There hasn’t been a more shining example of how great the military meme community can be than when its faced with a possible WWIII. The media is reporting every last detail, the civilians are clutching their pearls, and the vets? We’re completely unphased at the prospect of another multi-decade war.
All geopolitics and possible danger aside, at least gearing up for war is a hell of a lot better than just sitting around doing CQ, motor pool Mondays, and online correspondence courses…
Actual war may be benched – but the meme war will continue!
Every year at SHOT Show, there seems to be a theme among the new product releases. 2018 seemed to be the year of the Roland Special & pistol comps, the year prior was pistol caliber carbines, before that was the modular rifles and suppressors. We are already seeing a trend forming here, Glock clones.
Brownells has been killing it with the exclusive Polymer80 options as well as their bargain-priced slides. With the success that Brownells saw with the Polymer80 frames and Brownells produced slides, it was only a matter of time for other manufacturers to jump on the Glock clone bandwagon.
Leading up to the show season Brownells even launched new Gen4 Glock slides,
The Glock clone army that might invade the 2019 SHOT Show really started on the floor of SHOT 2018 with the announcement of the PF940SC and the serialized PF940C frames. Could this have been foreshadowing of the impending invasion?
Our friends over at Grey Ghost Precision dropped their Combat Pistol frame on us back in August 2018, giving Glock builders yet another option. The Combat Pistol frame has a distinctive texture and is ready to build on right out of the box.
How about a folding Glock clone? Full Conceal launched their Polymer80 framed thing in 2018 as well.
There are even options to build a non-Glock Glock in large frame calibers like .45 ACP and 10mm with Polymer80’s recently announced PF45 frame.
As for 2019? We’ve seen a slew of new Glock clones announced like the Alpha Foxtrot aluminum frame, and the new Zev OZ9 pistol kicking the show season off strong. Following those, Faxon Firearms released their FX-19 pistol that appears to be based on a Faxon specific Poly80 frame.
If the Faxon pistol doesn’t do it for you, how about the new Glock build kit from Agency? This one came as the biggest surprise to us given Agency’s history producing some of the nicest Glocks on the planet. If you scoop one of these up, not only do you get an Agency stippled frame but also a lower parts kit and their Syndicate slide.
I think that it’s pretty safe to assume that the show floor is going to be littered with Glock clones built on their very own platform like the ZRO Delta Genesis Z9 or the half a dozen “new” pistols being offered that have a Polymer80 frame.
There are likely several other new Glock clone options that have been overlooked in the sea of plastic fantastic.
Regardless of what this year’s theme turns out to be, we will be pleased with any new products announced. After all, variety is the spice of life.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
In the early months of World War II, the United States Asiatic Fleet had been given an impossible job — hold the line against the might of the Japanese Navy. The ships and men did their best, but they were ultimately forced to retreat towards Australia. Unfortunately, not all of them made it.
In 2014, the wreck of USS Houston, the final resting place of 650 sailors and Marines, including Captain George Rooks (awarded the Medal of Honor), was located. The problem was that the vessel sank in shallow waters, providing easy access for divers.
The good news was that the survey showed no signs of recent salvaging. However, the same couldn’t be said for wrecks from battles that took place off the coast of Indonesia, which have been seriously damaged by illegal salvage operators seeking to acquire the pre-1945 steel onboard sunken warships. Some of the vessels, which are considered war graves under international law, have been almost completely stripped for a few Indonesian rupiahs. Each rupiah is worth .0073 cents.
This past September, the Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) laid a wreath at the Houston‘s location. The ceremony took place during the multi-national CARAT exercises, which have sometimes seen divers survey the wrecks.
There’s no perfect treatment for the psychological ailments that veterans face when returning from combat. What works for one veteran may not work for another — in some cases, it may even make things worse. Unfortunately, the burden of finding the best method of treatment (which usually involves endless hours of trial and error) is almost always placed squarely on the shoulders of those preoccupied with coping with post-traumatic stress.
For some folks, taking prescription medication helps — and that’s great. For others, those same medications may cause more harm than good. The veterans for which standard treatments don’t work often feel as if they’re being tossed into a box and told to just keep taking pills until the problem is better. We can all agree that there has got to be a better solution, but it’s not an easy ask — there’s no magic wand to wave to make the bad life experiences just go away.
So, to take some steps in the positive direction, some veterans are venturing into the taboo. From Shock to Awe, a new documentary that comes out November 12, follows two veterans as they embark on a journey into psychedelic medicines to try and finally find peace and balance.
For seven decades, the NATO alliance has practiced collective defense and deterrence against evolving international threats, and over the years, its capabilities have changed accordingly.
NATO’s most “powerful weapon,” according to Jim Townsend with the Center for a New American Security, is the “unity of the alliance,” but the individual allies also possess hard-hitting capabilities that could be called upon were it to face high-level aggression.
