Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

Several key organizations recently came together to advance exoskeleton technology for the soldier during an intensive three-day Operations and Maneuver and Technology Interchange meeting.

The User Technical Touch Point Exoskeleton event was a three-day living classroom, hands-on experience. It offered an interactive forum for operational and technology immersion on both infantry maneuvers and technology demonstrations. Groups of several Military Operational Specialties, or MOS’s, were represented, laying down their kits and equipment and walking observers through a day “in the field, on the job.”


Operational vignettes and subject interviews offered context on the physiological and cognitive demanding infantry tasks, before, during, and after operations. Vendors, requirement developers, and engineers discussed “what they are and what they aren’t” in the current exoskeleton marketplace, debunking the Hollywood “iron man” effect and focusing on real-time products: the Dephy Exo Boot and Lockheed Martin’s ONYX.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division show some of the equipment that they use during everyday tasks and learn how an exoskeleton can help.

(Photo by David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)

Soldiers were encouraged by the endurance improvement, mobility, and lethality benefits of donning the systems. Those who wore the systems commented on how it felt to wear an exoskeleton and the relationship between a new user and the system. Their candid feedback regarding form, fit and function will help developers prioritize and make modifications to the systems in preparation for a Fall 2019 VIP demonstration.

Observers commented on the flexibility of use as the systems were adjusted with minimal effort from one user to the next over three days. User comments, such as those made by field artillery soldiers, emphasized the potential value of having an exoskeleton or exoskeleton-like system to provide enhanced endurance during operations, which means a positive impact on lethality and combat effectiveness.

“The importance of this User Touch Point event was two-fold: it gave those involved in developing this technology the ability to better understand the physical aspects of the tasks and duties of the soldiers and gain an understanding of the soldier’s perspective in how this capability can be of value,” said James Mingo, a senior military analyst at TRADOC. “They understand it.”

“It provided hand-on experience to the movement and maneuver soldiers of some of the top seven combat MOS’s,” said Raul Esteras-Palos, Robotics Requirements Division, Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate, or CDID, Maneuver Center of Excellence, or MCoE. “This event is an effective way to gain valuable feedback necessary for the advancement of the Army’s exoskeleton program.”

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division show some of the equipment that they use during everyday tasks and learn how an exoskeleton can help.

(Photo by David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)

Soldiers believe that endurance translates into improved lethality while preserving the body from the effects of what is already strenuous work. Comments included discussion on injuries (lower back, neck, shoulder and leg) directly related to both training and combat conditions, impacts that are well documented in the medical community.

The RDECOM Soldier Center is preparing soldier touch point events with 82nd and 101st Airborne, followed by meetings with requirement developers, stake holders and senior leadership. The data from these User Touch Point events will be made available to the Lethality Cross-Functional Teams.

“Major General Piatt, CG 10th MTN DIV’s support has allowed us to tap into the expert knowledge of some of the most experienced Army professionals of our Nation,” said David Audet, branch chief, Mission Equipment and Systems Branch at the RDECOM Soldier Center. “This was a unique opportunity for developers and engineers. We are indebted to the troops for their selfless service and owe them the opportunity to listen to their concerns and take action.”

Teams from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, Program Executive Office Soldier, the Maneuver, Aviation, and Soldier Division at ARCIC/TRADOC, requirement developers from the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Army Research Labs, exoskeleton developers from Dephy Inc. (Massachusetts) and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (Florida), and other support contractors attended the event.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Rey’s real father rumored to be a ‘Star Wars’ character everyone loves

In our galaxy, most parents worry about their children’s safety and the future of the world in which they live. But, in the Star Wars galaxy, parents generally are absent, not going by their real names, or walking around dressed in a black cape and a creepy mask. In this way, Star Wars is 100 percent relatable to kids and parents alike: being a parent is scary; either you’re afraid your kids will think you are Darth Vader, or you worry your kids will end up seeing you like Han Solo; a burnt-out loser who needs to get pushed into a pit ASAP! And the current Star Wars hero, Rey, has classic Star Wars parent problems of her own. In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren reminded her that her parents were “filthy junk traders,” who sold her off for “drinking money.” But now, there’s a new rumor that suggests we already know Rey’s dad; and that his identity will be revealed in The Rise of Skywalker. And it’s someone we’ve all met before.


A new rumor surfaced on both Reddit and the fan-run site Making Star Wars that suggested that the next big Star Wars movie — The Rise of Skywalker — will feature the return of Han Solo in flashbacks. Apparently, these flashbacks will finally explain that Han is Rey’s father, but Leia is not her mother. This would make her Kylo Ren’s half-sister, which as many have pointed out, is kind of creepy considering all the flirting in The Last Jedi. (Though it would make Kylo and Rey kind of like Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums, which would allow J.J. Abrams to use that great Nico Song, “These Days” when Kylo and Rey get reunited. ANYWAY. Just an idea.)

