The Invisible War On The Brain - We Are The Mighty
Articles

The Invisible War On The Brain

The cover story of National Geographic magazine’s February issue, “The Invisible War on the Brain,” takes a close look at a signature injury of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars—traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caused by the shock waves from explosions. TBIs have left hundreds of thousands of U.S. veterans with life-altering and sometimes debilitating conditions, the treatment of which can be extremely complicated. At Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, soldiers paint masks that help them cope with their daily struggles and help them reveal their inner feelings. We invite you to see the service members’ masks and read the full story here.


Impeccable in his Marine uniform and outwardly composed, McNair sits on the porch of his parents’ home in Virginia, anonymous behind a mask he made in an art therapy session. “I was just going through pictures, and I saw the mask of Hannibal Lecter, and I thought, ‘That’s who I am’ … He’s probably dangerous, and that’s who I felt I was. I had this muzzle on with all these wounds, and I couldn’t tell anyone about them. I couldn’t express my feelings.”

The Invisible War On The Brain
Marine Cpl. Chris McNair (Ret.), Afghanistan 2011-12. (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Wearing his mask—half patriotic, half death’s-head—Hopman confronts the battery of medications he takes daily for blast-force injuries he sustained while treating soldiers as a flight medic. “I know my name, but I don’t know the man who used to back up that name … I never thought I would have to set a reminder to take a shower, you know. I’m 39 years old. I’ve got to set a reminder to take medicine, set a reminder to do anything… My daughter, she’s only four, so this is the only dad she’s ever known, whereas my son knew me before.”

The Invisible War On The Brain
Army Staff Sgt. Perry Hopman, Iraq 2006-08. (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

“Detonation happened, and I was right there in the blast seat. I got blown up. And all this medical study—nobody ever thought that they [blast events] were very harmful, and so we didn’t log them, which we should because all blast forces are cumulative to the body. On a grade number for me, it would probably be 300-plus explosions … I’m not going to not play with my children. I’m not going to let my injuries stop them from having a good life.”

The Invisible War On The Brain
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Tam (Ret.), Iraq 2004-05, 2007-08, (with wife Angela and their two children). (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Tiffany H., as she prefers to be known, was “blown up” while helping women in a remote Afghan village earn additional income for their families. Memory loss, balance difficulties, and anxiety are among her many symptoms. The blinded eye and sealed lips on her mask.

The Invisible War On The Brain
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Tiffany H., Iraq 2007-08, Afghanistan 2010-11. (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Suiting up before attempting ordnance disposal “is the last line. There’s no one else to call … It’s the person and the IED … and if a mistake is made at that point, then death is almost certain. They call it the long walk because once you get that bomb suit on, number one, everything is harder when you’re wearing that 100 pounds … Two, the stress of knowing what you’re about to do. And three, it’s quiet, and it seems like it takes an hour to walk.”

The Invisible War On The Brain
Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert “Bo” Wester (Ret.), Iraq 2007, 2008-09, Afghanistan 2010. (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Brain injuries caused by blast events change soldiers in ways many can’t articulate. Some use art therapy, creating painted masks to express how they feel. (Photos by © Rebecca Hale /National Geographic)

The Invisible War On The Brain

The Invisible War On The Brain

The Invisible War On The Brain

The Invisible War On The Brain

The Invisible War On The Brain

The Invisible War On The Brain

MIGHTY TRENDING

Dashcam footage shows pilot ejecting from armed F-16 just before it crashes into a California hangar

Last Thursday afternoon, commuters driving down the 215 Freeway adjacent to Riverside County, California’s March Air Reserve Base witnessed an incredible sight. A pilot was forced to eject from his F-16 Fighting Falcon carrying live ordnance over the highway, deploying his chute as the fighter careened into the roof of a nearby warehouse.

The single-engine fighter was headed back to March Air Reserve Base after completing a routine training mission in the nearby Moreno Valley when the pilot reported a hydraulics failure in the aircraft. Soon, he was forced to eject, landing safely in a nearby field. The crippled jet, however, continued its uncontrolled descent into the roof a warehouse across the freeway from the base, belonging to a company called See Water Inc.


2019 0516 153242 004

youtu.be

In a dramatic 20-second clip captured by the dash camera of YouTuber James Dyer, you can see the stricken F-16 losing altitude as it passes from the left to the right of the screen. As the pilot ejects, the aircraft continues to coast and wobble, seemingly toward the freeway until the clip ends.

The warehouse that the armed F-16 crashed into was occupied at the time, and at least one person recorded footage of the aftermath that they later posted to Facebook.

“Holy *expletive* dude. That’s a *expletive* airplane; that’s a military airplane in our building,” one person can be heard exclaiming in the footage.

Damage filmed inside warehouse after fighter jet crash in California- video

youtu.be

Warning – Video contains harsh language

While local officials would not comment on the exact munitions the F-16 was carrying, they did confirm that it was equipped with a “standard armament package,” which suggests 500 rounds for the aircraft’s on-board cannon as well as a number of potential air-to-ground or air-to-air bombs and missiles. All told, the F-16 has hard points for six external weapons, often broken down into two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, and two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, as well as two additional 2400-pound external fuel tanks when necessary for long-duration flights. Whatever ordnance was on board this Fighting Falcon was quickly secured by Air Force officials.

