Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

A group of Microsoft employees are demanding that the company’s leadership abandon a contract with the US Army that they say makes them into “war profiteers” — a contract that relates to Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality technology.

On Feb. 22, 2019, a group of workers at the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant released an open letter in which they slammed a $749 million contract the company holds to develop an “Integrated Visual Augmentation System” (IVAS) to build “a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries.”


“We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” the letter reads. “As employees and shareholders we do not want to become war profiteers. To that end, we believe that Microsoft must stop in its activities to empower the U.S. Army’s ability to cause harm and violence.”

Fifty employees have signed the letter so far, and organizers say that number is expected to grow.

The organized action comes just days before Microsoft is widely expected to unveil a new HoloLens headset at the Mobile World Congress technology conference in Europe and is a sign of the rising tide of labor activism in the American technology industry.

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

HoloLens.

(Flickr photo by Franklin Heijnen)

“We are going public with the demand to cancel the Hololens DoD contract because we want our voices to be heard on this life or death matter,” a Microsoft worker who asked to remain anonymous told Business Insider. “We haven’t heard back from Microsoft officially, or from any execs at this point — we’re hoping this open letter will help get us a response.”

Microsoft employees have also protested company bids for other military contracts before. And multiple other tech companies have also been roiled by protests over military applications of their technology over the last year.

In June 2018, Google canceled a US military contract after internal uproar. Amazon has also faced protests over military contracts, though CEO Jeff Bezos has said the company has no plans to end them — even implicitly rebuking Google for its actions as unpatriotic. “If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Bezos said in October 2018.

The same anonymous Microsoft worker challenged this argument, saying: “Jeff Bezos and other tech execs reap massive profits from military contracts. Patriotism is just a front. If we look at who benefits, it is certainly not the individual engineers working at these companies.”

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

In a statement, Microsoft spokesperson Liz Reisen said: “We gave this issue careful consideration and outlined our perspective in an October 2018 blog. We always appreciate feedback from employees and provide many avenues for their voices to be heard. In fact, we heard from many employees throughout the fall. As we said then, we’re committed to providing our technology to the U.S. Department of Defense, which includes the U.S. Army under this contract. As we’ve also said, we’ll remain engaged as an active corporate citizen in addressing the important ethical and public policy issues relating to AI and the military.”

Here’s the full letter:

“Dear Satya Nadella and Brad Smith,

“We are a global coalition of Microsoft workers, and we refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression. We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.

“In November, Microsoft was awarded the 9 million Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) contract with the United States Department of the Army. The contract’s stated objective is to ‘rapidly develop, test, and manufacture a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries.’ Microsoft intends to apply its HoloLens augmented reality technology to this purpose. While the company has previously licensed tech to the U.S. Military, it has never crossed the line into weapons development. With this contract, it does. The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.

“Intent to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology.

“We demand that Microsoft:

“1) Cancel the IVAS contract;

“2) Cease developing any and all weapons technologies, and draft a public-facing acceptable use policy clarifying this commitment;

“3) Appoint an independent, external ethics review board with the power to enforce and publicly validate compliance with its acceptable use policy.

“Although a review process exists for ethics in AI, AETHER, it is opaque to Microsoft workers, and clearly not robust enough to prevent weapons development, as the IVAS contract demonstrates. Without such a policy, Microsoft fails to inform its engineers on the intent of the software they are building. Such a policy would also enable workers and the public to hold Microsoft accountable.

“Brad Smith’s suggestion that employees concerned about working on unethical projects ‘would be allowed to move to other work within the company’ ignores the problem that workers are not properly informed of the use of their work. There are many engineers who contributed to HoloLens before this contract even existed, believing it would be used to help architects and engineers build buildings and cars, to help teach people how to perform surgery or play the piano, to push the boundaries of gaming, and to connect with the Mars Rover (RIP). These engineers have now lost their ability to make decisions about what they work on, instead finding themselves implicated as war profiteers.

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

Mars Rover.

(NASA)

“Microsoft’s guidelines on accessibility and security go above and beyond because we care about our customers. We ask for the same approach to a policy on ethics and acceptable use of our technology. Making our products accessible to all audiences has required us to be proactive and unwavering about inclusion. If we don’t make the same commitment to be ethical, we won’t be. We must design against abuse and the potential to cause violence and harm.

“Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to do more. But implicit in that statement, we believe it is also Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to do good. We also need to be mindful of who we’re empowering and what we’re empowering them to do. Extending this core mission to encompass warfare and disempower Microsoft employees, is disingenuous, as ‘every person’ also means empowering us. As employees and shareholders we do not want to become war profiteers. To that end, we believe that Microsoft must stop in its activities to empower the U.S. Army’s ability to cause harm and violence.

“Microsoft Workers”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These hot rod racers are made from military drop tanks

Military drop tanks are attached under fighters and bombers, giving them extra fuel to extend their range, but easily falling away if the plane gets in a fight and needs to prioritize agility and weight over range. The drop tanks are light, aerodynamic, empty shells when not filled with fuel, and that actually makes them a great starting point for hot rods.


Why Warplane Fuel Tanks Make Great Hot Rods

www.youtube.com

And the hot rod community noticed these tanks during the Cold War, with some innovative spirits snapping them up to create tiny, fast cars. Now, these “lakesters” are quick racers that humans will cram themselves into to race across salt flats and other courses.

