As cyber attacks on the US become commonplace, disorienting, and potentially damaging to the US’s fundamental infrastructure, the US Army’s Cyber Command reached out to civilian hackers in a language they could understand — hidden hacking puzzles online.
From there, the user can enter rudimentary commands and access a hacking puzzle. Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone told reporters at Defense One’s Tech Summit on July 13 that of the 9.8 million people who viewed the ad online, 800,000 went on to attempt the hacking test. Only 1% passed.
Business Insider attempted the test and failed swiftly.
“We have the world’s adversaries trying to come at our nation,” said Nakasone, who explained that in the next few months qualified hackers could undergo “direct commissioning” and find themselves as “mid-grade officers” in the Army’s Cyber Command. Hackers who can pass the test online will be invited to apply for a role within the Department of Defense.
With Russia’s attempts to hack into voting systems during the 2016 presidential election and its alleged infiltration of US nuclear power plants keeping the US’s cyber vulnerabilities constantly in the news, Nakasone said Cyber Command will put together 133 teams to do battle in the cyber realm.
In light of the recent attacks, Nakasone said he’s seen “more enthusiasm or desire to serve and join the government or military” and that he looks forward to bringing civilians into the battle against foreign cyber crime.
Story Musgrave has more than 18,000 hours in over 160 aircraft. He is a parachutist with over 800 freefalls. He has graduate degrees in math, computers, chemistry, medicine, physiology, literature and psychology. He has been awarded 20 honorary doctorates. Oh, and he was a part-time trauma surgeon during his 30-year astronaut career.
It all started with his decision to become a United States Marine.
“My horizons started to expand when I went off to Korea in the Marine Corps. As the saying goes, you join the service to see the world. That’s when my horizons began to expand.” – Story Musgrave
Franklin Story Musgrave grew up on a dairy farm in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. From an early age, he showed a remarkable intelligence and physical ability. At age 5, he was building homemade rafts and by age 10, he was driving trucks. By 13, he was fixing trucks. He attended a co-ed prep school which would have prepared him for a comfortable life in the post-World War II era, but instead of finishing high school, he decided to run off and enlist in the Marine Corps.
“I was an airplane mechanic for the Marines in Korea at the age of 18, and that’s when I got introduced to things that don’t come home. Challenger was not an engineering accident. NASA was told about the problem [of the O-rings in low temperature]. So then the memory turns to solid anger.” – Story Musgrave
He eventually did get a GED while serving. Musgrave spent his time in the Corps in Korea as an aviation electrician and instrument technician and later as an aircraft crew chief aboard the USS Wasp. After leaving the Marines, he almost averaged a new degree every year from 1958 until 1964, including his medical doctorate from Columbia University. He would earn another Master’s degree in Chemistry in 1966 and a degree in Literature in 1987 at age 52.
“Any hand I’m dealt, I will play to the best of my ability.” – Story Musgrave
Musgrave is also an accomplished pilot, earning FAA ratings for instructor, instrument instructor, glider instructor, and airline transport pilot. He also earned his astronaut wings in 1967.
“Space is a calling of mine, it struck like an epiphany. That occurred when NASA expressed an interest in flying people who were other than military test pilots. And when I was off in the Marine Corps in Korea, I had not graduated from high school, yet and so I could not fly. And so, I was not a military test pilot, but as soon as NASA expressed an interest in flying scientists and people who were not military test pilots, that was an epiphany that just came like a stroke of lightning.” – Story Musgrave
Musgrave was selected as a scientist-astronaut and then worked on the design and development of the Skylab Program. He was also the backup science-pilot for the first Skylab mission.
What’s really unique about Musgrave’s astronaut experience is that he flew on all five space shuttles, the dates below are for his first flight in these ships. He flew aboard Challenger twice:
His shuttle missions are extraordinary (among shuttle missions) as well. On board the Challenger‘s maiden voyage, he and Don Peterson conducted the first Space Shuttle Extra-Vehicular Activity (or EVA, a spacewalk, a mission outside the spacecraft) to test new space suits. On his Endeavour flight, he helped repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
Still, despite all his accomplishments (this doesn’t even cover most of them), Musgrave’s ribbon rack is one of a true Marine.
“I’m massively privileged to be part of the space program, and I never forget to say that,” he told Huffington Post in a 2011 interview. He plans to return to space as a tourist.
