My guest today is Scott Mann who spent 23 years as an Officer in the United States Army, 18 of those as a Green Beret in Army Special Forces, where he specialized in unconventional missions in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
He is the author of two international best-selling books: Game Changers and Straight Talk About Military Transition.
He’s also given 3 TED talks.
In our conversation we talk about how Green Berets build rapport with local tribes, how he almost took his life after leaving the military, and how leaders can connect with their people.
Order of Topics:
Using SOF training for COVID-19
How Green Berets compare to other SOF units
How to go into a village and establish trust
Architect of the Afghan SOF program
Almost committing suicide
How to transition from the military
Green Beret principals
How to build relationships
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It’s a rite of passage for veterans. The morning of the day they’re set to receive their DD-214 is one of the last times for a long time that many vets will pick up a razor. Some still shave to maintain a professional appearance when they enter the civilian workforce, but the most important thing is that it’s their choice to give their face a trim.
Those veterans who do decide to sport their well-earned lumberjack style may run into a few speed bumps along the way. The vet beard isn’t for everyone — but those who can rock it look like glorious Vikings ready to storm the bar and take every keg of beer with them.
If you’re struggling to keep up with these majestic-as-f*ck vets, here’s a few pointers:
Growing a beard is actually pretty easy. You just have to wait.
(Cpl. Brandon Burns, USMC)
Patience is a virtue.
A great beard takes time. Throughout the growing process, there’ll be many great moments, like the point where your mustache gives you an 80s action-hero look. But then it’ll grow longer to the point where you’re getting a mouthful of mustache whenever you take a bite of food — not to mention the constant itchiness. But you’ll have to endure if you want that vet beard.
Many of the these downsides can be addressed with proper care. As long as you treat your beard right, you can minimize the downsides and simply enjoy envious looks from your peers.
If Luke Skywalker can keep his hair and beard on point despite being on some deserted planet for years, you can take a few seconds out of your day to put some shampoo in yours.
Your beard is still hair. Use conditioner and brush it.
It’s surprising how few people actually care for their beard as it’s growing out. You shampoo and condition the hair on top of your head in the shower, why skip the hair on your chin?
You can also brush it to keep it in proper form after you’re done in the shower. This also helps get out all the accidental bits of food that occasionally get trapped in there. Using conditioner and regularly brushing will help the scratchiness of your beard and help it from basically becoming Velcro on everything.
If you know what you’re buying, it’s fine. Just don’t expect much other than a slightly more luscious beard that smells nice.
(Photo by Marc Tasman)
Beard oil isn’t some magical, instant-beard formula
Oils are (usually) exactly what is being advertised. They’ll help if you think of it more like a leave-in conditioner that will make your beard smell nice, but many people who buy beard oils are under the impression that it’s more like a type of Rogaine for your face — it’s just not going to immediately give you something like in that episode of Dexter’s Laboratory.
Oils marketed to promote “beard growth” will actually make your beard grow in healthier and prevent breakage, so your beard will appear thicker and longer, but it still won’t happen over night.
Kind of like how Mat Best does it. Still professional, yet bearded.
Trim it down to maintain a professional appearance
If you’re down with looking like a bum, by all means; you can do whatever you want with your facial hair in the civilian world. That’s your choice now. Still, if you’re looking to make strides in the professional world, first-impressions are important — arguably more important than an extensive resume.
Even if your beard puts a Civil War general to shame, tidy it up with a pair of scissors to keep an organized appearance. You can also shave off the under-chin and the scraggly bits on your cheek to make your beard growth look intentional.
I’m going to go out on a limb as say that the dudes from ZZ Top don’t care about touring in the northern states during the winter.
(Photo by Ralph Arvesen)
If you can endure the summer heat, you’ll do well in the winter
Summers suck with long beards, but things start getting better after Labor Day. If you live an active lifestyle, no one will fault you for cutting it down in the summers to keep the sweat out. But don’t chop it all off if you want a head start when things cool down and you’ll probably look like a thirteen year old when you do.
