As the fighting in Mosul has started, some ISIS militants have been trying to make a fast getaway. Not a bad idea when you consider the atrocities they’ve committed and the size of the force lining up to drive them out.
According to the British newspaper The Sun, though, some of these militants have been trying to escape under the radar by dressing as women. For at least two of them, though, it didn’t work out – Kurdish peshmerga fighters saw through the disguise and nabbed them.
The tactic sometimes worked, as a 2009 article by the New York Daily News described how some Taliban insurgents were able to slip away from Marines. Items of clothing like the burqa also were used to hide weapons and explosives.
Nowadays, you have to be cautious of everything you do online. Scammers are always trying to get money, goods or services out of unsuspecting people — and military members are often targets.
Here are some scams that have recently been affecting service members, Defense Department employees and their families.
Even the most innocuous data posted to a social media feed can be married up with other publicly available information to provide online criminals the tools they need to exploit members of the military or general public, an Army special agent said.
(Photo by Mark Herlihy)
1. Romance scams
In April 2019, Army Criminal Investigation Command put out a warning about romance scams in which online predators go on dating sites claiming to be deployed active-duty soldiers. It’s a problem that’s affecting all branches of service — not just the Army.
CID said there have been hundreds of claims each month from people who said they’ve been scammed on legitimate dating apps and social media sites. According to the alleged victims, the scammers have asked for money for fake service-related needs such as transportation, communications fees, processing and medical fees — even marriage. CID said many of the victims have lost tens of thousands of dollars and likely won’t get that money back.
Remember: Service members and government employees DO NOT PAY to go on leave, have their personal effects sent home or fly back to the US from an overseas assignment. Scammers will sometimes provide false paperwork to make their case, but real service members make their own requests for time off. Also, any official military or government emails will end in .mil or .gov — not .com — so be suspicious if you get a message claiming to be from the military or government that doesn’t have one of those addresses.
If you’re worried about being scammed, know what red flags to look for. If you think you’ve been a victim, contact the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission.
DOD officials said task forces are working to deal with the growing problem, but the scammers are often from African nations and are using cyber cafes with untraceable email addresses, then routing their accounts across the world to make them incredibly difficult to trace. So be vigilant!
A US cavalry soldiers keeps watch in a rural area near Nangarhar, Afghanistan Jan. 6, 2015.
(US Army photo)
Sexual extortion — known as “sextortion” — is when a service member is seduced into sexual activities online that are unknowingly recorded and used against them for money or goods. Often, if a victim caves on a demand, the scammer will just likely demand more.
Service members are attractive targets for these scammers for a few reasons:
• They’re often young men who are away from home and have an online presence.
• They have a steady income and are often more financially stable than civilians.
• Because of their careers, they’re held to a higher standard of conduct.
• Military members have security clearances and know things that might be of interest to adversaries.
To avoid falling victim to sextortion, don’t post or exchange compromising photos or videos with ANYONE online, and make sure your social media privacy settings limit the information outsiders can see — this includes advertising your affiliation with the military or government. Be careful when you’re communicating with anyone you don’t personally know online, and trust your instincts. If people seem suspicious, stop communicating with them.
DOD officials said sextortion often goes unreported because many victims are embarrassed they fell for it. But it happens worldwide and across all ranks and services. Here’s what you should do about it if it happens to you:
• Stop communicating with the scammer.
• Contact your command and your local CID office.
• Do NOT pay the perpetrator.
• Save all communications you had with that person.
US soldiers dislodge their M-777 155 mm howitzer from the 3-foot hole it dug itself into after firing several rocket-assisted projectiles.
(US Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)
3. Service member impersonation scams
Scammers love to impersonate people of authority, and that includes service members.
These people often steal the identity or profile images of a service member and use them to ask for money or make claims that involve the sale of vehicles, house rentals or other big-ticket items. These scammers often send the victim bogus information about the advertised product and ask for a wire transfer through a third party to finish the purchase, but there’s no product at the end of the transaction.
Lately, fake profiles of high-ranking American military officials have been popping up on social media websites using photos and biographical information obtained from the internet. Scammers often replicate recent social media posts from official DOD accounts and interact with official accounts to increase the appearance of legitimacy. As an example, there are impersonator accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
These accounts are also interacting with Joint Staff account followers in an effort to gain trust and elicit information. The only Joint Staff leader with an official social media presence is Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, who is listed as @SEAC.JCS on Facebook and @SEAC_Troxell on Twitter.
Scammers are making these profiles to defraud potential victims. They claim to be high-ranking or well-placed government/military officials or the surviving spouse of former government leaders, then they promise big profits in exchange for help in moving large sums of money, oil or some other commodity. They offer to transfer significant amounts of money into the victim’s bank account in exchange for a small fee. Scammers that receive payment are never heard from again.
