Thousands of U.S. troops who have deployed in support of the mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, are now eligible for a new medal, officials announced.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made announced the creation of the Operation Inherent Resolve medal during a change of command ceremony on Wednesday at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
Carter segued into the announcement while noting that CentCom’s outgoing leader, ArmyGen. Lloyd Austin, and his successor, Army Gen. Joe Votel, have both “across their careers … demonstrated what can be described as inherent resolve.
“It is fitting then, that as we mark the change of command between these two leaders, that we introduce today the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal,” the secretary said.
“I am pleased to announce today, by the president’s order and upon [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr.] and my recommendation, that our sailors, soldiers,airmen, and Marines serving in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve are eligible for this medal and distinction,” he added.
“As we continue to accelerate our counter-ISIL campaign, we will continue to depend upon the men and women of CentCom,” Carter said. “It is you who provide us the flexibility to respond to any threat across a critical region.”
President Barack Obama on Wednesday issued an executive order establishing the medal to service members who “serve or have served in Iraq, Syria, or contiguous waters or airspace on or after June 15, 2014.”
With the operation still going on, an end-date for medal eligibility has yet to be established.
To qualify for the new medal, a service member must have been present in Iraq, Syria or the contiguous waters or airspace of either country on or after June 15, 2014, for at least 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days, according to the Defense Department.
Service members who were killed or were medically evacuated from the campaign theater due to wounds or injuries immediately qualify for award, as do members who engaged in combat.
Troops awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for their service in Iraq and Syria after the start of Operation Inherent Resolve remain qualified for the older medal. They can apply to their military branch to be awarded the new medal, but may not receive both medals for the same act, achievement or period of service, officials said.
Service members serving deployed outside of Iraq and Syria for Operation Inherent Resolve will continue to be awarded the expeditionary medal.
Now that women are eligible for any combat job in the U.S. military, the top brass thinks it might be time for them to register for the draft as well. The civilian government doesn’t entirely agree. Yet, a short time ago, Congressman (and combat veteran) Duncan Hunter added legislation to the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require women to register for the draft.
The only problem is Hunter didn’t want it to happen. He only wanted to force a debate on the issue of women in combat. He never expected the idea of women registering for the draft to pass. The provision gained unexpected support and momentum in the House Armed Services Committee and passed. (Ironically, Hunter voted against his own amendment.)
Today, the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives removed Hunter’s provisions before the NDAA was introduced on the greater House floor, a move that caused Congressional Democrats to criticize Republicans for not bringing the bill to a potentially damaging public debate.
The idea of women registering is not entirely dead yet. In their version of the NDAA, the Senate Armed Services Committee also includes language that would force women to register for Selective Service. That provision is expected to be removed during closed-door meetings between the two houses of Congress as they prepare a compromise bill for President Obama to sign.
The US military dispatched several powerful strategic military assets to the Korean Peninsula Aug. 31 in a “show of force.”
Two Air Force B-1B Lancers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and four Marine Corp F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan drilled alongside four South Korean F-15 fighters, practicing bombing North Korea’s core facilities, according to US Pacific Command.
The B-1 carries the largest conventional payload of any Air Force bomber, and the F-35 is one of America’s top stealth fighters.
“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners, and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander, US Pacific Air Forces, said in a statement. “This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat. Our forward-deployed force will be the first to the fight, ready to deliver a lethal response at a moment’s notice if our nation calls.”
The display of allied military power comes just days after North Korea launched three short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea/Sea of Japan and fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan, raising alarms. North Korea called the second launch a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” a reference to its early warnings of possible strikes around the Pacific territory.
The US has sent B-1B bombers ripping across the peninsula before, typically after major provocations by the North. While these aircraft are no longer nuclear-capable, as the necessary components were removed years ago, North Korea often refers to these aircraft as “nuclear strategic bombers,” and they make North Korea extremely uncomfortable.
