Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this. - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Jenny Byers, a first time mom living in San Diego at the time, laid on the hospital bed with tears streaming down her face as her son, Declan, was placed on her chest.

In what was such a joyous moment in her life, Byers wished just one thing — that her husband could be there to witness the occasion. She turned over her shoulder as a nurse nearby held up a computer with a live FaceTime call with PJ Byers, meeting his son for the first time.


Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Courtesy of Jenny Byers

“That’s your daddy,” she said to her newborn son experiencing skin-to-skin beneath a blanket.

PJ Byers redeployed when Declan was five months old and they met for the first time face-to-face in an emotional airport family reunion.

“At first I was scared our family was being robbed of one of the most special moments of our lives,” Jenny Byers told We Are The Mighty. “But I was wrong. That moment was still just as special, but in a way I wasn’t expecting. Thanks to modern day technology, we got to meet our son together.”

The Byers family’s story is not an outlier. Being married to someone in the military often means facing many of life’s challenges without your significant other and pregnancy is no exception.

“When my son was born we were at Fort Campbell, and my daughter was four,” said Sophie Pappas, a journalist and Army spouse. “I ended up driving myself to the hospital while my mom from Indiana stayed with my daughter. The midwife was super amazing during my second birth. She held one of my legs up with one of her hands and with her other hand she held my iPhone so my husband could FaceTime and see everything! I will always be grateful he was able to at least watch over FaceTime.”

Pappas credits the love and adrenaline running through her body for being able to deliver her baby boy without focusing on the absence of her husband.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Courtesy of Sophie Pappas

“When I was pushing, I remember laying in the hospital room at 8-centimeters dilated, totally alone,” she shared. “My water broke and I started to push right then and there with not even a nurse around. I didn’t know how to call anyone in, so I just started doing it alone. Looking back, that was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The strength that your body has to just do what it needs to do is incredible.”

While military spouses facing pregnancy alone and delivery without their spouse is not new, this is an unprecedented situation for many pregnant civilians as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

Heading to appointments without spousal support or delivering a new baby in a plan that looks different than it did six months ago is a scary realization that is top-of-mind for many moms-to-be.

Here is what military spouses who were pregnant and/or delivered alone want to share with expectant moms:

“I wish I trusted in myself a little more that I was capable and strong enough to do it alone and that it wouldn’t be forever. I also talked to my OB/GYN who knew about my experience and would let me videotape parts of the appointment such as ultrasounds. She was also really good about giving me lots of US pictures that I could send to my husband.” – Maureen Hannan Tufte

“I would tell them to be sure and ask for help when they need it. I was pretty stubborn about trying to do it all on my own, but when I did have help, I would realize how much I really needed it. Maybe find pregnancy groups (fitness or otherwise) to get involved in. Maybe they’ll find a kindred spirit who is going through the same thing? I would tell them that they can get through this.” – Julie Estrella

“I think the biggest thing with any pregnancy is that whether a national pandemic or a deployment or any event gets in the way, you’re going to have this ‘idea’ of exactly how you want things to go or you think things will go. I can 10000% guarantee that no pregnancy has ever turned out exactly like the mom and dad to be imagined, it’s just life. The sooner you adjust to the idea that things may change or unexpected events may occur, the better your anxiety and nerves will be and the less it will sting when that inevitable curveball comes your way.” – Kati Simmons

“It’s scary to be pregnant by yourself, especially during a first pregnancy. But the baby will keep growing no matter whether or not your partner is available. All you can do is take care of yourself and try not to stress out. Then be sure to Reach out to friends, call family, do what you can to find support because there are definitely people who are willing to help.” – Julie Yaste

“What brought me comfort before giving birth without my husband was hearing about other women who had labored alone before me. Knowing I wasn’t the only one to ever face this situation gave me every affirmation I needed, to know I was going to be okay.” – Jenny Byers

“I would tell someone to not get hung up on who won’t be there, think about who will. You and your baby! Embrace these moments to bond and build a connection. Dwelling on the sadness of your spouse not being there takes away from the joy.” – Kelsey Bucci

“We are capable and able to do hard things. It will be ok. Not having your spouse around for the birth is really hard. But, it will be ok. Lots of pictures and FaceTime. We are lucky to live in a land of technology.” – Alana Steppe

“Know it’s only temporary and the feeling of seeing your husband or spouse with your baby will be the most amazing feeling and make it all worth it.” – Emily Stewart

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Courtesy of Kelly Callahan

“You are stronger than you know, and while the situation may not look anything like what you pictured, it is amazing what our mind and body will do (and do well) when we are faced with the challenge of bringing a new life into the world. What I realize now that we are on the other side of it, is that this situation is a small piece of our story and it’s a beautiful one. Lucy is in kindergarten now and I’ve heard her share with classmates and teachers more than once that her daddy could not be there when she was born, so she got to meet him on the computer, because he was fighting bad guys in other places. It all adds to who we are and how we are shaped. I would also add that the nurses and doctor who helped me deliver stepped up in ways I never could have imagined. They made sure the technology was just right so that my husband was included and included him in the conversations. They supported me like we had known each other for years and cried with me when she was born. The medical community is amazing and will not let anyone feel alone.” – Kelly Callahan

A spouse who wished to remain anonymous gave sage advice for expectant moms from the perspective of both a mom of six and labor and delivery nurse of ten years:

“I can confidently tell you that now, more than ever, your nurses are ready to be your doula, photographer and friend,” she shared. “You will not be left alone. You will have our entire team here to celebrate with you on your special day.”

Articles

Navy has first female applicants for SEAL officer, special boat units

More than a year after a mandate for the Pentagon opened previously closed ground combat and special operations jobs to women, officials say the Navy has its first female candidates for its most elite special warfare roles.


Two women were in boot camp as candidates for the Navy’s all-enlisted Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman program, Naval Special Warfare Center Deputy Commander Capt. Christian Dunbar told members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service in June.

Another woman, who sources say is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, has applied for a spot in the SEAL officer selection process for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, and is set to complete an early step in the pipeline, special operations assessment and selection, later this summer, he said.

“That’s a three-week block of instruction,” Dunbar said. “Then the [prospective SEAL officer] will compete like everyone else, 160 [applicants] for only 100 spots.”

Related: This is how the military is integrating women

A spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Command, Capt. Jason Salata, confirmed to Military.com this week that a single female enlisted candidate remained in the training pipeline for Special Warfare Combatant Crewman, or SWCC. The accession pipeline for the job, he added, included several screening evaluations and then recruit training at the Navy’s Great Lakes, Illinois boot camp before Basic Underwater Demolition School training.

Salata also confirmed that a female midshipman is set to train with other future Naval officers in the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection, or SOAS, course this summer.

