Many kids want to be a soldier when they grow up. Michael Kelsey, an 11-year-old from Marshfield, Missouri, is one of them.
But he’s a little different since he suffers from a brain tumor.
But recently, Kelsey got to live his dream for one action-packed day.
According to a release from Fort Leonard Wood, Kelsey has not allowed his health problem to keep him from trying to support who he views as real heroes. Kelsey collected various toiletry items to donate to troops. When his mother contacted the local USO to arrange the donation, the topic turned to the 11-year-old’s health.
The Fort Leonard Wood USO then moved to make the sick child’s dream come true. Soon, Kelsey was invited to the installation, which not only conducts Basic Combat Training for new soldiers, but which also hosts the United States Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence. He arrived under the notion that he would be dropping off the items he had collected; however, once there, he was surprised.
Drill sergeants from C Company, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, issued Kelsey a uniform in the Operational Camouflage Pattern. Kelsey then got rides in military vehicles, drilled with troops, and, after a meal in the dining facility, met Brig. Gen. James Bonner, commandant of the Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School.
Kelsey visited a number of units at the installation, receiving goodie bags and learning soldier skills at each visit. Col. Tracy Lanier, the base commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Tyson Gooslby, though, provided the capstone event, naming the 11-year-old to the Honorable Order of “The Rough Riders” to salute his courage. Michael Kelsey is only the 11th individual to receive this honor.
“Thank you to all of the soldiers who helped make this happen,” Kelsey said. “Today was the best day of my life.”
While his future is uncertain due to the tumor, it is safe to say that for a day, the Army managed to win a fight against that medical condition.
U.S. media outlets say terrorist groups have been testing explosive devices that can be hidden in a laptop and that can evade some commonly used airport security screening methods.
CNN and CBS said on March 31 that U.S. intelligence officials had told them militants with al-Qaida and Islamic State have been developing innovative ways to plant explosives in electronic devices.
Military Police Company conduct security at entrance to Main Command Post, Rafha Airport, Northern Province, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 8, 1991. (XVIII Airborne Corps History Office photograph by SSG LaDona S. Kirkland)
The news organizations said the new intelligence suggested that the terror groups have obtained sophisticated airport security equipment to test how to conceal the explosives in order to board a plane.
They said the intelligence played a significant role in the Trump administration’s recent decision to prohibit travelers flying out of 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and Africa from carrying laptops and other electronic equipment onboard in the cabin area.
Earlier in March, the U.S. government banned laptops and other large electronic devices, including iPads and cameras, from the passenger cabin on flights to the United States from 10 airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Britain also took similar measures.
Passengers on those flights must place electronic devices larger than cellphones in their checked luggage.
In a statement to media outlets, the Department of Homeland Security said, “As a matter of policy, we do not publicly discuss specific intelligence information. However, evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in electronics.”
CNN said the intelligence that contributed to the ban on electronic devices was specific, credible and reliable, according to three officials who used the same words to describe it. One official called the intelligence “hair-raising.”
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney departs Mayport for its new homeport of Rota, Spain, Sept. 6.
An F-22 Raptor pilot from the 95th Fighter Squadron based at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., gets situated in his aircraft prior to taking off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015.
Airman 1st Class Stefan Alvarez, a 3rd Combat Camera Squadron photojournalist, loads 5.56 mm ammunition into an M4 magazine in preparation for the next drill during Advanced Weapons and Tactics Training Sept. 4, 2015, in Converse, Texas.
A Critical Skills Operator with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command uses a torch to cut through a metal door to gain entry on a building during Marine Special Operation School’s Master Breacher’s Course at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 5, 2015.
1st Lt. Keith G. Lowell administers OC spray during the OC Spray Performance Evaluation Course on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 27, 2015. This course is part of the Non-Lethal Weapons Instructor Course, which is only offered once a year to all service members on Okinawa.
U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego ASTs run pilots and aviation crews through Shallow Water Egress Training at Naval Base Point Loma. The training is conducted in a controlled environment to prepare flight crews on how to safely exit an overturned helicopter in the water.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that World War II wasn’t originally a world war and that many countries hoped to let continental Europe fight it out against each other (including the United States). Some countries held on to hopes of remaining neutral and passed strict laws to prevent their people from joining the fight.
For Irish soldiers, approximately 4,500 of them, the best option was to run away from the Emerald Isles and join the British Army. Irish Brigades had served well in other conflicts including World War I, the Mexican-American War (against the U.S), and the American Civil War (on behalf of the Union).
O’Donovan was a World War I veteran who received the Military Cross for bravery. He led the 38th Brigade from soon after its formation in early 1942 to July of that year, overseeing the initial training and preparations to ship out to North Africa.