Heather Conley with the Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that Russia is likely to continue to press the alliance through low-end influence and cyberwarfare operations. Still, she explained to Business Insider, NATO needs to be seriously contemplating a high-end fight as Russia modernizes, pursuing hypersonic cruise missiles and other new systems.
So, what does that fight look like?
“I’ve always likened it to a potluck dinner,” Townsend told Business Insider. “If NATO has this potluck dinner, what are the kinds of meals, kind of dishes that allies could bring that would be most appreciated?”
“If a host is looking to invite someone who is going to bring the good stuff, they are for sure going to invite the United States,” he explained, adding that “in all categories, the US leads.”
Nonetheless, the different dinner guests bring a variety of capabilities to the table. Here’s some highlights of the many powerful weapons NATO could bring to bear against Russia.
Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Demonstration Team pilot and commander performs a dedication pass in an F-35A Lightning II during the annual Heritage Flight Training Course March 1, 2019, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)
1. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
“The air side of the NATO equation is led by the United States with the F-35 and other various aircraft,” Townsend told BI.
The fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is an aircraft that rival powers have been unable to match its stealth and advanced suite of powerful sensors.
While some NATO countries are looking at the F-35 as a leap in combat capability, others continue to rely on the F-16, an older supersonic fighter that can dogfight and also bomb ground targets. And then some countries, like Germany, are considering European alternatives.
Royal Air Force Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon F2.
2. Eurofighter Typhoons
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a capable mutli-role aircraft designed by a handful of NATO countries, namely the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain, determined to field an elite air-superiority fighter. France, which walked away from the Eurofighter project, independently built a similar fighter known as the Dassault Rafale.
Observers argue that the Typhoon is comparable to late-generation Russian Flanker variants, such as the Su-35.
While each aircraft has its advantages, be it the agility of the Typhoon or the low-speed handling of the Flanker, the two aircraft are quite similar, suggesting, as The National Interest explained, that the Eurofighter could hold its own in a dogfight with the deadly Russian fighter.
A B-52 Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., sits on the flight line at RAF Fairford, England, March 14, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tessa B. Corrick)
The US provides conventional and nuclear deterrence capabilities through the regular rotation of bomber aircraft into the European area of operations.
American bombers have been routinely rotating into the area since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, according to Military.com. That year, the Pentagon sent two B-2 Spirit bombers and three B-52s to Europe for training. The B-1B Lancers are also among the US bombers that regularly operate alongside NATO allies.
US Navy P-8 Poseidon taking off at Perth Airport.
4. US P-8A Poseidon
“There’s also the maritime posture, particularly as Russia continues to rely on a submarine nuclear deterrent. We need a stronger presence. That’s why we’re seeing Norway, the US, UK do more with the P-8As,” Conley, the CSIS expert, told BI.
Facing emerging threats in the undersea domain, where the margins to victory are said to be razor thin, NATO allies are increasingly boosting their ability to hunt and track enemy submarines from above and below the water.
While there are a number of options available for this task, the US Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol plane, which was brought into replace the US military’s older P-3 Orions, are among the best submarine hunters out there.
Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad (front) leads Turkish frigate TCG Oruçreis, Belgian frigate BNS Louise Marie and a Swedish Visby-class corvette during Trident Juncture.
(NATO/LCDR Pedro Miguel Ribeiro Pinhei)
Another effective anti-submarine capability is that provided by the various frigates operated by a number of NATO countries.
“The NATO allies, in particular Italy, France, Spain, all have frigates that have very capable anti-submarine warfare systems,” Bryan Clark with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments told BI.
“They have active low-frequency sonars that are variable-depth sonars. They can find submarines easily, and they are very good against diesel submarines.” These forces could be used to target Russian submarines in the Eastern Mediterranean and into the Black Sea.
“Norway and Denmark also have really good frigates,” he explained. “They could go out and do anti-submarine warfare” in the North Sea/Baltic Sea area, “and they are very good at that.”
An AH-64D Apache helicopter from 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, based at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.
6. AH-64 Apache gunship
The Apache gunship helicopter, capable of close air support, has the ability to rain down devastation on an approaching armor column.
The attack helicopters can carry up to sixteen Hellfire missiles at a time, with each missile possessing the ability to cripple an enemy armor unit. The Hellfire is expected to eventually be replaced with the more capable Joint Air-to-Ground Missile.
The Cold War-era Apache attack helicopters have been playing a role in the counterinsurgency fight in the Middle East, but the gunships could still hit hard in a high-end conflict.
7. German Leopard 2
The Leopard 2 main battle tank, which gained a reputation for being “indestructible,” is a formidable weapon first built to blunt the spearhead of a Soviet armor thrust and one that would probably be on the front lines were the NATO alliance and Russia to come to blows.
While this tank, a key component of NATO’s armored forces, took an unexpected beating in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, it is still considered one of the alliance’s top tanks, on par with the US M1 Abrams and the British Challenger 2.
Observers suspect that the Leopard 2, like its US and British counterparts, would be easily able to destroy most Russian tanks, as these tanks are likely to get the jump on a Russian tank in a shoot out.