“[SOAS] is part of the accession pipeline to become a SEAL and the performance of attendees this summer will be a factor for evaluation at the September SEAL Officer Selection Panel,” he said.

Because of operational security concerns, Salata said the Navy would not identify the candidates or provide updates on their progress in the selection pipeline. In special operations, where troops often guard their identities closely to keep a low profile on missions, public attention in the training pipeline could affect a candidate’s career.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
U.S. Navy special warfare combatant-craft crewmen (SWCC) from Special Boat Team 22 drive a special operations craft-riverine. SWCC are U.S. Special Operations Command maritime mobility experts. | U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger

It’s possible, however, that the first female member of these elite communities will come not from the outside, but from within. In October, a SWCC petty officer notified their chain-of-command that they identified as being transgender, Salata confirmed to Military.com.

According to Navy policy guidance released last fall, a sailor must receive a doctor’s diagnosis of medical necessity and command approval to begin the gender transition process, which can take a variety of different forms, from counseling and hormone therapy to surgery. Sailors must also prove they can pass the physical standards and requirements of the gender to which they are transitioning.

These first female candidates represent a major milestone for the Navy, which has previously allowed women into every career field except the SEALs and SWCC community. A successful candidate would also break ground for military special operations.

Also read: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Army officials said in January that a woman had graduated Ranger school and was on her way to joining the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, but no female soldier has made it through the selection process to any other Army special operations element. The Air Force and Marine Corps have also seen multiple female candidates for special operations, but have yet to announce a successful accession.

The two women now preparing to enter the Navy’s special operations training pipeline will have to overcome some of the most daunting attrition rates in any military training process

Dunbar said the SEALs, which graduate six Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL classes per year, have an average attrition rate of 73 to 75 percent, while the special boat operator community has an average attrition rate of 63 percent. The attrition rate for SEAL officers is significantly lower, though; according to the Navy’s 2015 implementation plan for women in special warfare, up to 65 percent of SEAL officer candidates successfully enter the community.

But by the time they make it to that final phase of training, candidates have already been weeded down ruthlessly. Navy officials assess prospective special warfare operators and special boat operators, ranking them by their scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, physical readiness test, special operations resiliency test, and a mental toughness exam. The highest-ranking candidates are then assessed into training, based on how many spots the Navy has available at that point.

“We assess right now that, with the small cohorts of females, we don’t really know what’s going to happen as far as expected attrition,” Dunbar, the Naval Special Warfare Center deputy commander, told DACOWITS in June.

Dunbar did say, however, that Naval Special Warfare Command was considered fully ready for its first female SEALs and SWCC operators, whenever they ultimately arrived. A cadre of female staff members was in place in the training pipeline, and the command regularly held all-hands calls to discuss inclusivity and integration.

“All the barriers have been removed,” he said. “Our planning has been completed and is on track.”

Salata said the Navy had also completed a thorough review of its curriculum and policies and had evaluated facilities and support capabilities to determine any changes that might need to be made to accommodate women. As a result, he said, minor changes were made to lodging facilities and approved uniform items.

Nonetheless, Salata said, “It would be premature to speculate as to when we will see the first woman SEAL or SWCC graduate. Managing expectations is an important part of the deliberate assessment and selection process; it may take months and potentially years.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated in the third paragraph to correct the school the SEAL officer candidate attends. She is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, not the Naval Academy.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How US soldier got his wife to join the Army

Staff Sgt. Joshua Mitchell is used to talking with various people about military careers and the benefits that are offered to those who choose to wear the uniform and serve their country as a soldier. As a recruiter in the Malden, Massachusetts area, he is constantly talking to strangers, even off-duty, according to his wife Eunjee.

“The first year after I moved to America, I knew I needed a car,” Eunjee said. “We went to the car dealership and he recruited the car dealer.”

The couple met in Korea while Staff Sgt. Mitchell was stationed there. Originally meeting online and then they met face-to-face for the first time on New Year’s Day. They married shortly after and Eunjee Mitchell immigrated to the U.S. where her husband became a recruiter. She often would hear the conversations her husband had about joining the military. After two years of listening to her husband, she decided enlisting was the right choice for her.


“He was interviewing other recruiters and one was Korean like me. She told me how the Army helps her a lot to speak (better) English and get her involved in the community,” said Eunjee Mitchell. “The conversation with her gave me the thought that I could try.”

She enlisted as a 92A — Automated Logistical Specialist in the Army Reserves.

“I knew hanging around with me she would be interested in the Army but I didn’t think she would (join),” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell. “I definitely wrote her contract.”

After 10-weeks of South Carolina’s famously hot summer weather, Eunjee Mitchell walked across Fort Jackson’s Hilton Field with the rest of her company as they graduate Basic Combat Training. With three bachelor degrees, she graduated with the rank of specialist.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Mitchell, left, walks with his wife Spc. Eunjee Mitchell during the Fort Jackson Family Day on July 31, 2019.

(Photo by Alexandra Shea)

While she knew her husband would be attending her ceremony, Staff Sgt. Mitchell was able to arrive to the installation early and surprise his wife during the Family Day dress rehearsal.

“While I was waiting behind the trees, I was trying to stay calm. I was very emotional,” said Spc. Mitchell.

She instantly recognized her husband on the parade field and knew “my recruiter is here.”

“I saw him and he was in uniform so I recognized him because he’s so tall,” she said.

Standing at six-feet, five-inches, Staff Sgt. Mitchell is not easily missed. Since immigrating to a new country and culture, Spc. Mitchell has never been separated from her husband, until attending Basic Combat Training.

“I didn’t see her until she was walking out,” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell. “She’s a tough little lady. I’m crazy proud of her.”

The couple were allowed to speak for a short time before Spc. Mitchell had to return to her daily duties. The following day they were reunited for Family Day where they were able to spend an entire day together visiting various parts of the installation and get lunch together.

After the graduation ceremony, Spc. Mitchell traveled back to her home state with her husband. Once there, Spc. Mitchell will rejoin her Reserve unit and attend Advanced Individual Training in the coming months.

When asked what her future might look like now that BCT is complete, Spc. Mitchell said she is excited to begin her new career and possibly a family. She also explained how her experience on Fort Jackson has helped her to understand her husband and brings them closer as a couple.

“The first year we were married I didn’t understand the little things like why he didn’t want to take his boots off in the house,” said Spc. Mitchell. “I understand him more now.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

What if the most powerful nuclear bomb exploded in space

We all know a nuclear blast on land brings devastating effects to the surrounding region. But what if humans detonated a nuclear bomb in space? Following is a transcript of the video.

Imagine if we detonated a nuclear bomb in space? Actually, you don’t have to.

