The head of the U.S. Space Force said it hasn’t been easy to get the American public to understand what the military’s newest branch does, but vowed to keep working on getting its message across.
“Space doesn’t have a mother. You can’t reach out and hug a satellite. You can’t see it; you can’t touch it. It’s hard to have that connection,” Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations for the service, told reporters Wednesday during a Defense Writers Group virtual event.
Since former President Donald Trump left office, many have speculated on the Space Force’s future. Space Force has a public relations crisis, Defense News reported, and is often seen as the Pentagon’s stepchild branch.
When White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked Tuesday about President Joe Biden’s plans for the service, critics argued she came off as dismissive. Lawmakers such as Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., condemned her response and asked her to apologize to the men and women of Space Force.Advertisement
“We look forward to the continuing work of Space Force and invite the members of the team to come visit us in the briefing room anytime to share an update on their important work,” Psaki tweeted hours after the briefing.
Raymond said Wednesday that he would “welcome the opportunity.”
In a separate briefing, Psaki said the Space Force “has the full support” of the Biden administration, confirming the president has no intention of undoing the labor already done to form the branch.
“We’re not revisiting the decision,” she said.
The Space Force has tried to explain its role to the public. Leaders have talked about overseeing everyday tasks like providing GPS capabilities on cellphones and enabling connections for ATM transactions, as well as more sophisticated missions such as early detection of incoming ballistic missiles — something the service accomplished during the Iranian attack on American forces in Iraq last year.
“I really believe we are communicating really well in a number of areas,” Raymond said, citing efforts to deter adversaries such as Russia and China in space, and collaborating with partners, allies and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“I think it’s also hard to understand because it’s been severely classified what the threats are out there,” he added. “I think we’ve been doing a lot of work to be able to talk about those threats, and to talk about the value of space to every single American. … But I think there still is a challenge that it’s hard to understand that connection to space. And we’ll keep working at it.”
Lawmakers have taken note, and congressional support for the Space Force is growing, Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, said in November.
But the Trump administration took hold of the messaging surrounding the Space Force early on — with Trump surprising Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in 2018 with his push to form the new branch. It has been seen as “Trump’s Space Force” for that reason, experts including Harrison say.
Trump made the Space Force a reality when he signed the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act on Dec. 20, 2019. The move temporarily reassigned 16,000 airmen and civilians to the new branch and dissolved the Air Force’s leading major command overseeing space, Air Force Space Command.
Actor Steve Carell based his new comedy show on the Space Force; it premiered on Netflix last year. And the service continues to get a bad rap on social media, from users posting that it “stole” the Star Trek logo; to ridiculing Guardians, the name for Space Force members; to denouncing its existence because of its association with Trump.
“It doesn’t help that [the service’s] recruitment [ad] shows astronauts and fictional space stations,” another user posted Wednesday on Twitter, referring to how Space Force and NASA’s commercial missions often get misconstrued.
Others fail to see the difference between U.S. Space Command — reactivated in August 2019, before the establishment of the Space Force — and the military’s sixth branch. SPACECOM is responsible for military operations related to space, while the Space Force organizes and trains space personnel.
Inside the Pentagon, messaging to the force has been “spectacular,” Raymond said, adding that there is an excitement for the mission, which supports the joint force.
But there was mockery once again Wednesday as Raymond’s words made it on Twitter, with users asking someone to manufacture a satellite plush toy to hug at night. Others called for an “adopt a satellite” program akin to sponsoring an endangered animal in the wild or blamed Trump for the service’s creation, claiming it wasted taxpayer dollars or complaining about the militarization of space operations.
“Communication is only fantastic if we understand the message,” tweeted Maggie Feldman-Piltch, head of NatSecGirlSquad. “We don’t need a mother, we need an origin story and a value statement.”
U.S. Navy SEALs — the elite Special Operations group with a name that has earned its reputation around the world. If people know the name of one elite unit, it’s probably the Navy SEALs.
U.S. Army Rangers — as old as American history itself, they have presented themselves as masters of both conventional and unconventional warfare time and time again. During the Global War on Terror (GWOT), they have evolved into a precision special operations force (SOF) and gained extensive combat experience, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Both are intensely involved in the GWOT, and both have had resounding successes and serious losses. As modern warfare continues to evolve, which one of these SOF units has delivered more impact in the War on Terror?
Navy SEALs train at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
(Photo by John Scorza, courtesy of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
When discussing the U.S. Navy SEALs, it’s important to distinguish between the SEAL Teams and SEAL Team Six. SEAL Team Six (sometimes referred to as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU) belongs to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and is tasked with executing a broad scope of special missions that often have a direct impact on the United States’ foreign policy and national security strategy. Most notably, they were responsible for killing Usama Bin Laden in 2011.
The other SEAL teams are under the purview of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) and conduct special operations, often against terrorists and insurgents. This can be confusing since the vast majority of U.S. troops in foreign engagements from Afghanistan to Syria are fighting “terrorists,” but SEAL Team Six specializes in it.
Navy SEALs conduct operations in Afghanistan alongside Afghan partners.
(U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
In short, SEAL Team Six is conducting complex missions like hostage rescue; high-level, low-visibility reconnaissance; and direct-action raids against high-value targets (more in the vein of Delta Force, their Army counterpart). The other SEAL Teams have a different overall mission, though overlap does exist. The clear-stated mission on paper is to conduct maritime-based missions, but that is certainly not the end of it. Special operations units are versatile, and today’s SEALs are often training friendly foreign forces, conducting direct-action raids in and outside of large American engagements, or performing their legacy mission of carrying out maritime missions.
SEALs are currently conducting operations in war zones around the world; not all of the teams are relegated to Afghanistan and Syria. They have recently worked in the Philippines, Djibouti, Central America, and South America, to name a few places. They are not necessarily running direct-action raids in all these places. For example, conducting FID (Foreign Internal Defense) with a host nation could mean accompanying local groups on missions, or it could simply mean training them on basic infantry tactics and calling it a day.
