Three military spouses say they hope to change the world, through one act of kindness at a time.
To accomplish this, they aim to encourage more than one million acts of kindness in the military community through a viral movement called GivingTuesday Military Edition, set for Dec. 3, 2019.
“One million acts sounds like a lot,” admitted Maria Reed, an Army spouse and organizer for the event. “But, it just takes one act to inspire another, and if enough people are inspired — we can reach a million acts together.”
It was Reed’s optimistic thinking that initially helped her form a bond with two like-minded spouses: Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse, and Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse.
Three military spouses, Maria Reed an Army spouse, Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse, and Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse visit Los Angeles, Calif., Nov. 6, 2019, to promote their online movement called GivingTuesday Military Edition.
The three first met in May at the 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards ceremony, held in Washington, D.C. All three won that night for their respective branches.
Following the ceremony, the three connected “easy and effortlessly,” Reed said, largely due to their shared goal to use their platform to bridge together the military community and help others.
At first, they didn’t know exactly how they would collaborate, they said. But, that changed soon after a plan was hatched to contact GivingTuesday, the parent organization of their group. Shortly after they made contact, GivingTuesday representatives agreed to partner up and the military edition was created.
“It’s inspiring to see military service members, veterans, and their families who already have committed so much to something bigger than themselves, lead the way to encourage one million acts of kindness,” said Asha Curran, GivingTuesday chief executive officer, in a news release.
The military edition kicked off in September 2019, and since it was announced they have received nation-wide attention. However, according to Reed — who is a military spouse of 16 years — the need to help others is just a part of being in the military community.
U.S. Army Spc. Janerah W. Glaze, 253rd Transportation Company, New Jersey Army National Guard, grills hamburgers during the Sgt. 1st Class Robert H. Yancey Sr. Stand Down at the National Guard Armory in Cherry Hill, N.J., Sept. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Mark Olsen)
Her husband, who is currently deployed, plans to responsibly participate from his undisclosed location overseas.
“Military families are called to serve, it’s in our DNA and [GivingTuesday] is a way that we can all serve and give back to the community,” Reed said.
No act of goodwill is too small, she added. “It doesn’t matter, kindness is kindness.”
Whether serving food to the homeless, volunteering at an animal shelter, buying coffee for a stranger, or simply holding a door open for someone — there are no shortage of options, she said.
In addition to individual acts, Reed said various schools, companies, and blood drives across the country have committed to join in the effort to meet their seven-digit goal.
But, the true measure of success, Manfre said, is simply to inspire others to be kind.
“If all we do is inspire just one person to be kind to someone else, that’s what matters,” she said.
The inaugural event will be documented online with #GivingTuesdayMilitary.
With more than 50 chapter ambassadors at the forefront of local efforts, and thousands of eager participants who are affiliated with more than 800 military installations worldwide, the trio agree their movement will grow every year.
Social media pages have been set up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the campaign, all with the handle @GivingTuesdayMilitary.
Georgia Army National Guard Spc. Jason A. Warren, an aircraft powertrain repairer with the Marietta, Georgia-based Company D, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, and his wife Cortney garnered national media attention on Feb. 9, 2018, when their son, Lucas, was named the 2018 Gerber Spokesbaby.
The Warrens were amazed when they received the news of Lucas’ win.
“Absolute shock,” said Jason. “It was hard to believe he won out of 140,000 entries.”
Lucas, diagnosed with Down syndrome, is the eighth Gerber baby since the contest began in 2010. Inspired by the original Gerber baby sketch of Ann Turner Cook, families began sharing their baby photos with Gerber. In response, Gerber launched its first official photo search competition in 2010.
Georgia Guardsman Spc. Jason Warren smiles for a picture with his wife Cortney and son Lucas. (Courtesy photo via U.S. Army)
“We hope this opportunity sheds light on the special needs community and educates people that with acceptance and support, individuals with special needs have potential to change the world,” said Cortney. “Just like our Lucas.”
The Warrens hope other families with special needs children can look to Lucas as a source of inspiration.
“We hope this will help people kick-start their own lives and give them more confidence,” said Jason. “They might think if Lucas can do this, what can I do in my life?”
The winning photo shows Lucas, sitting in an overstuffed chair, grinning from ear to ear wearing a black and pink polka-dot bow tie.
“He is very outgoing and never meets a stranger,” said Cortney. “He loves to play, loves to laugh, and to make other people laugh.”
“He is just the absolute cutest thing ever,” said Staff Sgt. Misty D. Crapps, supply sergeant with Company D, 171st Aviation Regiment. “He always smiles at everybody he sees.”