The Invisible War On The Brain

F-16 carrying a full combat load including external fuel tanks

(U.S. Air Force)

Suffice to say, as bad as a hole in a warehouse roof may be, this incident could have been significantly worse. No one was killed in the crash, though 13 people were injured with three remaining hospitalized but listed as stable. According to local health officials, none of the injuries sustained were life-threatening.

“Thank God everyone is safe and OK,” Mike Johnson, the CEO of the company located in the warehouse, told the press. “We’ll have to see what this means for the company, but right now our concern is with our employees and their families.”

Articles

This military-friendly adult actress is starting a project just for veterans

When it comes to the economics of adult entertainment, things are pretty similar to its Silver Screen counterpart. There’s a lot of money spent behind the scenes to make the films. Locations, production crews, and other associated costs can really make a dent in even the most well-prepared budget.


“It’s a process,” says adult actress Mercedes Carrera in an interview with We Are The Mighty. “And sometimes it’s not as fun as people think it is.”

Time is money. There’s no room for errors, no time for first-timers to start in the mainstream adult film world. And not just anyone can get their foot in the door.

Also read: 9 examples of the military’s dark humor

So when Carrera tweeted to her fan base about the idea of casting average-joe veterans to co-star in her upcoming project, the response blew her away.

The Invisible War On The Brain
Also staggering is her knife-hand ability.

“I just threw a tweet out like two days ago,” Carrera recalls during a February 2017 interview. “It said ‘contact me, I’m gonna do this whole vet only thing. It’s gonna be its own site.’ ”

Carrera’s tweet was part of her plan to launch a new adult entertainment website that is veteran focused — including using vets as actors.

While some may question whether the star’s use of veteran “free talent” is taking advantage of former service members — even using words like “exploitation” — she insists that is both an oversimplification and simply untrue.

“I’m not going to be making money off of vets,” Carrera says. “The numbers just don’t work out for me in that. I still have to pay for some locations, I have to pay my production staff. This project will be a sub-site from my website, but I already know that no one is gonna buy 80 percent of these scenes.”

The tweet was picked up by one website and her inbox was soon flooded with a thousand emails. To say she’s a big deal among veterans is an understatement, in her eyes. She gets messages and emails all the time from servicemen and women, just to tell her that her work helped get them through a deployment, despite General Order Number One, which prohibits work like hers in the CENTCOM theater.

“It’s probably two thousand by now,” she adds. She gets three new emails every minute. And answering them has become a sort-of full-time job, one she says she truly enjoys.

Her outreach to the veteran community is nothing new. In 2016, she took Army Sgt. Anthony Berg to the Adult Video News Awards, one of her industry’s biggest nights.

To her, wasn’t a publicity stunt, she still keeps in touch with Berg and his wife, and both attended the awards with her.

The Invisible War On The Brain
(via Instagram)

The reasons for her devotion to vets is simple, she says. Carrera is a military brat — her father served in Vietnam and he, like many other returning Vietnam veterans, did not get the homecoming Iraq and Afghanistan veterans receive today.

People actually spit and hurled things at him as left the airport, she said.

“It was a different time, and he was getting out as the war was very unpopular,” Carrera recalls.  “And he was coming back to Los Angeles at the time so you can imagine the social climate.”

Aside from her family connection to veterans, Carrera says she genuinely loves them and connects with the community. She has a lot of respect and admiration for a community who cares more about their friends than themselves, and that includes the vets who respond to her her contests.

“They take care of each other,” she says. “This happened when I took a date to AVN last year, too. These guys are, instead of submitting themselves, they’re submitting their buddies.”

Veterans interested in her veteran movie project will have to provide their own time and travel and pay for industry-standard disease screening. The adult film industry is one with inherent health risks and is regulated by state government.

Related: 9 important things you realize when dating a veteran

“When I perform, I always pay my own travel expenses and for my own tests,” she said. “We all [in the adult industry] pay for our own tests all the time. That’s the nature of the industry.”

Carrera hasn’t always been an adult video actress. She began her career as an aerospace engineer. Though she still loves to “build sh*t,” Carrera recalls her move to the adult industry as a natural one for her.

While there are a few veterans who have transitioned from the military to the adult industry, there aren’t many. And though some may want to join the ranks of her world, Carrera can tell you that breaking in isn’t easy.

“The failure rates for new men are 80-90 percent,” she says. “Producers don’t even want to audition new guys. It’s too much of a risk to the production cost. For those veterans who do want a break in the industry, I’m offering them a chance to see if they can do it.

The Invisible War On The Brain
Carrera spends a lot of time interacting with her fans, veteran or not.

She doesn’t see veterans as victims she can take advantage of, she just wants to give aspiring veterans the opportunity they may not have had otherwise.

In Mercedes Carrera’s mind, we all give back to our veterans in our own way. This project will be her way.

“I’m at a point in my career in the where my recommendations carry weight and I’ve earned that by earning my stripe in the industry,” she says. “Veterans have reached out to me for years asking me how to get started, and now I have the chance to help them.”

