Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

Russia’s political-military leadership frequently criticizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its enlargement and for staging military exercises close to Russian borders. This pattern has intensified since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent downturn in its relations with the United States and its allies.

Surprisingly, therefore, Moscow’s official reaction has been somewhat muted during the current run up to the active phases of NATO’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years—though some Russian military experts have been making critical comments to the media.

On January 23, the US Department of Defense confirmed that a redeployment of United States military personnel had commenced, transferring forces from the homeland to Europe as part of the NATO exercise Defender Europe 2020. The wide-spanning maneuvers will focus on the Baltic States, Poland and Georgia, involving more than 36,000 personnel from 11 countries (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020).

Russian news outlets have highlighted that this year’s Defender Europe exercise scenario is based on a war breaking out on the continent in 2028, between NATO and an enemy close to its borders. Additional reports stressed the scale of the exercise, with 28,000 U.S. military personnel participating, including the deployment of 20,000 from the United States. Referring to the magnitude of the drills, Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, compared them to the 1983 Able Archer, which resulted in Soviet forces being placed on alert.

Despite the scale of Defender Europe 2020 not even coming close to Able Archer 1983, a number of the upcoming exercise’s features may well cause concern for the Russian defense establishment (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020). Kozyulin asserted, “Such large-scale exercises will seriously aggravate the situation. Moreover, the main events will be held in Poland, Georgia and the Baltic countries, which not only border Russia, but also [exhibit] an unfriendly attitude toward our country” (Km.ru, January 27).

These reports also stressed a number of aspects of the exercise that may help explain the lack of an official response from Moscow thus far. Defender Europe will become an annual NATO exercise with a large-scale iteration planned for even-numbered years and smaller versions occurring in between. US military personnel will constitute the bulk of the force this year, with European allies collectively providing only 8,000 personnel.

As Russian analysts expect, moving the forces, equipment and hardware will prove quite challenging to the North Atlantic Alliance forces. Moreover, Defender Europe 2020 is the first exercise of its kind, which may have persuaded Russia’s defense leadership to cautiously study the exercise in all its various elements before responding to it (Km.ru, January 27, 2020; Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020; Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).

In a detailed commentary in Izvestia, the Moscow-based military analyst Anton Lavrov assesses the implications of the exercise, and identifies areas that will be closely monitored by Russia. Lavrov notes that Defender Europe will work out how the Alliance will fight a “war of the future” by testing an experimental strategy and some of its latest military equipment, adding, “Almost 500 American tanks, self-propelled guns and heavy infantry fighting vehicles, hundreds of aircraft, [as well as] tens of thousands of wheeled vehicles will take part in the exercises.”

The force buildup for the maneuvers will continue until April, and then NATO will conduct a series of drills forming part of the overall exercise. Crucially, this will provide an opportunity for the US to road-test its latest doctrinal development, namely “multi-domain battle,” which adds space and cyberspace to the traditional domains of land, sea and air. Lavrov states, “The concept will be tested in a series of command and staff exercises of the allied forces” (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).

The exercise divides into three related elements: transferring 20,000 US troops from the homeland to Europe and back again, moving US personnel based in Europe, and conducting a series of smaller exercises alongside allied forces.

Lavrov also points to the fact that Defender Europe 2020 will rehearse both defensive and offensive operations. One feature of the offensive operational aspects relates to US airborne forces conducting three joint airborne assault landings. In each case, the leading role is assigned to US forces. In the drop into Latvia, they will be joined by forces from Spain and Italy; in Lithuania, they are aided by personnel from Poland; and an additional multilateral airdrop is planned for Georgia (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).

As noted, one key challenge relates to the logistical tasks of moving troops and equipment over such vast distances. US military personnel and equipment will land at airports across Europe and seaports in Antwerp (Belgium), Vlissingen (Netherlands), Bremerhaven (Germany) and Paldiski (Estonia).

Russian military expert Vyacheslav Shurygin explained the nature of the challenge: “The transport infrastructure of Europe has not encountered such large-scale movements of military equipment for a long time.” Indeed, the redeployment of forces and hardware involved cannot be compared to standard US battle group rotations (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).

Clearly, one of the objectives of the exercise is to assess the efficiency of these deployments into a potential theater of military operations. Lavrov adds, “Even for the modern US Army, the transfer of heavy tank and infantry divisions from continent to continent is a difficult, lengthy and expensive task. Twenty thousand units of equipment that the Americans will use in the maneuvers will arrive from the US, and another 13,000 will be received by the military from storage bases on the spot.

In Europe, there are now four large storages of American military equipment. Each one has everything, from tanks and artillery to trucks and medical vehicles, to equip a tank brigade. Another similar base is being built in Poland and will be commissioned in 2021″ (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).

One commentary in the Russian media stressed not only that NATO was deploying forces for exercises close to Russia’s borders but pointedly also referenced Belarus, which fits with Moscow’s scenario planning for its Zapad series of strategic military exercises: “However, the fact that such a powerful group of US and NATO forces is practicing deployments near the borders of Belarus and Russia, against the background of a growing American military presence in Poland and the Baltic countries, is a matter of concern” (Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).

It remains to be seen whether Russia’s political-military leadership will continue to be cautious about Defender Europe, restricting its criticism to public rhetoric, or if it will ultimately try to engage the Alliance in political or information warfare on this front.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Investigative website Bellingcat has identified the second suspect in the nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain as a military doctor employed by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.

In September 2018, British prosecutors charged two Russians — Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov — with attempted murder for carrying out the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the Novichok nerve toxin in the southern English city in early 2018.

The prosecutors said at the time the two were undercover GRU officers.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Skripals’ attempted murder.