A US soldier and a US Army interpreter look over a map with an Iraqi soldier before starting a cordon and search of the Ninewa Forest in Mosul, Iraq, June 8, 2008.
(US Army photo by Pfc. Sarah De Boise)
Here are some ways to lower the chances of you being impersonated or duped by a scammer:
• To avoid having your personal data and photos stolen from your social media pages, limit the details you provide on them and don’t post photos that include your name tag, unit patch and rank.
• If an alleged official messages you with a request or demand, look closely at their social media page. Often, official accounts will be verified, meaning they have a blue circle with a checkmark right beside their Twitter, Facebook or Instagram name. General and flag officers will not message anyone directly requesting to connect or asking for money.
• Search for yourself online — both your name and images you’ve posted — to see if someone else is trying to use your identity. If you do find a false profile, contact that social media platform and report it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The military has its own language of insider phrases and slang terms, and if you use these unique phrases when you are out, civilians around you are probably not going to know what you are talking about.
It can be challenging to transition from the military to civilian life, but you should probably leave these phrases behind when you leave the military. Otherwise, you’re going to get some crazy looks and eye rolls.
1. “Drug Deal” — You can acquire a new piece of gear from a buddy at supply through a “drug deal,” but if you get an awesome new red Swingline stapler like this, Milton may look at you funny.
2. “Make a hole!” — When people are in your way, it’s no longer acceptable to yell out “make a hole,” “gangway!” or “look out.” Just try “excuse me” from now on.
3. “High speed, low drag” — This term sums up a really great piece of equipment that you use while in uniform, but civilians are going to be like:
4. “No impact, No idea” — You may not have any clue how to answer a question, but no one outside of the military is going to have any clue what you mean with this phrase.
5. “Nut to butt” — Let’s just not use this one, mmkay?
6. “Pop smoke” — Now that you are no longer a ninja, you gotta drop this one.
7. “Roger that” — This one is sort of on the fence, and you may be able to say it and not confuse people. But then again, you’re probably not talking on a radio anymore.
8. “Oohrah/Hooah/Hooyah” — Just don’t.
9. “Kill” — Troops can use “kill” for its literal meaning or just as a way of saying “got it,” or “hello.” But if you say this in civilian life, they are only going to hear the literal version and you are going to scare the crap out of people.
It took Marine Corps veteran Tim Conner more than a year of training and waiting, but it paid off. He was finally able to take home his new (exoskeleton) legs.
Conner has used a wheelchair since 2010. An accident left him with a spinal cord injury, and he is the first veteran at Tampa Bay VA Medical Center to be issued an exoskeleton for home use. The robotic exoskeleton, made by ReWalk, provides powered hip and knee motion that lets Conner stand upright and walk.
Before being issued his own exoskeleton, Conner underwent four months of training, then took a test model home for four months as a trial run. He then had to wait several more months for delivery. He was so excited about getting it that he mistakenly arrived a week early to pick it up.
“They said, “You’re here early, it’s the thirtieth,'” Conner said with a laugh. “I was like, that’s not today. I looked at my phone and said, ‘Oh my God, I’m excited, what can I say.'”
For Conner, the most significant advantage of the exoskeleton is being able to stand and walk again. Which, in turn, motivates him to stay healthy.
Tim Conner and the team that helped him walk again. From left, Chief of Staff Dr. Colleen Jakey, Cassandra Hogan, Kathryn Fitzgerald, Brittany Durant, and Spinal Cord Injury Service Chief Dr. Kevin White.
“I’m not 3-and-a-half, 4 feet tall anymore. I’m back to 5-8,” Conner said. “Not only can I stand up and look eye-to-eye to everybody. I’m not always kinking my neck looking up at life. It’s been able to allow me to stay motivated, to stay healthy, because you have to be healthy to even do the study for this program. That is going to keep me motivated to stay healthy and live longer than what could be expected for the average person in my situation.”
The exoskeleton is an expensive piece of equipment, with some versions costing as much as 0,000. According to Dr. Kevin White, chief of the Tampa Bay VA spinal cord injury service, that is why the hospital has been conducting research on the units.
“We wanted to know that the patient when they get it, they’re actually going to utilize it in the community,” said White. “If they’re showing that benefit, the VA has made a commitment to make sure that any veteran who needs it and qualifies, whether it’s a spinal cord injury and even stroke. That they have that opportunity, and we provide it free of charge.”