It was another assignment for Pfcs. Marco Garcia and Jovany Castillo, two soldiers inching toward completing the second phase of the Army’s Practical Nurse Course at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. The basic task of measuring vital signs of patients at a local hospital was the assignment, an important but mundane task for health care professionals. Little did they know, their training would be tested in an unforeseen way.
Castillo and Garcia had been together throughout their Army journey since enlisting in October 2017. Together they had endured Army basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, went on to Advanced Individual Training for the first phase of the Practical Nurse Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and ended up at Fort Bliss, Texas for the final phase of the course before arriving to their first permanent assignment.
Working alongside each other, the two soldiers made their rounds through patients, mostly children, checking temperatures, blood pressure and pulses.
“We were going around the department, and went into one room where a [toddler] was sitting up in a chair, watching TV eating cereal,” explained Castillo, 25 and native of Huntington Beach, California. “Mom was right behind her on her phone, so we asked if it was alright to get the [patient’s] vitals.”
After consenting, the two began recording the patient’s vitals as they had practiced dozens of times before.
“One thing we’re taught is to interact with the patient, even if it’s an infant,” said Garcia, 26 and native of Spring, Texas. “[The patient] was placing a lot of cereal in their mouth, so we let the mom know but said [the toddler] was okay.”
Moments later, while the two soldiers were still checking the patient, the child began to gasp for air, as the excess cereal had apparently obstructed her airway, springing the two soldiers to action.
“For a second I thought ‘Is this really happening?’ but right away I went to the baby, while [Garcia] went to go get help,” said Castillo. “I was in shock a little, but got over it right away.”
“We looked at each other and [Castillo] went over to help,” said Garcia. “Since he was helping, I went to get a nurse. I trusted him, I knew he was going to do what he needed to do.”
According to Castillo, the patient’s mother had picked up the patient and began tapping the back of the patient in a manner that would have further lodged the obstruction into the trachea, so he instructed her on proper infant choking procedures while assisting the child.
“[The mother] had the baby, I just adjusted her hands and showed her the correct position, then I started tapping the baby’s back,” said Castillo. “Honestly, those were the longest three or four seconds of my life because I was so scared for the little baby. I kept on [patting her back] until I finally heard her take a breath and that’s when I was relieved.”
“When I got back the baby was crying the nurses checked on the baby and made sure everything was okay,” said Garcia.
“It was quick thinking on [the soldiers’] part,” said Robyn Gerbitz, a Registered Nurse and one of the Practical Nurse Course Instructors at WBAMC. “They took the initiative immediately, we could have had a very bad [outcome].”
One of Gerbitz’ lessons for new soldiers includes introducing them to the mantra, “respiratory leads to cardiac,” defining the link between pulmonary and cardiac arrests due to buildup of carbonic acid and lowered oxygen levels in the bloodstream.
“We do a lot of hands-on work in clinical rotations,” said Gerbitz. “These guys are quick thinkers, I’m very proud of them.”
Whether Garcia and Castillo’s quick reaction was a reflection of their medical training kicking in is not certain, since the two soldiers are still weeks away from completing the rigorous 58-week curriculum.
“Instructors make sure we understand and are well equipped to deal with such situations,” said Castillo. “For me, it kind of just happened and I’m happy the way things turned out, it was a rush.”
Before joining the Army, Castillo was going to college while working at a fast food restaurant and Garcia worked with produce at a grocery store. Neither soldier ever thought they would be saving someone’s life just a year into their military service.
“It’s definitely something I joined to do, to help people,” said Garcia. “You learn something new every day. This is a stepping stone for sure.”
After ensuring the baby was stable, the pair just went about their duties and continued checking other patients’ vitals.
“I had just walked in and the nurses told me about the situation,” said Gerbitz. “The director [of the local hospital] recognized the Soldiers right then and there. They reacted humbly, went about their duties. I believe wherever they go, they’re going to make good nurses.”
Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.
Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.
“The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process,” Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. “It’s a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.
Army officials maintain that it hasn’t taken long for gender integration to become the norm in training.
“We have been integrating women into the military for years; they have fought and bled beside us for years,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. “This is an important moment, but this is something that is in many ways business as usual.”
Fort Benning officials would not release the names of the 10 female graduates. Their next stop is Ranger School, Weber said.
