UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!
Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!
Bobby Blackhat is a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s been playing harp for over 40 years.
After 27 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard, which included serving as Military Aide to the President and being awarded the Coast Guard Medal for Heroism, Bobby started to pursue music professionally. He is a proud graduate of two Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) programs: Piano and Comedy Bootcamp.
“I love doing what I do because music allows me to get fingers poppin’, toes tappin’, hip shakin’, and faces smilin’. Through music I can bring joy and happiness to the lives of others. I am a prime example that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and check an item off that pesky bucket list.”
For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!
Everyone can use a little good news. VA employees are no exception. One program office within VHA recently created an opportunity for employees and staff members to share uplifting stories with one another.
Employees within Palliative and Hospice Care at VHA hosted a “Silver Lining Stories” discussion during their national call in May. Staff members from VA medical centers and facilities across the country lifted each other’s spirits with stories about all the good that is happening for Veterans at their facilities as well as in their own lives.
Mary Jo Hughes is the hospice and palliative care program manager at the Grand Junction, Colorado, medical center. She and her team have been using the VA Video Connect (VVC) program to help patients stay in touch with their loved ones. One patient undergoing treatment for cancer was able to speak with their spouse and children by way of VVC.
Family sang for the patient
“It was the most moving experience. I was in tears, along with our chaplain, when the family sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to the patient. There is nothing like the power of seeing your family members and feeling nurtured and cared for by them.”
Carisa Sullivan is a hospice nurse practitioner within the Amarillo VA Health Care System Community Living Center (CLC) in Texas. She recently was “part of one of the most memorable things I’ve ever experienced as a hospice nurse practitioner.” Her colleagues organized a drive-by parade for Veterans at that facility.
180 cars in parade for Veterans
“There were supposed to be 55 cars. Somehow it got out into the community and we had 180 vehicles come by. It was just a phenomenal experience for these Veterans to enjoy safely.” Sullivan encouraged other CLCs to explore if something similar could be arranged at their facilities.
Focus on social connectedness
These stories focused on people’s sense of social connectedness, an important social determinant of health (SDOH). SDOH are conditions in the environment in which Veterans live, learn, work, play, worship and age.
“VHA and VA colleagues are collaborating to help Veterans, and each other, by sharing good news,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It’s critical that Veterans and staff members uplift positive events and find social connection right now, through initiatives such as this one.”
U.S. Special Operations Command is making progress researching, developing and testing a next-generation Iron Man-like suit designed to increase strength and protection and help keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat, officials said.
The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.
“The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018. That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, SOCOM spokesman, told Scout Warrior.
Industry teams have been making steady progress on the technologies since the effort was expanded in 2013 by Adm. William McCraven, former head of SOCOM.
“I’m very committed to this because I would like that last operator we lost to be the last operator we ever lose,” McCraven said in 2013.
Defense industry, academic and entrepreneurial participants are currently progressing with the multi-faceted effort.
The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.
Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”
It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army website said.
TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.
“The idea is to help maintain the survivability of operators as they enter that first breach through the door,” Allen added.
When she was 8 years old, Julie Golob got an unexpected Christmas present from her grandfather — he had bought all his grandchildren life memberships to the National Rifle Association.
“He was an all-around Rush Limbaugh guy, World War II veteran, the guy back in the ’80s wearing the NRA cap when it wasn’t so popular. We weren’t exactly thrilled,” Golob said, laughing, “but I knew how much it meant to him, something he so believed in.”
Decades later, Golob is thankful for a gift that ended up reflecting so much of where life would take her.
Julie Golob is a decorated professional shooter for Team Smith Wesson.
(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)
Golob is now not only a recently seated member of the NRA’s Board of Directors, she is also a successful author and one of the most decorated female competitive shooters in America. She is the only woman to have won all seven divisions of the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) National Championships, as well as a multiple International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) Ladies Classic title winner. In 2017, she won the gold in the Lady Classic division at the IPSC Handgun World Shoot.
Her career in competitive shooting began as a teenager in Seneca Falls, New York, where her dad taught her to shoot for fun and competition. She was recruited by the U.S. Army to join their shooting team after high school by enlisting to serve in the military police.