The North perceives Guam as a forward base for a preemptive/preventative strike on its territory, so for Pyongyang, bomber overflights are disconcerting. North Korea actually cited the B-1B Lancer flights over the Peninsula as one of the reasons it plans to fire missiles around Guam in its own display of power. North Korea revealed earlier this month it is considering launching a salvo of four Hwasong-12 IRBMs into waters around Guam to send a message to President Donald Trump.
The Trump administration has been pursuing a policy of “maximum pressure and engagement,” which involves using economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table for a diplomatic solution. Trump, however, said Aug. 30 that “talking is not the answer” with North Korea, while stressing that “all options are on the table.”
Secretary of State James Mattis later said, “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”
US policy is unclear as the Trump administration confronts a problem that has puzzled presidents for decades and is now more complex and dangerous than ever, given that two decades of failed North Korea policy have allowed the reclusive regime to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to distant targets in South Korea, Japan, and even the continental US.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has started deploying an old kind of military deception: inflatable weaponry.
The Russian government has a growing supply of inflatable military gear, including tanks, jets, and missile batteries, provided by hot-air balloon company RusBal, as detailed by a report by The New York Times.
A demonstration in a field near Moscow illustrated the ingenuity behind the idea.
The inflatables deploy quickly and break down just as fast. They transport relatively easily, providing targets that may not only draw the enemy’s fire but also affect their decision-making process, burdening a rival’s leadership with the task of verifying targets.
“If you study the major battles of history, you see that trickery wins every time,” Aleksei A. Komarov, RusBal’s director of military sales, told The Times. “Nobody ever wins honestly.”
Inflatable weaponry has a history on Europe’s battlefields. Prior to the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944, Gen. George S. Patton was placed in charge of the First US Army Group (FUSAG) — a phantom force housed in cities of empty tents and deployed in vehicles made of wood, fabric, or inflatable rubber.
After Allied forces had a foothold in France, the “Ghost Army,” as it came to be called, continued to serve a purpose, as it was responsible for more than 20 illusions that befuddled German military leadership and disguised actual Allied troop movements in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany.
Moscow’s modern-day iteration of the inflatable army fits with a distinctly Russian style of subterfuge: Maskirovka, a Russian doctrine that mixes strategic and tactical deception with the aim of distorting an enemy’s conception of reality, bogging down decision-makers at every level with misinformation and confusion.
Maskirovka is a longstanding practice of Russian planners. During the Cold War, maps created for the Russian public were filled with tiny inaccuracies that would make them useless should they fall into the hands of rival military planners. The cartographer who came up with the ruse was given the State Prize by Josef Stalin.
A more recent version of maskirovka was displayed in Ukraine in 2014, when masked or otherwise disguised soldiers showed up in Crimea, and later by other soldiers purportedly “vacationing” in eastern Ukraine.
According to The Times, Russian military leaders were dubious about the inflatable hardware at first, but they appear to have been won over.
“There are no gentlemen’s agreements in war,” Maria Oparina, the director of RusBal and daughter of the founder, told The Times.
“There’s no chivalry anymore. Nobody wears a red uniform. Nobody stands up to get shot at. It’s either you or me, and whoever has the best trick wins.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
As the summer months come rolling around, families all over the nation will get together and begin planning trips. From hitting sunny beaches to visiting majestic national parks, there are tons of great places to visit this summer. After compiling a list of exciting locations, the next most important part aspect of a vacation is to consider the company you’ll keep.
When coming up with a list of potential vacationers, you’ll need to make sure you well mesh with everyone invited. For the best trip, you’ll want to bring people with a wide variety of characteristics and talents. Here’s a quirky idea: Make sure you invite one of your buddies who served in the military.
Veterans love to drink; it’s no secret. Some of us are beer drinkers while others like to pound a glass of whiskey. While you might have to bribe a veteran to get them to try a new type of food, you can simply put a tasty drink in front of them and watch that f*cker disappear.
It’s like a magic trick — but better.
