His weathered hands, aged by war and time, brushed across the fuselage of an aircraft. Like a gust of wind, old memories washed over him.
Stepping out from the hangar, the 99-year-old Marine took a firm grasp of his grandson’s hand as a Marine from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, escorted them onto Camp Pendleton’s flightline.
Nearly a century of experience, coupled with more than 20 years of military service, visibly weighed on his frame. Here was a man who had danced with death above the skies and oceans of the world and lived to tell the tale.
Now, on the day of his birth, Dick Cropley, a retired dive bomber, wanted nothing more than to breathe in the air with the Marines who faithfully carried on the legacy he helped shape.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)
On May 31, 2019, his wish was granted.
“I can’t believe the Marine Corps would do something like this for me,” said Cropley while fighting back tears. “You get out or retire, and it just feels like the world forgot about you. I can’t express how much this means to me.”
Cropley started flying in 1942 and spent more than 20 years in the Marines. The retired Marine Corps Major operated a dive bomber during World War II and conducted operations across the globe in support of his Marine Corps family.
“The planes I flew could fit inside here,” said Cropley as he motioned toward one of the massive engines of an MV-22B Osprey.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)
It was a far cry from the small, single engine airplanes he had trained on and fought in during World War II.
The years seemed to fall from his shoulders as he peered across the flight line. Hundreds of aircraft, aviation equipment and sensors welcomed him to the air strip with a rare and peaceful silence. He was home.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)
It was an emotional welcome for a Marine. Especially in a service that is typically seen as unflinching, hard, calm and calculated war fighters. It was a different and loving feeling on this day. The men watching Cropley soaked it all in and could only smile as they helped fulfill this Marine’s birthday wish.
“Aircraft change, aviation changes,” said Capt. Ross Studwell, the flight equipment and ordnance officer in charge at VMM 164. “But Marines never change. Cropley is a fine example of the commitment the Marine Corps is famous for.”
An endearing and welcoming attitude formed out of pure respect was extended to Cropley, who was invited as an honored guest to a change of command ceremony and a guided tour of VMM-164’s hanger for an inside and personal look at modern day Marine Corps aircraft.
What he didn’t expect was the surprise birthday celebration planned by the Marines. The “Knightriders” presented the former pilot with a cake, celebrating his 99th birthday, honoring his more than 20 years of service.
Semper Fidelis is a Latin phrase that means “Always Faithful.” The motto has been a guiding principle and the foundation on which every Marine is made. Marines have always and will always stay true to that foundation and show it through their actions.
“This is a true honor for VMM-164, but it’s just keeping with the fundamentals of Marine Corps tradition,” said Lt. Col. Joseph DiMambro, the squadron’s commanding officer. “We always remember our brothers and sisters and take pride in caring for our own. Keeping the standards of brotherhood set by Marines like Maj. Cropley means a lot to us and to the Marine Corps.”
The Marines of VMM-164 were honored to celebrate Maj Cropley’s birthday with him and many of them were enamored with his Flight Logbooks and WWII keepsakes from places like Guadalcanal and Bougainville.
Once A Marine Always A Marine
Cropley’s voice broke as he held back tears. His words echoed in the small room as he thanked the Marines and expressed his pride in sharing the title United States Marine — a title few earn.
His parting words were brief, but carried the weight of hundreds of years of tradition. “Semper Fidelis.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Intense humidity, leeches, and snakes were just a few of the dangers our Vietnam Veterans faced while in the jungle — besides getting shot by bad guys. In all, 2.7 million Americans suited up for The Nam, and the average age of an infantryman was just 19-years-old.
And every single one of them at one time or another claimed the title of “f*cking new guy,” or “FNG.”
Patton, Schwarzkopf, and Mattis didn’t start out on day one of their military careers by making all the right decisions, they had to learn from their mistakes time and time again, adapting to them before ultimately succeeding.
Like every story, every man whose served has a beginning — a seed.
“I didn’t know squat, I wasn’t prepared for this,” Larry “Doc” Speed, a Combat Medic from 173rd Delta Company, explains in an interview about his first few days in the bush.
Entering the grunt world as an “FNG” is a stressful time in every new infantryman’s life.
Having to prove your worth from the moment you step onto the battlefield was just as difficult as shaking off those first dramatic moments of being pinned down by accurate enemy gunfire. Until you prove yourself, you’re just another blood bag with a name stenciled on a uniform.
“It’s a different world when you’re brand new, you’re just scared,” Jesse Salcedo, an M60 machine gunner admits. “It took three or four firefights before I could function before I could see the enemy.”
China has long lived with what it considers an existential threat just a few miles off its shores, the breakaway province of Taiwan, a democratically ruled island whose very existence scares China’s ruling communist party to its core.
But with President Donald Trump’s friendly approach to the island and a new, pro-independence government in power in Taipei, China has been seen flexing its military muscle and talking tough about Taiwan in increasingly alarming ways.
Though the US and other western countries provide weapons to Taiwan, the island of just 23 million can’t reasonably expect to stand up to the massive mainland China alone.
As a precondition for any sort of relations with the mainland, Beijing demands states only recognize China’s communist government, not the democratic one in Taiwan that claims to be the country’s true leadership.
Dr. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert for Comodo with experience in the NSA, told Business Insider that if war ever broke out between the two countries that claim to be China’s rightful government, the first step could be the devastation of a US.
