U.S. military investigators found more remains of the Army soldier killed in Niger, the Defense Department announced Nov. 21.
A team with U.S. Africa Command on Nov. 12 discovered additional human remains at the site where Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s body was recovered in the Western African country, according to a statement from Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White. The Armed Forces Medical Examiner on Nov. 21 positively identified them as those of Johnson, White said.
Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was killed with three other members of the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Group in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger. The others were Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.
“We extend our deepest condolences to all of the families of the fallen,” White said.
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright (left), Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson (center), and Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black. Photos from US Army.
Two more American troops were wounded and five Nigerien troops were also killed in the incident, which occurred near the village of Tongo Tongo in the northwestern part of the country.
The four U.S. service members killed in action were part of a 12-man team from the Army 3rd Special Forces Group that joined a patrol with 30 Nigerien troops. During the firefight, Sgt. La David Johnson became separated from the rest of the group. His body was not recovered until two days after the initial attack.
It wasn’t immediately clear why some of Johnson’s remains were left in the country.
Johnson’s pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, who was angered by what she said was President Donald Trump mispronouncing her husband’s name during a condolence call, said she was prevented from seeing her husband’s body.
“I need to see him so I will know that that is my husband,” she told ABC News last month. “They won’t show me a finger, a hand. I know my husband’s body from head to toe, and they won’t let me see anything.”
Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, a career infantry officer, Iraq veteran and the chief of staff to Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command, is leading an Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation into the firefight in western Niger near the Mali border.
Under their rules of engagement, the 12 U.S. soldiers on the patrol “were authorized to accompany Nigerien forces when the prospects for enemy contact was unlikely,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford has said.
Some news outlets, citing defense officials, have reported that the patrol diverted from its reconnaissance mission to pursue an extremist leader thought to be in the area and that Johnson may have been captured and executed.
China reportedly wants to extend its surveillance state to the South China Sea by launching satellites to watch “every reef and ship” in the contested sea.
Beginning in 2019, China will begin launching satellites to monitor the region, as well as enforce “national sovereignty,” the South China Morning Post reported Aug. 16, 2018, citing China’s state-run China News Service. Six optical satellites, two hyerspectral satellites and two radar satellites will form the Hainan satellite constellation system, creating a real-time “CCTV network in space” controlled by operators in Hainan.
“Each reef and island as well as each vessel in the South China Sea will be under the watch of the ‘space eyes,'” Yang Tianliang, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Sanya Institute of Remote Sensing, told SCMP. “The system will [reinforce] national sovereignty, protection of fisheries, and marine search and rescue.”
The ten new surveillance satellites will allow China to keep a close watch on disputed territories, as well as the foreign ships entering the area. The project is expected to be completed by 2021, with three optical satellites going up in the second half of 2019.
The northeastern portion of the South China Sea.
The satellites, according to Asia Times, would be able to scan the entire 3.5-million-square-kilometer waterway and create an up-to-date satellite image database within a matter of days. Beijing has apparently promised transparency, stressing that it will share information with other countries.
Beijing’s efforts to alleviate the concerns of other claimant states are unlikely to result in a sign of relief, as China has been significantly increasing its military presence in the region this year by deploying point-defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles to Chinese occupied territories. China’s militarization of the South China Sea resulted in the country’s expulsion from the latest iteration of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises by the Pentagon.
In recent weeks, China has come under fire for issuing threats and warnings to foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea, an area largely upheld as international waters in a 2016 rebuke to China. “Philippine military aircraft, I’m warning you again: Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences,” a Chinese voice shouted over the radio recently when a Philippine aircraft flew past the Spratlys. China issued a similar warning to a US Navy plane on Aug. 10, 2018.
The incidents came just a few months after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis accused China of “intimidation and coercion” at a security forum in Singapore.
“China has a right to take necessary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into the air and waters near China’s relevant islands and provocative actions that threaten the security of Chinese personnel stationed there,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Reuters on the matter.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A U.S. Army project took a new approach to developing robots — researchers built robots entirely from smaller robots known as “smarticles,” unlocking the principles of a potentially new locomotion technique.
Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Northwestern University published their findings in the journal Science Robotics.
The research could lead to robotic systems capable of changing their shapes, modalities and functions, said Sam Stanton, program manager, complex dynamics and systems at the Army Research Office, an element of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory.
“For example, as envisioned by the Army Functional Concept for Maneuver, a robotic swarm may someday be capable of moving to a river and then autonomously forming a structure to span the gap,” he said.