Georgia Guardsman Spc. Jason Warren smiles for a photo with his wife Cortney and son Lucas. (Courtesy photo via U.S. Army)
Jason looks forward to continued service in the Georgia Army National Guard. He feels a sense of pride and family being part of the organization.
“I absolutely love the Guard: the ability to help my community and serve my country,” said Jason. “The benefits of service are always great to have, and it allows me to serve my country the way I want to.”
The fellowship of his teammates in his aviation unit also reinforces the feeling of family.
“The Guard has been with me with everything I’ve ever done,” said Jason. “Through my grandmother’s passing, when I had shoulder surgery, they’ve helped Cortney and me a lot, and they are a second family to us.”
Lucas Warren, the 2018 Gerber Spokesbaby. (Courtesy photo via U.S. Army)
The aviators and Guardsmen in Jason’s unit share his feeling for service in the Guard and look forward to his continued service.
“He always volunteers to do the little things which are not part of his job description to make the unit better,” said 1st Sgt William W. Adcock of Company D, 171st Aviation Regiment. “Specialist Warren is a fantastic Guardsman. He does what we all do: dedicates his time and personal energy to serve the people of this state and the United States.”
Jason plans to re-enlist in March 2018 for another six years and hope Lucas sees him and understands the importance of service.
“I hope one day Lucas will see I was in the military and has a sense of pride,” said Jason.
A watchdog report to the U.S. Congress has warned that Afghanistan is likely to face a health disaster in the coming months brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The April 30 report by the U.S. Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has heightened concerns that the pandemic could derail stalled peace efforts brokered by the United States.
The spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has significantly impacted Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities — a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict — make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the report concludes.
The pandemic has forced the closure of border crossings, disrupting commercial and humanitarian deliveries.
SIGAR, which monitors billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan by the United States, warns that rising food prices are likely to worsen as the crisis continues.
Afghanistan has confirmed nearly 2,200 coronavirus cases and 64 deaths, according to local news reports quoting the Afghan Health Ministry.
Taliban militants fighting U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan signed a deal with Washington in February — raising hopes that formal peace talks between the militants and Afghanistan’s central government could start soon.
The Taliban committed to severing ties with terrorists and preventing terrorists from using territory under its control to launch attacks against the United States or its allies, including the Afghan government.
In exchange for those guarantees, the United States agreed to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by July 2021.
Since signing the deal, Taliban militants have escalated attacks on Afghan security forces.
Last week, the Taliban rejected a proposal by the Afghan government for a cease-fire during the holy month of Ramadan.
The latest SIGAR report said the international coalition has declined to make data available for public release about the number of Taliban attacks launched during the first three months of 2020.
It was the first time publication of the data has been held back since 2018 when SIGAR began using the information to track levels and locations of violence, the report said.
SIGAR said the coalition justified holding back the information because it is now part of internal U.S. government deliberations on negotiations with the Taliban.
Peace talks are supposed to begin after the Afghan government releases some 5,000 Taliban prisoners from custody.
In return, the Taliban also is supposed to release about 1,000 Afghan troops and civilian government employees it is holding.
As of April 27, the Afghan government had freed nearly 500 Taliban prisoners, while the militant group had released about 60 of its captives.
Senior U.S. Army officials on March 26, 2018, mapped out a plan to dramatically increase the range of the service’s artillery and missile systems to counter a Russian threat that would leave ground forces without air support in the “first few weeks” of a war in Europe.
The Army has named long-range precision fires as its top modernization priority in a reform effort aimed at replacing the service’s major weapons platforms.
“We’ve got to push the maximum range of all systems under development for close, deep, and strategic, and we have got to outgun the enemy,” Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of United States Army Pacific Command, told an audience during a panel discussion on “improving long-range precision fires” at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
“We don’t do that right now; it’s a huge gap. … We need cannons that fire as far as rockets today. We need rockets that fire as far as today’s missiles, and we need missiles out to 499 kilometers.”
Currently, Russian air defenses are effective enough to keep fixed-wing aircraft from conducting close-air support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and other support missions vital to ground combat forces, said John Gordon IV, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp.
Rand conducted a study for officials at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, concluding that in the first seven to 10 days of a conflict with Russia, “the Russians would have very significant advantage in terms of numbers and all aspects of ground combat.”
“Because of the power and the range and the lethality of these Russian air defenses, it’s going to make all forms of air support much more difficult, and the ground forces are going to feel the effects,” Gordon said.
