European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

The leaders of Turkey, Russia, France, and Germany have reiterated calls for a UN-backed political process to end the war in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a summit in Istanbul on Oct. 27, 2018, that “the meeting demonstrated there is common determination to solve the problem.

“A joint solution can be achieved, not through military means, but only through political effort under the UN aegis,” she added.


Along with Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and French President Emmanuel Macron gathered for the talks in search of an end to the seven-year civil war in the Middle East country.

Following the summit, the four leaders issued a statement calling for the convening of a committee by the end of 2018 to work on constitutional reform as a prelude to free and fair elections in Syria.

“We need transparent elections, that will be held under supervision of international observers. Refugees should take part in this process as well,” Merkel said.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

(Flickr photo by Philipp)

Macron said a “constitutional committee needs to be established and should hold its first meeting by the end of 2018. This is what we all want.”

“Creating it will become a part of the political settlement in Syria,” Macron said.

The summit’s final communique also supported efforts to facilitate the “safe and voluntary” return of refugees to their Syrian homes.

The final statement rejected “separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries.”

Many obstacles to a peace agreement remain. They include divided opinions about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.

Western countries, meanwhile, condemn Assad for what they call indiscriminate attacks on civilians and Turkey has been helping insurgents trying to remove him from power.

Putin told a news conference that a settlement in Syria cannot be reached without consultations that include Syria and “our Iranian partners,” describing them as “a guarantor country of the peace process, the cease-fire, and the establishment of demilitarized zones.”

Asked about the possibilities of a second summit of the four countries, Putin said the countries have “not negotiated this yet, but everything is possible.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

This VA hospital could have infected hundreds of vets with deadly diseases

A VA hospital in Wisconsin is under scrutiny for potentially exposing hundreds of veterans to blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV. The infections are being blamed on a dentist at the Tomah VA hospital.


European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria
Tomah VA Medical Center Building 400. (Photo from Tomah VA Flickr)

According to a report by WEAU.com, 592 veterans are in the process of being informed about the potential exposure, brought about by the re-use of equipment from October 2015 to October 2016. A substitute for the dentist’s regular assistant noted the unidentified dentist’s actions and reported him.

The dentist has since been re-assigned to an administrative position. VA regulations require that equipment not be re-used.

“It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations,” Victoria Brahm, the acting director of the medical center, told WEAU.com. “During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure.”

The Tomah VA hospital came under fire in the past for allegedly over-prescribing painkillers. The hospital is providing free medical screenings and will also provide free treatment of any infections. The VA Inspector General has been notified and will be investigating to determine if criminal charges should be filed.

“We have clear evidence that we are moving forward and the people that remain here are very vested and here for the mission of taking care of veterans,” Brahm told WEAU.com. “There are pockets of improvement that need to occur they still need to I’ll be honest, and we are aware of where they are and we are dealing with them as quickly as we can.”

This is not the first VA medical center to have issues. A VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona, used “separate waiting lists” to hide a backlog of cases, leading to at least 200 deaths. A VA center in Chicago reportedly had a cockroach infestation that was so bad, some of the bugs got into food intended for the patients.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is upgrading its M4 rifles to be more durable and lethal

The U.S. Army has now produced at least 117,000 battle-tested, upgraded M4A1 rifles engineered to more quickly identify, attack, and destroy enemy targets with full auto-capability, consistent trigger-pull, and a slightly heavier barrel, service officials said.


The service’s so-called M4 Product Improvement Program, or PIP, is a far-reaching initiative to upgrade the Army’s entire current inventory of M4 rifles into higher-tech, durable, and more lethal M4A1 weapons, Army spokesman Pete Rowland, spokesman for PM Soldier Weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The heavier barrel is more durable and has greater capacity to maintain accuracy and zero while withstanding the heat produced by high volumes of fire. New and upgraded M4A1s will also receive ambidextrous fire control,” an Army statement said.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria
(USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day)

To date, the Army has completed more than 117,000 M4A1 upgrades on the way to the eventual transformation of more than 480,000 M4 rifles. The service recently marked a milestone of having completed one-fourth of its intended upgrades to benefit Soldiers in combat.

The Army is planning to convert all currently fielded M4 carbines to M4A1 carbines; approximately 483,000,” Rowland said. “Most of the enhancements resulted from Soldier surveys conducted over time.” Rowland explained that the PIP involves a two-pronged effort; one part involves depot work to quickly transform existing M4s into M4A1s alongside a commensurate effort to acquire new M4A1 weapons from FN Herstal and Colt.

Army developers explain that conversions to the M4A1 represents the latest iteration in a long-standing service effort to improve the weapon.

“We continuously perform market research and maintain communications with the user for continuous improvements and to meet emerging requirements,” Army statements said.

Also Read: Army fielding new magazine optimized for M4/M4A1 Carbine and M855A1

The Army has already made more than 90 performance “Engineering Change Proposals” to the M4 Carbine since its introduction, an Army document describes.