Many of these racers are made from World War II tanks like those used on the P-38 Lightning, the plane the F-35 Lightning II is named for. The P-38’s drop tanks were made of steel, like many of them in World War II, and its 300-gallon capacity was just big enough to allow for a motor and driver.

Getting ahold of a steel drop tank to convert was easy for a few decades after World War II, but enthusiasts now have to look harder for longer to find one of the few remaining, unconverted drop tanks.

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

A P-38 Lightning with its drop tanks during World War II.

(Public domain)

And they aren’t likely to get much help from the military. Modern militaries have often opted for more exotic materials for new drop tanks, reducing their weight and, therefore, the fuel usage of the plane. A lighter drop tank costs less fuel, and so provides more range, but the composite materials aren’t always great for racers.

It will only get worse, too. Drop tanks have a massive drawback for modern planes: They increase the plane’s radar signature while reducing the number of weapons it can carry. So the military and the aviation industry are shifting away from drop tanks, opting instead for “conformal fuel tanks.”

These are auxiliary tanks made to fit like a new, larger skin on an existing plane. They’re a little harder to install, and they can’t be jettisoned in flight, but they extend range with less drag and a much lower radar penalty. And they can be packed tighter to the body of the jet, allowing the plane to keep more of its agility than it would have with heavy tanks hanging from its wings.

Sorry, racers. Keep looking for the World War II-classics.

MIGHTY CULTURE

NASA just researched the perfect midday nap

Everyone gets that “2:30 feeling.” Military personnel happen to get it at all times of day. Maybe you’re on mids. Maybe you’re in transit from Afghanistan to Japan. Or maybe you’re being punished for doing something stupid. It happens. But we don’t always have access to Five Hour Energy shots, and sometimes coffee isn’t cutting it. The best thing to do is give in: have your battle cover you while you rack out for a few minutes.

Or maybe fifteen? A half-hour? A full hour? How long is the proper power nap? Thanks to NASA, we have the answer.


Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

“We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t… what? We can? Oh, thanks, NASA.”

There’s no shame in needing a little afternoon siesta. Anyone who swears by the power nap will tell you that nodding off for a few minutes can revive them for hours. Just don’t let the First Sergeant catch you. But if you can get away with it on duty, you (and your coworkers) will be grateful to find you more productive and operating at a higher level. It’s a natural part of human circadian rhythm, you’re going to be intensely sleepy twice per day. You can’t stop it, none of us can.

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

So stop blaming the turkey already.

NASA’s research showed that naps really can fully restore cognitive function at the same rate as a full night’s sleep. The space agency found that pilots who slept in the cockpit for 26 minutes showed alertness improvements of up to 54 percent and job performance improvements by 34 percent, compared to pilots who didn’t nap. But 26 minutes might be a little long.

“Napping leads to improvements in mood, alertness and performance [such as] reaction time, attention, and memory,” according to Kimberly Cote, Ph.D, Professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brock University, who co-authored a similar study with researcher Catherine Milner. “Longer naps will allow you to enter deeper sleep, which will contribute to the grogginess — also called sleep inertia — experienced upon awakening and disrupt nighttime sleep.”

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

The worst part is when you wake up and you’re still in Afghanistan.

Cote and NASA suggest taking power naps between 10 and 20 minutes long. You’ll get the most benefit from a sleep cycle without any of the grogginess associated with longer sleeping periods. You don’t need to get through all five sleep stages, just the first two. Even just getting to stage 2 sleep for a few minutes will revive a napper enough to give him or her a new outlook on the day.

So get cozy and rack out for a few. It’s actually better for everyone.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army says artificial intelligence could be a game changer

The Army is looking at artificial intelligence to increase lethality, and a senior Army official said the key to A.I. is keeping a proper level of decision-making in the hands of soldiers.

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Dr. Bruce Jette spoke about artificial intelligence, modernization and acquisition reform Jan. 10, 2019, at a Defense Writers Group breakfast.


Jette said response times against enemy fire could be a crucial element in determining the outcome of a battle, and A.I. could definitely assist with that.

“A.I. is critically important,” he said. “You’ll hear a theme inside of ASA(ALT), ‘time is a weapon.’ That’s one of the aspects that we’re looking at with respect to A.I.”

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

Dr. Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, discusses artificial intelligence and modernization with reporters at the Defense Writer’s Group breakfast Jan. 10, 2019.

(Photo by Joe Lacden)

Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy has been very active in positioning the Army so that it can pick up such critical new technology, Jette said.

Artificial intelligence technology will play a crucial role in the service’s modernization efforts, Jette said, and should incrementally increase response times.

“Let’s say you fire a bunch of artillery at me and I can shoot those rounds down and you require a man in the loop for every one of the shots,” Jette said. “There’s not enough men to put in the loop to get them done fast enough,” but he added AI could be the answer.

He said the service must weigh how to create a command and control system that will judiciously take advantage of the crucial speed that technology provides.

A.I. research and development is being boosted by creation of the Army Futures Command, Jette said.

Smoother process

One year after the Army revamped itself under the guidance of Secretary Mark T. Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, the service has seen significant improvements in the acquisition process, Jette said.

The Army identified six modernization priorities and created new cross-functional teams under Futures Command, to help speed acquisition of critical systems.

One change involves senior leaders meeting each Monday afternoon to assess and evaluate a different modernization priority. Jette said those meetings have resulted in a singular focus on modernization programs.

