After separating, Marine Corps veteran Chloe Mondesir was bitten by the acting bug. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting dream and found success . . . by surprise. Check out her unusual Hollywood story.
Today marks 230 years that the Coast Guard has been serving the United States. The Coast Guard supplies a unique and valuable service to our country and is the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. To help celebrate its 230 birthday, let’s take a look at some fun facts about the Coast Guard that you might not know.
1. Writers, take heart.
Alex Haley, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Roots, was the Coast Guard’s first journalist. After graduating high school at age 15, Haley enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939 at the age of just 18 as a Mess Attendant Third Class, one of the only two ratings available to Black service members at the time. During his long patrols, Haley started writing letters to his friends and family – sometimes as many as 40 a week!
(U.S. Coast Guard Photo)
2. Swimmers, brush up on your freestyle.
Becoming a Coast Guard rescue swimmer is exceptionally difficult. In fact, more than half the people who try out for this assignment fail. Fitness standards for rescue swimmers include being able to function for thirty minutes in heavy seas. Swimmers must be able to think, perform challenging tasks, and react, all while either being submerged, holding their breath, or being tossed around by high waves.
3. Flags for all occasions.
The Coast Guard has two official flags – the CG Standard and the CG Ensign. The Ensign is flown by cutters and shore units, while the Standard flag is used at ceremonies. The Standard is used to represent the Coast Guard, but the Ensign flag is something altogether different. Since law enforcement is one of the Coast Guard’s core missions, the ensign flag is the visible symbol of law enforcement authority and is recognized globally.
4. Coast Guard deploys. No, really.
Service members of the Coast Guard have served valiantly in 17 wars and conflicts in US history. The CG was America’s first afloat armed force. It predates the Navy by several years and is older than most other federal government organizations. The Coast Guard’s motto, Semper Paratus (Always Ready), is proven time and again in its readiness to deploy.
5. Protecting the US is just a small part
In addition to protecting the United States coastlines, Coast Guard service members serve all over the world. You can find CG ships as far north as the Arctic, as far south as Antarctica and everywhere in between.
6. The Coast Guard isn’t very big
With roughly 40,000 Active Duty service members, the Coast Guard is just a little larger than the NYPD. Compared with over 554,000 in the Army and roughly 200,000 in the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard is definitely much smaller. But what the branch doesn’t have in personnel, it makes up for in might. Since its service members have acting law enforcement authority, their mission goes a long way to keeping America’s coastlines safe.
7. Coast Guard families don’t have the same resources
Resources available to other military families like Military One Source and MyCAA are inaccessible to CG families. In most situations, these DoD resources aren’t inclusive to members of the Coast Guard. Instead, CG personnel and families receive support through the Coast Guard Office of Work-Life, as well as the CG SUPRT organization.
8. It’s not easy to join
The Coast Guard is one of the most difficult branches of the military to get into because it accepts such few recruits. In addition to having to undergo a credit check and a security clearance, you should probably also have a college degree in hand. The branch requires a minimum of 54 points on the ASVAB, and if you have a shellfish allergy, you’re eliminated from applying. Basic training takes place at just one location, Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, in Cape May, New Jersey. It’s a good idea to know how to swim before joining, and if you’re selected, you should be comfortable jumping off a five-foot platform into a pool, swim for 100 meters, and then tread water for five minutes.
So there you have it! It turns out that the Coast Guard is one of the most elite branches of our military. As part of DHS, its service members help keep America’s 95,000 miles of shoreline safe. Maybe in time, DoD resources will open up to these valuable service personnel and their families. Until then, happy birthday, Coast Guard!
The US Army is considering various systems to better shield tanks and armored vehicles from RPGs, antitank missiles, and other enemy fire.
But the latest version of the RPG, a staple in the arsenals of Russia and other forces, may already be a step ahead of the active-protection systems the US may soon adopt.
The Pentagon has purchased active-protection systems to test out on Abrams tanks and Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, and may even mount them on lighter vehicles, like the successor to the Humvee, according to a report from Scout Warrior.
“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
The Army intends to outfit Abrams tanks with the Israeli-made Trophy APS and Bradley vehicles with the Iron Fist system, which is also Israeli-made. It plans to put the US-made Iron Curtain system on Stryker vehicles. (The Army leased several of the Trophy systems last spring, working with the Marine Corps to test them.)
“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”
The US’s look to APS comes as other countries adopt the technology.
Israeli’s Merkava comes standard with the Trophy, as does Russia’s new T-14 Armata. Both Israel’s and Russia’s tanks, as well as the UK’s Challenger 2, are considered by US officials to be close to or at parity with the US’s mainstay, the Abrams tank. (Though some officials don’t consider the Armata fielded.)
As militaries have adopted active-protection systems and other means to up-armor tanks, arms makers have looked for new antitank weaponry to counter them. Whenever US vehicles equipped with APS join similarly outfitted vehicles in the field, they will face a new challenge from an old foe, the RPG.
Russian arms manufacturers first introduced the RPG — short for Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomet, meaning “handheld antitank grenade launcher,” not “rocket-propelled grenade” — in 1949, updating it over the decades since.