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

(Lucasfilm)

So, what’s the deal? How realistic is this rumor? Well, the idea that Han Solo will appear in The Rise of Skywalker in flashbacks seems pretty realistic. There’s still a lot of backstories from The Force Awakens left over to explain in this movie. Plus, the recent Vanity Fair Star Wars piece from Lev Grossman seemed to indicate aspects of the larger backstory Skywalker backstory would be explained in the new movie. And, that Han Solo flashback rumor has been around for a while, too.

Everything We Know About Star Wars Episode 9 | Vanity Fair

www.youtube.com

Apparently, in The Rise of Skywalker, a new scene featuring Lando, Finn, and Poe sitting down for a drink, will totally spell out Rey’s background. (Lando knows everything, right?) In The Force Awakens, there was a similar hint at a scene in a bar. When Maz Kanata meets Han Solo, she asks, “Who’s the girl?” Han appears to know, but the scene cuts before he can answer.

If Rey is Han’s daughter, some people might freak out. Others might love it. Either way, if Han was a bad dad to both of his children, then the Star Wars saga will continue to be a cautionary tale for good dads struggling to restore sanity and good parenting to the galaxy…

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s an after-action report on Russia’s massive European wargame

Russia finally concluded its quadrennial Zapad-2017 military exercises last week.


The exercises, which were held in Belarus and western Russia for six days, tested Russia’s defensive capabilities against the fictional country of Veishnoriya which had supposedly been infiltrated by western-backed militias.

The games were not, as many eastern European leaders and even some US generals feared, used to occupy Belarus, invade Ukraine or for some other deceitful act.

In fact, Russian tank and airborne units are currently leaving Belarus and heading home.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
A Russian T-72B3. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Vitaly Kuzmin.

The games also did not, as many in the west said, appear to involve 100,000 or more Russian troops.

Moscow claimed that only 12,700 troops participated — just under the 13,000 figure that requires foreign observation according to the Vienna Document — and that “official count … in Belarus and parts of nearby Russia was … probably fairly accurate,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.

“The trick is that they have a lot of other official exercises that seem to be taking place nearby,” Gorenburg said.

Russia’s Northern Fleet Moscow conducted exercises in the Barents Sea, and its Strategic Rocket Forces test launched two new RS-24 YARS ICBMs. Additional exercises were also held, including some with China and Egypt in other parts of Russia.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

“Most of these exercises are not part of Zapad 2017, but as always, it’s a bit hard to tell,” Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, recently wrote.

Gorenburg said it’s still too difficult to discern how many troops participated, but guessed that roughly 60,000-70,000 took part. Some analysts have estimated a similar range.

These overblown western estimations of 100,000 or more troops, along with fear of occupations and invasions, Gorenburg said, were a political win for Russia, which “is trying to show its military is back and strong.”

The Kremlin can also now “credibly claim that the West overreacted and fell victim to scaremongering and reporting rumours that Moscow was not being transparent about the nature of the exercise and its intentions,” Mathieu Boulègue, a research fellow at the Chatham House, wrote.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
Embassy of the United States in Moscow. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user NVO.

“Short of entrapment, proving the West wrong is increasingly part of the Kremlin’s political strategy which, in turn, strengthens Russia’s sense of superiority,” Boulègue wrote.

Some have even argued that Russia made western media look like fake news, and that these western exagerations were done out of ignorance or to fit their own political agenda.

Despite not appearing to have gone over or been close to the 100,000 or more figure, Russia nevertheless seems, according to Gorenburg and many other analysts, to have had more than 13,000 troops participating in the overall Zapad exercises, which is in violation of the Vienna Document.

While Belarus was rather transparent, and invited foreigners to observe the games, it makes sense that Moscow would want to limit such foreign observation as much as possible. After all, Zapad means “west” in Russian, and the games were essentially a simulation of how well Russian military branches could coordinate a defensive against NATO.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the Zapad ’17 military exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

The first three days of the exercises were purely defensive, initially defending against a large aerial attack, which Russian military leaders have determined is the US and NATO’s traditional opening move during invasions, according to the Jamestown Foundation.

The last three days of the exercises were all about “counterattack,” Gorenburg said. For a thorough breakdown of all Russia’s military maneuvers during the exercises, check out Kofman’s blog summarizing all seven days of Zapad-2017.