Then, whether they are successful or not, they will go into other courses, including Airborne School, Striker Leader Course and then Mechanized Leader Course — a process that will take about a year to complete.
“Once they have completed all those courses, then we will have deemed them fit to lead whatever type formation out in [Forces Command] and they will depart Fort Benning,” Weber said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directed that gender-integration first focus on leaders at those two installations, Wesley said.
“We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations and then ultimately they will start to migrate out to other installations,” he said.
Griest and Haver are following the same path.
Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, was granted transfer to the infantry branch April 25, 2016. Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, has been approved to transfer into the infantry, and “we are still awaiting final word on when that is going to come down,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, commandant of the Infantry School.
“Upfront, I will tell you this makes us a better Army and the reason it makes us a better Army is that this whole issue has driven us — it has been a forcing function, to ensure that we had the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said.
Establishing gender-neutral standards has been the “culmination of two years of different work done by Training and Doctrine Command, with physical scientists looking at what is the physiology of moving weight and what is the difference between infantrymen and field artillerymen?” Jones said.
“We have the scientific data that shows these are the propensity skills that you have to do and the physiology to do those.”
Benning officials maintain that gender integration has not lowered standards.
“There has been no change in the standards,” said Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course Command Sgt. Major Joe Davis. “There is no change in the course … we are in the business of producing leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are male or females.”
In 2013, Lone Survivor hit the big screen with Mark Wahlberg at the helm, earning just over $158 million. The story of the daring rescue mission for the Navy SEAL and his team, however, remained untold — until now.
The 75th Ranger Regiment is America’s large-scale Special Operations Force (SOF) and is made up of the most elite soldiers in the world. Dr. Tony Brooks was one of them, but first, he was a college kid forever changed by the attacks on 9/11.
“I was actually on my way to the gym and was just getting warmed up and that’s when it was on the screen. I just saw this little speck flying down and had no clue what it was until they zoomed in. It was a person jumping from the towers,” he explained.
Brooks shared he was ready to enlist immediately after the terrorist attacks but his father cautioned him to wait until after finishing school. Not long after, he saw Pat Tillman leave the NFL to become a Ranger, which sealed the deal for him, he said. He enlisted in 2003 and after a year of grueling training, he was a Ranger. Assigned to Fort Lewis in Washington, there was a casualty on his first day. He was sent to Afghanistan almost immediately.
“My first mission and deployment involved Operation Red Wings which was the Lone Survivor mission,” he explained.
Through some laughter, he referenced being “thrown in the fire” and admitted it was absolutely the start of his military life. The mission took place in 2005 and Brooks left the Army when his enlistment was over. When asked why he decided to write a book now, he said it was for his children.
“I looked at them and thought, am I ever going to tell them about my service or what happened? And I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t. That isn’t a conversation anyone wants to have,” Brooks shared. “I really felt like writing was the best way to explain it and allowed me to really take the time to tell the story.”
Not only did he want to write it for his children but also for the Rangers who completed the mission alongside him. “No one has told the story of the 75th Ranger Regiment’s role in this mission — all the guys I served with have been forgotten over the years. I felt like they were in the shadows,” he added.
The response to the new book has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Leave No Man Behind: The Untold Story of the Rangers’ Unrelenting Search for Marcus Luttrell, the Navy Seal Lone Survivor in Afghanistan” not only has rave reviews but the men he served with continually tell him how grateful they are for it. They, too, are giving the book to their family members to share their story.
“It’s a huge motivator for me to have people tell their stories. Veterans are struggling emotionally and physically also because we don’t talk about these things. A book gives people the opportunity to have conversations,” Brooks said.
It also gives the civilian population a way to understand the true meaning of service, he said. “Everyone is a volunteer. It’s great for our nation, right? But it also makes it easy for the press to ignore it because people are volunteering to serve. If they had to pick people it would be news,” Brooks explained.
During the summer of 2005, Operation Red Wings was launched by the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines utilizing their SOF units and assets. Three out of the four Navy SEAL operators were ambushed and killed hours after beginning their team recon mission. Two quick reaction force helicopters were sent in.
One was shot down with an RPG-7.
The prologue and initial chapters of the book poignantly hit on the “Why?” behind the rescue and eventual recovery mission for the 75th Ranger Regiment team — and Brooks.