Five identical “smarticles” — smart active particles — interact with one another in an enclosure. By nudging each other, the group — dubbed a “supersmarticle” — can move in random ways. The research could lead to robotic systems capable of changing their shapes, modalities and functions.
The 3D-printed smarticles — short for smart active particles — can do just one thing: flap their two arms. But when five of these smarticles are confined in a circle, they begin to nudge one another, forming a robophysical system known as a “supersmarticle” that can move by itself. Adding a light or sound sensor allows the supersmarticle to move in response to the stimulus — and even be controlled well enough to navigate a maze.
The notion of making robots from smaller robots — and taking advantage of the group capabilities that arise by combining individuals — could provide mechanically based control over very small robots. Ultimately, the emergent behavior of the group could provide a new locomotion and control approach for small robots that could potentially change shapes.
“These are very rudimentary robots whose behavior is dominated by mechanics and the laws of physics,” said Dan Goldman, a Dunn Family Professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the project’s principal investigator. “We are not looking to put sophisticated control, sensing and computation on them all. As robots become smaller and smaller, we’ll have to use mechanics and physics principles to control them because they won’t have the level of computation and sensing we would need for conventional control.”
The foundation for the research came from an unlikely source: a study of construction staples. By pouring these heavy-duty staples into a container with removable sides, former doctoral student Nick Gravish — now a faculty member at the University of California San Diego — created structures that would stand by themselves after the container’s walls were removed.
Light hits a smarticle (smart active particle) causing it to stop moving, while the other smarticles continue to flap their arms. The resulting interactions produce movement toward the stopped smarticle, providing control that doesn’t depend on computer algorithms.
Shaking the staple towers eventually caused them to collapse, but the observations led to a realization that simple entangling of mechanical objects could create structures with capabilities well beyond those of the individual components.
“Dan Goldman’s research is identifying physical principles that may prove essential for engineering emergent behavior in future robot collectives as well as new understanding of fundamental tradeoffs in system performance, responsiveness, uncertainty, resiliency and adaptivity,” Stanton said.
The researchers used a 3D printer to create battery-powered smarticles, which have motors, simple sensors and limited computing power. The devices can change their location only when they interact with other devices while enclosed by a ring.
“Even though no individual robot could move on its own, the cloud composed of multiple robots could move as it pushed itself apart and shrink as it pulled itself together,” Goldman said. “If you put a ring around the cloud of little robots, they start kicking each other around and the larger ring — what we call a supersmarticle — moves around randomly.”
The researchers noticed that if one small robot stopped moving, perhaps because its battery died, the group of smarticles would begin moving in the direction of that stalled robot. The researchers learned to control the movement by adding photo sensors to the robots that halt the arm flapping when a strong beam of light hits one of them.
Smarticles: Robots built from smaller robots work together
“If you angle the flashlight just right, you can highlight the robot you want to be inactive, and that causes the ring to lurch toward or away from it, even though no robots are programmed to move toward the light,” Goldman said. “That allowed steering of the ensemble in a very rudimentary, stochastic way.”
In future work, Goldman envisions more complex interactions that use the simple sensing and movement capabilities of the smarticles. “People have been interested in making a certain kind of swarm robots that are composed of other robots,” he said. “These structures could be reconfigured on demand to meet specific needs by tweaking their geometry.”
Swarming formations of robotic systems could be used to enhance situational awareness and mission-command capabilities for small Army units in difficult-to-maneuver environments like cities, forests, caves or other rugged terrain.
The research project also received funding from National Science Foundation.
Call of Duty is one of the biggest first-person shooter franchises in the world. Starting with World War II scenarios, this video game franchise has honored those who fought for freedom and against evil-doers for over a decade.
What you may not have known is that there is also a Call of Duty Endowment, which helps to support non-profits that are effective at helping the real-life heroes who have served make the transition from military life to civilian life. Yesterday, that endowment gave three such charities its Seal of Distinction, and announced plans to expand its recognition to charities in the United Kingdom.
The first charity recognized by the Endowment was Goodwill Southern California. In 2016, they placed 752 veterans in civilian jobs at a cost of $1,022 per placement, while still providing job placement, work experience, education, and training.
Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region was also honored by the Endowment for their Military and Veteran Services team’s ability to place 208 veterans into jobs at a cost of $1,076 per placement. This charity provides “individualized, holistic plans to help each participant succeed with the goal of achieving career placement, retention, and long-term financial education and stability.”
The third charity honored was Houston-based NextOp, Inc. Since its founding in March 2015, it has placed over 1,000 vets at a cost of $1,599 per placement. This charity specializes in placing “middle-enlisted military leaders” into industrial careers in the Houston region.