Articles

Three Army chaplains just certified as Green Berets

The Invisible War On The Brain
Three Chaplains who completed the U.S. Army Special Forces Assessment and Selection program, as well as the Special Forces Qualification Course. (From left to right: Chaplains Tim Crawley, Mike Smith, and Peter Hofman) | US Army


A Roman poet named Juvenal is credited with saying; “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” –a Latin phrase that means “who will guard the guardians?” Chaplains are often seen as these guardians, someone who looks after those who protect others.

Historically, nearly every unit in the Army has had chaplains assigned to look after the spiritual and/or emotional needs of the force, to include elite units such as U.S. Army Airborne, Rangers, and Special Forces. While many chaplains assigned to these units decide to go through the Basic Airborne Course and Ranger School, which can help them better relate to the soldiers in their care, few have had the opportunity to attend and complete the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course.

“Support soldiers such as the staff judge advocate, surgeons office and chaplains, are a necessity to Special Forces, but they are not required and/or rarely offered the opportunity to attend SFQC, without having to re-class (change their MOS),” said Chaplain (Capt.) Mike Smith, now a Special Forces qualified chaplain with 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. “Now, since I completed the course and earned the coveted Green Beret, they see me as one of them. I have ‘survived’ the same challenges they had to survive in order to serve in the Special Forces community.”

“To me, it isn’t the fact that I am able to wear the beret as much as it allows me to understand the operators I serve. There is a sense of alienation when a support soldier, including the chaplain, arrives to an SF unit. There is some assessment time where the unit attempts to understand the new chaplain,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Timothy Maracle, a Special Forces qualified chaplain with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). “This period of acceptance and access to the unit allows a chaplain the ability to express their identity to the new group of soldiers and operators. On the other side, when the unit finally does accept the chaplain, there is an unbreakable bond. We support one another as if they were our own flesh and blood. The beret is the vehicle of access, but it doesn’t do everything for a chaplain, just provides access.”

Smith recalls some of the challenges he faced through his journey, explaining that a mere week from graduation he was told he may be receiving a certificate of completion rather than actually donning the Green Beret with the rest of his classmates. However, senior SF personnel such as Chaplain (Col.) Keith Croom expressed those chaplains who have met the same standards of SFQC as other candidates should be granted the opportunity to don the Green Beret and thus minister with their SF brethren.

The Invisible War On The Brain
Four Chaplains who completed the U.S. Army Special Forces Assessment and Selection program, as well as the Special Forces Qualification Course. (From left to right: Chaplains Timothy Maracle, Mike Smith, Tim Crawley, and Peter Hofman.) | US Army

Although these chaplains have met the same standards, been through the same training, and hold the same qualifications as many SF soldiers, they do not consider themselves ‘operators.”

“If there is one thing I learned, it is that I am not an ‘operator.’ I was not and am not called to that role. It’s not to say that I couldn’t take on that role, because I have gone through the training, but it’s more to say that my role is different,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Peter Hofman, a SF Qualified Chaplain and instructor at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, Fort Jackson, South Carolina. “My role is to guard the guardians, to minister to those in the SF community.”

Hofman also recalls a moment during his time at SFQC when he was met with his share of adversity.

After his final patrol in the Small Unit Tactics portion of the course, Hofman notes that he was sitting with the rest of his platoon waiting for a final AAR (after action review), when an instructor walked up to him and said, “What’s your deal man?”, which led him to believe he had done something wrong. The instructor then clarified his initial question by asking why Hofman, as a chaplain, was learning about assaulting objectives and carrying weapons.

“I could tell he was irritated by my presence and after a little back and forth I finally said, ‘Well sergeant, I think the SF motto: ‘De Oppresso Liber’ is an important mission,” he said. “In fact, it is the same mission that Jesus stated was his mission in ‘Luke 4’ quoting from ‘Isaiah, chapter 61′. It’s a mission that I would like to be a part of and the SF community is a brotherhood that I would be honored to serve in’. Apparently, that satisfied him because he walked away. In that moment I became more aware than ever before what a huge responsibility I was being charged with and what a privilege it was to be there and serve with these ‘guardians.'”

Because of the unique situation these chaplains find themselves in (attending SFAS and SFQC as Chaplains), they also share a unique perspective.

“The essence of what SFQC has done for me is knowledge. Knowledge about how much these soldiers have been pushed, pulled, and stressed while going through the course. Knowledge about the way operators think, which assisted me during counselings with their spouse. Knowledge about how important perception is to an operator, as it is the first impression of a person that will assist an operator when he needs it,” said Maracle. “Knowledge about my own weaknesses and how understanding my breaking points, I can understand that in others as well. And finally, knowledge about the bigger picture of what is truly important to an operator and how to support them when they don’t even know they need it.”

According to Maracle, for him and his fellow chaplains, enduring and ultimately graduating this grueling course was never about the glory, but always about the soldiers they would later serve.

“Any time a chaplain can successfully complete challenging courses and become tabbed, I believe it bolsters the reputation of the (Chaplains) Corps,” said Crawley “I am a better man and chaplain for having gone through, and I believe it also gives us a voice in places we may not have without it.”

Articles

The 13 Funniest Military Memes Of The Week

Christmas is over and the world is coming down from its collective eggnog hangover. To help you out, here are 13 memes that made us laugh over the holiday.