The helicopter crash killed all eight Navy SEALs and the eight U.S. Army Special Operations aviators on board. As the sun rose the morning after his boots landed in Afghanistan, his team was informed of the losses. The new mission, dubbed Operation Red Wings II, was to recover the fallen heroes and the lone survivor — Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell.
“Leave No Man Behind” begins with Brooks’ decision to enlist and his life as a young Ranger, the good and the bad. You’ll follow him through his rigorous training which was met with tragic loss and his eventual deployment to Afghanistan. He paints a heartbreaking picture of the 75th Ranger Regiment’s fight to reach their comrades. Through steep and treacherous mountain climbing, the team finally reached the crash site 36 hours after the helicopter had been shot down. They weren’t prepared for what waited for them.
Brooks and his team began the horrible task of recovering the 16 lost heroes. Readers won’t be able to avoid the pain and hardship of the mission etched in the chapter or the rush of emotions when they find Luttrell. Brooks deployed again after Operation Red Wings, this time to Iraq. There were more of those emotions when it finished. The wear and tear of the service left its mark. He made the decision to separate from the Army in 2007, enrolling in school with the goal of becoming a chiropractor.
And he did.
There are zero regrets for enlisting and if anything, he said he figured out who he was when he became a Ranger.
“Looking back, I’ve always sometimes questioned the decision to leave but even now I am still helping people, just in different ways. It’s powerful and I take it very seriously because I can change someone’s life by getting them out of pain,” he said.
His final message to readers and war commentators was simple and very direct.
“Love the warriors and hate the war. A lot of time we have trouble separating the two…it wasn’t our choice to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s political,” Brooks said adamantly. “People need to understand that the reason we go to war is for the person to our right, to our left and the people back home we love.”
“Leave No Man Behind” is a powerful reminder of the cost of war and the importance of acknowledging it every single day.
To learn more about the book or snag your copy, click here.
The Crew of the ARLIGH BURKE-class USS COLE (DDG 67), escort their wounded ship aboard Navy tug vessel, USNS CATAWBA, to a staging point in the Yemeni harbor of Aden awaiting transportation by the Norwegian-owned semi-submersible heavy lift ship MV BLUE MARLIN back to their homeport, during Operation DETERMINED RESPONSE, on October 29, 2000. (Photo by: SGT DON L. MAES, USMC)
The US Navy released a powerful video Monday of retired sailors and a Gold Star mother recounting the deadly bombing of the destroyer USS Cole twenty years ago today.
In one heartbreaking scene, retired Master Chief Paul Abney breaks into tears as he remembers the loss of fellow sailor Operation Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Saunders. Abney said he stood watch with Saunders every day.
“Both of his legs were busted up so bad,” he recalled. “They were out of shape, they were all twisted on the Stokes stretcher they were carrying him on.”
Tears fill his eyes as he continues. “Still the same cheery personality, he gives me two thumbs up and says, ‘They’re taking care of me, master chief,’ as they were carrying him off on a Stoke stretcher.”
“He was the only shipmate who made it off and to the hospital that passed away over there,” he said. “Every other one that we got off the ship and triaged to get off soon enough they made it. The rest of them died before we ever got them off the ship.”
USS Cole was attacked by suicide bombers in a boat packed with explosives while in port in Yemen on October 12, 2000. The explosion tore a hole in the ship so large the crew spent several days containing the flooding that endangered the ship. “We almost lost her,” retired Command Master Chief James Parlier said in the video.
“The pressure of it knocked me back in my chair,” Abney said. “Along with it, all the lights went out. The next thing that I can really recall from the blast was this putrid, kind of acrid smoke. It was kind of hard to breathe. Everybody was choking from the smoke.”
Seventeen sailors were killed, and another 39 others were injured in the attack.
Among the deceased was James McDaniels. His mother, Dianne McDaniels, learned about the attack on the news. That evening, she was informed that her son was gone. “I’m glad he did what he did as far as serving because that’s what he wanted to do,” she said.
“These were young men and women that you knew personally. We had a crew of 275,” Parlier said. “Respectfully, to put them in a body bag is the worst thing I can ever think of.”
The attack was attributed to al Qaeda, which carried out attacks in the US a little over a year later on September 11, 2001.
It took a little over a year to repair USS Cole and return her to sea. Parlier said that when the ship was finally fixed and sailing again, he felt pride “because we told them son of a b——s that we were not defeated and that we were coming back.”