Soldier through it and, when the winter chills start hitting your chin come December, you’ll be happy you took the extra few months to grow your own face protection.
Or shave it however you want, like what Tim Kennedy does every now and then. Welcome to the civilian world, where you have options again!
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill)
There’s no shame in shaving what you can’t grow
The ability to grow beards is entirely hereditary. If your dad could grow a bear, you’re probably good. But the person you should probably look toward for a better indication of your potential beardliness is if your maternal grandfather. That’s just how it works; genetics are funny.
It’s all a roll of the dice. If your face is better suited for a goatee, rock it. If your granddad could be confused with Gandalf, go all out. If you can’t grow a beard, embrace it. That’s just you.
After becoming exasperated with evidence of low discipline and sloppy appearances, a two-star general overseeing most East Coast-based ground combat Marines has fired off a policy letter mandating when troops must wake up, clean, and eat each day.
The April 16 policy letter, signed by Maj. Gen. David Furness, commanding general of 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, expresses concern that the Marines within the division have let their standards slide.
“In my travels with the Sergeant Major and Command Master Chief throughout the Division spaces, I have noticed a significant decline in the basic discipline of our warriors,” Furness wrote. “Because the 2nd Marine Division has the majority of personnel assigned to Camp Lejeune, we will take ownership of this problem and FIX IT immediately.”
Staff Sgt. Christian Fuentes motivates recruits with Company F, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, as he moves down the rows during the senior drill instructor inspection at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Aug. 23, 2013.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle)
2nd Marine Division is one of three active-duty Marine divisions worldwide and is made up of some 20,000 troops.
The division public affairs office confirmed that a policy letter had been disseminated.
Furness wrote that he has seen Marines and sailors with 2nd Marine Division walking around with long hair, “nonexistent or poor shaves,” worn-out boots and inappropriate civilian attire.
“There are weeds growing around our buildings and work spaces and trash everywhere but the dumpsters where it belongs,” he wrote. “These are just a few examples of the lack of discipline seen across the board that will not be tolerated in this Division any longer.”
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, conduct pull-ups during a physical training event at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 28.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)
He detailed a 24-hour “basic daily routine” that he said he expects every single Marine and sailor in the division to follow, beginning with division-wide reveille every morning at 5:30 a.m.
From 5:35 to 6 a.m., troops are expected to conduct hygiene activities and room clean-up, leaving “blinds half-mast,” according to the order. Physical training and barracks common area clean-up will follow from 6 to 8 a.m. Mandatory platoon or company formations and inspections will happen from 8 to 8:15 before the workday begins. Troops are allowed an hour to eat from noon to 1 p.m. and then must wrap up the day with another formation, from 4:30 to 4:45 p.m.
Furness appealed to the troops’ identity as Marines in asking them to embrace the regimented schedule.
Marines with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, wait to march onto Peatross Parade Deck during a graduation ceremony aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., April 13, 2012. The graduation ceremony consisted of five platoons from India Company.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aneshea Yee)
“Part of what makes us different from our sister services and American society is the regimentation of our daily lives,” he wrote. “Adherence to orders and standards helps foster mutual trust in one another and produces the attention to detail required to be effective when called upon to fight as our nation’s 911 Force.”
First Lt. Thomas Kleiber, a division spokesman, said the letter essentially reinforces practices that are already in place.
“Obviously, the letter is an internal document and commanders reserve the right to direct their units as they see fit,” Kleiber told Military.com. “Commanders have the authority and responsibility to direct their units in the way that it feels appropriate and promotes mission accomplishment. I don’t think this order is unusual in its attempt to accomplish that.”
It’s not immediately clear how the daily routine will apply to Marines who live off-base or outside the barracks, although Furness does note that unit leaders will be able to modify the routine based on obligations. It’s also not fully clear whether the routine applies only to weekdays, although it appears to. What is clear is that there are stiff consequences for Marines who don’t fall in line.
Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin form up around Brig. Gen. John Frewen, 1st Brigade commanding general and senior Australian Defence Force officer for Robertson Barracks, to listen to him speak about expectations with the rotation, April 11.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Scott Reel/Released)
“Any dissenters can answer to myself, the Division [sergeant major] or the [command master chief] and will be dealt with accordingly. Can each of you live up to the mantra of ‘If I was accused of being a Marine/Sailor today, would there be enough evidence to convict me?'” Furness wrote. “At this time across our force I believe the answer for many is no, and it needs to be corrected immediately.”
While it’s fairly uncommon for a senior military official to get involved in the minutia of troops’ daily routines, it’s not without precedent.
In 2013, Army Command Sgt. Major Dale Perez, the senior enlisted soldier at the Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, fired off a sharply worded Facebook post aimed at troops and family members on base, particularly those who shopped at the commissary, demanding they clean up after themselves.
“Take your garbage and shop off post if you can’t pick up after yourself,” he wrote.
Furness, who took command of 2nd Marine Division last August, is a career infantry officer who joined the Marine Corps in 1987 after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute. He has led Marines on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and his awards include two Bronze Stars with combat distinguishing device, according to his official military biography.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comment from 2nd Marine Division.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The U.S. base near southern Syria’s al-Tanf border crossing was set up to train local Syrians to fight Islamic State militants, but it also serves as a counterweight to Iranian activities in the war-torn country, U.S. officials and experts tell VOA.
“Our mere presence there accomplishes that, whether it’s a goal or not,” Army Maj. Josh Jacques, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said.
The U.S. military’s primary focus across Syria has been the defeat of Islamic State fighters, and to serve that mission, U.S. soldiers at al-Tanf are training a Syrian group called Maghawir al-Thawra (MaT), Jaques said.
While the military is not directly focused on Iran in Syria, it can still indirectly impede Iran’s “destabilizing acts” in the country, according to CENTCOM commander U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel.
“There are opportunities for us to indirectly influence their [Iran’s] activities by our presence, by the pursuit of our ongoing operations, that I think disrupt and make it difficult for them to pursue their unilateral objectives,” Votel told reporters during a July 19, 2018 briefing.
Jordan, Iraq, and Syria all meet in the area surrounding the U.S. base, a potential space, officials say, through which Iran could create a continuous land bridge that would stretch to the Mediterranean.
But the U.S. has established a so-called “deconfliction zone” in the area that spans about 55 kilometers around the base. The zone is meant to protect the United States and its allies as they battle the Islamic State militant group, and it essentially prevents any non-U.S. ally from entering the area.
“One quiet rationale for maintaining a presence there is to at least monitor and then perhaps deter some of the Iranian forces, or Iranian-backed forces that may have used that part of the country to transit into Syria,” said Brian Katulis with the Center for American Progress.
The base is not meant to completely block Iran’s involvement in Syria because much of its engagement comes via airplanes.
The U.S. post does, however, protect American military assets, giving the U.S. the ability to mount drone operations, conduct surveillance, and perhaps even create human intelligence networks.
It also helps to reassure U.S. ally Jordan, whose officials have expressed concerns about how secure its border would be if Americans weren’t in southern Syria.
“As small as that [U.S.] presence is, I think it sends a signal,” Katulis said.
5th Special Forces Group (A) Operation Detachment Bravo 5310 arrives to meet Major General James Jarrard at the Landing Zone at base camp Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria.
(DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Connor)
‘Shades of gray’
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior defense fellow at the Brookings Institution, says defeating IS is the “black and white” goal for American forces at al-Tanf, while all the ways that the U.S. indirectly influences Iran in Syria are “shades of gray.”
He says the base also allows the U.S. to “exercise some influence on parts of the country so that Iran isn’t the only important foreign actor.”