Ultimately, Russia was able to repel the simulated western invasion, and while “it will take a more detailed analysis” to see how well Russia faired, Moscow initially seems to think “it went fairly well,” Gorenburg said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

Located near Clovis, New Mexico, near the Texas panhandle, Cannon Air Force Base employs around 5,800 people, including military and civilian personnel. Some of their civilian personnel include contracted radio-frequency calibration technicians in the Air Force Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory (PMEL) program. Their job is to repair and recalibrate precision measurement equipment that is used for testing, measuring, or diagnosing other systems. 

Precision is a matter of life and death

Every single machine and piece of equipment used by the Air Force and the military must work perfectly. That means each device has to operate at the highest level of precision. The civilians and AF personnel at PLEM are responsible for calibrating equipment used in just about every phase of maintenance. Specialists ensure everything works right. If it doesn’t, serious issues can happen. These experts comb over every single measurement too, to make sure aircraft is safe to operate. Sometimes this means they’re looking at increments as small as in the millionths!

Specifically, radio-frequency calibration technicians working at PMEL at Cannon AFB make sure every single piece of equipment is fully functioning. For instance, imagine that a drone’s calibration is slightly off. That could cause dire, perhaps even deadly consequences. The same is true for a bomb on target or any other equipment used by the Air Force. The radio-frequency calibration technicians in the PMEL make sure all devices are operating with pinpoint accuracy so that no unintended results occur. 

Watch out for shocks

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
Just one piece of precision equipment used to test weapons (YouTube)

All Air Force test, measurement, and diagnostic equipment used to manage weapons and other support systems go through PMEL for calibration before use. This is what makes the US Air Force the best in the world. They use measurement standards that can be traced through the Air Force Primary Standards Laboratory to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is an exact science, emphasis on “exact,”  that the Air Force could not succeed without. 

Working with electricity, the job has its risks, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s not all that uncommon for technicians to zap themselves. To counter this, they often work on electro-static discharge (ESD) benches where they can ground themselves with a piece of wire. That way they won’t die if they get electrocuted in the process of recalibrating and repairing equipment. 

There is no Air Force without the behind-the-scenes crew

Aside from outside contractors and government civilians, the Air Force also has trained personnel who work in the PMEL. The Air Force even has a specific PEML training program that entails eight and a half weeks of basic military training followed by 124 days of technical training. While the men and women who work on the front lines tend to get most of the credit and glory for US Military success, the people behind the scenes, such as those working in the PEML at Cannon Air Force Base, are just as valuable. 

Related: Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

MIGHTY TRENDING

Syrian regime vows to drive US out of country

The Syrian army is determined to drive out the U.S. from any involvement in the country, state television reported Jan. 15.


Bashar al-Assad’s army objects to any form of U.S. presence in the country and will seek to put an end to it, Reuters reported, citing state media.

The U.S.-led coalition is currently training Syrian militias and plans to establish a new border force together with the Kurdish-led opposition fighters, consisting of 30,000 personnel over the next several years, according to the coalition.

The move has been criticized by the Syrian foreign ministry, branding it as a “blatant assault” on the country’s sovereignty, according to the state media.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
Fighters of the Euphrates Liberation Brigade, part of the Manbij Military Council of the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the city of Manbij in northern Syria. (Wikimedia Commons photo from Kurdishstruggle.)

The coalition officials said that it had recently recruited 230 cadets for the new force that it will be tasked with securing areas recently liberated from Islamic State militants, Syria’s northern border with Turkey and the eastern border with Iraq.

Half of the force will be made up of soldiers from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which currently controls a quarter of Syria’s territory along the borders with Turkey and Iraq.

Turkey objects to the creation of the border force, seeing the Kurdish militia in Syria as an extension of an active Kurdish insurgent group operating in the country.

A senior Turkish official said the training of the new border force was the reason the U.S. top diplomat stationed in the country was summoned to Ankara last week, Reuters reported. A spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan said the new force is unacceptable.

Articles

Army picks Sig Sauer to replace M9 service pistol

The U.S. Army on Thursday awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth $580 million to make the service’s next service pistol.


Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, the maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol.

“I am tremendously proud of the Modular Handgun System team,” Army Acquisition Executive Steffanie Easter said in a Jan.19 press announcement. “By maximizing full and open competition across our industry partners, we have optimized private sector advancements in handguns, ammunition and magazines, and the end result will ensure a decidedly superior weapon system for our warfighters.”

The Army did not offer any details about what caliber the new Sig Sauer pistol will be.

Related: The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

The service launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol. One of the major goals of the effort is to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm. The U.S. military replaced the .45 caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.