A Navy SEAL conducts training with a SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV).
(U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
Rangers, on the other hand, are more specific when it comes to geography. You’re not going to run into a Ranger platoon in the middle of Ethiopia, and Rangers aren’t going to be the ones tasked with hostage rescue missions off the Ivory Coast. For the most part, they go to places where there is a large American presence (or where the military wants there to be one), where the fighting is heavy and the missions are frequent, and they can roll up their sleeves and get busy. They are a precision strike force, but they are precise amid large military efforts.
While Rangers also conduct FID missions, especially in Afghanistan, their purpose revolves around kill/capture missions on a day-to-day basis.
Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment prepare to conduct an airfield seizure.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
Seizing an airfield is to Rangers as a maritime raid is to the SEALs. The 75th Ranger Regiment is known for its ability to take an airfield from enemy control, though this hasn’t actually been conducted for years. Most of the time, Rangers are conducting kill or capture raids in Afghanistan. In fact, they were credited with killing or capturing over 1,900 terrorists during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. They have had a presence in Syria as well.
As terrorism and insurgent-type tactics have been more common among the enemies of the United States (in contrast to conventional military tactics), the need for special operations units has skyrocketed. Rangers, SEALs, and other elite groups have found themselves bearing that weight, evolving rapidly, and fulfilling the needs of a constantly changing battlefield.
A Ranger from the 75th Ranger Regiment conducts close quarters combat training.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
These units are required to have a breadth of skillsets, intensive training, and a specific state of body and mind — however, that doesn’t mean that every deployment is rife with firefights and explosions. Many Ranger deployments to Afghanistan have ended with no shots fired; many SEALs will deploy to countries around the world without conducting any raids.
So, who has the greatest impact on the GWOT?
Rangers often use helicopters to get to their objective.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
Many of these conversations — Rangers versus SEALs versus MARSOC versus PJs versus Green Berets — devolve into a “which one is better” conversation. However, each has their task and function, and asking whether one is better than the other is like asking if a cardiac surgeon is “better” than a neurosurgeon — it depends on if you need heart surgery or brain surgery. The better informed find themselves asking: “Who is better at a maritime interdiction?” “Who can take this airport?” “Who has a presence in this area?” These are the practical questions that warrant practical answers, and those are the ones that matter on the practical battlefield.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
The most recent ranking of the world’s most violent cities by the Mexican research group Security, Justice, and Peace again drew attention to Latin America, home to 42 of the 50 cities on the list.
Latin America is indeed the most violent region, accounting for about 8% of the global population but tallying roughly one-third of the world’s intentional homicides.
While homicide is not the only kind of violent crime, it is generally considered the best measure of it.
“Of all the different types of crime, homicide is probably the easiest to track because there’s nothing more biologically evident than a dead body,” Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention, told Business Insider.
In most places, there are also legal procedures that authorities are supposed to follow when dealing with homicides.
Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention.
“So unlike, say, assault or robbery or sexual violence or domestic abuse, homicide is one of those variables that across time and space is relatively straightforward to capture,” Muggah said, adding that researchers can draw on a panoply of sources — law enforcement, public-health agencies, nongovernmental groups, the press, and the public — to tabulate and track homicides over time.
But, as Latin America illustrates, there are a number of recurrent challenges that arise when collecting homicide data that complicate efforts to make comparisons and compile rankings.
Where did it happen?
“Are we looking at national data, state data, city data, and if we are looking at city data, in this case, how are we defining a city?” Muggah said.
A city’s geographic limits can be defined in a number of ways. The UN has three: the city proper, delineated by administrative boundaries; the urban agglomeration, comprising a contiguous urban area; and the metropolitan area, the boundaries of which are based on social or economic connections.
The populations of each of those areas can vary enormously, as can the number of homicides.
“It turns out cities are surprisingly difficult to define. There is no unified or uniform definition of a city, and this has been a source of some consternation for geographers for over a century,” Muggah said.
The Igarapé Institute eschews homicide rankings but does maintain a Homicide Monitor that compiles data on killings, using the urban-agglomeration definition for cities, Muggah said.
The Mexican group adheres to some set of criteria, requiring minimum population of 300,000 people and excluding places with active conflicts, such as Ukraine or Syria.
But the group says in its methodology that whenever possible it includes all the municipalities that it assesses as part of a city — “localities that form a unique urban system, clearly distinguishable from others, independent of the geographic-administrative divisions inside the countries.”
Security, Justice, and Peace rejected the criticism, saying that it based its population count on official numbers and that excluding Rosarito would have actually raised the homicide rate. (Though it did not say why it assessed Tijuana’s metropolitan area and not those of other cities.)
What’s a homicide?
“It turns out there are many kinds of homicide,” Muggah said. “We have homicide that’s intentional. We have homicide that’s unintentional, which we also call manslaughter. We have homicide committed by police, which sometimes isn’t included in the formal homicide statistics.”
Mexico has experienced an alarming increase in homicides, setting records in 2017 and 2018.
Mexico’s official crime data includes two categories for homicide: “homicidio doloso,” which refers to intentional homicides, and “homicidio culposo,” which refers to manslaughter or unintentional homicides.
The most recent tallies for intentional homicides in Mexico in 2017 and 2018 are 28,868 and 33,369, respectively. The totals for all homicides are 46,640 in 2017 and 50,373 in 2018.
Missing persons in Mexico.
While official government tabulations distinguish between unintentional and intentional homicides as they are legally defined in those countries, counts by nongovernmental groups, the media, and the public can elide that distinction, grouping different kinds of lethal violence together.
“And that matters,” Muggah said, “because in some countries, including Mexico and Brazil, when you include police lethality, police killings, which fall under a different category, that can actually significantly augment the overall count.”
In many cases, Muggah added, “those deaths are not what you describe as illegal.”
In 2017, Brazil had 63,880 homicides — 175 killings a day — up 3% from 2016 and a record. (Homicides were trending downward through the first nine months of 2018, but full-year data for 2018 is not yet available.)