“We have now identified ‘Aleksandr Petrov’ to be in fact Dr. Aleksandr Yevgenyevich Mishkin, a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” the British-based group said in a report published on its website.

Bellingcat, a website that covers intelligence matters, had previously identified Boshirov on Sept. 26, 2018, as being decorated GRU Colonel Anatoly Chepiga.

“While Aleksandr Mishkin’s true persona has an even sparser digital footprint than Anatoly Chepiga’s, Bellingcat has been able to establish certain key facts from his background,” the Oct. 8, 2018 report said.

It said that Mishkin was born in 1979 in the Archangelsk region in Northern European Russia and was trained as a military doctor for the Russian naval armed forces at one of Russia’s elite military medical schools.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.

“During his medical studies, Mishkin was recruited by the GRU, and by 2010 had relocated to Moscow, where he received his undercover identity — including a second national ID and travel passport — under the alias Aleksandr Petrov,” the report said.

“Bellingcat’s identification process included multiple open sources, testimony from people familiar with the person, as well as copies of personally identifying documents, including a scanned copy of his passport,” the website said.

British police declined to make any specific comment in relation to Bellingcat’s latest report or the real names of those charged with poisoning the Skripals.

“We are not going to comment on speculation regarding their identities,” London’s police force said in a statement in response to a media query about the report.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the two men shown in British surveillance footage near Skripal’s home in Salisbury and identified by British authorities as Boshirov and Petrov were actually civilians on a tourist trip.

Skripal, a former GRU colonel, was convicted of treason in 2006 by a Russian court after being accused of spying for Britain. He relocated to Britain in a 2010 spy swap.

Putin on Oct. 3, 2018, said that Skripal was a “scumbag” who had betrayed his country.

The Skripals were found unconscious on March 4, 2018, on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury. They were seriously ill but made a full recovery after spending several weeks in a hospital.

British officials said the two were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Putin’s government for the attack.

In June 2018, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.

Britain on Sept. 5, 2018, announced charges against the two Russian men as police issued photographs of the suspects.

The men acknowledged they were in Salisbury at the time but claimed they were there as tourists.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senator says it’s time to move military families from South Korea

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Dec.3 that he believes it’s time to start moving the families of American military personnel out of South Korea as North Korea pushes the U.S. closer to a military conflict.


Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he will also urge the Pentagon not to send any more dependents to South Korea.

“It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea. South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour,” the South Carolina Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”So, I want them to stop sending dependents, and I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.”

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years
Soldiers from 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S Division and their guests stand for the opening ceremony at the Saint Barbara’s Day Ball, Feb. 12, at the Lotte Hotel, Seoul. (Photo by Cpl. Jaewoo Oh)

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from the North.

Last week, North Korea shattered 2½ months of relative quiet by firing off an intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers say showed the reclusive country’s ability to strike the U.S. East Coast. It was North Korea’s most powerful weapons test yet.

Also Read: What happens next in the North Korea missile situation

The launch was a message of defiance to President Donald Trump’s administration, which, a week earlier, had restored North Korea to a U.S. list of terror sponsors. It also hurt nascent diplomatic efforts and raised fears of a pre-emptive U.S. strike. Threats traded by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have further stoked fears of war.

Graham expressed confidence in the Trump administration’s ability to manage the growing conflict with North Korea.

“He’s got the best national security team of anybody I have seen since I have been in Washington,” said Graham, who has served in Congress since 1995.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina addresses the National Guard Association of the United States 138th General Conference, Baltimore, Md., Sept. 11, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill)

The Trump administration has vowed to deny North Korea the capability of striking the U.S. homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile.

“Denial means pre-emptive war as a last resort. The pre-emption is becoming more likely as their technology matures,” Graham told CBS. “I think we’re really running out of time. The Chinese are trying, but ineffectively. If there’s an underground nuclear test, then you need to get ready for a very serious response by the United States.”

Trump has said he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping about Pyongyang’s “provocative actions,” and he vowed that additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea. China is North Korea’s only significant ally, but it has grown increasingly frustrated over the North’s nuclear and missile tests that have brought a threat of war and chaos to China’s northeastern border.

Articles

This is how the US could save billions of dollars on bombs

The U.S. Navy may have come across a common sense way to save billions on bombs, according to statements made from U.S. officials at the AFCEA West 2017 conference.


For years now, the Navy has been working on the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) network to help detect, track, and intercept targets using a fused network of all types of sensors at the Navy’s disposal.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years
An F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced surface ship. The F-35C Lightning II is designed as the U.S. Navy’s first-day-of-war, survivable strike fighter. The U.S. Navy anticipates declaring the F-35C combat-ready in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)

Essentially, NIFC-CA allows one platform to detect a target, another platform to fire on it, and the original platform to help guide the missile to the target. The system recently integrated with F-35s, allowing an F-35 to guide a missile fired from a land-based version of a navy ship to hitting a target.

Remarks from Cmdr. David Snee, director for integration and interoperability at the warfare integration directorate, recently revealed that NIFC-CA could also help save the Navy billions on bombs.

“Right now we’re in a world where if I can’t see beyond the horizon then I need to build in that sort of sensing and high-tech effort into the weapon itself,” Snee told conference attendees, as noted by USNI News.

“But in a world where I can see beyond the horizon and I can target, then I don’t need to spend a billion dollars on a weapon that doesn’t need to have all that information. I just need to be able to give the data to the weapon at the appropriate time.”

According to Snee, with an integrated network of sensors allowing the Navy to see beyond the horizon, the costly sensors and guidance systems the U.S. puts on nearly every single bomb dropped could become obsolete.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years
Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Shirley Shugar, from Joppa, Ala., takes inventory of ordnance in the bomb farm aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicholas A. Groesch)

In the scenario described by Snee, today’s guided or “smart bombs” could be replaced with bombs that simply receive targeting info from other sensors, like F-35s or E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.