Under Russell, the 38th Irish Brigade was sent to the invasion of French North Africa. After suffering a bomb attack by the Luftwaffe as they were getting off of their ships, the Irish Brigade fought its way through Africa alongside the British and American forces. The Irish were deployed into the mountains around Tunis during the battle for the capital.
When the Allies made it into the city, the Irish Brigade was the first to march through the streets. After the celebrations at Tunis, the 38th was sent with other victorious units to prepare for the landings at Sicily in Operation Husky.
On Aug. 17, after just over 5 weeks of fighting, the Axis had been pushed off the island and forced to return to Italy.
The Irish Brigade was then sent to take part in the invasion of Italy, a task which would occupy them for the rest of the war. They came ashore just a few days after the initial landings and then began pushing the Germans north past one defensive line after another. By this time, the Italian Army had withdrawn from the war and it was only German soldiers holding the peninsula.
Still, the Fuhrer’s troops made the Allies fight for every mile with well-established defensive lines that the 38th Irish and the other Allied forces had to break through. The Irish didn’t make it out of Italy and into Austria until May 8, 1945, the same day that Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allies.
Since the men of the 38th (Irish) Infantry Brigade were mostly deserters from the Irish Army, they were officially blacklisted in Ireland from any jobs that received any money from the state and were branded as traitors by both the government and the population.
The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) includes a long-term plan that could put nuclear cruise missiles aboard the new Zumwalt class (DDG 1000) of stealthy Navy destroyers, according to the commander of U.S. Strategic Command.
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, StratCom chief, said the plan to develop a new, low-yield nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM, or “Slick-em”) would not be limited to using ballistic submarines as the sole launch platform, as many assumed when the NPR was endorsed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis early February 2018.
“It’s important to know that the NPR, when it talks about the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile, does not say ‘Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile,’ ” Hyten said in a Feb. 16, 2018 keynote address in Washington, D.C., at the National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
In response to questions, he said, “We want to look at a number of options — everything from surface DDG 1000s into submarines, different types of submarines” for the SLCMs.
“That’s what the president’s budget has requested of us — to go look at those platforms, and we’re going to walk down that path,” Hyten said.
The USS Zumwalt, the first of three new stealthy destroyers billed by the Navy as the world’s largest and most technologically advanced surface combatants, experienced numerous cost overruns in construction and problems in sea trials. It also broke down while transiting the Panama Canal in 2016.
The second ship in the Zumwalt class, the Michael Monsoor, had to cut short sea trials in December 2017 because of equipment failures.
The NPR called for the development of two new, low-yield nuclear weapons — the SCLM and a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.
Hyten said the U.S. will be modifying “a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads to provide a prompt, low-yield capability, as well as pursuing a modern nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile in the longer term.”
He added, with some regret, that both are necessary to enhance U.S. deterrence against growing tactical and strategic nuclear threats from Russia and China.
“I don’t have the luxury of dealing with the world the way I wish it was,” he said. “We, as a nation, have long desired a world with no or at least fewer nuclear weapons. That is my desire as well. The world, however, has not followed that path.”
New developments with the Xian H6K strategic bomber, a version of the Russian Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine bomber, has given China a nuclear triad of bombers, land-based missiles, and submarines “for the first time,” Hyten said.
He also cited repeated statements from Russian President Vladimir Putin about modernizing his own nuclear force and developing a new generation of low-yield weapons. “Russia has been clear about their intent all along,” he said.
In the question-and-answer period at National Defense University, an official from the Russian Embassy in Washington challenged the general’s assessment of the threat posed by his country.
Hyten responded, “We listen very closely to what your president says, and then watch closely” through a variety of means to see Putin’s thoughts put into action. “We have to consider those a threat.”
Earlier, he said, “Our adversaries are building and operating these strategic weapons, not as a science experiment, but as a direct threat to the United States of America.”
In an address preceding Hyten’s, Pentagon policy chief David Trachtenberg said that the new NPR developed for the Trump administration should not be seen as a divergence from the 2010 NPR adopted by the Obama administration.
“Contrary to some commentary, the Nuclear Posture Review does not go beyond the 2010 NPR in expanding the traditional role of nuclear weapons,” said Trachtenberg, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.
“The goal of our recommendations is to deter war, not to fight one,” he said. “If nuclear weapons are employed in conflict, it is because deterrence failed, and the goal of the 2018 NPR is to make sure that deterrence will not fail.”
However, “it is clear that our attempts to lead by example in reducing the numbers and salience of nuclear weapons in the world have not been reciprocated,” Trachtenberg said.
Russia and China have made clear their intentions to “expand the numbers and capabilities” of their nuclear arsenals, he said.