“It’s certainly going to put a premium on U.S. Army field artillery. It’s going to put a premium on long-range fires to compensate for what will, at least initially, be a significant degradation in the amount of air support — less joint ISR, less CAS, less interdiction, less offensive and defensive counter-air, so all that is going to have an effect on Army operations because of the quality of these Russian air defenses,” he said.
Russia also has a larger number of superior artillery systems than the U.S., Gordon said.
“The Russians take this stuff seriously; artillery has been the strong suit of the Russian Army since the days of the czars,” he said.
“They’ve got a range advantage over us in a number of different areas, particularly cannons,” Gordon said. “Typically, modern Russian cannons have got 50 percent to 100 percent greater range than the current generation of U.S. cannons.”
Brig. Gen. Stephen Maranian, commandant of the Army’s Field Artillery School, who now leads the newly formed cross-functional team responsible for the long-range precision fires modernization priority, said the Army is looking at hypervelocity, electromagnetics, and “very large-caliber cannon” to improve long-range fires in the long term.
In the shorter term, the service is working on replacing the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATacMS, with the Precision Strike Missile, Maranian said.
ATacMS, which has a range of 160 kilometers, was terminated in 2007, but the Army has since extended the service life of the program.
“We expect to see [Precision Strike Missile] prototypes fly within the next fiscal year in 2019,” Maranian said. “From there, hopefully, a delivery of the base missile by early 2023.”
The base missile is going to provide a “huge upgrade from ATAcMs,” increasing the range out to 499 kilometers, the limit of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty, he said.
“It’s going to provide 1.5 times the speed, it’s going to be twice the capacity … and it’s also going to have the ability to be even more lethal than the ATAcMs,” he added.
Maranian said the base missile will be able to go after “multi-domain targets — so the ability to hit a ship at sea, the ability to hit moving targets on the land domain, the ability to have sub-munitions that attack heavy armored targets and have effects … and the ability to use sensors to hone in on targets. Those are all aspects of future spirals of this missile that the base Precision Strike Missile will provide.”
In terms of artillery, Maranian said the Army is planning a “dramatic increase to the firepower” that exists in its brigade combat teams.
The Army has been attempting to upgrade its Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers systems. The M109A6 Paladin Integrated Management, or PIM, just completed its initial operational test and evaluation in March 2018, Maranian said.
The Army is relying on the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA, technology to extend the range of the system.
The upgraded, rocket-assisted projectile, which will increase the range out to 40 kilometers, is scheduled to be ready by fiscal 2021, he said.
An upgraded breech, which will help boost the range out to 70 kilometers, will be ready by the fiscal 2023 timeframe, as will be the “incorporation of an autoloader to improve our four rounds in the initial minute, and one round a minute after that, sustained rate to a six-to-10 round a minute sustained rate of fire,” Maranian said.
“That will be the basis of achieving overmatch against any adversary in any theater,” he said.
The Commissary is about to get a lot busier on Saturdays. Starting in January 2020, veterans with service-connected disability ratings, Purple Heart recipients, and former POWs will be able to access Exchange and Commissary services both in-person and online. Designated caregivers of eligible vets will have access too. The benefit goes into effect for all Exchange services, including NEX, AAFES, CGX, and MCX. But that’s not all.
Veterans will get access to on-base Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services too.
This could be you.
To get access to the AAFES Exchanges, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Exchanges, Commissary, and MWR facilities, including the American Forces Travel site, all you need is a Veterans Health Identification Card, the one issued to you by the VA when you enroll in VA Healthcare. This will give you access to on-base facilities. For veterans who aren’t enrolled in the VA system, they will not be able to access U.S. military installations, but will still have access to the Exchange websites.
What’s especially great about the new rules is expanding access to veteran caregivers. Designated primary caregivers for eligible veterans will be able to get on base to these facilities without their veteran being present as long as they have the eligibility letter they will receive from the VA’s Office of Community Care.
These are just the new recipients of these benefits. Medal of Honor recipients and 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans have always had access to Exchange and Commissary services, and they still will.
.00 haircuts for everyone!
The move comes from the passage of the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 that funds the improvement of physical access control on military installations to give expanded access to these facilities to disabled veterans and their caretakers. It’s a smart move for the Exchange services and the Defense Commissary Agency, both of which have struggled to expand their customer base over the past decade. After the success of allowing vets to use online Exchange services in 2017, the new bill expanded access to physical locations as well.
With the MWR facilities included in the new benefit, this means veterans and caretakers will also have access to RV campgrounds, recreational lodging, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and more.