You can see it for yourself. That was Starfish Prime — the highest-altitude nuclear test in history. In 1962, the US government launched a 1.4 megaton bomb from Johnston Island. And detonated it 400 km above the Pacific — about as high as where the International Space Station orbits today.


[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5babe43bea400292798b4568%3Fwidth%3D1200%26format%3Djpeg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=516&h=0901f63252391c0f199e105d17bf0830949514d34b930b35c386bdd3bc7b77a4&size=980x&c=2328355194 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5babe43bea400292798b4568%253Fwidth%253D1200%2526format%253Djpeg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D516%26h%3D0901f63252391c0f199e105d17bf0830949514d34b930b35c386bdd3bc7b77a4%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2328355194%22%7D” expand=1]

The detonation generated a giant fireball and created a burst of energy called an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, that expanded for over 1,000 kilometers.

EMPs can cause a power surge, damaging electronic equipment in the process. And this one was no different. Across Hawaii, street lights went dark, telephones went down, and navigation and radar systems went out, not to mention the six, or so, satellites that failed.

And all this came from a 1.4 megaton bomb. Tsar Bomba, which was the largest nuclear bomb that has ever been detonated, was 50 megatons.

So what would happen if we detonated that above the United States?

For starters, there’s no atmosphere in space. So, there would be no mushroom-shaped cloud and no subsequent blast wave or mass destruction. Instead, you’d get a blinding fireball 4 times the size of Starfish Prime’s. And if you looked directly at it within the first 10 seconds, you could permanently damage your eyes.

Satellites wouldn’t be safe either. Radiation from the explosion would fry the circuits of hundreds of instruments in low-earth orbit. Including communication satellites, military spy satellites, and even science telescopes like the Hubble.

Plus, astronauts on board the International Space Station might be at risk of radiation poisoning.

On the ground, however, you’d probably be fine. The detonation point would be far enough away that the high-energy radiation wouldn’t reach you.

But don’t get too comfortable. Remember Starfish Prime’s EMP? This time, the EMP would cover ⅓ of the entire United States, bringing down regional power grids and electronics like a lightning strike.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The radiation would also interact with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere and create a spectacular aurora near the detonation site, that would last for days.

Now, let’s be clear. This will probably never happen. Super-thermonuclear devices like the Tsar Bomba no longer exist. And even if they did, the Tsar Bomba weighed around 27,000 kilograms. There are only a couple of operational rockets in the world that could manage to lift something that heavy into space in the first place.

So we’re probably safe from that, anyway. This video was made in large part thanks to the calculations from physicists at Los Alamos National Lab.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How US PsyOps lured an African warlord to defect using his mother’s voice

A team of Fort Bragg soldiers set their sights on one of the top officials within warlord Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army late last year.


The soldiers, working with government agencies and nonprofit organizations, tracked down the family of the official — communications chief Michael Omona.

He played a key role in the Ugandan warlord’s cultish militant group, which was built on the backs of former child soldiers abducted from their homes in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Fort Bragg soldiers – part of a regional psychological operations team deployed to Africa – weren’t targeting Omona with firepower. Instead, it was a campaign fueled by facts and meant to counter the misinformation Kony spread across his force.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, Col. Bethany Aragon, the commander of the 4th Military Information Support Group at Fort Bragg, described what happened next.

“If you can envision yourself walking through this dense jungle,” she said. “… As he’s walking through the jungle, he hears his mother’s voice begging him to come home.”

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
Michael Omana, the communications chief for Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, walked for two weeks to defect after hearing his mothers voice piped through the jungles begging him to come home.

The voice came from a U.S. Army loudspeaker team, piping voices into the countryside.

A little while later, leaflets dropped from the sky. On them, images of Omona’s uncle, who raised him as a father, and his daughter; both pleading for Omona to turn himself in to authorities.

“We targeted him,” Aragon said. “And in January 2017… he walked for two weeks to defect.”

Omona’s defection gave authorities key information in the search for Kony and the LRA. He provided access to codes used by the group and inside information on the higher workings of the LRA.

It was one of the highest profile defections in the long-running effort to dismantle the LRA. And Aragon used the example to show the value psychological operations soldiers played in those efforts.

“For over two decades, they abducted over 60,000 children, massacred tens of thousands of civilians, displaced two million people and then really destabilized a region the size of California,” she said of the LRA.

Today, Aragon said the LRA has been rendered irrelevant. And a generation of stolen Uganda children have been returned to their homes as the LRA has dwindled from an army of thousands to less than 100 members.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
Students walk in front of a recently constructed building before a dedication ceremony at St. Theresa secondary school in Lira, Uganda, Feb. 23. Service members from the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa attended the ceremony, marking the the completion of a $500,000 project funded by CJTF-HOA. In October of 2002, regional instablitity forced the school’s students and faculty away from its current location in the village of Alanyi. The Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel force, attacked civilians and attempted to seize control of villages throughout northern Uganda.

At AUSA, Aragon and other special operations leaders presented case studies on the value of their forces during a panel led by Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

Often working with foreign partners, conventional forces and other government agencies, Tovo said the Army’s special operations forces provide a set of unique capabilities that can’t be easily reproduced.

They are complementary skills, Tovo said, that when mixed with other capabilities and forces form a “symbiotic whole” to fuel national objectives.

“To quasi-quote Tom Cruse in ‘Jerry Maguire,'” he said. “We complete each other.”

Tovo said there are about 4,300 special operations soldiers deployed around the world in 78 countries. That includes Special Forces, psychological operations, civil affairs, Army Rangers and other special operations troops.

While the more violent aspects of special operations tend to make the most headlines, Tovo’s panel largely focused on the more unheralded aspects of the force – what he called an “indigenous approach” to operations around the world.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
Members of the Uganda People’s Defence Force and the 346th Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne) Soldiers deployed to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa stand for a class photo after the UPDF graduated from the third of a four-phase psychological operations training held at the Uganda Junior Command and Staff College, Jinja, Uganda, Aug. 15, 2017. The training was part of the U.S. mission of strengthening partner nation defense forces. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

“We live among, train with, advise and fight alongside people of foreign cultures,” Tovo said. “We think this indigenous approach provides a low-cost, high-impact option.”

Joining Tovo on the panel were Aragon; the former ambassador to Ukraine and current ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt; Brig. Gen. David Komar, director of the requirements integration directorate at the Army Capabilities Integration Center; 75th Ranger Regiment commander Col. Brandon Tegtmeier; and Lt. Col. Tom Craig, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.

Tegtmeier discussed how the Rangers are working with Afghan partners. And Craig, who left Northern Syria about a week ago, discussed the task force comprised of Special Forces A-teams, special operations and conventional troops working to train and support Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the Islamic State.