“If there was a war that started where China wanted to retake Taiwan, the first thing that might happen is the lights might go out in New York City,” Geers said.
China’s future war plan
China is known to have formidable cyberwarfare capabilities and is thought to have stolen tons of sensitive military technology from the US. Trump is currently pursuing fixes to the leak of US intellectual property into Chinese hands, which some estimate to cost hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
Geers saw first hand how Russia employed hybrid warfare, a mix of cyber, information, and conventional fighting, to attack the Baltic states in 2008 and later annex Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Geers, like other top military minds, consider this a preview of the future of warfare, which will likely take place in all domains simultaneously.
“When they did they first electricity attack in the west in Ukraine, it was far from the field of battle,” Geers said. “It’s interesting that the lights went out on the westernmost part of Ukraine. It’s one of those things that’s eye-opening about the transformation or evolution of warfare.”
For this reason, Geers thinks that China would stage a cyber attack on an important US city to blindside and distract the US.
While the White House puzzled over how to get the infrastructure of a major financial hub back together, China’s ships and planes could quickly make strides towards retaking Taiwan.
Rip-Its are a comforting old friend to American Post-9/11 veterans. Most American probably don’t even know they exist, unless you happen to be a regular at your local Dollar General store. In war zones, Rip-Its are widely available for sale and, in some cases, are free. Move over, coffee, this is the unofficial beverage of the Global War on Terror.
The problem with this is overindulgence may actually be hurting troops as they transition back home.
Rip-It, the military’s favorite brand of energy drink (when deployed), is sold to the military by National Beverage Corp., the same team of drink magicians who brought us Faygo and La Croix. It’s sold in much smaller cans than the ones available in the U.S., but anyone naive enough to believe that keeps U.S. troops from drinking too much is sadly mistaken.
No one gets enough sleep in a war zone as it is. And when soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are awake, they need to stay vigilant about their work, any external threats, and, in some places, internal threats as well. This is one reason coffee has been a mainstay of the U.S. military for so long.
The rise in popularity of energy drinks like Rip-It happened to coincide with a huge number of young people, the primary consumers of energy drinks, heading off to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The love affair’s timing is a perfect storm. It became a little slice of home and comfort while pulling double duty keeping people awake when they needed to be.
Even people who never drank an energy drink before were likely to try at least one while deployed.
Eventually, these same troops returned home from their combat deployments. The study found 75 percent of soldiers were still drinking them after coming home. Of those,16 percent were drinking two or more per day, an amount the study defined as “excessive.”
Those found to be drinking more were more likely to exhibit signs of mental distress or other mental issues, especially aggressive behaviors, sleeplessness, alcohol misuse, and excessive fatigue after being home for seven months after their combat deployment. Not only that, those drinking to excess “are associated with being less responsive to evidence-based treatments for PTSD,” the authors of the study wrote.
Troops who consumed fewer than two drinks reported a lower rate of these symptoms.
The study didn’t address Rip-It specifically, though it did ask what size study participants were prone to using. The use of drinks by this Army sample was five times higher than in a previous study of airmen and civilians in the general population.
Military leaders aren’t likely to call for an end to the widespread use of energy drinks, but many have already called on their troops to cut down on consumption.
Born in 1920, Anderson Washington just celebrated his 100th birthday. A Coast Guard veteran of World War II, he’s experienced a lot during his lifetime.
Washington grew up in New Orleans during a time of deep segregation. As a Black man, it was especially difficult for him and his family. When he was asked what it was like as a young boy growing up, he shook his head in sadness. “It wasn’t pleasant,” he shared. Washington said that he tries not to think of those times because they were so bad. He continued, “I try to avoid remembering certain things. So much unpleasantness that I try to block it all out.”
Later in his life during his early 20s, World War II broke out and he watched the United States join the fight after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Washington knew that he would most likely be drafted and wanted to retain some manner of control over where he went. “The day I enlisted was a couple of days after the segregated laws were changed in the military. I chose to join the Coast Guard rather than the Army, where I felt I was sure to have disadvantages,” he explained.
Following basic training, Washington was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Comanche in 1942. Although often referred to as the “lifesaving service,” the Coast Guard was so much more than that. Much of the American public may not even realize how involved they were during World War II and how integral their service was to the nation. During the spring of 1940, Nazi Germany had taken over Denmark. Greenland, a Denmark territory, was then assigned to be a part of a defense system.
President Roosevelt put the Coast Guard in charge of it.
In Greenland, the Coast Guard was responsible for search and rescue operations, convoy assignments and defending it from Nazi invasion. One of the cutters assigned was Washington’s. One of the others, the Northland, was actually the first American unit to engage with the enemy during World War II. They would go on to support land, air and sea forces in all of the combat theaters during the war.
When Washington was asked what it was like to serve in the Coast Guard as a Black man, he was conflicted. “At the time, it was pretty bad with ups and downs throughout. Looking back, it was a good experience for me though. It was a great chance to see the world,” he said.
Washington was a Coxswain during his time in the service. “We were on troop transport, bringing troops overseas,” he explained. He remembers bringing soldiers and marines to places like North Africa and along various stops in Europe. In 1943, a German submarine launched torpedoes on the convoy his cutter was escorting. A torpedo hit the USAT Dorchester on her starboard side.
It exploded and sank almost immediately.