“In the short term, you want to create some alternative power centers,” said O’Hanlon.
Once IS is defeated, however, the United States will need a long-term political transition strategy that clearly explains why the military would stay in Syria.
“We’re sort of in a transition phase, where you can still sustain the current effort on the grounds of it being anti-ISIS, but everyone recognizes that the days of that argument carrying the day are numbered,” O’Hanlon said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terror group.
“Just staying for presence sake is not a good enough reason,” he said.
Modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles, known as Mission Enabling Technologies Demonstrators (MET-D), and modified M113 tracked armored personnel carriers, known as Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCVs), are being utilized in an operation experimentation at Ft. Carson, Col., June 15 – Aug. 14, 2020. (U.S. Army/Kimberly Derryberry)
U.S. Army modernization officials are about to finish the service’s first experiment to see whether the Robotic Combat Vehicle effort can make units more deadly on the future battlefield.
For the past five weeks, a platoon of soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division has been conducting cavalry-style combat missions using two-person crews in specially modified Bradley fighting vehicles to control robotic surrogate vehicles fashioned from M113 armored personnel vehicles in the Robotic Combat Vehicle Soldier Operational Experiment.
The platoon has operated in the rugged terrain of Fort Carson, Colorado, testing different technologies to control the robotic vehicles, sending them out hundreds of meters ahead to scout for enemy positions.
“This experiment was 100% successful … because we learned; the whole purpose was to learn where the technology is now and how we think we want to fight with it in the future,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle-Cross Functional Team, told defense reporters Thursday during a virtual roundtable discussion.
“All of the technology was not successful; it’s a sliding scale. Some knocked our socks off, and some — we’ve got a little bit of work to do.”
The experiment, scheduled to end Aug. 14, is one of three designed to evaluate the performance and potential of robotic combat vehicles on the battlefield, Coffman said.
Some of the technology tested in the experiment worked better than anticipated, he added.
“The interface with the crew … so the soldiers see where they are, they see where the robots are, they can communicate graphics … it just absolutely blew us away,” he said. “The software between the robotic vehicle and the control vehicle — while not perfect — performed better than we thought it would.”
There were challenges with the target recognition technology that links the robotic vehicle with the control vehicle.
“It works while stationary, but part of the challenge is how do you do that on the move and how that is passed to the gunner,” Coffman said. “We’ve got some work to do with that.
“We have some work to do with the stability systems with the weapon systems as you are going across terrain,” he continued.
Another challenge will be to get the control vehicle and the robot vehicle to communicate adequately beyond 1,000 meters.
“The distance between the robot and the controller is a physics problem and, when you talk flat earth, you can go over a kilometer from the controller to the robot,” Coffman said, adding that potential adversaries are wrestling with the same challenge.
Several defense firms participating in the experiment have “created radio waveforms to get us the megabytes per second to extend that range” in dense forest terrain, he said.
“That’s the hardest part, is you get into a dense forest, it’s really hard to extend the range,” he said. “We tested them; we went after them with [electronic warfare] … so we have a really good idea of what is the realm of the possible.”
The Army announced in January that it had selected QinetiQ North America to build four prototypes of the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light, and Textron to build four prototypes of the RCV-Medium. Both companies were present at the experiment, but their prototypes are still being finalized and did not participate.
After the experiment, an independent evaluation will be conducted on the technical and tactical performance of the robots to decide whether manned-unmanned teaming in combat vehicles can make combat units more effective, Coffman said.
In the first part of fiscal 2022, the Army is scheduled to conduct a second experiment at Fort Hood, Texas, using the same M113 robot vehicles and Bradley control vehicles to focus on company-size operations. The service also plans to conduct a third experiment in the future that will focus on more complex company-size operations.
After each of these experiments, the Army will decide “is the technology where we thought it would be, should we continue to spend money on this effort or should we cease effort?” Coffman said.