They’ll have plan ‘b’ through ‘z’ in mind — just in case
Troops are trained to always have contingency plans and that characteristic invariably follows them when they reenter civilian life. Even if you and your buddies are simply visiting a new pub or restaurant, the veteran is going to first locate the exits and identify any potential threats — just in case.
Who doesn’t like saving money? Having a veteran in the group could knock a few dollars off the bill at the end of the night. If you’re okay with paying full price for everything, then we don’t want to go on vacation with you.
They don’t have a problem waiting in lines
In the military, we often do this crappy thing called, “hurry up and wait.” It’s a sh*tty aspect of military service, sure, but it’s a realistic one. If your group wants to get into a club, the veteran among you is the best candidate for waiting out the long line.
Don’t exclusively use your veteran for waiting in lines, though — that’s just plain mean. But it is plus to have a vet who is willing to wait it out for the good of the group.
If you jumped into a time machine and found yourself at a recruiting office during World War II, what job would be safest to sign up for? While most people hoping to stay alive would just pick “anything but infantry,” there were actually other jobs that proved to be even more dangerous. Here are a few examples:
1. Ball turret gunners
Ball turret gunners flying over enemy targets had one of the war’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the standard fears of being shot down, these gunners had to deal with the fact that they were dangling beneath the aircraft without any armor and were a favored target of enemy fighters.
Worse, their parachute didn’t fit in the ball and so they would have to climb into the plane and don the chute if the crew was forced to bail out. They were also more exposed to the elements than other aircrew members. Turret gunners oxygen lines could freeze from the extremely low temperatures.
2. Everyone else in the airplane
Of course, all aircrews over enemy territory had it bad. While planes are often thought of us a safe, cush assignment these days, it was one of the most dangerous jobs in World War II. Deadly accurate flak tore through bomber formations while fighters picked apart aircraft on their own.
And crews had limited options when things went wrong. First aid was so limited that severely injured crewmembers were sometimes thrown from the plane with their parachute in the hopes that Nazi soldiers would patch them up and send them to a POW camp. Flying over enemy territory in any aircraft was so dangerous that paratroopers actually counted down until they could jump out and become safer.
3. Merchant mariners
The military branch that took the worst losses in World War II is barely considered a military branch. The Merchant Marine was tasked with moving all the needed materiel from America to Britain, Russia, and the Pacific. While U.S. papers often announced that two Merchant Marine ships were lost the previous week, the actual losses averaged 33 ships per week.
Submariners had to descend beneath the surface of the ocean in overpacked steel tubes, so how could the job be any more dangerous than you would already expect? First of all, torpedoes were prone to what is called a “circle run.” It happens when a torpedo drifts to one side and so goes in a full circle, striking the sub that fired it.
If that didn’t happen, the sailors still had to worry about diesel fumes not venting or the batteries catching fire. Both scenarios would end with the crew asphyxiating. That’s not even counting the numerous mechanical or crew failures that could suddenly sink the vessel, something the crew of the USS Squalus learned the hard way.
5. Field-telephone layers and radio teams
Most soldiers know you should aim for the antennas on the battlefield, and that made a common POG job one of the most dangerous on the front lines in World War II. The antennas belonged to forward observers and commanders, so snipers homed in on them.
Similarly, cable was laid so leaders could speak without fear of the enemy listening in. The “cable dogs” tasked with running the telephone wires would frequently be shot by snipers hoping to stop enemy communications. Similarly, both radio carriers and cable dogs were targeted by planes and artillery units.
The adopted daughter of a retired Army officer living in Kansas will be deported to South Korea after graduating college unless she gets a work visa, a judge ruled.
Hyebin Schreiber, 17, was brought to the United States by her uncle, Lt. Col. Patrick Schreiber, and his wife, Soo Jin, in 2012 when she was 15 years old, according to KCTV.
But on Sept. 28, 2018, a federal judge in Kansas ruled in favor of US Citizenship and Immigration Services after Lt. Col. Schreiber sued the department over Hyebin’s visa and citizenship applications being rejected.
