U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said April 20 he does not intend to discuss damage estimates from last week’s use of the military’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an Islamic State stronghold in Afghanistan.
On Jan. 25 the Pentagon said U.S. strikes in Yemen killed five al-Qaida fighters.
Mattis, who assumed office hours after President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, hasn’t publicly discussed such numbers. He said April 20 his view was colored by lessons learned from the Vietnam war, when exaggerated body counts undermined U.S. credibility.
“You all know the corrosive effect of that sort of metric back in the Vietnam war and it’s something that’s stayed with us all these years,” said Mattis, who was in Tel Aviv to meet Israeli government leaders on April 21.
He met April 20 with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
The publicity created by the bombing in Afghanistan caught many Pentagon leaders by surprise, leading to questions about whether U.S. commanders fully considered the strategic effects of some seemingly isolated decisions.
The Pentagon also has been criticized for its declaration that an aircraft carrier battle group was being diverted from Southeast Asia to waters off the Korean Peninsula, amid concern that North Korea might conduct a missile or nuclear test. The announcement led to misinformed speculation that the ships were in position to threaten strikes on North Korea.
Mattis said he is confident his commanders are properly weighing their actions.
For years and years, Special Operations Forces (SOF) has been the military equivalent of the easy button. And why not? Why commit a large force such as a Brigade in the 82nd with 5,000 soldiers, when you can commit SOF with a much smaller force? And this has been happening for years.
If history is any indicator, Special Operations Forces will be downsized and, more than likely, more troops will be brought home by the Biden Administration. Biden is less likely to pull the trigger on a bomb than Trump was, and will most probably have a more diplomatic approach when it comes to foreign policy.
Well, what about Iran and China? Yes, we always will have countries to worry about, but I don’t see giant troop movements to invade another country and I don’t believe we will anytime soon. I’m not sold on the right’s belief that we are on the cusp of WWIII.
In March 2008, Obama declared of Iraq, “When I am commander in chief, I will set a new goal on day one: I will end this war.”
In many ways, Obama kept his word. He ended Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom — the combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively, that Bush had passed down to him — and drastically reduced U.S. troop levels from their peaks in both countries. In the midst of the Arab Spring, the president led a limited military campaign against Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi with the support of the United Nations and a multinational coalition.
The Special Operations Budget
In 2000, our defense budget was a mere $300 billion. Today it’s more than doubled to over $700 billion. I foresee the Biden Administration cutting this by at least 10 percent by the end of his first term.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are over. Let’s think about supply and demand. We aren’t graduating as many Green Berets as we used to. Between 2012 and 2014, Special Forces was graduating between six and eight classes per year. That was a healthy number with 600 to 800 Green Berets heading to the Groups. Teams easily had 10 or more operators on them during this time. Nowadays, with only four starts per fiscal year, Special Forces is looking at half of those graduating numbers.
This includes training budgets as well. “Do more with less” has become a popular mantra. Let’s be honest, do special operators have to go to some exotic location to train when they can do it at home? Teams will argue that off-site training is the best (and I agree), but Special Forces soldiers can shoot, move, and communicate at their home base.
Putting a team in the middle of Africa, alone, with little to no support does help build relationships between the team. You get to know each other on a much deeper level. In Africa, my team lived in two tents. I mean, we knew who had sleep apnea for goodness sake. Being that far from anyone also instills a deep connection but you fully rely on each other to do the job, because you are all that you have. But there is a difference between need-to-have and nice-to-have.
Let’s get back to the basics, boys.
Changes to the Special Forces Companies
Special Forces Companies have six teams. That 6th team in the company might go away. If recruiting numbers continue to drop, Groups will be forced to either reduce the size or the number of teams. Some readers may remember when the 6th team was a ghost team, meaning nobody actually worked there.
The Geographic Combatant Command (GCC). There are currently 11 unified combatant commands that ultimately cover the entire globe. Each is established as the highest echelon of military commands to provide effective command and control of all U.S. military forces, regardless of branch of service, during peace or wartime.
