval Commander during the Revolutionary War, and Bancroft founded the Naval Academy. 

No matter if you’re a Go Army, Beat Navy! family or if you’re staunchly flipped, the game is going to be worth watching, if only because it honors the tradition of this fantastic interservice rivalry. The game will be streamed on CBS at 3pm local time

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wife kept dead husband’s body in freezer for 10 years

When the police arrived at a retirement community in Utah to conduct a welfare check last month, they were disturbed to find not only the body of the elderly woman who lived there, but a man’s corpse tucked inside a deep freezer in her utility room.

That man was eventually identified as Paul Mathers, who was 58 years old when he was last seen in 2009. He was the husband of the 75-year-old woman also found in the home, Jeanne Souron-Mathers.

“I’ve been here 13 years — this is one of the strangest cases,” Tooele City Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Hansen told news outlets, adding, “We’ve never had anything like this.”


He said police officers had opened Souron-Mathers’ fridge and freezer hoping to find food that would indicate “some type of a timeline” for when she died. But when a detective opened a deep freezer in the utility room, he “immediately finds an unidentified deceased adult male in the freezer,” Hansen said.

The police made the discovery on November 22 and initially called the incident “very suspicious.”

But after several weeks of investigating, the police announced on Monday that they’d found several equally bizarre clues that might help explain the incident.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEqt61rlDns
Video: Police investigate body found in freezer during welfare check

www.youtube.com

Hansen said investigators searching through Souron-Mathers’ home found a notarized letter from December 2008 that appeared to be from Mathers, declaring that he was not killed by his wife.

“We believe he had a terminal illness,” Hansen told KSTU, adding that Mathers likely died sometime between February 4, 2009 — the date of his last appointment at a Veterans Affairs hospital — and March 8, 2009.

Hansen also told The Salt Lake Tribune that experts had not yet verified whether the signature on the letter truly belonged to Mathers. He added that the woman who notarized the letter in 2008 told the police she never read the document before stamping and signing it.

Investigators also discovered that Souron-Mathers had collected roughly 7,000 in Veterans Affairs benefits after her husband’s death and are still looking into whether she continued to receive Mathers’ Social Security benefits, Hansen said.

Hansen told The Tribune that they were still awaiting an autopsy report to confirm the cause of Mathers’ death but that detectives were “wrapping up” their investigation.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:

MIGHTY MOVIES

This veteran farmer will make you celebrate your meat

“When was the last time you actually met the animal you ate for dinner?”

Jon Darling, a former Army Ranger and scion of a long line of farmers and restaurateurs, now runs one of the most humane livestock farms in South Carolina, where he strives to be a shepherd to the sheep he raises and to the people who eat them.


When Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl visited Darling’s farm, he found himself in a world where things are done with purpose and uncommon care.

Though his family had always been in the food business, Darling turned to a new brotherhood after the attacks on September 11th: the Army. When he got out, he looked for peace in other places, and found it the moment he stepped on a farm.

Working with other people in that way gave him the same feeling of fraternity that being in the military did, and his interactions with the animals he raises brings him a calm sense of satisfaction as he delivers meat to restaurants with a humane guarantee.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks
(Meals Ready to Eat screenshot)

Darling raises his sheep to live free and happy lives, and professes to feeling no fundamental conflict when it comes time for him to bring one of those lives to an end.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks
(Meals Ready to Eat screenshot)

Unlike factory farming operations, which treat animals as commodities and people as thoughtless consumers, farms like Darling’s are working to reconnect people to an awareness of the sacrifice that keeps us humans at the top of the food chain. Through quiet leadership and outreach in the form of regular community dinners that center around the slaughter, preparation, and enjoyment of one of his lambs, Darling is reawakening the people he serves to the circle of life on Planet Earth.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks
A gathering of conscientious diners at Darling Farm. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Darling’s community appreciates the work he does, and agrees that the animal that dies for a meal should be celebrated. That’s why they join him for meals at his farm; to celebrate the animal that nourishes them. They attribute his ability to listen, rather than just to act, to his military service.