Remembering the Terrorist Attack on USS Cole (DDG 67), Oct. 12, 2000
In the distant future, teams of soldiers equipped with high-powered exoskeletons disembark a series of autonomous personnel carriers outside the enemy’s position. Overhead, a small fleet of drones scans the engagement area, giving each soldier a real-time view of the battlefield through their heads-up display.
As each team moves into position, they hear a series of explosions on the other side of the enemy base. From over 2,000 meters away, the Army’s high-energy precision fires systems have just disabled the enemy’s anti-access and area-denial capabilities.
At the same time, teams of soldiers use their exoskeleton suits to leap over the perimeter wall to engage the enemy and secure the compound.
This is one scenario of a future operating environment. In reality, it is nearly impossible to predict how the Army will operate and fight in a distant future, said Matt Santaspirt, an Army Futures Command intelligence representative.
To guide the Army in the right direction, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Mad Scientist team functions like a scout on the battlefield, always looking ahead and evaluating ideas to help build the force, he said.
Nested within both Army Futures and Training and Doctrine Commands, the MadSci initiative was created to address opportunities and challenges in the Army’s near-, mid-, and far-term future, said Allison Winer, the team’s deputy director of engagement.
(courtesy of Mad Scientist Initiative)
The goal is to maximize the Army’s limited resources and help soldiers fight and win in a futuristic operational environment, she added.
“The Army only knows what it knows; and [the Army] always talks to itself,” Santaspirt said. “We want to break out of that echo chamber.”
“We are harnessing the intellect of the nation to describe the art of the possible,” he added. “We know that you can’t predict the future, but we’re trying to say, ‘Here is a range of possibilities.’ [The goal] is to be less wrong than our adversary.”
To accomplish this goal, the MadSci team compiles information from a wide range of sources, in support of Army senior leaders’ priorities, Santaspirt said.
These sources include traditional mediums: academia, industry, think tanks, labs, reports, and white papers; to the more nontraditional platforms: crowdsourcing, social media, science fiction, and cinema, to name a few.
Beyond the collection of materials, the MadSci team often organizes themed conferences, bringing communities together to address key Army topics. For example, the team recently conducted the Mad Scientist Disruption and the Future Operational Environment Conference in Austin, Texas.
During the conference, presenters addressed robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomy, the future of space, planetary habitability, and the legal and ethical dilemmas surrounding how these disruptive technologies will impact the future of warfare, specifically in the land and space domains, according to MadSci officials.
“We had somebody come in and talk about robotics and how we can use them in an austere environment,” Santaspirt said, adding there were specific examples of robotics used in Fukushima, Japan.
“The approach is to bring together experts … so we can refine those key ideas, and disrupt [the Army’s] assumptions,” he said.
(courtesy of Mad Scientist Initiative)
A week after the event, the team posted some key takeaways from the conference on the Mad Scientist Blog. The MadSci blog and other social media platforms are often used as a crowdsourcing tool to help poll an audience or generate conversation about key Army topics, Winer said.
Some of the conference findings included: a need to set left and right boundaries for artificial intelligence and autonomy, increased crowding of assets in space will cause operational challenges, and fake news coupled with hyper-connectivity is changing the nature of information warfare.
Additionally, the MadSci team organizes science fiction writing competitions to help determine possible futures for crucial Army programs, Winer said. For years, science fiction has depicted worlds that are both logically possible, but functionally different than current society.
“Science fiction is used as a kind of forecasting to see what possible futures might look like,” she said. “Aside from being just plain-on cool, it gives the Army a way to use storytelling, historical analysis, and outsourcing to write about the realm of the possible. And it is an effective tool for a lot of businesses and other leaders in industry to try.”
Through their research and continual online engagements, the MadSci team creates a range of possibilities, then later presents their findings to Army senior leaders and key decision makers, Santaspirt said.
“It is a different way of thinking,” Santaspirt said. “If [the Army] can get that out there and start meeting the right people, make certain decisions or investments, or get people thinking in a different way … you might see what we’ve discovered — as it comes to light down the road.”
Members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, inspect the Tabqa dam on March 27, 2017, which has been recently partially recaptured, as part of their battle for the jihadists’ stronghold in nearby Raqa.