Vietnam claims that a Chinese ship rammed and sank a fishing boat near the disputed Parcel Islands in the South China Sea, while Beijing tells an entirely different story.
The Vietnamese ship was struck by a Chinese vessel marked 44101 near Discovery Reef on March 6, 2019, Vietnam’s official Tuoi Tre newspaper reported March 7, 2019, citing Vietnamese authorities. The Vietnamese National Committee for Incident, Natural Disaster Response and Search and Rescue told VN Express, another Vietnamese outlet the same thing.
The five crew members reportedly clung to the bow of the sinking fishing boat until they were rescued roughly two hours later by another Vietnamese fishing boat.
An Vietnamese official speaking on background confirmed the report to the Associated Press.
Vietnamese fishing boats.
(Flickr photo by Joe Gatling)
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman argued that China detected a distress signal from a Vietnamese fishing vessel and dispatched a ship to assist, explaining that upon arrival, the Chinese ship discovered a vessel that was already sinking, the Chinese-language version of the Global Times reported.
Rather than provide assistance, the Chinese vessel reportedly contacted the Chinese Maritime Search and Rescue Center. Chinese media reports that the five fishermen were rescued, without providing any details on who rescued them.
None of the crew were injured in the incident.
The Paracels are a sore spot in bilateral ties between China and Vietnam. China seized these territories by force in the 1970s and has since constructed military outposts on a number of the features in this area.
In recent years, there have been several confrontations.
For example, Vietnam claimed in 2014 Chinese vessels encircled a Vietnamese fishing boat before ramming and sinking it. China argued that the Vietnamese ship was harassing the Chinese vessels. A similar incident occurred two years later.
China has clashed with other countries as well, including the US. In September 2018, a Chinese destroyer challenged a US Navy vessel during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation in the Spratlys, forcing the US warship off course and risking a collision.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After the firing of former-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the selection of CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his replacement, President Donald Trump nominated Gina Haspel to take over as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
According to a report by Fox News, Haspel, 61, has served with the CIA since 1985 and has received numerous awards, including the George H. W. Bush Award for excellence in counterterrorism, the Donovan Award, the Intelligence Medal of Merit, and the Presidential Rank Award.
“I am grateful to President Trump for the opportunity, and humbled by his confidence in me, to be nominated to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” the nominee said in a statement.
Her career includes involvement in covert actions and the nomination has drawn widespread praise, including commendations from John Brennan, Director of the CIA under the Obama Administration. Haspel made history as the agency’s first female Deputy Director and will again mark a milestone as the first woman to run the CIA.
Haspel’s service also included tours as Chief of Station (the CIA’s top officer) in multiple countries and service as Chief of Staff for the CIA director and Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service. Senator Richard Burr, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised the nomination and announced his intention to move for her quick confirmation to the post.
The nomination has drawn a firestorm of protest, with dissenters, including Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden, noting she ran a CIA “black site” and alleging she was involved in torture.
Dr. James Mitchell, an Air Force veteran who got Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a senior member of al-Qaeda, to spill his secrets, sharply disputed the characterization of the “enhanced intelligence” techniques as torture.
“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell asked during a December 2016 event at the American Enterprise Institute. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I, personally, waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”
Britain has announced that women can now apply to join the ranks of the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service, their top-tier special operations units, as part of a phased opening of close-combat jobs to women that has been underway since 2016.
A British 22nd Special Air Service member speaks with an F-18D during a simulated Hellfire missile launch during training in 2001.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rick Bloom)
This will bring the British military in line with other military forces around the world, including the U.S., where more jobs have been opened to women over the past few years.
But, as with other top-tier military units in the west, it’s unclear when the first female candidate will complete training. In the U.S., only a handful of women have made it through Ranger School, and none have been accepted into the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, and similar units.
Currently, the British forces have had about three dozen women accepted into armored roles. Now, they can apply to join the Royal Marines and infantry, which opens the door to the SAS and SBS in the future.
Today I attended a land power demonstration on Salisbury Plain, which involved some of the first women to join the Royal Armoured Corps. I am very proud of the work our military does and opening all combat roles to women will ensure we recruit the right person for the right role.pic.twitter.com/pguaeViRcR
Now, however, the goal is to get women into the training funnel and into the combat forces.
Members of the British Special Air Service in the African desert in World War II.
(British Army Film Photographic Unit Capt. Keating)
The British SBS was founded in 1940 and the SAS in 1941. Both were created to lead elite commando raids against targets in World War II, primarily German forces but the occasional attack on Italian forces did take place.