Walking in the exoskeleton is like “a mixture between Robocop, Ironman, and Forrest Gump,” said Conner. “It is pretty cool, especially when you’re walking and people are like, ‘Oh my God, look at this guy. He’s a robot.’ But I can’t imagine walking without it, so it’s just a normal way of walking. It feels the same way it did if I didn’t have a spinal cord injury.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Marine Corps Systems Command plans to implement a new form of technology that allows the Marine Air-Ground Task Force to identify enemy activity.
The technology employs a vehicle-borne tool that enables Marines to discern what happens inside the electromagnetic spectrum. It connects several independent electronic capabilities into a single unit and allows Marines to manage threats and reactions from a central location.
“Marines are going to be able to make decisions on what they are seeing,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Dono, a team lead in MCSC’s Command Elements Systems.
Marines currently use systems to counter IEDs that block signals used by adversaries to remotely detonate explosive devices. The new technology is a man-packable and vehicle-mounted system, which will be able to be deployed on any Marine vehicle.
“This emergent technology combines a number of current capabilities into one system, thereby reducing the need for additional training and logistic support to manage multiple systems,” said Col. Dave Burton, program manager for Intelligence Systems at MCSC.
Marines with Regimental Combat Team 5 train in searching for improvised explosive devices.
(US Marine Corps photo)
Once fielded, the system will enhance situational awareness on the battlefield.
“We will be able to do all of the functions of similar systems as well as sense and then display what is going on in the electronic spectrum,” said Dono. “Then we can communicate that to Marines for their decision-making process.”
MCSC is taking an evolutionary approach that allows the command to field the equipment faster and then gradually improve the capability as time progresses, Dono said. As the technology evolves, the Marine Corps can make incremental improvements as needed.
The Corps will work with Marines to test a variety of displays that track the electromagnetic spectrum, looking into each display’s user interface. The command can then determine if improvements must be made to ensure usability.
“It’s similar to what Apple does with the iPhone,” explained Dono. “They have many different displays and they want to make it natural and intuitive, so it’s not something that’s clunky, confusing and has to be learned.”
MCSC plans to field the vehicle-mounted system around the first quarter of 2020. When implemented, the equipment will continue to grow in capability to better prepare Marines to take on the digital battlefield.
“This system is important because it is going to allow Marines to operate inside the electromagnetic spectrum, make decisions and act upon that information,” said Dono. “That’s something they’ve never had to consider or think about in the past.”
They were made of wood, carried no heavy guns, and would sink at the drop of a hat. But they were fast, hard to hit, and could kill nearly anything afloat. Pound for pound, the deadliest boats of World War II weren’t the carriers or the legendary battleships, they were the humble patrol torpedo boats.
Battle Stations: PT Boats (War History Documentary)
America invested heavily in capital ships in the inter-war years, concentrating on battleships and carriers that could project power across the deep oceans. Combined with destroyers and cruisers to protect them, this resulted in fleets that could move thousands of miles across the ocean and pummel enemy shores. It was a good, solid investment.
But these large ships were expensive and relatively slow, and building them required lots of metal and manpower. There was still an open niche for a fast attack craft like the Italian motor torpedo boats that had famously sunk the SMS Szent Istvan in World War I.
Boat builders who had made their name in racing lined up to compete for Navy contracts. They held demonstrations and sea trials in 1940 and 1941, culminating in the “Pinewood Derbies” of July 1941.
PT-658 transits the water at the Portland Rose Festival in 2006. The boat was restored by volunteers and features its full armament and original engines.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ralph Radford)
These were essentially races between different boats with either weapons or copper weights installed to mimic combat armament, allowing the Navy to see what designs were fastest, most nimble, and could survive the quick turns with a combat load.
Not all the vessels made it through. Some experienced hull and deck failures, but others zipped through the course at up to 46 miles per hour. A few boats impressed the Navy, especially what would become the ELCO Patrol Torpedo Boat. Higgins and Hulkins also showed off impressive designs, and all three contractors were given orders for Navy boats.
The Navy standardized the overall designs and armament, though the contractors took some liberties, especially Higgins. They were all to be approximately 50 tons, made of mahogany, and carry two .50-cal. machine guns. Many got up to four torpedo tubes and a 20mm anti-aircraft gun, while a few even got mortars or rockets.
They were powered by aviation fuel and three powerful engines.
U.S. Navy patrol boats zip through the water during exercises of the U.S. east coast on July 12, 1942.
All of this combined to create a light, powerful craft that was fast as hell. Two gunners on a PT boat at Pearl Harbor were credited with the first Japanese kill by the U.S. in World War II when they downed an enemy plane.
But it was during island hopping across the Pacific where the torpedo boats really earned their fame. As Japan’s fleet took heavy losses in 1942 and 1943, it relied on its army to try and hold islands against the U.S. advance, and the Navy’s “Mosquito Fleet” was sent to prey on the ships of the “Tokyo Express.”
