Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

When Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby first interviewed to be Army Futures Command’s enlisted leader, he had no idea what to expect.

The command was still in its nascent stages with no headquarters building and he could only find a brief description of its vision to modernize the Army.

Instead, Crosby was focused on the battlefield, observing his troops defeat ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. The prospect of the new job seemed like a 180-degree departure from his post overseeing Operation Inherent Resolve’s Combined Joint Task Force.

He then reflected on the coalition troops he had lost during his tour. Then of the soldiers who never returned home from his other deployments, including back-to-back tours to Iraq from 2005 to 2008.


He decided he wanted to help change how future soldiers would fight, hopefully keeping them safer and more lethal.

“It’s something bigger than myself,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m fired up about this. This is a bold move by the Army.”

Embedded with industry, academia 

Inside a high-rise office building in the heart of Texas, the command’s headquarters bustled on a weekday in late June.

Unlike other Army units, the office space felt more like that, an office, rather than a typical military workplace.

The command had a low profile in its upper-floor nest inside the University of Texas System building, overlooking downtown and the domed state capitol.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, right, assigned to Army Futures Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, conducts a live demonstration of new Army equipment at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, April 11, 2019.

(Photo by Luke J. Allen)

Among the rows of cubicles, soldiers wore no uniforms as they worked alongside federal employees and contractors. Many soldiers went by their first name in the office, often frequented by innovators, entrepreneurs and academic partners.

The lowest-ranked soldier was a sergeant and up the chain were senior executive service civilians and a four-star general.

A few blocks down 7th Street, another group of soldiers and federal employees from the command were embedded in an incubator hub to get even closer to innovators.

The Army Applications Laboratory occupies a corner on the eighth floor of Capital Factory, which dubs itself the center of gravity for startups in Texas. The lab shares space with other defense agencies and officials call it a “concierge service” to help small companies navigate Defense Department acquisition rules and regulations.

“They’re nested and tied in with industry,” Crosby said.

The command also provides research funding to over 300 colleges and universities, he added

Those efforts include an Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh that activated earlier this year.

In May, the University of Texas System also announced it had committed at least million to support its efforts with the command, according to a news release.

More recently, the command agreed to a partnership with Vanderbilt University in Nashville. As part of it, soldiers with 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team would work with engineers to inspire new technology.

Soldiers up the road at Fort Hood may also soon be able to do the same at UT and Texas AM University.

“That is what we’re looking to replicate with other divisions in the Army,” Crosby said. “It will take some time.”

In on the groundfloor

Since October 2017 when the Army announced its intent to create the command to be the focal point of modernization efforts, it wasted no time laying its foundation.

It now manages eight cross-functional teams at military sites across the country, allowing soldiers to team with acquisition and science and technology experts at the beginning of projects.

The teams tackle six priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality — all of which have since been allocated billion over the next five years.

The next step was to place its headquarters in an innovative city, where it could tap into industry and academic talent to develop new technologies that give soldiers an edge against near-peer threats.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Gen. John Murray, left, commander of Army Futures Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, the command’s senior enlisted leader, participate in a command synchronization session at the University of Texas at Austin, April 26, 2019.

(Photo by Luke J. Allen)

After an exhaustive search of over 150 cities, the Army chose Austin. The move marked the start of the Army’s largest reorganization effort since 1973, when both the Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command were established.

The location away from a military post was intentional. Rather than surrounded by a security fence, the command is surrounded by corporate America.

“We’re part of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, startups, academia,” Crosby said. “We’re in that flow of where ideas are presented.”

As it nears full operational capability this summer, Futures Command has already borne fruit since it activated August 2018.

Its collaborative efforts have cut the time it takes project requirements to be approved from five or seven years to just three months or less.

Once prototypes are developed, soldiers are also more involved in testing the equipment before it begins rolling off an assembly line.

By doing this, the Army hopes to learn from past projects that failed to meet soldier expectations.

The Main Battle Tank-70 project in the 1960s, for instance, went well over budget before it was finally canceled. New efforts then led to the M1 Abrams tank.

Until the Army got the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, it spent significant funding on the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle in the 1960s, which never entered service.

“So we’re trying to avoid that,” Crosby said. “We’re trying to let soldiers touch it. Those soldier touchpoints are a big success story.”

Culture change

Futures Command is not a traditional military command. Its headquarters personnel, which will eventually number about 100 soldiers and 400 civilians, are encouraged to think differently.

A new type of culture has spread across the command, pushing many soldiers and federal employees out of their comfort zone to learn how to work in a more corporate environment.

“The culture we really look to embrace is to have some elasticity; be able to stretch,” Crosby said. “Don’t get in the box, don’t even use a box — get rid of the box.”

Crosby and other leaders will often elicit ideas from younger personnel, who may think of another approach to remedy a problem.

“I’m not going to somebody who has been in the uniform for 20 to 30 years, because they’re pretty much locked on their ideas,” he said. “They don’t want to change.”