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

Artificial intelligence, robotics and advanced manufacturing were the theme of the April-June 2017 issue of Army ALT magazine and its cover art is shown here.

(US Army photo)

“There’s much more of an integrated, collegial, cooperative approach to things,” Jette said.

The service took a hard look at the requirements process for the Army’s integrated systems. This enabled the Army to apply a holistic approach in order to develop the diverse range of capabilities necessary to maintain overmatch against peer adversaries, Jette said. One result is, the Army will deliver new air defense systems by December 2019, he said.

“I don’t deliver you a Patriot battery anymore,” Jette said. “I deliver you missile systems. I deliver you radars. I deliver you a command and control architecture.”

Now, any of the command and control components will be able to fire missiles against peer adversaries and can also leverage any of the sensor systems to employ an effector against a threat, he said.

“We’re looking at the overall threat environment,” Jette said. “Threats have become much more complicated. It’s not just tactical ballistic missiles, or jets or helicopters. Now we’ve got UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), I’ve got swarms. I’ve got cruise missiles, rockets, artillery, and mortars. I’ve got to find a way to integrate all this.”

A retired Army colonel, reporting directly to Esper, Jette provides oversight for the development and acquisition of Army weapons systems. He said that his role in the modernization efforts is to find a way to align procurement with improved requirements development processes.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

A Russian-American crew of three has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), marking success in the second attempt to reach the craft after an aborted launch in October 2018.

The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin arrived at 0101 GMT/UTC on March 15, 2019, a few minutes ahead of schedule after a six-hour flight.


The craft lifted off without incident from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14, 2019.

The Soyuz MS-12 flight reached a designated orbit some nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally.

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

NASA astronauts Nick Hague (left) and Christina Hammock Koch (right) and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos (center).

On Oct. 11, 2018, a Soyuz spacecraft that Hague and Ovchinin were riding in failed two minutes into its flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely.

That accident was the Russian space program’s first aborted crew launch since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch-pad explosion.

The trio were joining American Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques, who are currently on board the ISS. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Election anxiety is very real. Here are 7 ways to cope

Election anxiety is real. More than two-thirds of Americans surveyed said that the upcoming presidential election on November 3rd is a source of significant stress. This is no surprise, as this election season has, for numerous reasons, been the most polarizing and contentious in recent history. Add this to the COVID-related stress we’re all feeling and it’s a lot to handle.


With Election Day quickly approaching, it’s very understandable to find yourself more anxious, more on edge. It’s also easy for those feelings to manifest as shortness or anger aimed at the people we love. Of course, that is the last thing our families need or that we want to provide them. So how do you keep yourself healthy and present? Take some deep breaths and follow the suggestions laid out below. Because, as with everything in 2020, the election will drag on for a lot longer than we anticipate.

1. Maintain the Foundational Four

In times of high stress and anxiety, the fundamentals are more important than ever. According to Vaile Wright, Ph.D., Senior Director of Health Care Innovation with the American Psychological Association, it’s critical, then, to focus on the “Foundational Four”: getting sufficient sleep, eating healthy, staying active, and keeping connected socially. Interrogate yourself: Am I sleeping enough hours? Am I reaching out to friends? Is my diet helping me feel energized? Wright adds that, on top of these, you should also add activities and routines that fill you back up when you’re feeling burnt out. You know yourself better than anyone else. Now’s the time to really make sure you’re giving yourself what you need.

2. Identify What’s in Your Control — and What’s Not

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of uncertainties in the world today. But uncertainty is always a constant and we must all learn to focus on only what we can actually control. So ask yourself: What do I have control over? What don’t I? Write them down as you do so. “Make two lists on a piece of paper,” says Wright. “On the left, write down the things that are out of your control. On the right, write out what things you can control — including the things that can distract you from what’s stressing you and can engage you, like listening to music or watching a movie.” This list can form the basis of your self-care toolkit. “In a moment of anxiety, you don’t have to think about what you need to do to feel better,” Wright says. “Pick something from your list.”

3. Do the Things that Are in Your Control — Like Voting

When you made your lists, did you include “Vote” in the right-hand column? “Voting is you exerting your agency and control over something you do have control over — your vote,” says Wright. “After you vote, you’ll feel less stressed. You’ll have permission to take a step back so there won’t be that pressure to be so connected.” You’re not going to ignore what’s happening, of course, but doing your part can help you moderate how much attention you’re giving the election.

4. Understand How You Cope

Do you know how you cope? It’s smart to really think about the things that help you destress and be your best self. Coping skills, per Wright, fall into three buckets: cognitive, physical, and sense-based.

  • Cognitive: Puzzles. Reading. Card and board games “These all require you to use your noggin,” Wright says. “A family activity like a scavenger hunt with clues to figure out combines mental and physical.”
  • Physical: These are activities that get your heart pumping. Yep. General exercise falls into this area. But don’t box yourself in if that’s not your style. “My favorite physical stress-buster is impromptu dance parties in the kitchen when we’re cooking,” Wright says. “Find opportunities to try something new.”
  • Sense-based: These are activities that have you focusing on touch, taste, smell, and sound. Think: taking a hot shower. Lighting a scented candle. Drinking a cup of coffee or tea. Squeezing a stress ball. “For some people having a rubber band around their wrist and snapping it is a way to distract themselves as they focus on their body,” Wright says.