“The indigenous approach is absolutely working,” he said, explaining how special operations forces are uniquely suited to the ongoing fight against ISIS.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Hurst, 346th Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne) noncommissioned officer in charge, deployed to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, serves as an observer, controller and trainer to members of the Uganda People’s Defense Force during a four-phase course that trains the UDPF to secure objectives through influencing attitude and behaviors. The training took place at the Uganda Senior Command and Staff College in Jinja, Uganda, Aug. 14, 2017. As the region continues to contend with multiple VEOs, a sustained international working relationship will only further efforts of global stability. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Craig said his Special Forces soldiers have language skills and cultural understanding built up over multiple deployments that allow them to have influence on the nation’s Syrian partners.

“In Syria, it’s important to note,” he said. “We are advising a partner who is in the lead.”

He said the relatively light footprint of U.S. forces in Syria allow them to be agile and flexible, while also providing important support.

Craig said troops are training, equipping, advising and providing air support and intelligence to their partnered forces.

Pyatt said that in a world of diffuse power and shifting threats, most challenges to American national security will happen in so-called “gray areas” between diplomacy and hard power.

Those are the areas in which special operations forces thrive, officials said.

Pyatt said the relationships between SOF and diplomats were critical.

“There’s a very, very high return on investments,” he said. “They don’t cost a lot of money, but they get a lot done.”

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
Lance Cpl. Denis Nokrach and Capt. John Robert Mwonge, both Marines in the Uganda People’s Defence Force, review a psychological operations plan during training with the 346th Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne) who are deployed to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, at the Uganda Senior Command and Staff College in Jinja, Uganda, Aug. 14, 2017. As a subordinate unit of U.S. Africa Command, CJTF-HOA uses the primary tool of military-to-military programs and operations, coordinated with the U.S. Department of State, to assist African nations strengthen their defense capabilities and build partnerships. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Komar said the conventional force was beginning to model some of its reforms after the SOF community, specifically with the creation of security force advise and assist brigades.

At the same time, he said the days of deconflicting between SOF and conventional forces were largely over. Instead, the Army has embraced and integration between the two types of units.

In addition to ongoing operations and recent case studies, the panelists discussed ways the special operations community was preparing for future fights.

Tovo said each special operations specialty has different skillsets, but complement one another.

Whether serving as a crisis response force or working alongside State Department personnel, special operations forces are able to provide unique perspectives and insight.

“When bad things happen in any part of the world and we’ve got SOF there,” he said. “… We provide the nation a suite of tools applicable across the full range of military operations.”

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
A force reconnaissance Marine goes over threat detection methods with a group of Ugandan soldiers, Feb. 28. Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12 sent a small team of Marines into Uganda, Feb. 3, to train Ugandan forces for the fight against al-Shabaab in Somalia and the hunt for Joseph Kony and the Lord’s resistance army.

Aragon said the campaign against the LRA was the most effective psychological operations campaign in Africa to date.

She said the groundwork was laid in 2011, when a team of just four psyops soldiers from Fort Bragg deployed to the continent.

Aragon said Omona and other members of the LRA lived in dense jungle and worked for an unhinged leader. Most, like Omona himself, were former child soldiers abducted from their homes years ago.

“He’s susceptible,” she said. And so were others within the LRA.

The goal was to use radio, leaflets and area loudspeakers to reach disaffected members of the group.

Key to those efforts were buy-in from the Ugandan government, which offered amnesty for defectors, she said.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
Students sit in a classroom during a music a rehearsal before a dedication ceremony at St. Theresa secondary school in Lira, Uganda, Feb. 23. Service members from the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa attended the ceremony, marking the the completion of a $500,000 project funded by CJTF-HOA. The project provided two new student dormitories to house 300 students, a staff house, new latrines, three water-harvesting tanks, and new solar panels for a computer laboratory.

Early successes gave the psyops team additional weaponry – the voices and stories of former LRA members who could speak to the fair treatment they received.

The first mass defection came in 2013, Aragon said, when 19 combatants defected.

Omona’s name came up in latter conversations, identified through a nonprofit group dedicated to the reintegration of former child soldiers in Africa called Pathways to Peace.

Omona had been kidnapped by the LRA when he was 12. Twenty-three years later, he was personally in charge of Kony’s communications.

Aragon said soldiers enlisted the aid of Omona’s family. His defection helped the soldiers end their mission against the LRA earlier this year.

But for the next fight, potentially against a more advanced enemy force, Aragon said officials must begin their efforts now.

“We cannot wait until the deployment to find the next Michael Omona,” she said. “We have to be doing that persistently if we are to be ready and relevant.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Elon Musk accepts Ford’s challenge for Cybertruck tug-of-war rematch

A top Ford executive implied on Nov. 25, 2019, that Tesla’s video showing its new Cybertruck beating an F-150 in a tug-of-war might not have been completely fair.

“Hey @elonmusk send us a Cybertruck and we will do the apples to apples test for you,” Sunny Madra, who leads Ford X, the automaker’s mobility-ventures lab, said on Twitter. Not long after, Tesla’s billionaire CEO accepted the challenge, saying “bring it on.”


On Nov. 21, 2019, as part of a laser-filled reveal that didn’t always go to plan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk went out of his way to take shots at Ford and other automakers.

“You want a truck that’s really tough, not fake tough,” he said.

Ford was quick to fight back.

“We’ve always focused on serving our truck customers regardless of what others say or do,” a Ford representative told Business Insider.

Madra’s tweet appears to be the first time since the Tesla reveal that a Ford executive has publicly discussed the Cybertruck. Musk responded to the Ford executive’s challenge on Nov. 25, 2019: “Bring it on,” he said.

For its part, Ford has big plans for its own electric-truck fleet.

Earlier this year, Ford showed off an electric F-150 prototype that handily towed 1 million pounds of train cars for 1,000 feet. (For context, a properly configured Ford F-150 pickup truck can tow 13,200 pounds.)

It’s not clear whether Tesla will take Madra up on the offer of a test, which could be the first of its kind for the nascent electric-vehicle industry — and certainly a treat for automotive fans.

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

Read more:

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Tolkien’ trailer depicts WW1 influence on ‘Lord of the Rings’

World War I veteran John Ronald Reuel “J.R.R.” Tolkien published The Hobbit in 1937 and followed it up with The Lord of the Rings (1954-1944), books that would shape fantasy epics forever. The stories take place in Middle Earth, a medieval-esque land inhabited by humans, elves, dwarves, hobbits, dragons, orcs, and trolls, as well as sorcerers and wizards and witches and all manner of magics.

Thanks to sexy Legolas Peter Jackson, everyone has heard of Tolkien’s creations, but not everyone knows where he drew his inspiration from. Finally, the biopic Tolkien will tell the author’s tale.