In 2017, there was also an increase in the number of people killed by Brazil’s police, rising 20% from 2016 to 5,144 people, or 14 a day. Authorities in Rio de Janeiro state have attracted special scrutiny for their lethality, drawing accusations of extrajudicial executions.
Not only where and how you measure, but also when?
Even when homicide data for a full calendar year is available — which is not always the case; Security, Justice, and Peace list in some cases extrapolates from partial-year data — it may change over time.
“In many cases, there are outstanding trials and judicial processes that are ongoing to determine … what in fact that lethal outcome was, and that can take months. It can take years,” Muggah said. “Typically though, there’s a delay when governments produce data to issue this information because they’re still dealing with many of the legalities around sorting out homicide.”
Full-year 2017 crime data for Mexico, released in January 2018, put the number of homicide victims at 29,168.
The most recent data for that year, updated in March 2019, indicates there were 28,868 homicide victims. (The Mexican government changed its methodology at the beginning of 2018 and updated previous tallies to reflect that.)
Police on the street in the high crime area of Iztapalapa, Mexico City.
There are also 26,000 unidentified bodies in Mexico’s forensic system, and the government estimates that more than 40,000 people are missing. Hidden graves full of unidentified bodies are frequently found all around Mexico.
“In many countries, Latin America, in particular, there are huge impunity rates and a great gap in processing some of these cases, precisely because of the volume but also the lack of capacity to go through all of these cases, and so there’s a reason” for a delay, Muggah said.
It’s necessary to reflect on violence and trends in crime, but, Muggah added, “the challenge is that many governments are operating at different speeds.”
Relaying on data for only part of a year, or drawing on only certain sources that are readily available can often “unintentionally bias our sample,” Muggah said.
Know what you don’t know.
A challenge for “all of us who are in the business of monitoring and tracking and building systems to better understand criminality is that there are many places or instances where crime, including lethal violence, is not particularly well reported, or if it is reported it’s reported very badly,” Muggah said.
Latin American countries release crime data fairly regularly, but closer examination reveals “great gaps in the data,” especially in parts of Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil, Muggah said.
“There’ll be reports that … don’t accurately capture the cause of death, and therefore you get misattribution. There’ll be a situation where they just can’t store the bodies because there’s insufficient space, and so you get undercounts,” he said. “There’ll be places where the governments themselves, police in particular, have no incentive to report on lethal violence and therefore will skew the figures.”
Outside the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a 36-member group that includes most of North America and Europe, available information about crime is also lacking, Muggah said.
“If you go to Africa, with the exception of a few countries, it’s … a knowledge gap around homicide,” he added. That’s also the case in parts of Asia, “where governments just don’t want to report overall statistics on crime, citing it as a national-security issue.”
In the methodology included in its most recent report, Security, Justice, and Peace said that it compiles the ranking with the objective of “calling attention to violence in cities, particularly in Latin America, so that the leaders are pressured to fulfill their duty to protect the governed to guarantee their right to public security.”
“What we are also looking for is that no one … wants their city or cities to appear in this ranking, and that if their city or cities are [on it] already, they make the maximum effort so they leave it as soon as possible,” the group added.
Brazilian Federal Highway Police.
There are positive and negative potential effects of inclusion on such a list, Muggah said.
“One hopes that as a positive outcome, [inclusion] would incentivize city leaders, business leaders in cities, civic activists, and common citizens to be alert to the many risks that are there and also to seek and strive to find ways to get themselves off that list,” he said.
But there can be negative consequences. Reducing a complicated issue such as personal security to a single metric risks sensationalizing the problem and can skew public perceptions, potentially empowering leaders who push hardline punitive responses, Muggah said.
In some cases, it can “stigmatize cities,” Muggah said, affecting foreign and domestic investment, credit ratings, and business decisions. It can also have a particular effect on local economies, especially for tourism, on which many parts of Latin America rely.
“The hope is that by shining a light … on these challenges that somehow this will provoke” a constructive response from the city, its residents, and its leaders, rallying them around a common goal, such as reducing insecurity and getting off that list, Muggah said.
“It’s not clear yet if that in fact has ever happened, whether these lists have contributed positively to social change, and that might be asking too much of a list,” Muggah said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
By 2010, when a Drug Enforcement Administration agent named Drew Hogan arrived in Mexico City with his family, the Mexican kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman had been on the run for nine years.
The Sinaloa cartel chief had slipped out of a prison in southwest Mexico during the first weeks of 2001 — some say while hiding in a laundry basket.
Once on the ground in Mexico, Hogan picked up the trail “by looking at the details,” he said.
“It was in the details — in the numbers,” he told NBC’s Today show in an interview on April 4, 2018, about his latest book, Hunting El Chapo.
“The phone numbers don’t lie,” Hogan said. “And I was able to pair up with a crack team of Homeland Security investigative agents, and we began intercepting members of Chapo’s inner circle and starting to dismantle layers within his sophisticated communications structure until we got to the top, where I had his personal secretary’s device, who was standing right next to him, and I could ping that to establish a pattern of life to determine where he was at.”
The search for Guzman led authorities to his home turf in Sinaloa state, in northwest Mexico.
Sinaloa, where Guzman was born and got his start in the drug trade, is considered a cradle of Mexican drug trafficking, producing figures like the Guadalajara cartel chiefs Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, and Rafael Caro Quintero; the Sinaloa cartel chiefs Guzman, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, and Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, aka “El Azul”; and others, like the Juarez cartel chief Amado Carrillo Fuentes, aka “the Lord of the Skies,” and members of the Arellano Felix family, who ran the Tijuana cartel in the 1990s and 2000s.
Hogan’s search eventually led to Mazatlan, a resort town in southwestern Sinaloa state. There, Guzman had lived what Hogan described as an unremarkable lifestyle.
“I was surprised with the way that he lived,” Hogan said. “He almost afforded himself no luxury — same plastic tables and chairs in every safe house that was designed the same way.”