A young staff sergeant once told the sergeant major the command could save thousands if they just removed the printers from the office.

The move, which is still being mulled over, would force people to rely more on technology while also saving money in paper, ink and electricity.

While it may annoy some, Crosby likens the idea to when a GPS device reroutes a driver because of traffic on a road. The driver may be upset at first, not knowing where the device is pointing, but the new route ends up being quicker.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, center, deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command and commander of Futures and Concepts Center, talks with Josh Baer, founder of Capital Factory, during a South by Southwest Startup Crawl on March 8, 2019, in Austin, Texas.

(Photo by Anthony Small)

“You have to reprogram what you think,” he said. “I’m not used to this road, why are they taking me here? Then you come to find out, it’s not a bad route.”

For Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Robinson, his role as a human resources specialist is vastly different from his previous job as a mailroom supervisor at 4th Infantry Division.

As the headquarters’ youngest soldier, Robinson, 31, often handles the administrative actions of organizations that continue to realign under the budding command.

Among them are the Army Capabilities Integration Center that transitioned over to be the command’s Futures and Concepts Center. The Research, Development and Engineering Command then realigned to be its Combat Capabilities Development Command.

Research elements at the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command have also realigned to the Army’s new major command.

“The processes and actions are already in place,” Robinson said of his old position, “but here you’re trying to recreate and change pretty much everything.”

Since he started in November 2018, he said he now has a wider view of the Army. Being immersed in a corporate setting, he added, may also help him in a career after the military.

“The job itself and working with different organizations opens up a [broader perspective],” he said, “and helps you not just generalize but operationalize a different train of thought.”

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, left, Army Futures Command’s senior enlisted leader, participates in the command’s activation ceremony in Austin, Texas, Aug. 24, 2018, along with Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army; Army Secretary Mark Esper; and its commander, Gen. John Murray.

(Photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)

While chaotic at times, Julia McDonald, a federal employee who handles technology and futures analysis for the commander’s action group, has grabbed ahold of the whirlwind ride.

“It moves fast around here,” she said of when quick decisions are made and need to be implemented at a moment’s notice. “Fifteen minutes seems like an hour or two.”

Building up a major command is not without its growing pains. Even its commander, Gen. John Murray, has referred to his command as a “startup trying to manage a merger.”

“Everybody is just trying to stand up their staff sections and understand that this is your lane and this is my lane,” McDonald said. “And how do we all work together now that we’re in the same command?”

The current challenges could pay off once the seeds planted today grow into new capabilities that help soldiers.

For Crosby, that’s a personal mission. In his last deployment, nearly 20 coalition members, including U.S. soldiers, died in combat or in accidents and many more were wounded as they fought against ISIS.

“We have to get it right, and I know we will,” he said. “Everybody is depending on us.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

China threatens family members at home to control people abroad

Anastasia Lin may never see her family in China again.

Shortly after winning the Miss World Canada title in 2015, Beijing deemed China-born Lin “persona non grata” — a powerful diplomatic term that effectively banned her from the country — because she was speaking out on the country’s human-rights issues.

But more problematic than Lin’s ability to enter China, is the difficulty her family have had trying to leave, which is being used as leverage to pressure the Chinese-Canadian actress and activist.


While in Australia in early 2018, Lin told Business Insider how her uncles and even elderly grandparents had their visas to Hong Kong revoked in 2016 in an attempt by authorities to silence Lin and punish her Hunan-based family.

“The day before I left, my mother told me that the police went into my grandparents home and took away their visa, their Hong Kong visa. These are 70 year-olds, and they took it away. They intercepted my uncle in the airport on his way to Macau, to Hong Kong,” Lin said.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Anastasia Lin speaks at the National Press Club on Dec. 18, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

“My grandmother told me … they took away the Hong Kong visa and they said very explicitly that it was because of my activities overseas and influence,” she said. “Since then, my grandparents have been getting routine police visits.”

Lin’s great-grandfather was executed in public during the Cultural Revolution “to warn the rest,” according to Lin, and the fear from that time has returned for her grandparents who are now subject to regular house calls by authorities.

“Later on my grandmother told me that the visits sometimes are with fruit and flowers but it was for the purpose of persuading them to persuade me to do less, to not do anything, and to convince me to be on the opposite side,” she said.

These weren’t the first threats and police visits Lin’s family received. Within weeks of winning her crown, security agents started threatening her father telling him that his daughter “cannot talk” about Chinese human-rights issues.

“My father sent me text message saying that they have contacted him telling him that if I continue to speak up, my family would be persecuted like in the Cultural Revolution. My father’s generation grew up in the middle of Cultural Revolution, so for him it’s the biggest threat you can make. It means you die, you get publicly persecuted,” Lin said, adding that her father “begged” her for a way for the family to survive in China.

Lin said it’s been a long time since she spoke to her father because their calls are monitored, but she learned recently his passport was rejected for renewal.