The geographic commands have essentially two tasks: war planning and fighting, and military engagement programs. Both tasks are and will always be the Department of Defense and the military’s fundamental responsibilities.
These guys meet every two years and basically hash out the requirements and who can fill them.
If you were to ask the AFRICOM Commander General Stephen J. Townsend, he might say that we are not at war, the Africans are, and that the American population doesn’t have a taste for losing its soldiers in Africa. So the Army created the Security Forces Assistance Brigade (SFAB).
The SFAB concept is intended to relieve the Brigade Combat Teams of the combat advisory mission and enable them to focus on their primary combat mission.
There is definitely a fight in Africa, but we are generally there to advise and assist. Not the answer the Special Forces guy wants to hear. The young, eager captain will basically be trying to figure out how to get on target and get his gun on. Sorry, sir, probably not going to happen.
This would also include Special Forces missions.
SF is a tired force. However, this is currently improving with the mandated dwell times: one day gone away from home, two days at home. I do think that this needs some tweaking; however, generally speaking, after over a year of this being implemented, Group is figuring it out.
For this piece, I won’t go into how the State Department and the geopolitical landscape affects the military, but it’s worth mentioning. Most Ambassadors are State Department careerists. They don’t need some new Captain coming in every six months thinking he’s going to change the world and go kill a bunch of people, making his job tougher.
So Special Forces has fewer people going to selection and fewer people graduating. Our requirements overseas should be slowing down or are being forced to slow down by the mandatory dwell. Teams are either undermanned or borrowing from other teams to fill requirements.
Therefore, for now, a smaller SF force is a good thing. Everything comes in rotations, and I certainly believe within 10 more years, we will be in another conflict, and our numbers will go back up to meet the demand.
But for now, Special Operations cannot be the easy button it once was.
“Every Thanksgiving our culinary specialists take on the huge task of feeding our Sailors, and every year they succeed,” said NAVSUP Director of Navy Food Service Cmdr. Scott Wilson. “Being away from family and friends during this time of year isn’t easy, but that motivates our Culinary Specialists to provide a quality meal to our Sailors. The joy we see on Sailors’ faces makes all of the effort worth it.”
Thanksgiving Day will be observed as a federal holiday for most Department of the Navy personnel Thursday, Nov. 23.
NAVSUP’s mission is to provide supplies, services, and quality-of-life support to the Navy and joint warfighter. With headquarters in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and employing a diverse, worldwide workforce of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel, NAVSUP oversees logistics programs in the areas of supply operations, conventional ordnance, contracting, resale, fuel, transportation, and security assistance. In addition, NAVSUP is responsible for food service, postal services, Navy Exchanges, and movement of household goods.
The US Navy is looking at a number of ways to increase its presence in the Arctic around Alaska, including deployments of the service’s advanced maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, the Navy’s top civilian official said in December 2018.
Asked by Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan about the US presence in that part of the world, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 12, 2018, that the Navy was present under the sea and in the air and “looking at how we can get up there” in other capacities.
“If I had a blank check for everything, it’d be terrific, to ice-harden ships, but with the demand that we have right now, it is unaffordable,” Spencer said, adding that it would be possible to send assets up there seasonally as sea ice melts.
“You and I did go look on the coast up there for a potential strategic port,” Spencer told Sullivan. “I think the Coast Guard, in concert with the Navy, we should definitely flesh out what could possibly be done.”
A US Navy P-8 Poseidon.
“When it comes to using Alaska in the Arctic area for training, the commandant and I have talked about this — plans to go look at doing something this summer, possibly on Adak, for training,” Spencer added, referring Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, who was also at the hearing.
Spencer said he and Navy Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran “have talked about possible P-8 [deployments] up to Adak. There are definite training uses, and there’s definite ability to affect the National Defense Strategy with Arctic activity.”
The Navy and Marine Corps presence in Alaska is currently small, with some sailors and Marines stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, the latter personnel there as part of a reserve unit.