After 13 years on the run, however, Guzman had begun to let his guard down, venturing out of the rugged Sinaloa mountains to relax in Mazatlan and nearby Culiacan, the state capital.
Several of his associates were captured or killed in the first weeks of 2014.
Near the end of February 2014, Mexican marines stormed a house belonging to Guzman’s ex-wife, but they struggled to knock down a steel-reinforced door, allowing Guzman time to escape.
A few days later, they launched another raid targeting the elusive kingpin.
“We were at the Hotel Miramar,” Hogan said, and Guzman was on the fourth floor. “The Mexican marines went inside and started banging down doors. I was standing outside. I was worried about our perimeter. I was worried about him escaping us again. And I heard excited radio chatter: ‘They got him. They got him. They got the target.’
“My vehicle was first in. I drove it down to the underground parking garage, and that’s where they had him,” Hogan continued. “They were just standing him up. I got out of my vehicle, ran right up to him, I’m wearing this black ball cap that I had taken out of his closet … in Culiacan — my only souvenir of the hunt — wearing a black ski mask, and I ran right up to up to him, jumped into his face, and said the first thing that came to my head.
“I screamed, ‘What’s up, Chapo?!'”
Guzman’s capture was heralded in Mexico and abroad and held up by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as a hallmark achievement of his efforts to combat criminal groups and drug-related violence in the country.
But Guzman’s time in prison was short-lived. In July 2015, the Sinaloa cartel chief again slipped out, this time through a mile-long tunnel dug from a partially constructed house to the Altiplano maximum-security prison and right up to the shower in Guzman’s cell.
“It was pretty predictable,” Hogan said of Guzman’s escape. “This tunnel that went underneath the prison was the same types of tunnels that went underneath the safe houses, were the same types of tunnels that are at the US-Mexico border.”
Numerous security lapses were discovered in the aftermath.
Altiplano had the same layout as the prison Guzman broke out of in 2001. (A former Mexican security official who joined the Sinaloa cartel is suspected of stealing the prison plans.)
Reports indicated that a geolocation device Guzman had to wear may have been used by his associates to locate him within the prison. Guzman told Mexican officials his henchmen were able to build two tunnels under the prison after the first one missed the cell.
Sounds of digging under his cell were detected but not investigated, and about 30 minutes passed between when Guzman went out of sight in his cell and when jailers responded to his absence.
“It was coming if they didn’t have him on complete lockdown,” Hogan said.
Guzman’s freedom after the 2015 breakout was brief. He made his way back to Sinaloa, where Mexican authorities picked up the trail, conducting a search that frequently put civilians under fire.
But Guzman was apprehended in January 2016, spending another year in Mexico — a stint marked by more fear about another breakout — before his extradition to the US in January 2017, just a few hours before President Donald Trump took office.
Guzman is now locked up at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan. His trial is set to start in September 2018, in Brooklyn.
With a recent rash of close encounters and fast approaches by Iranian vessels in international waters prompting U.S. ship commanders to fire flares and warning shots, the Navy’s top officer is warning that the consequences of this harassment could be significant and is advocating for an agreed-upon rule set to govern these at-sea encounters.
During a discussion at the Center for American Progress on Monday in Washington, D.C., Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told Military.com that individual ship commanders had broad autonomy to respond to these Iranian harassment incidents.
“There’s really nothing that limits the way they can respond,” Richardson said. “These things happen on a time scale that really doesn’t allow those commanders to sort of phone home for permission and then respond. They’ve got to know what their commander’s guidance is, they’ve got to be given the freedom to act, to take advantage of fleeting opportunities, and also to make sure that they can respond to these very fast moving opportunities.”
To date, these responses have been limited to warning measures and rebukes. But the Iranian ships’ behavior, Richardson suggested, could have grave consequences.
“From the standpoint of, is our Navy prepared to respond, I would say, yes in every respect,” Richardson said. “These are some of these potentially destabilizing things. A tactical miscalculation, the closer and closer you get to these kinds of things, the margin for error gets smaller, human error can play a bigger and bigger role. I think it’s very important that we eliminate this sort of activity when we can and nothing good can come from it.”
Richardson said he hopes to establish a dialogue with Iranian naval leaders in order to develop a code of conduct to govern encounters at sea. He added that such a rule set had been very effective in dictating behavior during maritime encounters with the Chinese Navy, even amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea.
“We’re working to sort of think our way through what are the possibilities there, both with the Iranians and I would say with the Russians who exhibit this behavior as well,” Richardson said, “so we can get up on the line and sort of have a conversation of, whether this would be helpful or hurtful, this is not in the helpful category.”
It remains unclear whether the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy would be interested in engaging in the sort of dialogue Richardson wants.
The deputy chief of staff for Iran’s armed forces, Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, told a state news agency this week that Iranian boats involved in the encounters with U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf were in keeping with international standards and norms.
“The claims [of harassment] are not only untrue, but stem from their fear of the power of Iran’s soldiers,” Jazayeri said, according to Agence France-Presse reports.
The Pentagon has reported at least five incidents of harassment by Iranian boats in the last month. In at least one of the encounters, an Iranian vessel came within 100 yards of a U.S. patrol ship.
Separately, Iran over the weekend threatened to shoot down two U.S. Navy aircraft — a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance plane and an EP-3 — that were flying in international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, CNN reported.
The 591 weapons released over Afghanistan in May 2018 were the most in a month so far, according to new statistics released by the Air Force.
Those 591 topped the previous high, which was 562 in April 2018 — a count that includes bombs, missiles and ground-attacks. The record for a month is the 653 weapons released in October 2017 — that month, August 2017, and April and May 2018 are the only months to exceed 500 weapons released.
Overall, the US aircraft conducted 726 sorties as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in May 2018, 73 of which included the release of at least one weapon.