The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and ships assigned to the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) transit the Atlantic Ocean while conducting composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) on Feb. 16, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)
8. US Nimitz-class aircraft carriers
A last-minute addition to last year’s Trident Juncture exercise — massive NATO war games designed to simulate a large-scale conflict with Russia — was the USS Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, and its accompanying strike group.
The carrier brought 6,000 servicemembers and a large carrier air wing of F/A-18 Super Hornets to Norway for the largest drill in years.
“One thing the NATO naval partners have been looking at is using carriers as part of the initial response,” Clark told BI. The US sails carriers into the North Atlantic to demonstrate to Russia that the US can send carriers into this area, from which it could carry out “operations into the Baltics without too much trouble,” he added.
America’s ability to project power through the deployment of aircraft carriers is unmatched, due mainly to the massive size, sophistication and training regimen of its carrier fleet. The UK and France also have aircraft carriers.
(DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett)
9. PATRIOT surface-to-air missile system
PATRIOT, which stands for “Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target,” is an effective surface-to-air guided air and missile defense system that is currently used around the world, including in a number NATO countries.
There is a “need for an integrated air and missile defense picture,” Conley told BI. “That is certainly a high-valued protection for the alliance.”
NATO is also in the process of fielding Aegis Ashore sites, land-based variants of the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, that can track and fire missiles that intercept ballistic targets over Europe.
The U.S. Navy submarine USS North Dakota (SSN-784) underway during bravo sea trials in the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy Photo)
10. US Virginia-class submarines
Virginia-class submarines, nuclear-powered fast attack boats, are among the deadliest submarines in the world. They are armed with torpedoes to sink enemy submarines and surface combatants, and they can also target enemy bases and missile batteries ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
These submarines “could be really useful to do cruise missile attacks against some of the Russian air defense systems in the western military district that reach over the Baltic countries,” Clark told BI.
“You can really conduct air operations above these countries without being threatened by these air defense systems. So, you would want to use cruise missiles to attack them from submarines at sea.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Today, the M16 rifle and M4 carbine are ubiquitous among American troops. These lightweight rifles, which both fire the 5.56mm NATO round, have been around for decades and are mainstays. The civilian version, the AR-15, is owned by at least five million Americans. But the troops hauling it around almost got a similar rifle in the 1950s that fired the 7.62mm NATO round.
It’s not the first classic rifle to be designed to fire one cartridge and enter service firing another. The M1 Garand, when it was first designed, was chambered for the .276 Pedersen round. The reason that round never caught on? The Army had tons of .30-06 ammo in storage, and so the legendary semi-auto rifle was adapted to work with what was available.
The story is much different for the M16. Eugene Stoner’s original design was called the AR-10 (the “AR” stood for “Armalite Rifle” — Armalite was to manufacture the weapon). This early design was a 7.62mm NATO rifle with a 20-round box magazine.
According to the National Rifle Association Museum, this rifle went head to-head with the FN FAL and the T44 to replace the M1 Garand. The T44 won out and was introduced to service as the M14. This doesn’t mean the AR-10 was a complete loss, however. Sudan and Portugal both bought the AR-10 for their troops to use and, from there, the rifle trickled into a few other places as well.
Portugal bought the AR-10 and used it in the Angolan War.
(Photo by Joaquim Coelho)
Armalite, though, wasn’t ready to give up on getting that juicy U.S. military contract, so they began work on scaling down the AR-10 for the 5.56mm cartridge. The Army tried the resulting rifle, the AR-15, out in 1958 and liked what the saw, pointing to a need for a lightweight infantry rifle. It was the Air Force, though, that was the first service to buy the rifle, calling it the M16, which serves American troops today.
The AR-10 made a comeback of sorts during the War on Terror. Here, a Marine general fires the Mk 11 sniper rifle.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Sharon E. Fox)
Despite the immense popularity of the M16, the AR-10 never faded completely into obscurity. During the War on Terror, operation experience called for a heavier-hitting rifle with longer range. In a way, the AR-10 made a comeback — this time as a designated marksman rifle in the form of modified systems, like the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and Mk 11 rifle.
Variants of the AR-10 are on the civilian market, including this AR-10 National Match.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
Over the years, the AR-10 has thrived as a semi-auto-only weapon, available on the civilian market, produced by companies like Rock River Arms and DPMS. In a sense, the AR-10 has come full circle.
Legendary Canadian actor Christopher Plummer was arguably one of the greatest actors post-WWII. Beginning his career in 1946, Plummer remained an active thespian throughout his life. He is best known for his role as Captain George von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Plummer was also a go-to actor to play historical figures like Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington in Waterloo, Emperor Commodus in The Fall of the Roman Empire, and Kaiser Wilhelm II in The Exception. On February 5, 2021, Plummer died at the age of 91.