“The Army marksmanship unit was the cream of the crop,” Golob said, “so having a dedicated unit for shooters was definitely exciting. It was one of those things that I really needed to make the commitment for, signing up for five years to be a soldier in the Army.”
An AMU poster of Golob from 1999.
(Courtesy of Julie Golob)
But commitment is one thing Golob has never lacked when it comes to shooting. “Even as a kid,” Golob remembered, “I always wanted to be the best at something, and I was always frustrated that I couldn’t find out what that ‘best’ was. But when I found shooting, I realized that if I worked hard at it, I could set goals and I could meet them. And it’s that constant goal setting and achieving those goals that makes me feel very fulfilled. It gives me an empowered confidence.”
After her time in the Army, Golob took a break from shooting with the intention of becoming an English teacher — but she missed it.
“I missed the people in the sport the most,” Golob said. “I rediscovered all the reasons I enjoyed shooting from when I was a kid instead of doing it as a JOB job. I just did it for fun … and then it became a job again.”
Golob is the only 7 Division USPSA Ladies National Champion; she also has over 140 major wins in state, regional, and international competitions and more than 50 national and world titles.
Her second book grew out of the other most important role she plays: the mother of two young daughters. So she wrote “Toys, Tools, Guns, and Rules.”
“I was always finding resources that were for boys, dads and sons specifically,” Golob said. “And firearm safety is universal. It should be something every child learns. My husband is in law enforcement, so it’s a part of our lives. We always stop and answer the questions, they always know the rules, and it’s not anything that’s taboo.”
Her older daughter was 9 years old when they competed together in their first Empire Championship. “I love being a mom,” Golob said enthusiastically. “So being able to bring my daughter with me to a few competitions here and there is really icing on the cake.”
When not shooting, Golob participates in NRATV and posts tips and tricks to her own JulieG.TV YouTube channel. Golob also advocates for the Second Amendment as a guest on podcasts and TV shows.
(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)
As another platform to further the understanding of and support for the shooting sports, Golob ran for and was elected to the NRA’s Board of Directors. She hopes the position will allow her to advocate to increase participation in shooting sports.
“I never even realized how many wonderful programs we have until I became a director, but we really need to connect the dots between those programs and the people who might be interested in them,” Golob said. “It’s not an ad on social media and that sort of thing — we really need to get back to that grassroots level, help the local clubs connect and reach the people in their communities.”
Although approximately only 10 percent of gun owners belong to the NRA, Golob is bullish on their role as “the lead organization, fighting the fight at the highest levels.” When asked why some gun owners might be skeptical about joining, she mused, “I think it comes down to identifying with a specific group. I do understand — I don’t agree with absolutely every message we put out. But we have 5 million members. That’s a huge number of voices. As a collective group, we are very, very powerful.”
“I love the thrill of competing and testing my skills on a challenging course of fire,” Golob wrote on her website’s blog at the end of the 2018 shooting season.
(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)
Golob also is sympathetic to people who do not view the Second Amendment in the same way that she and the rest of the NRA’s membership do. “At the end of the day we all want the same things,” Golob said. “We want people to be safe, we want people to feel the world is a good place to live in, and we don’t want horrible things to happen. It’s just the direction of how we get there. We need to maybe not head in the opposite direction but maybe just take a whole new direction.”
To Golob, that new direction involves open communication between dissenting groups. While she is uncompromising on her wholesale support for the Second Amendment, she recognizes that the NRA may need to work harder to spread their message to skeptics. “We need to do a better job of connecting with people who have that emotional reaction and let them know that we are all on the same side,” she sad. “But the challenge is getting in the room. We’ve got to get in the room.”
At an age where many professional athletes hit “the mark of the slow decline,” as Golob laughingly described it, she somehow finds a way to balance her responsibilities as a shooter, a mom, an author, and now an NRA board member.
“When I was in the military,” she said, “I went to 24 matches in a year. And I don’t know if I want to live that life right now.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that two “military personnel” died in a mortar attack on its Khmeimim airbase in Syria’s Latakia Province on Dec. 31.
The admission comes amid reports from Russian newspaper Kommersant that the attack destroyed at least seven Russian aircraft as well — four Su-24 bombers, two Su-35S fighters, and an An-72 transport plane. Kommersant also reported that an ammunition depot was destroyed as well.