Lin is just one of many Chinese expats and exiles whose mainland relatives are used as leverage to try and control China’s reputation abroad.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Chinese President Xi Jingping.

Business Insider has previously reported on how relatives are contacted to try and control what their adult children are posting on social media while they study at foreign universities. And ethnic minority Uighurs, Tibetans, and other human-rights activists who have faced persecution have frequently said their family members are used as leverage to try and control their actions and speech overseas, with some even being blackmailed into spying for the state.

Family members of five Radio Free Asia journalists, including two US citizens , were recently detained in an attempt to stop their reporting on human-rights abuses against Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. One of those journalists is Gulchehra Hoja, who had more than 20 relatives disappear all in one day, in early 2018.

“When I heard my brother was detained, I [initially] chose not to speak up because my mother asked me, ‘Please I already lost you, I don’t want to lose my son too,” Hoja told a congressional hearing in July 2018. “We don’t want to put them in further danger because of our acts or any word against China.”

“My family haven’t been able to be reunited in 17 years,” she added.

The fear of this happening is also an effective enough tool to self-censor criticism, even if family members aren’t being directly threatened.

Square engineer Jackie Luo explained on Twitter what happened when the Chinese government closed down one of her mother’s WeChat groups here people in China and abroad would send hundreds of messages a day talking about social issues.

“They asked the person who started the WeChat group to restart it. He lives in the US now. But he won’t; he’s afraid. He has relatives in China, and if the government is monitoring him, then it may well be unsafe. They understand. This social group of 136 people — it’s dead now,” Luo wrote.

But when people choose to speak out, it can be harder for those still in China to understand.

“My grandpa [is] like, ‘Well why don’t you just give up, then you can come back?'” Lin said. “They think it’s that easy because the Chinese Communist Party promised them that if I don’t speak up, I will get to go back, but I know that’s not the case. I know usually if you don’t speak up you don’t have any leverage. They will just kill your voice completely.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Terrorist leader behind 2017 ambush of green berets killed

A senior official with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara was killed in a strike on a terrorist camp in Mali involving French warplanes and commandos, the French defense ministry confirmed Aug. 27, 2018.

The lifeless body of Mohamed Ag Almouner, a senior leader for the ISIS affiliate that claimed responsibility for a deadly ambush that left four American Green Berets dead in Niger in 2017, was found on the battlefield by a French-led unit after an airstrike by two Mirage fighter jets Aug. 26, 2018, according to a report from Stars and Stripes, which cited a statement from the French military.


An unidentified member of the group was also killed.

In October 2017, armed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara militants ambushed US and Nigerien troops. Five Nigeriens and four Americans were killed while another ten people were wounded. During the firefight that ensued, US and Nigerien forces managed to kill nearly two dozen terrorists.

The four American special operations soldiers who lost their lives in the fight were: Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Bryan Black. The US Army Special Forces team leader Capt. Michael Perozeni, who was singled out for blame in an investigation into the ambush during which he was wounded, is reportedly being considered for a silver star, the military’s third-highest valor award for gallantry.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson.

(US Army photos)

The US military maintains a presence in Niger to “provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region,” US Africa Command spokesman US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo told CNN after the incident in 2017.

France has deployed thousands of troops to West Africa for Operation Barkhane, an effort to eradicate Islamist militants in the region.

Aug. 26, 2018’s airstrike also ended the lives of two civilians. “The French criteria for opening fire are particularly strict and aim at avoiding civilian casualties,” the French military said in a statement, “The proven presence of civilians near the target would have led to the cancellation of the mission. An investigation is underway to determine how civilians were hit during this strike.”

US Africa Command said that it “routinely works with our French partners in the Sahel region, who provide a bulk of the force with more than 4,000 military forces,” adding that the US remains ” committed to assisting the French-led operations to degrade violent extremist organizations and to build the defense capacity of … Mali and its neighbors.”

Featured image: A French Air Force Mirage F1CR.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

95 year old veteran passes hours after achieving dream to visit WWII Memorial

A 95-year-old World War II veteran died during a so-called Honor Flight carrying him home from a weekend in Washington, DC.

Frank Manchel was returning home to San Diego, California, after an all-expenses-paid trip to DC honoring WWII veterans when he died on May 5, 2019, the non-profit Honor Flight San Diego said in a statement.

The American Airlines flight was about an hour from landing in San Diego when Manchel collapsed, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Dave Smith, founder of Honor Flight San Diego, told the Union-Tribune that Manchel’s death was “almost instantaneous.”

“He was laughing, chatting, having a good time — and then he collapsed,” he said.


Manchel, who served as an Army technical sergeant in WWII, had flown to DC with 82 other veterans, family members, and volunteers, to visit historic landmarks in the country’s capital.

The group visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Navy Yard’s museum, and the military electronics museum.