Small farming is both Darling’s family legacy and his way of healing—but his neighbors add that his style of farming is also therapeutic for the community, and society. Knowing the animal rather than only viewing it as meat makes a difference in the level of respect given to the earth. Darling points out that his method is healthier for the animals as well as the land he uses to farm them.

Here’s hoping that sharing his story and life’s work with Dannehl and Meals Ready to Eat will help spread the good word far and wide.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks
Have some respect, you baaahhhd boy. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

These military chefs will make you want to re-enlist

This is why soldiers belong in the kitchen

What happens when a firefighter’s secret identity is revealed

This Galley Girl will make you want to join the Coast Guard

This is the food Japanese chefs invented after their nation surrendered to the Allies

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump says he ordered the US Navy to ‘destroy’ any Iranian gunboat that harasses American ships at sea

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he had ordered the US Navy to “destroy” any Iranian gunboat that harassed US ships.


https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/statuses/1252932181447630848
I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.

twitter.com

No additional clarity or guidance on such an order to the Navy has been provided.

The president’s announcement follows an incident last week in which a swarm of nearly a dozen Iranian gunboats sailed out to harass US Navy and Coast Guard vessels operating in the Persian Gulf.

US Naval Forces Central Command said last Wednesday that 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy boats “conducted dangerous and harassing approaches,” repeatedly crossing the bows and sterns of the US ships.

At one point, the US said, one of the Iranian boats closed to within 10 yards of a Coast Guard cutter.

The US military said that the US vessels issued multiple warnings over bridge-to-bridge radio and sounded their horns but that the Iranian boats did not respond for about an hour.

After responding, the Iranian vessels moved away from the American ships.

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The Navy said in a statement last week that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy had committed “dangerous and provocative actions” that “increased the risk of miscalculation and collision.”

US Navy

“The IRGCN’s dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision,” US Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement.

At the time of the incident, the Navy expeditionary mobile base vessel Lewis B. Puller, the destroyer Paul Hamilton, and the patrol ships Firebolt and Sirocco, together with the Coast Guard cutters Wrangell and Maui, were carrying out joint operations with Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in the Persian Gulf.

The US military, according to a separate recent statement, has been letting US Army helicopters take off from Navy ships in exercises meant to boost “the capabilities of US forces to respond to surface threats,” such as the gunboats Iran routinely sends out to harass both military and commercial vessels.

In its statement following last week’s run-in with Iranian forces, US Naval Forces Central Command concluded by saying that “US naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.”

Insider reached out the Navy and US Central Command for comment but was redirected to the White House, which did not comment on the president’s tweet.

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

Articles

Civilian death toll in 16-year Afghanistan war is staggering

The number of civilian deaths in the Afghan war has reached a record high, continuing an almost unbroken trend of nearly a decade of rising casualties.


The number of deaths of women and children grew especially fast, primarily due to the Taliban’s use of homemade bombs, which caused 40% of civilian casualties in the first six months of 2017, according to UN figures released on July 17.

Child casualties increased by 9% to 436, compared with the same period last year, and 1,141 children were wounded. Female deaths rose by 23%, with 174 women killed and 462 injured.

US and Afghan airstrikes also contributed to the surge in civilian victims, with a 43% increase in casualties from the air, the figures showed.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks
Airmen from the 966th Air Expeditionary Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight set off a controlled detonation at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sgt. Sara Csurilla.)

Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN’s Afghanistan mission, said: “The human cost of this ugly war in Afghanistan – loss of life, destruction, and immense suffering – is far too high.

“The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate, and illegal improvised explosive devices [IEDs] is particularly appalling and must immediately stop.”

The UN attributes about two-thirds of casualties to the Taliban and other anti-government groups such as Islamic State.

The worst attack of the war on civilians occurred in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on May 31, when a truck bomb killed at least 150 people, amounting to nearly one-quarter of the 596 civilian deaths from IEDs in 2017.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks
A US military cargo truck bypasses a charred vehicle destroyed by a roadside bomb. (Army photo by Spc. Elisebet Freeburg.)

In the countryside, bombs carpeting fields or left in abandoned houses have contributed to a steady, slow-grinding toll, with 1,483 civilians injured and many suffering amputations.

Kamel Danesh, 19, a student and avid cricketer, was helping a friend clear a house in Helmand a month ago when he stepped on a mine left by the Taliban.