Marines have been deployed to Norway on a rotational basis since the beginning of 2017, and Oslo recently said that it would ask the US to increase their numbers and move them farther north, closer to that country’s border with Russia.
The Navy has also made moves toward higher latitudes, sending an aircraft carrier above the Arctic Circle for the first time since the early 1990s as part of NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture, which took place in October and November 2018. Navy officials have stressed that they intend to be more active in the Arctic going forward.
Neller has emphasized that his command is focusing on training for harsh conditions.
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment disembark an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter after a simulated raid on Indian Mountain radar system as part of Exercise Arctic Edge 18 at Fort Greely, Alaska, March 12, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brianna Gaudi)
In March 2018, Marines joined soldiers, sailors, and airmen in Alaska for Arctic Edge 2018, where they trained “to fight and win in the Arctic,” the head of Alaskan Command, Air Force Lt. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, said at the time.
A few weeks after that exercise, Neller told Sullivan during a Senate hearing that the Marines “have gotten back into the cold-weather business.” In August 2018, while traveling through Alaska with Spencer, Sullivan said that the Marine Corps was “looking at spending a lot more time in Alaska.”
Adak Island is at the western edge of the Aleutian Islands. The naval facility, which was on the northern side of the island, took up more than 76,000 acres and was an important base for submarine surveillance during the Cold War.
The airstrip there has been in commercial use since the Navy shut down military operations in 1997.
Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, left, meets with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, right, in Nome to discuss the construction of deep-draft ports in western Alaska, Aug. 13, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco)
The Navy is currently grappling with operational and maintenance challenges brought on by more than two decades of continuous operations around the world — a situation that has been complicated by discussions of expansion and by uncertainty about its budget in the future as it builds new supercarriers and designs a new generation of ballistic missile subs that will carry nuclear warheads.
Returning to Alaska would present an array challenges, according to Jeffrey Barker, a deputy branch head for policy and posture on the chief of naval operation’s staff.
US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 man their workstations while assisting in search and rescue operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 March 16, 2014 in the Indian Ocean.
(US Navy photo)
“We want to be agile, but sustainability is key,” Barker said at the beginning of December 2018 during a Wilson Center event focused on the Arctic. “We don’t really want to do anything if we can’t sustain it, so that’s a huge part of that, and the infrastructure to that.”
“When Secretary Spencer went around Alaska, he was asked a lot of questions, and he asked us a lot of questions about how much would it cost to go back to Adak,” Barker said. “He was shocked — gobsmacked is what he said — when the report that we gave him said id=”listicle-2623753290″.3 billion.”
Barker said that Spencer clarified that he only wanted to use the facility “for a couple of weeks here and there,” and when asked about the plan after the hearing on Dec. 12, 2018, Spencer said the base was up to that task.
“The airstrip is in great shape,” he told Breaking Defense, which first reported his comments about a potential P-8 deployment. Spencer added that the Navy may have to pay to clean up one of the hangars.
But the airport, he said, “has a fuel farm up there that Air Alaska is using to fuel its planes. It has de-icing platforms that we could use for fresh water washdowns for the P-8. They have lodging up there that is supposedly coming forward to us on a rental availability, so it really isn’t a big bill.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Army must continue to improve and evolve to face ever-changing threats.
Mattis said the Army is the greatest in the world, but it must adapt to emerging domains in space and cyberwarfare and new weapons.
“We have to make sure we aren’t dominant and irrelevant at the same time,” he said.
Citing Iran’s support of terrorism in the Middle East, North Korea’s saber-rattling in the Pacific, and Russian meddling in US elections, Mattis said the international threats facing the nation were the most complex and demanding than he has seen in decades of service.
He said the Army was facing new challenges overseas and at home, where budget constraints continue to hinder planning and modernization.
Mattis said he has confidence in Congress to do what is best for the country, but no confidence in the automatic budget cuts it created several years ago.