“Improvements have been made to the trigger assembly, extractor spring, recoil buffer, barrel chamber, magazine, and bolt, as well as ergonomic changes to allow Soldiers to tailor the system to meet their needs,” and Army statement said.

Today’s M4 is quite different “under the hood” than its predecessors and tomorrow’s M4A1 will be even further refined to provide Soldiers with an even more effective and reliable weapon system, Army statements said.

The M4A1 is also engineered to fire the emerging M885A1 Enhanced Performance Round, .556 ammunition designed with new, better penetrating and more lethal contours to exact more damage upon enemy targets.

“The M4A1 has improvements which take advantage of the M885A1. The round is better performing and is effective against light armor,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl)

Prior to the emergence of the M4A1 program, the Army had planned to acquire a new M4; numerous tests, industry demonstrations and requirements development exercises informed this effort, including a “shoot off” among potential suppliers.

Before its conversion into the M4A1, the M4 – while a battle tested weapon and known for many success – had become controversial due to combat Soldier complaints, such as reports of the weapon “jamming.”

Future M4 Rifle Improvements?

While Army officials are not yet discussing any additional improvements to the M1A4 or planning to launch a new program of any kind, service officials do acknowledge ongoing conceptual discussion regarding ways to further integrate emerging technology into the weapon.

Within the last few years, the Army did conduct a “market survey” with which to explore a host of additional upgrades to the M4A1; These previous considerations, called the M4A1+ effort, analyzed by Army developers and then shelved. Among the options explored by the Army and industry included the use of a “flash suppressor,” camoflauge, removable iron sights, and a single-stage trigger, according to numerous news reports and a formal government solicitation.

The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana, left, and Sgt. Cory Ballentine pull security with an M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner)

Additional details of the M4A1+ effort were outlined in a a report from Military.com’s Matt Cox.

“One of the upgrades is an improved extended forward rail that will “provide for a hand guard allowing for a free-floated barrel” for improved accuracy. The improved rail will also have to include a low-profile gas block that could spell the end of the M16/M4 design’s traditional gas block and triangular fixed front sight,” the report says.

Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in effort to identify and integrate emerging technologies into the rifle as they become available. As a result, it is entirely conceivable that the Army will explore new requirements and technologies for the M4A1 as time goes on.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force, Army aircraft kill 220 fighters in Ghazni battle

U.S. Air Force fighters and Army helicopter gunships have attacked and killed more than 220 Taliban forces in Ghazni over the past several days after militants launched a massive attack on the Afghan city less than 100 miles from Kabul.

“Ghazni City remains under Afghan government control,” Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for Operation Resolute Support and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, told Military.com on Aug. 14, 2018.


Afghan forces are conducting clearing operations in the city, but hundreds of civilians have fled, trying to escape the fierce fighting, The Associated Press reported Aug. 14, 2018.

“The Afghan National Army’s 203rd Corps, the Afghan National Police’s 303rd Zone and Afghan Special Security Forces are rooting out the remnants of the Taliban within the city,” O’Donnell said. “What we observed, as these Afghan-led operations drove a large portion of Taliban from the city over the last day or so, was the retreating Taliban attacking the more vulnerable surrounding districts, which Afghan forces are reinforcing.”

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

Residents of Ghazni City walk past gates and monuments in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, April 20, 2018.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Jerry Griffis)

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that insurgents had been driven from Ghazni and said the Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower on the city’s outskirts during the initial assault, cutting off landline and cellphone links to the city, the AP reported.

O’Donnell said the Taliban who remain in Ghazni “do not pose a threat to the city’s collapse … however, the Taliban who have hidden themselves amongst the Afghan populace do pose a threat to the civilian population, who were terrorized and harassed.”

U.S. Special Forces and 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade advisers are providing advice to Afghan forces on how to effectively conduct clearance operations and combined-arms integration, he added.

“U.S. airpower has killed more than 220 Taliban since Aug. 10, 2018,” O’Donnell said. “In addition to the initial strike on Aug. 10, 2018, U.S. forces conducted five strikes Aug. 11, 2018, 16 strikes Aug. 12, 2018, 10 Aug. 13, 2018 and none Aug. 14, 2018.”

AH-64 Apache helicopters from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Combat Aviation Brigade provided close-air support for Afghan forces, he said, adding that Brig. Gen. Richard Johnson, deputy commander of the 101st and commander of Task Force South East, advised Afghan leaders in an operational command-and-control center.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The last camouflage is up to the scientists

A camouflaged soldier almost invisible to the naked eye may light up like a Christmas tree on a high-end thermal imaging device, which is why advanced thermal detection capabilities are among the greatest threats to the concealed warfighter.

Thermal imaging systems have the ability to detect a soldier’s infrared heat signature, light or electromagnetic radiation outside the visible spectrum emitted by a warm body. These sensors can distinguish between a person’s body heat and the ambient temperature of their surroundings.

“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing,” an Army sniper previously told Business Insider, adding that “emerging technology by our near-peer enemies” is making it increasingly difficult for soldiers to hide.


Thermal detection “is dangerous to a sniper because you can’t hide from that,” he explained.