Washington’s cutter sped ahead alongside the Escanaba to rescue survivors. Together, they managed to save the lives of 229 men. Hundreds died in the water, mostly likely due to hypothermia. Four of the men that would perish aboard the Dorchester were Army Chaplains, who gave up their own life preservers for others. Reports later detailed this heroic act and how they came together in prayers as the ship sank.
The Coast Guard is often overlooked when discussions of the Battle of the Atlantic arise. But her fleet served a vital and important role in convoy escort and combat. Her warships not only protected allied convoys but sank enemies and captured their crews.
The Coast Guard even helped plan the naval operations for the D-Day Invasion of Normandy.
In 1945, the war was ending. The Coast Guard captured the first enemy vessel once American joined the war and then she captured the last of them as it ended. Washington left the Coast Guard in 1946 and came home to a segregated United States. “It was miserable,” he said. Despite serving his country proudly during the war, he was still looked at as less than due to the color of his skin when he returned.
Washington would become integral in the fight for Civil Rights. “I was one of three plaintiffs who fought and sued to desegregate New Orleans,” he shared. He is the only plaintiff still alive from that successful suit today.
When asked what advice he would give to activists who are still fighting for social justice and equal rights, Washington got right to the point. “Any way you cut it or talk about it, it boils down to voting,” he explained. He encouraged those championing causes to find their platforms, use their voices and vote.
Washington never dreamed he’d make it to 100 years old.
Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the city of New Orleans and the United States Coast Guard came together to safely celebrate his big day. Washington also didn’t realize how many lives he had touched with his own. At his celebration, he was saluted by Captain Michael Paradise, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Base New Orleans and thanked for his dedicated service.
Washington is grateful for his long life and hopeful for the future for this country. He knows the best is yet to come.
It’s all about discipline, according to the Navy SEAL and admiral who led one group of special operators when they captured Saddam Hussein and all of special operations when they killed Osama bin Laden. He wrote the book on special operations, had a successful 37-year career in the military, but says the key to saving the world is making your bed.
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, visits U.S. troops on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013, at Camp McCloskey, Logar province, Afghanistan.
Navy Adm. William McRaven is best known for overseeing Operation Neptune Spear — the raid to kill bin Laden — while he was the commander of Joint Special Operations Command. It was a critical and hotly debated operation, with planners arguing about insertion methods, what aircraft to use, and other details.
In the end, McRaven ordered two specially-equipped Black Hawks as part of the insertion and extraction, and the mission was a roaring success. While it angered an American ally, it also resulted in the death of bin Laden and the seizure of massive amounts of important intelligence.
A German soldier stands guard outside Fort Eben Emael in Belgium in May 1940. The Germans captured the fort with only 87 paratroopers because the special operators seized the initiative in the first moments of the battle.
The book/thesis goes through a detailed examination of eight historic special operations from Germany attacking the Belgians at Fort Eben Emael in 1940 to a 1976 Israeli Raid into Uganda in 1976. McRaven’s assessment of special operations focuses on how successful ones have created and maintained “Relative Superiority,” where operators are able to overcome numerical and defensive shortcomings thanks to creating their own conditions for the fight.
The HMS Campbeltown sits against the drydock in St. Nazaire, France, in the minutes before it blew up and destroyed the docks for the rest of the war. British commandos sacrificed themselves by the hundreds to make the mission successful and cripple Germany in World War II.
This is mainly about creating an imbalance of power and requires initiative. When he explains the concept in his writing, he identifies the moment that a few dozen German paratroopers were able to use shaped charges to knock out the most important defenses on Eben Emael. In the British St. Nazaire Raid, relative superiority was achieved when the commandos were able to get the explosives-laden HMS Campbeltown from the river entrance to the German-held drydocks.
To be clear, achieving relative superiority doesn’t guarantee success, but McRaven maintains that it is necessary for success, and special operations planning should identify what will cause the attackers to achieve relative superiority and how they can protect it during the operation.
On missions like the capture of Saddam Hussein, this special operations relative superiority is unnecessary, because he was hiding in a hole. The more traditional relative superiority of outnumbering and outgunning your enemy provided the edge there. But when it came to the bin Laden raid, where dozens of SEALs and other operators would insert via helicopters while hiding from air defenses, things were different.
Admiral McRaven addresses the University of Texas at Austin Class of 2014
For that, Operation Neptune Spear needed to attain relative superiority by inserting without triggering Pakistani defenses. Once in control of the perimeter, the SEALs would have relative superiority, easily overcoming the terrorist defenders and bin Laden himself.
The ultimately successful mission capped a highly successful career for McRaven that, ironically, had begun with him being fired from his first SEAL unit. His first leadership position had been leading a squad in SEAL Team 6, but he had clashed with the team commander and was fired. He proceeded to command a platoon in SEAL Team 4 and then all of SEAL Team 3 as he climbed the ranks.
Just months before his official retirement, McRaven gave a commencement speech at The University of Texas at Austin for the graduating class of 2014 where he emphasized the importance of making your bed every morning. That section of his speech focused on how achieving one task at the start of the day allowed a person to build momentum and tackle their other tasks.
But it also tied into his belief that Saddam Hussein had doomed himself and that other rogue leaders, like bin Laden, were doomed. McRaven published Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World in 2017. In the book, he discusses going most days to question Hussein when he was a prisoner and seeing the former dictator’s unmade bed.
Not making your bed shows a lack of discipline, and McRaven is all about discipline. He got himself fired from SEAL Team 6 because he pushed for more rigorous discipline, he cites the importance of discipline in two of the case studies in The Theory of Special Operations, and he has discussed the importance of discipline in speeches, addresses, and operations across his career.