“I want Congress back in the driver seat of budget decisions, not the spectator seat of automatic cuts,” he said.
Mattis was the keynote speaker for the opening ceremony of the annual meeting and exposition of the Association of the United States Army, which began Oct. 9 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington.
The three-day event brings together defense industry leaders, high-ranking Army officials, and others for professional development and discussions on the Army’s role in national defense. More than 26,000 attendees preregistered this year, along with representatives from 70 nations.
Mattis reiterated the remarks of other defense leaders who have stressed that the Army’s priority is readiness.
He said the Army must be striving to improve itself, “assuming every week in the Army is a week to get better.”
“We need you at the top of your game in body, mind, and spirit,” Mattis said.
The former Marine Corps general said the Army could look to the past when preparing for the future.
He said the military learned the hard way in the build-up to World War I that readiness was not something that could be achieved in a short amount of time.
“We know too well the costs of not being ready,” Mattis said.
Mattis said preparing for war was the best way to prevent war. He also reassured the nation’s allies in Europe and the Pacific that the Army would be there to help them if needed.
“We are with you,” he said.
On one of the most pressing threats — North Korea — Mattis said the military was not yet at the forefront.
“It is right now a diplomatically led, economic sanction-buttressed effort,” he said. But, Mattis said, that could change.
“You have got to be ready to ensure we have military options that our president can employ if needed,” he said.
Following Mattis’ remarks, officials presented several AUSA national awards, honoring former Department of Veterans Affairs secretary and retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki; former president of the National Guard Association of the United States and retired Maj.Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr.; retired Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson; retired Sgt. Maj. Todd B. Hunter and others.
The first day of the annual meeting includes several discussions involving Fort Bragg leaders.
During a breakfast honoring members of the National Guard and Army Reserve, Gen. Robert B. “Abe” Abrams said those soldiers were integral to the readiness of the total Army.
Abrams is the commanding general of US Army Forces Command, headquartered at Fort Bragg. The command is the largest in the nation, charged with preparing forces for combat commanders around the globe.
“Our job as professionals is to be ready now,” Abrams said. “I hope no one is mistaken, we are not in an interwar period.”
In the afternoon, Abrams is to participate in another discussion, during a forum titled, “Ready Now.”
He’ll be part of a panel that also will include Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division; and Col. Christopher Norrie, chief of the operations group at the National Training Center.
The following is an Op/Ed written by Ken Falke. The opinions expressed are his own.
There’s an important day of commemoration on March 29th — or in some U.S. States, March 30th — that goes unnoticed until the nightly evening news or a stumble on social media. This very special day is Vietnam Veterans Day, or in some states, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.”
In 1974, President Nixon established this commemoration to recognize the contributions of the men and women who served during this unpopular war and tumultuous time in our history.
Vietnam War memorial. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons | InSapphoWeTrust)
While many will rightly mark the day with speeches, tributes, and celebrations fitting for this great generation, there is a more meaningful way to honor our Vietnam veterans and all veterans. That honor is to provide them new and innovative ways to improve their mental wellness and reintegration into their communities.
Approximately 2.7 million young men and women served in Vietnam — about the same number that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2001. While all serving since 9/11 volunteered, few realize that almost two-thirds of Vietnam veterans volunteered to serve as well.
Even though Vietnam was an unpopular war, 91 percent of Vietnam Veterans said they were glad they served in the war, and one-quarter said they would do it again. What these numbers show is the incredible commitment to service that our Vietnam-era veterans share with the post-9/11 veteran generation.
But there are disturbing similarities as well. The current veteran suicide rate of 20+ per day is well publicized; though that the average age of the veteran is 55 years old is less known. PTSD rates from both generations hover around 30 percent.
Additionally, Vietnam veterans struggled — and many still do — with the same challenges that today’s veterans face: PTSD, anxiety, drug, and alcohol dependency, and family and work stability. By a percentage comparison, of the 591 Vietnam prisoners of war (POWs) only 4 percent had symptoms of PTSD.