The most recent variant, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round, and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to bait the active-protection systems that have become common on armored vehicles in recent years.
A tandem HEAT round carries two explosive charges. One neutralizes a vehicle’s reactive armor (which uses explosions to counter incoming projectiles), and the other is designed to penetrate the armor of the vehicle itself.
“The novelty of the Russian rocket launcher is that two rockets are fired at the target at the same time. One is a so-called ‘agent provocateur’ 42 mm in caliber, followed a bit later by a primary 105-mm tandem warhead rocket,” Vladimir Porkhachyov, the director general of arms manufacturer NPO Bazalt, told Russian state news agency Tass of the RPG-30 in September 2015.
The RPG-30 reportedly cleared testing and went into active service with the Russian military sometime between 2012 and 2013. At that point, according to a 2015 report by Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik, the Pentagon put it on its list of “asymmetrical threats to the US armed forces.”
The effectiveness of the RPG-30 against active-protection systems, and whether those systems need be upgraded to adapt to the RPG-30 and similar munitions, remains to be seen. But the RPG — though limited by the size of its warhead — has long been potent on the battlefield, even against modern tanks.
The previous model, the RPG-29, was introduced in 1991 and is still in service with the Russian armed forces. It fires a 105 mm tandem HEAT round and can also fire a thermobaric fuel-air round against bunkers and buildings.
Russian RPG-29s were used by Hezbollah in the mid-2000s, deployed against Israeli tanks and personnel during the 2006 Lebanon War.
According to a Haaretz reportfrom the time, Hezbollah antitank teams using RPG-29s managed on some occasions to get through the armor of Israel’s advanced Merkava tanks.
In other cases, Hezbollah fighters used the RPG-29 to fire on buildings containing Israeli troops, penetrating the walls.
“The majority of Israel Defense Forces ground troops casualties, both infantry and armored, were the result of special antitank units of Hezbollah,” which used other antitank missiles as well, according to the Haaretz report, published in the final days of the conflict and citing intelligence sources.
Those RPG-29s were reportedly supplied to Hezbollah by the Syrian military, which got them from Russia. Moscow disputed those origins, however, with some suggesting they were exported from former Communist bloc countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.
In August 2006, a RPG-29 was used successfully against a British Challenger 2 tank in southern Iraq.
During operations in Al Amarah, an RPG-29 rocket defeated the reactive armor installed on the Challenger, penetrating the driver’s cabin and blowing off half of one soldier’s foot and wounding several other troops.
UK military officials were accused of a cover-up in 2007, after it emerged that they hadn’t reported the August 2006 incident.
Two years later, during fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City — a Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital — a US M1 Abrams tank was damaged by an RPG-29. (The US has long avoided reactive armor systems but accepted them in recent years as a cheap, easy way to up-armor vulnerable parts of the Abrams, particularly against RPGs.)
During fighting in Iraq, RPG-29s penetrated the armor on the Abrams tanks twice and the Challenger once, according to The National Interest. Other Abrams tanks in Iraq were knocked out by antitank missiles, like the Russian-made AT-14 Kornet.
The threat goes beyond tanks. Seven of eight US Army helicopters shot down in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009 were brought down by RPGs.
RPGs remain in service around the world, filling the arsenals of both state and non-state actors, according to the Small Arms Survey. The weapon and parts for it have popped in arms bazaars in Libya in recent years.
The RPG-7, the RPG-29’s predecessor, would be or would likely be used by forces in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Central, South, and East Asia.
Regular and irregular forces in Latin America also have RPGs, and the weapons have made their way into the hands of criminal groups in the region. The Jalisco New Generation cartel reportedly used one to down a Mexican military helicopter in early 2015.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a surprise appearance at a K-pop concert in Pyongyang after some speculation over whether or not he’d actually show up — and he reportedly loved it.
Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, saw South Korean K-pop group Red Velvet, Girls’ Generation member Seohyun, and many others play at a “Spring is Coming” concert that appears to have captured his imagination.
“When such good atmosphere is preserved carefully and continuously, only the beautiful spring when new buds sprout, and flowers blossom and the rich autumn when the crops are abundant will always be in the way of our fellow countrymen,” Kim said, according to North Korean media.
Kim even told a South Korean performer he’d like to return the favor with a show in South Korea called “Autumn is Coming,” according to NK News.
“Please tell [South Korean President Moon Jae-in] that how great an event like this is,” Kim reportedly said, also explaining that he reworked his busy schedule to see Red Velvet.
Kim, and his wife watched the performance with South Korean officials including Minister Do Jong-whan of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, who said Kim “showed a lot of interest while asking about songs and lyrics during the South’s performance,” according to NK News.
The performance also included some North Korean songs which were greeted with loud applause. And, as the event took place in Pyongyang, Kim himself was loudly applauded by the crowd.
Kim’s surprise visit to the show underscores a massive change in North and South Korean relations. Under Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, North Korea kidnapped South Korean artists to help film propaganda movies.
In North Korea, citizens can be sentenced to death for simply possessing South Korean media. When South Korea used to air drop in media like DVDs, North Korea would respond extremely harshly.