Agreeing with the sniper’s assessment, two masters of modern camouflage explained to BI why this particular threat is so difficult to defeat.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.

(Youtube Screenshot)

“The big thing here is physics,” retired Army Lt. Col. Timothy O’Neill, a consultant for HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp. and the inventor of digital camouflage, said. “For a thermal signature, you are talking about energy at one end of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s energy. Energy, we recall, cannot be created or destroyed.”

This principle, known as the First Law of Thermodynamics, complicates everything.

“You can put a soldier inside a suit that traps the heat inside so that he can’t be seen, but he gets roasted inside,” O’Neill, who did his doctoral dissertation on camouflage, added. “The heat’s there.” The problem is figuring out what to do with the heat energy.

“It has to go somewhere somehow,” Guy Cramer, president and CEO of HyperStealth, told BI. “You either need to vent it or convert it to a non-detectable signal.” There are certain fabrics that will actually cool the body down, but it doesn’t eliminate the person’s heat signature altogether.

“It’s not an easy thing to do,” he said.

“You get outside the visible spectrum, and you do have problems,” O’Neill added. “Right now, almost all of the threats that we face have late-generation image intensification and thermal detection. It’s not an easy fix.”

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.

(YouTube Screenshot)

“There are things you can do, but you are still up against physics,” the father of digital camouflage said. “So, almost anything you do to reduce a thermal signature is going to be high-tech and a little difficult for the soldier.” He said that there are some strides being made in this area, but it’s difficult to know what, if anything, will be a game-changer.

US Army scientists, for example, are researching new infrared obscurants, aerosol particles that block infrared light to obscure the warfighter on the battlefield. The service also put in a multi-million dollar order for Fibrotex’s Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System (ULCANS), a new kind of advanced camouflage specifically designed to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more.

Cramer told BI that he is currently patenting an idea known as “quantum stealth,” a light-bending camouflage material able to bend the electromagnetic spectrum around a target to achieve multi-spectral invisibility. This technology has not yet been publicly demonstrated.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.

(YouTube Screenshot)

The Army’s top general revealed earlier this month that the service is pursuing new camouflage systems to better protect soldiers waging war on future battlefields, and thermal is a priority.

“Advanced camouflage technologies are critical,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley explained to lawmakers. “We are putting a fair amount of money into advanced camouflage systems, both individual, unit, vehicle, etc.”

“We know that adversary [target] acquisition systems are very capable in that, if you can see a target, with precision munitions, you can hit a target, so camouflage systems that break up electronic signatures and break up heat signatures are critical.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Veterans preference can help boost your VA application

You’ve probably come across the term “Veterans preference” at some point during your job search. But what does that mean exactly — and how can it help you land a job at VA?

Veterans preference means that, as a Veteran, you may move ahead of non-Veterans in the federal hiring process. Veterans who qualify for disability receive greater preference.

“Approximately 40% of our employees hold Veteran status, so we’re really proud of that fact and we encourage Veterans to apply,” said Dave Aragon, VA recruitment consultant, in a video on applying to VA.

However, Veterans preference is not a guarantee you’ll be hired. There are other groups — like military spouses and returning Peace Corps volunteers — who also receive preference for federal jobs. In addition, some jobs are open only to current federal employees.


Getting in the door

Because there are so many applicants – including other Veterans, for VA jobs – make sure you apply for jobs that are the best match for your skills.

“There are millions of Veterans in the U.S. and many of them want to work at VA, so there is a lot of competition for these jobs. You have the best chance of success if you apply for a job for which you are highly qualified,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of VA recruitment marketing.

If most or all of your work experience is in the military, you may not feel you are highly qualified right out of the gate.

“One difficult thing for Veterans is to convert valuable military skills into those valued in the private sector as well,” Sherrard wrote in a blog post. “I encourage everyone to take the same winning steps and attitude that made us successful as warriors and apply them into our daily lives and our job searches.”

With a combination of a military health background and Veterans preference, there are a number of positions at VA for which you could meet the requirements straight out of the military.

Learn about these civilian careers — like intermediate care technicians (ICTs) or nursing assistants — through our Transitioning Military Personnel initiative. This program connects former service members with civilian careers at VA, the nation’s largest integrated health care organization.

But what if you don’t have military health experience? Consider applying for support service positions, such as housekeeper, transportation clerk or engineering technician. Veterans preference commonly gives you a boost in applying for one of these jobs.

Continue your education

Once you’re in the door, we’ll help you acquire the skills and training that you need to grow in any direction you want.

We offer several scholarships that can help you begin or continue your health care education without piling up debt, as well as the VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP) that pays your full salary and up to ,117 toward the cost of higher education.

Some VA medical centers pay for courses from nearby colleges and universities, while the VA Talent Management System provides access to thousands of online courses, learning activities and training. Mentoring and on-the-job training are also baked into our DNA.