Japan’s destroyers and similar vessels could slaughter torpedo boats when they could hit them, but the U.S. patrols generally operated at night and would hit the larger ships with their deadly torpedoes, using their speed to escape danger. It wasn’t perfect, though, as Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy would learn when PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, forcing Kennedy and 11 survivors to swim through shark-infested water for hours.
The patrol boats served across the world, from the Pacific to the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and thousands of sailors from the Coast Guard and Navy served on these small vessels, downing tens of thousands of tons of enemy shipping.
We all know that when you leave the military, it can be a cruel employment world out there.
Despite the confusion that often comes with transitioning from service, there’s potentially never been a better time to take a stab at becoming your own boss. And fortunately, there is a host of organizations out there to help former service members crack the code on starting a successful business.
At the end of March, the organizers behind VETCON are hoping their roster of A-Listers in the tech and business world will open more than a few veterans’ eyes to the opportunities out there. Billed as an “annual gathering of visionaries, hustlers, and game-changers from around the world,” the folks at VETCON say they represent a wide community of so-called “vetrepreneurs” that want to pass on their secrets to their military brethren.
“Military veteran entrepreneurs are an untapped market with huge potential,” said Ian Faison, VETCON co-founder, West Point graduate and former U.S. Army Captain. “Despite mutual interest from both venture capitalists and veteran founders, there’s never been a conference that delivers true ROI to entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors at the same time – until now.”
Hosted in Redwood City, California, this year’s VETCON is slated to feature more than 200 veteran entrepreneurs and more than 35 professional investors, including “The Godfather of Silicon Valley” Steve Blank, Mike Maples of Floodgate Ventures, Trae Stephens of the Founders Fund, as well as leaders from Andreessen Horowitz; Facebook; GrowthX; Wildcat Ventures; HubSpot; IBM; Salesforce; and Indiegogo.
Held between March 23 and March 25, the conference is intended to “develop a 30-day plan to take your business to the next level … [with] a mixture of fireside chats, workshops, solo talks, networking events, and Action Hours.”
“VETCON changes the game for veterans and investors alike,” VETCON’s Faison said. “With programming that rivals any startup event in the country, we’re catalyzing the nationwide veteran ecosystem, providing investors with genuine business opportunities and helping entrepreneurs boost their customer pipeline and raise funding faster in 2017.”
In World War I, pilots on either side of the line enjoyed sudden lurches ahead in technology advances followed by steady declines into obsolescence. This created a seesaw effect in the air where Allied pilots would be able to blast their way through German lines for a few months, but then had to run scared if the enemy got the jump on them.
So the Allied pilots found a way to fake their deaths in the air with a risky but effective maneuver.
Some Nieuport planes had a tendency to break apart when pilots pulled them out of a steep dive.
(Nieuport, public domain)
By the time that America was getting pilots to the front in 1917, all of the early combatants from the war had years of hard-won experience in aerial fighting. U.S. pilots would have to catch up. Worse, U.S. pilots were joining the fight while German planes were more capable than Allied ones, especially America’s Nieuport 28s purchased from France.
France had declined to put the Nieuport 28 into service because of a number of shortcomings. Its engine burned castor oil, and the exhaust would spray across the pilots, coating their goggles in a blinding film and making many of them sick. It could also turn tight but had some limitations. Worst of all, pilots couldn’t dive and then suddenly pull up, a common method of evading fire in combat, without risking the weak wings suddenly snapping off.
Yes, in standard combat flying, the plane could be torn apart by its own flight. So new American pilots adopted a strategy of playing dead in the air.
The technique wasn’t too complicated. In normal flying, a pilot who stalled his plane and then entered a spin was typically doomed to slam into the ground. And so, enemy pilots would often break off an attack on a spinning plane, allowing it to finish crashing on its own.
But a British test pilot, Frederick A. Lindemann, figured out how to reliably recover from a spin and stall. He did so twice in either 1916 or 1917. So, pilots who learned how to recover from a stall and spin would, when overwhelmed in combat, slow down and pull up, forcing a stall in the air.
Then as they started to drop, they would push the stick hard to one side, causing one wing to have full lift and the other to have minimal lift, so it would fall in a severe spin. German pilots, thinking they had won, would break off the attack. Then the Allied pilot would attempt to recover.
U.S. combat pilot Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker was America’s top-scoring fighter ace of World War I.
(U.S. Air Force)
But spins were considered dangerous for a reason. Recovery required leveling that lift on the wings and then using the rudder to stop spin before pulling up on the stick to stop the fall. So, for the first few moments of recovery, the pilot had to ignore that they were pointed at the ground. If they tried to pull up while they were still spinning, they really would crash. In fact, on some aircraft, it was essential to steepen the dive in order to recover.