This is how you get rid of visiting relatives quickly.

The Invisible War On The Brain

Keep your officer safe this holiday season.

The Invisible War On The Brain
The Marine version of “A Christmas Story” ended a bit differently.

Don’t like the stuffing? Try this instead.

The Invisible War On The Brain
Feels just as good coming out as it does going in.

It’s a bit of a fixer-upper.

The Invisible War On The Brain
There’s nothing wrong with living well.

Besides, the Marines would kill for a place like that.

The Invisible War On The Brain
It’s called a Devil Dog pile, Ooh-Rah?

When Airmen are on the tip of the spear.

The Invisible War On The Brain
In their defense, it probably cuts down on negligent discharges.

Sergeant Major bait.

The Invisible War On The Brain
That hanging thread is almost as bad as the hand positioning

When sailors dress up.

The Invisible War On The Brain
Go Navy! Play Army!

It’s not cheating, it’s intelligence gathering.

The Invisible War On The Brain
He’s probably just checking her answers

This kid is way ahead.

The Invisible War On The Brain
And the Coast Guard is a club

Your plane is affected by the wind?

The Invisible War On The Brain
My landing strip is affected by the oceans

Squadrons buy cold weather gear?

The Invisible War On The Brain
Bundle up!

Of course, it’s the Air Force’s own fault they didn’t get gear for Christmas.

The Invisible War On The Brain
How’d they find him if he wasn’t wearing a PT belt?
MIGHTY TRENDING

How Iran will try to fight sanctions before they topple the regime

Aligning with a superpower worked for some countries during the Cold War, and for many others, it didn’t. But Iran never aligned itself with the US or the Soviet Union, preferring to maintain its independence and sovereignty. But where the Non-Aligned movement was dedicated to the principles of pretty much minding one’s own business, the coalition Iran is building is more dedicated to pushing back against the US.

But just for one very specific reason: inflation.


The Invisible War On The Brain

Ever since the United States left the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the ‘Nuclear Deal’ – sanctions imposed by the U.S. have left Iran’s currency and economy in tatters. As today is the day Iranians celebrate the New Year, Iran’s Supreme Leader is celebrating the regime’s resistance to the economic hardship.

“In the face of severe, and according to them unprecedented, sanctions from America and Europe, the Iranian people showed a strong and powerful reaction both in the field of politics and economy,” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said in a pre-recorded speech. President Hassan Rouhani echoed that sentiment and called for Iranian to stop fighting each other a band together against the United States.

The Invisible War On The Brain

With sanctions crippling the value of Iranian currency, the Iranian government is looking to its neighbors to strengthen the rial. Other countries like Germany and France, who are still party to the nuclear plan, have opened channels to Iran for trade without using the dollar. While this has eased the out of control inflation in the Islamic Republic, the rial is still trading at 190,000 to one. Iranians have seen their savings and their net worth plummet in the past few years, which is the first result of rampant inflation.

Banks, merchants, and institutions have also seen the values of their businesses and livelihoods decline as a result. Throughout Iran, the inflation and unhappiness with the sanctions, and the regime’s inability to do anything about it has caused widespread protests and demonstrations – some on the same scale of the ones that brought down the Shah and saw the Islamic Republic come to power.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Canada must prosecute returning ISIS fighters

Human rights champion Nadia Murad was recently co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In August 2014, Murad’s village in northern Iraq was attacked by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and she was sold into sexual slavery.

She managed to escape, sought asylum in Germany in 2015 and has fought for the rights of the Yazidi minority ever since. Upon becoming a Nobel laureate, she said:

“We must work together with determination — so that genocidal campaigns will not only fail, but lead to accountability for the perpetrators. Survivors deserve justice. And a safe and secure pathway home.”


Accountability has become a key issue. While the United States-led international coalition has dislodged ISIS from the cities it had occupied and controlled, namely Mosul and Raqqa, the group is weakened but not dead.

ISIS remains a force in the Middle East

Both the U.S. Department of Defense and the United Nations estimate that approximately 30,000 ISIS fighters remain in those countries.

At the same time, a significant number of foreign fighters from places like Canada, the U.K. and Australia have fled Iraq and Syria. Numerous countries are struggling to find policy solutions on how to manage the return of their nationals who had joined the group.

The Canadian government has stated publicly that it favors taking a comprehensive approach of reintegrating returnees back into society. Very few foreign fighters who have returned to Canada have been prosecuted.

The Invisible War On The Brain

Poster of Nadia Murad speaking to the UN Security Council at the Yazidi Temple of Lalish, Kurdistan-Iraq.

Things are about to become much more complicated for officials in Ottawa. Stewart Bell of Global News, reporting recently from Northern Syria, interviewed Canadian ISIS member Muhammad Ali who is being held by Kurdish forces in a makeshift prison.

Ali admits to having joined ISIS and acting as a sniper, and playing soccer with severed heads. He also has a digital record of using social media to incite others to commit violent attacks against civilians and recruiting others to join the group.

Another suspected ISIS member, Jack Letts, a dual Canadian-British national, is also locked up in northern Syria. The same Kurdish forces are adamant that the government of Canada repatriate all Canadian citizens they captured on the battlefield.