Work at VA

Interested in a future helping your fellow Veterans? Use your Veteran status to secure a VA career.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 things you had to have known before joining the military

Well, you took the leap and signed on the dotted line. Now you’re standing in your underwear in front of your bed at boot camp holding a camouflage bag in front of your face and some dude is screaming his head off at you. The thought that’s probably running through your head sounds a lot like, “this is nothing like what my recruiter sold me on.” Well, it’s their job is to get you in — what did you expect?

You might go through the rest of your career believing that some dude in a cool-looking uniform lied to you during an otherwise innocent visit to your local shopping mall. And you know what? If this were any other decade, a time before the internet was easily accessible by anyone, you might actually have a believable story.

But in 2018, that just doesn’t fly. Your recruiter didn’t lie to you; you just didn’t do the research.

If you’ve signed up, you’ve got no excuse for failing to know the following:


European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

Just make sure it’s the best fit for you, either way.

If you match your branch of service

Not everyone is cut out to join the Marines; it’s a rough-and-tumble lifestyle that requires you to forsake most creature comforts. In fact, you may find that the branch that best suits you isn’t one you were considering at all.

If you’re unsure of what you want out of the military to even the slightest degree, consider each branch carefully. Next, consider the next item on this list.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

If want to join the Marines to purify water, more power to you…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels)

If you match your MOS

This is a big deal. A lot of people join the military and sign up for an MOS they’ve never even heard of because it “sounds cool” only to realize that it’s not at all what it it sounds like (looking at you, 1179 Water Dogs). Granted, some people end up liking their job, even if doesn’t match the title — but those who end being miserable are a detriment to the unit.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

Air Force PT in a nutshell.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond)

The fitness requirements are (usually) demanding

If you’ve got a big brain but don’t like running a lot, join the Air Force. Rumor has it they only run in boot camp (and from the sound of gunfire, usually back into their air-conditioned buildings). If you want to join the Marines, but have a hard time doing push-ups, you’ll learn — but it will not be a fun experience.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

So, maybe you should decide on how long you want to get yelled at before you sign up.

(U.S. Marine photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)

Boot camp and basic training suck

Marines call it boot camp because, well, you wear boots and you’re at camp (not the fun kind). The other branches call it basic training. Not only will you experience vary across branches, the amount of time you’ll spend there will, too. The “easier” branches go for 9 weeks at most and the toughest (and, in my non-biased opinion, most handsome) branch goes for 13.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

This may be the thing that changes your mind more than anything.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy D. Wolff)

Real-life experiences may vary

It may do you some good to ask about the experiences of friends or family members who’ve served and don’t look back on it with rose-tinted glasses. If your uncle’s tales seem a little too far-fetched, rummage around on Reddit and other online communities to get an idea of peoples’ general experiences in the branch you’re considering. The facts are out there if you look.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

If you don’t do the research and you feel like you got screwed — that’s on you.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Duane Duimstra)

Recruitment tactics are tactical

Before you set foot into the recruiting office, keep this in mind: Recruiters are essentially the salespeople of the military. They’re not going to outright lie to you, but they’re trying to sell you on the service they represent.

The fact of the matter is that you should be able to recognize the tactics they’ll use to try and get you to sign up. Treat it like you would any other big decision. If the person you talk to is echoing things you’ve found in your research, they’re probably being honest.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Paratroopers jump with Santa Claus and gift presents to kids

U.S., NATO ally, and partner paratroopers participated in the 5th Quartermaster Theater Aerial Delivery Company’s Operation Toy Drop Dec. 11-14, 2018.

Operation Toy Drop is an annual multi-national training event. It entails sharing airborne operations, tactics, techniques and procedures, strengthening relationships with local communities and with NATO allies and partners as well as developing interoperability.

“It’s so much fun seeing other nations get in on our training and us to get on their training to see how they operate with these airborne operations, to see how we operate,” said Sgt. Kyle D. Shields, a parachute rigger with the 5th Quartermaster, Theater Aerial Delivery Company, 16th Special Troops Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade.


“All of us use different parachute systems across the different militaries, so it’s just trying to get everybody synced up in one parachute system and make sure everybody understands that every system has a risk factor and different ways you have to steer it, fly it and turn it,” Shields said.

Holiday cheer played a major role during Operation Toy Drop.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

Capt. Rizzoli Elias, company commander, the 5th Quartermaster Theater Aerial Delivery Company, 16th Special Troops Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, gives a German child a stuffed animal as part of Operation Toy Drop at Alzey, Germany Dec. 13, 2018.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Sinthia Rosario)

Part of this cheer was Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and elves jumping out of an airplane and then giving toys to children from the Kaiserslautern area. Both U.S. and German children smiled and laughed with excitement as they received presents from members of the 5th Quartermaster, Theater Aerial Delivery Company, who dressed up as Christmas characters during Operation Toy Drop. The toys given to the children were donated by paratroopers participating in this event.