Clashes raged around a key northern Syrian town on Tuesday after the Islamic State group launched a counter-attack to fend off a U.S.-backed advance near the jihadists’ stronghold Raqa.
Backed by air power from an international coalition bombing, the Syrian Democratic Forces are laying the groundwork for an assault on the heart of the jihadists’ so-called “caliphate.”
A key part of the campaign is the battle for the ISIS-held town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River, as well as the adjacent dam and military airport.
The SDF seized the Tabqa airbase late Sunday and began pushing north towards the town itself, but ISIS fighters doubled down on their defenses on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“The fighting is a result of ISIS launching a counter-offensive to exhaust the Syrian Democratic Forces around the Tabqa military airport,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said the SDF was working to “consolidate its positions” near the airport ahead of a final push for the town.
SDF fighters are also bearing down on the Tabqa dam after capturing its northern entrance on Friday from ISIS fighters.
The fight around the structure has been backed by forces from the US-led coalition, with American-made armoured vehicles bearing the markings of the U.S. Marine Corps seen moving along a nearby road.
An AFP correspondent at the dam on Tuesday said it was generally quiet around the dam itself, despite the occasional ISIS-fired mortar that landed in SDF-controlled parts of the riverbank.
Airplanes could be heard humming above as SDF forces patrolled the northern entrance of the structure.
On Tuesday, coalition forces could be seen standing near military vehicles less than one mile from the dam, their mortar rounds casually stacked nearby.
After a brief pause in fighting on Monday to allow technicians to enter the dam complex, SDF fighters resumed their operations around the structure, said spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed.
“ISIS amassed its fighters and attacked our forces in the area, which forced us to respond and resume the operations to liberate the dam,” she said.
Earlier this year, the United Nations raised concern about the prospect of damage to the dam in fighting, warning that water levels — which put pressure on the structure — were already high.
ISIS has also issued warnings through its propaganda agency Amaq that the dam “is threatened with collapse at any moment because of American strikes and a large rise in water levels”.
On Tuesday, technicians accompanied by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent could be seen examining the dam to assess whether water levels had risen in recent days.
“The explosions and the clashes are threatening the dam, and we ask for all sides to distance themselves from it,” said Ismail Jassem, an engineer from the SDF-controlled Tishreen Dam in neighbouring Aleppo province.
“The water levels are acceptable now. We came to open up one of the gates to relieve the pressure,” he told AFP.
The SDF launched its offensive for Raqa city in November 2016, seizing around two thirds of the surrounding province, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
At their closest point, the forces are just five miles from Raqa city, to the northeast.
But they are mostly further away, between ten to fifteen miles from Raqa.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of source on the ground in Syria, said ISIS had deployed around 900 fighters from Raqa city to various fronts in the wider province.
“Fighting is raging on every front around the city of Raqa, accompanied by non-stop air strikes,” Abdel Rahman said.
Syria’s conflict began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 but has turned into a brutal war pitting government forces, jihadists, rebels, and Kurds against each other.
UN-mediated talks between government and rebel representatives continued Tuesday in Geneva, aimed at bringing an end to the war that has killed 320,000 people.
Chaplains have long held a special place in many troops’ hearts. In fact, at times, they become legends. In the Army, the first chaplains were authorized on July 29, 1775. They’ve been with the troops on the front lines ever since.
Some chaplains have made the ultimate sacrifice. The most famous instance was that of the “Four Chaplains” who were on board the transport SS Dorchester when it was torpedoed by U-223 at 12:55AM on Feb. 3, 1943.
According to HomeofHeroes.com, when the transport was hit, the four chaplains, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Rev. George L. Fox, Rev. Clark V. Poling, and Father John P. Washington promptly began to aid the troops who were on the stricken vessel.
One sailor was heading back to his bunk for gloves, but Rabbi Goode instead handed his over. Despite a loss of power, they got some of the troops to the deck. Then, they began handing out life jackets, even as the Dorchester was rapidly headed to a watery grave.
Finally, when the life jackets ran out, they gave up their own. They were among the 668 who went down with the Dorchester, but many of the 230 men who were saved owed their lives to the Four Chaplains, each of whom received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously.
In the Korean War, two other chaplains notably made the ultimate sacrifice. Chaplain Emil Kapuan, a Catholic priest, was captured during the Chinese offensive of 1950 — and shortly after his capture, he shoved a Chinese soldier who was trying to execute an America.