But the Russian MoD pushed back on those reports, according to the Russian government-funded news outlet RT.
“Kommersant’s report on the alleged ‘destruction’ of seven Russian military aircraft at Khmeimim Airbase is fake,” the MoD said in a statement, according to RT.
It would not be the first time Russian aircraft were destroyed in an artillery attack at an airbase in Syria.
STRATFOR published satellite imagery last May that revealed an ISIS attack at the T4 air base in central Syria had resulted in the destruction of four Russian Mi-24 attack helicopters and a supply depot. The attack also damaged a Syrian MiG-25 “that was likely already out of commission,” according to STRATFOR.
Other incidents have included a Russian jet being shot down and several reports of jets crashing due to mechanical failure.
Widescale destruction of Russian jets from ground attacks has not been reported before, and would be a significantly larger loss.
Two American soldiers have been killed while conducting combat operations in Iraq, the US military said, adding that the deaths were “not due to enemy contact” but instead were the result of an artillery “mishap.”
Five other soldiers were wounded, the DoD said.
The soldiers killed in the incident were identified as 22-year-old Sgt. Allen L. Stigler Jr. of Arlington, Texas, and 30-year-old Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks of Brooklyn, New York.
Both were artillerymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. The 2nd BCT is based at Camp Swift, Iraq.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of US forces battling the Islamic State group in Iraq, said the coalition “sends our deepest condolences to these heroes’ families, friends and teammates.”
More than 5,000 US troops are taking part in the war against IS in Iraq, according the Pentagon. The vast majority operate within heavily guarded bases, collecting and sharing intelligence with Iraqi forces and providing logistical support.
But as the fight has evolved over the past three years, more and more US troops are operating close to the front lines. In addition to the two troops killed August 13, five other US troops have been killed in Iraq in the fight against IS, including two in the battle to retake the northern city of Mosul.
More than 1,200 Iraqi forces were killed in the battle for Mosul and more than 6,000 wounded, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this month.
Iraq’s prime minister declared victory against IS in Mosul in July, and Iraqi forces are now preparing to retake the IS-held town of Tel Afar, to the west.
“This comes as a surprise,” said no one, ever, of a new analysis that finds military members drink alcohol more than workers in any other job.
A review of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s survey data from 2013 through 2017 by a behavioral health company has found that troops spend more days a year consuming alcohol than people in any other industry.
They also binge-drink more, imbibing at least four or five alcoholic beverages a day in one sitting at least 41 days a year, the most of any occupation. That’s the CDC’s definition of binge-drinking, depending on gender. The military personnel surveyed said they binge-drank about a third of the days they consumed alcohol.
At the low end of the spectrum, health care and social assistance workers had a drink roughly 68 days per year.
For those who track the Pentagon’s yearly behavioral health surveys and media reports of arrests of service members for crimes ranging from misdemeanors to cases of sexual assault and even murder, the findings support what has been known for decades: the services have a drinking problem, and according to the Delphi report, it appears to be worsening.
The report noted that military personnel in 2014 reported drinking fewer than 100 drinks per year. Now, that number tops 130.
“People in the armed forces typically have ranked the highest every year since 2014,” said Ryan Serpico, Delphi’s lead researcher. “It’s shocking, but not shocking … [These results] enforce what we already know, but again, they shine a light on this, saying it’s a problem and we need to do something about it.”
The study was based on the CDC’s National Health Interview Surveys from 2013 through 2017, the latest year data was available. As with any study based on survey results, however, it comes with some caveats, including potential bias from respondents who chose to participate and their ability to accurately describe their drinking behaviors the previous years.
Also, of the nearly 27,000 survey participants, only 81 said they were in the military. So the findings could simply reflect the habits of 81 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who like to drink. A lot.
“I don’t know how the CDC executed the surveys,” Serpico said, “but when it comes to sample size number, we typically look for 26 respondents in order to make any judgements on the data.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)
Still, the findings echo the results of a survey frequently conducted by Rand Corp., a Washington-based think tank, for the Defense Department called the Health-Related Behavior Survey, or HRBS. While results from the 2018 survey have not been published, the 2015 survey found that 30 percent of troops reported being binge drinkers, and one in three service members met criteria that indicated they engaged in “hazardous drinking or possible alcohol use disorder.”