During the “Great War”, the United States of America lost over 116,000 of her troops in a span of only 19 months. While initially remaining neutral and refusing to enter into World War I when it began in 1914, that changed after repeated attacks on America’s ships. In 1917 the U.S. entered into the fray, declaring war against Germany.
It can be argued that without American’s force beside the allies, the war wouldn’t have ended in victory, but a stalemate. History has documented this impressive and vital piece of our story. So why don’t we talk about it and those incredible heroes that turned the tide for an entire world in the name of democracy?
Why don’t we discuss how more Marines were killed or wounded in the battle of Belleau Wood than their service’s entire history at that point? That battle alone claimed over 10,000 American casualties in just three weeks. It should also be known that France refused to enter into this particular battle because they felt it was too dangerous. Instead, they insisted that the Americans do it.
In September of 1918, 1.2 million American troops entered into the deadliest battle in its history. Many were undertrained and not yet battle-tested – but their sheer numbers and grit did what other armies could not in four years. It was an incredible offensive effort as the Expeditionary Forces of the United States actually caught Germany completely by surprise with their attack.
America’s troops took an area that had been held for four years in just two short days. This battle ended the war, but America lost 26,277 of their own to win it. We also had 192,000 casualties. It was this specific battle at Meuse-Argonne, or The Battle of Argonne Forest, that pushed Germany into literally pleading for an end of World War I. America brought Germany to its knees.
This war was pivotal for so many things that have occurred in the last hundred years. We need to remember those lost their lives in the name of democracy. Let us also not forget the ones that died slowly years following World War I due to the effects of the lingering bullets, “shell shock” (now called post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of poison gas exposure.
Those who survived through all of that though? Their personal war at home was just beginning.
When service members returned home following the end of World War I, they were celebrated with parades – if they were white. The African American men who returned home after fighting alongside their brothers’ in arms were treated with open hostility and disdain. Some were killed.
The years following the “Great War” were not kind or easy to digest but need to be remembered. They matter.
Following the war, the Great Depression and race riots wreaked havoc on the United States, leading many to question what they fought for. Not only did they question their sacrifice – but they were deeply suffering after their service for their country.
Veterans received just with an honorable discharge. Although they received monetary allotments if they had a disability through the War Risk Insurance Act, it wasn’t enough. They were also required to maintain insurance for care and paid a premium that came out of that allotment, reducing their income even more. Many were too severely disabled to work to make any extra income and the money they received from the government didn’t cover living any kind of quality life.
High unemployment, lack of quality medical care and poor housing was the “thanks for your service” that these veterans received – if they were white.
The African American veterans were often denied housing or any kind of equality – leaving them homeless and destitute. This terrible choice for America to treat these brave men in such an abominable way would go on to pave the way for the next seventy years of struggle, advocacy, and racial tension that the country had ever seen.
The government failed all of its returning servicemen.
America failed its heroes by avoiding that chapter in its history.
Our World War I veterans did fight, suffer, and die for our freedom. Let us not forget it.
For the first time ever, measurements from NASA Earth-observing research satellites are being used to help combat a potential outbreak of life-threatening cholera. Humanitarian teams in Yemen are targeting areas identified by a NASA-supported project that precisely forecasts high-risk regions based on environmental conditions observed from space.
“By joining up international expertise with those working on the ground, we have for the very first time used these sophisticated predictions to help save lives and prevent needless suffering for thousands of Yemenis,” said Charlotte Watts, chief scientist with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.
Cholera is a disease caused by consuming food or water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae. The disease affects millions of people every year, resulting in severe diarrhea and even death. It remains a major threat to global health, especially in developing countries, such as Yemen, where access to clean water is limited.
Starting this spring, the British government and international aid groups in Yemen began using these new cholera forecasts to target their work in reducing cholera risk. That work includes promoting good hygiene to prevent the spread of the water-borne disease and distributing hygiene and cholera treatment kits. The results to date suggest the forecast model has the potential to fundamentally change how the international community addresses cholera.
The research on forecasting cholera outbreaks funded by NASA’s Applied Sciences Program is being led by hydrologist and civil engineer Antar Jutla at West Virginia University, Morgantown, along with Rita Colwell and Anwar Huq, microbiologists from the University of Maryland, College Park.
The NASA forecast tool divides the entire country of Yemen into regions about the size of a typical U.S. county, and predicts the risk of cholera outbreaks in each region. To calculate the likelihood of an outbreak, the science team runs a computer model that combines satellite observations of environmental conditions that affect the cholera bacteria with information on sanitation and clean water infrastructure.
The predicted cholera risk based on analysis and satellite data in Yemen, June 2017. Blue color indicates low risk of cholera while red color indicates high risk of cholera.
The actual number of cholera cases in June 2017. The red area represent reported cholera cases.