The SBS, meanwhile, launched a daring but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to kidnap Rommel from his desert headquarters.
Both services saw personnel cuts after the war but were eventually re-built over the decades after the war to face new threats. Both services have seen extensive service in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the British government rarely comments on their activities.
They often work with top-tier U.S. units like Delta Force and SEAL Team 6, but the details of these engagements are rarely released into the public sphere.
Military units are team-oriented by necessity and design, but when troops leave the service, they often find themselves isolated and working by themselves. The team dynamic is gone. Veteran service organizations are much the same way. Even with an incredible mission and the tools to serve veterans, everyone accomplishes more in a collaborative environment. NAVSO, the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations, was founded with that in mind.
NAVSO is out to change the landscape for veterans through further developing the veteran service organization marketplace. Whether public or private, any VSO is welcome to join the ranks and collaborate with like-minded organizations with similar goals. The idea is to improve efficiency and effectiveness while fostering innovation by working together.
In bringing together organizations like the Travis Manion Foundation, USAA, the Schultz Family Foundation, and the PsychArmor Institute, NAVSO has connected thousands of American veterans to other organizations dedicated to creating an environment where veterans and their families can live, work, and thrive.
Most importantly, the collaboration between organizations serving veterans can help identify gaps in services needed by vets and their families, then further identify how to address those gaps. NAVSO works to improve the lives of veterans through many different areas including education, employment, housing, healthcare, financial assistance, wounded warriors, and gold star families. It is the only organization working to change the landscape of the services available to veterans in both the public and private sector.
With more than 40,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States whose missions are focused on the lives of service members, veterans, and their families, it is increasingly important to build a community in which these organizations can collaborate towards the same goals instead of competing for the same funds. These organizations may simply be unaware of potential partners operating in the same space or may not know about resources available to them outside of their niche area.
NAVSO is a sponsor of the Military Influencer Conference.
“We’re geography agnostic, size and revenue agnostic, and specific military/veteran/family-serving mission agnostic – our tools and services can take VSOs at different stages of development from start to solvency, from solvency to sustainability, and from sustainability to growth and impact,” says NAVSO CEO Tim Farrell. “NAVSO is all about transforming the veteran-serving space, one organization at a time by helping them find funding faster and serve veterans better.”
Considering NAVSO’s dedication to collaboration, it makes sense that it would want to be a part of the 2019 Military Influencer Conference. The Military Influencer Conference brings together military and veteran professionals who are interested in developing their entrepreneurial acumen and build a better life for themselves and their families. The conference also brings together leading veteran entrepreneurs, startup accelerators, and – of course – veteran service organizations in the business development sector.
If you’re interested in starting your own business, check out MilitaryInfluencer.com for the next conference or just go check out all the VSOs and personalities involved. The Military Influencer Conference is a shining example of how collaboration makes everyone more efficient and effective.
UPDATED: The Pentagon has named Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, 38, of Falmouth, Maine, as the commando killed in a May 5 raid near Mogadishu, Somalia. The raid reportedly targeted a propaganda radio operation run by the terrorist al-Shabaab organization. The release said Milliken was a member of an East Coast-based Navy special warfare unit, and many sources report he was a member of SEAL Team 6.
The U.S. military said May 5 a service member has been killed in during an operation against the extremist group al-Shabab as the United States steps up its fight against the al-Qaida-linked organization.
A statement from the U.S. Africa Command said the service member was killed Thursday during the operation near Barii, about 40 miles west of the capital, Mogadishu.
The statement said U.S. forces were conducting an advise-and-assist mission with military.
A CNN report said the service member was part of a special operations task force deployed to the African nation, adding two more U.S. troops were wounded by small arms fire.
“Senior Chief Kyle Milliken embodied the warrior spirit and toughness infused in our very best SEALs,” said Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski, commander of the Special Warfare Command. “We grieve his death, but we celebrate his life and many accomplishments. He is irreplaceable as a husband, father, son, friend and teammate – and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and teammates.”
Both the United States and in recent weeks have declared new efforts against the extremist group. President Donald Trump has approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern areas of active hostilities.
A Somali intelligence official confirmed the U.S. military operation, saying U.S. forces in helicopters raided an al-Shabab hideout near the Somali capital on Thursday night and engaged with fighters.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the helicopters dropped soldiers near Dare Salaam village in an attempt to capture or kill extremists in the area.