According to the 2015 HRBS, the percentage of these behaviors was highest in the Marine Corps, where hazardous drinking — described as drinking that results in negative consequences like risky behavior, missed work days or serious personal problems — was reported by nearly half the service.
The Air Force had the lowest percentages of these drinking issues, according to the survey.
Excessive drinking has been estimated to cost the Defense Department id=”listicle-2634691247″.1 billion per year in lost productivity and medical treatment. It also is thought to result in the loss of roughly 320,000 work days a year and lead to roughly 34,400 arrests per year.
Despite the impact of alcohol use, however, 68% of active duty troops said they perceived the military culture of being supportive of drinking, and 42% said their supervisor doesn’t discourage alcohol use, according to the HRBS.
Bri Godwin, a media relations associate with Delphi, said there appears to be acceptance of excessive drinking in the military but added that service members can take control of their habits — and those of others — by being mindful.
“There needs to be a conversation on drinking and how much it affects you or someone else. Are you mindful of the consequences — how is it affecting you mentally, physically and financially. You have to do a personal inventory, see how it’s affecting you and determine what you need to do to fix it,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory observed an unexpected result when combining urine with a newly engineered nano-powder based on aluminum. It instantly releases hydrogen from the urine at much higher rate than with ordinary water.
The research team announced earlier this summer that a nano-galvanic aluminum-based powder they were developing produced pure hydrogen when coming into contact with water. The researchers observed a similar reaction when adding their powder to any liquid containing water.
What we do as Army scientists is develop materials and technology that will directly benefit the soldier and enhance their capabilities,” said Dr. Kristopher Darling, an ARL researcher. “We developed a new processing technique to synthesize a material, which spontaneously splits water into hydrogen.
Hydrogen, the most plentiful element in the universe, has the potential to power fuel cells and provide energy to future soldiers.
Fuel cells generate electricity quietly, efficiently and without pollution. According to a Department of Energy’s website, fuel cells are “more energy-efficient than combustion engines and the hydrogen used to power them can come from a variety of sources.”
In space, astronauts recycle waste water and urine because drinking water is a precious commodity. For soldiers in austere environments, there are many precious commodities. Power and energy is becoming increasingly important to run communications and electronics gear for away teams, which can’t be resupplied.
Well, you took the leap and signed on the dotted line. Now you’re standing in your underwear in front of your bed at boot camp holding a camouflage bag in front of your face and some dude is screaming his head off at you. The thought that’s probably running through your head sounds a lot like, “this is nothing like what my recruiter sold me on.” Well, it’s their job is to get you in — what did you expect?
You might go through the rest of your career believing that some dude in a cool-looking uniform lied to you during an otherwise innocent visit to your local shopping mall. And you know what? If this were any other decade, a time before the internet was easily accessible by anyone, you might actually have a believable story.
But in 2018, that just doesn’t fly. Your recruiter didn’t lie to you; you just didn’t do the research.
If you’ve signed up, you’ve got no excuse for failing to know the following:
Just make sure it’s the best fit for you, either way.
If you match your branch of service
Not everyone is cut out to join the Marines; it’s a rough-and-tumble lifestyle that requires you to forsake most creature comforts. In fact, you may find that the branch that best suits you isn’t one you were considering at all.
If you’re unsure of what you want out of the military to even the slightest degree, consider each branch carefully. Next, consider the next item on this list.
If want to join the Marines to purify water, more power to you…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels)
If you match your MOS
This is a big deal. A lot of people join the military and sign up for an MOS they’ve never even heard of because it “sounds cool” only to realize that it’s not at all what it it sounds like (looking at you, 1179 Water Dogs). Granted, some people end up liking their job, even if doesn’t match the title — but those who end being miserable are a detriment to the unit.
Air Force PT in a nutshell.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond)
The fitness requirements are (usually) demanding
If you’ve got a big brain but don’t like running a lot, join the Air Force. Rumor has it they only run in boot camp (and from the sound of gunfire, usually back into their air-conditioned buildings). If you want to join the Marines, but have a hard time doing push-ups, you’ll learn — but it will not be a fun experience.
So, maybe you should decide on how long you want to get yelled at before you sign up.