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

U.S., NATO ally, and partner service members receive Irish jump wings during a wing ceremony exchange hosted by the 5th Quartermaster Theater Aerial Delivery Company, at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, Kaiserslautern, Germany Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by taff Sgt. Sinthia Rosario)

“It’s a huge role for us to give back, especially to the local community within Germany, to all these kids and the American community that may not get as many presents as we do on Christmas,” said Sgt. Joshua A. Parkinson, an aerial delivery supervisor with the 5th Quartermaster, Theater Aerial Delivery Company. “For us to be able to do something for them while enjoying it together, then to get to watch their faces at the drop zone as Santa comes around and hands them toys from a bundle that dropped down from the sky … it’s really an indescribable feeling, but it’s something that every single jumper out here, whether they’re American or not, absolutely loves.”

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

Paratroopers from U.S., NATO ally and partner militaries “high five” children at Alzey Drop Zone during Operation Toy Drop at Alzey, Germany Dec. 13, 2018.

(Photo by taff Sgt. Sinthia Rosario)

Operation Toy Drop concluded with a wing exchange ceremony, in which paratroopers that jumped with a foreign nation, would get a certificate with that country’s wings.

“For us being able to give them American jump wings and from us receiving any number of the number of countries that are here, even the British are giving out jump wings for the first time in years, for me that is absolutely huge,” Parkinson said. “It builds a real sense of these are the people to my left and right that I can count on. We go downrange, we go to a firefight these are the people we’ll be working with and for me that is absolutely everything.”

According to Shields, one of the biggest takeaways is looking forward to future operations with the NATO allies.

“We established a lot of good connections and contacts here while we were doing Operation Toy Drop,” Shields said. “That allows us to communicate with the other armies that are around us so that we can plan additional training exercises and other tactics teaching.”

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

Articles

11 ways the military can build a stronger, more modern force

The U.S. military personnel system is badly outdated and must be reformed dramatically to allow the armed services to recruit and retain men and women with the skills needed to deal with today’s vastly different threats and technology, a high-profile panel of defense experts said March 20.


European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria
Experts want to reform a military personnel system that hasn’t been changed significantly since 1947. (Photo: U.S. Army)

A new report developed by 25 former military and civilian defense officials — including top enlisted leaders, former generals and lawmakers on defense committees — for the Bipartisan Policy Council emphasized giving the armed services much greater flexibility to manage their personnel than they’re allowed to do now.

The existing personnel system “is outdated. The last time it was changed was in 1947, coming out of World War II,” said former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, one of the four co-chairmen of the study.

“We’re at a time that if we don’t reform our personnel system, we will begin to undermine our defense,” Panetta warned.

To increase flexibility, the report recommended:

1. Letting people stay longer

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria
Everyone knows chiefs run the Navy. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The experts recommend replacing the traditional “up-or-out” structure and its rigid timelines for promotion with a “perform to stay” model for advancement.

2. Entering as a staff officer or NCO

Instead of coming in as a buck private or 2nd lieutenant, the report suggests allowing lateral entry at advanced rank for individuals with critical skills, such as those with cyber and information technology expertise.

3. Going back and forth

The experts suggest letting service members more easily move between active and reserve status and allowing temporary breaks in military service for education or family reasons.

4. Reform military compensation

The authors suggest replacing the current military pay table — which provides increases for longevity and increased rank — to “ensure compensation is commensurate with increased responsibility and performance.”

5. Kick malingerers out

The experts say the services need to institute annual involuntary separate boards to “remove low performers in over-manned specialties.”

6. Reform TRICARE

The authors suggest increasing TRICARE enrollment fees for military retirees to cover 20 percent of coverage cost, and waiting until 2038 to grandfather all current service members.

They also suggest offering a new TRICARE option for dependents that would leverage a private employer’s contributions and reduced TRICARE cost.

7. Healthcare reform

The military experts recommend establishing pilot programs to test use of commercial health insurance benefits for reservists and their family members, military retirees and family members.

The report also suggests increasing access to higher quality of Defense Department-provided child care.

8. Help the spouses

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria
The study authors recognize how important it is for the military to maintain a strong work-life balance. (Photo: U.S. Military)

The study authors also want to improve ways to help military spouses get and keep jobs, including giving service members more say in duty station changes.

9. Boost the force

And to reduce the stress on families from the high operational tempo, the report recommends adding military personnel.

The report also calls for greater efforts to expand the military’s outreach to a broader segment of Americans, including:

10. More ROTC

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria
Army ROTC cadets attempt the Ranger obstacle course. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Expand Reserve Officer Training Corps program to all levels of higher education, including post-graduate and community college.

11. Women in the draft

Require women, as well as men, to register with the Selective Service and make all registrants take the military entrance examination.

To enable the services to increase end strength and provide the training and tools service members need, the report’s authors emphasized the need to repeal the 2011 Budget Control Act, with its arbitrary limits on defense spending, and return to a regular budget process that would enable defense leaders to plan ahead for the forces and equipment they need.

The committee that conducted the study and drafted the report included five retired flag or general officers, a retired Marine Corps master sergeant, former high-ranking officials from the Defense Department and other federal agencies, former members of Congress who served on the Armed Services Committees and the chief executive of Blue Star Families, a support organization.