The official said the fighters mounted a stiff resistance against the soldiers.
new Somali-American president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, last month declared a new offensive against al-Shabab, which is based in but has claimed responsibility for major attacks elsewhere in East Africa.
Also last month, the U.S. military announced it was sending dozens of regular troops to in the largest such deployment to the Horn of Africa country in roughly two decades. The U.S. Africa Command said the deployment was for logistics training of army.
The U.S. in recent years has sent a small number of special operations forces and counter-terror advisers to and has carried out a number of airstrikes, including drone strikes, against al-Shabab.
The extremist group, which was chased out of Mogadishu years ago but continues to carry out deadly attacks there, has vowed to step up the violence in response to the moves by Trump and Mohamed.
Pressure is growing on military to assume full security for the country as the 22,000-strong African Union multinational force that has been supporting the fragile central government plans to leave by the end of 2020.
The U.S. military has acknowledged the problem. The AU force will begin withdrawing in 2018, and head of the U.S. Africa Command, Commander General Thomas Waldhauser, has said that if it leaves before security forces are capable, “large portions of are at risk of returning to al-Shabab control or potentially allowing ISIS to gain a stronger foothold.”
Fighters linked to the Islamic State group are a relatively new and growing challenge in the north of the country, which has seen a quarter-century of chaos since dictator Siad Barre fell in 1991.
Snipers are masters of disguise who are able to hide in plain sight, providing overwatch, scouting enemy positions, and, when necessary, taking out threats.
“No one knows you’re there. I’m here. I’m watching you, I see everything that you are doing, and someone is about to come mess up your day,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a Texas native and experienced US Army sniper, said during a recent interview.
“We are capable of hurting you in many ways … We’re not going to tell you how we’re coming. But, we’re coming for you.”
Business Insider asked a handful of trained Army snipers, elite sharpshooters who have served across multiple combat deployments in multiple countries, how they disappear in any and all environments. Here’s what they had to say.
An Army Green beret sniper, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), takes aim at a long-range target for a timed shooting event during advanced skills sniper training at Fort Carson, Colorado, Dec. 12, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
Concealment is about putting anything you can between yourself and the watchful eyes of the enemy.
“A sniper is not limited to any one method,” Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of service, explained. “We are extremely free. You are limited only by however you limit yourself.”
Snipers use a mixture of natural and artificial materials to achieve concealment and camouflage to avoid enemy detection, as the sniper must remain unseen by the enemy to collect intelligence or take a shot if needed. The aim is to effectively blend into the negative space, areas the eye naturally overlooks.
Concealing oneself from an adversary’s gaze is about putting “anything you can between you and whatever might be observing you,” Staff Sgt. David Smith, a sniper instructor at Fort Benning, told BI, explaining that this could be natural vegetation, face paints, false screens, a sniper’s ghillie suits, or the hides they construct.
A ghillie suit is designed with loose strips designed to resemble natural backgrounds like twigs or long grasses, and can make snipers nearly undetectable by visual. Ghillie suits typically do not shield the wearer from detection via thermal imaging, a technology that advanced militaries are likely to use; however, the Army is developing an improved ghillie suit which is expected to offer enhanced protection.
With the tools they bring with them and materials found in the field, snipers can break up and distort their outline, making them significantly harder to spot.
Pfc. William Snyder, 1-173rd Infantry, practices sniper camouflage techniques at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, April 7, 2018.
(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. William Frye)
In many ways, it’s about knowing your environment.
“The best tool snipers can use to disguise and conceal themselves from the enemy is a solid understanding of their surroundings,” Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander, told BI.
Snipers need to know the lay of the land, they need to plan their route, and they need to take advantage of whatever nature gives.
“I want to look at the terrain. What can I put between myself and the target,” Sipes, who runs the marksmanship training company alongside Elgort, said.” It’s not just about the face paint or what I attach to my body, it’s the natural environment around me that I can utilize to keep them from seeing me.”
For example, the winners of the International Sniper Competition, two non-commissioned officers from the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, hid themselves from view with nothing more than a ghillie suit hood and various materials they found in the field.
In particular, they focused on hiding their face.
“Just by being able to disfigure and break up the outline of their face — you know, a human face stands out very vividly in a woodland area — by concealing the outline of their face, they were able to win,” Elgort explained. “It really comes down to an understanding of that and knowing what you’re presenting and adjusting accordingly.”
Sgt. Chayne Walsh, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares to execute his concealment exercise during sniper training at Fort Benning.
(Patrick A. Albright/MCoE PAO Photographer)
There are a lot of small things that if overlooked could be fatal.