In 2017, the model achieved 92 percent accuracy in predicting the regions where cholera was most likely to occur and spread in Yemen that year, even identifying inland areas that are not usually susceptible to the disease but suffered outbreaks. The Yemen cholera outbreak was the world’s worst in 2017, with more than 1.1 million suspected cases and more than 2,300 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
“The model has done an excellent job in Yemen detecting triggers of cholera outbreaks,” said Jutla, “but there is still a lot of work we need to do to have this forecast model give accurate predictions everywhere.”
International humanitarian organizations took notice. This January, Fergus McBean, a humanitarian adviser with the U.K.’s Department for International Development, read an article about the NASA-funded team’s 2017 results and contacted them with an ambitious challenge: to create and implement a cholera forecasting system for Yemen, in only four months.
“It was a race against the start of rainy season,” McBean said.
The U.S. researchers began working with U.K. Aid, the U.K. Met Office, and UNICEF on the innovative approach to using the model to inform cholera risk reduction in Yemen.
In March, one month ahead of the rainy season, the U.K. international development office began using the model’s forecasts. Early results show the science team’s model predictions, coupled with Met Office weather forecasts, are helping UNICEF and other aid groups target their response to where support is needed most.
“This ground-breaking initiative is a testament to the importance of interdisciplinary and multi-agency efforts to improve disease preparedness and response,” said John Haynes, program manager for health and air quality applications in NASA’s Earth Science Division, at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.
McBean believes in this new approach. “We are confident acting on the model’s predictions this year. We know that acting early is a more effective way of operating and is likely to result in a much better outcome for people.”
Colwell, who compared the 2017 Yemen results to passing the first stage of a three-stage drug trial and discovering the drug is saving the lives of a particular type of patient, said that the science team’s next step is to create global risk maps for cholera. In the same way meteorologists issue severe storms warnings, these risk maps and forecasts would allow people to prepare for and prevent outbreaks.
NASA uses the vantage point of space to understand and explore our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. Earth observations and information made possible by NASA form the foundation for critical environmental planning and decisions by people all over the world. The agency makes its Earth observations freely and openly available to those seeking solutions to important global issues.
Featured image: The United Nations Children’s Fund, with support from U.K. Aid, distributes clean water and information about cholera to prevent outbreaks of the disease in Yemen. Humanitarian teams in Yemen are targeting areas identified by a NASA-supported project that precisely forecasts high-risk regions based on environmental conditions observed from space.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
If you look at the enlisted ranking system put in place by every branch of the United States Armed Forces, everything makes a good deal of sense. You start at the bottom — generally at E-1, but there are ways to get in at a higher pay grade — and work your way up to a certain point where you become an NCO. Officers have their own linear path, starting at O-1, and warrant officers are half way between the two.
But the Army has its very own conundrum with the E-4 ranks. Years ago, the hierarchy of ranks looked a little different: it went private first class, then corporal, then sergeant. Today, both specialist (the highest junior enlisted rank) and corporal (the lowest NCO rank) share the same pay grade. This means that, in a sense, being a specialist is just like being a corporal — only without the NCO benefits.
To understand the specialist rank we know it today, you’ll have to look back at the Army’s long-gone specialist ranks.
The same insignia that would later be used for private first class.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt)
In 1920, there was a consolidation that distilled 128 different rank insignia and titles into just seven. The results of this consolidation left us with something similar to what we use today — with a few key differences.
Since warfare involves much more than just general “infantrymen,” there was a need to identify the support soldiers, those who were specialists in their given field of expertise. Back then, it was assumed that all 5th-grade soldiers (corporals) fully understood what their job entails, but there needed to be a way to offer a little incentive to a privates to become known as a “private/specialist,” which was the name of the MOS at the time. That incentive came in the form of bonus pay — despite being paid more, a private/specialist was still officially of lower rank than a private first class.
The insignia of the private/specialist was a single chevron with a single rocker.
Think of the difference like today’s version of a master sergeant and a first sergeant. Same pay grade, same respect, but two very different positions and mentalities.
(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
The next major overhaul came in 1942 when a need arose to differentiate between those who earned their rank because of how good they were at their job and those who earned it because of leadership abilities. And so the “technician” ranks were created, ranging from technician fifth grade (or “tech/5”) up to technician third grade (or “tech/3”).
They were distinguished from their peers by placing a ‘T’ under their chevrons. For all practical purposes, a technician third grade and a staff sergeant were on equal footing — same pay and same respect — but the staff sergeant was in a leadership position while the tech/3 was more of an instructor.
The joke used back then was “the NCOs may have been the backbone of the Army, but the specialists were the brains.”