TOLKIEN | Trailer 2 | FOX Searchlight

youtu.be

Watch the trailer:

Tolkien was a language scholar, specializing in Old and Middle English, which explains how he was able to invent his own languages for Middle Earth so perfectly. In 1915, Tolkien completed his studies at Oxford and became a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. After training, he finally embarked for France in June 1916 and saw action almost immediately at the Battle of the Somme.

His service during World War I would heavily influence his writing, which the trailer alludes to brilliantly as the great dragon Smaug manifests in the flames of war.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F26sLAFvfAue8vXRGyw.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=284&h=7f61aef5968593308d5dbf231ae6e4f97118775103317acc850df8bbdc6fe8b6&size=980x&c=3434644327 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F26sLAFvfAue8vXRGyw.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D284%26h%3D7f61aef5968593308d5dbf231ae6e4f97118775103317acc850df8bbdc6fe8b6%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3434644327%22%7D” expand=1]

Tolkien would lost two friends in the Battle of the Somme, a heavy toll for anyone to bear. Tolkien would also suffer from ‘trench fever’ — a typhus-like condition — that would heavily debilitate him for the rest of his service.

Also read: How Tolkien’s war experience would influence ‘Lord of the Rings’

The journey from warrior to artist is a fascinating one, and Tolkien is one of the greatest. He had already begun writing some of his earliest tales, and after the war he sought employment as an Assistant Lexicographer on the New English Dictionary and later as an Associate Professor in English Language at the University of Leeds.

Based on the trailer, the film appears to celebrate Nicholas Hoult’s Tolkien, from his early education, love of language, and close friendships; to the war; and, of course, to his relationship with Edith Bratt, played by Lily Collins.

For fans of his work, the film looks promising.

For anyone who knows the toll that war can take, the film looks familiar — and perhaps promises a way “back again.”

Tolkien is directed by Dome Karukoski and will open on May 10, 2019.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This heroic working dog conducted 210 combat missions while deployed

Military Working Dog Gabe started his Army career in a rare way, escaping near-euthanasia in a Texas shelter before becoming a remarkably successful working dog and a celebrity loved by famous humans, like Betty White and Jay Leno.


2012 Hero Dog Awards Tribute – Gabe

youtu.be

Gabe is credited with going on 210 combat missions and finding 26 caches of weapons and explosives before retiring to live with his handler in 2009 as a sergeant first class. He passed away in his handler’s arms in 2013.

Most military working dogs are purchased from European breeders and raised from birth to work in military units or police agencies. But the U.S. was running short on good dogs, and it has always allowed the occasional stray into the ranks. Gabe was one of those strays.

He had been sitting in a shelter where he was reportedly a day away from euthanasia when the Southeast Texas Labrador Retriever Rescue Organization pulled him out. The Army found him then and tested him for potential as a military working dog. He passed and was assigned to Army Staff Sgt. Charles Shuck.

The team trained together as a Specialized Search Dog team, a then-new program that focused on entirely detecting IED and IED-making components. Dogs in the SSD program don’t search for drugs. They don’t search for cadavers. They don’t chase.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Gabe visits with actor Betty White.

(U.S. Army)

They find bombs. They find them in combat, in the burning desert, and sometimes under fire. Gabe finished a five-month training iteration and was the rock star of the class. After they graduated, Shuck’s commander asked if they could deploy to Iraq. They needed Gabe in the show.

And so he went, and Gabe and Shuck were quickly favorites with troops on the ground. They rolled out often, 210 times in a single deployment. Of those missions, 170 were combat patrols where they led columns of soldiers through dangerous areas, smelling for the tell-tale scents of IEDs.

And Gabe was able to find the goods. In one case, he hit on 36 mortar rounds stashed by insurgents. Mortar rounds are popular tools for bomb makers because their explosives are reliable and powerful. Recovering them saves lives. Gabe also visited soldiers during his deployment, improving morale.

Gabe would eventually garner three Army Commendation Medals, an Army Achievement Medal, and dozens of military coins and other awards. In 2008, he received the Heroic Military Working Dog Award Medal from the American Kennel Club.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Gabe visiting with children in a school.

(U.S. Army)

But Gabe was senior and needed to retire soon after the deployment, something he did in 2009. The Army allowed Shuck, Gabe’s only handler, to adopt him. He visited schools and hospitals and became a celebrity, appearing in photos with Betty White and Jay Leno.

The heroic dog enjoyed almost four years of retirement, but cancer had stealthily crept through his liver and spleen. It was discovered in February 2013, but it was far too late to operate.

Shuck made the decision to have Gabe put to sleep and cradled him as he passed.

Articles

The Air Force is running out of bombs to drop on ISIS

The United States Air Force is dropping so many bombs on Daesh (aka ISIS) targets in Iraq and Syria, that it’s running out of them. Not that there are no bombs at all in the Air Force arsenal, but the Air Force’s supply chain is having a hard time keeping up with the number of bombs the ISIS threat requires.


“We are now expending munitions faster than we can replenish them,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in a statement.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
Master Sgt. Adam, middle, NCO-in-charge of conventional maintenance, preps the KMU-572 fins for assembly onto the MK-82 munition in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Carrie Hinson)

The top Air Force General estimates at least 20,000 bombs were dropped on ISIS targets since the air campaign against the terrorist organization started last year. B-1 bombers are dropping bombs in record numbers, leaving munitions supplies in the region at record lows. Gen. Welsh called the need to replenish funds and munitions a “critical need.”

The Air Force now has an estimated 142,000 guided munitions and 2,300 Hellfire missiles, used in drone strikes.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
From America, with love: Six GBU-38 munitions are dropped by a B-1B Lancer aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

In the first ten months of the American response to ISIS in 2015, Air Force fighters and bombers dropped munitions during half of their 18,000 sorties (a sortie is a single air mission with a takeoff and landing). In 2014, one third of sorties flown used weapons.

The White House recently signed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which allowed for more funding to fight the air campaign in Iraq and Syria. In a televised statement to the nation, President Obama also asked Congress for a new Authorization for Use of Military Force in early December to provide funding for further operations against ISIS.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
Good thing the Air Force upgraded its B-1 Bomber fleet in 2011 so it carries three times the payload.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Shannon Hall)

The American public is ready for an expanded fight against ISIS, including looser rules of engagement and a more aggressive air campaign. Congressional Republicans are even calling for an American ground force, which the Iraqi government has repeatedly denied.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Triple Nickles: The all-Black airborne smokejumping unit that parachuted into forest fires

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor wasn’t the only time the Japanese struck U.S. soil during World War II. In response to the Doolittle Raid — the successful penetration of Japanese airspace and the bombing of strategic targets in Tokyo from the allies — the Japanese executed their revenge. The date of the launch was chosen for the birthday of former emperor Meiji, Nov. 3, 1944.