Then there was the case of Chaplain Herman G. Felhoelter, also a Catholic priest, who, during the initial salvos of the Korean War, offered to stay behind with a medic to help the wounded. As he was providing comfort, North Korean troops attacked and wounded the medic, who escaped.
The North Koreans then proceeded to carry out what became known as the Chaplain-Medic massacre, killing the wounded Americans and the chaplain. Felhoelter received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously for his actions.
These cases only begin to scratch the surface of why the troops love their chaplains.
North Korean officials did not show up to meet US officials to discuss returning the remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean War on July 12, 2018, and it’s essentially a slap in the face to President Donald Trump.
But one thing Kim agreed to in writing was “recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”
“The repatriation of the Korean War remains is significant in that it partially closes a painful chapter in US-Korea relations,” Benjamin Young, a North Korea expert from George Washington University told Business Insider. “It’s significant from a historical perspective and is symbolic. “
But North Korea did not immediately repatriate any bodies. By blowing off the meeting, as South Korea’s Yonhap News reported, North Korea has shown it can be difficult even over symbolic gestures of kindness.
Thousands of 100-year-olds asked Trump to get the bodies back?
After the summit, Trump really pressed the idea that returning the bodies was a significant achievement by making some dubious claims.
Trump said “thousands” of parents of Korean War soldiers asked him to get the remains back, but the Korean War took place from 1950-1953, meaning those parents would have been born around the 1920s, and approaching 100 years old today; it seems likely this figure includes surviving relatives of the deceased who are still seeking closure.
Later in June 2018, he claimed 200 bodies had been returned, but provided no evidence. North Korean officials have said they have identified the remains of about 200 US soldiers, so it’s unclear why North Korea would still be meeting if it had returned the bodies.
North Korea leader Kim Jong Un inspects Chunghung farm in Samjiyon County.
As I have written elsewhere, the Army’s leadership has taken a number of bold steps to reform its sclerotic acquisition system. Army Secretary Mark Esper and Chief of Staff General Mark Milley have set ambitious goals for a revamped acquisition system. Secretary Esper has spoken of reducing the time it takes to formulate requirements from an average of five years to just one. General Milley wants new capabilities ten times more lethal than those they replace. Getting there, he suggested in a recent speech, is as much a matter of attitude and culture as it is about technology:
I’m not interested in a linear progression into the future. That will end up in defeat on a future battlefield. If we think that if we just draw a straight line into the future and simply make incremental improvements to current systems, then we’re blowing smoke up our collective fourth point of contact…
There is no question that the Army’s leadership is all-in on acquisition reform. This does not mean that success is assured. It is natural for the current system to resist change, marshaling all the weapons of law, regulation, custom, and habit to retard or even negate progress towards the goals of a faster and more effective way of designing and procuring new capabilities. In a recent RollCall article, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy recommends that elements within the current acquisition system will present the hardest challenge as they attempt to preserve their “bureaucratic rice bowls.”
As aggressive as the Army acquisition reform program has been, they could be bolder still. Here are three additional initiatives that should be pursued.
3. Restructure the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for acquisition technology and logistics (ASA/ALT)
One of the major problems the current reforms is intended to address is the stovepipes that exist between requirements formulation and capabilities development and procurement. The proposed solutions, including the creation of Futures Command, do not go far enough. Currently, Army Material Command (AMC), the organization that oversees the actual development and production of new capabilities, reports to the Chief of Staff. However, by law, AMC’s Program Executive Offices (PEOs), which manage specific programs also report to the Secretary of the Army through the ASA/ALT.
This creates an inherent conflict of interest for the PEOs who are responsible both for program execution and oversight. There will be a natural tendency for PEOs to exploit this organizational contradiction to pursue their own interests and maximize their freedom of action. But this is more than just a bureaucratic problem. There are reports that some PEOs have been told by Army lawyers that they cannot participate in the work of the newly-created Cross Functional Teams. The current system also runs counter to Congress’ efforts to allow the Service Chiefs greater authority over the acquisition process.
Army leadership needs to change this system. The logic of the current reform campaign dictates that the entire acquisition process be placed under the Army Chief of Staff. The role of the Assistant Secretary of the Army should be limited to oversight, assessment, and review of the work done by AMC and the PEOs. Clearly, this will require action on the part of Congress to rewrite the current law. But the Army needs to make a case for restructuring ASA/ALT.