So be disciplined, make your bed, and you’ll never find the scary SEAL under it. You might even get to question the next Hussein and help kill the next bin Laden.
It’s no surprise that troops love football and this year’s Super Bowl showed the military some love right back. Nearly everything, from the pre-show to the coin toss to the USAA Salute to Service Lounge, showed appreciation and respect to all those who have and are currently serving our nation.
Here are the highlights:
7th Annual NFL Honors
The night before the big game, Marine Corps veteran and comedian Rob Riggle hosted the 7th annual NFL Honors. Throughout his opening monologue, where he took priceless jabs at players, he wore an Honor Ring on his right index finger. The 22Kill Honor Ring is a black band, worn on the index finger, and a symbol of support and empowerment for the all military veterans seeking mental health treatment.
It serves as a reminder to us all of the estimated 18-22 veterans who commit suicide every day. While there is hope — these numbers are in decline — the ring Rob Riggle wore shows that the mission will continue until that number reaches zero.
Thankfully for everyone involved, Riggle kept his “Lt. Col. Knifehand” sheathed. (Screengrab via NFL YouTube)
2017 Salute to Service Award
At the Gala, a panel of prior recipients and USAA members recognized members of the NFL community for their contributions to the Armed Forces.
This year’s recipient of the 2017 Salute to Service Award is Andre Roberts, wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons. Roberts is the son of two Army veterans and played for The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. He was recognized for his many visits to VA hospitals, off-season travel to military installations, and his dedication to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). His coach, Dan Quinn, received the award last year.
The National Anthem
American singer-songwriter Pink performed a beautiful rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner and was accompanied by The President’s Own United States Marine Band and the Joint Service Color Guard from the Military District of Washington. The Philadelphia native came down with the flu earlier in the day, but she still channeled her inner Whitney Houston.
The most impressive addition to the National Anthem was flyover by the United States Air Force Heritage Flight. The Heritage Flight serves as the Air Force’s demonstration team and performs breathtaking maneuvers all across the country. This time, it was over the frigid Minneapolis sunset. All this and every single player stood with their hand over their heart.
The coin toss is a prestigious ceremony that is often reserved for presidents, NFL Hall of Fame players, and other such famous guests. This year, the toss was performed by Woody Williams, a WWII Marine who acted with extreme valor at the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was accompanied by fourteen other Medal of Honor recipients — ten from the Vietnam War and four from the Global War on Terrorism.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said,
The NFL is proud to honor our Nation’s heroes at Super Bowl LII. These courageous individuals deserve to be recognized on America’s biggest stage. We are grateful for their service to our country and we are pleased to continue the NFL’s longstanding tradition of hosting special tributes to service members at the Super Bowl.
The New England Patriots won the coin toss and deferred to the Philadelphia Eagles — it was time to play.
Even those who don’t care about sports still tuned in for the commercials. While everyone waited for the newest Star Wars and Avengers commercials, for the first time in 30 years, the USMC surprised viewers by airing its newest Marine Corps recruitment commercial during the Super Bowl — you might’ve missed it, though.
The ad didn’t air on television, but rather to everyone viewing from a computer or mobile device. Since most views between 18 and 24 intake most of their content through the internet as opposed to television, it was targeted perfectly to prospective recruits.
USAA teamed up with the NFL to offer current former military members discounted tickets to the Super Bowl Experience at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The experience was an interactive NFL theme park that completely filled a 30,000-foot retail space. As part of this massive event, USAA invited current military, veterans, and their families to visit an exclusive Salute to Service Military Appreciation Lounge on Saturday.
USAA’s Salute to Service Lounge was the only stop of its kind during the entire Super Bowl weekend, allowing those who came by the chance to meet some of their favorite NFL personalities, get signed memorabilia, and listen to NFL stars talk about their experiences in football and with the military.
When Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby first interviewed to be Army Futures Command’s enlisted leader, he had no idea what to expect.
The command was still in its nascent stages with no headquarters building and he could only find a brief description of its vision to modernize the Army.
Instead, Crosby was focused on the battlefield, observing his troops defeat ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. The prospect of the new job seemed like a 180-degree departure from his post overseeing Operation Inherent Resolve’s Combined Joint Task Force.
He then reflected on the coalition troops he had lost during his tour. Then of the soldiers who never returned home from his other deployments, including back-to-back tours to Iraq from 2005 to 2008.
He decided he wanted to help change how future soldiers would fight, hopefully keeping them safer and more lethal.
“It’s something bigger than myself,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m fired up about this. This is a bold move by the Army.”
Embedded with industry, academia
Inside a high-rise office building in the heart of Texas, the command’s headquarters bustled on a weekday in late June.
Unlike other Army units, the office space felt more like that, an office, rather than a typical military workplace.
The command had a low profile in its upper-floor nest inside the University of Texas System building, overlooking downtown and the domed state capitol.
Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, right, assigned to Army Futures Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, conducts a live demonstration of new Army equipment at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, April 11, 2019.
(Photo by Luke J. Allen)
Among the rows of cubicles, soldiers wore no uniforms as they worked alongside federal employees and contractors. Many soldiers went by their first name in the office, often frequented by innovators, entrepreneurs and academic partners.
The lowest-ranked soldier was a sergeant and up the chain were senior executive service civilians and a four-star general.