The report is titled “Building a FAST Force,” with the initials standing for Flexible, able to Adapt and to Sustain the force and to be Technology oriented.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Drones are changing the way the world prepares for war

The number of countries with military drones has skyrocketed over the past decade, a new report revealed, showing that nearly 100 countries have this kind of technology incorporated into their armed forces.

In 2010, only about 60 countries had military drones, but that number has since jumped to 95, a new report from Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone revealed.

Dan Gettinger, the report’s author, identified 171 different types of unmanned aerial vehicles in active inventories. Around the world, there are at least 21,000 drones in service, but the number may actually be significantly higher.


“The one thing that is clear is drone proliferation is accelerating,” Michael Horowitz, a Center for New American Security (CNAS) adjunct senior fellow for technology and national security, told Insider, adding that it is particularly noteworthy that among the countries that have access to military drone technology, around 20 have armed drones, higher-end systems that are becoming more prolific.

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An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan.

(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt(

And the proliferation of drone technology is expected to continue as countries like China, which has emerged as a major exporter of unmanned systems, to include armed drones, and others export drones around the world. “Drone proliferation is inevitable,” Horowitz said, explaining that “current-generation drones are the tip of the spear for the emergence of robotics in militaries around the world.”

Newer systems are appearing at a rapid rate. “I think drones will be a ubiquitous presence on future battlefields,” Gettinger told Insider Sept. 26, 2019, explaining that drone technology is contributing to an evolution in warfare. “They represent an increase in combat capacity, an increase in the ability of a nation to wage war.”

“We are likely to see drones featuring more prominently in global events, particularly in areas that are considered to be zones of geopolitical tension,” he added, noting that “we see this playing out in the Persian Gulf, Yemen, the Ukraine, and other conflicts.”

Drones come in all shapes and sizes and levels of sophistication, and they have become important tools for both countries and non-state actors such as the Islamic State in several different countries, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In recent months, militarized drones have made headlines globally, highlighting the importance of unmanned systems.

Over the past few weeks, for instance, the American MQ-25 Stingray, an unmanned refueling asset expected to serve aboard US carriers, completed its first flight. Russia showed off its new Okhotnik (Hunter) drone flying alongside and working together with the fifth-generation Su-57, an important first step toward manned/unmanned teaming. And, China unveiled a suspected supersonic spy drone and a stealth attack drone during preparations for its National Day celebration.

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Russia Su-57.

But, the incident likely the freshest in everyone’s mind is the drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi oil sites earlier this month, when Saudi oil production was temporarily crippled by systems most air defense systems are not designed to effectively counter.

Arthur Holland Michel, who co-directs the Center for the Study of the Drone with Gettinger, previously explained to Insider that the attacks confirmed “some of the worst fears among militaries and law enforcement as to just how much damage one can do” with this kind of technology.

He called the attack a “wake-up call,” one of many in recent years.

The strikes on Saudi Arabia, which the US believes were carried out by Iran, marked the second time in just a few months the US has had to figure out how to respond to a drone-related incident involving Iran, as Iranian forces shot down an expensive US surveillance drone, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drone, in June 2019.

That incident nearly ignited an armed conflict between the US and Iran. President Donald Trump had plans to attack Iranian missile and radar sites in retaliation, but he called off the attack at the last minute due to concerns about possible Iranian casualties.

The US reaction, especially the president’s stated concerns that killing Iranians in response to the downing of an unmanned air asset was disproportionate, highlights the challenges of responding to attacks involving military drones.

“The US and other countries,” Gettinger explained, “will have to develop a framework for thinking about and understanding enemy unmanned systems and how to deal with them and what their responses should be. Drones are becoming a more important feature of militaries, and the US and other countries will have to have a framework for dealing with that.”

Addressing these challenges will likely become more important as the technology evolves with advancements in capability to create drones with the ability to fight like unmanned fighter aircraft, manned/unmanned teaming, and progress on swarming.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The US military has a host of awards and medals for its service members.

Some awards, like the Medal of Honor and the Silver and Bronze Star awards, are given to service members who display bravery in combat.

Others are given for serving in specific operations or even missions — these are known as campaign awards.

Depending on the medals a service member or veteran wears, it’s typically possible to determine which wars or regions of the world they have served in.

Scroll through to see campaign awards for operations and missions since the Korean War.


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The National Defense Service Medal is automatically awarded to anyone who signs up to serve during wartime.

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The medal awarded for support of Operation Inherent Resolve was authorized for service starting in 2014.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The ISIS fight

Service members who have supported Operation Inherent Resolve, the US mission in Syria to combat the Islamic State, are now eligible for a medal.

The medal was approved in 2016 — prior to that, service members who supported OIR were awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary (GWOT-E) medal.

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Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Global war on terror

There are two different campaign awards for service in the US’s war against terror.

The GWOT Service medal is awarded to service members who serve in either a direct or indirect role in support of operations during the global war on terror, including personnel stateside who process paperwork for deployed troops.

The GWOT Expeditionary Medal, seen on the left, is more specific — service members must deploy for service in an anti-terrorism operation. Ground troops deployed to Somalia for over 30 days, for example, would qualify for this medal.