(U.S. Marine photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)
Boot camp and basic training suck
Marines call it boot camp because, well, you wear boots and you’re at camp (not the fun kind). The other branches call it basic training. Not only will you experience vary across branches, the amount of time you’ll spend there will, too. The “easier” branches go for 9 weeks at most and the toughest (and, in my non-biased opinion, most handsome) branch goes for 13.
This may be the thing that changes your mind more than anything.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy D. Wolff)
Real-life experiences may vary
It may do you some good to ask about the experiences of friends or family members who’ve served and don’t look back on it with rose-tinted glasses. If your uncle’s tales seem a little too far-fetched, rummage around on Reddit and other online communities to get an idea of peoples’ general experiences in the branch you’re considering. The facts are out there if you look.
If you don’t do the research and you feel like you got screwed — that’s on you.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Duane Duimstra)
Recruitment tactics are tactical
Before you set foot into the recruiting office, keep this in mind: Recruiters are essentially the salespeople of the military. They’re not going to outright lie to you, but they’re trying to sell you on the service they represent.
The fact of the matter is that you should be able to recognize the tactics they’ll use to try and get you to sign up. Treat it like you would any other big decision. If the person you talk to is echoing things you’ve found in your research, they’re probably being honest.
The military has a lot of official and unofficial awards for when tragedy strikes. Soldiers saved by their helmets often receive sections of the helmet after it is studied. Troops hit by enemy weapons get Purple Hearts. And aviators flying for the Army are awarded “Broken Wings” when they manage to avoid a crash or crash safely when tragedy strikes in mid-flight.
The Broken Wing Award dates back to March 1968, and it has been awarded to hundreds of air crewmembers and pilots for avoiding crashes or minimizing the damage resulting from them.
In 2016, Navy aviator Ms. Barbara Gordon became the first sailor to earn the award when she took part in a training flight with an Army pilot. They were practicing an exercise on just one engine in a UH-60L Black Hawk when that engine failed, and the helicopter began to fall at almost 12,000 feet per minute. In that emergency, the two pilots had to take turns taking certain actions to save it, but they managed to do so in the only five seconds they had to avoid a deadly crash.
The award is typically given for in-flight emergencies caused by mechanical failure or environmental factors, though the guidelines for it do say that enemy action isn’t a disqualifier. While receiving the award is considered an honor, it’s not something anyone hopes for.
Maj. Gen. Joel K. Tyler, commander of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, presents the U.S. Army Broken Wing Award to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sylvia Grandstaff.
(Collin Magonigal, RTC)
“I appreciate the award,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Hagerty while receiving the award for saving his helicopter after a cardboard box went through the engine. “I don’t think I want to earn another one though.”
The helicopter had suffered engine failure, and the pilots had to carefully tip the helicopter over a cliff and then use the speed and power from the fall to reach a safe landing spot and do a “roll-on landing” where they have no power left to flare and hover, so they touchdown and roll to a stop instead. So, a controlled crash off of a cliff. No one wants that.
And no pilot wants to face any of the situations that result in a Broken Wing Award nomination. Not the crash off the cliff, not the midair power failure that Gordon suffered, not the midair crash that Odum and Desjardins survived.
An aircrew member must, through outstanding airmanship, minimize or prevent aircraft damage or injury to personnel during an emergency situation. Aircrew member must have shown extraordinary skill while recovering an aircraft from an in-flight emergency situation. If more than one crewmember materially contributed to successful recovery from the emergency, each of those involved should be considered for nomination.
Each in-flight save by Army aviators represents lives saved and airframes preserved. Obviously, the lives are more important than the helicopters, and occasional plane (the Army has very few planes, so the award naturally goes predominantly to helicopter pilots), but each helicopter saved does represent millions of dollars saved by the Army.
It’s the award no one wants to earn, the Army doesn’t want to have to give out, but each time an aviator gets their broken wings, lives are saved, and aircraft stay in the fleet.
“On the contrary, both Russia and Turkey will point to the murder as reason why they should cooperate more closely in fighting terrorism,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, president of the political risk firm Eurasia Group, told Business Insider on Monday.
“Erdogan will surely express great regret to the Russian, and acknowledge that Turkey must do more in their domestic security environment,” Bremmer said, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “That means more crackdowns at home, but not a sudden blowup with Moscow.”