Manchel’s sons, Bruce and Howard, as well as his 93-year-old brother, Jerome, and nephew, David, joined him on the trip.

Bruce Manchel said in a statement on May 6, 2019 seen by INSIDER that his father died after “the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends.”

“We thank all of you — Honor Flight San Diego, American Airlines, San Diego International Airport, friends, and supporters for your concern and for allowing the weekend to be so special for all of us to share together.”

Following Manchel’s death, an American Flag was draped over his body, and two chaplains on board the flight said prayers.

When the plane landed in San Diego, veterans saluted as they passed by his body.

Honor Flight San Diego told INSIDER that American Airlines offered to take Manchel’s remains and relatives to Detroit, Michigan, at no charge ahead of May 9, 2019’s funeral. Honor Flight San Diego’s founder will be in attendance.

This is the seventh death to happen during an Honor Flight Network flight, the Associated Press reported. Honor Flight San Diego requires veterans and their guardians to complete medical questionnaires before flying.

In 2018, fewer than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were still alive, according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics cited by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin surprises Japan with offer of unconditional peace

Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed signing a World War II peace treaty with Japan by the end of 2018 “without preconditions.”

Putin made the surprise offer in public, sitting next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a stage at an economic forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok on Sept. 12, 2018.

After Abe pressed Putin on the subject of a treaty and a solution to the decades-long dispute over a group of islands claimed by both countries, Putin said: “An idea has just come into my head.”

“Shinzo said, ‘Let’s change our approaches.’ Let’s! Let’s conclude a peace agreement — not now but by the end of the year, without any preconditions,” Putin said.

He said issues that are in dispute could be resolved later, and that the pact could specify that the sides are determined to reach mutually acceptable agreements.


There was no immediate response from Abe, whose country has sought the return of the islands that lie northeast of Hokkaido since the war.

A treaty without preconditions would leave Russia in control of the disputed islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kuriles and Japan calls the Northern Territories.

Soviet forces occupied the islands at the end of World War II, and the territorial dispute has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from formally ending hostilities in the war.

Russian and Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said that work on a future agreement would continue as usual, and a Japanese official made clear that Tokyo wants an agreement on possession of the islands before it will sign a peace treaty.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Location of the Kuril Islands in the Western Pacific between Japan and the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia.


“The government will continue its negotiations on the basic principle that we will sign a peace treaty after resolving the issue of the attribution of the four Northern Islands,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. “This stance hasn’t changed.”

In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov told Russian news agencies that Putin’s announcement would not require any changes to the current format of negotiations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said later in the day that Putin and Abe had not had a chance to discuss the proposal.

Russian commentator Georgy Kunadze, a former deputy foreign minister, told Ekho Moskvy radio that he believes Putin was “trolling” Abe and “does not expect anything” to result from the proposal.

The quest for the return of the islands is an emotive issue in Japan, and Kunadze suggested that Abe would never accept a deal that would be political suicide.

In years of talks, Russian officials have repeatedly signaled that Japan could not hope for a swift solution and hinted that the best way to get closer to a deal was to invest in the sparsely populated, windswept islands and engage in other areas of economic cooperation.

Meeting Abe on the sidelines of the forum in Vladivostok two days earlier, Putin had told the Japanese prime minister that “it would be naive to think that it can be resolved quickly.”

In his remarks on Sept. 12, 2018, Putin said concluding a pact would create a better atmosphere and enable Russia and Japan to “continue to resolve all outstanding issues like friends.”

“It seems to me that this would facilitate the solution of all problems, which we have not been able to solve over the past 70 years.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the major cues that will tell you if your boot is lying

Everyone lies — it’s natural. To say you don’t lie is a lie in and of itself because you know damn well you’ve told a kid at some point that, “it gets better” knowing full-well it doesn’t — especially as an adult. In fact, the only real truth we have is that everyone lies.

So it makes sense that boots will lie their asses off to avoid punishment and, just like any other human, they’re bad at it. But even a bad liar can be convincing from time to time. Luckily, the Marine Corps developed the Combat Hunter Program, which enables those who receive the training to proactively assess an environment to gain a tactical advantage over the enemy. Like almost everything you learn while in the service, these lessons can be applied to other areas of life — one of those being lie detection.

Generally, by the time you take on boots, you’ve become wise enough to identify lies — probably because you told all those same lies when you were an FNG. But if you want to be extra sure that you’re getting the truth out of your newbie, watch for these cues:


Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

If they’re this bad, be especially cautious.

Sweating

In almost every case, when someone’s telling a lie, they’re nervous — they don’t want to get caught. When someone’s nervous, they have trouble controlling their perspiration.

Of course, this isn’t a foolproof metric, especially when there are external, environmental factors at play — you know, like the sun.

Unusually formal language

A person who is a little over-confident in their lie will usually use more formal language. Pay extra attention when someone drops the contractions. Look out for “did not”s and “do not”s in someone’s explanation.