Essentially, the “smart” part of the weapon’s guidance would remain on the ship, plane, or other sensor node that fired them, instead of living on the missile and being destroyed with each blast.

The Navy would have to do extensive testing to make sure the bombs could do their job with minimal sensor technology. But the move could potentially save billions, as the U.S. military dropped at least 26,000 bombs in 2016, the vast majority of which contained expensive sensors.

MIGHTY HISTORY

An Army officer was why Teddy Roosevelt had to quit boxing

America’s 26th President was well-known for his love of fisticuffs. He could be considered one of the world’s first mixed martial artists, considering his love for jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and, of course, boxing. He would have to give up boxing after holding a series of bouts at the White House. He challenged an Army artillery officer to a match, and the officer rung the Commander-In-Chief’s bell so hard, TR couldn’t see straight.

Literally.


Theodore Roosevelt’s glasses were so synonymous with the President, they might as well have been trademarked. The President had eye troubles from an early age and wore spectacles for all of his adult life. His glasses never prevented him from doing any of the amazing feats to which he is credited, including boxing matches. Just don’t call him “four eyes.”

Read more: This is how Teddy Roosevelt wins a bar fight

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

Seriously though, don’t.

Even as President, he would get so caught up in his enthusiasm for boxing that he would ask professional boxers to hit him in the jaw as hard as possible, even while in the West Wing. And the President had no reservations about hitting those same boxers right back.

He challenged a military aide, Capt. Daniel T. Meade, to a boxing match at the White House. Knowing the Commander-In-Chief’s demand for the highest possible effort at all times and that he would be in trouble only if he didn’t give his boss the fight of his life, Capt. Meade delivered a blow that changed Roosevelt’s life forever.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

“I guess I’ll just have to stick with Judo and Jiu Jitsu. Sincerely, Theodore.”

Meade, the President, and Kermit Roosevelt were in the White House gym one day when Roosevelt told Meade to put on his boxing gloves.

“When you put on gloves with President Roosevelt, it was a case of fight all the way,” Meade later wrote. “… he wanted plenty of action, and he usually got it. He had no use for a quitter or one who gave ground and nobody but a man willing to fight all the time and all the way had a chance with him.”

Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography that Meade’s punch smashed the blood vessels in his left eye and “the sight has been dim ever since. … Accordingly, I thought it better to acknowledge that I had become an elderly man and would have to stop boxing.” Doctors later believed Meade’s hit may have detached part of Roosevelt’s retina.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

This just seems rude.

For Meade’s part, he had no idea the hit blinded the President. Roosevelt would not reveal the fact that he was blinded by the hit until relaying the story in 1917, twelve years after the incident occurred. By this time, Capt. Meade had become Col. Meade and confirmed the story to The New York Times.

“I give you my word I didn’t know I had blinded the Colonel until I read about it in the paper a few days ago,” Meade told the New York Times. “I shall write the Colonel a letter expressing my regrets at the serious results of the blow.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

One of Navy’s new Tritons crash lands at Point Mugu

An MQ-4C Triton experienced a technical failure that forced it to perform a gear up landing at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) at Point Mugu on Sept. 12, 2018, the U.S. Navy confirmed

“The Navy says as a precautionary measure, the pilots shut down the engine and tried to make a landing at Point Mugu but the aircraft’s landing gear failed to deploy and the aircraft landed on the runway with its gear up, causing some $2 million damage to the plane,” KVTA reported.

No further details about the unit have been disclosed so far, however, it’s worth noticing that two MQ-4C UAVs – #168460and #168461 – have started operations with VUP-19 DET Point Mugu from NBVC on Jun. 27, 2018.


Here’s what we have written about that first flight back then:

The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform that will complement the P-8A Poseidon within the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems: for instance, testing has already proved the MQ-4C’s ability to pass FMV (Full Motion Video) to a Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). An advanced version than the first generation Global Hawk Block 10, the drone it is believed to be a sort of Block 20 and Block 30 Global Hawk hybrid, carrying Navy payload including an AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor (MFAS) radar system, that gives the Triton the ability to cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission that can last as long as 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

P-8A Poseidon.

The U.S. Navy plans to procure 68 aircraft and 2 prototypes. VUP-19 DET PM has recently achieved an Early Operational Capability (EOC) and prepares for overseas operations: as alreadt reported, Point Mugu’s MQ-4Cs are expected to deploy to Guam later in 2018, with an early set of capabilities, including basic ESM (Electronic Support Measures) to pick up ships radar signals, for maritime Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance mission.

The Triton is expected to reach an IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in 2021, when two additional MQ-4Cs will allow a 24/7/365 orbit out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.


Featured image: file photo of an MQ-4C of VUP-19 Det PM during its first flight (U.S. Navy)

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

In Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad during the 1980s, a family of six brothers and one sister — all very close in age — played in the streets and parks of their hometown, enjoying the simple things in life they had at the time. Through the decades, the times and the city had changed, and the streets and parks were not as simple.


Alsaeedy, the son of an Iraqi army reserve officer, said Iraq was a joyous place to grow up. “We played basketball, walked to school — all the children in the neighborhood were close,” he added. “There were negatives in politics, but we believed in our father, and everything was fine.”

Alsaeedy’s dream was to travel. “Everybody’s goal [in high school] was to travel the world, places like [the United Kingdom], U.S., and Europe,” Alsaeedy said. He kept that dream with him before pursuing a degree in biochemical engineering at the University of Baghdad.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years
Capt. Robert Duchaine, B Company Commander, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, visits with children Oct. 31 at a Kindergarten school in the Khadamiyah area of western Baghdad. He took this opportunity when his unit conducted a joint mission with Iraqi Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division to hand out toys and school supplies. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Bob Miller).