And this whole process took time, so a pilot who fell too far before beginning recovery would hit the ground while still trying to recover from their intentional spin.
Most future American aces learned these maneuvers from British pilots in fairly controlled conditions, but some of them were limited in their flight time by their duties on the ground. Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, in charge of maintaining and improving America’s major aerodrome at Issoudon, France, taught himself the maneuver on his own during stolen plane time, surviving his first attempt and then repeating it on subsequent days until he could do it perfectly.
Rickenbacker would go on the be America’s top scoring ace in World War I despite being partially blind in one eye and officially too old for training when he went to flight school.
Jocko Willink retired from 20 years serving as a US Navy SEAL in 2010, but his morning routine is as intense as ever.
As he said in a recent Facebook Live Q&A at Business Insider’s New York headquarters, “It’s not fun to get out of bed early in the morning. When the alarm goes off, it doesn’t sing you a song, it hits you in the head with a baseball bat. So how do you respond to that? Do you crawl underneath your covers and hide? Or do you get up, get aggressive, and attack the day?”
Willink is the former commander of Task Unit Bruiser, which became the most decorated special-operations unit in the Iraq War. In his book, “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” cowritten with his former platoon commander and current business partner Leif Babin, Willink writes that one of his guiding principles is “Discipline equals freedom,” and that discipline begins every morning when his alarm goes off, well before the sun rises.
Business Insider asked Willink to break down his mornings for us. Here’s how a typical day begins:
Wake up at 4:30 a.m. Three alarms are set — one electric, one battery-powered, and one windup — but he almost always only needs one. The two others are safeguards.
After a quick cleanup in the bathroom, take a photo of wristwatch to show his Twitter followers what time he’s beginning the day. It’s become both a way to hold himself accountable as well as inspire others to stick to their goals.
Grab his workout clothes, laid out the night before, and head to the gym in his garage for one of the following strength workouts, which lasts around an hour.The exercises can either be lower weight with high reps and little rest or heavy weight with low reps and lots of rest.
Day 4: Overhead squats, front squats, regular squats.
Spend anywhere from a few minutes (intense bursts) to a half hour (steady) for cardiovascular training. This could include sprints or a jog.
Finish workout around 6:00 a.m. Depending on the day, go out to hit the beach near his home near San Diego, California, to spend time swimming or surfing. If the weather is nice, he may also do his cardio on the beach.
Shower and start working for his leadership consulting firm, Echelon Front, or for his popular podcast, any time after 6:00 a.m. He doesn’t get hungry until around noon, and only has a snack, like a few handfuls of nuts, in the morning.
After work, Willink gets in two hours of jujitsu training and heads to bed around 11:00 pm.
Willink said that he recognizes that everyone is different, and that not everyone would benefit from getting up at 4:00 a.m. for an intense workout. The key is that “you get up and move,” whether that’s jogging, weight lifting, or yoga.
The discipline comes in in setting a schedule and sticking to it so that your day begins with an energizing accomplishment, not a demoralizing stretch of time where you lie in bed and hit snooze on your alarm a few times. Every morning should start off with a predictable routine.
“And that’s the way that you own it,” he said. “Because once the day starts, well, then other people get to have a vote in what you’re doing.”
If noncommissioned officers are the backbone of the Marine Corps, then lance corporals are the muscles that keep it moving. As all enlisted Marines and warrant officers know — not to mention the Mustang officers who ascended the enlisted ranks before earning a commission — lance corporals hold a special place in the heart of the Corps.
Gone are the days of “Lance Corporal don’t know,” and the “Lance Corporal salute.” Today’s Marine Corps E-3s are smarter, faster, stronger, and more tech savvy than the old salts from years gone by. They are the iGeneration, seemingly raised with a cell-phone fused to their fingers at birth. They are more familiar with Snapchat and Instagram than cable TV and VHS tapes. They are a digital generation, and they fit uniquely and seamlessly with the Marine Corps’ vision of a connected ‘strategic corporal,’ ready to fight and win America’s battles as much with technology and ingenuity as with bullets and pure grit. The bedrock for tomorrow’s Marine leaders is the ability to make sound and ethical decisions in a world flipped on its head during the past two decades.
Enter the “Lance Corporal Leadership and Ethics Seminar.”
The weeklong training is required for all lance corporals vying for a blood-stripe and much-coveted place in the NCO ranks. The Marine Corps’ Enlisted Professional Military Education branch instituted the program in 2014 to “bridge the gap between the initial training pipeline and resident Professional Military Education,” according to the seminar’s Leader Guide. The seminar prepares junior Marines to face the challenges of an evolving, uncertain and dangerous world 19 years into the 21st Century.