Snipers have to manage their tracks, scent, shadow, glare and countless other things to remain hidden from enemies. “There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” Sipes explained.
Here’s just a few of the many things snipers have to think about.
“If you are facing east in the morning, the sun is going to be coming at you, so you need to do something with your scope to prevent glare,” Elgort told BI. To combat this problem, snipers build cat eyes.
“We use natural vegetation, we use wraps, netting, whatever to block the optics from any observation but allow us to see through it,” Sipes said, noting that other considerations include whether or not he is silhouetting himself against something else. A shadow could give away his position, exposing him to the enemy.
As for scents, he said that snipers avoid scented soaps, smoking, any type of cologne, deodorant, etc.
In colder climates, a sniper can eat snow to hide their breath, but it only works for a short time. “You would have to continuously eat snow, and then you have to pee,” Smith said, bringing up another potential consideration.
Snipers also have to think about bodily excretions. Sometimes when nature calls, a sniper will use bags with sponges to soak up their business. They can also bury it in the earth. Other times, they just have to hold it.
US Army Sgt. John Stewart, a Sniper assigned to NATO’s Battle Group Poland, improves his fighting position during react to contact drills at Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland, Nov. 8, 2018.
(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Sarah Kirby)
Some environments are easier than others.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Jones, another sniper instructor, identified two decidedly difficult environments for concealment — fresh snow and the urban environments.
“You can disappear into the snow. It takes a little more thought. It’s a little harder to play with the blending in,” he told BI. “And, in the urban environment, there’s just so many eyes on you from the onset that it makes it pretty tough for you to get into your setup without someone knowing that you’re already there.”
Places like cities and suburbs are also the hardest areas to shoot in.
“I can say that the most difficult place to shoot is in an urban environment,” Sipes said, calling attention to the some of the angles and structures obstructing visibility, among other problems.
“The targets are generally moving. They have civilians around them. They’re using the patterns of life on the ground to conceal themselves. And they’re never in one location,” he added.
As for the easiest environments to blend into, that is definitely your standard woodland or jungle, Jones explained.
Hidden beneath twigs and weeds, a sniper’s stomach is flat on the ground, dirt and grime on his face. All that can be seen in the bundles of cheatgrass is a pair of steady, intense eyes.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)
One of the greatest dangers is that new technologies are making it harder for snipers to hide.
The US is once again in a time of rivalry with other military powers, and that means they must learn to counter more advanced threats from adversaries like China and Russia.
“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing that a sniper has to do, especially with emerging technology by our near-peer enemies,” Smith told BI. Snipers can hide in the visible spectrum, but combating high-end sensors is a challenge.
US rivals are starting to “creep into the thermal arena, and that in itself is dangerous to a sniper because then you can’t hide from that,” Smith said. Thermal imagers can easily detect a human body’s heat against the ambient temperature of the environment around it.
Smith called this a “large challenge” that the Army is “working to defeat that as well.”
Sometimes that means getting back to the basics. Snipers often use laser range finders to get a more accurate read on a target, but that’s not always an option.
“When going against a near-peer threat or an adversary that has the capability to identify that, we have to rely solely on the reticle that’s in our scope,” Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, a sniper instructor team sergeant from Colorado, explained.
There are also new camouflage systems, such as the Fibrotex’s Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System capable of providing more persistent infrared, thermal, and counter-radar performance, that are in development to help the Army’s snipers, as well as other soldiers, hide from the more advanced threats.
Warfare is always evolving, which means that US snipers have to be ready for anything.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Nov. 10 saw the annual Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo at Nellis Air Force Base.
Located outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, Nellis has close ties to its neighboring city. Following the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas in October, last weekend’s air show commemorated and honored the city and the shooting’s victims.
The show also featured US Air Force history, as the Air Force celebrates its 70th anniversary. About 400,000 people were expected to visit the two-day expo.
“This is freaking awesome. It really shakes you in your boots,” one observer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It is rare that you get to see this stuff.”
Here’s what it was like inside the Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo:
Nellis servicemen customized several aircraft, including this F-16 Fighting Falcon, to display the base’s Vegas Strong message.
This F-15C Eagle was painted to commemorate the shooting, which took place at a country music festival on Oct. 1.
Here’s more detail on the tail.
The aircraft had to be completely repainted in some cases.
Here’s the final product on another F-15C Eagle.
Here’s what they normally look like, without the paint job.
Aside from the memorials to the Las Vegas shooting, the Air and Space Expo had some of the best features of a traditional air show. Spectators were treated to a show from the Air Force Thunderbirds.