The service is also scheduled to make a decision in fiscal 2023 on when manned-unmanned teaming with RCVs will become a program of record, he said, adding that no decision has been made on when the Army will equip its first unit with the technology.
Coffman admits that the technology is “not 100% there yet,” but he remains confident that combat leaders will one day have the option to send unmanned combat vehicles into danger before committing soldiers to the fight.
“This is about soldiers and this is about commanders on the battlefield and giving them the decision space and reducing the risk of our men and women when we go into the nastiest places on Earth,” he explained.
The last time the United States launched humans into space from American soil was in 2011, when the last space shuttle made its final voyage into orbit.
Since then, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. That has become increasingly expensive and limited US access to the station.
That could all change at 4:33 p.m. ET on Wednesday. If weather, hardware, and other factors cooperate, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship, built with NASA funds, will launch the astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley toward the ISS in a mission called Demo-2.
A successful flight would resurrect the US’s ability to launch people into space. It would also mark SpaceX’s first mission with passengers in the company’s 18-year history.
“This is the culmination of a dream,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told “CBS This Morning” hours ahead of the scheduled launch. “This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal. If you’d asked me when starting SpaceX if this would happen, I’d be like, 1% chance, 0.1% chance.”
A Demo-2 success would also mark the first crewed commercial spaceflight ever, opening a new era of space exploration.
That’s why NASA began funding SpaceX and its competitor, Boeing, to develop human-ready spacecraft in 2010. The effort, called the Commercial Crew Program, is three years past its original deadline.
Having a spacecraft and launch system in the US would give NASA better access to the space station. While Soyuz can carry only three people at a time, the Crew Dragon can seat seven.
An artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars. (JPL / NASA)
Once NASA can send more astronauts at a lower cost, it will also be able to use the space station’s microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more.
“The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said during a televised briefing on May 1. “We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”
He added, “We are going to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.”
Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars
NASA shares some of Musk’s ambitions (sending humans back to the moon and, eventually, to Mars) but there are a lot of steps along the way. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon is the first big milestone.
But the mission won’t be considered a success until it returns Hurley and Behnken to Earth.
“We’re going to stay hungry until Bob and Doug come home,” Kathy Lueders, who manages the Commercial Crew Program for NASA, said in a briefing on Friday. “Our teams are scouring and thinking of every single risk that’s out there, and we’ve worked our butt off to buy down the ones we know of, and we’ll continue to look — and continue to buy them down — until we bring them home.”
Sometimes, the greatest source of frustration is your fellow recruits. They tend to do stupid sh*t and the great lengths they go to keep their own hands clean may result in everyone else’s getting dirty.
Boot camp is absolute hell when you first arrive and, by the time you leave, you’ll think the whole thing was a joke. After graduation, you’ll be so overwhelmed with joy due to the fact that you’re leaving your drill instructors behind that you may forget about the bullsh*t you had to endure because of fellow recruits.
Consider this a reminder.
No one wants to get smoked
When you get to boot camp and you finally meet your drill instructors, they make it abundantly clear who is in charge, what the rules are, and what happens when someone breaks those rules. Their favorite method of disciplining recruits is to take them to a sandpit and make them do push-ups, mountain climbers, crunches, etc., until they (the drill instructors) get tired. The fear of such retribution can turn even the most stalwart into a snitch.
Everyone is out for themselves
The fear of getting into any sort of trouble often causes recruits to be selfish. They don’t want to be associated with the turd in the platoon and can get smoked just for being friends with them.
Everyone is a liar
Recruits want to avoid the quarterdeck or an extra watch during the night, so they learn to lie their asses off. The sad part is that drill instructors will know you’re lying and you’ll be seeing the quarterdeck anyway.
Chances are, you’ll get caught.
They want to get away with stuff
Even though the rules are very clearly laid out for every recruit, they still want to find ways around them. For this reason, they’ll sell someone out in order to achieve their goal — going as far as hiding their candy wrappers underneath your pillow.