“I didn’t hear the blast. I was just knocked over. My mouth filled with dust. I tried to stand up but couldn’t,” Danesh said. “I looked down and my leg was cut off at the bone. My hand was cut off.”

A rickshaw transported him from the suburbs of the provincial capital to Emergency, an Italian-run trauma centre, where medics saved his life.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks
Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 destroy an improvised explosive device cache. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga)

“It was so painful. I prayed to God to take me,” Danesh said. The provincial cricket association named the Ramadan tournament after him, but he will never play again.

In June, the US conducted 389 aerial attacks in Afghanistan, putting this year on a par with 2013, when there were nearly 50,000 US soldiers in the country.

Of the 232 civilian casualties from 48 aerial operations, 114 were caused by Afghans and 85 by Americans. In one especially deadly operation, the US killed 26 civilians in airstrikes in Sangin district in Helmand.

With peace talks elusive, the war is expected to intensify and prolong the violence that has engulfed Afghanistan for four decades.

Danesh lost his leg to a conflict that began when he was two. As a child, his father and grandfather used to tell him war stories, but “now it is the young people who are sacrificing”, he said.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This new fellowship program for veterans is incredible

Got Your 6 and Veterans in Media and Entertainment (VME) — formerly known as Veterans in Film and Television — have teamed up together to create the Veteran Fellowship Program, a new initiative designed to place and mentor qualified veteran interns throughout the industry.


The announcement preceded two Storyteller events — one in Los Angeles on Nov. 6 and one in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 8 — which showcased the stories of some of the country’s most talented veterans.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks
The 2017 Got Your 6 Storytellers at Paramount: Caleb Wells (USMC), Bill Rausch (USA — Got Your 6 Executive Director), Leslie Riley (USA), Jared Lyon (USN), Sal Gonzalez (USMC), Jas Boothe (USA), Leaphy Kim (USMC). (Photo courtesy of Vivien Best)

The Veteran Fellowship Program is designed to help veterans navigate creative careers by placing them in corporate and creative internships with top-tier organizations.

Seriously, though. We hate to drop names, but…founding entertainment partners leading this initiative include 21st Century Fox, 44 Blue, A+E Networks, CBS, The Ebersol Lanigan Company, DreamWorks Animation, Endemol Shine North America, HBO, Lionsgate, Live Nation Entertainment (including its House of Blues, Ticketmaster, Insomniac, and Roc Nation groups), NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, United Talent Agency, Valhalla Entertainment, and Viacom.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks
The 6 Certified show “Six” at the Got Your 6 Storytellers event in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Vivien Best)

So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal — and an incredible opportunity for the veterans of the program, who will be given mentorship and training in addition to the networking opportunities inherent with the position.

For information about the Veteran Fellowship Program, email internships@vmeconnect.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what Trump and his allies are saying about military issues at the GOP 2016 convention

The pace is intense on day two at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, with veteran lawmakers, celebrities and GOP nominee Donald Trump’s family headlining the speaker’s roster.


The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks
(Photo by Ward Carroll)

While the Trump ticket undoubtedly brings star power on its own, several well-known combat vets, advocates and prior service lawmakers have played a key role in discussing a variety of issues that touch the military and veteran audience, including health care, benefits and military spending.

We Are The Mighty spoke with Military Times Capitol Hill bureau chief Leo Shane III to get his perspective on Trump’s plans to pump up defense spending, avoid incidents like the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and to generally put more emphasis on military issues.

Shane also gives a little bit of his insight into the entertainment lineup, worrying that he might have to miss Kid Rock in favor of Trump’s keynote speech.

Listen:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside Mattis’ $2.5 billion plan to make the military more lethal

Retired Marine infantry officer Joe L’Etoile remembers when training money for his unit was so short “every man got four blanks; then we made butta-butta-bang noises” and “threw dirt clods for grenades.”

Now, L’Etoile is director of the Defense Department’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force and leading an effort to manage $2.5 billion worth of DoD investments into weapons, unmanned systems, body armor, training, and promising new technology for a group that has typically ranked the lowest on the U.S. military’s priority list: the grunts.