So why did POWs who experience what would be considered the most traumatic experiences seem to fare so well?
Many suggest the leadership of Admiral James Stockdale while a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton.” His leadership provided purpose, mission, and direction as a team to “return with honor.”
Often, the sense of purpose provided by leadership during transitions facilitates growth to occur. While the DOD, the VA, and other organizations work hard to care for our veterans, the element of leadership seems to be lost after service and veterans fall into a “no-man’s land” that lacks wellness, a clear mission, and renewed purpose.
Why have we made so little progress in mental wellness for our returning warriors?
Many experts, including the Journal of American Medical Association, suggest that our reactive approach to combat related stress such as PTSD doesn’t work. Indicators show that our current approach has made little progress since the Vietnam War, and some suggest since World War I.
We are repeating minimally effective practices where veterans are offered medication, which largely attacks symptoms and leaves them as diminished versions of themselves, or talk-therapy provided by well-intended but often ill-equipped therapists, and cased in stigma.
Though the VA has announced plans to hire 1,000 additional mental health professionals, more therapists will not fix the inadequacies of the current approaches.
How can we do better?
First, expand public-private partnerships. The private sector and nonprofit organizations have developed new approaches to veteran wellness and reintegration that could be expanded. These approaches leverage training (which is compatible with military personnel and veteran culture) and new technology that could “triage” veterans and provide skills to facilitate Post-traumatic Growth before the need for medication or therapy.
Second, we need to recognize and address the stigma associated with therapy. While veterans — and civilians — can gain some benefit from talk-therapy and medication, one can only grow by learning the skills associated with growth. This requires a holistic training approach that veterans understand and allows them to thrive, not just survive.
Finally, innovation costs money. The President’s proposed budget has a 6 percent increase to the VA’s budget; much of it to focus on health care. While this is positive, we need to use new funds to create innovative solutions, not further outdated practices. While the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continue and future threats remain, veteran mental health issues will likely worsen.
This March 29th and 30th we will stop to honor and welcome home our Vietnam veterans. While speeches, ceremonies, and commemorations will recognize their sacrifice, to truly honor their service — and the service of those that follow — we should facilitate growth and purposeful lives they truly deserve and welcomes them home.
French historian, Antonin DeHays, who stole almost 300 U.S. dog tags from fallen Airmen and around 134 other items, which included identification cards, a bible, and pieces of downed US aircraft, has been sentenced to 364 days in prison.
Approximately 291 Dog Tags and 134 other items were sneaked out by Antonin DeHays during his visits to the National Archives in College Park in Maryland. All of the dog tags belonged to fallen airmen who fell in Europe in 1944. Those tags bore the cruelties of war and Antonin DeHays made advantage of that when selling these items online.
“Burnt, and show some stains of fuel, blood… very powerful items that witness the violence of the crash,” DeHays told a potential buyer in a text message.
On another dog tag, he texted a potential buyer that the item was “salty” or visibly war-damaged while also marketing the “partially burned” appearance of a Red Cross identification card.
Not only did he sell most of the items, some of the items were used as a trade in return for rare experiences. He gave a brass dog tag to a military aviation museum in exchange for the chance to sit inside a Spitfire airplane, according to the Department of Justice.
On April 9, 2018, a federal judge in Maryland sentenced DeHays to 364 days in prison for the theft of government records, and ordered him to pay more than $43,000 in restitution to the unwitting buyers who purchased the stolen goods.
So what would it look like if an American and Chinese fleet went to blows in the western Pacific? While the U.S. could win the seapower contest, China has enough land-based assets in the area to more than make up the difference.
The fighting would likely start with an innocent mistake during a freedom of navigation operation conducted by the U.S. Navy such as the planned deployment of the USS Carl Vinson. Vinson is headed into the South China Sea along with two destroyers, the USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, and the cruiser USS Lake Champlain.
Meanwhile, China’s aircraft carrier Liaoningdeployed to the South China Sea in late 2016/early 2017 with three guided-missile destroyers, two guided-missile frigates, an anti-submarine corvette, and an oiler.