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Direct eye contact

While it makes sense for someone who’s nervous or ashamed to look away from the person they’re lying to, it’s also a very obvious sign. Someone who’s trying their best to be convincing knows this and will compensate by looking you directly in the eye.

Too many details

Liars have a tendency to over-explain their story. Usually, this tactic is reserved for the more experienced liars. After all, if you’ve spent time creating, remembering, and parroting a lie, you’re going to watch all of those painstakingly plotted details to emerge, right?

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

If they’re wearing sunglasses, you might want to have them removed.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex Kouns)

Fake smiles

If someone is lying to you and hoping to drive the persuasion home, they might smile. Naturally, we smile at each other to signal to another person that we’re genuine but, as Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, suggests, an authentic smile is in the eyes — not the mouth.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Belgian F-16s intercept 2 Russian nuclear-capable supersonic bombers

Belgian Air Force F-16s scrambled to intercept two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic, nuclear-capable bombers, accompanied by two Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighters over the Baltic Sea on Sept. 17, 2019.

The Belgian Air Force has been guarding the Baltic airspace since Sept. 3, 2019, when it took over the police mission from fellow NATO member Hungary, which was supported by Spain and the UK in its mission. Four Belgian F-16s and at least 60 soldiers have been deployed to protect Baltic airspace from unwelcome incursions, according to the Belgian Ministry of Defense.

Sept. 17, 2019’s interception was Belgium’s first since it began its rotation over Baltic airspace, and seemingly at very close range.


Russian aircraft have engaged in several provocative actions over NATO airspace this year. In June 2019, British Typhoon fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian Su-30 Flanker fighters twice in two days.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

An British air force Typhoon fighter jet, foreground, with a Russian fighter over the Baltics.

(UK mInistry of Defence/Twitter)

But NATO countries aren’t merely reacting to Russian aggression. In August 2019 alone, US and UK aircraft sent clear messages to Russia:

  • US B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flew with UK F-35s, the B-2’s first time flying with non-US F-35s.
  • B-2 Spirit bombers landed in Iceland for the first time. The B-2, which operates from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and Royal Air Force Fairford in the UK, needs specific conditions to support its stealth capabilities.
  • B-2 bombers flew their first extended sorties over the Norwegian Sea earlier in September 2019 — right in Russia’s backyard.
Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Two US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, currently deployed to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, fly alongside two Royal Air Force F-35B Lightning aircraft from RAF Marham near the White Cliffs of Dover, England, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

NATO countries share the mission of protecting Baltic airspace, as the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — don’t have the infrastructure to protect their own airspace and are considered at risk of destabilization or invasion by Russia.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans are #StillServing

This article is sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars.

During the last few months, Americans have faced a lot of adversity and continue to look for those to lead, guide and help navigate them through these uncertain times. One group has shown up and set an example of leadership and duty that we all should emulate.

Veterans.


We often use terms like, “When I served,” “When I was in the service,” or others to talk about when we were in uniform. But as many of us know, and many more of us learned during the last few months, the service that veterans provide to our country isn’t limited to the 4 to 20+ years in the military.

For many veterans, the desire to serve continues into their next career or the volunteer work they do. And the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) wants everyone to know the many ways veterans continue to serve.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

The VFW has launched #StillServing, a campaign to bring attention to and honor the continued commitment and sacrifice of America’s veterans.

“Veterans truly exemplify the best of America,” said William “Doc” Schmitz, VFW national commander. “They are dedicated to giving of themselves, and the skills and values they develop in the military only deepen their desire to better themselves, their communities and their country through service. We are grateful for the millions of members who have made service a hallmark of the VFW and we’re excited for the veterans who are joining now to carry this forward in new ways.”

The VFW is encouraging all veterans to share stories of their ongoing service using #StillServing on social media channels. They want veterans to show how they continue to answer the call to serve in ways big and small. In addition, family members are also asked to use #StillServing posts to honor a veteran in their family who believes the spirit of service transcends military life.

The VFW gives veterans a place to share in the bonds formed through military service. VFW members have created a foundation of service since 1899, and that legacy is now attracting a new generation of members who want to carry the torch forward.

This article is sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gene Simmons wants to be your new Drill Instructor

Gene Simmons wants you to be rich and powerful, but it’s not going to be easy. You’re going to have to learn English, wake up early, turn off the TV and study.


“I want to shake you up and tell, you a real harsh truth: The world doesn’t need you,” he says. “The only way you’re going to become rich and powerful is if you stand up on your hind legs. You’re only going to get the respect you demand.”

Simmons, the co-founder and bassist for the rock band Kiss, is brutal in his advice: Women, choose between a career or a family. Guys, get rid of your worthless friends. Above all, don’t listen to the self-esteem movement or be politically correct. Simmons is here to demand that you drop and give him 20.