But now, as tensions begin to thaw and Kim goes on a diplomatic offensive meeting with heads of state for the first time, his tone seems to have shifted.
Museums aren’t just buildings constructed to hold relics of a bygone era so that bored school kids can sleepily shuffle around them. They’re rich representations of lives once lived; they’re a way to reflect on those who came before us so that we can learn the history of the men and women who shaped the world we all live in today.
This is what the National Museum of the United States Army, currently under construction at Fort Belvoir, VA, will offer once it’s opened to the public in 2020. As a living museum, it will encompass the full military history of the United States Army, from its humble beginnings as ragtag colonial militiamen in 1636 to the elite fighting force it is today — all to inspire the soldiers of tomorrow.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say the kid’s learning center probably won’t include a “shark attack” as the very first attraction.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Casey Holley)
The construction of an Army museum has been a long time coming. Before ground was broken in September, 2016, the Army was the only branch of the Department of Defense without a standing national museum. It’s got a lofty price-tag of 0 million, but it’s actually paid for mostly through donors. Over 700,000 individuals and many corporations have given to museum.
The 84-acre site, where the installation’s golf course used to be, sits just thirty minutes from Arlington National Cemetery and will be open to the public. The 185,000 square-foot exterior of the building is already completed, but the interior is still under construction. The museum also has four of largest artifacts in place as the building needed to be constructed around them. It also has the potential to hold countless other artifacts, documents, and images, along with many pieces of artwork made by soldiers and veterans, or for the soldiers and veterans, on display.
Along with the historical exhibits will house the “Experiential Learning Center” for the kids. The area surrounding the museum will include an amphitheater, memorial garden, parade ground, and a trail to give the patrons a taste of life in the Army in both a fun and informative way.
This is amazing for many different reasons. First and foremost, it’s something that everyone should learn about. Every generation of soldier will have their own dedicated area of the museum and through a vast collection of artifacts, you’ll be able to see the evolution of our country’s defenders. Over 30 million men and women have served, and through the museum, all of them, across the nearly 250 years of history, will be represented on some manner.
It’ll also give veterans a place to take their kids of grandkids and say, “this is where we fought. This is why we fought. And this is how we did it.”
The museum seems to be striking the perfect balance between being light enough to keep children entertained while also being perfectly honoring all who have served in the Army.
The US is accusing Iran of carrying out attacks on two tankers just outside the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterway through which more than 30% of the world’s seaborne crude oil passes, and the US Navy has reportedly discovered an unexploded mine that may very well be evidence of Iran’s culpability in June 13, 2019’s attacks.
The USS Bainbridge, a US warship deployed to the Middle East, spotted a limpet mine on the side of one of the two tankers hit on June 13, 2019, CNN reported, citing a US defense official. Another defense official confirmed the discovery to Fox News, telling reporters that “it’s highly likely Iran is responsible.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said June 13, 2019, that Iran was responsible for the attacks, an announcment that briefly spiked US West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures up to $52.88 per barrel, or 3.4% from the day’s start.
He did not provide specific evidence for the accusations but said US conclusions were “based on the level of expertise for the execution, and recent attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”
The limpet mine spotted by the US Navy was reportedly discovered on the Kokuka Courageous, one of two tankers targeted. Twenty-one sailors rescued from the damaged ship are aboard the USS Bainbridge, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that was operating nearby and called in to assist.
A limpet mine is an explosive with a detonator that can be attached to the hull of a ship using magnets, and Iranian forces are believed to have used these weapons in an attack on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May. While the US has blamed Iran for the attacks, Tehran, Iran’s capital, has repeatedly denied any involvement.
The UAE determined an unnamed “state actor” was behind the tanker attacks and concluded “it was highly likely that limpet mines were deployed.”
There has been some debate about who was behind the latest attacks, with one official telling ABC News that “we’re not pointing to Iran, but we’re not ruling anything out at this time.” Another official asked the media outlet, “Who else could it be?”U.S. Blames Iran for Tanker Attacks in Gulf of Oman
Iran used mines heavily during the Tanker Wars in the late 1980s.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who may have been briefed on the situation, was quick to pin the blame on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, telling reporters: “I saw some press accounts today sort of saying it’s not clear who did it. Well, it wasn’t the Belgians. It wasn’t the Swiss. I mean, it was them. They’re the ones that did it. We’ve been warning about it.”
In early May 2019, the US began deploying military assets to the Middle East as a deterrence force in response to intelligence indicating that Iran was planning attacks on US interests. The US has so far sent a carrier strike group, a bomber task force, a missile-defense battery, and a number of other capabilities into the US Central Command area of responsibility.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Air Force plans to double the number of Combat Aviation Advisors it sends to train partners on special operations missions at a time when the Defense Department’s footprint in austere environments has come under scrutiny.
Under guidance in the National Defense Strategy, Air Force Special Operations Command is preparing to grow each of its teams, developing a planned total of 352 total force integration advisors over the next few years, officials said. The CAA mission, under Special Operations Command, has about half that now.