The final shakeup came in 1955 when these two previous iterations of separating specialists in their given field from general leadership culminated an entirely new ranking system — the specialists. This took the original insignia of the 1920s private/specialist, inverted it, and added the Army Eagle to it. Promotions within the specialists meant adding another rocker to the top instead of a chevron.
A young private could prove themselves ready to enter the non-commissioned officers as a corporal — or they could focus on their MOS as a specialist. Between the years 1959 and 1968, it was entirely possible to make it all the way to E-9 as a specialist. Throughout the years, the highest achievable rank dwindled down and down until 1985, when only the Spec/4 remained.
Since all other grades of specialists were obsolete, the rank is now just called “specialist.” In essence, the rank holds the same meaning as it did in the 1920s — except now it’s more of a holdover rank before most E-4s make sergeant.
A distant, flashing image of blue sky, rolling mountains and snowy rivers visited itself upon an injured soldier flying away from a violent firefight on the ground below – just barely beyond view from the naked eye.
This vivid, yet paradoxical scene is what former Green Beret Dillon Behr recalls seeing when looking down in a weary, half-conscious state from a Black Hawk helicopter while being evacuated from a near-death combat encounter in the mountains of Afghanistan.
“I was able to look back in the valley below and see a lot of my teammates still there fighting. It was a beautiful scene from a distance, yet what had just happened down below was basically hell on earth,” Behr explained.
This violence, heroism and near death for Behr is now known as the famous battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan, 2008; the mission on that April day was called “Operation Commando Wrath.”
Behr was part of a 12-man US Special Forces A-team tasked with taking out a high-value enemy target up in the mountains; his unit was joined by another supporting 12-man Green Beret A-team and about 100 Afghan Commandos. Behr was part of the 3rd Special Forces Group, ODA 3336.
While Green Berets are, among other things, experienced with helicopter rope drops and various kinds of airborne attack raids typically employed in assaults of this kind, Behr’s unit was forced to climb the side of a mountain and attack on foot, due to the rugged terrain and relative inexperience of supporting Afghan Commando partners.
Behr recalled the combat scene on the mountain, at an elevation of about 1,000 feet, as dreary with gray rocks, some small trees and not much vegetation. The uneven terrain was accompanied by some snow on the ground and a partially iced-over river. Concrete-like looking mud huts and small villages were scattered in rows and villages along ridges of the mountainside.
Having completed Special Forces training, selection, and preparation, Behr had spent years preparing for the life-and-death combat scenario he knew he was about to encounter.
He was a trained fighter, trainer and teacher working as part of a close-knit group focused on a specific attack mission. Behr was an intelligence and communications specialist, yet like all Green Berets, he was first and foremost a fighter, equipped and ready to respond to fast-evolving combat situations.
“As we started climbing, we encountered insurgents… around 200 enemy combatants. They had the high ground and had us surrounded,” he recalled.
During a subsequent, fast-ensuing firefight, Behr and his fellow Green Berets used what rocks, small trees and ditches they could find to both avert enemy gunfire and launch counterattacks.
“We had intelligence that a high value target was going to be there, someone traditionally hard to track down. We did not know there would be so many fighters and enemy forces there. We happened upon a much larger meeting of enemy combatants than we had expected,” he said.
At one point during the unfolding 7-hour firefight, Behr was abruptly thrown to the ground by a larger caliber bullet cutting through the side of his pelvis. The bullet blew out the ball and socket of his hip.
“It was like being struck by a car or baseball bat and being electrocuted at the same time,” he said.
This near-fatal strike, unfortunately, was only the beginning of Behr’s effort to stay alive. While fellow A-Team Green Beret intelligence specialist Luis Morales was tending to his injury, a second bullet ripped through Behr’s bicep and continued on to hit Morales in the thigh.
Behr described the painful sensation of feeling a bullet cut through the muscle in his bicep as minor compared to the initial hit to his pelvis… a scenario which can make it seemingly impossible to imaging the magnitude of pain he experienced upon first being shot.
As he fought to stay conscious and his teammates scrambled to stop the bleeding, Behr himself was focused on the survival and safety of his fellow Green Berets under attack.
“I have vivid memories of laying there almost helpless and being concerned about a building across the valley that had direct access to our team. If someone was to shoot from there, we were pretty exposed. I remember directing some people on the team and having them take that out with a large bomb,” he said.
US air support then arrived to destroy attacking insurgents; shrapnel from a bomb mistakenly struck Behr, perforating his intestines.
When confronting what he thought was certain death, Behr thought of his fellow Soldiers and family back home in Illinois.
“There was a point where I thought I was going to leave this world. At one point I thought I was not going to make it, so I said a prayer to myself and felt a calm come over me. Then, all of a sudden, Ron Shurer, the medic on our team, slapped me across the face and said ‘wake up you are not going to die today,'” he said.