The total weapons deployed by manned and remotely piloted aircraft through May 2018 is 2,339, more than were dropped in both 2016 and 2015 and close to the 12-month totals for 2013 and 2014 — 2,758 and 2,365, respectively.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
The 2,339 weapons used through May 2018 puts the US on pace to release 5,613 weapons this year, which would well exceed the 4,361 used in 2017.
President Donald Trump said in 2017 that the US would increase its troop presence in Afghanistan to combat the resurgent Taliban as well as the growing presence of a local offshoot of ISIS called Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.
Since then, a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack aircraft have been stationed in Afghanistan, as have MQ-9 Reapers used for intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance. F-16 Falcon fighter jets and EC-130H Compass Call electronic-warfare aircraft, among others, are also in the country.
Trump also delegated more authority to the Pentagon and commanders on the ground.
In recent months, the US has stepped up its targeting of the Taliban’s drug labs and other revenue-generating infrastructure, using advanced aircraft like the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter to bomb rudimentary buildings around Afghanistan.
“US air operations in May put tremendous pressure on every branch of the Taliban’s network,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, combined force air-component commander, said in a release. “We struck Taliban leadership with precision strikes, and consistently pummeled their revenue-producing facilities, weapons caches, and staging facilities.”
The May 2018 airstrike data was released as Army Lt. Gen. Austin Scott Miller went before lawmakers as the nominee to be the commander of US Forces Afghanistan. He would be the ninth US general to take command since the invasion in late 2001 and the first appointed by Trump.
The Pentagon believes that the Taliban controls or is contesting control of about one-third of Afghanistan, while the Afghan government controls the rest.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras)
“I’ve learned a lot in the last 17 years,” Miller, who currently oversees Joint Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’ve learned there are groups that want nothing more than to harm Americans.”
“I’ve learned these groups thrive in ungoverned spaces,” he added. “I’ve also learned that when we maintain pressure on them abroad, they struggle to organize and build the necessary means to attack us.”
When pressed by senators, Miller admitted the Pentagon needed to be considering pulling out of Afghanistan in the coming years but stressed that a “precipitous and disorderly withdrawal” would lead to “negative effects on US national security.”
Miller, who deployed to Afghanistan as a lieutenant colonel in 2001, underscored the generational nature of the war by gesturing to his son, a second lieutenant in the Army, during the hearing.
“This young guy sitting behind me,” Miller said. “I never anticipated that his cohort would be in a position to deploy [to Afghanistan] as I sat there in 2001 and looked at this.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Army has been looking beyond armor to augment the defense of Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles, responding to the emergence of more potent weapons without sacrificing speed and weight.
“Today, we need to adapt differently to threats, not just by adding more armor,” Col. Kevin Vanyo, program manager for Emerging Capabilities at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development, and Engineering Center, told the Army News Service, adding that the Abrams is already so heavy many bridges cannot support it.
Vanyo said his team was working on both “hard kill” APS, which uses physical countermeasures, and “soft kill” APS, which uses countermeasures like electro-magnetic signals to interfere with incoming weapons. Both systems would be part of the Modular Active Protection System, which is “a framework for a modular, open-systems architecture” that will allow an active-protection system to function once installed, he said.
The Army is considering three versions of MAPS, Vanyo told the Army News Service. Israeli-made Trophy APS on Abrams tanks, U.S.-made Iron Curtain APS on Stryker combat vehicles, and Iron Fist APS, also made by an Israeli company, on Bradley fighting vehicles.
Decisions about fielding the latter two systems will be made in early 2018, but the Army hopes to field the Trophy APS system by 2020, Vanyo said.
How an APS Hard-Kill sequence works. (Image from Congressional Research Service)
Personnel at the Army Test and Evaluation Command’s Alabama test center facility in Redstone Arsenal are working on an APS and other systems that can be deployed as part of MAPS, ATEC chief Maj. Gen. John Charlton told Army News Service. A main concern was figuring out if signals produced by an APS would interfere with the Army vehicle or be detectable by enemy sensors.
The U.S. Army has been evaluating APS for some time. It leased several Trophy systems in spring 2016, working with the Marine Corps to test them. It has also purchased some systems for testing.
“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, Army deputy chief of staff, told Scout Warrior this summer. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”
Army Maj. Gen. David Bassett, the Army’s program executive officer for ground combat systems, said in mid-August that the Army was “very close to a decision on [installing] the Trophy system.”
“We’re looking to make those decisions rapidly so that we can spend money in the next Fiscal Year,” Bassett said, adding that he foresaw “a brigade’s worth of capability of Trophy on the Abrams.” The 2018 fiscal year began in October.
An Israeli Merkava IIID Baz tank. (Image from Israel Defense Forces)
Active-protection systems are already part of other countries’ arsenals. Israeli and Russian tanks both use the Trophy APS.
At least one country, Norway, has publicly discussed ways to counter Russian APS use — talk that appeared to break “a taboo among Western military officials and defence industries,” retired Brig. Ben Barry, senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote earlier this year.
Even as militaries adopt active-protection systems to catch up with peers and rivals, there is reportedly a counter to APS already out there.
The most recent variant of the Russian-made RPG rocket launcher, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to act as an “agent provocateur” for active-protection systems, a Russian arms maker said in late 2015.
The Marine Corps has, in recent months, started to shift its focus away from operations in the Middle East and begun to emphasize preparing to operate in extreme cold— like that found in northern Europe and northeast Asia.
US forces “haven’t been in the cold-weather business for a while,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in January 2018. “Some of the risks and threats there, there is a possibility we are going to be there.”
That reorientation has placed new demands on Marines operating at northern latitudes in Europe and North America — and put new strains on their equipment.
The Corps has issued requests for information on a new cap and gloves for intense cold, and it plans to spend nearly $13 million on 2,648 sets of NATO’s ski system for scout snipers, reconnaissance Marines, and some infantrymen.
But the transition to new climates hasn’t gone totally smoothly. Marines in northern Norway in 2016 and early 2017 reported a number of problems with their gear. Zippers stuck; seams ripped; backpack frames snapped; and boots repeatedly pulled loose from skis or tore on the metal bindings.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brianna Gaudi)
Now the service is increasingly drawing on new technology to keep Marines equipped in harsh environments.