“This is really a second line of effort for [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis,” said Lt. Col. Steve Hreczkosij, deputy director of Air Advisor operations at AFSOC.
Military.com spoke with Combat Aviation Advisors here during a trip to the base in May 2018, accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
“This is AFSOC’s foreign internal defense force,” Hreczkosij said, referring to the U.S. mission to provide support to other governments fighting internal threats such as terrorists, lawlessness or drug activity.
The goal is to sustain five year-round advisory sites around the world by fiscal 2023, Hreczkosij said.
“That might mean five countries, that might mean five major lines of effort … but that is our resourcing strategy goal to influence five locations,” he said.
An elite unit
The expansion comes at a time when the U.S. military is operating in smaller teams in remote regions of the world such as Africa and Southeast Asia. But the move doesn’t necessarily indicate plans to work in additional countries and the idea isn’t to make the force permanent.
Still, officials know it takes time to train partners and allies, such as the Afghan National Security Forces, who are employing A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft as well as Pilatus PC-12NG planes converted into intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)
While Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command work with partner nations in similar ways, Combat Aviation Advisors are the U.S. military’s most advanced team to train foreign partners battling tough scenarios, said Lt. Col. Cheree Kochen, who is assigned to the Irregular Warfare Plans division at the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center.
“This is the advanced flying — flying on night-vision goggles, airdrop, infiltration and exfiltration” as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, she said.
“We are authorized to get in partner nation aircraft and fly on their missions,” Hreczkosij said. “We integrate, we embed. We live in their squadron building. Our approach is an enduring and integrated approach to make sure they really embed this technique, mission or equipment into how they do business.”
The air commando unit also sets the agenda for how host nation troops should learn and equip themselves based on U.S. and host nation goals.
“We also do security force assistance, which is kind of the catch-all term for mil-to-mil partnerships,” Hreczkosij said. “We provide that last tactical mile.”
The support is “about SOF mobility, ISR advising and armed reconnaissance. We’re certainly not dropping bombs,” he said, adding, “it’s not an attacking sort of mission. It’s more of a ‘target of opportunity,’ then you can see it.”
Why not contractors?
Not all partnerships are the same. NATO special operations forces and those in more austere environments vary in training, skill level and mission set, officials said.
Countries CAA troops regularly deal with include Afghanistan, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Mali, Tunisia, Chad, and the Philippines.
“We don’t care what type of airplane our partners are flying,” Hreczkosij said.
The unit is, however, looking to acquire more C-208s, dubbed AC-208s when equipped with Hellfire missiles, here at Hurlburt to practice on and or take as trainer aircraft to countries eager to build a force of their own.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston A. Mohr)
The unit commonly uses PC-6, C-208 and PC-12NG ISR aircraft; C-145/M-28, BT-67 and C-308 mobility aircraft; and AT-802, AC-235, and AC-208 armed recon aircraft.
Kochen said an upcoming project includes operations in Nepal, in which advisers are taking C-145 Skytrucks retired from nearby Duke Field in Florida and giving members maintenance training before aerial operations begin.
It isn’t uncommon for contractors to have a role in host nation troops’ basic pilot training either in the U.S. or overseas, she said.
But using contractors lacks “the integrated piece. It’s why we try to partner with a ground SOF unit so we can tie the two together. Contractors don’t necessarily have those relationships with the ground SOF that we do,” Kochen said.
Hreczkosij agreed. “Contractors aren’t in the current fight, so they don’t get the current [tactics, techniques, and procedures] with other forces in the field, and they don’t always have the trust of the partner nation,” he said. “If I’m sitting across from, say, an airman in sub-Saharan Africa … and we’re both wearing a uniform, we have a common understanding.”
Without naming the region, Kochen discussed a case in which contractors were overly bullish about their training, sometimes anticipating that the foreign trainees could learn faster on an aircraft than they actually could. It’s led to a few crashes in recent years because “the country was doing tactics that were a little bit dangerous for them for their skill level,” she said.
Hreczkosij added, “There’s a place for contractors. It’s just not in this place.”
Standing on their own
AFSOC’s 6th Special Operations Squadron, along with the Reserve’s 711th Special Operations Squadron out of Duke Field, make up the only Combat Aviation Advisor mission in the Air Force.
There are 16 Air Force Specialty Codes within the mission, including instructors, pilots, maintainers, and Tactical Air Control Party airmen, among others. Team members can speak more than a dozen different languages.
While the job dates back to World War II, the unit’s true genesis dates to Vietnam, Hreczkosij said, when the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron was dispatched to Southeast Asia to train the Vietnamese and Cambodian air forces to leverage older aircraft in counter-insurgency and military assistance during the war.
It wasn’t until the 1990s when the Air Force would again start using air commandos as a foreign internal defense force for operations across the globe.
Both Hreczkosij and Kochen were part of the 6th SOS before moving to the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center headquarters and have been in the mission for more than a decade.
Kochen said CAAs want to work with as many countries as they can, but are turning away work due to demand.
“We get a long list, and we can only do one-third of what we’re being asked to do,” she said.