Born in Toronto, Ontario on December 13, 1929, Plummer was a direct descendant of Sir John Abbott, Canada’s third Prime Minister. He was inspired to take up acting after watching Laurence Olivier’s Henry V and became an apprentice at the Montreal Repertory Theatre where William Shatner also acted. In 1946, Plummer performed his first role as Mr. Darcy in a school production of Pride and Prejudice.
In 1953, he appeared on television, both Canadian and American, and Broadway. Plummer acted mainly on stage and did not appear on screen for six years after 1958. His return to film was as Emperor Commodus in 1964’s The Fall of the Roman Empire. The next year, Plummer would see his film career soar to new heights with The Sound of Music.
Despite it being his best-known role, Plummer once described The Sound of Music as “so awful and sentimental and gooey.” Aside from working with Julie Andrews, Plummer recounted that he found all aspects of making the film to be unpleasant, going so far as to nickname it “The Sound of Mucus.” Still, he acknowledged the film’s importance in retrospect. “But it was a very well-made movie,” he said in a 2009 interview , “and it’s a family movie and we haven’t seen a family movie, I don’t think, on that scale for ages.”
Classic military film enthusiasts will be most familiar with Plummer for his roles in the war epics Battle of Britain from 1969 and Waterloo the following year. In Battle of Britain, Plummer plays Canadian pilot Squadron Leader Colin Harvey, one of the first allied characters audiences are introduced to. In Waterloo, he takes on the role of the legendary British hero, Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley who ended the Napoleonic Wars by defeating the French Emperor in the titular battle.
Christopher Plummer went on to act through the century and right up to his death. One of his last on-screen appearances was in a 2020 episode of Jeopardy! as a clue presenter. His final movie role is as a voice actor in the yet-to-be-released animated film Heroes of the Golden Masks.
Plummer died peacefully in his home with his wife by his side from complications following a fall. “The world has lost a consummate actor today and I have lost a cherished friend,” said The Sound of Music costar Julie Andrews. “I treasure the memories of our work together and all the humor and fun we shared through the years.” Plummer’s legacy is immortalized on screen in over 100 films and in the hearts and minds of his fans around the world.
Bonfires in the military are rare — and almost no one tells ghost stories over them. But if you ever do find yourself on the receiving end of such tales, you’ll notice that, just like many ghost stories, they’re filled with all sorts of morality lessons — it’s just that the military’s morality lessons are a little different than everyone else’s. And when the platoon sergeant tells them, they’re always pretty bloody and seem to be directed at one soldier in particular.
He was such a promising soldier before the incident… Before the curse…
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Meyer)
1. The AG who flagged the commander. Twice.
It was an honest mistake, a lapse of judgement in the shoothouse. The assistant gunner had to take over for the gunner, and he shifted the gun’s weight at the wrong time and angle, pointing it up at the catwalks — and the commander — by accident. The platoon leader reached out his hand for a second, saw that it was done, and decided to wait for the AAR to address it. But then the AG rolled his shoulders again to settle the strap, pointing it at the commander again.
What happened next was epic. The platoon sergeant launched himself across the room, tackling the AG. The commander started screaming profanities. The platoon leader started doing pushups even though no one was yelling at him. But it was the eastern European military observer who did it. He mumbled something under his breath — a gypsy curse.
The AG took his smoking like a man, but he didn’t know the real punishment would come that night. He awoke to sharp pains throughout his abdomen and looked down to find three 5.56mm holes in his stomach. Now, he’s normal and fine during the day, but at night, he wanders as the ghost of live-fire exercises past. Eternally.
When in large formations, always remember to shut up and color.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)
2. The specialist who dimed out the platoon sergeant
Specialist Snuffy was an ambitious soldier — a real Army values kind of guy — but he took it too far. The platoon sergeant tried to provide some top cover to a soldier in trouble during a horseshoe formation, but Snuffy was kind enough to rat out the original soldier and the platoon sergeant for protecting him.
The rest of the platoon didn’t take it kindly, saying that Snuffy should’ve let the platoon sergeant handle it internally. So when Snuffy first started hearing the whispers in the barracks, he assumed it was just the platoon talking about him. But then he heard the whispers in the latrine. And on patrol. And while cleaning his weapon in a closed barracks room.
He slowly lost sleep, instead just tossing and turning to the unrelenting noises. When he was able to drift off, he was haunted by the visions of wrathful ghosts who declared him a blue falcon and buddyf*cker. It wore away at his metal foundation until he was finally chaptered out for insanity. It’s said that the voices are still out there, waiting for someone to screw over their own platoon once again.
Talk back to first sergeant, and you will do pushups until you die, and then your ghost will do the rest of them.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Selvage)
3. The team leader who actually talked back to the first sergeant
Corporal John was smart and talented, but also prideful and mouthy. He led a brilliant flanking movement during an exercise, keeping he and his men low and well-hidden in an unmapped gully until they were right on top of the OPFOR’s automatic weapons. But then he made a mistake, allowing his team to get bunched up right as a grenade simulator was thrown his way.