The intensity of the firefight, volume of enemy bullets and massive scale of the attacks are still difficult for Behr to recall and describe, the sharpness of certain powerful and violent memories have found a permanent resting place in his mind. Then, at the very moment Behr thought he might have an opportunity to live, the attacks worsened.
Just after telling Behr he would not die, Shurer himself took a bullet in the helmet right above his face. Fortunately, the bullet bounced off his helmet.
“It could have been much worse,” Behr said.
Four Americans were critically injured and MEDEVAC’ed to Landstuhl Army Medical Center and then Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Two Afghan Commandos were killed, including an interpreter.
In total, 11 Silver Stars and one Air Force Cross were awarded for the events of that day.
“The heroic part is what my team did and how they kept it together under heavy enemy gunfire. They risked their lives to get me and the other injured guys on the team off of that mountain. They were dragging and dropping me over the ledges and trying to catch me off of the ledges,” Behr explained.
Life After Near-Death in Combat
Despite this accumulation of combat trauma and near death experience, Behr has made an astounding recovery. Following medical treatment, Behr went on to earn a Masters degree in Security Studies at Georgetown University before starting a non-profit gym for injured Soldiers at Walter Reed.
When asked how he was able to go on after his combat experience, Behr said “I don’t know what else to do. We’re given abilities and skills and it is a shame to waste them. Even after we leave the military, we have a responsibility to become leaders in our communities.”
These days, after working for a period as a cyber security threat intelligence analyst at Discover, Behr now works as a professional liability and cyber liability broker for Risk Placement Services, a Washington D.C.-area firm.
In a manner quite similar to his fellow Green Berets, known as “Quiet Professionals” often reluctant to discuss the perils of combat, Behr does not wish to highlight his war zone activities. He does, however, say the experience has changed him forever.
Behr is now married to a former Red Cross volunteer who helped him recover from his injuries.
“I value relationships more than I ever did previously,” Behr said.
Behr is also involved with the Green Beret Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping Green Berets and their families. You can visit the Green Beret Foundation website here.
There was a time when cars (and many other things) were built to last as long as you maintained them. Unfortunately it seems as if planned obsolescence has become the manufacturing industry’s purview and buyers are brainwashed into believing that “new” is synonymous with “better.” Things are pretty disposable now. The general paradigm has gone from repair to replacement, depriving people of any willingness to fix what’s broken or modify an aging piece of equipment.
So what does this outta sight/outta mind mentality say about people who never learned how to repair anything? Their lack of resourcefulness, coping skills, and self-reliance is as obvious as Quentin Tarantino’s foot fetish. Think about how they’ll react if things break down on a Great Depression-type scale once again. I’m talking all-out chaos with no power, no food, and no cell phones to post selfies every 10 minutes. Those same people will get desperate and look to strip the well prepared of everything they have. Time to start planning contingencies.
While many might think this 1994 Land Cruiser has passed its vehicular shelf life, owner Joe Galt is a dedicated prepper who doesn’t subscribe to the instant gratification mindset. This passionate family man stays up to snuff on the latest survival trends, studies the works of James Wesley Rawles, and wanted to turn his aging family SUV into a viable bug-out rig. Whether it’s bad weather, war, EMPs, or if the latest crop of Evergreen State College students ever get anywhere near a job on Capitol Hill, Joe has already planned his disaster response accordingly.
There are several reasons Galt felt a Land Cruiser of this ilk made for the perfect SHTF vehicle. It’s vintage, yes, but as previously stated, sometimes you’re better off that way. “The 1994 is a specific year I was looking for. I wanted the least amount of electronics possible,” he says. “I also wanted it because it had front and rear floating axles, front and rear coil spring suspension, front and rear disc brakes, ABS, and factory electronic lockers, which is a combination of components that, to this day, I think there’s very few produced today that have every one of those elements on it.”
Galt has actually owned several Land Cruisers over the years. This FJ80 version was picked up at a used car lot in remarkably good shape, and became the family SUV for many years. After clocking a total of about 250,000 miles and becoming increasingly concerned about disaster events, Joe reached the point where he decided to breathe some new life into a platform that already had a lot going for it. He wanted something nimble, easy to work on, reliable, and the right size to carry both family and gear safely out of his hometown of Denver if something went awry.
“Whether it’s winter storms, a volcanic ash event that could come from Yellowstone, or an EMP, I wanted to be prepared for anything that might make driving hard,” Galt says. “The Land Cruiser fit that bill so well that, even in today’s market, trying to find another vehicle like it is almost impossible. If I bought a new one, I could end up spending a hundred grand. As a kid I lived through the Mount St. Helens explosion and seeing what that did to people and communities was kind of devastating. It’s an unlikely event, but it’s an event that eventually will occur again.”