A few blocks down 7th Street, another group of soldiers and federal employees from the command were embedded in an incubator hub to get even closer to innovators.
The Army Applications Laboratory occupies a corner on the eighth floor of Capital Factory, which dubs itself the center of gravity for startups in Texas. The lab shares space with other defense agencies and officials call it a “concierge service” to help small companies navigate Defense Department acquisition rules and regulations.
“They’re nested and tied in with industry,” Crosby said.
The command also provides research funding to over 300 colleges and universities, he added
Those efforts include an Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh that activated earlier this year.
In May, the University of Texas System also announced it had committed at least million to support its efforts with the command, according to a news release.
More recently, the command agreed to a partnership with Vanderbilt University in Nashville. As part of it, soldiers with 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team would work with engineers to inspire new technology.
Soldiers up the road at Fort Hood may also soon be able to do the same at UT and Texas AM University.
“That is what we’re looking to replicate with other divisions in the Army,” Crosby said. “It will take some time.”
In on the groundfloor
Since October 2017 when the Army announced its intent to create the command to be the focal point of modernization efforts, it wasted no time laying its foundation.
It now manages eight cross-functional teams at military sites across the country, allowing soldiers to team with acquisition and science and technology experts at the beginning of projects.
The teams tackle six priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality — all of which have since been allocated billion over the next five years.
The next step was to place its headquarters in an innovative city, where it could tap into industry and academic talent to develop new technologies that give soldiers an edge against near-peer threats.
Gen. John Murray, left, commander of Army Futures Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, the command’s senior enlisted leader, participate in a command synchronization session at the University of Texas at Austin, April 26, 2019.
(Photo by Luke J. Allen)
After an exhaustive search of over 150 cities, the Army chose Austin. The move marked the start of the Army’s largest reorganization effort since 1973, when both the Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command were established.
The location away from a military post was intentional. Rather than surrounded by a security fence, the command is surrounded by corporate America.
“We’re part of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, startups, academia,” Crosby said. “We’re in that flow of where ideas are presented.”
As it nears full operational capability this summer, Futures Command has already borne fruit since it activated August 2018.
Its collaborative efforts have cut the time it takes project requirements to be approved from five or seven years to just three months or less.
Once prototypes are developed, soldiers are also more involved in testing the equipment before it begins rolling off an assembly line.
By doing this, the Army hopes to learn from past projects that failed to meet soldier expectations.
The Main Battle Tank-70 project in the 1960s, for instance, went well over budget before it was finally canceled. New efforts then led to the M1 Abrams tank.
Until the Army got the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, it spent significant funding on the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle in the 1960s, which never entered service.
“So we’re trying to avoid that,” Crosby said. “We’re trying to let soldiers touch it. Those soldier touchpoints are a big success story.”
Futures Command is not a traditional military command. Its headquarters personnel, which will eventually number about 100 soldiers and 400 civilians, are encouraged to think differently.
A new type of culture has spread across the command, pushing many soldiers and federal employees out of their comfort zone to learn how to work in a more corporate environment.
“The culture we really look to embrace is to have some elasticity; be able to stretch,” Crosby said. “Don’t get in the box, don’t even use a box — get rid of the box.”
Crosby and other leaders will often elicit ideas from younger personnel, who may think of another approach to remedy a problem.
“I’m not going to somebody who has been in the uniform for 20 to 30 years, because they’re pretty much locked on their ideas,” he said. “They don’t want to change.”
A young staff sergeant once told the sergeant major the command could save thousands if they just removed the printers from the office.
The move, which is still being mulled over, would force people to rely more on technology while also saving money in paper, ink and electricity.
While it may annoy some, Crosby likens the idea to when a GPS device reroutes a driver because of traffic on a road. The driver may be upset at first, not knowing where the device is pointing, but the new route ends up being quicker.
Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, center, deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command and commander of Futures and Concepts Center, talks with Josh Baer, founder of Capital Factory, during a South by Southwest Startup Crawl on March 8, 2019, in Austin, Texas.
(Photo by Anthony Small)
“You have to reprogram what you think,” he said. “I’m not used to this road, why are they taking me here? Then you come to find out, it’s not a bad route.”
For Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Robinson, his role as a human resources specialist is vastly different from his previous job as a mailroom supervisor at 4th Infantry Division.
As the headquarters’ youngest soldier, Robinson, 31, often handles the administrative actions of organizations that continue to realign under the budding command.
Among them are the Army Capabilities Integration Center that transitioned over to be the command’s Futures and Concepts Center. The Research, Development and Engineering Command then realigned to be its Combat Capabilities Development Command.
Research elements at the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command have also realigned to the Army’s new major command.
“The processes and actions are already in place,” Robinson said of his old position, “but here you’re trying to recreate and change pretty much everything.”
Since he started in November 2018, he said he now has a wider view of the Army. Being immersed in a corporate setting, he added, may also help him in a career after the military.
“The job itself and working with different organizations opens up a [broader perspective],” he said, “and helps you not just generalize but operationalize a different train of thought.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, left, Army Futures Command’s senior enlisted leader, participates in the command’s activation ceremony in Austin, Texas, Aug. 24, 2018, along with Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army; Army Secretary Mark Esper; and its commander, Gen. John Murray.
(Photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)
While chaotic at times, Julia McDonald, a federal employee who handles technology and futures analysis for the commander’s action group, has grabbed ahold of the whirlwind ride.