“I was in my second year of college when everything happened — the troops arrived,” he said. “It was a year later when it seemed things began to settle down. We all were trying to educate ourselves on the matter, because we believed — and still do — that the U.S. forces and allies were there to transform the country and help. We felt there was not going to be any more tyranny system or sects of families taking over the country, doing whatever they felt they wanted … so we believed in the change and welcomed it.”

Trouble Finding Work

After graduating from college, Alsaeedy needed to find work, preferably in the engineering field. But it was extremely hard to come by, he said, due to the nature of the country and the fact that most employers hired only within their sects.

“I did not know exactly what to do or what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to work for and with the service members,” he said. “It was not just about money or security. It was about being a part of something important to me.”

Unable to break into the U.S. contractor market, Alsaeedy’s education and skill set eventually gravitated employers to him within the private sector. In 2005, he found stability in the information technology field as a networking specialist for satellite communications.

“Then one day a man came into the shop and it changed my life forever,” he said. “He inquired about an internet network to be installed on a military base in Baghdad. I took the job. After the work was complete, they were very satisfied and needed more, so they hired me full-time. My English was very fluent, and I became a translator for them, too.”

While the years passed, Alsaeedy’s experiences and relationships grew through the ranks, and by 2007, he was a popular name among higher-ranking officials with the U.S. Air Force and the Marines in Qaim, Iraq.

Integrated Into Brotherhood

“I saw in the soldiers what very few of us [natives] see,” Alsaeedy said. “They were trustful, pleasant and respectful; they integrated me into their brotherhood.”

Insurgency propaganda said the Americans were in Iraq to destroy everything, Alsaeedy said.” But they were not,” he added. “They were building. They built infrastructure for the population and barracks for the Iraqi army. They supplied resources increasing our livelihood [and] creating jobs for husbands and fathers.”

At the end of 2007, Alsaeedy received some big news. Then-President George W. Bush allowed vetted contractors who had worked for the U.S. government for at least five years to be granted special immigrant visas for them and their families. The visa allowed them to live and work in the United States. At the end of 2009, Alsaeedy said, things started to change as U.S. troops began to withdraw.

“The protection was decreasing and so was the structure,” he said. “I knew if I stayed, my family and I were going to die soon.” In 2010, Alsaeedy met his five-year requirement to qualify for the special visa for him and his family to move to the United States.

Settling in Virginia

He settled in Norfolk, Virginia, where a new country and culture surrounded him. What he once knew as a world of war was now a life of peace and the pursuit of happiness, he said. He was immediately hired, and he worked for an oil and gas company from 2011 to 2012.

Alsaeedy said he felt grateful to the United States for the opportunities he’d received.

However, Alsaeedy said he “wanted to give them more.”

He enlisted into the U.S. Army in August 2013 as a combat engineer. Shortly thereafter, he attended basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Alsaeedy demonstrated his potential and quick-learning abilities, as well as outstanding physical fitness. He was afforded the opportunity to attend airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, upon graduation.

“I found out that I was going to be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division,” he said. “I knew it was an honor and a prestigious unit. I remember seeing the ‘Double-A’ patch in Iraq. And to realize that I am now one of those paratroopers along with my family — I was beyond excited and humbled. However, it truly did not hit me until I came to Fort Bragg and walked through the division’s museum. That’s when I realized I was a part of something special.”

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years
Paratroopers assigned to Charlie Company, 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division operate a satellite transmission terminal during a joint training exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C., June 22, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hewitt/Released)

In 2014, Alsaeedy arrived full of energy to Alpha Company, 307th BEB. He was a new Panther Engineer, and he integrated just fine among his leaders and peers.

“We did a lot of training,” he said. “We went to every kind of weapons range you could think of. I learned demolitions, steel cutting, [went on] too many ruck marches, and was just very happy.”

Returning to Iraq

But Alsaeedy’s heart was holding a deep secret: there was something missing.

“My real dream was to return to Iraq,” he said. “I wanted to be an asset to the unit. I had the language, the background and culture. I knew if I ever went back, I would put myself out there to be as valuable as I could for the 307th.”

In early 2015, the 3rd BCT deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. At the time, it was the newest campaign in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There, paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division provided advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces.

In a twist of fate, Alsaeedy’s unit operated in the neighborhood where he was raised. His dream finally came true.

“It wasn’t easy at first,” Alsaeedy said while looking up with teary eyes. “But it was my leadership. They understood my situation. They supported me. It made my job and task much easier.”

Alsaeedy’s background and capabilities soon became an asset for his battalion commander all the way up to division command sergeant major and higher-ranking officials in tactical operations centers around the area of operations.

With his hard work and commitment to his leadership and the unit’s mission, Alsaeedy received the first battlefield promotion for a noncommissioned officer during the OIR campaign. He was pinned with the rank of sergeant during the fall of 2015 upon the unit’s redeployment to Fort Bragg.

Great Things

His accomplishments and accolades did not stop there. “When I became an NCO, great things began to happen for me and my family,” Alsaeedy said. He attended the Warrior Leader’s Course soon after becoming a sergeant, learning technical skills and correspondence in the craft of an NCO.

Alsaeedy’s motivation and physical fitness separated him from his peers. He wanted to go to Sapper School and master his craft as an engineer. “I may have had a more advanced role during deployment, but I am still an engineer in the 307th,” he said.

Early 2016 came around, and he began training with the division’s Best Sapper Team as it prepared to compete in the U.S. Army Best Sapper competition.