The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Orrin G. Farmer)

But the task force’s mission isn’t just about funding high-tech new equipment for Army, Marine, and special operations close-combat forces. It is also digging into deeply entrenched policies and making changes to improve unit cohesion, leadership, and even the methods used for selecting individuals who serve in close-combat formations.

Launched in February, the new joint task force is a top priority of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine Corps infantry officer himself. With this level of potent support, L’Etoile is able to navigate through the bureaucratic strongholds of the Pentagon that traditionally favor large weapons programs, such as Air Force fighters and Navy ships.

“This is a mechanism that resides at the OSD level, so it’s fairly quick; we are fairly nimble,” L’Etoile told Military.com on July 25. “And because this is the secretary’s priority … the bureaucracies respond well because the message is the secretary’s.”

Before he’s done, L’Etoile said, the task force will “reinvent the way the squad is perceived within the department.”

“I would like to see the squad viewed as a weapons platform and treated as such that its constituent parts matter,” he said. “We would never put an aircraft onto the flight line that didn’t have all of its parts, but a [Marine] squad that only has 10 out of 13? Yeah. Deploy it. Put it into combat. We need to take a look at what that costs us. And fundamentally, I believe down at my molecular level, we can do better.”
The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jess Lewis)

​Improving the Squad

Mattis’ Feb. 8 memo to the service secretaries, Joint Chiefs of Staff and all combatant commands announcing the task force sent a shockwave through the force, stating “personnel policies, advances in training methods, and equipment have not kept pace with changes in available technology, human factors, science, and talent management best practices.”

To L’Etoile, the task force is not out to fix what he describes as the U.S. military’s “phenomenal” infantry and direct-action forces.

“Our charter is really just to take it to the next level,” he said. “In terms of priorities, the material solution is not my number-one concern.”

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)

​Gifted Grunts

For starters, the task force is looking at ways to identify Marines and soldiers who possess the characteristics and qualities that will make an infantry squad more efficient in the deadly art of close combat.

The concept is murky, but “we are investing in some leading-edge science to get at the question of what are the attributes to be successful in close combat and how do you screen for those attributes?” L’Etoile said. “How do you incentivize individuals with those attributes to come on board to the close-combat team, to stick their hand in the air for an infantry MOS?”

Col. Joey Polanco, the Army service lead at the task force, said it is evaluating several screening programs, some that rely on “big data and analytics to see if this individual would be a better fit for, say, infantry or close-combat formations.”

Polanco, an infantry officer who has served in the 82nd Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions, said the task force is also looking at ways to incentivize these individuals to “want to continue to stay infantry.”

L’Etoile said the task force is committed to changing policy to help fix a “wicked problem” in the Marine Corps of relying too heavily on corporals instead of sergeants to lead infantry squads.

“In the Marine Corps, there are plenty of squads that are being led by corporals instead of sergeants, and there are plenty of squads being led by lance corporals instead of corporals,” he said. “I led infantry units in combat. There is a difference when a squad is led by a lance corporal — no matter how stout his heart and back — and a sergeant leading them.”

Every Marine must be ready to take on leadership roles, but filling key leader jobs with junior enlisted personnel instead of sergeants degrades unit cohesion, L’Etoile said.

“When four guys are best buddies and they went to boot camp together and they go drinking beer together on the weekends … and then one day the squad leader rotates and it’s ‘Hey Johnson, you are now the squad leader,’ the human dynamics of that person becoming an effective leader with folks that were his peers is difficult to overcome,” he said.

It’s equally important to stabilize the squad’s leadership so that “the squad leader doesn’t show up three months before a deployment but is there in enough time to get that cohesion with his unit, his fire team leaders and his squad members,” L’Etoile said. “Having the appropriate grade, age-experience level and training is really, really important.”

The Army is compiling data to see if that issue is a persistent problem in its squads.

“When we get the data back, we will have a better idea of how do we increase the cohesion of an Army squad, and I think what you are going to find is, it needs its own solution, if there in fact is a problem,” L’Etoile said.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan)

​No Budget, But Deep Pockets

Just weeks after the first U.S. combat forces went into Afghanistan in late 2001, the Army, Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command began modernizing and upgrading individual and squad weapons and gear.