“It moves fast around here,” she said of when quick decisions are made and need to be implemented at a moment’s notice. “Fifteen minutes seems like an hour or two.”
Building up a major command is not without its growing pains. Even its commander, Gen. John Murray, has referred to his command as a “startup trying to manage a merger.”
“Everybody is just trying to stand up their staff sections and understand that this is your lane and this is my lane,” McDonald said. “And how do we all work together now that we’re in the same command?”
The current challenges could pay off once the seeds planted today grow into new capabilities that help soldiers.
For Crosby, that’s a personal mission. In his last deployment, nearly 20 coalition members, including U.S. soldiers, died in combat or in accidents and many more were wounded as they fought against ISIS.
“We have to get it right, and I know we will,” he said. “Everybody is depending on us.”
‘Sniper: Assassin’s End’ is now available on Blu-ray & Digital!
One of the most popular war movie characters ever created is back: Master Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Beckett. Tom Berenger will reprise his role as Beckett in the upcoming movie
Sniper: Assassin’s End — the eighth in the Sniper series. Now the series is a kind of “Fast & Furious” of war movies, bringing together a family of characters familiar to viewers and fun to watch.
Sniper was released in 1993, at a time when the United States had few enemies in the world. But what the original Sniper did was begin a series of films that were both true to the spirit of those who serve in the U.S. military while pointing out some of the biggest issues of our time.
Here are 8 things for anyone to love about the
1. ‘Sniper’ uses the same cast when they bring characters back
What’s unique about every subsequent Sniper film is that the original players come back to reprise their roles when called. They may not be in every Sniper movie, but there isn’t some low-rent version of Tom Berenger trying to be Beckett. Speaking of which, now 70 years old, Tom Berenger still rocks a ghillie suit.
Later in the series, Chad Michael Collins joins the family as Beckett’s son Brandon and Dennis “Allstate” Haysbert reprises his role as “The Colonel.” In Sniper: Assassin’s End, actor Lochlyn Munro joins the cast – but for how long?
2. The series depicts real-world sniper stories
In the original Sniper, Thomas Beckett takes down an enemy sniper tracking his team with a well-placed shot through the enemy shooter’s own scope. While this has been depicted on-screen in later movies, Sniper was the first.
This kill was originally scored in real life by sniper and Marine Corps legend Carlos Hathcock. Hathcock may not have the most confirmed kills or the longest shots, but he’s legendary for feats like this. While hitting a sniper through his own scope may sound unbelievable, Hathcock’s story has been confirmed by two others on the scene.
3. “Sniper” has love for the spotter
Unlike so many low-thought, low-effort movies, the Sniper series doesn’t depict a “lone wolf,” gung-ho type who’s fighting the entire world on his lonesome. Beckett is rarely seen without a spotter, and even acts as a spotter for other snipers.
4. Beckett struggles with PTSD
One of the recurring motifs throughout the Sniper series, is one that wasn’t really addressed way back when or even in time for Sniper 2 in 2002: post-traumatic stress disorder. In the first Sniper movie, Beckett and Miller talk about the emotional distress of killing on the battlefield. In the sequel, Beckett is recruited because his PTSD keeps him from living a normal civilian life.
They even use the word “transition” in 2002.
Beckett (also a Vietnam veteran), even finds some catharsis from a visit to Ho Chi Minh City (called “Saigon” during Beckett’s time there), a real thing Vietnam vets do to find some inner peace.
5. They fought real-world bad guys
In 1993, the snipers were on the front lines of the drug war, trying to keep the Panama Canal Zone (still American then) in good hands. Next, they took on ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, still fresh from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. From there, they took on Islamic terrorism, Congolese militias, ISIS, and organized crime syndicates.
6. There’s a lot of love for Marines
It features a Master Gunnery Sergeant. How many Master Gunnery Sergeants have you ever seen in war movies? Thomas Beckett was likely given that rank by the film’s creators because they wanted to establish just how extensive his knowledge is – and why he wouldn’t just revert to being a paper pusher later on.
Beckett also uses his Ka-Bar knife to good effect while hunting a sniper on his trail. If you’re an old-school Marine who misses the days of EGAs printed on woodland BDUs and tightly-bloused pants tucked into black-on-green jungle boots, strap in for some nostalgia.
7. The violence is uncharacteristic of other war movies
The original Sniper movie was designed to end the cartoonish depiction of war violence in action movies — meaning violent movies were supposed to depict violence on screen. Movies like Rambo III showed death and destruction, but even Rambo’s decimation of the Red Army in Afghanistan showed a surprising lack of blood.
Sniper didn’t have that problem. By design.
Subsequent iterations of the Sniper series have been fairly true to that vision, pulling no punches and attempting to show just how brutal and up-close violence can be.
8. Thomas Beckett reminds us of a really good NCO
There’s something comforting about a non-commissioned officer who’s genuinely interested in your success and is there to not only be a great leader and teacher but really wants to help you. We really like that Beckett is there to point out where other characters mess up but it’s really cool when he also praises them for what they do well – and he does it throughout the series.
More than that, he always shows up like a badass to take care of business and do things the right way. Thomas Beckett is always out of bubblegum.
Sniper: Assassin’s End OFFICIAL TRAILER – Available on Blu-ray & Digital 6/16
We Are The Mighty’s editor-in-chief Ward Carroll recently sat down with Got Your 6‘s executive director Bill Rausch — a West Point graduate and Iraq War vet — to talk about the organization’s campaign to compel Americans to vote by viewing the experience through the lens of military veterans and for vets to lead the effort by their example.