After Schreiber and his wife brought Hyebin to the United States, the Army officer was deployed to Afghanistan and bad legal advice led the couple to put off the teen’s legal adoption until she was 17.
In Kansas, the cutoff date to complete legal adoption is when the child turns 18.
Under federal immigration law, however, foreign born children must be adopted before they turn 16 to get citizenship from their American parents.
“I should have put my family ahead of the Army,” Schreiber told the Kansas City Star.
The only way Hyebin would be able to stay in the country is if a US company provides her with a work visa after graduating, USA Today reported.
She is able to stay in the country through graduation from the University of Kansas because the school has provided her with an F-1 student visa.
Despite only being 17 years old, Hyebin is a senior at the university and is studying chemical engineering.
“After graduation, I should be looking for a job. Right now, I don’t know what’s going to be happening, so I’m trying to find job both in Korea and the United states, so it’s kind of a lot of work for me,” Hyebin told KSHB.
Hyebin reportedly moved in with her aunt and uncle because of a bad family situation in Korea.
Schreiber, who served in the US military for 27 years, said he and his wife will move to South Korea with Hyebin if she is forced to leave.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The reign of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (or USSR) came to a screeching halt in 1991. After 68 years of reign, the collective of socialist countries were dissolved and reformed into new borders and republic entities.
This month, we look back on the August Coup, when Soviet Communists failed their takeover, and eventually, to the dissolution to the Soviet Union as a whole.
Take a look at the best memes we found commemorating this important event in world history.
On the morning of July 6, 2020, Country Music Hall of Famer and Grand Ole Opry member Charlie Daniels died at the age of 83 after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. Aside from his own band, Daniels played with other music legends like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bob Dylan.
Daniels was a highly-skilled fiddle player.
Daniels was born on October 28, 1936, in Wilmington, North Carolina. His musical upbringing consisted of Pentecostal gospel and local bluegrass, rhythm blues and country music. By the time he graduated high school in 1955, Daniels had become adept at playing the guitar, fiddle, banjo and mandolin. After high school, Daniels moved to Nashville to pursue his music career.
Most famous for his fiddle-sawing, number-one country hit, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Daniels also co-wrote It Hurts Me with friend and producer Bob Johnston, which was later recorded by Elvis Presley. It took Daniels a little more time to get his own big break.
Daniels’ first hit, Uneasy Rider, was off of his third album, Honey in the Rock, and peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Top 100. During this time, he continued to play fiddle for other acts like Marshall Tucker Band and Barefoot Jerry.
In 1979, Daniels won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance for The Devil Went Down to Georgia, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100 in September of that year. The song became Daniels’ most iconic and continues to be played regularly on classic rock and country music radio stations across the country.
Though Daniels never served in the military, he was a strong supporter of the men and women of the armed forces, having played multiple USO Tours for troops overseas. Charlie Daniels Band even released an album called Live from Iraq in 2007. The album was recorded during the band’s 2006 USO tour of Iraq. Daniels was also a supporter of numerous charities, including The Journey Home Project, which aims to help returning veterans adjust to civilian life. “Only two things protect America,” Daniels often said. “The grace of almighty God and the United States Military.”
Daniels’ hit, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, has also become a popular song for fiddle players to cover and demonstrate their skills. One such player named Paddy was covering the song at his bar, Paddy’s Irish Public House, in Fayetteville, North Carolina in early 2007. The establishment was frequented by a Fort Bragg soldier who was there that evening.
It was a slow night and the soldier took no notice of the older man sitting next to him at the bar. As Paddy sawed away and recounted the tale of the battle between the young fiddle player and the Devil, the old man began to chuckle. “This is my song,” he said.
“Yeah, I love this song too.” The soldier responded.
“No, this is MY song!” The old man said with a grin.