Soft on terror or Islamophobic

The issue of how to manage the return of foreign fighters has resulted in highly political debates in Ottawa, demonstrating strong partisan differences on policy choices and strategies to keep Canadians safe.

The Liberal government has been accused of being soft on terrorism and national security, while the Conservative opposition has been charged with “fear mongering” and “Islamophobia” for wanting a tougher approach, namely prosecuting returnees.

But the most important point is that Canada has both a moral and legal duty to seek justice and uphold the most basic human rights of vulnerable populations.

ISIS and other jihadi groups have engaged in systematic mass atrocities against minorities in Iraq and Syria, including Christians and Shiites. ISIS has demonstrated a particular disdain for the Yazidi minority in Iraq. The Canadian government recognized the group’s crimes against the Yazidis as genocide.

As a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and a signatory of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Canada has a responsibility to uphold these international legal conventions when formulating carefully crafted policy responses that deal with returning foreign fighters.

Trials can serve as deterrents

Canada has the option to prosecute its nationals in domestic courts using the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

Open trials can serve as means by which to lay bare ISIS’s narrative and to help counter violent extremism and future atrocities.

They can also serve as a deterrent and warning to other Canadians who might try to join ISIS as it mutates and moves to other countries in the world like Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Philippines, Pakistan or in Mali, where Canadian peacekeepers have just been deployed.

If Canada truly stands for multiculturalism, pluralism, the rule of law, global justice, human rights and the liberal international order, then we must be firm and take a principled stand to prosecute those have fought with ISIS. That includes our own citizens. No doubt Nadia Murad would agree.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon says everyone who watches terrorist video helps ISIS

The Pentagon is refusing to confirm whether a disturbing video released by the Islamic State actually shows the Oct. 4, 2018 ambush in Niger that killed four soldiers, and a DoD spokesman warned reporters that they would be helping ISIS if they even reported on its very existence. A quick sampling of media that have reported on it: The New York Times, Fox News, and the BBC.


According to the Pentagon, you aid ISIS by even watching the shocking video, which appears to show how the soldiers were unable to get out of a killzone, first using a vehicle for cover and then running in the open, where one of them was felled by enemy fire.

Also read: New photos may show ambushed US troops killed in Niger

“ISIS is suffering significant losses in both personnel and territory and they are using this type of propaganda as a desperate recruiting tool,” Col. Rob Manning told reporters March 5, 2018. “We ask the media and the public and all responsible entities not to aid these terrorists in recruiting efforts by viewing or bringing to attention these images, these videos. You are complicit in amplifying ISIS propaganda video if you do that.”

The fallen soldiers were reportedly part of a 12-member Army Special Forces unit that was accompanying about 30 Nigerian troops when they were ambushed by up to 50 militants. An investigation into the attack is ongoing.

The video includes footage from the soldiers’ helmet cameras that was later captured by the Islamic State. It shows one of the soldiers being dragged toward cover and another falling to the ground after being hit; he is later shot again. It is unclear whether any media outlets paid ISIS to obtain the video.

Because the Defense Department did not create the video, defense officials are unable to determine if it is authentic or if it has been digitally manipulated, said Manning, who has not seen the video.

When asked why the Pentagon cannot authenticate this particular video, Manning did not answer directly.

“No. 1, this is terribly difficult on the families — the images alone,” Manning said. “No. 2, this is an ISIS-produced and developed propaganda video. I cannot confirm or verify — the department can’t verify — at this current time any portion of it.”

Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, has completed an investigation into the ambush, which is now being reviewed by Defense Secretary James Mattis, Manning said.

More: This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

AFRICOM announced on Jan. 24, 2018 that it was also investigating the video after it was posted on Twitter by a user named Mohammed Mahmoud Abu Maali, Military Times reported. The tweet with the video was later deleted.

The Twitter user claimed that some of the pictures had been taken by one of the soldiers caught in the ambush and ISIS captured the images after the soldier was killed, according to Military Times.

Four U.S. soldiers died in the attack: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson.

Johnson’s body was recovered two days after the ambush. Although local villagers initially told media outlets that it looked as though Johnson had been captured and then executed by ISIS, a military investigation ultimately found that he died in a firefight, the Associated Press reported.

Related: 9 places where ISIS is still a major threat

News of the deaths of American soldiers in Niger sparked a brief public debate about why U.S. troops are in the African country. Although a small number of U.S forces have been in Niger for years, most Americans had no idea that the U.S. military is operating there, or why.

One reason why the general public was caught off guard is the U.S. government has not made clear that U.S. mission in Niger and other African countries involves combat operations, said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington.

“There’s a fine line between advisory missions and actual combat missions, and in this case, special operations forces accompanied a patrol of Nigerian forces in what should be considered a combat zone,” Roggio told Task Purpose in January 2018. “When this happens, you’re liable to get into combat.”

For example, U.S. special operations forces in Somalia are increasingly being caught up in combat while their official mission is to advise and assist local forces, he said.

More reading: Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

Since President Trump took office, the U.S. military has also launched airstrikes against al Shabaab in Somalia and ISIS in Libya. It’s time for the U.S. government to be explicit that the military has a combat role in Africa, Roggio said.