First sergeant took him to task for the mistake, and John pointed out that most other team leaders wouldn’t have seen or used the gully as effectively. He did push-ups for hours, yelling “You can’t smoke a rock, first sergeant!” the whole time. But first sergeant could smoke rocks.
The pain in John’s muscles should’ve gone away after a few days. He was an infantryman. But instead, it grew, hotter and more painful every day. On day three, it grew into open flames that would melt their way through his skin and burst out in jets near his joints. Then, his pectorals erupted in fire. The medics threw all the saline and Motrin they had at him, but nothing worked.
Slowly, the flesh burned away, leaving a fiery wraith in its wake. It now wanders the training areas, warning other team leaders of the dangers of mouthing off.
Keep. Your. Eyes. Open.
(Photo by Senior Airman Gina Reyes)
4. The private who fell asleep in the guard tower
He was just like one of you. Barely studying his skill book. Rarely practicing for the board. But that’s you expect from privates — just a good reason for their leadership to encourage them. But then, he was up in the guard tower during the unit’s JRTC rotation. He had stayed up playing video games the whole night before his shift and, by the time the sun was going back down, he was completely wiped.
He fought his eyes falling, but a thick bank of fog that rolled in caressed him to sleep. As he drifted off, he felt the light tickle of skeletal fingers around his neck. He thought briefly of the rumors of undead that wandered the Louisiana swamps.
Despite the threat to him and his buddies, he dropped into the lands of dreams. He was found the next morning with his eyes bulging from his head and thick, finger-shaped bruises on his throat. It’s a tragic reminder to keep your stupid, tiny little eyes wide open.
Not sure how he got so many negligent discharges with an empty magazine, but just go with it. It’s hard to find photos to illustrate ghost stories.
(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Terry Wong)
5. The King of Negligent Discharges
It’s said that he whimpers as he walks. He was once like one of you, a strong, upstanding killer. But then we were doing “Ready, up!” drills and this moron kept pulling the trigger while he was still raising his weapon. Somehow, no amount of yelling got him to stop doing it. The impact points of his rounds kept creeping closer and closer to his feet until his platoon sergeant finally grabbed him and threw him, physically, off the range.
But the disease was in his bones by that point. He started accidentally pulling the trigger on patrols while at the low ready, and then again on a ruck march. They stopped giving him live ammo. Then they stopped giving him blanks. Then he was only allowed to carry a rubber ducky rifle, and then finally he was only allowed to carry an actual rubber duck.
Somehow, even with the rubber duck, he had negligent discharges, sharp squeaks that would split the air on patrol. But one day it wasn’t a squeak — it was the sharp crack of a rifle instead. He had shot himself in the foot with a rubber duck, a seemingly impossible feat.
He’s a gardener now, always careful to point his tools away from himself, because he never knows when the next one will go off.
There will be pressure on the female infantry officer to prove she isn’t part of a quota system designed to boost female representation, one of the Marines, who was formerly an instructor at The Basic School in Quantico, Va., told Lemmon.
“When you are a woman in the Marine Corps and you walk in the room, you have to prove you are there because you are worth something and not just filling a quota,” the former instructor stated.
This former instructor also placed the blame on older Marines for forwarding “emotional arguments” against female integration into infantry roles.
“The young lieutenants I taught had no issues with females serving in the infantry,” she said. “It was the Marines who had been in longer and had been indoctrinated into a culture of misogyny that made emotional arguments against it.”
The Marine Corps was the only service to ask the Obama administration to carve out certain combat positions that would remain male-only when the administration first ordered integration of women into all combat positions. That request went unheeded, but the request itself is emblematic of a deep opposition to the integration of women in the infantry in the service.
In 2012, think tank CNA conducted a survey in 2012 of almost 54,000 members of the Marine Corps and discovered that 76.5 percent of Marines who served in an infantry unit were opposed to integrating women. For male Marines not in infantry roles, opposition still amounted to 56.4 percent.
Answering an air support call for the first time is a gut wrenching experience, and it’s something fighter pilots will never forget. All of the flight hours and training boils down to their first life and death test, a test that will become routine on deployment. 1st Lt. Bart “Lefty” Smith describes his first time:
I mean that’s something that I heard about that people talk about, but something that you never know until you’ve actually felt it. Till you hear gunfire going off in the background over this guy’s radio, and you drop a bomb and it stops. And, he picks up and they get their stuff together and they’re like, ‘okay, we’re going to get on with the exfil.’ That’s a feeling that people have talked about, but having felt that is pretty amazing.
The video is over 14 minutes long, but the first four minutes sums up the stressful experience.
Frontline medics and providers delved into the military’s latest paradigm shift of traumatic brain injury assessment and treatment March 7, 2019, at the Warfighter Brain Health Training Symposium at Madigan Army Medical Center.