“Holy crap! You’re Charlie Daniels!” The soldier was amazed at the country music legend’s presence in the bar. “Hey Paddy!” The soldier called out. “How ’bout letting Charlie here play?”
Similarly amazed at Daniels’ presence in his bar, Paddy gladly gave up his fiddle for the legend to play. That night, Daniels gave a hard-played and passionate performance for a small, but incredibly appreciative audience. In fact, Daniels played so hard at Paddy’s that he broke two of the man’s bows sawing away at the fiddle. It was intimate performances like this that Daniels enjoyed the most. His patriotism and passion for music will be greatly missed.
Today’s most sophisticated aircraft are like something out of science fiction.
In a few years, drones that can fit in the palm of a person’s hand and 117-foot-wingspan behemoths capable of launching satellites into space will both be a reality.
At the same time, drone and advanced-fighter technologies will spread beyond the US and Europe, and countries including China, Russia, and Iran will have even more highly advanced aerial capabilities.
Here’s our look at the most game-changing aircraft of the past few years — and the next few to come.
F-35 Lightning II
The F-35 program may cost as much as $1.5 trillion over its lifetime. But the fifth-generation fighter jet is also supposed to be the most fearsome military aircraft ever built, a plane that can dogfight, provide close air support, and carry out bombing runs, all with stealth capabilities, a high degree of maneuverability, and the ability to take off and land on aircraft carriers.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way so far, and problems with everything from the plane’s software system to its engines has both delayed its deployment and contributed to its astronomical price tag. And it isn’t nearly as effective in some of its roles as existing aircraft. For instance, the F-35 is notably worse at close air support than the A-10, which is slated for retirement.
The predecessor to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II is the single-seat, twin-engine F-22 Raptor, currently the most advanced combat-ready jet on earth.
The US is the only country in the world that flies the F-22s thanks to a federal law that prohibits the jet from being exported. Lockheed Martin built 195 F-22s before the last one was delivered to the US Air Force in May 2012.
Russia’s Su-50, also known under the prototype name of the T-50 PAK-FA, is the Kremlin’s fifth-generation fighter and Russia’s response to the F-35.
Though still in prototype, Moscow thinks the Su-50 will ultimately be able to outperform the F-35 on key metrics including speed and maneuverability. The stealth capabilities of the Su-50, however, are believed to be below those of the F-22 and the F-35.
The Kremlin plans to introduce the Su-50 into service by 2016. Once the plane is combat-ready, it will serve as a base model for the construction of further variants intended for export. India is already co-designing an Su-50 variant with Russia, and Iran and South Korea are possible candidates to buy future models of the plane.
The Chengdu J-20, which is currently in development, is China’s second fifth-generation fighter and a potential strategic game changer in East Asia.
The J-20 bears striking resemblance to the F-35 because of Chinese reverse engineering and extensive theft of F-35-related data. Once completed, the J-20 will possess stealth capability along with the range needed to reach targets within Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam after taking off from mainland China.
As of January 2015, Beijing had developed six functional prototypes of the aircraft, with new prototypes being released at an increasingly quick pace. Production of the aircraft reportedly began in late 2015, and the final iteration of the aircraft is expected to be released and combat-ready sometime around 2018.
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine multirole fighter that was originally developed to be the Europe and NATO’s primary warplane.
The fighter jet is Europe’s largest military program and was started by Germany, Spain, Italy, and the UK.
In 2011 the Eurofighter was deployed to its first combat mission, to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya during the NATO bombing campaign in the country. There are 402 Eurofighter jets designed for the Austrian, Italian, German, Spanish, UK, Omani, and Saudi Air Forces.
The Eurofighter has been called Europe’s version of America’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35 Lightning II.
MG-X Silent Hawk
The military’s secret MH-X Silent Hawk program was publicly disclosed only after one of the helicopters crashed during the US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 1, 2011.
It is unclear when the US Army Operations Security’s top-secret helicopter program began and how many of these stealthy aircraft are in service.