Army weapons officials informed Beretta USA and FN America at SHOT Show 2017 that they had been dropped from the XM17 Modular Handgun System in a recent down-select decision, according to a service source who is not authorized to speak to the press.

The decision formally ends the Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.

Beretta has fought hard to remain to remain the Army’s pistol maker. In December 2014, Beretta USA submitted its modernized M9A3 as a possible alternative to the Army’s Modular Handgun System program.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
A soldier fires a Beretta M9 pistol. | US Army photo

But the Army rejected the improved M9A3 which featured new sights, a rail for mounting lights and accessories, better ergonomics and improved reliability.

Beretta was not finished yet. It developed a new striker-fired pistol, the APX and entered it into the APX.

The Army began working with the small arms industry on MHS in early 2013, but the joint effort has been in the works for more than five years. It could result in the Defense Department buying nearly 500,000 new pistols.

Current plans call for the Army to purchase more than 280,000 handguns, according to Program Executive Office Soldier officials. The Army also plans to buy approximately 7,000 sub-compact versions of the handgun.

The other military services participating in the MHS program may order an additional 212,000 systems above the Army quantity.

“As MHS moves forward into operational testing, the due diligence taken by all of the stakeholders will ensure a program that remains on-budget and on-schedule.” Easter said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian military wants to shoot down passenger jets

Russia’s Defense Ministry has outlined draft legislation that would allow Russian forces to shoot down civilian passenger planes within the country’s airspace.

The draft document placed on the government’s list of proposed legislation says passenger planes that cross into Russian airspace without authorization and do not answer warning signals or respond to warning shots can be shot down if they are deemed to pose a threat of mass deaths, ecological catastrophe, or an assault on strategic targets.


Humor

6 of the least effective ‘training’ exercises that soldiers will love

Coming up with a training exercise that is engaging is required of every junior NCO on a weekly basis. If a leader trusts their Joes, this should be a time to reward his or her troops with something that is less useful and more enjoyable.

You can cut your troops some slack and tell the higher-ups that you’re focusing on team building and squad integrity through less intensive tasks if you re-title the exercises carefully. Hell, if it works for NCOER bullets, why can’t it work for training?


If all goes according to plan, the Joes should be out of there faster than first sergeant can say, “zonk.”

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

Translation: “Send them back to the barracks and have them clean until whenever.”

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason E. Epperson)

Proper cleaning of living spaces

“Hygiene is important to the health and wellbeing of the soldiers. They are tasked with ensuring their personal living accommodations are kept in good order to mitigate the risk of illness. They will continue until satisfactory.”

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

Translation: “Let them play video games.”

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike)

Cost-effective combat simulations

“Combat readiness is a must. In the interim between field exercises and live-fire ranges, we must also test troops’ skills in a simulated battle zone. To do this, we will forgo any expenses from the unit’s budget and rely on the tools available.”

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

Translation: “Send them on a PX run.”

(Photo by Spc. Taryn Hagerman)

Procuring supplies in an urban environment

“Soldiers must always know how to gather necessary supplies in any location. This includes securing means of hydration, food, and whatever else may be mission-critical. An ability to come by these in a densely populated region is as vital as any other.”

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

Translation: “Have them just go on a computer and hope they do their SSD1.”

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Kennedy Benjamin)

Discovering knowledge of the world around them

“We live in an ever-changing and interconnected world. To keep troops informed, each troop has their own means of communication. They are also encouraged to conduct correspondence courses while there.”

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

Translation: “Grab a bite to eat with your troops.”

(Photo by Maj. Ramona Bellard)

Proper dieting practices

“A sign of a true leader is knowing how their troops eat when not in the field. Keeping troops at peak performance is mission-critical and great dieting practices are a force multiplier.”

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

Translation: “Just send them home and hope they don’t do anything stupid along the way.”

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell)

Land navigation in a familiar setting

“Given two points that a troop is very familiar with, plot a point and execute a maneuver between the company area and the location of their barracks. Given that most transportation in-country is done via vehicles, it would behoove them to get to their destination with whatever vehicle necessary. Expedience is key.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

12 awesome photos of the USAF honoring Las Vegas shooting victims

Nov. 10 saw the annual Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo at Nellis Air Force Base.


Located outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, Nellis has close ties to its neighboring city. Following the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas in October, last weekend’s air show commemorated and honored the city and the shooting’s victims.

Read Also: This Marine veteran ‘borrowed’ a truck and drove dozens to hospital during Las Vegas shooting

The show also featured US Air Force history, as the Air Force celebrates its 70th anniversary. About 400,000 people were expected to visit the two-day expo.