Since then, equipment officials have labored to field lighter body armor, more efficient load-bearing gear and new weapons to make infantry and special operations forces more lethal.

But the reality is, there is only so much money budgeted toward individual kit and weapons when other service priorities, such as armored vehicles and rotary-wing aircraft, need modernizing as well.

The task force has the freedom to look at where the DoD is “investing its research dollars and render an opinion on whether those dollars are being well spent,” L’Etoile said. “I have no money; I don’t want money. I don’t want to spend the next two years managing a budget. That takes a lot of time and energy.”

“But I am very interested in where money goes. So, for instance, if there is a particular close-combat capability that I believe represents a substantive increase in survivability, lethality — you name it — for a close-combat formation, and I see that is not being funded at a meaningful level, step one is to ask why,” he continued. “Let’s get informed on the issue … and then if it makes sense, go advocate for additional funding for that capability.”

The task force currently has reprogramming or new funding requests worth up to .5 billion for high-tech equipment and training efforts that L’Etoile would not describe in detail.

“I have a number of things that are teed up … it’s premature for me to say,” he said. “In broad categories, we have active requests for additional funding in sensing; think robots and [unmanned aerial systems]. We have requests for additional funding of munitions for training and additional tactical capabilities [and] additional funding for training adversaries, so you get a sparring partner as well as a heavy bag.”

The task force is requesting additional money for advanced night-vision equipment and synthetic-training technologies. L’Etoile also confirmed that it helped fund the Army’s 0 million effort to train and equip the majority of its active brigade combat teams to fight in large, subterranean complexeslike those that exist in North Korea.

“We can go to the department and say, ‘This is of such importance that I think the department should shine a light on it and invest in it,’ ” he said.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

(US Army)

​Endorsing Futuristic Kit

One example of this is the task force’s interest in an Army program to equip its infantry units with a heads-up display designed to provide soldiers with a digital weapon-sight reticle, as well as tactical data about the immediate battlefield environment.

“The big thing is the Heads-Up Display 3.0. I would tell you that is one of the biggest things we are pushing,” Polanco said. “It’s focused primarily on helping us improve lethality, situational awareness, as well as our mobility.”

The Army is currently working on HUD 1.0, which involves a thermal weapon sight mounted on the soldier’s weapon that can wirelessly transmit the sight reticle into the new dual-tubed Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III B.

The system can also display waypoints and share information with other soldiers in the field, Army officials said.

The HUD 3.0 will draw on the synthetic training environment — one of the Army’s key priorities for modernizing training — and allow soldiers to train and rehearse in a virtual training environment, as well as take into combat.

The service has already had soldiers test the HUD 1.0 version and provide feedback.

“If you look at the increased lethality just by taking that thermal reticle off of the weapon and putting it up into their eye, the testing has been off the chart,” Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, said at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium earlier this year.

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. John Tran)

The Army tried for years in the 1990s to accomplish this with its Land Warrior program, but it could be done only by running bulky cables from the weapon sight to the helmet-mounted display eyepiece. Soldiers found it too awkward and a snag hazard, so the effort was eventually shelved.

“Whatever we want to project up into that reticle — that tube — it’s pretty easy,” Donahue said. “It’s just a matter of how you get it and how much data. We don’t want too much information in there either … we’ve got to figure that out.”

The initial prototypes of the HUD 3.0 are scheduled to be ready in 18 months, he added.

“It is really a state-of-the art capability that allows you to train as you fight from a synthetic training environment standpoint to a live environment,” Polanco said, adding that the task force has submitted a request to the DoD to find funding for the HUD 3.0.

“One of the things we have been able to do as a task force is we have endorsed and advocated strongly for this capability. … It’s going forward as a separate item that we are looking for funding on,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest challenge before the task force is how to ensure all these efforts to make the squad more lethal will not be undone when Mattis is no longer in office.

“We ask ourselves every time we step up to the plate to take on one of these challenges, how do we make it enduring?” L’Etoile said.

“How do we ensure that the progress we make is not unwound when the priorities shift? So it’s important when you take these things on that you are mindful that there ought to be an accompanying policy because … they can’t just get unwound overnight,” he said.

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

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