To keep himself busy and find new challenges, Alsaeedy attended the two-week Fort Bragg Pre-Ranger Course, which evaluates and prepares future candidates for the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning.

He never went to Sapper School, though. Immediately upon graduating the Pre-Ranger Course, he was put on a bus to Ranger School. Alsaeedy went straight through the 62-day course, a course that normally has a high attrition rate.

“I have been busy, that’s for sure,” he said. “But I felt the more I accomplish as an NCO and a paratrooper, the more I am giving back to the Army.

“I am just so grateful. I cannot put into words how I feel, landing the opportunity during the mid-2000s to becoming a citizen, a soldier deployed to my hometown and a Ranger,” he continued. “My wife and child love the installation, the people, and my daughter is receiving a great education from the schools on Fort Bragg. The Army adopted me, and I am forever in debt to the most professional and perfect organization: the 82nd Airborne [Division].”

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘First Man’ director wants to show the sacrifices that military families made as astronauts braved the unknown

Three months ago, Navy SEAL and NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy slogged through the dirt roads of Normandy with a 44lbs rucksack on his back. Captain Cassidy and several dozen other SEALs (myself included) had just swam 11 miles through the English channel to commemorate the pre-D-Day mission of the first Naval Commandos. The 11-mile swim / 25-mile ruck run on the 74th anniversary of D-Day had a purpose: to raise money for fallen SEALs and their families.

It was an act of service for those who had died in service.


Cassidy, who earned a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, sweated out this epic charity challenge in the middle of training for another kind of walk — one that will take place at 17,000 miles per hour, 400 kilometers above the earth’s surface. If all goes well, Cassidy will return to space and conduct a spacewalk to make repairs on the International Space Station. But, in the midst of endless days of preparation and training, he took time to honor his military roots — a heritage he shares with a long line of astronauts before him. Captain Chris Cassidy said,

It’s truly been an honor to have a role in our nation’s manned space program. We have had astronauts and cosmonauts living continuously on the International Space Station for the last 18 years which has only been possible because of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. That history is also deeply intertwined with the military. Personally, I love how in both our nation’s space program and military, laser focus on mission success is balanced with detailed planning and operational rick controls. It’s also an amazing feeling to be among such motivated and talented people.

That heritage is one of the centerpieces of the new blockbuster film, First Man, featuring Ryan Gosling starring as NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong. People know Armstrong as the man who walked on the moon; they often don’t know that Armstrong was a decorated Navy fighter pilot and Korean War veteran.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

Neil Armstrong in 1964, while in training to be an astronaut.

(NASA)

The film is largely focused on Armstrong’s life and the mission to get to the moon — but it explores a theme familiar to military audiences: the challenge of maintaining a family while deploying to do dangerous work. The film depicts Armstrong’s family and their sacrifice, particularly that of Armstrong’s wife, Janet. And it shows scenes that any military family has faced: how to speak to your children about the danger of the mission; the enormous stress before the deployment; the uncertainty while your loved one is far away. All of this is shown with raw and real emotion.

What was true then and is true now is that service member families often bear a heavy and overlooked burden during times of conflict. While First Man is primarily a movie about the first moon walk, it’s important to remember that that mission, and the space program in general, was the byproduct of a conflict: the Cold War and the tension between the USSR and the US. The frontlines of the early space race were the frontiers of space, and its foot soldiers were military test pilots who strapped themselves to rockets and ventured into the stratosphere in service of their country.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

Apollo 11 astronauts with families, 1969

(Ralph Morse for LIFE)

I had an opportunity to speak with Academy Award-winning director Damien Chazelle (the director behind the smash-hit films La La Land and Whiplash) and ask him about these themes of the connection between military service and the space program:

1. Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind ‘First Man’

After I made Whiplash, I was approached by producers Wyck Godfrey, Isaac Klausner, and Marty Bowen about the idea of doing a movie on Neil Armstrong. I didn’t know much about space travel and didn’t know what my angle would be. But I started reading Jim Hansen’s incredible book, First Man, and started to think of Neil’s story as a story about the cost of great achievement — similar to what I had looked at in Whiplash, only on a much bigger canvas.

What was the toll that the mission to the moon took? I was awed by the sacrifice, the patriotism, the ambition, and the vision that made the impossible possible — and the reminder that it was human beings who did it, ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances and overcoming daunting odds — and even great tragedy — to accomplish something for the ages.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

The crewmen of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission leave the Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) during the prelaunch countdown. Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, ride the special transport van over to Launch Complex 39A where their spacecraft awaited them. Liftoff was at 9:32 a.m.

(NASA)

2. What’s woven through the movie are themes of duty and sacrifice. And as a Navy veteran myself, I could identify not just with the astronauts (especially Neil, Navy pilot), but with their families and what they went through. Can you talk a bit about those themes and how they affected your work on this?

The family aspect was paramount — showing these famous events through the eyes of not just Neil, but his wife Janet and his sons, Rick and Mark. How did they all cope with the demands of the job? Funerals were a normal part of life. Two of Neil’s closest friends died while he was in the program. Neil himself almost died several times. And yet, balanced with the danger and the risk, he and Janet also had to take out the trash, clean the pool, make breakfast for their kids. That combination of the intimate and the epic, and the selfless way Neil and Janet confronted all of it, was extraordinary to me.

But I also think it’s worth remembering, as you note, that Neil had been in the Navy. He was someone who believed deeply in service for country. He risked his life in the Korean War. He became a test pilot to forward our understanding of aeronautics, to contribute to knowledge. He went to space to keep seeking those answers. This is someone who was not acting in his own self-interest, who was not seeking fame or fortune. This is a man who believed, in all aspects of his life, that his duty to the mission came first, and without that willingness to risk it all and to sacrifice it all I don’t believe the moon landing ever would have happened.