Lance Cpl. Antonio C. Deleon, an aircraft ordnance technician with Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)
“Our lance corporals are the gears that keep this machine moving,” said Sgt. Maj. Edwin A. Mota, the senior enlisted Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan. “The Lance Corporal Seminar is vital to their success this early in their careers. Whether an enlisted Marine stays in for four years or 30, they will never forget the leadership lessons they learned — both good and bad — as a lance corporal.”
Each seminar has a cadre of NCO and staff NCO volunteers who lead small groups through physical training, guided discussions and scenario-based training. The idea is to get lance corporals to think critically, both on and off duty, to help prepare them for a leadership role as a corporal, sergeant and beyond.
Lance Cpl. Celestin Wikenson, an airframer with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), maintains the skin of a MV-22B Osprey helicopter Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)
“As a lance corporal in the infantry during the 90s, it was a completely different Marine Corps than it is today,” said Mota. “We took orders and we carried them out without a lot of questions. Our NCOs, staff NCOs and officers didn’t expect us, as lance corporals, to understand the strategic-level significance of our training and operations back then. But today, the Marine Corps cannot afford for our lance corporals to not know how they affect our mission at the tactical, operational, strategic, and diplomatic levels.”
Enlisted PME is a central component for measuring an enlisted Marine’s leadership potential and their fitness for promotion, regardless of rank. The seminar is usually a first term Marine’s introduction to formal military education and sets the tone for future PME courses as NCOs and staff NCOs. The guided discussions and scenario-based training is designed to help junior Marines to think critically before acting instinctively, according to 19 year old Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess, a mass communication specialist with the 31st MEU and a student in a recent seminar.
Lance Cpl. Richard T. Henz, a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crewman with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit sits alongside a CH-53E helicopter at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)
“As a lance corporal, we are expected to follow orders and get the job done, regardless of our job,” said Hess, a native of Vacaville, California who enlisted in September 2017 after graduating from Will C. Wood High School. “During the seminar, we were challenged to rethink our role as junior Marines. In today’s Marine Corps, especially here in Japan, everything we do is a representation of all American’s stationed here and the seminar helped us better understand why the decisions we make, on and off duty, are so important as ambassadors to our hosts here in Okinawa.”
The lessons learned during the seminar will help tomorrow’s leaders refine their leadership ability, according to Hess.
“Today’s generation joins the Marine Corps for many different reasons, but our commitment to the Marine Corps is the same as any other Marine from past generations. Many of the junior Marines today don’t remember 9/11, don’t remember the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re still committed to always being prepared for our next battle, and the Lance Corporal Seminar definitely gives us a better understanding of leadership challenges and opportunities as we grow into the NCO ranks.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
The opening scenes of Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn introduce viewers to a charismatic and devoted father deep in the joys of parenthood. Crawling on the floor, swimming and blowing out birthday candles with his toddler and infant sons, he is right where he should be. Until the day he isn’t. Through interviews, reports and a thoroughly researched investigation, the filmmaker poses some incriminating questions.
Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Was it the mechanic who told him his helicopter was cleared for flight two hours before it slammed tail-first into the ocean? Was it the manufacturer who produced the faulty wiring blamed for the explosion? Was it the upper ranks of the Navy who disregarded multiple letters of concern purportedly choosing flight hours over safety? How about the Congressional and Executive branches of our government that teamed up with arms manufacturers and focused on new bloated defense contracts instead of investing in the people and machinery already in place?
Van Dorn’s wife, Nicole, living in the shadow of her husband’s unnecessary death, is on a mission to find out. Catalyzed by her and others’ search for answers, this gripping 2018 documentary investigates events leading up to Navy lieutenant J. Wesley Van Dorn’s death one month before his 30th birthday. His untimely demise occurred during a training exercise when an explosion killing three of the five crewmen aboard caused the crash-prone helicopter to fall from the sky into frigid waters below. Van Dorn was not the only one who had expressed concerns about the safety of this aircraft, nor was he the only one to die in it as a result of misguided leadership and mechanical failure.
Written, directed, and narrated by Zachary Stauffer as his first feature documentary, this film offers a sobering look into chronic institutional failings that have resulted in 132 arguably preventable deaths. Diving unforgivably into one family’s agonizing loss, Stauffer invites us to ponder heavy questions while constructing a wall of outrage in his viewers. What is the price of a life? How many lives does it take before change takes place? When will avarice and the “just get ‘er done” attitude stop undermining the American defense establishment?
Built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, the MH-53E Sea Dragon is the Navy’s nearly identical version of the Marine Corps’ CH-53-E Super Stallion. Since entering service in 1986, it has never succumbed to enemy fire but holds the worst safety record in the Navy’s fleet making it the deadliest aircraft in military history. The 53-E is a powerful machine used by the Navy for dragging heavy equipment through water to sweep for mines while the Marine version is used for transporting people and gear.