The dwell-deployment rate, however, is on par with the Air Force’s current deployment schedule, Hreczkosij said, adding the units are not overtasked at this time.
Kochen reiterated that their work goes only so far before the foreign partner has to step in and take over. “There’s no point in sending guys over” to a country they’ve been working with for a while, such as Afghanistan, because “our guys would only be getting in their way,” she said, referring to training the Afghan Special Mission Wing on PC-12NG ISR operations.
“Thirty months later here, they are doing 15 sorties per day and night, providing a combat effect to the organic larger Afghan air force,” Hreczkosij said of the Afghan ISR unit.
“They’re able to give their guys check rides without us being there anymore,” Kochen said. “We give them a capability that we can just leave and hopefully they can just fight their own wars.
“That’s the goal. That we don’t have to send U.S. forces over there. The goal is to set up a sustaining, capable unit that can continue doing that same mission,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
In the wake of a startling report from the organization Open the Books showing massive federal government expenditures in the final month of the fiscal year, troops everywhere want you to know that they deserve steak and lobster every once in a while. But the Defense Department spending problems highlighted in the report may have little to do with surf and turf dinners.
The 32-page Open the Books report, published March 2019, showed the federal government as a whole spent an astounding $97 billion in September 2018 as the fiscal year was drawing to a close — up 16 percent from the previous fiscal year and 39 percent from fiscal 2015. DoD spending accounted for $61.2 billion of that spending spree, awarding “use-it-or-lose-it” contracts and buying, among other things, $4.6 million worth of crab and lobster and a Wexford leather club chair costing more than $9,300.
“This kind of waste has to stop. It’s an insult to taxpayers,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, tweeted, sharing a Fox Business story about the seafood buy.
Military veterans were quick to protest, however, saying the nice food is often used by military units to boost morale on grueling deployments or to soften the blow when bad news comes.
“Surf turf night was a regular thing even when I was in Iraq,” tweeted Maximilian Uriarte, a former Marine Corps infantryman and creator of the popular comic strip Terminal Lance. “Feeding troops lobster a few times a year is not a waste of money.”
Fred Wellman, a retired Army officer and the CEO of veteran-focused PR firm ScoutComms, also chimed in.
“Nothing that ever beat the morale boost like steak and lobster night downrange. Period,” he tweeted. “Taking care of the troops that you and your peers sent to war isn’t ‘waste.’ Gutlessly letting the war go without supervision of the actual effort is! But no…let’s take their good food.”
Focusing on the lobster, though, misses the point on how the Pentagon’s spending habits actually do troops a disservice, according to Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight.
“The lobster tail example captures one’s imagination, but that’s not where congressional oversight needs to focus,” Smithberger told Military.com. “As you see spending go up, you see the amount of this use-it-or-lose-it spending going up as well, and that’s really not to the good.”
She said the billions of expenditures demonstrated DoD efforts to “use money to paper over management problems.”
“None of our weapons systems are affordable and arriving on time; we can’t take care of military housing,” Smithberger said. “[There are] recruitment and retention problems; [the military] prioritizes procurement over training. As long as you keep having money thrown at these problems, people aren’t making tough decisions.”
For the Pentagon, the biggest year-end expenditure was professional services and support, accounting for .6 billion of spending in September 2018. Then came fixed-wing aircraft, a buy of .6 billion. Other top spending items include IT and telecom hardware services and support, .7 billion; combat ships and landing vessels, .9 billion; and guided missiles, nearly billion.
(US Navy photo by Dale M. Hopkins)
More than the individual items and services purchased, the biggest problem may be the way the spending happens — and the perverse incentives not to end up with leftover money at the end of the year, because it might negatively impact efforts to obtain funds the following year.
“Congress is a lot of the problem,” Smithberger said. “Appropriators look and see whatever is not spent, they take and use for their pet project.”
As the Pentagon budget request continues to balloon year after year, Smithberger said she’d like to see incentives to save money and a system that would keep planners from worrying about a loss of resources the following year.
“If the department showed that it was able to save tens of billions of dollars, they would have a more credible case for the topline,” she said.
There’s plenty of evidence, Smithberger said, that money alone doesn’t solve or prevent institutional problems. For example, she said, the Navy was making big investments in shipbuilding when two guided-missile destroyers collided with commercial ships in separate deadly incidents within months of each other in 2017. While investigations did cite scarcity of resources, training was found to be a major shortfall contributing to the disasters.
When it comes to defense spending, “it’s a lot of hollow rhetoric and it’s really costly when we decide to only express our support through appropriations and not through real decision-making and responsibility,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A new Russian laser weapon designed to instantly obliterate targets entered military service December 2018, the Russian defense ministry revealed.
Russia’s Peresvet laser system, named after the medieval warrior monk Alexander Peresvet, entered experimental combat duty on Dec. 1, 2018, the Russian defense ministry’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper reported Dec. 5, 2018.
The military began taking possession of the first shipments in 2017 as part of Russia’s ongoing military modernization program, according to The Moscow Times, and there is speculation the lasers could shoot down incoming missiles and airplanes.