The charities supported by the Call of Duty Endowment have a strong record of delivering results. According to the endowment’s web site, the average cost per placement is less than $619, while the federal government spends almost $3,100. The average salary for the vets placed by charities supported by the endowment is $57,000, compared to just over $30,000 for those placed via government programs. The endowment has placed over 37,000 veterans into jobs since 2009.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Air Force’s top civilian leader didn’t mince words Sept. 20 when she doubted Moscow’s ability to make good on potential military cooperation with the United States in targeting Islamic State forces in Syria, saying Russia likely can’t be counted on to stick to the deal.
“This would be a ‘transactional’ situation, it’s not a situation where there’s a great deal of trust,” Air Force Sec. Deborah Lee James said during a briefing with reporters at the 2016 Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference here.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced a deal with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in mid-September, saying that coalition and Russian aircraft would work together to target terrorist forces in Syria after a week-long cease-fire. It is unclear whether the deal will stick after reports that an aid convoy was targeted during the lull in fighting, with both sides pointing fingers at the other for breaking the terms of the short truce.
Wading into diplomatic waters, James also warned that allying with Russia could anger U.S. partners in the ongoing operations against ISIS in Syria, hinting that countries like Turkey and Baltic state partners would balk at cooperating on strikes if Russians are in the room.
“Coalition cohesion will be important,” James said. “We have more than 60 countries participating in this — we wouldn’t want to lose coalition members.”
But James offered her starkest critique of the Russian military on an issue that has increasingly plagued American military efforts overseas in the court of public opinion. Top U.S. military officials are worried that if Russia and the U.S. are jointly running air strikes, America will share the blame for bombs that go astray.
“We are extremely precise with our weaponry, Russia is not,” James said. “So we would want to have some form of accountability for the dropping of these weapons to ensure that if there are civilian casualties, clearly it’s not us.”
Military officials have been increasingly pressed on how the U.S. and its allies would work alongside Russian forces in Syria on everything from coordinating air strikes to sharing intelligence on enemy positions. Most military leaders, particularly in the Air Force, have taken a wait and see attitude, wondering whether the diplomatic rapprochement will ever result in a military alliance.
“Once the decisions are made on how this cooperation will occur … and we see that the cease-fire holds for the time that the secretary of state has laid out, then we’re going to step very carefully to make sure that what is said in terms of the intent actually results in actions,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.
With the growing tensions and the many threats that North Korea poses, it’s a safe bet that there is a desire to keep an eye on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Of course, the DPRK strongman isn’t going to be obliging and tell us what he is up to. According to FoxNews.com, the Air Force is keeping an eye on him – and one of the planes that help do this is quite an old design, even if it has a lot of new wrinkles.
Osan Air Base is best known as the home base of the 51st Fighter Wing, which has a squadron of F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolts. But Osan also is home to a permanent detachment from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, which operates the Lockheed U-2S, known as the Dragon Lady.
Yeah, you heard that right. Even in an era where we have Predators, Reapers, and the RQ-170 Sentinels, among other planes, the 1950s-vintage U-2 is still a crucial asset for the United States Air Force.
In fact, according to GlobalSecurity.org, one variant of the U-2, the TR-1, was in production in the 1980s. The TR-1s and U-2Rs were re-manufactured into the U-2S in the 1990s. The TR-1 was notable in that it swapped out cameras for side-looking radar, and it was eventually called a U-2 in the 1990s.
An Air Force fact sheet notes that the U-2S is capable of reaching altitudes in excess of 70,000 feet and it has a range of over 6,090 nautical miles. In short, this plane is one high-altitude all-seeing eye. The planes are reportedly capable of mid-air refueling, but having a single seat means that pilot endurance is often a bigger factor than a lack of fuel.
The Air Force fast sheet notes that the U-2 can carry infrared cameras, optical cameras, a radar, a signals intelligence package, and even a communications package.
The U-2 has proven that it is a very versatile plane. The Air Force is considering a replacement, but that may prove to be a tricky task. While plans calls for the plane to be retired in 2019, a 2014 Lockheed release makes a compelling case for the U-2 to stick around, noting it has as much as 35 years of life left on its airframes.
That’s a long time to get any proposed replacement right.
Gary Brooks Faulkner, a construction worker from Colorado, was detained by police with a pistol and a sword. Except for the sword, this would not be unusual in Colorado. But he wasn’t in Colorado. He was in Pakistan, and he was there to avenge the 9/11 terrorist attacks by taking a sword to the world’s most wanted man.