Understand which category — or combination of categories — helps you the most and carve out time to make them a part of your day.

4. Limit Your Media Consumption

News, news everywhere. But not a moment to think. Doomscrolling, or the act of constantly scrolling through one soul withering news story after another, contributes to anxiety. Now is the time to be very aware of your social media and news viewing habits. Reduce your stress by limiting how much time you’re spending on social media and news sites. “Stay informed, especially at the local level, but be mindful of your time online,” Wright says. “That means being mindful of when, how much, and what type of information you’re consuming.”

For starters, turn off your phone’s push notifications. “Most of us don’t need to know late-breaking news,” Wright says. “You don’t realize how often you’re getting distracted all day long.” Instead, set aside time to get caught up on the news — like lunch.

Another good tactic: Use your phone’s settings to set limits that cut you off when you’ve reached your fill of social media or news sites.

And, while this is easier said than done, avoid what you know stresses you out. “If pundits on TV get your blood boiling, try reading your news online instead of watching it,” Wright says. “With the 24-hour news cycle, you’re exposed to negative images and hear the same things over and over — most of it conjecture. Go with what works best for you.”

Remember the Foundational Four? That’s why it’s smart to avoid scrolling before bed. “You need at least an hour away from your phone before going to sleep,” Wright says.

5. Step Away From Your Phone

Disabling push notifications is one thing. But it’s crucial to schedule phone-free. As hard as it may be to go offline, you’ll feel better if you do so. Do what it takes to disconnect for stretches of time. “Don’t rely on willpower,” Wright says. “Leave your phone in another room.”

“If you prioritize quality time for you and your family, being on the phone is not quality time,” Wright says. “Set some rules for device use as a family. And if you don’t let your kids use theirs at dinnertime, you shouldn’t use yours, either.”

6. Set Your Expectations for Election Night

With this particular election, we might not have results for days or even weeks after November 3rd. Your mindset should account for this likelihood.

“Go in with the expectation of not knowing who the president will be the day after the election,” Wright says. “With that established, it’ll be easier to weather the period of time when we’re waiting and things are uncertain.”

“It comes back to focusing on the basics: taking care of yourself, taking care of your family, using your coping skills, and focusing on the things that are in your control,’ Wright says. “There’s not much we can do about it if it goes to the courts. Maintain your stability.”

7. Model Self-Care for Your Kids

Kids are intuitive — they’ll notice if you’re stressed — so when you are taking measures for your own self care, tell your kids what you’re doing and why. “Explain why you’re turning off the news, why you’re sitting down to do a puzzle together, how taking care of yourself is important,” Wright says. “You’re going to get stressed in life. If you’re overwhelmed, tag out and have your partner take over. Demonstrate emotional well-being and ask for help when you need it.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

American troops tried out this DroneKiller rifle in the field

As the fight continues with radical Islamic terrorist groups, like ISIS, enemies have begun to use drones against the coalition. These drones aren’t like the MQ-1 Predator (now retired) or the MQ-9 Reaper as used by the U.S. military. Instead, they’re commercially available quadcopter drones, like the ones you’d find on Amazon.


Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

The IXI DroneKiller comes in at seven and a half pounds and blocks five frequency bands.

(IXI Tech photo)

In the hands of the enemy, these small consumer-market devices are proving lethal, either directly or indirectly. So, coalition forces want to shoot them down. Unfortunately, there’s a problem — even a basic quadcopter drone can fly reasonably high (high enough to collide with aircraft). Plus, these things are small — which makes them both elusive and cheap.

So, to shoot them down, you’d be dispensing a lot of ammo for very little in terms of results. Plus, pumping bullets into the air quickly reminds us of the old saying, “what goes up must come down.” In fact, civilian casualties from anti-aircraft fire are not uncommon. A number of the civilian casualties during Pearl Harbor came from American anti-aircraft fire.

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

A next-generation version of the DroneKiller, shown here at SeaAirSpace 2018, can fit under a M4 carbine.

(Harold Hutchison)

So, instead of shooting at a blip in the sky, the armed forces have made a push for a way to take out the ISIS drones without putting civilians at risk. One company, IXI Tech, came up with something they call, aptly, the DroneKiller. This system looks a lot like a Star Wars Stormtrooper’s blaster, but in a more tactically appropriate color. This system can block five frequency bands and disable a hostile drone (sending it crashing to the earth). The system was tested last month at ANTX 2018.


The DroneKiller weighs about seven and a half pounds, a little less than a SKS rifle. It has an effective range of 800 meters (roughly a half-mile) and can operate for four hours in active mode. It can be easily updated thanks to a USB port.

But what’s really interesting is a version of the DroneKiller that can be mounted on a M16 rifle, just like the M203 and M320 grenade launchers. Soon, every fire team could have a drone killer to go with a grenadier and SAW gunner!

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

The last words of a heroic Iraqi interpreter who sacrificed himself to save American soldiers from a suicide bomber were: “Take care of my son. Take care of my wife.” US Special Forces troops are now fighting to honor that dying request.

When a suicide bomber detonated his vest during a vehicle inspection near the Syrian border in September 2007, Barakat Ali Bashar put himself between the bomber and then-Staff Sgt. Jay McBride. Bashar, a new father of only a week, was critically wounded in the attack, and he died at a military hospital in Mosul.