“The need for training this year is greater than most years because just about every standard system that we use in our assessment and management of TBI are being overhauled based on the latest state of the science,” said Maj. (Dr.) Joseph Kamerath, the director of the TBI and Intrepid Spirit Center at Madigan.
A warfighter brain health memo issued last fall by Patrick Shanahan, acting Secretary of Defense, when he was serving as the Deputy Secretary of Defense established a commitment to understanding, preventing, diagnosing, and treating TBI in all of its forms, and the 2018 Defense Authorization Act also called for expanding blast research.
“We’re in an environment where we understand that the effects on readiness are greater than we ever thought, the numbers of service members sustaining TBI continue to be high despite the decreased operative tempo, and that we need to put a bigger emphasis on preventing TBI, and when people do have a TBI, mitigating the effects to maximize not only their wellness but our military readiness,” Kamerath said.
Director of the TBI and Intrepid Spirit Center at Madigan Maj. (Dr.) Joseph Kamerath.
He spoke to an audience of primarily frontline providers such as primary care managers and medics, who he called “the backbone of far-forward military health care.”
Researchers presenting at the symposium emphasized the key role of medics in early detection and treatment of TBIs as being influential in the long-term health of service members.
Although years past the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, TBIs are still a substantial issue affecting readiness, with nearly 18,000 new TBI diagnoses in the Department of Defense in 2017.
Current research is developing evidence that the long-term symptoms of mild TBIs, or concussions, may be more prevalent than previously thought.
“We used to say 85 percent are going to be fine; 85 percent of mild TBIs are (going to be) 100 percent better,” said Kamerath.
However, he said researchers are now finding that a certain percent of that 85 percent are experiencing more subtle symptoms, such as changes in vision, headaches, sleep, and concentration.
“One of the really unique things that’s been recognized is that in the coming several months after sustaining a mild traumatic brain injury, a soldier or a college athlete is twice as likely as their peer to sustain a lower extremity musculoskeletal injury be that hip, knee or ankle,” he said.
A potential reason could be that the subtle balance deficits caused by a TBI may make people more likely to sustain an injury.
From there, the math to TBIs affecting readiness is simple. Twice the rate of musculoskeletal injuries, which are one of the greatest health concerns which affect warfighter readiness, means that even the subtle mid- and long-term effects of TBIs could have real mission impacts. In other words, if readiness matters and TBIs affect readiness, then understanding the best way to assess, treat and mitigate the risks of TBIs also matter, Kamerath said.
“We are working to develop the best ways to make sure that they get back in the fight without sustaining injuries and maximize the readiness of our force,” he said.
One of the ways to better treat TBIs is to get patients to specialists faster. Historically, TBI specialty clinics cared for patients living with the chronic effects of TBI, who may have been referred after months of related symptoms. Now, the standard is that if a patient experiences an uncomplicated TBI yet is not improving seven days later to refer them to TBI specialists, who in turn are committed to seeing patients within seven days of the referral.
U.S. Army Pfc. Shawn Williams of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based in Fort Wainwright, Alaska, gives the thumbs-up to members of his unit as he is evacuated after being injured by a roadside bomb.
(Photo by U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Haraz N. Ghanbari)
“With more and more evidence suggesting that early rehab can be helpful to mitigate long-term effects, the push now is to change our model,” said Kamerath. “This is really the right way forward to get people in early, getting them into see the appropriate specialist early, so that they can get the care that’s needed.”
Other speakers addressed the long-term effects of TBIs, including the increased levels of disabilities experienced by blast concussion patients compared to those with non-blast TBIs one year after their initial injuries.
Dr. Christine MacDonald, an associate professor of neurological surgery at the University of Washington, explained that her longitudinal study found that 74 percent of concussive blast patients still experienced health reductions five years after their injuries. The best early predictors of these long-term reductions include being at an older age at the time of injury, having a TBI diagnosis, experiencing greater depression symptoms, exhibiting a slower reaction time, and demonstrating less word generation (aka verbal fluency).
Another study presented by Dr. Jesse Fann, a professor of psychiatry and behavior sciences and adjunct professor of rehabilitation medicine and epidemiology at the University of Washington, found a long-term increased risk of dementia for people with TBIs.
“The impact of a TBI is higher when you have a TBI earlier in life,” said Fann.
He shared that more severe TBIs also increase the risk of later developing dementia. While only 0.4 percent of the people studied had dementia due to TBI, that statistic is still significant given the large number of people who eventually do suffer from dementia, he said.
While the symposium included long-term potential effects of TBIs, it also offered medical providers tools that they can use now to better assess TBIs with the hope that better detection leads to better treatment.
While the Military Acute Concussion Evaluation is the standard for TBI screenings, the older algorithms are being replaced by the Concussion Management Tool, according to Kamerath. It is also incorporating the Vestibular/Ocular Motor Screening. Other new tools include the BrainScope One Device.
“When we get patients with TBI, our biggest concern is if it’s life-threatening now,” said Maj. Nicholas Koreerat, a clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy.