If the two forces came to blows, the American force would enjoy an initial advantage despite the Chinese numerical superiority. That’s because America’s air wings on the carrier are vastly more capable than China’s.
They would be facing off against Carrier Air Wing 2, the air wing currently assigned to the Vinson. Air Wing 2 has three strike fighter squadrons — 2, 34, and 137 — which fly 10-12 F/A-18 Hornets each. They have approximately 34 Hornets which would be supported by the four E-2C Hawkeye early warning radar planes of the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113.
The entire force would also be supported by the EA-18G Growlers of Electronic Attack Squadron 136.
So 13 Chinese fighters would fly partially blind and with limited weapons against approximately 34 American fighters backed up by early warning radar and electronic attack aircraft. The American forces would annihilate the Chinese.
Which they would have to do, because the Americans need all that firepower still available to take out the more plentiful ships of the Chinese strike group.
The Growlers would be essential to limiting the anti-air capabilities of the five guided-missile ships — all of which carry anti-air missiles — and the Liaoning which carries the Type 1130 close-in weapons system which is potentially capable of firing 10,000 rounds per minute at missiles and aircraft attacking it.
The Hornets could be joined by the MH-60Rs of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 and the MH-60Ss of Helicopter Sea Squadron 4, but the Navy may prefer to keep the helicopters in reserve.
In the not-so-distant future, the pilots would likely receive the Harpoon Block II with a 134-nautical mile range. That’s long enough that the planes could fire on the guided-missile ships from just outside of their long-range surface-to-air missiles, the HQ-9 with its 108-nautical mile range.
But if the Vinson is stuck with just the earlier Harpoons, those have only a 67-nautical mile range. While the Hornets could still get the job done, they’d have to fly near the surface of the ocean, pop up and fire their missiles, and then evade any incoming missiles as they make their escape.
Still, they could destroy the Chinese fleet, even if they lose a couple of Hornets in the attack.
But the American fleet would then need to withdraw, because Chinese planes and missiles from the Spratly and Paracel islands could strike at the carrier fleet almost anywhere it went in the South China Sea.
While the American strike group could complete a fighting withdrawal — hitting all known locations of Chinese missile batteries within range using land-attack missiles from the cruiser and destroyers — the group just doesn’t have the firepower to really try to take out all of China’s militarized islands and reefs.
So, rather than go on the attack, the carrier group would likely use its Standard Missiles for ship defense and withdraw out of range. If a battle this size took place, it would surely be the start of a major war.
Better to save the Vinson and bring it back later with another strike group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit that can take and hold the ground after the Tomahawk missiles, Harriers, and Hornets soften the islands up.
The unnamed NGA employee — whose work does not involve unmanned aerial vehicles — was off-duty at the time and self-reported the incident to the Secret Service the following day.
NBC News has more:
Law enforcement officials say an employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency turned himself in after losing track of the drone while testing it in bad weather. He said he did not realize the unmanned aerial device landed at the White House until he saw news reports the next morning.
President Obama was not present at The White House during the incident, as he is currently traveling in India. When asked about the drone which he said you can “buy in Radio Shack,” Obama pushed for drone regulations.
“You know that there are companies like Amazon that are talking about using small drones to deliver packages … There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife.” Obama told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. “But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it.”
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Ronald L. Green, shared his second video message to Marines as part of the Own It! campaign. In the video, he calls for Marines to “look around you and see who might be struggling and ask them, how can I help?” Own It! is a Marine Corps awareness campaign designed to provide tips to Marines on how to start tough conversations with fellow Marines.
“We all need to support each other in protecting what we’ve earned. So, if you see something, do something, and help our Marine Corps family be safe and ready for the next fight,” said Sgt. Maj. Green.
Marines and their families can join the conversation by texting OWNIT to 555-888.