Bashar “had dozens of ball bearings in his body causing injuries that nobody could have survived,” McBride, a former medic, told Stars and Stripes, adding, “I owe him my life.”

Bashar, described as “kind of young and a little more western than your typical Iraqi,” served as an interpreter for US Special Forces fighting Al Qaeda in northern Iraq. After his death, his family received some financial compensation from the US government, but they remained in Iraq, a country later overrun by the Islamic State.

The family, already a target because of their Yazidi heritage, was also in danger because of Bashar’s work with the US military. They fled their home near Mount Sinjar, leaving behind their personal possessions and all evidence Bashar had served with the US Army, and headed to a refugee camp in Kurdistan, where they still live today. Bashar’s family emailed Stars and Stripes and revealed that they live in constant fear.

One of the problems encountered during the visa application process was the lack of proof that Bashar had served with the US military. The family has since obtained written proof that Bashar “was declared dead in a U.S. Army hospital and he was an interpreter who served with [U.S. forces].” They are awaiting a follow-up interview with the State Department.

McBride and other US veterans have been writing letters and petitions in support of the family’s special visa application since 2015. “Is this how you treat a family of someone who worked five years with the U.S. Army; someone who was loyal to the U.S. and Iraq; someone who gave his life serving with U.S. Army soldiers and trying to protect them?” McBride told Stars and Stripes, adding that he would happily put the family up at his house if that was an option.

Bashar “never faltered in his commitment to help American forces, even after his family was threatened and their names were placed on a list that was circulated around the region describing him as a traitor for supporting American forces,” Sgt. 1st Class Michael Swett, another Special Forces soldier, wrote in support of the family. “He believed in the American dream even more than we did. Unfortunately, [Bashar] never realized his opportunity to see the country that he sacrificed so much for.”

“We, the people of the United States of America, put this family at risk and I feel it is our duty as a civilized nation to [ensure] their safety,” Army Master Sgt. Todd West wrote in a separate letter.

Featured image: U.S. Army Pfc. Jacob Paxson and Pfc. Antonio Espiricueta, both from Company B (“Death Dealers”), 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, attached to Task Force 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, provide security from a street corner during a foot patrol in Tameem, Ramadi, Iraq.

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

Articles

It’s official — the US Air Force has no idea what it’s doing trying to retire the A-10

On Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office released a scathing report about the US Air Force’s half-baked plan to replace the A-10, essentially concluding that the Air Force had no good end game in sight.


“The Department of Defense (DOD) and Air Force do not have quality information on the full implications of A-10 divestment, including gaps that could be created by A-10 divestment and mitigation options,” the report from GAO, a nonpartisan entity, states.

The A-10, a relic of the Cold War-era, flies cheap, effective sorties and is well suited to most of the US’s current operations. But surprisingly, it’s not really the plane itself that’s indispensable to the Air Force — it’s the community.

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract
U.S. A-10s and F-16s take part in an Elephant Walk in South Korea | US Air Force photo

Ground forces know A-10 pilots as undisputed kings of close air support, which is especially useful in today’s combat zones where ground troops often don’t have an artillery presence on the ground.

But there are other planes for close air support when it comes down to it. The B-1 Lancer has superior loiter time and bomb capacity compared to the A-10, but it turns out, close air support is only one area where the A-10s excel.

The report finds that A-10 pilots undergo many times more close air support, search and rescue, and forward air control training than any other community of pilots in the force.

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract
GAO

While the Air Force seems determined to replace this community, and reallocate their resources elsewhere, the report finds that the cost estimates used to justify the retirement of the A-10 just don’t make the grade.

According to the GAO, “a reliable cost estimate is comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible.”

The report finds that the Air Force’s cost estimates for replacing the A-10 are almost comprehensive, minimally documented, and just plain not credible.

Indeed we have seen some pivots on the Air Force’s official position on the A-10. At one point, they wanted to retire it stating that the F-35 would take over those capabilities, but then the Senate told them to prove it.

More recently, we heard that the Air Force wants to replace the A-10 with not one, but two new planes, one of which would be developed specifically for the role.

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract
US Air Force members troubleshoot an electronic error on an A-10 Thunderbolt II on April 25, 2007, on the flightline at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. | US Air Force

What the GAO recommends, however, is that the Air Force come up with a better, more concrete plan to mitigate the losses in capability caused by the A-10’s mothballing.

Lawmakers were not shy about the relief the report brought to the complicated question. Perhaps the best testimony came from Congresswoman Martha McSally, a former A-10 pilot herself:

“Today’s report confirms what I’ve argued continuously — the Air Force’s flawed and shifting plan to prematurely retire the A-10 is dangerous and would put lives in danger… I’ve fought for and won full funding for our entire A-10 fleet and to make the retirement of any A-10 condition-based, not-time based.”

MIGHTY FIT

Here’s why your feet hurt all the damn time!

I’m on a foot fetish these days. Don’t tell my family.

Today’s foot based installment is about perception vs. reality. It’s about how your mind is constantly playing tricks on you even when you’re doing your best to be truthful. It’s about how your brain is letting your feet lie to you, and your boots are in on the whole conspiracy.

I have a pretty astounding study that I want to talk about.

Let’s start with runners way back in the 1980s.


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You might want to throw those things in the trash

Mo’ padding mo’ problems

Remember that rickshaw driver I was talking about here?