A service member who qualifies for the GWOT-E typically also qualifies for the service medal.

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The Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terror Expeditionary medal are not authorized for the same period or action.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Campaign award is given to service members who complete at least 30 days in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

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The Iraq Campaign Medal.

(Army Institute of Heraldry)

Iraq

The Iraq Campaign Medal is awarded to service members who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaign awards, service members are only eligible for one of each, regardless of how many times they deployed to the country.

Stars may be worn on the ribbons as indicators of participation in specific, designated missions during the operation.

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The Antarctica Service Medal and ribbon are awarded to people who spend at least 30 consecutive days in the Antarctic or fly 15 missions into or out of the continent.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Antarctica

The Coast Guard and Navy have Arctic equivalents, which differ slightly but both reverse the color scheme of the Antarctic ribbon and medal, with black or dark blue in the center and white on the outer edges.

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The Kosovo campaign medal was awarded to service members who served during the Kosovo Defense Campaign, which began in 1999.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Valceanu)

Kosovo

The NATO bombing campaign led to the retreat of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. A peace-keeping force remains there to this day.

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The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Liberation of Kuwait

Depending on their specific mission and location, service members who participated in the liberation of Kuwait may have qualified for awards presented by the governments of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.

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The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

The government of Kuwait authorized US personnel to wear this award if they served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

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Southwest Asia Service Medal.

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An arrangement of medals made during a military ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans.

(Photo by Jonathan Steffen)

Vietnam service

The Vietnam service ribbon has a yellow background with three red lines in the center and a green line on each side.

The award was given to service members who served in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or air or water space in that region between 1965 and 1973.

Other medals depicted here are the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, and Purple Heart.

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Republic of Vietnam Campaign medal.

South Vietnam

This medal was awarded to service members who provided direct combat support to South Vietnam’s Armed Forces during the war.

Criteria included those who served for six months or more in South Vietnam or who were injured, captured, or killed in the line of duty.

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The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Korean war

The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal was authorized in 1999 to honor the sacrifices of Korean War veterans.

This award specifically designates veterans who served in the country of Korea during the war.

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The Korean Defense Service Medal is awarded to any US service member who has served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

South Korea

Recognizing that the Korean War never ended, the Defense Department authorized the Korean Defense Service Medal for service members who deployed to or served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the cop who inspired ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘Bullitt’

Few cinematic crime fighters are more revered than Inspector Harry Callahan, from Clint Eastwood’s 1971 film, Dirty Harry. Before that, it might have been Frank Bullitt, as portrayed by Steve McQueen in 1968’s Bullitt. Both movies are centered around a hard-boiled police detective working the streets of San Francisco. Frank Bullitt was fighting mafia hitmen while Harry Callahan was trying to bring down an insane serial killer.

Both of these fictional detectives are based on one man: real-life San Francisco detective, Dave Toschi.


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Behind that glorious bow tie is a force of nature.

At his desk in San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, one might not have picked out the man in a bow tie as someone who served in the 24th Infantry Division in Korea. It was the unit that took the brunt of a full-scale North Korean invasion with no reinforcements in sight, the unit that held the Pusan Perimeter for months on end, and the unit that pushed the Chinese back to the 38th Parallel the very next year. David Toschi was that guy, but he truly made his name as a police detective, cleaning the streets of San Francisco for 32 years.

He joined the force right after leaving the military, in 1953. His ties, signature suits, and “exaggerated” trench coats earned him the attention of the San Fran news media, but his work was his enduring legacy – and what ended up translated to the silver screen.

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Actor Steve McQueen, upon meeting Toschi, demanded his character, Frank Bullitt, wear a similar shoulder holster.

Even though Toschi’s flair won him attention from the media, it was his biggest case that earned him the most acclaim – and would later be his downfall. He began working homicide in 1966. Just three years in, he was assigned to work the murder investigation of cab driver Paul Stine. Stine picked up a passenger who wanted to be taken from Geary Street to Maple Street in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights neighborhood. Just one block North of Maple, the passenger shot Stine in the head, then took his keys, wallet, and a portion of his bloody shirt.

No one knew why until three days later, when the Zodiac sent a threatening letter to the San Francisco Chronicle with a piece of Stine’s shirt, to prove the cabbie was a victim of the Zodiac; the only time Zodiac killed inside the city.

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In 1971’s ‘Dirty Harry’ the Toschi-inspired inspector hunted the killer calling himself ‘Scorpio,’ a figure ripped from the Zodiac headlines at the time.

Toschi estimated that he investigated 2,000-5,000 people while looking for Zodiac but the killer was never found. Toschi left homicide in 1978 and retired in 1985. Toschi was reassigned from the Zodiac case in 1977 after it was revealed that the detective sent so-called fake “fan letters” about his own performance in the case to the San Francisco Chronicle. Zodiac was active from 1969 through the early 1970s but sent letters to the paper for years.

Zodiac had a confirmed seven victims but claimed as many as 37. His last confirmed victim was Stine, and his last letter to the paper came in 1978. The prime suspect in the Zodiac case – and the man Toschi always suspected – was U.S. Navy veteran and schoolteacher, Arthur Leigh Allen.