“This is freaking awesome. It really shakes you in your boots,” one observer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It is rare that you get to see this stuff.”

Here’s what it was like inside the Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo:

Nellis servicemen customized several aircraft, including this F-16 Fighting Falcon, to display the base’s Vegas Strong message.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
An F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 57th Wing, displays a Vegas Strong paint scheme as the aircraft flies over the Aviation Nation 2017 Air and Space Expo crowd at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 10. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)

This F-15C Eagle was painted to commemorate the shooting, which took place at a country music festival on Oct. 1.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
Senior Airmen Brittany Galloway and Dillon Cutlip, 57th Wing creative design team members, observe their final product on the tail of an F-15C Eagle at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Nov. 1, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)

Here’s more detail on the tail.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
Senior Airmen Brittany Galloway and Dillon Cutlip, 57th Wing creative design team members, observe their final product on the tail of an F-15C Eagle at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Nov. 1, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver/Released)

The aircraft had to be completely repainted in some cases.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
Michael Moore, 57th Maintenance Squadron aircraft painter, applies paint to an F-15C Eagle at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Oct. 25, 2017. The aircraft is being repainted to recognize the Air Force’s 70th Anniversary as well as the unity between the Las Vegas community and Nellis AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

Here’s the final product on another F-15C Eagle.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
An F-15C Eagle bears the term Vegas Strong at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Nov. 1, 2017. The aircraft was repainted to promote the unity between the Las Vegas community and Nellis AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

Here’s what they normally look like, without the paint job.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
F-15C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Ammons.)

Aside from the memorials to the Las Vegas shooting, the Air and Space Expo had some of the best features of a traditional air show. Spectators were treated to a show from the Air Force Thunderbirds.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)

The opening ceremony featured members of the Air Force’s Wing of Blue Parachute Team jumping out of aircrafts.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
A member of the U.S. Air Force’s Wing of Blue Parachute Demonstration Team jumps out of an aircraft over Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 10 during the opening ceremony of Aviation Nation 2017 Nellis Air and Space Expo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)

Here’s what it looks like when they land.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)

Aviation Nation also celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the US Air Force, showcasing older aircraft such as the B-25 Mitchell.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Dwayne Jones)

The Texas Flying Legends flew in formation, showing off some WWII-era aircrafts.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
A Texas Flying Legends pass over the Nellis Air Force Base flight line during Aviation Nation 2017 Nellis Air and Space Expo, Nov. 10, 2017. The Texas Flying Legends is dedicated to honoring the men and women who have served—or are currently serving through an active display of World War II aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)

Also on site was a U-2S Dragon Lady.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers
A U-2S Dragon Lady, reconnaissance aircraft from Beale Air Force Base, Calif arrives at Nellis Nov. 10, 2017.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines, soldiers, and sailors participate in joint training exercise

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics participated in exercise Resolute Sun from June 11-19, 2019.

The exercise allowed Marines to increase combat operational readiness in amphibious and prepositioning operations while conducting joint training with the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy during a joint logistics over-the-shore (JLOTS) scenario.

JLOTS provides operational movement capabilities in places where access to and from an area is not accessible. It is meant to strengthen interoperability between service branches so they can quickly build an improvised port and get equipment to and from wherever it is needed.


The Marines started the exercise on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. and convoyed down to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, more than 250 miles away.

“We don’t get an opportunity to conduct long-range convoys like that all the time; it takes a lot of discipline to accomplish something of this scale,” said 1st Sgt. Brent Sheets, company first sergeant of Alpha Company, 2nd TSB. “The Marines got to see that there is more behind their job then the routine mission they do every day in garrison.”

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

U.S. Army Soldiers with 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Regiment prepare for a landing craft, utility to dock on a trident pier during exercise Resolute Sun at Fort Story, Virginia, June 18, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

After the convoy, the Marines embarked 38 vehicles onto the USNS Watkins (T-AKR-315), once they reached Joint Base Charleston.

The USNS Watkins is part of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command 19 Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off Ships. The ship is used for prepositioning of ground vehicles and is designed to carry vehicles which are driven on and off the ship.

After the ship was embarked with all cargo, it set sail for Fort Story, Virginia. There, the equipment was offloaded utilizing a trident pier built by the U.S. Army’s 331st Transportation Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th transportation Regiment. Simultaneously, Amphibious Construction Battalion 2, Naval Beach Group 2 conducted a beach landing utilizing the improved navy lighterage system.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

U.S. Marine Corps logistics vehicles system replacements from 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, load onto the USNS Watkins during an on load port operation as part of exercise Resolute Sun at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“We’ve worked smoothly with the Marines during this exercise. They are our main counterparts,” said Construction Mechanic First Class Mark Paystrup, with Beach Master Unit 2, Battalion Cargo Group 10. “Because we work with them often, we are familiar with each other’s roles. What is more of an adjustment, is working with the Army. It is always good to practice that interoperability between the Services.”