Watch Russia unveil Peresvet laser system:Заступление на опытно-боевое дежурство новейших лазерных комплексов «Пересвет»
Russian President Vladimir Putin first announced the existence of this new laser weapon in March 2018 during his State of the Nation address, during which he briefly introduced the “Combat Laser Complex.”
“We have achieved significant progress in laser weapons,” he boasted, “It is not just a concept or a plan any more. It is not even in the early production stages. Since last year, our troops have been armed with laser weapons.”
“We are one step ahead our rivals,” Putin added without providing any evidence.
Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov offered a bit more information in an interview with Russian state media outlet TASS, explaining that the device could destroy targets “within fractions of a second.”
“We can talk a lot about laser weapons and movies were made about them a long time ago and fantastic books have been written, and everyone knows about this,” he introduced. “But, the fact that these systems have started entering service is indeed a today’s reality.”
The Russian defense ministry posted a video of the weapon in July 2018, before it had officially entered service.Боевой лазерный комплекс «Пересвет»
Not much is publicly known about the Peresvet combat laser system, as Sputnik, a Russian media outlet controlled by the government, noted. What exactly it does has been the subject of much speculation.
“It is expected to be an air-defense system that can track and shoot down hostile aircraft and missiles,” Sputnik explained, adding, “Some suggest it will be tasked with ‘blinding’ sophisticated enemy systems, making them inoperable.”
Other countries, like the US and China, are also developing directed energy platforms.
China unveiled the LW-30, a vehicle-based laser weapon built to quickly eliminate a variety of aerial targets, at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai in November 2018.
Experts speculated that the weapon designed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) could be deployed to the South China Sea.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
While the fall of the “caliphate,” as proclaimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, marked one ending in the Middle East, the fight against the Taliban continues. Between President Trump’s recently announced strategy and the MOAB making its combat debut, it’s clear that the gloves are coming off. But now, the Taliban are taking hits to their wallet.
ISIS used oil to raise money — the places they’d based out of (Iraq and Syria) were rich in the black liquid. However, Afghanistan, the base of operations for the Taliban, doesn’t have a drop. So, the Taliban turned to another means to generate income. After all, radical Islamic groups who harbor terrorists still need to make payroll every month.
To pay their fighters, the Taliban have turned to drug production. Specifically, they’re making heroin. A September 2017 article from the Quad City Times notes that two kilograms of black tar heroin seized in a bust was worth $600,000. While the Taliban likely doesn’t pocket 300 grand per kilo, the lower amount they do receive likely goes a long way in funding their operations.
Part of the strategy to weaken the Taliban has been to cut off their income. With Secretary of Defense James Mattis loosening rules of engagement, American troops now have a much freer hand when it comes to using artillery and air strikes. As a result, the Taliban’s drug labs have become fair game.
The video below shows how such strikes are being carried out in Afghanistan. A M142 HIMARS is used to send the Taliban’s drugs up in smoke. The HIMARS fired five of the six rockets it can carry. Based on the impacts, unitary warhead versions of the rockets were used in this particular strike. The Taliban will have to figure out if their fighters will accept smoke signals as payment.
Dressed in a gi with a purple belt, the flight crew chief with the 89th Maintenance Group then takes turns with the ABU-clad Ravens executing a fireman’s carry followed in rapid succession by throwing the opponent to the mat and a ground-grappling technique to wrench hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and forearms in a direction they were never designed to move.
They repeat the succession of moves, fine-tuning technique, until the desired effect on the opponent is achieved – pain and complete submission.
When Sosa, an instructor and competitor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, asks his students if they had any questions, a Raven poses a query not directly related to close-quarters hand-to-hand combat.
“What are those things in you ears?”
It gives Sosa a chance to explain another technique that allows him to absorb the strain and pain of competitive combat without the use of a pain medication that may change his operational status to “Duties Not Including Flying” (DNIF)– Battlefield acupuncture.
The five small gold needles in each of Sosa’s ears ensure his pain is under control prior to performing aircraft maintenance, pre-flight checks, and loading of C-40 and C-32 aircraft used to transport the Vice President, Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Defense, and the First Lady and other government agency heads, dignitaries, and diplomats from Joint Base Andrews to overseas destinations.
Performing his mission can often inflict as much pain as a jiu jitsu match.
“The wear and tear of being a crew chief on the C-40 comes from the long hours crossing over the pond, which is roughly around eight or nine hours sitting in the seat,” said Sosa. “You don’t have a lot of mobility in those seats, so a lot of strain in your lower back.”
“The cargo space is limited. When we carry high-profile passengers, such as the Vice President, they bring a lot of communications gear with them. You’re crouched over in a cargo compartment loading all these heavy Pelican cases. It’s like Tetris, maximizing that space you have a lot of (physical) strain and you tend to pull your back muscles or your quads from doing all that labor working in the cramped cargo compartment.”
Tech Sgt. Jessie Sosa performs a preflight check on the C-40 used to transport government officials and dignitaries at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Oct. 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
Western medicine would often dictate the prescribing of drugs, such as muscle relaxers or opioids, to control such severe back pain. However, those medications, which can alter mental capacity and judgment, would immediately disqualify Sosa from operational flight status, especially considering the importance of his passengers and cargo.