They want less work
The desire to skate starts in boot camp when a person realizes just how difficult it is to be in the military. In the search for less work, a recruit might take on certain jobs, such as scribe duties, to assign others watch at night and “accidentally” forget to put their name on the roster.
They just want to go home
Let’s face it — everyone hates every second they spend at boot camp, away from their families and private toilets. So, some recruits will lose the motivation to finish training and start acting like idiots. Guess who’s ultimately punished for being their rack-mate?
At the end of the day, you’re all after the same goal of earning your place, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to take the honorable route to get there.
Hopefully, if the jokers do make it, they’ll learn how to do things the right way by the time they hit the Fleet Marine Force.
New from SIG AIR: An air pistol that’s nearly identical to the U.S. Army’s New M17 Modular Handgun System.
The new M17 Advanced Sport Pellet, or ASP, pistol is powered by a carbon dioxide cartridge and features a proprietary drop magazine that houses a 20-round rapid pellet magazine, according to a recent press release from Sig Sauer, the maker of the Army’s MHS.
“This semi-automatic .177 caliber pellet pistol is a replica of the U.S. Army issued P320 M17 and is field-strippable like its centerfire counterpart,” the release states. “It has the same look and feel as the M17, featuring a polymer frame and metal slide with realistic blow-back action.”
Air pistols are becoming more popular as a training tool for military and police forces.
The Coast Guard, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, has long used the Sig P229 .40 caliber pistol as its duty sidearm. The Coast Guard is scheduled to join the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps in fielding the Army’s new Modular Handgun System.
But the service plans to use the SIG AIR Pro Force P229 for simulated training, according to a press release about the Coast Guard’s purchase.
The new M17 ASP’s CO2 cartridge features a patented cam lever loading port for quick and easy replacement of the cartridge, according to the release.
It weighs 2.15 pounds and comes with fixed sights. The M17 ASP has a velocity of up to 430 feet per second, but that may vary depending on pellet weight, temperature and altitude, the release states.
It comes in Coyote tan and retails for about 0.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A significant reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan won’t impact upon the security of the war-torn country, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said on Dec. 21, 2018.
It was the first official Afghan reaction to reports in the U.S. media that President Donald Trump is considering a “significant” withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, with some quoting unnamed officials as saying the decision has already been made.
“If they withdraw from Afghanistan it will not have a security impact because in the last 4 1/2 years the Afghans have been in full control,” Ghani’s spokesman, Haroon Chakhansuri, said via social media.
The Wall Street Journal quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official on Dec. 20, 2018, as saying that Trump “wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”
The AFP news agency quoted a U.S. official as saying the decision has already been made for a “significant” U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“That decision has been made. There will be a significant withdrawal,” AFP quoted the official as saying.
CNN also reported that Trump has already ordered the military to make plans for a withdrawal of perhaps half of the current 14,000-strong force.
NATO has so far declined to comment on the reports, saying only that is aware of the reports.
In response to an RFE/RL question, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said, “The Afghan Army and police have been fully in charge of the security of Afghanistan for over four years. They are a brave, committed, and increasingly capable force, who have ensured the security of the parliamentary elections earlier this year.”
“Earlier this month, NATO foreign ministers expressed steadfast commitment to ensuring long-term security and stability in Afghanistan,” Lungescu said.
“Our engagement is important to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists who could threaten us at home.”
However, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, whose NATO-member country is a contributor to Resolute Support, voiced skepticism that even a partial U.S. withdrawal could be supplanted by the remaining members.
“Frankly, I do not believe that we can split forces and rely that something can be done in the absence of an important player. It’s difficult really to say,” Linkevicius told RFE/RL.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to counter attacks from the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.
U.S. officials have been attempting to push the Taliban to the negotiating table with the government in Kabul. Many Taliban leaders insist that U.S. forces depart before substantial peace talks can take place.