“I want to be your drill sergeant and piss you off so that you wake up and smell the coffee and go out there and become that rich and powerful person you deserve to be,” he says. “You cannot fail in America.”

Why should you listen to this guy, someone who has spent much of his adult life slathered in scary makeup, in towering platform boots, wagging his tongue onstage and singing songs like “Lick It Up”?

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command
KISS performs. (Wikimedia Commons)

Because he’s also an entrepreneur who came to America with no money and no English. He’s become, he says, a millionaire with a hand in a restaurant franchise, a wealth management services firm and a magazine, among others. “You don’t have enough hours in the day to understand what I do,” he says.

Now Simmons is ready to reveal the principles he’s learned in his book, “On Power,” part guidebook, part self-help manual, with several profiles of people we should admire, like Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett. It’s a small book, and that’s on purpose. “You can take it to the pooper with you,” he explains.

Jessica Sindler, his editor, called working with Simmons “without a doubt a memorable experience” and that all the concepts in the book came from him. “They’re based on the way he lives his life and runs his career. He is very much a man who practices what he preaches.”

Read Also: The legendary rock band KISS has surprising roots from World War II

In person, Simmons is a jokester and a wordsmith who clearly loves attention. He wags his impressive tongue to whoever asks and glad-hands strangers like a politician. He likes to wear a ball cap decorated with a picture of a sack of money that he’s trademarked. He puns outrageously (“Close but no guitar,” he says at one point. “See what I did there?”).

Simmons cheerfully poses for selfies, interrupts conversations and likes to take candid photos of people he encounters who are lost in their phones. “Every once in a while, look up,” he told one startled bystander. Sometimes, he goes too far, as he did recently during a visit to Fox News Channel. He was allegedly crude, taunted staffers and exposed his chest, triggering a network ban.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command
KISS performs at Hellfest 2013. (Wikimedia Commons)

Simmons has become legendary for leveraging Kiss’s distinctive look and winking cool into everything from reality TV shows to action figures, colognes, keychains, cabernet sauvignon and even a coffin — the Kiss Kasket.

Simmons is a curious mix of things. He’s a hawk on foreign policy, no fan of unions or socialism, but a liberal when it comes to social issues. “You want to get married to a rock? Or change your sex? Go to Mars and become a Martian religious fanatic? I really don’t care,” he says.

He has boasted of his sexual conquests but is a long-married teetotaler who has no patience for illegal drug users. He can quote Kierkegaard and Kant and speaks four languages, but blames the recent global financial meltdown on greedy borrowers.

He believes we’re still basically hunter-gatherers, with men awash with testosterone and only vaguely civilized. He applauds the wave of women these days calling out men for sexual misconduct.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command
Gene Simmons performs at the Azkena Rock Festival. (Wikimedia Commons)

“There will always be bad guys, don’t kid yourself. The best thing that’s happening now is the female of the species is standing up collectively and saying, ‘That’s enough.’ Good for women. That should always have been the case.”

His advice to gaining wealth is simple: Start a limited liability partnership in your home, use social media and deduct your costs from taxes. You can keep your old job until the rewards flow in. If they don’t? You can declare bankruptcy and “then you can start again.” (It’s advice not all financial advisers endorse.)

Having a brilliant idea for a business is fine, but outhustling is more important to Simmons. “It doesn’t have to be new or original. It can be a stupid idea,” he says. “Some of the dumbest people have become enormously successful.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coronavirus and PCS Orders: What the travel ban means for you

As the United States continues to take preventative steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus known as Covid-19, the Pentagon has issued number of statements pertaining to the coronavirus and PCS orders, as well as official and non-official travel, in the coming months.


If you have a family member or loved one currently attending recruit training, make sure to check our regularly updated article explaining audience attendance restrictions at graduation ceremonies across the force here.

It’s important to remember that most service members and even their families are not at high risk even if they are exposed to Covid-19. These precautionary measures should be seen as responsible steps aimed at preventing the spread of the infection, but not as cause for significant worry. This story will be updated as more changes manifest.

You can follow these links to jump directly to sections explaining different changes pertaining to military snd civilian travel, the coronavirus and PCS orders.

Military Travel

Family and Civilian Travel

PCS and Transfer Orders

CDC Designated Level 3 Nations

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Military Travel

On Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced new travel restrictions that will go into affect on Friday, March 13. The restrictions include a 60-day ban on travel to any nation designated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a “Level 3 Location.” This ban includes all TDY and PCS related travel.

“This restriction includes all forms of travel, including Permanent Change of Station, Temporary Duty, and government funded leave,” the Defense Department announcement states. “The Level 3 countries are set by the CDC and may change. The DoD guidance will follow those changes. Service secretaries and commanders may issue waivers to this policy as they determine necessary to ensure mission readiness and address specific cases”

The Pentagon also advises that service members that are traveling to unrestricted nations take specific care to ensure their travel arrangements do not involve stops or layovers in areas designation by the CDC as “Level 3.”