Why didn’t we get this guy?” Toschi once asked the Chronicle. “I ended up with a bleeding ulcer over this case. It still haunts me. It always will.

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Allen (left) in 1969, compared to the composite sketch of Zodiac from a 1969 attack in Napa County, Calif.

Toschi could never find enough evidence to bring Allen to trial, despite spending nine years on the case. Toschi’s other cases include bringing down a gang of murderers calling themselves the “Death Angels.” The group committed racially-motivated killings against white victims. They are known to have killed at least 15 but may be responsible for as many as 73 murders in San Francisco in 1974.

Dubbed the “Zebra Murders,” they caused widespread panic in the city of San Francisco at a time when the city was still reeling from the exploits of the Zodiac. Toschi was part of the team that helped bring the gang down and put them away for life.

It was Zodiac that kept his attention, but he never managed to pin the killer down.

I’m not a vengeful type, but when a life is taken, there must be justice,” he said.

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Mark Ruffalo as Toschi in the 2007 film, ‘Zodiac.’

In the years following his service on the SFPD, he took a job doing private security and even as a technical advisor on the 2007 David Fincher film, Zodiac, watching actor Mark Ruffalo portray him on screen.

Every October 11, from 1970 until 2017, Toschi sat in his car at the same Presidio Heights location where Paul Stine was murdered by the Zodiac, wondering what he missed. Toschi died in January 2018 at the age of 86.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China will keep growing because it can do what the West can’t

China’s biggest advantage is that other countries have left giant opportunities wide open that Beijing was able to easily fill, according to John Garnaut, a former adviser on China to Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.


Garnaut, who spoke to the US House Armed Services Committee on March 21, 2018, was giving national-security advice on state influence operations when he pointed out a common thread of China’s influence operations. Namely, that the US, Australia, and other leading nations stopped investing in Chinese education and global development, allowing China to take control.

Also read: The FBI director called out China on its massive espionage effort

“China is really filling a service we are failing to provide — that is a China capability, linguistic capability, understanding of Chinese contemporary politics and history,” Garnaut said, before putting a spotlight on China’s state-run cultural institutes around the world.

“Confucius Institutes have found a great black hole that they can fill,” he said.

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John Garnaut

There are over 1,500 Confucius Institutes and Classrooms, which aim to promote Chinese language and culture, in universities, primary schools, and high schools in 142 countries around the world.

While playing a key role in, by their own admission, China’s soft-power and propaganda, they have also been deemed a “trojan horse” and a source of censorship. China’s Communist Party retains ultimate control over Confucius Institutes, their budgets, activities, and curricula.

Garnaut believes the US and Australia have essentially given Beijing this influence. He said that universities “need to work hard” to rebuild their Chinese expertise so they don’t have to rely on China’s government to fill the gaps.

Related: China’s president just gave a huge threatening speech

But education isn’t the only area where China has seized opportunities. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping’s plan to link 70 countries via railways and shipping lanes, has seen an outpouring of expensive loans to poorer nations to fund infrastructure.

“With BRI, obviously again they filled a vacuum,” said Garnaut. “If we’re — between us — no longer supporting development in the way that we used to in my part of the world, in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, it provides opportunities for others. I think there’s opportunity to do more there and also to again really focus on transparency.”

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The Belt and Road Initiative.

US legislators want Confucius Institutes to register as foreign agents

On March 21, 2018, three US legislators, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, introduced the Foreign Influence Transparency Act which would require Confucius Institutes to register as foreign agents.

“This legislation aims to bring greater transparency to the activities of foreign governments operating in the United States,” said Rubio.

When asked about the proposed law, Garnaut said regardless of whether Confucius Institutes should be registered, “that’s the right direction.”

“What they do is partly propaganda, but even more importantly is their connection to the United Front’s Work Department system and that is they can potentially be used, and we need to stop them being used, as a platform for influencing decision-making in universities,” said Garnaut.

The United Front Work Department is the arm of China’s government that openly runs China’s soft power and influence initiatives internationally, particularly in regard to Chinese students studying abroad and the Chinese diaspora.

And the relationship between United Front Work and Confucius Institutes was made even stronger this week in a vast government shakeup. United Front Work’s role is being strengthened, and it will absorb the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office and oversee international Chinese language education.

From now on, Confucius Institutes may very well be overseen by the United Front Work Department.

But countries should be more concerned about quieter initiatives

As much as the US and Australia should be concerned about overt instances of influence, such as the Confucius Institutes, Garnaut believes there are far more serious instances of influence that need to be tackled.

More: China accidentally posted its plans for naval domination

“One thing about the Confucius Institutes is, at least we know about them and people are talking about them. In a way, that degree of transparency goes a long way to curing the problem,” Garnaut said.

“What I’m personally more concerned about is things that don’t have a big flag over their building. We see other institutes and research institutes performing similar functions but without the attention, and I think that’s where we need to pay a lot more attention.”

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