The death of the ambassador, Andrey Karlov, immediately prompted comparisons to the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 that led Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, which ultimately sparked World War I.
But statements released by Russian and Turkish officials in the aftermath of Karlov’s death suggested Moscow and Ankara were determined not to let the incident derail their rapprochement.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said in a statement that the government would not allow the assassination to harm Russian-Turkish relations.
Erdogan echoed Yildirim’s sentiment, calling the attack “provocation” aimed at damaging Turkey’s normalization of ties with Russia. He said that Turkey and Russia will jointly investigate the assassination, reiterating that “intense cooperation with Russia” over Aleppo was “helping to save lives.”
“I call out to those who are trying to break this relationship,” Erdogan continued, “Your expectations are wasted.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, called the assassination an attempt to “undermine” Russia-Turkey ties and derail Moscow’s attempts to find, with Iran and Turkey, a solution for the Syria crisis.
The Kremlin, which declared the assassination a terrorist attack, said talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, over Syria would take place as planned in Moscow on Tuesday.
“Ankara and Moscow will likely seek to avoid a diplomatic crisis over Karlov’s assassination,” said Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Washington, DC-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Russia will, however, likely step up military actions in Syria and seek revenge against those connected with the assassin.”
The Turkish government, meanwhile, was apparently preparing to blame a domestic opposition movement, known as the Gulenists, for the attack. The movement is led by Turkish preacher Fetullah Gulen, who has lived in exile in the US since 1999.
The mayor of Ankara alleged in a tweet shortly after the attack that the gunman was a Gulenist and that his declarations about Aleppo were merely a distraction — a narrative that was repeated and expanded upon by Turkish media in the aftermath of the assassination. A senior Turkish senior official later told Reuters that Ankara’s investigation will focus on the gunman’s links to the Gulen network.
Mark Kramer, the program director of the Project on Cold War Studies at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, said he thinks Russia and Turkey are preparing to blame “certain forces — i.e., the United States— that supposedly are trying to derail the Russian-Turkish normalization.”
“This theme undoubtedly will become a staple of Russian (and maybe Turkish) propaganda in coming days to deflect attention from the egregious security lapse,” Kramer told Business Insider on Monday, “and to put pressure on the outgoing and incoming US administrations.”
Turkish-Russian relations had been precarious but improving since Turkey shot down a Russian warplane along the Turkish-Syrian border in November 2015.
Erdogan’s reluctance to sign on to certain European Union membership requirements and his increasingly authoritarian leadership over Turkey have also sparked concern among European leaders that he is not committed to a Western conception of human rights and civil liberties.
NATO has also expressed concern over Erdogan’s purging of thousands of Turkish civil servants — as well as military personnel, police officers, academics, and teachers — from their positions on suspicion that they were associated with the coup attempt.
“Ankara is going to use this as an opportunity to embrace Russia tighter,” Koplow said. “The analogy to WWI ignores the fact that there was a host of incentives, including entangling alliances and multiple competing great powers, that made war a more obvious choice for the parties involved. That is not the case here, particularly given that Turkey is hardly a proxy for the West these days despite its NATO membership.”
Dmitry Gorenburg, an expert on Russian military affairs at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, said that “a lot will depend on how the Russian government chooses to play it.”
“My initial guess is that the two countries will pledge to work together against terrorism,” Gorenburg told Business Insider on Monday. “But we will see soon enough.”
The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade deployed in March 2018 to Afghanistan to carry out the inaugural mission for the newly-created SFAB concept. The brigade returned in November 2018, and leaders say their experience there has proven successful what the Army hoped to accomplish with the new kind of training unit.
Army Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson, 1st SFAB commander, spoke May 8, 2019, at the Pentagon as part of an Army Current Operations Engagement Tour. He said the Army’s concept for the new unit — one earmarked exclusively for advise and assist missions — was spot on.
During their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, Jackson said the 800-person brigade ran 58 advisory teams and partnered with more than 30 Afghan battalions, 15 brigades, multiple regional training centers, a corps headquarters and a capital division headquarters.