Well, that dude had no feet problems, and he was slapping his feet onto hard and hot concrete and rocks every day of his life.

It seems according to two researchers back in 1991:

“The increased injury incidence with modern running shoes can be attributed to greater impact when runners use footwear more of the current design when compared with footwear in use a decade earlier. Furthermore, when runners unaccustomed to barefoot running run barefoot, mean impact is no higher than when shod and in some cases is lower.”

In normal people terms:

Comfy shoes = foot problems.

No shoes = Highly profitable career as a rickshaw driver.

Why?

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These feet look all too familiar.

Padding makes you treat your feet like sh!t

Comfy shoe padding makes us blissfully unaware of the damage we are causing. Kind of like how we thought trans fats were a great idea. It turns out they are causally linked to heart disease.

We aren’t always right. Our prior assumptions need to be evaluated, not blindly accepted for millennia.

Robbins and Gouw, those two guys from the above quote, came to the conclusion that: “…a perceptual illusion is created whereby perceived impact is lower than actual impact, which results in inadequate impact moderating behavior and consequent injury.”

Let’s get into a pretty eye-opening study they did that proves the above point.

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Yeah, gymnasts know how to stick a landing.

(Photo by Eugene Lim on Unsplash)

Comfort based decisions

When was the last time you made a comfort-based decision? Hit that snooze button this morning? Had a hot shower? Chose to drive to work rather than walk/run/bike?

Those are some decisions you can control. What about this trippy one you aren’t even aware of?

Robbins and Gouw took some force plates and had well-trained gymnasts jump onto them from a platform about 2 feet off the ground.

The plates measured the impact force of the athletes landing.

The gymnasts, who are great at sticking landings, were told to just land however they would naturally land after a jump from that height.

There were two surfaces they jumped onto for the force plates to measure; a hard surface, and a comfy padded surface.

In ALL 15 athletes, the landing force on the padded surface was higher than the landing force on the hard surface. The athletes clearly choose a safer and more appropriate landing strategy for the hard surface than the padded surface.

The real kicker is that that they all assumed that they were landing with more force on the hard surface than the padded surface.

Yep…the padding of the padded surface completely tricked all the athletes into being more careless with their bodies.

The perception of comfort and its damaging effects were studied using experienced athletes and force plate technology.

The difference in impacts was upwards of 25%. That the difference between you jumping by yourself and then jumping with your overweight nephew strapped to your chest in a papoose. Go ahead and give that experiment a try to see the real difference between the two.

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Even a 5% increase in weight makes some people crumble, 25% is nothing to shrug at.

(Photo by Steven Cleghorn on Unsplash)

What we should tolerate VS what we tolerate

We are able to handle nearly twice our body weight in running impact. That seems like a lot. So we should have zero problem running right?

Nope.

When we run with standard running shoes or boots on, impacts of well past eight times our body weight have been measured. Combine this high level of impact with the design of the modern combat boot like we talked about here, and you get a whole host of foot and other structural issues that are commonly seen in service members, veterans, and high mileage athletes. I’m talking about hip, knee, ankle, and back issues, not to even mention that fact that your feet are taking the brunt of the abuse.
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Is this the future military boot or should we just go barefoot?

Take ’em off and walk around

Lucky for Marines, it seems that the Generals in charge are making strides (pun intended) to remedy this issue to save the Marine Corps money and you a life of constant chronic pain.

The solution seems to be minimalist footwear. The less padding your footwear has, the easier it will be for you to regulate the impact you are causing on your feet.

Over time, your issues should disappear just like the rickshaw driver disappeared into antiquity after Henry Ford created the modern assembly-line built automobile to subvert his father-in-law, a world-famous rickshaw driver. (Everyone has family issues)…

Looking for a solution to your family issues? How about your training issues? Here’s how to train super effectively three times a week in less than an hour.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22 pilots will get new state-of-the-art flight suit first

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor pilots in Hawaii are some of the first to try out the service’s new integrated aircrew ensemble (IAE) flight suit and gear.

Active-duty and Air National Guard pilots from the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will sport brand-new, custom-fit gear on stealth fighter missions next year, according to a recent Air Force news release.

Representatives from the Human Systems Program Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio — home to Air Force Material Command — gave pilots the rundown on how to make the most of the upgraded and consolidated flight suits.

“It’s all strategically placed so items are not on top of each other, [and] it minimizes the occurrence of friction, hot spots or wear-down on the system,” Carl Medeiros, IAE program manager, said in the release.


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Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen from the 154th and 15th Operations Support Squadrons conduct a trial-fitting of the integrated aircrew ensemble July 8, 2019 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Program managers from Write-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, introduced the gear to the Airmen, which offers a spectrum of improvements over the currently used equipment. F-22 Raptor pilots from JBPH-H have been selected to be the first aviators to bring the ensemble into an operational capacity.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

“The material is also moisture-wicking, so it pulls moisture away from the body, removing and reducing thermal burden, while increasing mobility and comfort levels,” he added. “When it all comes together, there’s a direct correlation and improvement to the physiological effects on the pilot.”

Typically, aircrew in bombers or fighters — or anything with an ejection seat — have layers of add-ons to their flight suits for a variety of contingencies. The Air Force is still offering options, but with a more streamlined and less bulky approach.