When the U.S. Army adopted the motto “Army of One,” a lot of soldiers laughed. But one American civilian seemed to have taken it to heart. He wasn’t ashamed of his self-imposed mission. He was proud of it. Even when he was arrested in the Chitral District of Pakistan while trying to cross into Afghanistan, he didn’t hide it.
“He told the investigating officer he was going to Afghanistan to get Osama. At first we thought he was mentally deranged,” said Muhammad Jaffar Khan, the Chitral police chief. But the gun-toting, sword-wielding Californian was totally serious. He even brought along night vision goggles. The American was even under armed guard while staying in Pakistan under the guise of being an everyday tourist. One night, he slipped away from his guard and made a run for the border.
Faulkner was arrested in Pakistan back in 2010 and had no idea – like the rest of the world – that Osama bin Laden wasn’t even in Afghanistan at the time. Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was just a ten-hour drive from the Kalash Valley, where Faulkner was staying. There wasn’t even a border to cross or policemen to arrest him or take away his samurai sword.
But the American had no idea where he was going. He told police he brought the Bible along with him and that God would guide him to where Osama bin Laden was hiding, and allow him America’s vengeance. Or at least allow him to capture the world’s most wanted terrorist. But of course, we all know how OBL’s story ends.
Faulkner’s ends with a Nic Cage movie.
Gary Brooks Faulkner, however, was turned over to the U.S. State Department in Pakistan and repatriated home to Colorado, where he was a guest on various talk shows, including The View and The Late Show with David Letterman, before going back to a regular life of managing his brother’s apartment complex. Then one day, a tenant who was being evicted tried to break into his apartment with three of her friends. She tried to intimidate a man who hunted Osama bin Laden with a sword.
He fired a shot at his assailants, but that shot brought the police, who confiscated his weapons and discovered he was a convicted felon. That shot eventually landed Faulkner in jail.
In an embarrassing moment for the Swiss Air Force’s demo team, the Patrouille Suisse squadron made a low-altitude pass over a yodeling festival when it was supposed to be making a commemorative flight honoring a local aviator a few miles away.
The Swiss aerial display team was expected to fly over an event marking the 100th anniversary of the death of aviation pioneer Oskar Bider in Langenbruck, but the team missed their mark by about four miles, flying over the nearby Muemliswil instead, The Aviationist first reported.
The obsolete F-5E Tiger II fighters flown by the demo team are not equipped with GPS, and the team did not have a man on the ground, as is often the case for these types of events. As the team was approaching the intended destination, the team leader spotted a festival area with tents and incorrectly assumed they were in the right place for the show.
The Patrouille Suisse.
Spokesman for the Swiss military Daniel Reist, local media reported, explained that the instruments in the aircraft flown by the display team are over four decades old. “Navigation is done with a map, a feeling and sight,” he said in a statement, adding that these aircraft are no longer suitable for combat and would never be used in a crisis.
“Unfortunate circumstances led to the mistake” the spokesman said. Switzerland’s Ministry of Defense said that the demonstration team had not had a chance to practice the maneuver prior to the event, explaining that the team was distracted, The Associated Press reported.
The commander of the Swiss demo team has apologized for the error.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Years after initial development, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II finally seems like it’s well on its way to enter the US’s fleet of fighter jets. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the DoD isn’t seeking alternative jets to supplement their squadrons.
According to Defense News, the US Air Force announced that it would begin testing aircraft that were not currently planned to be in its inventory. After signing a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Textron AirLand, the Air Force will begin a series of tests to determine if Textron AirLand’s flagship jet, dubbed “Scorpion”, will be airworthy.
“This is the first of its kind, we have not done a CRADA like this before and we have never had a partnership with industry to assess aircraft that are not under a USAF acquisition contract,” an Air Force representative explained in a statement from Defense News.
The Scorpion is a different beast compared to the other jets around the globe. Starting with its cost, Textron AirLand’s President Bill Anderson explained in a Bloomberg video, “The Scorpion … was designed to be very effective and very affordable.”
“The goal was to create a very mission-relevant aircraft for today’s security environment that’s below $20 million in acquisition costs, and below $3,000 an hour to operate.”
By comparison, a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) costs about $13 million and $1,500 per hour to operate, while the conventional F-35A costs $98 million per unit and $42,200 an hour in 2015.
“It’s quite maneuverable,” explained Scorpion test pilot Andy Vaughan. “It reminds me of my days when I used to fly the A-10 in the US Air Force.”
From start to finish, the construction of the Scorpion was kept secret to maintain a competitive advantage. Nevertheless, the secret wasn’t kept very long — Textron AirLand was able to conduct testing soon after the aircraft’s conception.