“That’s nearly half of the Afghan National Army,” he said. “I believe we could only accomplish our mission and reach these milestones and validate the effectiveness of an SFAB because the Army got it right — the Army issued us the right equipment, and provided us the right training to be successful. But most importantly, we selected the people for this mission . . . the key to our success is the talented, adaptable, and experienced volunteers who served in this brigade.”
Jackson outlined two key lessons learned from the unit’s time in Afghanistan. First, they learned their ability to affect change within those they advise and assist was greater than they thought.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, interacts with Afghan Command Sgt. Maj. Abdul Rahman Rangakhil, left, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Kandak, 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps, during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“As our Afghan partners began to understand the value of 1st SFAB advisors, they asked us for more,” Jackson said. “So our teams partnered with more and more Afghan units as the deployment progressed.”
Another lesson, he said, was that persistent presence with partners pays off.
“Units with persistent partners made more progress in planning and conducting offensive operations and in integrating organic Afghan enablers like field artillery and the Afghan air force than unpersistent partnered units,” Jackson said.
Those lessons and others were passed to the follow-on unit, the 2nd SFAB, as well as to the Security Force Assistance Command.
Another observation: the Afghan military is doing just fine. They’re in charge of their own operations. And while U.S. presence can provide guidance when needed — and it is asked for — the Afghans were proving successful at doing their own security missions without U.S. soldiers running alongside them. It turns out that just having an SFAB advise and assist presence has emboldened Afghan security to success.
“We saw enormous offensive maneuver generated, and not just at the brigade level,” said Army Lt. Col. Brain Ducote, commander of the 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB. “They weren’t overdependent. They were able to execute offensive operations themselves. It was a huge confidence builder when we were sometimes just present. Even if we didn’t support them, just us being there gave them the confidence to execute on independent offensive operations.”
Confidence is contagious
Ducote said that the confidence moved from brigade level down to battalion, or “kandak” level. Commanders there also began running their own offensive operations, he said.
“They believe in themselves,” the lieutenant colonel said. “The Afghan army has tremendous freedom of maneuver and access to areas where they want to go. If they put their mind to it and they say we’re going to move to this area to clear it . . . they are good at it. And they can do it. Would they, given the choice, want advisors with them? Absolutely. Why not? But let there be no mistake: the Afghans are in the lead, and the Afghans can do this.”
Advisors with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron and their 3rd Infantry Division security element exit UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Ducote said Afghan success is evident by their expansion of the footprint they protect, such as in Kunar and Kapisa provinces, for instance.
“[There are] all sorts of provinces where they expanded their footprint and influence,” he said. “And the people absolutely support their security forces.”
Also a critical takeaway from Afghanistan and an indicator of the value of the SFAB mission there is the authenticity of relationships between SFAB advisors and Afghans.
Building real relationships
During their nine months in theater, the 1st SFAB lost two soldiers to insider threats. Army Capt. Gerard T. Spinney, team leader for 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB, said that what happened after the attacks revealed the strength and sincerity of the relationship between Afghan leadership and SFAB leadership.
Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel was working for Spinney in Tarin Kowt District, Afghanistan. He was killed there by an Afghan soldier in July 2018 — a “green on blue” threat.
“His sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Spinney said. “But we still had to continue advising afterward. That day, my partner, a kandak commander . . . wanted to come see me.”
Spinney said the Afghan soldier who had killed Maciel didn’t belong to this commander — but that commander still wanted to meet with him.
Afghan soldiers listen to a map reading class taught by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, Sept. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“He was very adamant coming to see me,” Spinney said. “He was angry. He was embarrassed. He was determined to rid [his own] unit of anything like this. And it was sincere. During the deployment he lost many soldiers. I had to sit with him and almost echo the same sympathies. I think the relationship got stronger.”
“You have to be there with them, good times and bad times, successes and failures,” the captain said. “That’s how you build trust, that’s how you show you care. He was there for us that day. Our relationship survived. And I’d say from that point on he wanted to make us feel safer. From that point on we saw differences in security . . . they took care of us because they wanted us there.”
Jackson said that insider threat might have derailed the 1st SFAB mission. In fact, he said, he suspects that was the intent of the enemy that carried out those threats. But it didn’t happen that way, he said.
“It didn’t derail the mission,” Jackson said. “Despite a brief pause maybe, as we reassessed what happened and what we needed to do both on the Afghan side and the American side, in the end our relationship was stronger.”