The reports came a day after Trump surprised and angered many U.S. lawmakers, administration officials, and international allies by saying he was pulling “all” U.S. troops out of Syria, where they are leading a multinational coalition backing local forces in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.
It also came shortly before Trump announced that his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, would be leaving his post at the end of February 2019.
U.S. media are reporting that Mattis opposed Trump’s move to withdraw from Syria. In his resignation letter, Mattis said his views were not fully “aligned” with those of the president.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
A U.S.-led coalition has been in Afghanistan since 2001, when it drove the Taliban from power after Al-Qaeda militants — whose leaders were being sheltered in Afghanistan — carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
However, the Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to counter attacks from the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.
U.S. officials have been attempting to push the Taliban to the negotiating table with the government in Kabul. Many Taliban leaders insist that U.S. forces depart before substantial peace talks can take place.
Mohammad Taqi, a Florida-based political analyst, told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that a rapid U.S. withdrawal would be “a huge mistake.”
“If we look at it in context of talks with the Taliban, then it seems [the] Taliban have already strengthened their position,” he said. “Now the reports of [a U.S. withdrawal] show a weakening stance by the U.S., which could subsequently undermine [the] Afghan government’s position.”
On Dec. 20, 2018, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, questioned the Taliban’s determination to end the 17-year war after the group’s representatives refused to meet with an Afghan government-backed negotiating team.
Khalilzad said that, while he was certain the Afghan government wanted to end the conflict, it was unclear whether the Taliban were “genuinely seeking peace.”
Khalilzad’s remarks came following his latest face-to-face meeting in December 2018 with the Taliban, which was held in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and was also attended by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
The U.A.E. hailed the talks as “positive for all parties concerned,” while the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Khalid bin Salman, claimed the meetings will produce “very positive results by the beginning of next year.”
The U.S. deployed every type of strategic and nuclear-capable bomber to Guam amid soaring tensions between the Washington and Pyongyang in a move sure to rattle North Korea.
The B-1B Lancer bomber, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, and the B-52H — the workhorse bomber that dropped tens of thousands of tons of munitions during the Vietnam War — will be in Guam, the Pentagon has confirmed to Business Insider.
North Korea can’t stand U.S. bomber deployments to Guam, where the U.S. hosts massive military bases in relative proximity to Pyongyang. North Korean media statements usually react strongly and issue threats in response to the U.S. flying B-1 training missions over the Korean Peninsula.
In statements, North Korea refers to the B-1 bomber as a nuclear asset, although the plane has been modified not to carry nuclear weapons as the result of an arms control pact with Russia. The B-2 and B-52 do have nuclear capability, and make up the air-launched component of the U.S.’s nuclear triad.
Unlike in-ground nuclear silos and under-sea secretive submarines, the nuclear-capable bombers in the U.S. Air Force’s fleet enable the U.S. to signal its resolve and intentions during times of high tensions.
While some may interpret the deployment of the nuclear-side of the bomber fleet as an escalation, the deployment is part of a mission called Continuous Bomber Presence, wherein the U.S. has maintained a bomber presence in the Pacific at all times to assure allies, enable readiness, and promote regional stability since 2004.
But it’s still rare to find all three in Guam at once. The three bombers first flew together in Guam in August 2016, and this deployment is the first time since that they’ve all been gathered together in the South Pacific.
Sending all three strategic bombers to Guam sends the strongest message bomber deployments could possibly spell out.
The Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine’s military nutrition division is asking volunteers to take part in a six-week study during which they’ll spend 21 days eating only MREs.
They say the goal is to learn what happens to the human gut on an all MRE diet, even though the veteran and active duty communities have already voiced their opinion through hilarious memes.
They even predicted what would happen on an MRE diet:
But the Army’s study is actually serious business. The engine of the human digestive process is large colonies of bacteria in the gut, and these bacteria populations are affected by what people eat.