By texting OWNIT, participants will receive links to resources that will guide them on how to have a tough conversation with a Marine Corps family member about difficult situations like suicide, consent, rejection, bullying, substance abuse, as well as family issues including relationship red flags, divorce, child abuse, or the unexpected death of a loved one. These tip sheets are available at www.usmc-mccs.org/ownit.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
It was another assignment for Pfcs. Marco Garcia and Jovany Castillo, two soldiers inching toward completing the second phase of the Army’s Practical Nurse Course at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. The basic task of measuring vital signs of patients at a local hospital was the assignment, an important but mundane task for health care professionals. Little did they know, their training would be tested in an unforeseen way.
Castillo and Garcia had been together throughout their Army journey since enlisting in October 2017. Together they had endured Army basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, went on to Advanced Individual Training for the first phase of the Practical Nurse Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and ended up at Fort Bliss, Texas for the final phase of the course before arriving to their first permanent assignment.
Working alongside each other, the two soldiers made their rounds through patients, mostly children, checking temperatures, blood pressure and pulses.
“We were going around the department, and went into one room where a [toddler] was sitting up in a chair, watching TV eating cereal,” explained Castillo, 25 and native of Huntington Beach, California. “Mom was right behind her on her phone, so we asked if it was alright to get the [patient’s] vitals.”
After consenting, the two began recording the patient’s vitals as they had practiced dozens of times before.
“One thing we’re taught is to interact with the patient, even if it’s an infant,” said Garcia, 26 and native of Spring, Texas. “[The patient] was placing a lot of cereal in their mouth, so we let the mom know but said [the toddler] was okay.”
Moments later, while the two soldiers were still checking the patient, the child began to gasp for air, as the excess cereal had apparently obstructed her airway, springing the two soldiers to action.
“For a second I thought ‘Is this really happening?’ but right away I went to the baby, while [Garcia] went to go get help,” said Castillo. “I was in shock a little, but got over it right away.”
“We looked at each other and [Castillo] went over to help,” said Garcia. “Since he was helping, I went to get a nurse. I trusted him, I knew he was going to do what he needed to do.”
According to Castillo, the patient’s mother had picked up the patient and began tapping the back of the patient in a manner that would have further lodged the obstruction into the trachea, so he instructed her on proper infant choking procedures while assisting the child.
“[The mother] had the baby, I just adjusted her hands and showed her the correct position, then I started tapping the baby’s back,” said Castillo. “Honestly, those were the longest three or four seconds of my life because I was so scared for the little baby. I kept on [patting her back] until I finally heard her take a breath and that’s when I was relieved.”
“When I got back the baby was crying the nurses checked on the baby and made sure everything was okay,” said Garcia.
“It was quick thinking on [the soldiers’] part,” said Robyn Gerbitz, a Registered Nurse and one of the Practical Nurse Course Instructors at WBAMC. “They took the initiative immediately, we could have had a very bad [outcome].”
One of Gerbitz’ lessons for new soldiers includes introducing them to the mantra, “respiratory leads to cardiac,” defining the link between pulmonary and cardiac arrests due to buildup of carbonic acid and lowered oxygen levels in the bloodstream.
“We do a lot of hands-on work in clinical rotations,” said Gerbitz. “These guys are quick thinkers, I’m very proud of them.”
Whether Garcia and Castillo’s quick reaction was a reflection of their medical training kicking in is not certain, since the two soldiers are still weeks away from completing the rigorous 58-week curriculum.
“Instructors make sure we understand and are well equipped to deal with such situations,” said Castillo. “For me, it kind of just happened and I’m happy the way things turned out, it was a rush.”
Before joining the Army, Castillo was going to college while working at a fast food restaurant and Garcia worked with produce at a grocery store. Neither soldier ever thought they would be saving someone’s life just a year into their military service.
“It’s definitely something I joined to do, to help people,” said Garcia. “You learn something new every day. This is a stepping stone for sure.”
After ensuring the baby was stable, the pair just went about their duties and continued checking other patients’ vitals.