When Sosa’s work aches were combined with the pain of participating in combat sports, like wrestling and jiu jitsu, over-the-counter remedies offer little relief.
“I did yoga, Epsom salt baths, tried Bengay, any type of lotion that would help loosen up the muscle aches that I had. There’s nothing that worked,” said Sosa. “I can’t be drugged up while I’m working on Air Force Two, or teaching, because it blurs my vision. Being a mechanic you don’t want to have blurry vision on a mission. So basically, I just stay away from medications.”
Then Sosa discovered Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) through a co-worker who often used it for relief from strained joints and back pain while doing Cross-fit workouts.
Sosa sought out Dr. Thomas Piazza, a 22-year Air Force physician, who is now the director of the Air Force Acupuncture Program at the JBA Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Center, for a consultation.
Battlefield Acupuncture, which was developed by Dr. Richard Niemtzow, is a specific subset of the traditional acupuncture found in Eastern medicine. Small, semi-permanent, gold needles are applied to five points in each ear to provide effective and rapid pain management.
According to Piazza, Battlefield Acupuncture works because the majority of the sensory nerve connections from the body culminate in specific areas in the brain, which are in close proximity to the sensory fibers coming from the ears. The entire body, and its organs, has corresponding points mapped on our ears. Inserting a needle in a particular point on the ear will activate the nerves in its corresponding part of the body and alleviate pain.
The procedure has been greeted enthusiastically by the military not only because of its results, but also the ease of application, portability and training in its use.
“BFA, in its elegant simplicity, has been designed so that many people can use it,” said Piazza, who coordinates and performs BFA training across the military.
According to Dr. Stephen Burns, a 27-year Air Force veteran also working at the Air Force Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Center, the needles can be administered quickly and remain in for days while the patient returns to work with minimal discomfort.
“Generally speaking, we put a needle in and have the first-time patient walk around to make sure there are no side effects,” said Burns. “Even then, we can do a complete treatment in less than 10 minutes. If the personnel are really practiced, and the patient’s gotten many treatments, you are able to treat a person in two or three minutes. They (acupuncture treatments) have very profound effects for about 80, 85 percent of patients. They will usually reduce their pain by at least 50 percent. And it may last for a few days or sometimes weeks, sometimes longer.”
In the approximately 10,000 BFA treatments the doctors of the Air Force Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Center have performed, Piazza estimates that side effects occur in a very small percentage of patients.
“Euphoria is our most common side effect and it occurs around 5 percent of the time. Emotional response, ear irritation, and wooziness/dizziness occur a little less than 5 percent of the time and nausea, passing out (needle reaction), and worsening symptoms occur less than 2 percent of the time,” said Piazza. “Longer-term problems, such as infection, are extremely rare, much less than 1 percent.”
According to Burns, the effectiveness of BFA is not only the pain relief for patients, but also how it positively impacts manning and readiness.
“Say I have somebody that has migraine headaches and they have to pull guard duty, if I give this guy narcotics, he can’t work, he can’t use his weapon. But if I can put ear needles in him, and he feels like, “I feel great. I can go to work. I’m not drowsy,” then that’s a huge force multiplier,” said Burns.
“You can carry enough treatments for five, 10, 15 people in your BDUs,” said Burns. This has sparked interest in BFA within the community of Battlefield Airmen and other special forces, who see the treatment as way to maintain combat effectiveness.
If a team member is injured in combat and drugs to control pain must be administered, it may not only take the casualty out of the fight, but also one or more team members who must monitor and help remove the casualty.
During a training session with special-forces personnel, Burns was asked about just such a scenario.
“Right before the break somebody said, ‘Hey, Doc. Sometimes somebody gets shot and we have to put a tourniquet on him. When you put the tourniquet on him, after about a minute or two, they hurt so badly that somebody has to give that guy narcotics and then you got to watch him and make sure he’s breathing. Would this work?'”
“We put the tourniquets on and after about 30 seconds he says, ‘Yeah. That’s starting to hurt pretty good.’ After about a minute he’s like, ‘I can barely move my hands. This is killing me. I don’t think I could even grab a weapon’.
“We put in a needle and then the next needle in. I said ‘How do you feel?’ He said, ‘I don’t … That’s different. Wow.’ He’s starting to move his hands. I said, ‘Okay. Next needle, next needle.’ About 10 seconds apart, ‘Holy cow.’ He starts laughing and says, ‘Give me a weapon I think I could fire it.’ They showed themselves that, yeah, this could work.”
Despite the treatment’s name, the Air Force Surgeon General considers Battlefield Acupuncture a force readiness asset across all career fields. As such, BFA is a key component in the implementation of an Integrated Medicine approach throughout the force.
“The concept of integrative medicine is a philosophy based in traditional western medicine, but bringing in some techniques that we would consider alternative,” said Maj. Luanne Danes, a biomedical services corps fellow in the Air Force Surgeon General’s office. Her primary mission during her yearlong fellowship is to advance Integrative Medicine and Battlefield Acupuncture in the Air Force.