2. Seek Relief from the onerous requirements of the Congressional appropriations process
The current defense budget appropriations process requires the Services to produce detailed descriptions, called exhibits, of the programs they are pursuing, including the specific quantities and types of equipment to be procured as well as the funds required. A lack of specificity in these documents often results in the appropriations committees refusing to fund a request.
The problem is that the Services’ budgets must go through an elaborate review and vetting process at multiple levels before a defense budget is actually submitted to Congress. Consequently, they may be up to two years out of date. But if changes are required, a reprogramming request must be submitted, which is a laborious process in itself.
This has been a particular problem of late in the procurement of munitions since the Services, particularly the Air Force and Army, did not anticipate two years ago how many weapons would be expended in the fight against ISIS. It is already a serious problem in areas such as cyber and communications systems where the technology cycle time is measured in months, not years. But if the Army can accelerate the acquisition system, it will become a problem in multiple areas.
The Army, really all the Services, need to work with the appropriations committees to revamp the budget document process. There needs to be a way of promoting flexibility for the PEOs while allowing for Congressional oversight. This could involve building off-ramps or alternative pathways into the reports that can be executed without triggering the need for a reprogramming request.
1. Make aggressive use of available rapid acquisition authorities
In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress gave the Department of Defense the authority to waive virtually all procurement regulations in order to rapidly acquire critically needed capabilities. Congress also expanded the power of the Services to employ other transactional authorities to speed up the acquisition process. The current Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Ellen Lord, has proposed using these new authorities to reduce contracting times by fifty percent.
To date, the Army has not taken advantage of these new authorities. The Army needs to walk through the open door provided by Congress and senior leaders of the Department of Defense. The Secretary and Chief of Staff need to identify a set of candidate capabilities that could be acquired using the new authorities. This has both a practical and symbolic value. There are a number of capability gaps that would benefit from the introduction of an interim solution.
More importantly, the use of rapid acquisition authorities is a demonstration of how serious Army leaders are about changing the risk-averse, “all the time in the world” acquisition culture. The Army has shown it can terminate programs that are failing or no longer meet warfighters’ needs. It must show that it is just as capable of making rapid decisions when it comes to procuring new capabilities.
Implementing organizational change is hard; altering an institution’s culture is even more difficult. The key to success is to go big and fast. The Army needs an even bolder program for reforming its acquisition system.
A new al-Qaida-inspired group has sprouted up in Pakistan in the hopes of recruiting from a growing base of disaffected former Islamic State fans and militants.
Known as Ansar al-Sharia Pakistan, the group has emerged in the city of Karachi and was founded by two militants who used to belong to al-Qaida, but disavowed that affiliation in early 2017, VOA reports.
The group plays to militants upset with the way ISIS has sowed disunity, and as such, the tactics employed bear far more resemblance to those of al-Qaida, rather than ISIS. The group claims no formal affiliation with al-Qaida, but it does explicitly acknowledge strong influence from Osama bin Laden.
“The Ansar al-Sharia group started killings in Karachi since the beginning of this year and claimed responsibility for killing an army officer on Faisal Highway [in Karachi],” Major General Mohammad Saeed, head of a paramilitary security group in Karachi, told local media, according to Voice of America.
Saeed noted that Ansar al-Sharia has only been launching attacks against the police.
The group’s membership is not restricted to males. Pakistani police have arrested four female members already. Moreover, Ansar al-Sharia’s “kill team” sports three young men with graduate degrees in applied physics, showcasing the group is capable of recruiting talent.
Ansar al-Sharia has made announcements of its existence via Twitter, stating: “We give glad tidings to Muslim Ummah that a large number of Mujahideen from Karachi, Punjab and tribal areas are leaving ranks of IS and announce disassociation with [it].”
VOA was unable to independently verify the Twitter account’s authenticity.
Undaunted by the need for a proprietary algorithm and the fact that Twitter wasn’t founded until 2006, a group of military historians were able to dig up these tweets under the third ‘O’ of the HOLLYWOOD sign (just above WATM’s headquarters) after receiving a tip from the ghost of Jimmy Stewart in the American Legion Post 43’s men’s room. Like all important artifacts, these 9 tweets shed light on history (in this case in 140 characters or less):