Marines at the Mountain Warfare Training Center, working with the Marine Corps System Command team focused on additive manufacturing, which is also known as 3D printing, have come up with a method for same-day printing of new snowshoe clips, which keep boots locked into show shoes.
“If a Marine is attacking a position in the snow while in combat, and the clip on their boot breaks, it makes it difficult for the Marine to run forward with a rifle uphill to complete the mission,” Capt. Matthew Friedell, AM project officer in MCSC’s Systems Engineering and Acquisition Logistics, said in a release. “If he or she has a 3D-printed clip in their pocket, they can quickly replace it and continue charging ahead.”
Th teams designed and printed the new clip, made of resin, within three business days of the request, and each clip costs just $0.05, the Marine Corps said in the release. The team has also 3D-printed an insulated cover for radio batteries that would otherwise quickly be depleted in cold weather.
“The capability that a 3D printer brings to us on scene saves the Marine Corps time and money by providing same-day replacements if needed,” said Capt. Jonathan Swafford, AM officer at MWTC. “It makes us faster than our peer adversaries because we can design whatever we need right when we need it, instead of ordering a replacement part and waiting for it to ship.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damion Hatch Jr.)
The Marines aren’t the only ones working on 3D printing. The Navy is using it to make submersibles, and Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart said in mid-2017 that the Air Force was looking at 3D printing to produce replacement parts.
But the Marine Corps has expressed particular interest in the technology.
A September 2016 message gave Marine unit commands broad permission to use 3D printing to build parts for their equipment. The force now relies on it to make products that are too small for the conventional supply chain, like specialized tools, radio components, or items that would otherwise require larger, much more expensive repairs to replace.
In June 2017, Marine Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, the Corps’ lead for additive manufacturing and 3D printing, told Military.com that Marines were the first to deploy the machines to combat zones with conventional forces.
Marotto said several of the desktop-computer-size machines had been deployed with the Marine Corps crisis-response task force in the Middle East.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kaitlin Kelly)
The Corps is developing the X-FAB, a self-contained, transportable 3D-printing facility contained within a 20-foot-by-20-foot box, meant to support maintenance, supply, logistics, and engineer units in the field. The service also said it wants to 3D-print mini drones for use by infantry units.
Marine officials have attributed much of the Corps’ progress with 3D printing to its younger personnel, many of whom have taken initiative and found ways to incorporate the new technology.
“My eyes are watering with what our young people can do right now,” Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters said at a conference in March 2018, adding that 69 of the devices had been deployed across the force. “I have an engineering background, but I’m telling you, some of these 21- and 22-year-olds are well ahead of me.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A meditation company with an iTunes app is offering free downloads to veterans. Meditation Studios has developed 200 meditation tracks that can be downloaded through their app in the iTunes store.
Through a recent partnership with Give Back, the company created the Veterans Collection, a unique series of meditations that are designed to help veterans improve their focus, relieve stress, and encourage better sleep.
In a statement to We Are the Mighty, Meditation Studios said:
Please enjoy these complimentary meditations from Meditation Studio App. For more from this collection, download the app. The guided meditations in the Veterans collection will help to improve focus, relieve stress, encourage better sleep and generally bring more peace of mind. The mind can be a great source of distress when it’s out of control. When we can relax, pause or slow the mind down, it becomes a source of consolation and peace.
As we learn to meditate, we learn to recognize emotions, thoughts and sensations without reacting to them. It helps us to respond more thoughtfully, without impulse or overreaction. This can be very comforting, giving veterans more control over the thoughts and emotions that accompany a return from deployment.
The downloads are available through the app, or through SoundCloud. The app, which is $3.99 and has high ratings, features unlimited access to all of the company’s meditations and courses; population and situation specific mediations; step-by-step “courses” with instruction on proper meditation; meditations in various lengths to fit into busy schedules; a section for tracking progress, scheduling meditations, and an in-app calendar.
An uncontrolled study published in Military Medicine in June, 2011 found that meditation among Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom combat veterans with moderately severe post traumatic stress “may have helped to alleviate symptoms of PTSD and improve quality of life in veterans of OEF/OIF with combat-related PTSD.”
A similar study by the Army in 2013 determined that meditation could have a positive impact on PTSD, and noted that more research was needed.
The VA notes that meditation, when combined with other treatments, may “improve outcomes” of treatment.
The US Navy will prohibit all guests, including family members, from attending the graduation ceremony for recruits in Great Lakes, Illinois, due to concerns over the coronavirus.
The Navy will “suspend guest attendance at graduation ceremonies to prevent any potential spread of COVID 19 to either Sailors of Navy families,” Navy Recruit Training Command (RTC) said in a statement, using the abbreviation for coronavirus disease 19.
The new directive is scheduled to begin on March 13. Guests will be able to view the graduation on a livestream on the command’s Facebook page instead of attending the ceremony in person. The Navy said it will continue to monitor to situation to determine when to lift the ban.
The Navy added that there were no confirmed cases of the coronavirus among its recruits and that incoming recruits will be screened on arrival.
The US Army implemented similar measures to screen its recruits. Army recruits will have their temperatures taken and will be asked if they are experiencing other flu-like symptoms, including coughing, sore throat, and fatigue.
“This action is being taken out of an abundance of caution, to both ensure the welfare of Sailors and that RTC can continue its essential mission of producing basically trained Sailors,” RTC said in its statement. “Recruits impacted by this change are being authorized to call home to directly inform their loved ones.”
Off-base outings, which are granted for the new recruits who spent eight weeks in training, will also be cancelled. The recruits will instead “report directly to their follow-on assignments,” which will likely entail training for their individual occupational specialties.
The Navy has implemented other measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The US Navy’s 6th and 7th fleets, responsible for European and Asia-Pacific waters, respectively, imposed a 14-day quarantine on ships between port calls in their regions.