“The purpose of Battlefield Acupuncture is to provide another avenue for effective pain management. Something other than pills, like opioids. The benefit is that it’s non-addictive. There are no withdrawal symptoms. It’s very quick, painless, safe and effective. So, very much a better option instead of opioids. The surgeon general, congress, all of the DOD is trying to reduce our dependence and reliance on opioids,” said Danes.
Maj. Luanne Danes is a biomedical services fellow at the U.S. Air Force Surgeon General’s office at Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
“Reducing the dependence on narcotics, like Percocet, different opioids, those type of medicines, will absolutely benefit the aircrew fields, because that’s all downtime. If you are injured, and we need to put you on an opioid for pain management, that takes you out of rotation. You’re not going to fly until we get you fixed again, and we get you off of those opioids. With Battlefield Acupuncture, we can utilize the technique instead of the opioids and get you up flying again much more quickly.”
Sosa is living proof of the advantages of BFA to force readiness as he not only stays on the job aboard Air Force Two, but also continues to train the Ravens who provide security for his aircraft in jiu jitsu to complement their already formidable skill set.
“Ravens usually train for outside environments. Guarding the jet outside, but on Air Force Two, the Ravens are required to be inside and outside, so the jiu jitsu training is focused mostly on indoor, confined environments that will help them subdue a person that’s trying to damage the aircraft or hurt the personnel around them,” said Sosa.
While the close-combat training adds to the capabilities of the young Ravens, Sosa’s use of Battlefield Acupuncture is also teaching them that there is a way to manage pain while remaining mission ready.
“I’ve put my body through a lot; a lot of tournaments and a lot of flight hours sitting in one seat for eight hours,” said Sosa. “I am a huge believer in battlefield acupuncture because it definitely helps me stay in the fight.”
The US military says it shot down what it called an Iranian-made, armed drone in southern Syria.
A defense official says the drone was approaching a military camp near the Syria-Jordan border. That is where US forces have been training and advising local Syrian Arabs for the fight against Islamic State militants.
The official says the drone was considered a threat, and was shot down by a US F-15 fighter jet.
The official was not authorized to be quoted by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. The official says the drone was a Shaheed 129 and appeared to have been operated by “pro-regime” forces.
It was the second time this month that the US has shot down an armed drone in the vicinity of the camp at Tanf.
A Minnesota-based Army recruiter recently helped police arrest four suspected shoplifters while shopping at a local mall with his 10-month-old daughter.
Staff Sgt. Sean Oliva had been pushing his daughter in a stroller Feb. 24, 2019, inside the Southdale Mall in Edina, a Minneapolis suburb, when he saw a group of suspicious men leave an electronics store with several boxes of headphones worth thousands of dollars.
Store employees, he said, told the four men to stop, but they walked away toward the mall’s exit. Oliva said he pursued the men as the employees remained in the store to presumably call the police.
“I stayed at a safe enough distance, because I didn’t know if they had weapons,” said Oliva, the operations sergeant for the Minneapolis Army Recruiting Company.
Since the men were not running, Oliva was able to keep an eye on them the entire time without putting his daughter in harm’s way, the father of two said.
The suspects’ vehicle is seen here surrounded by police outside Southdale Mall.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Oliva)
But when the men exited the mall, Oliva thought they would get away. A friend of Oliva’s then offered to watch his daughter while he and her husband followed the men out into the parking lot to get a vehicle description for police.
“I ended up getting my phone out and was able to get pictures of the vehicle’s license plate and of the suspects,” said Oliva, who has previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a field artillery surveyor.
As the suspects’ vehicle began to flee the scene, Oliva flagged down a nearby police patrol car and a brief chase ensued. Another patrol car quickly intervened, he said, and cut off the escape route for the suspects’ car after it nearly hit two other moving vehicles in the parking lot.
Officers arrested four men aged 19 to 21 years old and charged them with felony shoplifting of nearly ,300 worth of electronics, according to Edina police records. One of the men was also charged with another felony for fleeing from police in a motor vehicle.
Staff Sgt. Sean Oliva with his wife, Jamie, at a recruiter training conference.
Police later told Oliva the electronics store had recently been targeted by shoplifters several times before.
“It was just like a duty for me,” Oliva said March 4, 2019. “Living the Army values is important to me. To be taught those values and to not intervene would have been going against them.”
Oliva, who became a recruiter in 2012, also tries to assist local youth in finding their future career path whether it be in the Army or elsewhere.
“It’s good to help others who either need direction or not sure what they want to do with their lives yet,” the sergeant said. ‘We kind of get to play a big role in helping them achieve their goals.”
His company commander, Capt. Michael Beck, said he was proud of the sergeant’s actions that day.
“More than anything, I think the fact that he’s representing the Army values in a public setting really shows the type of character of all the soldiers in the Army today,” he said.
Many other people, Beck said, may not have done anything to help apprehend the suspects.
“I think more and more frequently there are people who are just comfortable with being bystanders,” he said. “They don’t necessarily feel comfortable for standing up for what’s right.
“Sergeant Oliva didn’t really hesitant. He saw the opportunity to do the right thing.”