The Navy-Marine Corps team works together all over the world, regulatory conducting beach landing operations together. The Army only has a few ship-to-shore assets, and sailors and Marines make sure to capitalize on training with soldiers to improve functionality between them.

“What we are doing today is exactly how we’re going to fight when we need too,” said Lt. Col Jonathan Baker, the Commanding Officer of 2nd TSB. “We’ll never go to war alone. We’ll go as a coalition. It’s important to understand how to do this jointly.”

Another benefit to the joint training environment is the ability to stay fiscally responsible while conducting such a large exercise. Working together with the Army and Navy, the price can be spread out amongst the branches, with each unit only being held responsible for paying for the gear and supplies they need.

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, load an M970 semitrailer refueling truck onto the USNS Watkins during an on load port operation during exercise Resolute Sun at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“Doing a joint training exercise such as this one, allows for all branches to get connected and get the same amount of training,” said Baker. “This is training that they have to do, so if we can get connected to that, it provides us with cost-saving opportunity and unique training situations that we would normally get through warfare.”

All 38 vehicles from 2nd TSB were able to be offloaded and redeployed via convoy 220 miles back to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. within two days of the USNS Watkins arriving in Virginia.

“It takes a lot of individual actions to make something like this happen. That’s the individual Marine knowing his job and doing it effectively,” said Capt. Bryan Hassett, company commander of Alpha Company, 2nd TSB. “109 Marines worked together seamlessly as a unit to accomplish the mission, and that is something that needs to happen every time we go out, no matter where we are anywhere in the world.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses

Struggling to expand its ranks, the Army will triple the amount of bonuses it’s paying this year to more than $380 million, including new incentives to woo reluctant soldiers to re-enlist, officials told The Associated Press.


Some soldiers could get $90,000 up front by committing to another four or more years, as the Army seeks to reverse some of the downsizing that occurred under the Obama administration after years of growth spurred by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The enlistment campaign was driven by Congress’ decision late last year to beef up the size of the Army, echoing the spirit if not quite the extent of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to significantly increase military staffing and firepower.

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US Army Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

Last fall, Trump unveiled a plan that would enlarge the Army to 540,000 soldiers. Army leaders back the general idea, but say more men and women must be accompanied by funding for the equipment, training, and support for them.

Under the current plan, the active duty Army will grow by 16,000 soldiers, taking it to 476,000 in total by October. The National Guard and the Army Reserve will see a smaller expansion.

To meet the mandate, the Army must find 6,000 new soldiers, convince 9,000 current soldiers to stay on, and add 1,000 officers.

“We’ve got a ways to go,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, said in an interview at his office in Fort Bragg, N.C. “I’m not going to kid you. It’s been difficult because a lot of these kids had plans and their families had plans.”

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Gen. Robert Abrams. US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill

In just the last two weeks, the Army has paid out more than $26 million in bonuses.

The biggest hurdle, according to senior Army leaders, is convincing thousands of enlistees who are only months away from leaving the service to sign up for several more years. Many have been planning their exits and have turned down multiple entreaties to stay.

“The top line message is that the Army is hiring,” said Maj. Gen. Jason Evans, who recently became the service’s head of Human Resources Command.

Evans said the Army was expanding “responsibly with a focus on quality,” insisting there will be no relaxation of standards.

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US Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza

It is a clear reference to last decade, when the Army eased recruitment rules to meet combat demands in Iraq and Afghanistan. At their peak, more than 160,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq and about 100,000 were in Afghanistan. To achieve those force levels, the Army gave more people waivers to enlist, including those with criminal or drug use records.

The Army vows it won’t do that again, focusing instead on getting soldiers to re-enlist. Money is the key.

The Army’s $550 billion base budget, approved by Congress last month, will provide money for the financial incentives. The latest round of increased bonuses, which became effective less than two weeks ago, are good for at least the next month.

Cyber posts, cryptologists, or other intelligence or high tech jobs with certain language skills are particularly rewarded. They can get between $50,000 and $90,000 by agreeing to serve another three to five years. Army special forces can also qualify for top level incentives. But more routine jobs — such as some lower level infantry posts — may get nothing, or just a couple of thousand dollars.

The new bonuses have triggered a spike in re-enlistments, said Mst. Sgt. Mark Thompson, who works with Army retention policies, saying there have been more than 2,200 since May 24.