While the Silent Hawk appears to be a highly modified version of the widely known UH-60 Black Hawk, there are few unclassified details out there about this secret helicopter.
The Navy’s X-47B is a strike-fighter-size unmanned aircraft with the potential to change aerial warfare.
Northrop Grumman’s drone is capable of aerial refueling, 360-degree rolls, and offensive weapons deployment. It carried out the first autonomous aerial refueling in aviation history and has taken off from and landed on an aircraft carrier.
It cruises at half the speed of sound and has a wingspan of 62 feet — as well as a range of at least 2,400 miles, more than twice that of the Reaper drone.
The Stratolaunch will be one of the most astounding planes ever built.
Now in construction, the plane will serve as a midair launch platform for vehicles that is capable of carrying satellites into orbit. The aircraft, whose 117-foot wingspan will be the largest of any plane ever built, will fly to an altitude of 30,000 feet and then angle upward before blasting its payload into space.
The plane would be a relatively cheap and reusable launch vehicle for satellites and has the potential to revolutionize how hardware and possibly even human beings can access orbital space. It could fly as early as 2016, although the project has faced some setbacks over the past year.
With the X-37B, the Air Force essentially has a reusable satellite that it can control and call back to earth. The ability to re-equip an orbital platform for specific mission types gives the US military unprecedented flexibility in how it can use outer space — and its long periods in orbit and reusability are also just impressive engineering feats.
These tiny Darpa-developed surveillance drones could become future military staples. Small enough to evade enemy detection or fire, the Nano Hummingbird can fit in the palm of your hand and relay images and intelligence from the air.
Most surveillance drones, such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk, are large aircraft that fly at altitudes of 60,000 feet. Drones such as the Nano Hummingbird, which is light, stealthy, and easy to launch, could be a routine part of a future soldier’s inventory.
Watch it in action here:
Iran has been under sanctions and a Western arms embargo for much of the past 30 years, something that has denied Tehran the chance to obtain high-quality European or American arms. But it has forced Iran to build its own domestic capabilities, and in 2013 Iran debuted an armed drone eerily similar to the US’ Reaper, called the Fotros.
Iran’s drones aren’t game changers because of their high quality but because of what they represent: Even countries chafing under international sanctions can develop their own drone technology with enough patience and technological expertise. The Fotros and Ababil-3 suggest that an era of widespread drone proliferation is just around the corner.
Some interesting implications are on the line with the success of new military robots. The U.S. Army has been experimenting with robots in hopes of creating a more competent unmanned instrument for battle. The robots took on a variety of complex tasks, each associated with a real-world battlefield application—like sorting through minefields and clearing anti-tank trenches. Not only were the robots successful, but they actually began to complete the tasks faster with each successive attempt. The exercises took place at Yakima Air Base (WA).
Some military robots have mundane uses like these LS3 “robot mules” designed to carry heavy gear and cargo.
The Yakima Air Base exercises were spearheaded by Lt. Col. Jonathan Fursman and Capt. Nichole Rotte of the 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion. The team was tasked with creating complicated breach obstacles (within the context of “a realistic and plausible scenario”) for the robots to overcome.
According to Defense News, these breaches included: anti-tank trenches, minefields, and razor wire. The robots also had to breach all of the obstacles while under fire while paving the way for a counterattack into enemy lines.
The exercise was also monitored by a quadcopter, deployed under the watch of the Alabama National Guard, to monitor the use of any chemical, nuclear, or biological agents used. Another separate unit, using an unmanned Polaris MRZR vehicle, shrouded the breach with a smokescreen that clouded the field and heavily impaired (human) vision.
A “battlefield extraction assist” bot prototype designed to transport wounded soldiers.
At the very start of the breach, the U.S. Army robots used two NGCVs to lay down clear lines of suppression fire at the “enemy.” In a bizarre backward glimpse into the future of warfare, a humvee controlling yet another humvee—was equipped with a 7.62mm gun. This robot-meta suppression fire humvee (I’m sure the Army will come up with another alphabet soup acronym for these in the coming years) was accompanied by an M113 armored personnel carrier (actually controlled by a human).