“Authorized Departures are delayed until appropriate transportation and reception procedures are in place for their intended route of travel as prescribed in this memorandum,” the memo states.

Military Families and Civilian Personnel Travel

Military families and civilian personnel are also barred from traveling to “Level 2” locations for 60 days. Some “level 2” designation nations include the UK, Japan, Singapore, and Bahrain — where the U.S. Navy’s Central Command is currently located.

“The Department of Defense’s top priority remains the protection and welfare of our people,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a released statement. “While directing this prudent action, I continue to delegate all necessary authority to commanders to make further decisions based on their assessments to protect their people and ensure mission readiness. While we deal with this fluid and evolving situation, I remain confident in our ability to protect our service members, civilians and families.”
Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

PCS and Transfer Changes

The Department of Defense’ Customer Movement Portal has updated its page to include brief answers to many of the most frequently asked questions among service members and their families pertaining to coronavirus PCS order changes.

Here are the Defense Department’s answers to the questions you have about the Coronavirus and your PCS orders, sourced directly from the Pentagon’s FAQ:

Q: My PCS is rapidly approaching–how do I know if my planned move is covered by this order?

A: Contact your chain of command immediately!

Q: I’ve confirmed that my PCS is impacted by a stop movement order, but I have already submitted my movement request to the Personal Property Office. What will they do with my shipment?

A: It depends.

  • – If your shipment has not yet been awarded to a moving company, it will be put in a hold status pending further guidance (e.g. either the stop movement order is rescinded or you receive approval from your chain of command to continue with your move).
  • – If your shipment has been awarded to a moving company, but has not yet been serviced (e.g. packing has not begun), please contact your servicing Shipping Office. They will work with you to change your pickup dates to a future date in coordination with your mover and in line with DOD guidance.

Q: My shipment has already been picked up by the moving company. What will happen to it now?

A: Contact your Shipping Office to determine your shipment’s status. Depending when it was picked up, it may be in storage in the local area, en route to your planned destination, or in storage near your destination.

Q: What about my POV? I have an upcoming appointment to drop my car off at the Vehicle Processing Center (VPC). What should I do?

A: If you are unsure if the stop movement order applies to you, contact your chain of command. If the stop movement order does not apply to your PCS—or your chain of command has approved an exception to the order—proceed to the VPC as planned.

Q: I’ve already dropped my POV off, but my PCS has been delayed. Can I get my car back?

A: If you’re interested in retrieving your vehicle, contact the VPC immediately. VPCs are postured to assist customers with changing appointments, vehicle retrieval, and answering any other POV-related questions you have.

The DoD also advises that service members contact their local Personal Property Office for answers to their specific questions, or you may be able to find more answers on their customer service page.

You can also contact USTRANSCOM’s 24-hour hotline Toll Free at (833) MIL-MOVE, (833) 645-6683.

CDC Designated Level 3 Travel Health Notice Nations

The Center for Disease Control currently designates these nations as “Level 3,” barring any travel to these countries for service members for at least the coming 60 days, starting Friday, March 13.

The CDC has also designated the entire continent of Europe as a Level 3 region. This list includes:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • Vatican City

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

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Col. Doug Tamilio, program manager for Soldier weapons and Soldier lethality and weight reduction, point out features of the Lightweight .50-Caliber Machine Gun. | US Army photo


The Army is manufacturing a new, lightweight version of its iconic .50-cal machine gun designed to better enable Soldiers to destroy enemies, protect convoys, mount weapons on vehicles, attack targets on the move and transport between missions.

The new weapon, engineered to be 20-to-30 percent lighter than the existing M2, will be made of durable, but lighter weight titanium, Army officials said.

The emerging lightweight .50-cal, described as still in its infancy stage, still needs to be built, riveted and tested.

The parts for the titanium prototypes will be built at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. and then go to Anniston Army Depot, Ala., for riveting and further construction.

“We always want to lighten the soldier load. A major requirement is to engineer a 60-pound weapon compared to an 86-pound weapon,” Laura Battista, Product Management Engineer, told Scout Warrior in an interview Battista, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command
U.S. Army Pvt. Michael Dinius and Pfc. Andrew Mitcham, both assigned to 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Indian Army National Guard prepare to fire an M2.50-caliber machine gun during mobilization training at the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in Edinburgh, Ind. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika

“We will procure 30 and then go into full blown testing – air drop, full reliability, durability, maintainability and government standard testing.  We’ll see how it did compared to the M2 and we will try to go to turn it into a program of record,” Battista added.  

An Intimidating and Combat-Tested Weapon

The M2 crew-served machine gun, referred to as the “Ma Duece,” was first introduced in the 1930s’; it has both a lethal and psychological effect upon enemies.

“When enemies hear the sound of the gun, they tend to run in the other direction,” Battista explained.