Depending on the mission, pilots can choose a combination of seven configuration items including a coverall, which provides heat and flame protection; survival vest; pressure vest; life preserver unit; a chemical, biological and radiological layer; thermal undergarment; and environmental protection layer, the Human Systems Program Office told Military.com.

IAE was tested and approved for all ejection seat aircraft, and the program is “currently in the production phase with the first scheduled roll-out to the F-22 fleet,” the office said in an email.

“Unlike the currently used legacy equipment, which had been piecemealed with additional support items over several decades, each component of the IAE has been designed to complement all other items,” according to the release. “Its material has been influenced by recent advancements in sports technology to aid aviators who endure harsh flight conditions.”

The upgrades have been long in the making. According to an earlier Air Force news release, B-52 Stratofortress bomber crews began experimenting with a version of IAE in 2013. In 2016, the Defense Department awarded TIAX LLC of Lexington, Massachusetts, a .7 million contract delivery order on a previously awarded contract for initial operational test and evaluation (IOTE) for IAE. The Pentagon at the time said that .6 million from fiscal 2015 research, development, test and evaluation (RDTE) funds had also been allocated toward the effort.

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In recent years, flight suits and better-fitting uniforms have become a priority for the service.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called for improved uniforms — not only for comfort, but also for safety. Teams of airmen began reviewing not only flight suits, but all the gear needed to fly for hours on end.

Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manager for the Human Systems Program Office, recently told Military.com that she and her team had been working a number of initiatives — some tailored toward men, others to women — to get aviators better equipped before takeoff.

“Everything that touches an aircrew member’s body, we manage in the program office,” she said during an interview in April. That includes flight vests; G-suits, which prevent the loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration or gravity pressure; helmets; boots; and other gear, such as a bladder relief apparatus.

The service in April approved the use of two-piece flight suits while on duty as an option to the one-piece flight duty uniform.

Raptor pilots are scheduled to receive the IAE uniform during the first half of 2020, the release states.

The Human Systems Program Office team has also visited Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, and the team is scheduled to visit Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, next month, officials said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insanely lucky sub that changed naval warfare in one fight

U-boats were still in their infancy in 1914, and most naval officers looked down on the fleet. At best, they were considered defensive weapons that could help hold an enemy fleet away from the coasts. But then, on Sept. 22, 1914, a German U-boat saw a cluster of three British warships and managed to sink them all in under 90 minutes without suffering damage.


The September engagement took place while the war was less than two months old. The three British cruisers were old and considered unreliable. They were so fragile, in fact, that many naval leaders had argued they shouldn’t be assigned to the North Sea at all, but they were overruled. The three vessels and their escorts became known as the “Livebait Squadron.”

Despite the ships’ flaws, though, the crews did know how to mitigate their risk of submarine attack, mostly through zigzagging and posting lookouts to watch for periscopes or surfaced vessels, but they didn’t take those precautions.

The seas were rough, too rough for their destroyer escort, and so the British officers assumed they were too rough for submarines. This wasn’t entirely off base. Submarines rode close to the surface or even above it most of the time, and the water tossed around the boats quite easily. America’s future Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, who spent a lot of time on submarines early in his career, would complain about how badly the boats were battered by the waves.

But for the crew members of the German boat U-9, it was just a cross they had to bear. It wasn’t like they could slip back to Germany every time the waves got bad. So, on September 22, they were still in their assigned zone, riding close to the surface and sucking up any pain, when the Livebait Squadron came into view.

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A painting depicts the HMS Aboukir sinking after being hit by the U-9 in 1914. The other two ships would sink within an hour.

(National Museum of the U.S. Navy)

And when they spotted the three British cruisers, none of them zigzagging to make their shot harder, they decided to go ahead and rob the Royal Navy of one of those big, important ships. The captain, Kapitänleutnan Otto Weddigen, ordered two torpedoes fired at the lead vessel, the HMS Aboukir.

One of them struck home, setting off a massive explosion that unquestionably doomed the ship. But no one had spotted the tell-tale stream of bubbles from the torpedo as it had raced to the ship in the rough seas, and so the ship’s captain just assumed he had hit a mine. He signaled to the other ships for assistance.

On the German U-boat, it must have looked like a gift from heaven. If the cruisers had realized they were under attack and set up to sink the U-boat, then the U-9 would have had to choose between bailing on the fight, diving for a few minutes or hours, and risk sinking in the engagement. But since the cruisers just lowered their lifeboats and didn’t prepare for combat, the U-9 could take another consequence-free swing at Livebait.

Weddigen fired next at the HMS Hogue, dooming that ship as well. By this point, the remaining ship, HMS Cressy understood it was under attack and deployed torpedo defense batteries and began to sail in a zigzag pattern, but it stayed in the area to try and rescue more sailors. This was a mistake.

At 7:20 and then 7:30, Weddigen fired torpedoes that sank it, and then watched it drop beneath the waves. Low on ammo and already successful beyond his wildest dreams, Weddigen turned for home.

On the surface, Dutch and English ships raced to save all the sailors they could, including 15-year-old Kit Wykeham-Musgrave of the HMS Aboukir. He had barely survived the suction of the first ship sinking, had been rescued by the crew of the Hogue and made it onboard right before that ship was sank, and then climbed onto the Cressy only to have it shot out from under him as well.

Almost 1,400 enlisted men and 62 officers would not be so lucky, drowning in the rough and cold water of the North Sea instead.

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The HMS Aboukir sinks after being hit by the German submarine U-9.