“I had just walked in and the nurses told me about the situation,” said Gerbitz. “The director [of the local hospital] recognized the Soldiers right then and there. They reacted humbly, went about their duties. I believe wherever they go, they’re going to make good nurses.”
Harley-Davidson, long a big supporter of U.S. veterans, announced that it is extending free training at its riding academy through next year for members of the military.
The program is now available to active-duty, retired, reservists and veterans. The free training was first offered earlier this year prior to Armed Forces Day aboard the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier in Charleston, S.C.
“Thousands of members of the military have learned to ride through the program so far,” Christian Walters, Harley Davidson’s managing director and an Army Special Operations Aviation officer, said in a statement this month. “We’re proud to extend this opportunity in 2016 so even more military personnel can enjoy the very freedom they protect.”
Never ridden before? No problem. As the company says “Great riders aren’t born. They’re made.”
The New Rider Course is designed to get newbies comfortable on a bike and ensure they have got the skills to get the license and start riding. The course features Harley-Davidson certified coaches who will provide expert guidance.
If a riding academy is not available in your particular area, then you can attend another certified motorcycle safety program and Harley-Davidson will reimburse you.
Deployed outside the US? Not a problem. If you’re currently abroad, then submit the form by December 31, 2016. The company will send you a voucher for free motorcycle safety training that can be used when you return home. It will be good through 2017.
The free training is part of the company’s wide ranging support for veterans. To date, Harley-Davidson has donated more than $1 million to support those who serve through fundraising initiatives, the Harley-Davidson Foundation and the Operation Personal Freedom MotorClothes collection.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.
As the Syrian military begins its push to take back opposition-held areas in northwestern Syria, Russia has provided backing through an intensifying aerial campaign.
Among the planes Moscow has used to back the Syrian military’s attempted advance is a Russian combat aircraft that some have compared to the US’s venerated A-10 Warthog.
The Russian Su-25 Frogfoot is a low-flying tank-like plane that specializes in providing aerial cover and attacking ground targets.
The Frogfoot is a sturdy plane, and according to The National Interest, the plane can keep flying after suffering damage while striking targets with precision-guided munitions.
These systems make it ideal for the kind of operation that the Assad regime and its Russian partners are trying to launch against the opposition.
“The Russian air force will use the Frogfoots to support the Assad regime in the same way the USAF is using the A-10 Warthog to support the Iraqi government,” a former US Air Force aviator told The National Interest.
Russian state-owned media outlet RT reports that since Tuesday Kremlin forces have carried out 40 airstrikes against rebel and ISIS forces throughout five Syrian provinces. The majority of these strikes occurred around the city of Aleppo and in the neighboring province of Idlib, which is completely under opposition control.
At the same time as these airstrikes, the Assad regime is massing a large counter-attack against rebel forces in Idlib, Hama, and Aleppo. The regime offensive initially stalled last week after rebels armed with anti-tank missiles destroyed several Syrian armored vehicles.
Russia launched airstrikes ahead of the Syrian military advance. Iran has also sent additional soldiers to Syria to help bolster the government around Hama, and to prepare for a possible offensive against Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
In the past, Saudi Arabia and other US allies have suggested funneling man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs) to the Syrian rebels to help shoot down Syrian, and now Russian, fighter jets.
MANPADs are relatively easy-to-use shoulder-launched missiles that could prove to be of pivotal importance against low-flying aircraft, like Russia’s Su-25s.
During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA provided Stinger missiles to anti-Soviet forces, weapons that allowed the mujahedeen to down enemy transport planes and attack helicopters. The use of the missiles bogged down Soviet forces and led to an eventual Soviet withdrawal from the country.
The US has consistently opposed the idea of providing MANPADs and other anti-aircraft weaponry to Syrian rebels, as the weapons could conceivably end up in the hands of al Qaeda or its affiliates and could be used to down a civilian airliner or a US military aircraft.
At least for now, the Frogfoots are largely uncontested in Syria’s skies.