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(Photo: U.S. Army Capt. Charlie Emmons)

The Army is about three-quarters of the way to its goal for re-enlistments. But meeting the ultimate target is difficult because the remaining pool of soldiers is comprised of people who “have said no for a long time,” Thompson said.

Normally, he said, about a third of eligible soldiers re-enlist each year. This year, the goal requires nearly three-quarters signing on for more years.

In some cases, the personal touch can help.

Across Fort Bragg from Abrams’ office, deep in the woods, soldiers from an 82nd Airborne Division unit are conducting a live fire exercise. While evaluating the troops, Col. Greg Beaudoin, commander of 3rd Brigade, also is doing his part to meet the re-enlistment objective.

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Photo courtesy of US Army

“I don’t think he knows what he wants to do yet in life,” Beaudoin said of a soldier on his staff that he urged to re-enlist. “So I told him, ‘Here is an opportunity. Just extend for a year until you figure it out. The army is offering you an opportunity. Take your time to figure out what you want to do.'”

Beaudoin said he thinks up to a fifth of his soldiers may stay on, crediting the bonuses for making the choice more attractive.

But the clock is ticking.

“Time is our biggest challenge,” Evans said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

Afghanistan has long been one of the world’s biggest producers of opium, which is used to make heroin, and the Taliban has made a lucrative business from taxing and providing security to producers and smugglers in the region.


But the militant group has expanded its role in that drug trade considerably, boosting its profits at a time when it is making decisive gains against the Afghan government and its US backers.

Read More: Afghanistan is producing record numbers of opium

According to a New York Times report, the Taliban has gotten involved in every stage of the drug business. Afghan police and their US advisers find heroin-refining labs with increasingly frequency, but the labs are easy to replace.

The country has produced the majority of the world’s opium for some time, despite billions of dollars spent by the US to fight it during the 16-year-long war there. Afghan and Western officials now say that rather than getting smuggled out of Afghanistan in the form of opium syrup, at least half of the crop is getting processed domestically, before leaving the country as morphine or heroin.

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Afghan contractors unload bags of fertilizer at the Nawa district government building compound in the Helmand province of Afghanistan Oct. 13, 2009. The Afghan government is distributing the fertilizer to residents to support alternatives to poppy. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Harris, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

Those forms are easier to smuggle, and they are much more valuable for the Taliban, which reportedly draws at least 60% of its income from the drug trade. With its increasing focus on trafficking drugs, the Taliban has taken on more of the functions a drug cartel.

“They receive more revenues if they process it before it has left the country,” William Brownfield, former US Assistant Secretary for Drugs and Law Enforcement, told reporters in the Afghan capital Kabul earlier this year. “Obviously we are dealing with very loose figures, but drug trafficking amounts to billions of dollars every year from which the Taliban is taking a substantial percentage.”

An Afghan farmer can be paid about $163 for a kilo of raw opium, which is like a black sap. Once it is refined into heroin, it can be sold for $2,300 to $3,500 a kilo at regional markets. In Europe it has a wholesale value of about $45,000.

Opium-poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has been consistently high since the US invasion in 2001. In 2016, there was a 10% jump in the area under cultivation, making it one of the three highest years on record. Initial data indicated 2017 was another record year, according to The Times, with government eradication efforts continue to be stymied throughout the country.

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U.S. Marines assigned to the female engagement team (FET) of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) conduct a patrol alongside a poppy field while visiting Afghan settlements in Boldak, Afghanistan, April 5, 2010. (DoD photo by Cpl. Lindsay L. Sayres, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

Seizures of chemical precursors, which are needed to process opium, have spiked, and the amount of processed morphine and heroin seized has risen considerably, now outstripping that of opium.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that without drugs, the war in Afghanistan “would have been long over,” and a senior Afghan official told The Times that, “If an illiterate local Taliban commander in Helmand makes a million dollars a month now, what does he gain in time of peace?”

Read More: This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty

The Trump administration has said its new strategy in Afghanistan is aimed at convincing the group there is no way to win on the battlefield, but its growing role in the drug trade is likely to make some elements of the Taliban less disposed to negotiations with the Kabul.

“This trend has real consequences for peace and security in Afghanistan, as it encourages those within the Taliban movement who have the greatest economic incentives to oppose any meaningful process of reconciliation with the new government,” the UN has said.

The Taliban’s move into heroin processing comes as it gains ground against the government, particularly in areas where the drug is produced.

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Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan by province. 2016 (image UNODOC screen grab)

At the end of 2016, the Taliban was thought to control more territory than at any time since 2001, and the Afghan government has reportedly lost control of 5% of its territory this year.