The opening ceremony featured members of the Air Force’s Wing of Blue Parachute Team jumping out of aircrafts.
Here’s what it looks like when they land.
Aviation Nation also celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the US Air Force, showcasing older aircraft such as the B-25 Mitchell.
The Texas Flying Legends flew in formation, showing off some WWII-era aircrafts.
A Texas Flying Legends pass over the Nellis Air Force Base flight line during Aviation Nation 2017 Nellis Air and Space Expo, Nov. 10, 2017. The Texas Flying Legends is dedicated to honoring the men and women who have served—or are currently serving through an active display of World War II aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)
It’s impossible to describe John Ripley’s most famous action in a single headline. This Marine dangled from the Dong Ha Bridge for some three hours as North Vietnamese soldiers took potshots at him. He took his time attaching 500 pounds of explosives to the bridge, singlehandedly halting an advance of 20,000 Communists during the Easter Offensive.
Then-Captain John Ripley was an American advisor in the northern regions of South Vietnam in 1972. He was at Camp Carroll, a firebase between Khe Sanh and Dong Ha, advising South Vietnamese troops. It was his second tour in Vietnam and things were mostly quiet…until they weren’t.
The NVA had been testing the U.S. defenses at firebases in his area but they would quickly disengage. One day in March 1972, they didn’t stop. Enemy artillery started raining shells on the firebases in the area. The NVA was throwing everything they had at South Vietnam, 14 divisions and 26 independent regiments. The Easter Offensive had just begun.
As Camp Carroll was overrun and its ARVN garrison surrendered, Ripley and another American escaped on a CH-47 Chinook. But the helicopter took on too many fleeing ARVN troops and was forced to crash land on Highway 1, near Dong Ha.
At Dong Ha, close to the DMZ that separated North and South Vietnam, he found a number of South Vietnamese Marines who had no intention of surrendering. He also found some 200 North Vietnamese tanks and self-propelled artillery backed up for six miles – and ready to cross the Cam Lo River.
“We didn’t have the wherewithal to stop that many tanks. We had little hand-held weapons. And we certainly didn’t have anything on the scale that was needed to deal with the threat. Originally 20 tanks had been reported.” Ripley chuckled softly at the memory years later.
With the monsoon season limiting American air support and the North Vietnamese controlling one half of the bridge, Ripley decided he had to blow up the bridge. By himself, if necessary.
Another American, Maj. James Smock drove him to the bridge in a tank and Ripley headed below where he found five ARVN engineers trying to rig the bridge to blow. They had 500 pounds of TNT. The problem was the way the explosives were laid out; the bridge wouldn’t be completely destroyed and the NVA would still be able to cross. They’d have to be rearranged.
By hand. With tanks and guns shooting at those hands.
Meanwhile, 90-pound South Vietnamese Marine-Sergeant Huynh Van Luom dashed onto the bridge in what Ripley called “the bravest single act of heroism I’ve ever heard of, witnessed or experienced.”
Huynh fired two M72 light antitank assault weapon rounds at the lead NVA tank. The first shot missed, but the second hit the tank turret, stopping it cold. The entire column was stopped. It couldn’t move and couldn’t turn around.
The ARVN engineers below the bridge took off as Ripley climbed over the razor wire barrier designed to keep people from doing what he was about to do. He climbed hand over hand as Smock pushed the explosives out to him. Ripley grabbed the box and moved it to a better location.
“I would hand-walk out, then swing up to get my heels into the “I” beam,” Ripley said, recalling that he was still wearing all his web gear and slung rifle. “Then I’d swing down on one T beam and then leap over and grab another T beam.”
For nearly three hours, Ripley dangled under the Dong Ha Bridge, rigging it to blow, and frustrating the enemy trying to kill him. To make matters worse, Ripley had no blasting caps, so he had to use timed fuses — fuses with an unknown time, set with his mouth.
Smock moved to rig the railway bridge to blow at the same time and moved back to friendly lines. The 500-foot bridges blew up just minutes later. The armored column became sitting ducks for the Navy’s ships offshore and South Vietnamese A-1 Skyraiders.
His effort on the bridge that day may have been the decisive factor that kept the North from taking Saigon until three years later.
Colonel John Ripley died in 2008 at the age of 69, but not before making a trip back to Dong Ha with some of his buddies from L/3/3 Marines in 1997.
(Cover Photo: Painting by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.) captures the spirit of Ripley at the bridge at Dong Ha.)