If you want something done right, you do it yourself.That’s a mantra we’ve all heard before but is it really conventional?Some may say yes, but the reality is that you can’t do everything yourself. At some point, in some fashion, you’re going to need more done than you have hours to complete and you will need to outsource some aspects of your business. However, the presence of this necessity doesn’t make the process any easier.Especially when your business is your passion. It’s hard to give up control until trust is gained.
Eric Mitchell along with his wife Lucie, who both spent several years working for successful startups in the Silicon Valley, and both being acquired multiple times, decided to pursue a new venture together in 2014. Eric wanted to give back to the community he loves,and with love of country and belief that service never ends, Eric asked Lucie to put her dreams as an aspiring educator on hold temporarily as they launched a company with longtime friend Matt Hannaford — and LifeFlip Media was born.
“We understand that everything is mission critical for our clients and we treat them exactly as that — a mission,” says Eric Mitchell, CEO of LifeFlip Media.
Built on the mission of demonstrating to the American public the value of the Warrior Class, Eric Mitchell created LifeFlip Media as a way to give back to his community.What is the Warrior Class?It’s the class of patriots that are the backbone of this country and the very ones who make this country as great as it is.It’s members of the military, their spouses and family.It’s the first responders of our communities and all of those who support them in all that they do.
This group has often been misrepresented and stereotyped within the media, leaving many outside of the community with false pretenses of aggression, mental instability, and lack of education.LifeFlip Media set itself on a course to change that narrative.Matt Hannaford, President of LifeFlip and one of the few “civilians” on the team, agrees.“I look for us to continue to be loud as the voice of the Warrior Class. We’ve created a great team and it’s time for us to build upon it. We want to take the image of the American soldier and make it great again.”
“Over the past year, I have witnessed LifeFlip Media breach the national media market for veterans. Eric and his team have managed to get more air time for veteran-owned companies than I have seen in my professional career. It is about time that the warrior class has a voice in mainstream media,” said Samantha Brown, former COO of Irreverent Warriors.
Care about what you do
One of the most difficult and important aspects of a partnership is the ability to create and sustain an unobstructed flow of ideas and communication.Being able to understand where your clients are coming from can give you a better idea of where they are heading, which can provide powerful insight.LifeFlip has been able to streamline its process by having a small team of people who possess values that reflect the ones instilled in them from the military as well as working with clients whose values align with their own.
“Being a veteran can be great for PR but it also comes with a lot of misunderstanding and challenges. Having a team that understands this because they come from the same community and also have experience in the PR world gives them the ability to successfully pitch myself and other veterans. This helps secure the vital exposure that allows us to not only survive but to also grow,” says Eli Crane, CEO of Bottle Breacher and former Navy SEAL.
Leanness and Efficiency
“We have a smaller team, but we care more,” says Mitchell.In only a few short years, LifeFlip Media has been able to belly up to the table and feast on their market share with the big names in the PR space using a small but mighty team with a diverse skill set.As a Marine veteran, LFM’s Director of Digital Media, Aaron Childress, understands the power of a small cohesive unit: “We have hit on a set of skills that no other firm can touch. From top to bottom, we offer every digital media line item needed for a brand to succeed and we do all of this with a smaller team, lower overhead, and quicker turnaround than anyone can offer. It’s a lighting strike of favor and good fortune and the top leadership at LifeFlip Media has capitalized on it at the correct time.”
5 Values of LifeFlip Media
Eric Mitchell put emphasis on core values as he explains, “We hold values yet don’t look at them as ours.We look at them as belonging to our community.”LifeFlip Media has made great strides during its short time in existence and has leaped its way past other players who have been in the game for far longer.They are undoubtedly different from your run-of-the-mill PR firm but what sets them apart from their counterparts is that LifeFlip possesses values that they truly live each day.
LifeFlip Media believes in serving their clients first so the client can serve their customers in return. Everyone at LifeFlip Media strives to have their client success speak for the team.
The team believes that no client is the same and neither should the approach be as they build and execute on strategies. In addition, when a wrench is thrown into plans, the team is agile and has the ability to adapt and overcome.
Possessing a team with a diverse skill set allows LifeFlip Media to deliver to their clients the reliability and execution speed that veterans and those associated with the military expect. With the team’s ability to work as a unit and communicate while assaulting forward on strategy execution, the LifeFlip Media team’s discipline is key.
At LifeFlip Media, the team’s diverse backgrounds and experience allows for innovation and thinking outside of the box. LifeFlip’s team understands how PR integrates with other aspects of a business and needs to work in partnership with marketing and sales rather than as a separate division completely.
With a team made up of Marines who live by the Semper Fi warrior ethos as well as other team members who understand that loyalty is at LifeFlip Media’s core translates directly into business success.
The first man on the moon held an American flag. In the not-too-distant future, astronauts on the moon may be holding fuel pumps.
The future for American commercial space activity is bright. Space entrepreneurs are already planning travel to Mars, and they are looking to the moon as the perfect location for a way station to refuel and restock Mars-bound rockets. As much as this sounds like the plot of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it is coming closer to reality sooner than you may have ever thought possible.
A privately funded American space industry is the reason. This industry is making progress in leaps and bounds. The global space economy is approaching $350 billion and is expected to become a multitrillion-dollar industry. There are more than 800 operational American satellites in orbit, and by 2024 that number could exceed 15,000. Thanks to public-private partnerships, for the first time in seven years American rockets will soon carry NASA astronauts into space. Long dormant, Cape Canaveral is now bustling with activity. America is leading in space once again.
Space tourism may only be a year away. Tickets for human flights into lower earth orbit have already sold for $250,000 each. Earth-based mining companies may soon face stiff competition from the mining of gold, silver, platinum and rare earths on asteroids and even other planets. A race is already developing to create the technology that will bring those crucial resources back to earth.
Competition is already fierce, with Russia and China challenging the United States for leadership, and about 70 other countries working their way into space. But today’s space race is different. It is driven by innovative companies that are finding new solutions to get to space faster, cheaper and more effectively.