A unit of several hundred Afghan commandos, working with US special-forces advisers, is tasked with interdicting the flow of drugs. But their work is often undermined by Afghan officials (including ones from their own unit) complicit in the drug trade or hindered by insecurity that persists in much of the country.

“In Helmand, we were targeting to do more than 2,000 to 3,000 hectares of eradication,” Javid Qaem, Afghanistan’s deputy minister of narcotics, told The Times. “We couldn’t do anything there, none at all, because Helmand was almost an active battlefield, the entire province.”

Helmand, home to an estimated 80% of Afghanistan’s opium poppies, is a “big drug factory,” a Western official told AFP earlier this year. “Helmand is all about drugs, poppy and Taliban,” he said.

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Source: UNODC, main trafficking flows of heroin

While the US Drug Enforcement Administration has said that a minuscule portion of the heroin seized in the US is from Southwest Asia, heroin sourced to Afghanistan makes up a significant amount of what is found on the street in Europe.

The State Department has said 90% of the heroin found in Canada and 85% of that found in the UK can be tracked back to Afghanistan.

Read More: 6 employees fired from US embassy in Afghanistan for drug violations

According to the 2017 European Drug Report, “most heroin found in Europe is thought to be manufactured [in Afghanistan] or in neighbouring Iran or Pakistan.” (Drug addiction has exploded in Iran, with opium making up two-thirds of consumption.)

Heroin is Europe’s most common opioid, with an estimated retail value between 6 billion and 7.8 billion euros, according to the report, produced by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

Articles

How to get a defense industry job without a clearance

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A Navy contractor explains the process of missile maintenance to foreign military personnel. Gonzalo Bastidas, from Navy Munitions Command CONUS West Division, Unit Seal Beach, explains the process of missile maintenance to foreign military personnel at the Standard Missile shop at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. The missile shop visit is part of a familiarization tour for members of the International Standard Missile Users Group. The Standard is the Navy’s primary area air defense missile and is also used by many allied navies around the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Eli J. Medellin)


The defense industry is not only filled with upwardly mobile careers, but it is teeming with demand for candidates. To top it off, these employers really want veterans and tend to offer excellent financial packages for truly interesting and vital jobs.

The catch is, well, almost all these jobs require candidates to have a current clearance in order to be considered. Do you have one? Maybe you already do and you’re already game, or maybe you have one but it’s not a high enough clearance to fit into the typical defense industry position.

If you aren’t the proud owner of a clearance, don’t despair: It’s an uphill hike but still possible if you are willing to consider some options. If you are, you’re in luck … you may just be the right person to land one of these defense jobs that don’t require a clearance.

How, you ask?

With a little bit of fairy dust … and a plan.

Every industry needs support and planning. Behind all those defense industry jobs and workers is a cadre of specialists working to ensure the whole thing runs. Even if your end goal is to work within the cleared field, these positions can provide a gateway to get you where you want to go.

Contracts:

Someone has to identify, write and present contract bids for defense contractors to obtain government work. If the military needs a new set of aircraft, they go shopping among company bids with an eye on cost and potential effectiveness of the company on delivering quality equipment on time.

Recruitment:

With successful contract bids come the need for skilled employees who can live up to the company’s promises. Many defense industry employers maintain a lively team of recruiters, recruitment coordinators and administrative staff to hire and maintain an effective and talented resource of employees.

Human Resources:

Once that team is constructed, a staff dedicated to managing hiring packages, medical, dental and education benefits, as well as employee pay, is vital to make the operation work smoothly.

Maybe you aren’t interested in support jobs and would rather work within the cleared sector of the defense industry. There are still a couple avenues you can pursue. You can apply for defense jobs that do require a clearance, but you don’t necessarily need to currently hold one.

Here’s some options:

Apply to Directly:

Government agencies are less hamstringed by the need to have a preexisting clearance for potential personnel and are more likely to hire the right fit despite clearance status. The process for this is usually quite long, so have a plan in place while you work through the federal hiring process.

Note: Keep an eye on the political atmosphere, since agencies are affected by any federal hiring freezes.

Education Programs:

Many government agencies and some defense contractors have programs that provide direct connections to educational institutions and in-demand fields of study. If you were already interested in mathematics, for example, you may find an agency program that mentors student mathematicians with an eye for post-graduation hire. These programs target majors that are in high demand.

So, yes! It is possible to work in the defense industry. Fairy dust helps, but if you know the jobs that don’t require a clearance, you can snag yourself an opportunity. Support the greater defense community or work toward clearance sponsorship by getting your education and employment set up in one fell swoop.

You got this.

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