(Public domain)

The German sailors were greeted as heroes in their home port. The entire crew received Iron Crosses Second Class, and the captain was awarded that medal as well as the Iron Cross First Class. But in Britain, the people were furious and demanded that senior Navy leadership be held accountable.

For Weddigen, the success would be sweet. He received his medals from the Kaiser personally and wrote a memoir titled The First Submarine Blow is Struck. (His success on September 22, while revolutionary, was not actually the first “submarine blow” as both the German and British navies had already each lost a cruiser to the other side’s submarines.)

But he would not long enjoy his fame. While the U-9 would rack up 18 kills before retiring in 1916, Weddigen was soon re-assigned to U-boat 29. While attacking British ships in March 1915, the boat was spotted by the famous British battleship HMS Dreadnought which proceeded to ram and sink the German submarine, killing Weddigen.

(A final admin note: Weddigen claims in his memoirs to have fired only four torpedoes that day: one at the Aboukir, one at the Hogue, and two at the Cressy, all of which hit. This might have been true, but his memoirs reek of propaganda and were written in the late months of 1914 when his fame was peaking. Naval historians think it is more likely that he fired six and had four hits.)

Military Life

7 drill sergeant sayings that really mean, ‘You’re screwed’

Every recruit needs to make it through Basic Training before they earn the right to be called Soldiers. Drill sergeants have just two goals: to break the civilian out of their platoon and to give recruits a crash course in military lifestyle.


Some drill sergeants may impart all of their knowledge onto recruits in as short a time as possible. Others may humorously scold their platoon. Others still may take their anger out on their platoon. It’s impossible to say exactly which kind of experience is in store for recruits because each drill sergeant is different.

But what is near universal is their commitment to maintaining order and discipline. When they say any of the following, you know heads are about to roll.

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Don’t worry about not being physically fit… The drill sergeant has a plan for that.
(Photo by Sgt. First Class Lisa M. Litchfield)

“Half right, face.”

The command “Half right, face” means that you shift your current facing 45 degrees to the right. This opens up the formation for some, uh, “remedial training.”

And I don’t mean the standard “front-leaning rest position, move!” (translation: push-ups). That gets old after a while. No, instead, drill sergeants will come up with the most off-the-wall exercises that will make you question your physical limits.

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Their vulgar vocabulary is astounding. You’ll hear so many new variations on expletives that Merriam and Webster can’t even keep up.
(Photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart)

“Toe the f*cking line”

There’s nothing out of the ordinary about “toeing the line.” Everyone in the bay stands to receive the next command from drill sergeants.

What sets this one apart is when they sprinkle some flavorful expletives in there. This means, specifically, that someone just became the reason that everyone’s about to feel some wrath.

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If you make them repeat themselves, they’ll have to make EVERYONE can hear it.
(Photo by Spc. Darius Davis)

“…I said,” followed by whatever they previously said

Drill sergeants shouldn’t have to repeat themselves. There’s a general understanding that everything needs to be broken down so simply that even a fresh-out-of-high-school kid can comprehend.

If the drill sergeant tells you to raise your duffel bag above your head, do not hesitate and make them repeat the order. The outcome is never pretty.

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They’re just helping you on your PT test, really. How nice of them?
(Photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato)
 

“Hurry up!”

The military moves at an insane pace. Run here, run there. Be there 30 minutes prior to being 30 minutes early. There is no escaping this pace.

Drill sergeants know that recruits are given near-impossible timelines to achieve a given goal, like eating an entire plate of chow in five seconds. It’s not about making it within time, though. It’s about getting recruits as close to that impossible goal as possible. Continually practice until every possible second is shaved off a task. If a drill sergeant is reminding you to hurry up, you’re taking too long.

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There are few joys in being a drill sergeant — laughing at stupidity is one of them.
(Photo by Capt. Loyal Auterson)

“Hey, battle! Come here!”

On the rarest of occasions, a recruit may do something so impressive that one drill sergeant will gloat to another and, if the stars have aligned, praise may be given to that recruit.

More often than not, when a drill sergeant calls for another drill sergeant, it’s to laugh at how foolish a recruit was. Now, both drill sergeants will take turns smoking the stupid out of said reruit.

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If they find it, fess up quickly and save everyone the headache. Others may still get smoked for “letting you lose it,” but hey, at least you’re honest.
(Photo by Sgt. First Class Lisa M. Litchfield)

“Whose ____ is this?”

Every other Soldier knows that “gear adrift is a gift.” Every other Soldier knows that “there’s only one thief in the Army.” Later on down the road, it sucks when your gear gets “tactically re-purposed,” but it’s just part of the lifestyle.

But recruits do not have the luxury of taking it on the chin and buying a replacement. If the drill sergeant finds anything left alone, like an unsecured wall locker, they will teach everyone the importance of proper gear security.

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Many years down the line, if you ever run into them again outside of training, then (and only then) might you get that chance of receiving a friendly hello — but don’t hold your breath.

“Are we friends now?”

Don’t ever lose your military bearing — the drill sergeant won’t. Never forget that in order to stand in front of your wide-eyed platoon, a drill sergeant must have achieved their current rank, earned a selection to drill-sergeant school (which usually requires multiple combat deployments), gone through the rigors of said school, and have endured many cycles before you.

So, you shot 37/40 on your first try. This does not impress them to the point of friendship.

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