However, instead of using airplanes, the Japanese used fusen bakudan, or balloon bombs, that each carried four incendiaries and a 33-pound, highly explosive anti-personnel fragmentation device. The Fu-Go balloon bombs traveled 7,500 miles along the Pacific Ocean jet stream at altitudes between 20,000 and 40,000 feet. Witnesses described these large, white balloons as “giant jellyfish” floating in the sky. Their main objective was to start forest fires, create security doubts among the civilian populace, and cause upheaval.


The all-black Triple Nickles battalion was ultimately responsible for combating the slow-moving, round balloon bombs, which had no escort or protection and had been spotted by the U.S. Navy patrol off the coast of California only two days after their initial launch. The patrol alerted the FBI, and investigations were conducted to find the origin of these mysterious flammable balloons traveling over the Pacific Northwest and into Canada.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

A Japanese Fu-Go balloon with its payload of charges suspended below. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Paratroopers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions suffered heavy casualties in the European Theater (ETO) during the Battle of the Bulge and the courageous siege of Bastogne; they were in a desperate need for replacements. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, or the “Triple Nickles” as they became known, trained to fulfill this capacity. However, as with other all-black units of the time, African-American soldiers weren’t treated equally. “We were relegated to serving in menial units such as truck drivers, port companies (loading ships), mess halls (waiting on tables) and guard duty,” wrote Walter Morris, a Triple Nickle veteran.

Although no Triple Nickles completed a combat jump or deployed to Europe, these trendsetters provided another example of how an elite all-black unit could be employed in a combat or peacetime environment. The Triple Nickles participated in a top-secret project fighting forest fires as the U.S. military’s first smoke jumping paratroopers over the Pacific Northwest.

The Triple Nickles, a name derived from the parachute regiment’s designation, was created in the winter of 1943 and consisted of 17 of the original 20-man platoon from the 92nd Infantry (Buffalo) Division. These men were hand-selected to create the first “colored test platoon.” A few months into 1944 saw newly minted paratroopers who completed training jumps at Fort Benning, Georgia. The first all-black parachute infantry battalion in history had formed but were still brand-new and lacked manpower. The paratroopers honed their skills and became experts in small-unit tactics.

The Inspiring Story of the Triple Nickles

www.youtube.com

Several went to the best schools the U.S. Army had to offer. Some became riggers and jump masters while others learned the metrics in communications, the skills to navigate difficult terrain as pathfinders, and the intricacies in demolitions.

They were the cream of the crop — college graduates, professional athletes, men of high character and extraordinary intellect. One Triple Nickle veteran, “Tiger” Ted Lowry, entered the ring to face world champion boxing legend Joe Louis, who came to Lowry’s base in 1943. He was accompanied by Sugar Ray Robinson — who Muhammad Ali coined as “the king, the master, my idol” — when the duo toured military camps to entertain soldiers. “Stay in the middle of the ring,” Robinson advised Lowry, “don’t let him get you on the ropes.” Lowry already had 70 fights to his name and somehow survived the three-round exhibition with one of the greatest boxers in history.

“You can’t imagine what that did for my ego,” Lowry reflected. “I had just been in the ring with the champion of the world, the greatest fighter in the world, and he was unable to knock me down. My confidence was inflated.” His fighting days halted when he joined the Triple Nickles but resumed when he faced Rocky Marciano, the Brockton, Massachusetts, undefeated heavyweight champion. Not only did he stun Marciano, but he shocked crowds of hometown Italian-Americans by going the distance twice with the Brockton Blockbuster, the only fighter ever to do so.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

The men of the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment march in the New York City Victory Parade on January 12, 1946. Maj. Gen. Jim Gavin ensured the “Triple Nickles” not only marched in the parade, but wore the insignia of the 82nd Airborne Division. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

When World War II was nearing a close and as the Germans were losing ground, the Triple Nickles’ focus shifted from Europe to the homefront. The Triple Nickles were the size of a “reinforced company” but expected to reach battalion size by 1945. The threat from the Japanese balloon bombs was imminent, and they were diverted to Pendleton, Oregon, and Chico, California, under secret orders to the 9th Services Command.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) received help from the U.S. Army when 400 paratroopers from the Triple Nickles were tasked with the difficult job. They turned in their rifles, hand grenades, and rucksacks. In that equipment’s place they donned football helmets with wire face masks, equipped 50 feet of nylon rope for lowering themselves from trees, and packed firefighting tools such as axes and handsaws on their person for parachute jumps.

The smoke jumping program was in its sixth firefighting season, but the war dwindled their resources, and the Triple Nickles provided a welcome skillset. Pilots flying C-47s needed no additional training and had prior results in properly managing smokejumper assets in remote regions where fires were often inaccessible by roads. The response and defensive strategy against the Japanese balloon bombs was a little-known secret called Operation Firefly.

Later reports suggested that the Japanese launched over 9,000 helium balloons. Damage from these balloons was rare but noteworthy. One balloon exploded after it hit high-tension power lines that were connected to a plutonium plant in Hanford, Washington. It caused a temporary blackout to the community, and the plutonium plant was ironically responsible for developing the fuel for the atomic bomb dropped over Nagasaki, Japan.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Triple Nickle member Jesse Mayes prepares to jump from a C-47. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Vincent “Bud” Whitehead, a U.S. Army counterintelligence officer, used to track and chase the balloons in the air from his plane. In March 1945, a balloon had landed on the ground but didn’t ignite. “They sent a bus up with all of this specially trained personnel, gloves, full contamination suits, masks,” Whitehead said in an interview with the Voices of the Manhattan Project. “I had been walking around on that stuff and they had not told me! They were afraid of bacterial warfare.” Biological and bacterial warfare fears were not exaggerated because it was later revealed that the Japanese had scrapped an operation at the end of the war for weaponizing the bubonic plague.

Another notable tragedy that involved these balloon bombs was the devastation of almost an entire family while they picnicked near the Gearhart Mountain in Bly, Oregon. On May 5, 1945, Reverend Archie Mitchell, his pregnant wife, Elsie, and five children from their Sunday School class were victims of the balloon’s lethality. The children went to investigate the strange object that had floated to the ground, but they got too close and were killed when the balloon did what it was designed to do. Archie Mitchell was the only survivor.

The Triple Nickles went to work to prevent additional American civilian casualties. First Lieutenant Edwin Willis, a brilliant planner and training specialist, put his paratroopers through a three-week crash course to learn proper firefighting knowledge and techniques. Willis received assistance and guidance from USFS smokejumpers and forest rangers as well.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Frank Derry, Parachute Instructor-Rigger, instructing prospective smoke jumper in the use of the “drop rig.” Simulates landing from chute caught in a snag or other obstacles by use of landing rope. Lolo National Forest, Montana. Photo by W.J. Mead, courtesy fo the National Archives and Records Administration.