WATM: What do you hope to gain by going to the conventions?
Bill Rausch: Over the next two weeks, Cleveland and Philadelphia will be the epicenter of the presidential campaign, which is why our attendance as veteran leaders is critical. Both campaigns have been supportive in providing credentials to our team helping us achieve four main objectives, which are to educate the country about the value of veterans as civic assets, engage the candidates on issues of importance to the veteran and military communities, compel veterans to participate in the electoral process as voters, community leaders, and candidates themselves, and, finally, to leverage the service and experience of veterans and military personnel as inspiration for all Americans to vote.
WATM: What should the veteran community take from your efforts over the next few weeks?
BR: Well, it’s not really about what veterans should take from it, it’s more like a challenge to veterans and the entire military community. Like we did during our time in uniform, we need to lead. As veterans and civic assets, we have a responsibility to call the country to action this November by participating in the electoral process — whether it be by registering and committing to vote, volunteering for a campaign, or running for state or local office. We need to engage candidates on policy issues that impact the lives and welfare of veterans and military service members. Any candidate running for federal, state, or local office should be challenged to clearly define their policy stances on issues of importance to veterans. And, vets need to educate the country about the value of veterans as civic assets. Veterans may have taken off the uniform but their commitment to service has not faltered. Veterans vote at higher rates, volunteer more, and participate in their communities at rates higher than their civilian counterparts. It’s time we change the narrative of the damaged veteran by showcasing and highlighting actual veteran leaders serving their communities.
WATM: And what about the broader American public; what should they take from this effort?
BR: Good question. We also want to challenge the American public. While we’re focused on the military community, this campaign applies to everyone. All Americans can honor the sacrifice of veterans by actively participating in our democratic process. Register and vote in November, regardless of your background or political leanings. We can all unite in the goal of increasing the political engagement of our citizens. In January 2005, 80 percent of registered Iraqis went to the polls to vote in the first national election after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Images were beamed around the world of Iraqi voters holding up their ink-stained fingers as a sign of pride and hope for the future. Despite our national commitment to spreading the institution of democracy to others, America’s voting turnout was a paltry 54 percent of the eligible voting public in November 2012. We can and should do better. And all of us — not just vets, but all of us — should insist that the debates deal with real issues, ones that impact the lives and welfare of veterans and military service members. Civilians have a responsibility to challenge candidates to outline their plans for supporting and empowering our veterans.
WATM: You’ve worked on a major presidential campaign, testified in front of congress and work with government leaders as the executive director of Got Your 6. Of all of that experience, what do you think informs this campaign the most?
BR: I deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in May of 2006 on the heels of the December 2005 Iraqi election and I met with so many Iraqis who proudly showed me photos of themselves and their families holding up their purple fingers on election day. These men and women faced down roadside bombs, suicide bombers, and snipers to participate in their democracy with 80 percent turnout. Over the past 100 years, we’ve not even come close to that level of turnout. We can do better. We should do better. We will do better.
WATM: Given the plans and statements made by both candidates on reforming the VA, is there a candidate that you support?
BR: Got Your 6 is a non-partisan, non-profit veterans organization. We do not publicly support one candidate or party over the other. I am a member of the ‘veteran party’ and serving the veteran and military family community is my primary purpose this campaign cycle.
WATM: Do you know who you are going to vote for?
BR: I can tell you that I plan on voting at my local polling place, Fire Station No. 4 in Alexandria, VA with my wife and 2-year-old son. I believe that voting is a civic responsibility and that our country is stronger when more people participate in our democracy. For me, voting as a family is a way to lead by example and show my son the importance of voting in every election. It’s our duty and obligation as citizens of this great country to vote on November 8th, 2016 which happens to be veterans week and I can’t think of a better week for election day to fall on.
WATM: Agreed. Thanks for your time Bill, and we look forward to watching you and your team in Cleveland and Philadelphia over the next few weeks.
The Republican majority on the House Veterans Affairs Committee pushed through a voice vote Wednesday to subpoena documents from the Department of Veterans Affairs on millions spent for artworks at VA facilities and huge cost overruns at a Denver-area hospital.
“It’s unfortunate that the VA’s continuing lack of transparency has led us to this decision” to move for the subpoenas, said Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and the committee chairman.
“I am confident we are not receiving the whole picture from the department” on spending for art and ornamental furnishings, including $6.4 million at Palo Alto, California, facilities.
The committee also wants specifics on the costs for a new Aurora, Colorado, facility that ballooned to $1.7 billion, nearly three times the original estimate.
Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat and the ranking committee member, argued that the VA was already working to provide answers and warned that the subpoenas could expose whistleblowers. “Now you will be outing employees who were honest with investigators” on the artworks and the spending on the Aurora facility, Takano said.
In June, Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said, “We got a lot of things wrong” with construction of the Aurora facility, but releasing an internal VA investigation would be counterproductive.
“You end up chilling the whole investigative process,” Gibson said in a news conference at the construction site.
The subpoenas ask for all information on VA art and ornamental furniture purchases since 2010. The VA’s response in the inquiry thus far has been “wholly incomplete,” Miller charged.
“We will not accept VA trying to pull the wool over the eyes of this committee and the American people for poor decision-making and waste of funds made on the part of the department,” Miller said.