The stock inline-six is a notoriously sluggish (and thirsty) powerplant. Switching to a Euro or Japanese diesel wasn’t practical when it came to maintenance and parts accessibility. Joe went with the venerable Cummins in the form of a ’93 5.9L 6BT from Reviva in Minneapolis. The motor was brand new with zero miles, completely remanufactured, and dimensionally similar to the original 4.5L 1FZE. It was adapted to the vehicle courtesy of Diesel Conversion Specialists in Montana. Bringing the specs to roughly 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque was a huge improvement. It all breathes through a Safari snorkel.
Next was pairing it with to the transmission. Here’s where things get interesting. “In the ’93 and ’94 FZ platform, Toyota used the Aisin A442F transmission, which was designed for commercial use, and adapted to the Land Cruiser. Cummins has now adopted Aisin as its transmission producer, so there’s a natural bearing between engine and trans, but using a conversion kit mates it very nicely to the stock transmission, transfer case, and entire driveline.” The torque converter was rebuilt and provides flawless power and integration.
Suspension work was next on the list. Slee Off-Road, who specializes in aftermarket Toyota components, provided a 6-inch lift kit, rear springs, and a number of other suspension upgrades. Old Man Emu front heavy-duty coil springs and shocks were added to compensate for the increased weight of the Cummins. Tom Wood’s double cardan driveshafts round out the underpinnings to account for the lift. ARB slotted brakes were added to improve the existing system.
A Uniden CB radio and portable Baofeng HAM radio keep communications in order, and much of the electronic work can be credited to 3D-Offroad. An Outback drawer system keeps extra supplies organized and locked up. Slee Off-Road skid plates and rock sliders help traverse rocky terrain without getting banged up. “I never go anywhere without my poncho, my Cabela’s sleeping bag, and my Kelly Kettle,” Galt says. “I also carry first aid, firearms, extra ammo, tow straps, tools, lubricants, spare parts, and a full complement of Western U.S. maps.”
An auxiliary battery system stays disconnected and can be used in the event of an EMP. Part of the beauty of a vehicle of this age is that no electronics are needed (except the starter) to run the motor or transmission. It can all be run mechanically, which may be outdated, but is a superior design to modern systems if you’re in a dire situation and need to make repairs in the field.
Overall, there’s probably another $55,000 sunk into the vehicle, but that’s still cheaper than a new Land Cruiser, and more practical. “You can go down the road at 90 mph with the 4.10 gears I have and it rides as nice as my ¾-ton Dodge Ram,” Galt says. Although it weighs roughly 7,000 pounds (over a ton more than stock), the diesel manages about 15 to 19 mph versus the original 8 to 9 mph. It’s already been on a 1,200-mile trip after its completion and gets a 400-mile workout on an average weekend. Just goes to show you that old doesn’t mean obsolete.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is known for its baller tech, from helping to invent the internet and Google Maps to developing artificial intelligence and drone swarms. For the last few years, they’ve been looking into how to make vehicles safer in combat without strapping ever-increasing amounts of armor to it.
Demonstrations of DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technologies
The Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) Program is largely complete, and it’s archived on DARPA’s website. Most of the tech has proven itself in the lab and testing, but now some will—and some won’t—get deployed to units over the next few years.
One of the more exciting and groundbreaking technologies is the Multi-mode Extreme Travel Suspension. This equips vehicles with a suspension that can raise wheels 30 inches or drop them 42 inches, and each tire is controlled separately. That means that a vehicle can drive with an even cab, even when the slope is so great that the wheels are separate in height by six feet. It also means that the vehicles can get to hard-to-reach places quickly.
Other tech breakthroughs looking to increase off-road mobility included the Electric In-Hub Motor—which crams an entire electric motor with a three-speed gearbox and cooling into a standard 20-inch rim—and the Reconfigurable Wheel-Track which can roll like a normal tire or turn into a triangular track that works like a mini-tank tread.
But there are also breakthroughs focused on getting rid of windows and making crews able to move faster and more safely. The Virtual Perspective Augmenting Natural Experience program allowed vehicle crew members to drive a windowless RV with better visibility than a normal driver. Not only can they see what would be visible from the vehicle thanks to LIDAR, but they could also “see” the environment from a remote perspective.
Basically, they could be their own ground guide.
The Off-Road Crew Augmentation program, meanwhile, draws an estimated safest path for drivers moving off-road, and it can do so with no windows facing out. That means vehicle designers can create a next-gen vehicle with no windows, historically a weak spot in the armor. Ultraviolet light from the sun slowly breaks down ballistic glass, so “bulletproof” windows aren’t really bulletproof and will eventually expire.