Stauffer explains that due to issues with these aircraft that cropped up even in their initial test flights at the manufacturer and in training missions, the Navy tried to get away with using less powerful helicopters and alternate minesweeping tactics but nothing was as effective as the relic Sea Dragon. Since they were fated to be replaced at some point, the higher ranks avoided investing too much into them so funding for spare parts and maintenance was lean. Members of Congress allegedly chose the path of greed and corruption when defense contractors offered them flashy new weaponry and vehicles as well as comfortable retirement packages. The upper echelons flourished while those training, fighting, and dying on the ground, as well as the American taxpayers, suffered needlessly as top-down decision makers claimed their hands were tied.
With fewer and fewer resources, those maintaining the Sea Dragon had to do more with less. They began cutting corners and developing bad habits. When voicing their worries in person or through over a dozen letters and memos to the upper ranks, they were “belittled, humiliated and cut down,” as one pilot explained. More than 30 years before Van Dorn’s crash, Sikorsky recommended replacing the faulty Kapton wires on all Navy aircraft. This was suggested not once, not twice, but three times before the Navy decided to start looking into the issue. Eventually they named Kapton as the highest ranked safety risk in the fleet and devised a long-term plan to replace it in phases but claimed to never have enough funding to refit all the wiring in the 53s. Only months prior to Van Dorn’s crash the Pentagon re-budgeted funding away from this critical project. Thus, problems that had been escalating over decades while the issue was known and actively overlooked perpetuated, yet the birds were still allowed to fly.
By the time Van Dorn signed on the dotted line in 2010, the run-down helicopters that required about 40 hours of maintenance for a single hour of flight time should have been retired. He and his wife made the decision together to request a spot in the squadron flying 53s because others told them it was an ideal position for a family man who wanted to be home for dinner every night.
Van Dorn was one of those who voiced his opinions about the safety of this aircraft. In an ominous voice recording foreshadowing his own death, he stated “If anyone should care about what’s happening on that aircraft, it should be me and the other pilots, I think. It makes sense to me, because I’m the one who’s going to get in it and have something terrible happen if it doesn’t go right.” His wife Nicole later explained that, “He felt that no matter what he said or what he wrote or who he complained to, nothing was changing.”
On a particularly cold morning in January 2014, Van Dorn’s own portentous sentiments were realized 18 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Chafing from a single nylon zip tie exposed naked wiring to a fine spray of fuel causing it to arc, sending a blast of fire into the cockpit. Hours later Nicole lay on her husband’s chest just before they pronounced him dead.
Dylan Boone, a Naval aircrewman and one of two survivors of the wreck declared, “You don’t expect to give up your life for this country because you were given faulty equipment.”
Dynamic cinematography combined with a subtly haunting score by composer William Ryan Fritch creates the backdrop for this solid investigative report. Crisp and flowing visuals paired with thrilling military footage complement the feelings portrayed by those interviewed. These primary sources include Van Dorn’s mother, wife, friends, and fellow airmen as well as a mechanic, pilots, a general, a Pentagon Analyst and a military reporter. Throughout the documentary they and the narrator explain the multifaceted issues connected to Van Dorn’s death and the trouble with the 53s from a variety of angles.
Woven skillfully together, a poignant story is told of decades of negligence that continues to result in tragedy. Wholesome home movies of a young involved father raising two sons with his lovely wife are contrasted with the aching void ripped into the Van Dorn family’s home after his death. Stirring visions of military life ignite the urge to join in viewers who have ever felt compelled to do so, whereas the deep frustration of stifled dreams and a scarred body and soul are almost tangible to someone who has been there before as hard truths are drawn out throughout the film.
Centering on the death of a handsome, beloved father, husband and seaman who was liked by all humanized an issue that might have otherwise been unrelatable. Utilizing the audience’s heartstrings as a focal point was a powerful way to bring attention to a predicament that could have been swept under the rug. Despite the fact that the C-53 airframes experienced serious accidents more than twice as often as the average aircraft and that internal investigations were performed with alarming results, the Navy continues to risk its servicemembers’ life and limb to keep these helicopters performing their critical mission in the air. With this in mind, this documentary might just put enough pressure on the Navy to make the changes necessary to save an untold number of lives.
Winner of the Audience Award in Active Cinema at the 2018 Mill Valley Film Festival, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is an intriguing and effective piece of military reporting presented in comprehensible terms for the layman. It is a successful examination of not only the serious failings of a controversial aircraft and the misled priorities keeping it aloft, but also hints toward the fact that anyone who brings up the disturbing issue of safety of these helicopters will be forced out of service. I would recommend this professional-level documentary, especially to anyone with interests in the military or national defense.