“That would answer a lot of questions,” he said. “Then people wouldn’t be wondering why did we lose four U.S. soldiers in Niger in an ambush? They were lost because they were in an advisory role that brought them into combat. If you are clear about that at the outset, then you don’t have to ask those questions.”

Articles

Spot-on leadership lessons from a combat Marine

Mission Accomplishment comes before everything and everyone.


We are a Marine Corps at war and our nation requires sacrifice on our part to protect our freedoms and liberties. This may mean long hours of monotonous work in austere conditions, or it may mean that we pay for these liberties with blood.

Casualties are an unavoidable byproduct of war. Take care of your wounded, insert a new magazine, and seize your objective. Doing anything less is a disservice to the men you’ve lost. This is a rough business.

The Invisible War On The Brain
U.S. Marines rush an enemy position during a vertical assault on Ie Shima Island, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

We must carry on no matter what the conditions — never forget that the mission comes first.

Let no man call you a coward and let no man shoulder your burden. Victory often requires great sacrifice. Often times the sacrifice required may be your own. In times of great chaos, someone has to remain sane and do whatever it takes to push everyone in the right direction.

When something goes wrong and you are pinned down with no communications, guess who needs to stand up, brave the grazing fire, and make something happen? Suck it up, buttercup! This is why you get all that extra pay right?

Also read: Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

When all else fails, click your weapon off safe and make something happen. Trust a Senior NCO or Officer with a Purple Heart; he is probably doing it right.

Never put yourself before your Marines. The mission comes above all else, but the men come right after.

Oftentimes leaders spend too much time worrying about the many tasks and demands they constantly receive from higher headquarters. Battles are not won through PowerPoints and paperwork; they are won by young Marines who perform violent acts on our behalf. Focus on your Marines and worry about the paperwork later.

If you see a line for something good, get in the back. If you see a line for something bad, get in the front.

Every day is a selection, and every task is a test. Prove yourself daily to your superiors and subordinates alike, but you are the only person who really knows if you have given everything you can to the mission. Make sure you give one hundred percent of yourself when you’re at the range, under the bar, or on the track so you won’t come short when you’re on the battlefield.

The Invisible War On The Brain
U.S. Marines with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment conduct a census patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, Jan. 10, 2011. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released)

A decision made out of fear for yourself or your career is always the wrong decision to make. We ask our Marines to risk their lives on a daily basis. If you don’t have the backbone or the stones to risk your career to do the right thing for your Marines, then you don’t deserve to lead them.

Always do the right thing, no matter what the consequences.

Making any decision is always better than making no decision. Indecision is a form of cowardice. Some of the decisions you make will cost your Marines their lives. Don’t worry; you will have plenty of time to agonize over that when you are wearing a red patch-covered jacket at the VFW someday. You don’t have time to waste thinking about it now.

Related: How to not be a dirtbag CGO

Take a second to analyze your decision, figure out how you can make a better decision in the future, and FIDO (F— It, Drive On).

Every day is a training day. You train yourself to behave in a certain fashion every day. If you are lazy and undisciplined in garrison, don’t expect to be any different in combat. Very few of us will rise to the occasion under fire; the majority of us will fall back to our highest level of training. Don’t develop training scars that will haunt you in combat.

The Invisible War On The Brain
Marines with Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, fire an M982 Excalibur round from an M777 howitzer during a recent fire support mission. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

It’s okay to make mistakes, just not the same one twice. It is far better for a Marine to make a mistake in training and learn from it, than to wait until he deploys and makes the same mistake in combat. Make your training as realistic as possible to iron out any friction points.

Strive to master the basics and you will be successful. The mechanics of war are deceptively simple. It’s the employment of these concepts that is extremely challenging.

Don’t be enamored with over-complicated plans and strategies. Most tactical problems can be solved with an equal dose of aggression and violence. Units that focus on the basics and apply the fundamentals they have been taught will always be successful.

An infantry squad that successfully integrates mortars and Close Air Support into their maneuver is nearly undefeatable.

More leadership: Mattis’ first message to the troops shows his leadership style

Strong NCOs make for a strong organization.

Any organization with strong senior leadership and weak NCOs will fail. A good leader will focus his efforts on building his NCO corps and empowering his subordinates. Marines need to be trained to be leaders and decision makers. This means they will make mistakes.

Don’t hold your Marines to a zero defect standard or else you will have an organization full of gun-shy automatons.

Marines are looking for a leader, not a well-paid friend. When Marines start dying in the streets, your men will look for leaders and not friends. A good leader is ready and willing to take the moral burden of a difficult decision away from his subordinates.

The Invisible War On The Brain
U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis/Released)

There may come a time when someone will have to make a decision that will result in the death of another Marine. That’s the time for you to start giving orders and spare a subordinate the pain of an impossible decision.

The difference between victory and defeat often comes down to will power and endurance.

Everyone knows you need to conduct maintenance on your weapon, vehicle, and equipment, but some Marines fail to maintain their bodies in a state of combat readiness. Wars are won by men; not by machines and tools. If your body is not up to the task, your equipment will not make up the difference.

The perception of an act may sometimes overshadow its intention. It is important to understand how your appearance or actions are being perceived to avoid any perception issues. An unshaved or unkempt Marine can quickly ruin the reputation of a unit. Perception is easily confused with reality.