All of the major breakthroughs were part of research partnerships or contracts with different manufacturers, and it remains to be seen whether the military branches will request prototype vehicles that use the tech. But there’s a chance that your next ride, after the current iteration of the JLTV, will be something a little more exotic.
During a recent Army exercise, a prototype laser shot down so many drones that its operator started losing count. “I took down, I want to say, twelve?” Staff Sgt. Eric Davis told reporters. “It was extremely effective.”
The Army has made air defense an urgent priority, especially against drones. Once icons of American technological supremacy, unmanned aircraft have proliferated to adversaries around the world. The Islamic State uses them for ad hoc bombing attacks; the Russian army to spot Ukrainian units for artillery barrages.
So last month’s Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment threw 14 different types of drones against a slate of counter-UAS technologies, from a .50 caliber machine gun loaded with special drone-killing rounds, to acoustic sensors that listened for incoming drones, to jammers mounted on rugged, air-droppable Polaris 4x4s.
But the laser was the star.
The Army wants to arm the versatile Stryker combat vehicle with high-energy lasers to defeat a variety of threats — including drones. (Photo: US Army)
“We had a lot of fun with the Stryker vehicle this time,” said John Haithcock, the civilian director of the Fires Battle Lab at Fort Sill, which hosts the exercise. The Stryker is a moderately armored eight-wheel-drive vehicle, lighter than an M1 tank or M2 Bradley but much heavier and more robust than a Humvee or MRAP, and its boxy hull has proved adaptable to a host of variants.
Earlier MFIX exercises had tested a counter-drone Stryker, with radar and optical sensors to detect drones, plus jammers to scramble drones’ datalinks, causing them to lose contact with their operators and even crash. Two prototypes of this CMIC vehicle (Counter-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability) are now in Europe with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the unit on the cutting edge of testing new technology to counter the Russians.
But there’s still space and electrical power to spare on the CMIC Stryker, so for April’s MFIX the Army added the 5 kilowatt laser, derived from the Boeing-General Dynamics MEHEL 2-kw prototype. For November’s MFIX, they plan to double the power, 10 kilowatts, which will let it kill drones faster — since the beam delivers more energy per second — and further away. If November’s tests go equally well, Haithcock said, the 10 kw laser Stryker will graduate to an Army-led Joint Warfighting Assessment at Fort Bliss, Texas, where soldiers will test it in all-out mock battle.
Not that the MFIX exercise was easy: Soldiers operating the laser Stryker had to contend with real drones and simulated artillery barrages. Just managing the Stryker’s complex capabilities — laser, radar, jammers, sensors — was challenging. In fact, a big part of the experiment was assessing whether the soldiers’ suffered “task saturation,” a polite way of saying “overloaded.”
“The crew on the Stryker had never worked together….We didn’t know each other,” Staff Sgt. Davis said. “(But) all the systems were pretty easy to use, and after 15-20 minutes, I was able to program all the different types of equipment.”
Once the shooting started, he managed to multi-task, Davis said: “I was able to troubleshoot the radar while I was using the laser.” The artillerymen manning the laser Stryker were even able to continue acting as forward observers, spotting targets for artillery attack, at the same time they defended the force against incoming drones.
A Stryker-mounted 10 kw laser should be far more maneuverable and survivable on the front lines than the Army’s early experiment, a 10 kw weapon on an unarmored heavy truck. (The truck’s still in play as a platform for a 60 kw long-range laser to kill artillery rockets). But a Stryker is too much hardware for the Army’s light infantry brigades, which mostly move on foot with a smattering of Humvees and other offroad vehicles.
For those forces, this MFIX experimented with splitting the CMIC kit of sensors and jammers across two Polaris MRZR 4x4s. The Army also tested a heavy-duty jammer called the Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS), currently mounted on a cargo pallet in the back of a medium truck but potentially Polaris-transportable as well. No word whether they can make a laser that compact — at least, not yet.
The official Mad Scientists of war, otherwise known as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency employees, have crafted a way for helicopter pilots to see through dust, snow, and smoke to fly safely even when their view is blocked.
Currently, low-visibility conditions lead to crashes and collisions that cost the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars and can lead to troops’ deaths. Brownouts, when helicopter pilots lose visibility due to dust kicked up by their rotors or sandstorms, have caused a number of crashes in the recent wars in the desert.
The system maps terrain and landing zones in brownouts or whiteouts, prevents collisions with other aircraft and obstacles, and warns of weather hazards.
When the pilot is in combat, the system will aid in identifying and acquiring targets, guiding weapons, and linking the data feeds of different aircraft.
Ideally, the system will work as a “plug and play” add-on to current and future aircraft. Everything from modern helicopters to drones to the coming Joint Multi-Role Aircraft will feature the technology.