“VA claims to have spent approximately $4.7 million on art nationwide from January 2010 to July 2016, yet the committee has already substantiated over $6.4 million spent during this period in the Palo Alto health care system alone,” he said.
Miller again singled out artworks at the Palo Alto Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, described by the VA as one of five facilities nationwide designed to provide intensive rehabilitative care to veterans and service members with severe injuries to more than one organ system. Miller made similar complaints about Palo Alto nearly a year ago in a House floor speech.
Miller took issue with “Harbor,” a huge rock sculpture in a pool that its designers said was intended to evoke “a sense of transformation, rebuilding and self-investigation.”
When installation was included, it cost nearly $1 million “to put the rock up,” Miller told the committee.
Miller also complained about an artwork called “Horizon” on the walls of the Palo Alto facility’s parking garage.
“Horizon” spells out in Morse code the “With malice toward none …” quote from President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Second Inaugural address and a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, which says in part, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.”
The Navy is making an aggressive push to explore and refine the new combat tactics, offensive weaponry, and networking technologies needed for modern warfare on the open seas as part of a service-wide strategic initiative to prepare the fleet for major ocean combat against increasingly high-tech enemies.
The San Diego-based Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center is moving quickly on new ocean warfare training to help the US Navy “regain sea control in great power competition,” Lt. Cmdr. Seth Powell, program manager, Warfare Tactics Instructor Program, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The 15-to-17 week courses place sailors on surface ships in combat-like scenarios intended to mirror the most advanced current and future enemy threats they are likely to encounter. Course leaders say the training involves a concentrated, in depth focus on weapons systems likely to be used by potential enemies.
“One of the big things we focus on is exactly what tactics we have to take into account, given the capabilities of the enemy,” Powell said.
Adjusting to a fast-evolving threat environment, involving technologically sophisticated adversaries, requires course participants to experiment with new Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures necessary to meet as-of-yet unprecedented kinds of attacks.
“How do we take ready ships and turn them into more lethal ships? We put everything they have learned on the ships and out at sea,” Powell said.
The current courses have in part been put together through Warfighter Tactics Instructor training, preparations aimed at breaking the training down into specific warfare focus areas including integrated air and missile defense, surface warfare and amphibious warfare; the Navy plans to stand up a mine warfare program in 2019.
Lessons learned and findings from the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center training are expected to inform the development of Navy doctrine as well as the acquisition priorities needed for future war scenarios, Powell added.
“As we bring advanced systems online, we are thinking about how to utilize them with advanced tactical training,” he said.
Some of the particular kinds of enemy weapons these courses anticipate for the future include a range of emerging new systems — to include lasers, rail-guns and long-range missiles, among other technologies.
Not surprisingly, these courses appear as somewhat of a linear outgrowth or tactical manifestation of the Navy’s 2016 Surface Force Strategy document. Tilted “Return to Sea Control,” the strategy paper lists a number of specific enemy threat areas of concern focused upon by course trainers.
Examples of threats cited by the strategy paper include “anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, integrated and layered sensor systems, targeting networks, long-range bombers, advanced fighter aircraft, submarines, mines, advanced integrated air defenses, electronic warfare, and cyber and space technologies.”
Much like the training courses and the Surface Force Strategy, the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept also builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, in place now for a number of years. This strategic approach emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed.
Having cyber, space, and missile weapons — along with over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons — are relevant to offensive attack as well as the “distributed” portion of the strategy. Having an ability to defend against a wider range of attacks and strike from long-distances enables the fleet to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations, making US Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower.
A Phalanx close-in weapons system fires during a live-fire exercise aboard the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)
Interestingly, the pressing need to emphasize offensive attack in the Navy fleet appears to have roots in previous Navy strategic thinking.
Part of the overall strategic rationale is to move the force back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors, such as that which was emphasized during the Cold War. While the importance of this kind of strategic and tactical thinking never disappeared, these things were emphasized less during the last 15-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, securing the international waterways, counter-piracy, and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure.
These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increase its offensive “lethality” given that rivals such as Russia and China have precision-guided anti-ship missiles able to hit targets at ranges greater than 900 miles in some cases. The advent of new cyber and electronic warfare attack technologies, enemy drones and the rapid global proliferation of sea mines all present uniquely modern nuances when compared to previous Cold-War strategic paradigms.
Nevertheless, the most current Naval Surface Warfare Strategy does, by design, appear to be somewhat of a higher-tech, modern adaptation of some fundamental elements of the Navy’s Cold-War-era approach — a time when major naval warfare against a Soviet force was envisioned as a realistic contingency.
A 1987 essay titled “Strategy Concept of the US Navy,” published by Naval History and Heritage Command, cites the importance of long-range offensive firepower and targeting sensors in a geographically dispersed or expansive open ocean warfare environment. The paper goes so far as to say the very survivability of US Naval Forces and the accomplishment of their missions depends upon offensive firepower.
“Integrated forces may be geographically distant, but their movements, sensors, and weapons are coordinated to provide maximum mutual support and offensive capability,” the paper writes.
The Cold War-era Strategic Concepts document also specifies that “Naval defensive capability should include long-range detection systems such as airborne early warning, quick reacting command and control systems and effective defensive weapons systems.”
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The new weapons would render NATO’s US-led missile defense “useless,” and is a testament to the international community’s failure to contain Russia’s military development, the Associated Press reported Putin as saying.
I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened. You have failed to contain Russia.