“In a classic DoD acquisition program, they can spend up to 10 years just developing and fielding an aircraft — and we’ve done it in less than 2,” Anderson said.
However, it’s still too early to determine whether this move by the Air Force will also move the sale of Scorpion units both in the US and abroad — according to Defense News, the program has attracted only one potential customer.
When Army Veteran Corrin Lee Mac heard of the Lebanon VA Medical Center and Lebanon Valley College’s The Seeing Lens group, she thought the idea was “far-fetched.” The 10-week therapeutic photography group is for Veterans in recovery. However, as Mac–pictured above–went through the program, she discovered that it worked for her. “It promotes mindfulness. Looking through the lens, this second in time, you are here in the moment.”
Veterans who participate in The Seeing Lens are issued a camera and textbook for duration of the program. Each week focuses on a different aspect of recovery and ties it to a photographic technique. For example, clarity and attention are linked with the concepts of aperture and depth of field.
Members of the inaugural group had their photos displayed in an exhibit at Lebanon Valley College and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The exhibit will return to Lebanon VAMC later this year.
Graduates gathered at the college to talk about the impact the program and the exhibit had on their lives.
“Every Veteran can experience it in their own way, but something that would be in common between Veterans was the supportive nature of it, the non-judgmental atmosphere, ” said Army Veteran Robin Ann Pottoroff.
You are more thoughtful and creative.
“It makes you slow down and look at the world in a different way,” said Navy Veteran Mike Robertson. “You are more thoughtful and creative. It calms a racing brain.”
Lebanon VAMC recreation therapist Amy Cook, a founder of the program, was struck by “really seeing what the camera can do as a recovery tool. Once the Veteran picked up the camera, it was life-changing.”
Project alumni suggested that other Veterans in recovery give The Seeing Lens a try.
“Give it a shot. It worked for me,” said Navy Veteran Patrick Dougherty. “And I was the most negative person, a naysayer. So if it helped me, it can pretty much help anyone.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
We’ve all seen the surprise homecomings at baseball games, school gymnasiums and countless other places. But never before have we seen one like this: a Fort Bragg soldier surprised his family at the State of the Union address, and President Trump was in on it.
President Trump remarked, “War places a heavy burden on our Nation’s extraordinary military families, especially spouses like Amy Williams from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and her two children: 6-year-old Elliana and 3-year-old Rowan.” Amy, seated next to First Lady Melania Trump, stood up with her kids to be recognized as President Trump continued.
“Amy works full time and volunteers countless hours helping other military families,” he explained. “For the past seven months, she has done it all while her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams, is in Afghanistan on his fourth deployment to the Middle East.”
“Amy’s kids haven’t seen their father’s face in many months. Amy, your family’s sacrifice makes it possible for all of our families to live in safety and in peace and we want to thank you. Thank you, Amy.”
Amy was immediately given a standing ovation while she looked as though she was simply trying to hold it all together. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, President Trump said, “But Amy, there is one more thing.”
An F-16 pilot flying over ISIS-held territory in 2015 suffered a malfunction of his fuel system and would have been forced to bail out if it weren’t for a KC-135 Stratotanker crew that offered to escort the jet home, the Air Force said in a press release.
The KC-135 was tasked with refueling a flight of A-10s supporting ground pounders when an F-16 came for gas and declared an emergency.
“We were in the area of responsibility and were already mated with some A-10 Thunderbolt IIs that were tasked with observing and providing close-air-support for our allies on the ground,” said Capt. Nathanial Beer, 384th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “The lead F-16 came up first and then had a pressure disconnect after about 500 pounds of fuel. We were expecting to offload about 2,500 pounds.”
After the pilot completed his checklist, it became apparent that 80 percent of his fuel supply was trapped in the tanks and couldn’t get to the engine. The pilots would have to bail out over ISIS territory or try to make it back to allied airspace.
500 pounds of fuel is very little in an F-16, so the KC-135 flew home with the fighter and topped off its gas every 15 minutes.
“The first thought I had from reading the note from the deployed location was extreme pride for the crew in how they handled the emergency,” said Lt. Col. Eric Hallberg, 384th Air Refueling Squadron commander.
“Knowing the risks to their own safety, they put the life of the F-16 pilot first and made what could’ve been an international tragedy, a feel-good news story. I’m sure they think it was not a big deal, however, that’s because they never want the glory or fame.”
The KC-135 crew returned to their planned operation once the F-16 was safely home and were able to complete all of their scheduled missions despite the detour.