Live a selfless life and serve a cause greater than yourself.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Americas don’t like Russia’s nuclear bomber deployment

The Organization of American States (OAS) has expressed the “greatest concern” about the arrival of nuclear-capable Russian aircraft in Venezuela.

In a statement released on Dec. 12, 2018, the OAS General Secretariat said it “takes note with the greatest concern of the news coming from Venezuela about the possibility that aircraft capable of using nuclear weapons from Russia are in its territory.”


It said the presence of the foreign military mission violates the Venezuelan Constitution “because it has not been authorized by the National Assembly, as required [by the constitution].”

“Therefore, we consider such an act harmful to Venezuelan sovereignty,” added the OAS, which consists of all 35 independent nations of the Americas, including the United States.

Nuclear-Capable Russian Bombers Arrive In Venezuela | NBC News

www.youtube.com

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Dec. 10, 2018, sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Venezuela, in an unusual display of Russian military force in South America, raising tensions with the United States.

The ministry did not say if they were carrying weapons.

The bombers’ arrival came just days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Moscow, seeking Kremlin support for his country, whose economy is in shambles and deeply in debt to Russia.

Venezuela has purchased millions of dollars in military equipment from Russia in recent years.

The deployment of the aircraft drew a particularly pointed response from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a posting to Twitter.

“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer,” Pompeo wrote.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Dec. 11, 2018, that Pompeo’s comments were “undiplomatic” and “completely inappropriate.”

On Dec. 12, 2018, the White House said it had been assured by the Kremlin that the planes would leave Venezuela on Dec. 14, 2018.

“We have spoken with representatives of Russia and have been informed that their military aircraft, which landed in Venezuela, will be leaving on [Dec. 14, 2018] and going back to Russia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Reuters.

Oil-rich Venezuela has been racked by economic and political crises since 2010 under leftist leader Hugo Chavez and has continued into Maduro’s presidency.

Millions have fled the country, driven by violence, hyperinflation, and major shortages of food.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldiers can now serve their country…playing video games

Over 6,500 soldiers are already hoping to be part of a new Army esports team that will compete in video game tournaments nationwide in an effort to attract potential recruits.

“It’s essentially connecting America to its Army through the passion of the gaming community,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, NCO-in-charge of the budding team.


About 30 soldiers are expected to be picked for the team and some of the first positions could be filled summer 2019. Only active-duty and Reserve soldiers are currently allowed to apply.

Those chosen will be assigned to the Marketing and Engagement Brigade for three years at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where the Army Recruiting Command is headquartered.

The Invisible War On The Brain

More than 6,500 Soldiers have already applied to join the Army esports team, which was created to boost recruiting efforts in the gaming community.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Meaux)

While they will not become recruiters, team members will receive a crash course on Army enlistment programs to answer questions from those interested in learning about the service.

Once built up, the team will fall under an outreach company that will also include an Army rock band and a functional fitness team.

Not everyone on the team will compete. Those who will may train up to six hours per day on video games, Jones said, adding that gameplay sessions would be live streamed or recorded for spectators to watch.

Esports has ballooned in popularity in recent years with millions of followers.

In August 2018, the Washington Post reported that esports could generate about 5 million in revenue this year in North America. In 2017, a major esports tournament in China also drew a peak of more than 106 million viewers — roughly the same number of those who watched 2018’s Super Bowl.

The Invisible War On The Brain

“It’s something really new and it’s been gaining a lot of steam,” Jones said.

While on the team, soldiers will still conduct physical training, weapons qualifications and other responsibilities that come with being a soldier. They will also have to maintain certifications in their military occupational specialty.

“Outside of that, there will be esports training,” Jones said. “So whatever game they’re playing in, they’ll not only be playing it, but be coached in it to get better.”

The team, he said, shares a similar concept to that of other Army competitive teams that continually train, such as the Golden Knights parachute team, World Class Athlete Program and Army Marksmanship Unit.

“Esports is like traditional sports,” he said. “Nobody can just walk in and expect to play at a competitive level.”

The Army, he said, already has talented gamers out there who can compete in events.

in January 2019, a few soldiers competed at PAX South in San Antonio as a way to introduce Army esports to the greater gamer community.

The Invisible War On The Brain

A few Soldiers competed at PAX South in San Antonio as a way to introduce Army esports to the greater gamer community Jan. 18-20, 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Meaux)

In one of the events, a Street Fighter V tournament, two soldiers placed first and second.

“This is the perfect opportunity to showcase not only to the Army, but to the civilian populace and the esports industry that we also have what it takes,” Jones said of the events.

Recruiters from the San Antonio Recruiting Battalion also joined them and were able to generate some leads with potential recruits, he added.

There are plans to do the same at the PAX East exposition in Boston in late March 2019.

As a gamer and a recruiter himself, Jones said the team can help bridge the civilian-military gap by breaking down misconceptions some young people may have about the Army.

Being able to play their favorite video games with others who share the same passion is also a bonus.

“For a lot of soldiers, to include myself, it’s like a dream come true,” Jones said. “This is just one of those ways we can start the conversation.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force tested its personnel with real cyberattacks

In November 2018, the Air Force targeted its personnel at bases in Europe with spear-phishing attacks to test their awareness of online threats.