This course included “demolitions training, tree climbing and techniques for descent if we landed in a tree, handling firefighting equipment, jumping into pocket-sized drop zones studded with rocks and tree stumps, survival in wooded areas, and extensive first-aid training for injuries — particularly broken bones,” said Morris.

Frank Derry, a master civilian parachutist, issued the Triple Nickles his “Derry-chute,” which was known for its maneuverability and steering capabilities. “Snag trees, those were the worst. I didn’t like those dudes at all,” Derry said, referring to the nuisances found in their path. “But landing in the trees was just as soft as landing, better than landing on the ground. The thick trees […] you just come into them like sitting down on a pillow, nothing to it.”

The Triple Nickles were also assisted by demolition experts from the 9th Services Command and USFS rangers. “Learning the touchy business of handling unexploded bombs, as well as how to isolate areas in which a bomb, or suspected bomb, was located,” Morris wrote. The incedinaries and chemicals were an additional pucker factor to their already challenging task.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Then-1st. Sgt. Walter Morris, right, prepares for his first jump with the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

The Triple Nickles also learned to live off the land and avoid costly mistakes that could derail their mission. “They could walk up the hills like a cat on a snake walk,” Morris wrote, discussing the expertise of USFS rangers. “They taught us how to climb, use an axe, and what vegetation to eat. At the same time, we underwent an orientation program with Forest Service maps. And, above all, our morale and spirit of adventure never sagged in the face of this unusual mission.”

The Triple Nickles became fully operational smokejumpers, but the numbers on how many fires and fire jumps they completed have been skewed over the years. Chuck Sheley, the editor of Smokejumper Magazine, states they completed 460 to 470 jumps on an estimated 15 of 28 forest fires, while they drove or hiked into the other fires. The National 555th Parachute Infantry Association consensus estimates the Triple Nickles answered 36 fire calls with 1,200 individual jumps across seven Western states.

Private First Class Malvin Brown was the only casualty of the Triple Nickles. Brown was a critical component of the team because of his medical expertise. Any injuries, accidents, or potential concerns went through the fire medics. When 15 Triple Nickles paratroopers boarded their C-47 on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, Brown wasn’t supposed to be there. However, he volunteered to replace another medic who was sick. Hours later he jumped into a fire in Umpqua National Forest in southern Oregon’s Cascade Range and landed in a tree. Moments later he slipped and fell more than 150 feet to the ground below. He died instantly.

Brown’s fellow smokejumpers changed their mission from fighting the fire to bringing home their teammate’s body. After an arduous search in rocky terrain, they located him and carried him more than 3 miles through the backcountry. Their first sign of civilization was a trail, but it took another 12 miles for them to find a road to get help.

The soldiers of the Triple Nickles weren’t respected while they were in service, but their contributions in a long lineage of elite all-black units are remembered as if they were legends. The Triple Nickles disbanded after World War II, but many of the soldiers continued to serve, including Lieutenant Colonel John Cannon, who was a combat medic during the Korean War. John E. Mann served as an Army Special Forces advisor in Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, three Legions of Merit, and a Distinguished Flying Cross. Mann served in the military for 33 years and later authored four detective novels.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is preparing for a war without satellites

Exercise Red Flag is the much-less famous, Air Force version of TOPGUN. It had the same impetus as TOPGUN – the Vietnam War highlighted some very serious shortcomings in how the service prepared to fight a war. Red Flag, however, doesn’t just feature the air-to-air stuff. Red Flag takes it a step further and trains pilots in air-to-ground combat as well.


Sometimes, Red Flag is a very international affair, with participants from all over the world. The current Red Flag, though, is going to be a much more… private affair. According to Popular Mechanics, the United States is only bringing in some of its closest allies, including the United Kingdom and Australia. This is because this Red Flag is being run without the use of the Global Positioning System, or GPS.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
A four-ship formation of F-22 Raptors from the 94th Fighter Squadron and 1st Fighter Wing fly in formation over the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The four aircraft were in transit back to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. after participating in Red Flag 17-4 Aug. 26, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Why? Just take a look at the news: Both Communist China and Russia are working on deploying systems that can destroy American satellites. Among the satellites at potential risk are those of the GPS system. This would put a serious crimp in not just navigation, but also in munitions guidance. Weapons like the Joint Direct Attack Munition and the Joint Stand-Off Weapon use GPS to get within about 30 feet of a target.

The good news is that GPS is not the only tool that American pilots have. There are inertial navigation systems and radios that don’t rely on the satellites. GPS, however, has become the preferred tool. As such, if an enemy were to knock some or all of the constellation out, American forces would be greatly disadvantaged.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
A B-1B Lancer taking part in Green Flag, an exercise similar to Red Flag, over Nellis Air Force Base. (USAF photo)

This year’s Red Flag is recreating that scenario to prepare pilots for the worst. The United States will be getting a good idea of how to fight without GPS. Participants will be getting plenty of practice doing so when the stakes are little more than a bunch of bruised egos.

How did they shut off GPS over the deserts of Nevada? They aren’t saying — after all, no need to give the enemy ideas.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

As U.S. moves to exit Afghanistan, rivals prepare to swoop in

The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was backed by most countries in the region, who shared the goal of ousting the extremist Taliban regime and eliminating the allied Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The governments in Tehran, Moscow, and Islamabad readily helped the United States fight the extremist groups.


Iran provided crucial intelligence to support U.S. special forces and CIA teams orchestrating the invasion.

Russia supplied Soviet-era maps and intelligence and later allowed the U.S. military to send supplies to Afghanistan through its territory.

Even Pakistan, the chief backer of the Taliban, offered its assistance in helping hunt down Al-Qaeda militants and became the main supply line for NATO forces.

But in the intervening 19 years, the regional consensus favoring the U.S. troops in Afghanistan has eroded.

Though the U.S. military swiftly overthrew the Taliban and eliminated Al-Qaeda safe havens in Afghanistan, many feel it got bogged down in mission creep.

Meanwhile, Washington’s ties with many regional players — including Pakistan, Iran, and Russia — became toxic.

With U.S. forces scheduled to exit Afghanistan next year as part of a framework peace deal with the Taliban, Washington’s rivals see an opportunity to step in and expand their footprint in the war-torn country.

Those efforts have intensified since the United States and the Taliban signed a deal in February aimed at negotiating an end to the war, which began way back in 2001.

Under that agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Kabul government.

The delayed intra-Afghan peace talks are expected to be complex and protracted, and will likely take years.

Impatient to end the costly and unpopular war, President Donald Trump is considering fast-tracking the exit of American troops ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, according to U.S. media reports.