The SFAB concept was first proposed by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley. And since then, Jackson said, the Army has put a lot of effort into ensuring the success of the SFAB mission. That includes, among other things, training, people and gear.
Ducote said the equipment provided to 1st SFAB was critical to its success in Afghanistan.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, teaches a map reading class to Afghan soldiers Sept. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“These teams are operating at distance, in austere environments,” Ducote said. “In some cases without electricity. We need the right equipment to be able to extend the trust that we give to them, and the trust that we extend to them. We want that to be manifested through the right equipment — communications specifically.”
He said the gear that proved essential to SFAB success included medical, communications and vehicles — and all were adequately provided for by the Army.
“The Army got it right what they gave us,” Ducote said. “We were able to do that mission, at distance.”
Back home now for six months, Jackson said the brigade is back to repairing equipment, replacing teammates and conducting individual and small-unit training to prepare for its next mission. He said their goal is to provide the Army a unit ready for the next deployment, though orders for that next mission have not yet come down.
The advise and assist mission is one the Army has done for years, but it’s something the Army had previously done in an ad hoc fashion. Brigade combat teams, for instance, had in the past been tasked to send some of their own overseas as part of security transition teams or security force assistance teams to conduct training missions with foreign militaries. Sometimes, however, the manner in which these teams were created may not have consistently facilitated the highest quality of preparation.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, flies in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on his way to Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
The SFAB units, on the other hand, are exclusively designated to conduct advise and assist missions overseas. And they are extensively trained to conduct those missions before they go. Additionally, the new SFABs mean regular BCTs will no longer need to conduct advise and assist missions.
The Army plans to have one National Guard and five active-duty SFABs. The 1st SFAB stood up at Fort Benning, Georgia, in early 2018. The 2nd SFAB is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but is now deployed to Afghanistan. The 3rd SFAB, based at Fort Hood, Texas, is now gearing up for its own first deployment. The 4th SFAB, based at Fort Carson, Colorado, is standing up, as is the 54th SFAB, a National Guard unit that will be spread across six states. The 5th SFAB, to be based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, is still being planned.
“As subsequent SFABs come online, it creates a huge capacity for the rest of the combatant commands in the world,” Jackson said. “I would be confident to say that there are assessments ongoing to see where else you could apply SFABs besides Afghanistan.”
The remains of US servicemen who died in North Korea during the Korean War were provided to the US military on July 27, 2018, after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to work on repatriation efforts during their June 2018 summit.
North Korea is estimated to have returned 55 sets of remains on the same day of the 65th anniversary of the armistice that paused Korean War hostilities. Around 5,300 US remains are still believed to be in North Korea.
“We are encouraged by North Korea’s actions and the momentum for positive change,” the White House said in a statement. “The United States owes a profound debt of gratitude to those American service members who gave their lives in service to their country and we are working diligently to bring them home.”
“It is a solemn obligation of the United States Government to ensure that the remains are handled with dignity and properly accounted for so their families receive them in an honorable manner.”
A United Nations Honor Guard member carries remains during a dignified return ceremony at Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 27, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)
The remains will be airlifted to a forensic lab in Hawaii, where the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency will perform identification tests, according to The Washington Post . The process will take several years and attempt to determine where the servicemen were missing or buried.
A formal repatriation ceremony will be held on Aug. 1, 2018, according to The White House.
Plans to return the remains appeared to be scuttled earlier in July 2018, after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned to the US after visiting North Korea for negotiations — following his visit, Pyongyang ramped up its rhetoric against the US in numerous propaganda messages and railroaded negotiations with US officials at the North-South Korean border.
If the remains are confirmed, the repatriation signals a win for Trump, who remained optimistic on their return after his first meeting with Kim at Singapore in June 2018. In a joint statement during the summit, Trump and Kim said their two countries would to work towards the “immediate repatriation” of US remains to “contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.”
“Great progress was made on the denuclearization of North Korea,” Trump said onTwitter in June 2018. “Hostages are back home, will be getting the remains of our great heroes back to their families, no missiles shot, no research happening, sites closing … Got along great with Kim Jong-un who wants to see wonderful things for his country.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.