Army scientists want to learn how to game that system, crafting new MRE items that will make soldiers more healthy and resilient in the field. An area of particular interest is how to help the naturally occurring bacteria fight off food poisoning.
“We think we can manipulate the bacteria in a way that helps the bacteria fight foreign pathogens — things that could cause food-borne illness, for example,” the head of the study, Dr. J. Philip Karl, told Army Times. “Oftentimes, war fighters are overseas and they eat something off the local economy that can cause [gastrointestinal] distress. Potentially, what we could do by increasing the amount of beneficial gut bacteria is to help prevent some of that.”
Volunteers will have their gut bacteria populations measured on a regular basis as they proceed through the study, allowing researchers to see how the bacteria is affected. Hopefully, the researchers can then tweak the recipes and menus to make them better for troops.
As some vets still idolize the MRE lifestyle, the Army will likely have plenty of volunteers:
But they only want 60 volunteers and only ones who can travel to their facility in Natick, Massachusetts.
To learn more about the study and see how to sign up, see the original Army Times article.
The funding process for the U.S. military is back in a healthy place, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said on May 23, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The secretary spoke at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation, and on May 24, 2018, he participated in the U.S. Northern Command/North American Aerospace Defense Command change-of-command ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, also in Colorado Springs.
Mattis emphasized the ties between the National Defense Strategy and the budget process, and said the budget submission was underpinned by strategy for the first time in 10 years.
DoD funding process
He has urged congressional leaders to provide predictable funding for the department since taking office, and urged Congress to become more involved in its constitutional duty to fund the department. In nine of the last 10 years, the department spent at least some of the time under a continuing resolution.
“What that meant was, if there were evolving threat or a thing we needed to adapt to, number one, we didn’t have a strategic framework within which you’d go, for example, to the Congress and say here’s why we want additional money here,” the secretary said.
And the department couldn’t get additional monies under a continuing resolution. “Without the steady budget, we could not do new starts,” Mattis said. “So things from the Army’s modernization program, to cyber efforts, to outer space efforts were either stillborn or just put in a dormant status.”
This situation caused the American military overmatch to erode over time, and now the department must make up for lost time, the secretary said.
“We are doing that with the bipartisan support of the Congress to pass the two-year authorization bill and … the omnibus bill,” he said.
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
Mattis is pleased that Congress is no longer in a spectator role with the budget, “but actually saying where they want money put. There will be arguments … and good arguments, about where the priorities should be. And that’s up to us to make certain we can bring the analysis that we have of defining problems and what solutions we want to bring forward.”
More lethal military
Still, DOD officials must recognize that proposed changes must be tied “to make the military more lethal in outer space and cyberspace, at sea, on land, and in the air,” the secretary said. “And we want to do so as much as possible by strengthening our partners and our allies.”
Finding funding from within is also a major push, and Mattis insists DOD must be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Congress has given the department new tools to enable the Pentagon to adopt best practices from industry and reform processes inside the department.
“Congress has actually had to step in and reorganize our acquisition, technology and logistics oversight into research and engineering for the future, and then acquisition sustainment,” he said.
After years of stops and starts, he said, the Pentagon may actually be able to deliver on sustainable reforms. “I cannot right now, look you in the eye and say that we can tell you that every penny in the past has been spent in a strategically sound and auditable manner,” he said. “And so this year, for the first time in 70 years, the Pentagon will perform an audit.
“We’ll have an audit done of itself and I look forward to every problem we find, because we’re going to fix every one of them,” he continued. “So, I can look you people in the eye and say I’m getting your money and here’s what I’m doing with it.”
New technologies and new uses for older technologies are being studied with research into artificial intelligence, hypersonics, outer space activities, and research in the cyber realm, the secretary said.
“These have all got to be looked at, because as we say in the U.S. Department of Defense, our adversaries get a vote and you have to deal with that if we’re going to keep this this experiment of America alive,” he said.