Experts say that in the absence of a peace deal, a U.S. military withdrawal could ignite a free-for-all that involves regional powers pursuing often competing interests in Afghanistan.

“The stage has already been set, with many key actors — including Russia and Iran — increasing their ties with both the Afghan state and the Taliban,” says Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

“The objective is to develop more influence and generate more leverage with key actors across the board, so that they will be in a better position to pursue and achieve their goals in a post-America Afghanistan — a place we can expect to be increasingly unstable and complex.”

Iran, Pakistan, and Russia — with long histories of meddling in the country — are hedging their bets. The three countries have sought to improve their relations with the Western-backed government in Kabul, while also reaching out to the Taliban in case it gains a role in a future Afghan government.

Islamabad has retained its long-standing ties with the Taliban and shelters the group’s leadership, while Tehran and Moscow have been tacitly working to bolster their ties with the militants, with the goal of expanding their own strategic interests in Afghanistan.

‘Make The Taliban Even Stronger’

Pakistan has long been accused of playing a double game in Afghanistan, sheltering and aiding the Taliban while receiving billions in U.S. aid to clamp down on the militants.

Pakistan’s ties to the Taliban date back to the 1990s, when it provided arms, training, and intelligence to the militants. Islamabad was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban government when it took power in Afghanistan in 1996. After the regime’s fall in 2001, many Taliban leaders took shelter inside Pakistan.

Observers say Pakistan sees the Taliban as an insurance policy for reaching its long-standing strategic goals in Afghanistan — installing a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul and limiting the influence of its archrival India, which has close ties to Kabul.

Experts say Pakistan stands to be the biggest beneficiary of a U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan.

“If a withdrawal leads to a peace process that results in a settlement, then Pakistan would benefit as this would likely entail the Taliban holding a fair share of power,” says Kugelman. “If the peace process collapses and the U.S. withdrawal ushers in a period of extended destabilization, Pakistan would still benefit because it would make the Taliban even stronger.”

‘Buffer Zone’

Iran has supported its traditional allies in Afghanistan — the Shi’ite Hazara minority and the Persian-speaking ethnic Tajiks — while recently establishing contacts with the Taliban, a predominately Pashtun group.

Iran and the Taliban were on the verge of war in 1998 — when the group controlled most of Afghanistan — after the deaths of eight Iranian diplomats in the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif.

Tehran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.

The relationship between Shi’ite-majority Iran and the Taliban, a fundamentalist Sunni group, is complex. Iran officially opposes the Taliban, but experts say it provides some military support to the mainstream Taliban and even rival breakaway factions.

Analysts say that while Iran does not want the Taliban to return to power, Tehran is looking to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in case the Taliban becomes a political player in Afghanistan or it forcibly seizes control of the country.

“These initiatives serve the purpose of securing Iran’s sphere of influence in Afghanistan and perhaps even creating a buffer zone on Afghan soil to protect parts of Iran’s eastern borders from infiltration by forces hostile to Iran,” says Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

‘A Great Power’

For more than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Washington for taking on the “burden” of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and urged it to “carry it to the end.”

But since 2014, the Kremlin has attempted to undermine the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, fueled by Moscow’s desire to be an international power broker and its rivalry with the West in Ukraine and Syria, where Russia joined Iran in supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Moscow said it has established contacts with the Taliban in recent years because of the common threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Afghanistan. Washington has accused Russia of arming the Taliban, which it denies.

In the past two years, Moscow has hosted two international conferences on the Afghan peace process, inviting Taliban leaders and Afghan opposition members.

Earlier this month, U.S. media reported that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered secret bounties to the Taliban if they killed U.S. or NATO-member troops in Afghanistan.

Moscow and the Taliban have denied the reports, which are based on U.S. intelligence assessments. But the revelations have served to highlight Moscow’s murky dealings in Afghanistan.

“Russia’s interests in Afghanistan are twofold: to avoid an explosion of chaos on the borders of what it considers its sphere of influence, and to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate and assert its claim to be a great power,” says Mark Galeotti, a Russia analyst and a senior associate fellow at the British-based Royal United Services Institute.

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

Articles

Army networks 50-cal sights to helmet display

The U.S. Army will soon begin to produce new high-tech, crew-served thermal weapons sights able to automatically adjust range, see through adverse weather, detect targets with a lightweight laser range finder and use a wireless targeting link between weapons and a soldier-worn helmet display, service officials said.


Designed for the M2 .50-cal, M240 machine gun and Mk 19 grenade launcher, the system brings higher-resolution thermal imaging technology and increases field of view, developers explained.

Also read: From shoot to BOOM! This is the deadly science behind the RPG

“This is the first time the soldier will have a system which combines a true day and night capability with a laser range finder to adjust for the ballistics of the various ammunition types for the crew served weapons,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

BAE Systems was recently awarded an Army contract to develop the technology, called Family of Weapons Sights – Crew Served (FWS-CS), in a deal worth up to $384 million.

Using a wireless link, gun-mounted thermal sights send a targeting reticle from the gun to a soldier head-worn display, allowing soldiers to hit targets without needing to physically “look” through the gun-sights themselves in a certain physical position — such as crouching, lying down or standing exposed in a vehicle-mounted gun-turret, the Army official explained.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
Photo by BAE Systems

A wireless helmet mounted display is designed to provide a more natural firing position as well as allow soldiers to remain more protected, a BAE systems statement said. Crew-served weapons, such as the .50-cal machine gun, are often used to “blanket” enemy areas so that troops can maneuver while under attack or deliver suppressive fire.

A wireless link allowing soldiers to remain in a standing position or different configuration than what is otherwise needed to look through the sights naturally lowers the risk of exposing soldiers to enemy fire.

BAE Systems’ FWS-CS system is also engineered to improve targeting speed and precision. It uses a 12-micron sensor technology to provide soldiers with greater clarity and range, developers said.

“FWS-CS also, for the first time, incorporates a high-resolution day camera and laser range finder into the weapon sight, allowing the user to engage targets with a range correct reticle,” John Koltookian, technical director at BAE Systems, told Scout Warrior.

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.
US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika

With an initial development order of $10.5 million, work will be performed at the company’s facilities in Hudson, New Hampshire and Austin, Texas.

This crew-served weapons technology is engineered to function alongside a similar Army program called Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I); in similar fashion to the FWS-CS, this system uses a wireless link to connect thermal sights on an M4 rifle with an individual soldier’s night-vision goggles display.

A key advantage of this technology is, by design, to allow soldiers to target and attack enemies without having to “shoulder” the weapon and bring it up to their face.

FWS-I is already in Low-Rate-Initial Production and slated to be operational by 2018, service officials said.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information