As these companies advance new ideas for space commerce and nontraditional approaches to space travel, they seek the legitimacy and stability that comes with government support and approval. They yearn for a government that acts as a facilitator, not just a regulator. Government must create frameworks that enable, rather than stifle, industry.
Unfortunately, our system for regulating private space exploration and commerce has not kept up with this rapidly changing industry. For example, when it comes to licensing cameras in space, we review small, high school science-project satellites the same as billion-dollar national defense assets, leaving too little time and too few resources for crucial national security needs.
On May 24, 2018, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 2, which will make important strides toward modernizing our outdated space policies. These changes include creating a new office, the Space Policy Advancing Commercial Enterprise Administration, within my office to oversee coordination of the department’s commercial space activities, establishing a “one-stop shop” to work on behalf of the budding private space sector.
This will be a major change. At my department alone, there are six bureaus involved in the space industry. A unified departmental office for business needs will enable better coordination of space-related activities. To this end, I have directed all Commerce Department bureaus with space responsibilities to assign a liaison to the new Space Administration team, including the International Trade Administration, Bureau of Industry and Security, National Telecommunications and Information Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
When companies seek guidance on launching satellites, the Space Administration will be able to address an array of space activities, including remote sensing, economic development, data-purchase policies, GPS, spectrum policy, trade promotion, standards and technology and space-traffic management. The new office will also enable the department to manage its growing responsibilities in space.
The department will take on a greater role when it comes to regulation and promotion of space activity. But as the agency charged with promoting job creation and economic growth, we will not engage only in oversight, but will support American companies so they can compete and lead on a level playing field.
Collectively, these efforts will unshackle American industry and ensure American leadership in space. This is essential to technological innovation, economic growth, jobs and national security. But, perhaps more important, it is rejuvenating the American passion for space exploration.
I can still remember when President John F. Kennedy declared that America would put a man on the moon and when Neil Armstrong took that first step on the lunar landscape. Glued to televisions, Americans were filled with excitement and national pride during the Apollo missions.
In April 2018, I felt that same passion as I visited the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs with Vice President Mike Pence. “As we push human exploration deeper into space, we will unleash the boundless potential of America’s pioneering commercial space companies,” the vice president told the crowd.
This is a very special time in space history — there is a convergence of technology, capital, and political will. The United States must seize this moment.
The first salvos will be the least destructive. The U.S. Space Force and the People’s Liberation Army would use weapons like lasers and jammers to temporarily blind or disable. If things escalates from there, it’ll be time to turn to true anti-satellite weapons.
The Raven allows for relatively easy and precise steering in space.
For a more visceral destruction, China’s AoLong 1 satellite can grab enemy satellites with its arm and hurl them towards the ocean.
Like this, but then the robotic arm throws the satellite back towards earth, cups its hand to its ear, and acts like it can’t hear the crowd cheering for the first successful wrestling take down between robots in space. (Wrestling leagues, I look forward to pitching you a spec script.)
By this point, it would be expected that military forces would start to clash on the lands and sea — that is, if the war didn’t start there in the first place.
Once significant numbers of troops are in harm’s way, which would be immediately with both navies sailing carriers holding thousands of sailors in the Pacific, the forces would be willing to turn to even move destructive measures to gain an advantage.
In general, hitting an object in low earth orbit means firing a guided missile at an object approximately 250 miles above the earth that’s traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour. It’s a bit of a tricky shot, but China and the U.S. have shown they’re capable. The Space Force would likely inherit some of the land-based missiles and lasers capable of making this shot, but they would also ask for a huge assist from the Navy.
See, China and the U.S. both have land-based missiles that can make the shot, but any anti-satellite missile launch faces a fuel problem. Missiles can only hit satellites that fly within a certain range of the launch point since the missiles have to make it into space with enough fuel to maneuver and reach the target. So, a Space Force would likely be stacked to engage targets that fly over missile shields on the West Coast, but would be weak elsewhere.
These things can reach space and kill things there. For realsies.
(Missile Defense Agency photo by Leah Garton)
But the Navy’s Standard Missile-3, a common armament on the Navy’s Aegis destroyers, has a demonstrated capability of killing satellites after a software change.
In a shooting war with China in space, expect the missiles to get their software upgraded immediately.
A tit-for-tat escalation into missiles exploding in space creates an immediate crisis for all astronauts up there. See, nearly all manned space missions have taken place in low earth orbit, an area that would become even more saturated with space debris in this situation. The International Space Station, for example, is in LEO.
Think thousands if not millions of bullets, all flying at speeds sufficient to punch right through the International Space Station or the planned Chinese large, modular space station. Expect both countries to immediately try to evacuate their troops. For the ISS crew, this means they need to make it the Soyuz capsules and immediately start the launch sequence, a process expected to take three minutes.
But the really bad thing about this type of war is that it can’t end. See, those bits of space debris go in all directions. The ones flying at escape velocity will fly away and travel, potentially forever, through the universe. The ones that explode towards the earth will likely burn up quickly.
But the ones flying at the right velocity, quite possibly thousands or millions of pieces of metal per missile vs. satellite engagement, will simply fly through low earth orbit at thousands of miles per hour, shredding everything they come in contact with and creating more debris.
Think of those really scary scenes in Gravity.
Eventually, this is nearly guaranteed to take out the bulk of the satellites in orbit, from communications to weather to mapping.
In a stroke, we’d get rid of a significant portion of our internet architecture, our weather data, and other systems, like GPS, that we just expect to work, potentially setting us back decades.
So, even if the combatants decide to stop shooting at each other, it’s too late to save space for that generation. For decades, the job of the Space Force, NASA, and all of our allies will be cleaning up from the war, whether the whole thing lasted minutes or years.
So, let’s just make a movie about it, watch that, and try to avoid actually fighting each other in space.
Come on, Space Force. You guys can work out deterrence strategies, right?