3. Can you talk a bit about Janet Armstrong and her role?

Ryan and I were lucky enough to meet with Janet and spend time with her. She was an incredible woman, and the stories she told us and memories she shared with us were invaluable. Like Neil, Janet was tough — she had a grit to her that I think made her uniquely qualified for her role in the space program. It’s worth remembering that astronaut wives like Janet played an enormous part in the overall endeavor of going to the moon: they were the ones to had to find the balance between space and home, between the demands of their husbands’ work with the lives of their kids and the necessities of home. They had to do it all while putting on a smile for the cameras — even when they couldn’t know for sure if their husbands would ever return from space. One of my greatest joys in making this movie was in watching Claire Foy embody Janet’s spirit and resilience and pay tribute to such an amazing person.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

The Apollo 11 crewmen, still under a 21-day quarantine, are greeted by their wives, Janet Armstrong, Patricia Collins, and Joan Aldrin.

(NASA)

4. There’s a scene in the film where Neil Armstrong is talking to his boys about what’s about to happen — the mission and the risks. Can you give us a sense of what you were thinking with that scene and what you wanted to convey?

That’s a scene that many families across the country have their own version of: the mom or dad about to go off to work, and the knowledge that he or she may not come back. It again speaks to a willingness to sacrifice in the name of service that I find awe-inspiring. In this movie’s case, the scene at the dinner table between Neil and Janet and their boys Rick and Mark was almost word-for-word what actually happened. Janet insisted to Neil he talk to his kids and explain to them what he was doing and what the risks were; much of the scene was taken verbatim from Rick and Mark Armstrong’s recollections. It was a tremendously important scene for all of us — a moment where the characters have to come to a stop and confront the dangers of what they are doing, and what it all means.

5. The military and the space program have a long joint history. At the simplest, a lot of veterans became astronauts. The SEAL community, which I’m a part of, for example is proud of the fact that there are two astronauts currently in training who are SEALs. Did that joint history play into your research at all, or the end product?

It did, in several ways. First, I liked to think of the film as almost a war movie. The moon mission was initially a product of the Cold War, and the astronauts who risked their lives for their country were all former or current servicemen. The dangers were almost combat-like, too — this was not the glossy, glamorous, sleek-and-easy space travel I grew up seeing in movies. These capsules were like old tanks and submarines; the rockets carrying them out of the atmosphere were essentially converted missiles. The dangers were front and center — and, with them, the immense bravery required to face them.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

This photograph of astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, was taken inside the Lunar Module (LM) while the LM rested on the lunar surface.

(NASA)

6. The film’s story and title come from James Hansen’s biography of Neil Armstrong, but I was curious: Did you have any other creative influences that helped you make this — books, films, etc?

Yes, many! As I alluded to, certain war movies were big inspirations: Saving Private Ryan, Paths of Glory, The Deer Hunter. Movies about submarines like Das Boot. I also read as many books on the subject matter as I could — one of my favorites was “Carrying the Fire” by Mike Collins, who flew with Neil on Apollo 11. “Deke!” by Deke Slayton and “Failure Is Not An Option” by Gene Kranz were also key. And, finally, documentaries! The archival material shot by NASA, much of which is compiled in incredible films like For All Mankind and Moonwalk One. Documentaries of the period like Salesman and Hospital and Gimme Shelter. An amazing documentary by Frederick Wiseman, about training at Vandenberg Air Force Base, called Missile. All of these taught and inspired me.

First Man, starring Ryan Gosling, arrives in theaters October 12, 2018.

Kaj Larsen is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, VICE, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. He also served as a US Navy SEAL earning the rank of Lieutenant Commander and completing multiple deployments in the Global War on Terrorism. His family member, Judith Resnick, was the second American woman in space and was killed on launch during the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion.

Articles

This Army mother and son duo deployed together

One of the most challenging parts of deployment for many soldiers is being away from friends and family. Soldiers and family members alike often lean on others who share a similar experience during long periods apart.


But one family in the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team is sharing an experience here to make deployment just a little bit easier.

Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, both assigned to Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, deployed to Kuwait recently from Fort Hood, Texas, for nine months in support of U.S. Army Central.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years
Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe, senior brigade physician assistant, and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, a behavioral health technician, both assigned to the Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, are deployed for nine months to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Leah R. Kilpatrick)

Wolfe, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, began her Army career as an enlisted lab technician 24 years ago.

“I had two sisters who were in the Army,” she said. “I followed them in. In a family of nine, we couldn’t afford college, so I had to do something to be able to get some kind of college education, and that was the way.”

As far back as she can remember, she said, she wanted to be a nurse. “It’s just something I wanted to get into to help people,” she added.

Educational Opportunities

That aspiration propelled her through her career, taking advantage of educational opportunities in an effort to make her dream a reality. “I tried to get into the nursing program,” she said. “When I was a lab tech instructor in San Antonio, I put in my packet three times for the nursing program.”

After 17 years of enlisted service and multiple attempts, the frustrated sergeant first class decided to try something different.

Related: 10 brothers who received the Medal of Honor

“So I put in a packet to the [physician assistant] program, got picked up the first time, so I figured that was my calling, and I’ve been doing that since 2009,” she said.

Meanwhile, Wolfe was raising a family. Her son, Kameron Wideman, was born in 1996 at her first duty station in Fort Lewis, Washington. Brought up in a devoted military household, it was no surprise when he enlisted in the Army, Wolfe said.

“I was good in school, but I didn’t take it seriously enough, but the Army was always my fallback plan,” said Wideman, a behavioral health technician. “I initially wanted to join just so I could help people. That’s why I got into the medical field.”