He briefed on the BrainScope One Device, which detects if bleeding occurs in the brain after a traumatic brain injury. Before the military began using it, the options to treat suspected brain bleeds downrange where to either “wait and see” or medevac the patient for a CT scan. However, if service members are medevaced unnecessarily, operational effectiveness decreases as aircraft are diverted for unneeded medevacs. Due to its high rate of sensitivity, the BrainScope increases the effectiveness and accuracy of determining treatment for patients who may experience brain bleeds, Koreerat said.
(US Army photo)
Another frontline screening tool now available is the Vestibular/Ocular Motor Screening, presented by Maj. Katrina Monti, the senior physician assistant for the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). The six-minute screening tool assesses headache, dizziness, nausea, and fogginess following specific maneuvers used to cluster TBI-associated symptoms. Monti explained that 60 percent of concussions result in these vestibular symptoms, and that patients tend to have poorer outcomes and longer recovery times with these symptoms as well.
“The big takeaway for me from that presentation was just how easy it is to implement some of the new tools that are coming out from the research that we’re seeing in the field, in deployment or other real-life settings, not just in clinics and hospitals,” said Kasey Zink with the Geneva Foundation, which funds research like the VOMS tool.
Others learned that just because TBI assessment tools may be easy to use, other factors may serve as barriers to screening.
In fact, underreporting mild TBIs occurs in the field because of lack of awareness — service members may not know which symptoms are related to concussions — and because they sometimes don’t want to be taken off their teams, even temporarily, for medical observation or treatment, said Monti. The key, she said, was in part greater education of the troops on mTBIs, to include awareness that earlier reporting can lead to faster improvement of symptoms and earlier return to duty.
F-35A Lightning II test aircraft assigned to the 31st Test Evaluation Squadron from Edwards Air Force Base, California, released AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9X missiles at QF-16 targets during a live-fire test over an Air Force range in the Gulf of Mexico on June 12, 2018. The Joint Operational Test Team conducted the missions as part of Block 3F Initial Operational Test and Evaluation. (U.S. Air Force)
Over the last few years, the Air Force has been taking proactive approaches to prepare for a proverbial “sucker punch” via cyber-attack. In preparation for this assault, and to mitigate vulnerability, cyber resiliency is being ingrained into Air Force culture.
By military definition, cyber resiliency is the ability of a system to complete its objective regardless of the cyber conditions, in other words, how well it can take a cyber-punch and keep fighting.
To help lead these efforts, the Air Force, through Air Force Materiel Command’s Life Cycle Management Center, stood up the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems, or CROWS, in response to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016. The NDA instructed the military to analyze the cyber vulnerabilities of major weapons systems and report findings back to Congress. In 2018, the program was fully funded by Congress to begin its mission.
“It’s all about two things, making sure our warfighters are protected and making sure they are able to do their jobs,” said Joseph Bradley, director of CROWS.
Joseph Bradley is the director of the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems (CROWS) which ensures cybersecurity is integrated into the development of all new programs from the start, then maintains and validates the cyber resiliency of the system throughout its life cycle. (U.S. Air Force)
Initially CROWS was created to look at liabilities in legacy weapon systems, but now it is taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity is integrated into the development of all new programs from the start, rather than as an afterthought. Then CROWS maintains and validates the cyber resiliency of the system throughout its life cycle.
Cyber resiliency needs change constantly and impact all Air Force missions — new threats emerge regularly and require new approaches to improve mission assurance.
As an F-35 Lightning II pilot, Maj. Justin Lee flies one of the most advanced aircraft on the planet with systems that will be upgraded and enhanced well into the future.
“We’re passing off a tremendous amount of data and, just like your computer, you want that data to be correct,” Lee said. “If you go into an adversarial environment against a frontline threat, then they’re going to be trying to do their best to interfere with it.”
It’s not just his weapons system that is vulnerable; the data these systems take in and put out is just as vulnerable and critical to mission success.
“If a hacker is able to get into the GPS time and get it off sync just by a few nanoseconds, then it can cause the bomb to land in a place that we don’t want,” Lee said.
One key mission in the evolution of CROWS was to find ways to implement cyber resiliency in the acquisition process. This now includes embedding cyber professionals within a program’s executive offices. Also, an acquisitions guidebook was created to standardize cyber-related language for contract evaluations, reducing the burden on any future programs while also allowing better communication with industry partners.
An Air Force pararescueman, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, communicates with an Army Task Force Brawler CH-47F Chinook during a training exercise at an undisclosed location in the mountains of Afghanistan, March 14, 2018. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. GREGORY BROOK)
CROWS allow cyber experts to join forces with the command responsible for the maintenance and development of a weapons system. Through testing and analysis, CROWS will then offer recommendations to make the system less vulnerable and ultimately safer.
Combat and training missions, weapons delivery and air drops are all put together using computer-based air-space mission planning systems. When the Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center wanted to overhaul their software to assist ground operations for aircraft, they called on the CROWS for help.