While the “enemy” was hunkered down by suppression fire, two ABVs (assault breacher vehicles) took on the actual obstacles laid out by Fursman and Rotte. These ABVs were controlled by the Marines Corps (as it is quickly becoming apparent that manned robots should be clarified).
The initial ABV led the way and cleared a safe path through the minefield—leaving stakes in the ground to highlight a path of safety through the exercise for the other ABV.
Could we see robot infantry within the decade?
The second ABV used a blade to fill a tank trench and, once filled, led a clean path for allied forces to form an assault on the “enemy.”
According to Defense News, via Rotte, the initial breach exercise took “two and a half hours,” but the subsequent attempt took only two hours. The second, faster, attempt matches the same time frame it would take human soldiers to complete the same task. This leads us to the important question: are we on the brink of seeing robotic warfare replace boots on the ground?
The answer lies only in how quickly these machines can begin to operate efficiently and be productive on a mass scale. There were some hangups in the exercise, such as latency issues (lag, as gamers would call it), camera feed problems, and other hiccups. Reports indicate that none of these posed too much of an issue.
The unmanned machines were easy to control. Finding human soldiers to operate the machines isn’t necessarily a problem, as the machines in this exercise were all operated with a standard Xbox One controller—seeing as most members of the armed forces have trained themselves with the intricacies of an Xbox controller in their spare time.
So as unmanned operations become simultaneously more efficient logistically, and more simple practically—the idea of taking boots off the ground in place of robots isn’t a matter of if but a matter of when. If these exercises are any indication of the nearing of that all-important when—then we are well on our way to seeing a new era of battle in which casualties will be measured in gears and bolts.
HillVets has announced a new Congressional Fellowship program exclusively for veterans seeking to begin careers in Washington, called HillVets House. Phase I of the program will feature six Congressional Fellows to be hosted and placed in staff positions on Capitol Hill and is set to begin with the first cohort in July 2016.
HillVets is a bipartisan group of veterans, service members, and supporters focused on empowerment through networking, community involvement, and education. HillVets strives to increase veterans involvement in government and advocacy. This is the first time the effort is being made to get more veterans onto Capitol Hill.
The program is the result of a survey taken by the organization in 2014 in an effort to connect vets on Capitol Hill. The surveyors found that not many veterans were active in Congress. The veterans organization says if they were to rank agencies by number of veterans, the Federal legislative body would be dead last. They are making this effort to change that with the help of the Atlantic Council and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
Capitol Hill experience is largely considered a key component and invaluable experience for a long-term career in government and politics. Currently, less than three percent of staff members working for the United States Congress are military veterans. As hundreds of veterans continue to come to the Washington, D.C. area, they are often frustrated by an inability to quickly build an adequate network and open the initial doors necessary for long-term success.
HillVets House is designed to help veterans overcome the many challenges they face beginning second careers by providing a comprehensive introduction to government, politics, and advocacy. HillVets says this program will provide the first premiere access point for veterans wishing to continue their service in unique roles across all government agencies and branches.
Veterans with honorable discharges, Bachelor’s degrees, or who will be in their final semester at the time of the fellowship, and are ready and able to take permanent employment will receive preference. HillVets will focus on recently-separated vets or those who just completed school.
The HillVets Fellowships will start twice a year, with the first class to start in July 2016 and the second in January 2017. Fellows will have a mandatory commitment to their host offices for a period of three months, the second three month period is to focus on finding a permanent, paid position on Capitol Hill, while continuing to work in the Congressional Host office. The placement will be sensitive to the individual’s political party affiliation.
In addition to full-time placement, Fellows will receive housing and/or a living stipend, educational and career development programs, and extensive networking opportunities.
Look for the program application on the HillVets House website by November 17, 2015. All applications are due by March 25, 2016 and should be sent to email@example.com.