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years
Army medics unload a mock casualty from a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

What started out as just a potential option won his heart, Wideman said, and now he plans on taking classes and completing the prerequisites to submit a packet for the Army Medical Department Enlisted Commissioning Program, as his mother did.

Meanwhile, Wolfe and Wideman are tending to the physical and mental well-being of the soldiers deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Wolfe said that while her focus is on her job and taking care of the soldiers, the mom in her can’t help but feel some of the same concerns stateside parents feel about having a child deployed.

Important Mission

“As a mother, you still have that deep-down concern of ‘What if something happens to my baby? What am I going to do?'” she said. “But I can’t let him see that, because I need him to focus on his job and what I need him to do, and that’s to provide mental health, which is something that is very much needed in this day and age.”

Wideman said he enjoys having his mother right down the road. “I’m blessed,” he said. “I’m blessed to have her with me.”

Although Wideman has served only two years in the Army, he is no stranger to the deployment experience from a family member’s perspective. His mother, father, and stepfather all serve on active duty.

Also read: Watch Jimmy Fallon and The Rock beautifully reunite a military family

“All three of my parents have deployed at some point,” he said. “It was tough as a little kid saying goodbye to your parents. When you’re little, you tend to have a big imagination. You’re thinking, ‘Oh no! I’m probably never going to see my parents again,’ because you’re little, and you’re in your own head about it.”

But the experience of being the kid who was left behind didn’t prepare him to actually be deployed himself, he said.

“I still didn’t really know what deployment was,” he said. “It was like this random place that my parents were going to for like a year and then coming back. I didn’t really know how to picture where they were.”

Thankfully, he said, he had a source close to home to answer his questions.

“I had the normal questions like, ‘How are we going to be living?” and me being a millennial, ‘Is there going to be Internet?’ and things like that,” he said.

Wolfe and her husband, Army 1st Sgt. Andrew Wolfe, a company first sergeant at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas, help mentor Wideman through his Army career with advice and guidance.

Drive, Motivation, Discipline

Echoes of the same drive, motivation, dedication and discipline that exemplify Wolfe’s career path are evident in Wideman’s.

“We cross paths every now and then,” she said. “I don’t see him all the time. I let Kameron be Kameron. We are passionate about the military. This is our Army. My husband is a first sergeant, and I used to be an E-7 before I switched over, so that leadership is instilled in both of us, and that comes out in the way we raise our kids — the leadership, the discipline, the morale, the ethics, everything. This is the way you’re supposed to live.”

Wolfe said she often finds herself giving the same advice to her soldiers that she gives to her son.

“Get all you can out of the military, because it’s going to get all it can out of you, and that was my insight coming up,” Wolfe said.

“I don’t know how many colleges I went to, because I needed classes. I went to school all the time, and I was just taking advantage of the opportunities that were out there. That’s what I tell all my soldiers coming up in the military. You have to take advantage of it. No one’s going to give it to you. You have to go and get it.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch a young Chuck Yeager test fly a stolen MiG-15

Brigadier General Chuck Yeager is best-known for being the first man to break the sound barrier. He was also a World War II ace and saw action in Vietnam as commanding officer of the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying B-57s. But did you know that this aerial all-star also logged time in the MiG-15?


The MiG-15 in question was flown from North Korea to Seoul by No Kum-sok, a defector who, upon landing, learned that he was fulfilling a $100,000 bounty by delivering the plane into allied hands. The MiG-15 was quickly taken back to the United States and put through its paces.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

The last moments of a MiG-15 — many of these planes met their end in MiG Alley.

(US Navy)

Test pilots are known for getting in the cockpit of new, unproven vehicles and using their skills and adaptability to safely maneuver vessels through early flights. They’ve flown the X-15 into space and are responsible for putting the newest fighters, like the F-35, through their paces. But what’s just as important (and half as reported) is role they play in exploring the capabilities of foreign aircraft, like a MiG, Sukhoi, or some other international plane.

This is why the “Akutan Zero,” a Japanese plane that crashed on June 4, 1942 over Alaskan soil, was so important. It gave the US invaluable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of an enemy’s asset, informing the design of the F6F Hellcat.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

This is the MiG-15 that was flown to South Korea by a North Korean defector.

(USAF photo)

The MiG-15 of the Korean War wasn’t quite as fearsome as the Zero was in World War II. In fact, the F-86 dominated it over “MiG Alley.” But finding out just how good – or bad – the MiG-15 really was still mattered. After all, American allies, like Taiwan, ended up facing the MiG-15 later in the 1950s (the Taiwanese planes ended up using the AIM-9 Sidewinder to deadly effect).

The MiG-15 still is in service with the North Korean Air Force, meaning Yeager’s half-a-century-old flight still informs us today.

Learn more about Yeager’s time flying the MiG-15 in the video below.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MOVIES

You know you’re a vet when ‘Catch-22’ triggers you

One of my NCOs gave me a copy of Joseph Heller’s satirical novel Catch-22 as a promotion gift when I became a captain.

It was an ironic gesture, given that he was probably the person I commiserated with the most about ridiculous military rules. Now, George Clooney has directed a six-episode adaptation of the book so you can relive the blood-boiling insanity of active duty all over again.


Catch-22 Trailer (Official) • A Hulu Original

youtu.be

Watch the official ‘Catch-22’ trailer

The series centers on Christopher Abbott’s Captain John Yossarian, a World War II bombardier going crazy trying to stay alive while his commanding officer, Colonel Cathcart (Kyle Chandler), tries to impress his superiors by continually increasing the number of missions his men must fly. Yossarian has already flown 50 and he wants out.