“As the challenges were identified we put together an engineering plan for how we would start to resolve or mitigate some of those cyber security vulnerabilities. The CROWS walked us through that analysis,” said Col. Jason Avram, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Airspace Mission Planning Division chief.
Tech. Sgt. Michael Vandenbosch, 22nd Space Operations Squadron defensive counter-space operator, uses software to identify interference to a specific satellite at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Dec. 16, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JONATHAN WHITELY)
“As that engineering plan came together, which looks specifically at how we’re going to deal with data integrity issues not only the data that we’re ingesting, but also how we’re processing that data through our software and then how we’re transferring that data to any platforms.”
According to Avram, CROWS funded the effort to develop an engineering plan on how to mitigate vulnerabilities over time.
Having cyber resiliency personnel inserted into a weapons system’s development and life-cycle management allows them to be at the tactical edge; fully understanding the system so they can detect if the obscured hand of an adversary is at play.
“They’re (CROWS) the cop on the beat that sort of knows what their neighborhood is supposed to look like. They’re the first ones that can see that window over there isn’t supposed to be open, let’s go investigate,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick Higby, director of DevOps and lethality. “So, they go in (figuratively) with the flashlight, they investigate and ‘holy cow’ there’s somebody in there, where do you go with that?”
Initially created to look at legacy weapon systems, the Air Force CROWS office will be taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity concerns are taken into account from the start of new programs. (AIR NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO // KELLYANN NOVAK)
Higby asked, how does that cop who is on the beat, how do they get the right experts, engineers and PhDs involved who may have built or designed that system to facilitate an agile response to the threat?
He explained the responses to a threat could mean a number of repercussions to the Air Force. There could be a need to ground the asset and not fly the next sortie because the risk is too great. It may be a decision to still fly with the vulnerability in place because there may be other work arounds.
It all goes back to the resiliency; can the weapon system maintain a mission effective capability under adversary offensive cyber operations. The fix may be the deployment of code to quickly patch and shut the window and get the adversary out of the system. But in all responses, you need the expert that built that system originally to be in that discussion alongside the CROWS.
“We really want the CROWS to be that interface to the real expert of a given weapon system, whether it’s an aircraft, a missile, a helicopter or whatever,to understand, if you’re going to tweak this, it may have these other consequences to it. And then make that risk decision,” Higby said. “Grounding the asset is not always an option, we have to launch because we have other actors that are dependent on us striking a target.”
In short, the Air Force has to be ready and able to take a punch.
“That’s the idea behind resiliency; you are going to fight to get the mission done no matter what happens,” Higby said.
As China’s naval power grows, the US military is stepping up its ability to sink enemy ships, firing missiles from land and at sea.
The Army and the Marines are both looking at striking ships from shore batteries at extended ranges, while the Navy is arming its submarines with ship-killer missiles for the first time in many years.
Determined to deploy these capabilities quickly, the Marines have launched a rapid program to develop long-range anti-ship missiles from mobile shore-based launchers.
“The Marine Corps has been looking for a shore-based capability to meet [US Indo-Pacific Command’s] demands,” a Lockheed Martin representative told Breaking Defense at the Surface Navy Association conference in Washington, DC.
“The Army is looking at this too but probably on a different timeline,” he added. “The Marine Corps wants to get after this pretty quickly.” He further commented that the Marines are looking at developing mobile launchers “that can shoot and move very rapidly.”
The Marines experimented with strikes against land targets using ship-based High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) aboard the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Essex in October 2017. At that time, military leaders were discussing bringing this capability to bear against enemy combatants at sea.
The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) transits the Pacific Ocean.
During the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in 2018, Army soldiers fired multiple rockets from the rocket artillery platform at the ex-USS Racine during a combined arms sinking exercise.
The Army is reportedly preparing to carry out another missile test, one in which MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System missiles will be fired from HIMARS launchers on Okinawa. The Chinese navy regularly sails ships, including its flagship aircraft carrier, through nearby waters.
During the sinking exercise in summer 2018, Gen. Robert Brown, the commander of US Army Pacific at Fort Shafter in Hawaii, suggested that ground forces could use these capabilities to establish “unsinkable aircraft carriers” to facilitate US Navy and Air Force operations.
China uses threatening, long-range missiles to keep US forces at arms length. Were a conflict to break out, the US would likely use long-range weapons like these at its military outposts along the first island chain — a defensive line that runs south from Japan to Taiwan and then the Philippines — to limit Chinese mobility.
The Navy is reportedly arming its attack submarines with upgraded versions of the Harpoon anti-ship missile, according to Breaking Defense.
The focus on anti-ship capabilities at sea and ashore advances a strategic concept outlined by the head of INDOPACOM.
“As naval forces drive our enemies into the littorals, army forces can strike them. Conversely, when the army drives our enemies out to sea, naval firepower can do the same,” Adm. Phil Davidson said after 2018’s sinking exercise.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.