The tests were coordinated with Air Force leaders in Europe and employed tactics known to be used by adversaries targeting the US and its partners, the Air Force said in a release.

Spear-phishing differs from normal phishing attempts in that it targets specific accounts and attempts to mimic trusted sources.


Spear-phishing is a “persistent threat” to network integrity, Col. Anthony Thomas, head of Air Force Cyber Operations, said in the release.

“Even one user falling for a spear-phishing attempt creates an opening for our adversaries,” Thomas said. “Part of mission resiliency is ensuring our airmen have the proficiency to recognize and thwart adversary actions.”

The Invisible War On The Brain

Sailors on watch in the Fleet Operations Center at the headquarters of US Fleet Cyber Command/US 10th Fleet, Dec. 14, 2017.

(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Samuel Souvannason)

The technique has already been put into real-world use.

Just before Christmas in 2015, Russian hackers allegedly used spear-phishing emails and Microsoft Word documents embedded with malicious code to hit Ukraine with a cyberattack that caused power outages — the first publicly known attack to have such an effect.

In December 2018, the US Department of Justice charged two Chinese nationals with involvement in a decade-long, government-backed effort to hack and steal information from US tech firms and government agencies.

Their group relied on spear-phishing, using an email address that looked legitimate to send messages with documents laden with malicious code.

For their test in November 2018, Air Force cyber-operations officials sent emails from non-Department of Defense addresses to users on the Air Force network, including content in them that looked legitimate.

The emails told recipients to do several different things, according to the release.

One appeared to be sent by an Airman and Family Readiness Center, asking the addressee to update a spreadsheet by clicking a hyperlink. Another email said it was from a legal office and asked the recipient to add information to a hyperlinked document for a jury panel in a court-martial.

“If users followed the hyperlink, then downloaded and enabled macros in the documents, embedded code would be activated,” the release said. “This allowed the threat emulation team access to their computer.”

The Invisible War On The Brain

US Cyber Command.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

Results from the test — which was meant to improve the defenses of the network as a whole and did not gather information on individuals — showed most recipients were not fooled.

“We chose to conduct this threat emulation (test) to gain a deeper understanding of our collective cyber discipline and readiness,” said Maj. Ken Malloy, Air Force Cyber Operations’ primary planning coordinator for the test.

The lessons “will inform data-driven decisions for improving policy, streamlining processes and enhancing threat-based user training to achieve mission assurance and promote the delivery of decisive air power,” Malloy said.

While fending off spear-phishing attacks requires users to be cognizant of untrustworthy links and other suspicious content, other assessments have found US military networks themselves do not have adequate defenses.

A Defense Department Inspector General report released December 2018 found that the Army, the Navy, and the Missile Defense Agency “did not protect networks and systems that process, store, and transmit (missile defense) technical information from unauthorized access and use.”

That could allow attackers to go around US missile-defense capabilities, the report said.

In one case, officials had failed to patch flaws in their system after getting alerts about vulnerabilities — one of which was first found in 1990 and remained unresolved in April 2018.

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

Articles

Here’s why the maker of the Army’s new handgun is suddenly playing defense

The company that makes the Army’s new handgun is in hot water over concerns that the pistol the new M17 is based on has a potentially serious safety flaw.


About a week ago, news trickled out that the Dallas Police Department had banned its officers from carrying the Sig Sauer P320 pistol after one of them had discharged a shot after it was dropped. Other reports disputed that claim, suggesting the department banned the P320 for carry because of a legal disclaimer in the user manual that stated a discharge could happen if the gun is dropped in extreme situations — a legal ass covering common to most handgun user manuals.

The Invisible War On The Brain
A photo taken by Soldier Systems Daily at a recent briefing by Sig officials on the -30 degree drop tests. (Photo linked from SSD)

The P320 is Sig’s first so-called “striker-fired” handgun, which uses an internal firing pin to impact a round rather than an external hammer. Various internal safeties are supposed to keep this type of handgun “drop safe,” making it suitable for duty carry where an officer or service member might accidentally fumble it out of a holster or during a shot.

WATM friend Eric Graves at Soldier Systems Daily reports that there are five known incidents of an accidental discharged from a dropped P320 among the over 500,000 sold on the commercial market.

While at first Sig denied it had a safety problem, later tests showed some of the company’s P320s could discharge a round when dropped at a -30 degree angle from a certain height onto concrete. The company says such a condition is extremely rare and that under typical U.S. government standards, the P320 will not discharge if dropped.

“Recent events indicate that dropping the P320 beyond US standards for safety may cause an unintentional discharge,” Sig said in a statement. “As a result of input from law enforcement, government and military customers, SIG has developed a number of enhancements in function, reliability, and overall safety including drop performance.”

Sig said the version of the P320 that’s being deployed with the Army and other U.S. troops has a new trigger assembly that make discharges from a drop at any height and angle impossible.

That’s why the company is issuing a “voluntary” upgrade of some of its P320s to install the so-called “enhanced trigger” that comes directly from the Army’s new M17 handgun.

“The M17 variant of the P320, selected by the U.S. government as the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, is not affected by the voluntary upgrade,” Sig said.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information