There’s a rule which allows pilots who are crazy to be grounded, but because being driven crazy by fear is fundamentally rational, he’s certified fit to fly. This is the titular catch-22 —and the reason everyone now knows the phrase.

In Heller’s words, “[He] would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

The military’s response to logic.

Based on the jokes in the trailer, it looks like the series will attempt to capture Heller’s satirical commentary on the absurdity of war (especially when bureaucracies are involved) — and Heller wrote Catch-22 before the United States even became completely entrenched in asymmetrical war-fighting!

Any veteran, especially one who has served in combat or during wartime, can attest to the fact that military decision-making is often based on antiquated laws, procedures, and mindsets. While the United States has continued to maintain global military superiority thus far, we’re certainly not achieving our prime objectives so much as holding a defensive line — and we’re definitely not taking care of our service members the way we should (especially for the amount of money allotted in the defense budget).

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

Been there, buddy.

I have a feeling the series will capture what it feels like to serve in a system that expects its troops to “shut up and color,” rather than fostering innovation, mental health, and, oh I don’t know, watering the grass with water instead of blood blood blood?

The TV adaptation debuts on Hulu on May 17, 2019, and also stars Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie, Giancarlo Giannini, and Daniel David Stewart.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Packers’ Aaron Rodgers donates his golf tournament winnings to Wounded Warriors

As all you golf fans know, this weekend was the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. It is one of golf’s more fun events (outside of the Happy Gilmore-like atmosphere at Waste Management Open).

The Pro-Am is a televised event that pairs world-class golfers with various celebrities who showcase their golf skills, ham it up for the crowds, or unintentionally give us the best laughs.


The Pro-Am, a highly sought after ticket, is a charity event. Golfers and celebrities use their talents (or try to attempt to) to raise money for various causes.

Cue Green Bay Packer All-Pro (and safe driver) Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers, a Super Bowl Champion and two time MVP, is known for his amazing throws, calm demeanor in the pocket, and endorsement commercials.

But he is also a strong supporter of the military, especially veterans.

At the Pro-Am, Rodgers participated in a Hole-in-One challenge where various celebrities tried to get a hole-in-one or as close to the pin as possible.

Rodgers finished second behind country star Jake Owen but ahead of the likes of Peyton Manning, Steve Young, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Larry Fitzgerald. His performance earned him ,000, and Rodgers picked the Wounded Warrior Project as the charity for his donation.

Here you can see him in action—his qualifying shot.

Aaron’s support for the military extends beyond this single act.

Last year, he wrote an article for the Players Tribune in which he explained his devotion to our country’s service members and what they mean to him. He also does amazing things like this event with Gold Star children.

Rodgers’ military ties start with his family. His grandfather was a WWII pilot that was a POW. Rodgers recounts his college days playing for Cal and visiting a military hospital in San Diego in the lead up to the Holiday Bowl.

“I obviously admired them for their courage and sacrifice. But what really struck me was that despite their injuries, some of them couldn’t wait to get back to active duty. They were pleading with their doctors to help them so they could rejoin their units and continue fighting.”

Rodgers talks about his interactions with wounded vets, the effect their fighting spirit has on him, and how important it is to care for them.

To me, when it comes to taking care of our veterans and helping them not just assimilate back into society, but to actually thrive, I don’t think there’s any limit to what we can and should do.

Keep up the good work A-A-Ron!

MIGHTY SPORTS

First Army goes back to basics to prepare for the ACFT

The upcoming Army Combat Fitness Test is intended to improve soldier readiness, transform the Army’s fitness culture, reduce preventable injuries, and enhance mental toughness and stamina.

But the new test leaves one question: How do soldiers train safely?

First Sgt. Daniel Ramirez, the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army, answered this question for his soldiers by partnering with a local functional fitness gym. He and fifteen other soldiers of the Detachment recently attended a four-day, in-depth class at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois on proper techniques for lifting, squatting, and other exercises essential to safe completion of the ACFT. The goal of the workshop was to “Train the Trainer,” enabling First Army personnel to be subject-matter experts in advising their teammates on safe and efficient methods of exercise.


“We want to get everyone on the same page technique-wise so we can prevent injuries,” said Ramirez. The Foundation coaches, Ramirez said, were ideal instructors, due to their knowledge and experience.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

Soldiers of First Army practice lifting techniques and proper lifting posture at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois.

(US Army)

Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Sims, Command Sgt. Maj. First Army, also attended the training. He agreed with the idea of partnering with fitness professionals to learn the fundamentals.

“It’s crucial to have a better understanding of what we are asking our soldiers to do,” explained Sims. “By working with professionals in this, it’s only going to build our knowledge base when we go back and train the rest of the team.”

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

Brandon Bartz, Co-Owner of Foundation in East Moline, Illinois, observes Soldiers of First Army practicing their technique that will be used during the standing power throw of the Army Combat Fitness test.

(US Army)

Brandon Bartz and Josiah Lorentzen, owners of the Foundation, instructed the soldiers in the proper exercise techniques.

“We just want to help the soldiers get ready for the new test,” explained Bartz. “We just want all of you to be able to train effectively and safely.”

In addition to developing First Army’s philosophy as a team of Fit Army Professionals and preparing for the fitness test, the event also strengthened ties to the local community and the Rock Island Arsenal.

Moscow reacts warily to NATO’s largest military exercise in 25 years

Josiah Lorentzen and Brandon Bartz, Owners of Foundation, in East Moline, Illinois, demonstrate the proper dead lift technique to First Army Soldiers.

(US Army)

“It’s awesome to work these soldiers, said Lorentzen. “They are close to home, so we love getting to work with them whenever we can.”

The Army Combat Fitness Test becomes an official for record test staring in October of 2020.