The Navy, the Pentagon, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin declined to participate in this well-researched film. Major funding to make this documentary possible was provided by supporters of the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Investigative Studios.
After viewing this film, you can decide for yourself who killed Lt. Van Dorn. Regardless of the answer, his unwarranted death will not have been completely in vain if it successfully carries out his final mission: righting the deep and longstanding problems with the CH-53 helicopters, thus preventing the death and destruction of countless others just as it ultimately took him.
Isikoff, citing three “sources familiar with informal discussions of Snowden’s case,” writes that the chief counsel to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Robert Litt, “recently privately floated the idea that the government might be open to” the former NSA contractor returning to the US, pleading guilty to one felony count, and receiving a prison sentence of three to five years “in exchange for full cooperation with the government.”
Snowden, who has lived in Russia since June 23, 2013, is charged with three felonies: Theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.
ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner, one of Snowden’s legal advisers, told Yahoo that any deal involving a felony sentence and prison time would be rejected.
“Our position is he should not be reporting to prison as a felon and losing his civil rights as a result of his act of conscience,” Wizner said.
Snowden, 32, allegedly stole up to 1.77 million NSA documents while working at two consecutive jobs for US government contractors in Hawaii between March 2012 and May 2013.
The US government believes Snowden gave about 200,000 “tier 1 and 2” documents detailing the NSA’s global surveillance apparatus to American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in early June 2013. Reports based on the disclosures have swayed courts in the US and influenced public opinion around the world.
Snowden also provided an unknown number of documents to the South China Morning Post, adding that he possessed more.
“If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country to make their own assessment, independent of my bias, as to whether or not the knowledge of US network operations against their people should be published,” Snowden told Lana Lam of SCMP on June 12, 2013, 11 days before flying to Moscow.
Snowden reportedly told James Risen of The New York Times over encrypted chat in October 2013 that the former CIA technician “gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong.” (Wizner subsequently told Business Insider that the report was inaccurate.)
Snowden would later tell NBC that he “destroyed” all documents in his possession before he spoke with the Russians in Hong Kong.
“The best way to make sure that for example the Russians can’t break my fingers and — and compromise information or — or hit me with a bag of money until I give them something was not to have it at all,” he told Brian Williams of NBC in Moscow in May 2014. “And the way to do that was by destroying the material that I was holding before I transited through Russia.”
In any case, some current and former officials are considering ways to bring the American home.
“I think there could be a basis for a resolution that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with,” Former Attorney General Eric Holder told Yahoo. “I think the possibility exists.”
To support ongoing domestic efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the illness COVID-19, the US military will provide millions of masks to support civilian public health agencies and other responders, Pentagon leadership said Tuesday.
“The Department of Defense will make available up to 5 million N95 respirator masks and other personal protective equipment from our own strategic reserves to Health and Human Services for distribution,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said.
“The first 1 million masks will be made available immediately,” he added.
“The Pentagon will be providing 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 specialized ventilators to aid in our whole of America Coronavirus response. This critical equipment will keep our health care providers safe as they care for patients,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Twitter.
COVID-19 has spread to more than 5,800 people and killed nearly 100 people in the US. As the illness spreads domestically, masks and other protective equipment are becoming harder to find.
Additional support measures include providing up to 2,000 deployable ventilators to HHS and making 14 certified coronavirus testing labs available to test non-DoD personnel. “We hope this will provide excess capacity to the civilian population,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said.
He added that the Pentagon is also looking at the activation of National Guard and Reserve units to assist states as needed. The National Guard is already assisting in 22 states.
The military is preparing its hospital ships for possible deployment to assist during the crisis, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The US Navy has two hospital ships available, the USNS Comfort in Norfolk, Virginia, and the USNS Mercy in San Diego.
“The Comfort is undergoing maintenance, and the Mercy is at port.” Esper told reporters Tuesday, revealing that the Department of Defense has already given Navy orders “to lean forward in terms of getting them ready to deploy.”
The defense secretary explained that US military assets like hospital ships and field hospitals are designed for trauma response rather than matters like infectious diseases, so these assets would likely be used to take the pressure off civilian medical facilities with regard to trauma care.
Esper also said that the Army Corps of Engineers could be made available to assist states in need but suggested there might be more effective options.
The secretary stressed to reporters that “if we can dramatically reduce the spread of the virus over the next 15 days, together we can help restore public health and the economy and hasten a return to our normal way of life.”
Update: This post has been updated to include the vice president’s tweet, as well as clarify that the masks are going to HHS to support civilian public health agencies and other responders.