The machine gun is currently used on Humvees, tactical trucks, M1 Abrams tanks, Strykers, some Navy ships and several aircraft such as CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawks. The gun can also be mounted on a tripod on the ground by infantry in a firefight or combat circumstance; the M2 has a solid range and can fire at point targets up to 1,500 meters and destroy enemy targets at distances up to 1,800 meters.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command
Cpl. Kehinde Howard, 188th Brigade Support Battalion, 18th Fires Brigade (Airborne), fires a vehicle mounted M2 .50-caliber machine gun at a range on Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 10. The range helped the soldiers get a feel for firing from a vehicle gunner position and familiarized them with the weapon system. | US Army photo

The .50-cal is effective in a wide variety of circumstances, such as convoy protection, air attacks and attacks upon small groups of enemies on foot or moving in small vehicles. Several variants of the machine gun can fire more than 500-rounds per minute.

“It can be used for anti-personnel (enemy fighters) and also against lightly armored vehicles and light unarmored vehicles. Any time you get into an up-armored (more armor) situation or reactive armor — it is not going to be very effective. It works against anything that does not have thick armor,” Lt. Col. Paul Alessio, Product Manager Crew Served Weapons Alessio, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The Army owns what’s called the Technical Data Package, or TDP, for the new lightweight .50-cal; vendors will have to “build to print” and execute the government’s existing specs, Battista explained.

The Army currently operates 24,000 standard M2 machine guns and roughly 25,000 upgraded M2A1 .50-cal weapons designed with a number of improved features. The improved M2A1 is, among other things, engineered with what is called “fixed head space and timing” designed to better prevent the machine gun from jamming, misfiring or causing Soldier injury, officials explained. The M2A1 is also built to be more reliable that the standard M2; the M2 can last up to roughly 25,000 rounds, whereas the M2A1 can fire as many as 80,000 rounds, Alessio explained.

The Army plans to have initial prototypes of the new lightweight .50-cal built by this coming summer as a preparatory step to release a formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, to industry in the first quarter of 2017, Alessio said. An acquisition contract is expected several months after the RFP is released.

“We are looking to test this summer,” he said.

The lighter weight weapon will bring additional an additional range of mission sets for Soldiers who will be better able to transport, mount and fire the weapon against enemies.

“If you are a top gunner and you are having to move this weapon around – it is on a pedestal tripod. If it is lighter, you are going to be able to traverse the weapon a little bit easier than a 20-pound heavier weapon. That is one of the added benefits as far as getting it on and off the vehicle. If a soldier can do that by himself that is an added benefit,” Alessio said.

The M2 uses several different kinds of ammunition, including some rounds engineered to be “harder penetrating.”  The weapon also uses an ammo can with 200 rounds; a top cover can be lifted off and the links between rounds are space to provide accurate timing as they are dropped into the weapon, he said.

Future .50-cal Innovations

The Army’s .50-cal program is also looking at a longer-term project to engineer a lighter weight caseless ammunition which will reduce the amount of brass needed, he added.

Further into the future, the service will also create requirements for a new externally-mounted weapon to replace both the M2 .50-cal machine gun and the Mk19 grenade launcher.

“This will be one weapon with a totally different new type of ammo that is not yet even in the developmental phase,” Alessio explained.

Aside from improving the weapon itself, the Army will also embark upon a simultaneous excursion to develop a lighter profile barrel.

“We will have many barrels that will lessen the logistic burden of having a spare barrel all the time. We are also hoping to save a lot of weight. We are hoping to save 16-pounds off of a 26-pound barrel,” Alessio said.

In addition, the Army plans to engineer a laser rangefinder, new optics and fire control technology for the .50-cal. Alessio said a new, bigger machine-gun mounted optic will likely be put on the gun within the next five years.

A laser rangefinder uses an algorithm created to identify the exact distance of a target — by combining the speed of light, which is known, with the length of time it takes the laser to reach the target.

The new addition to the weapon is called a Mounted Gun Optic, or MMO.

“It is basically an optic or direct view optic which will have some type of laser crosshair. This will improve lethality and an ability to put first round on target,” he added.

Finally, within five to ten years, the Army plans to have some kind of fire control technology added to the .50-cal; this will improve the accuracy of the weapon an increase its effective range by incorporating ballistic calculations such as the round’s trajectory through the air to target, Alessio explained.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US officials blame Iran for using child soldiers

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley strongly condemned Iran for its alleged recruitment and use of child soldiers in battlefields across the Middle East.

“The use of child soldiers is a moral outrage that every civilized nation rejects while Iran celebrates it,” Haley said Oct. 18, 2018, during a U.N. Security Council meeting.

Haley’s remarks came two days after the U.S.Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced new sanctions targeting businesses that provide financial support to the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary force under the command of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).


“Iran’s economy is increasingly devoted to funding Iranian repression at home and aggression abroad,” she said. “In this case, Iranian big business and finance are funding the war crime of using child soldiers. This is crony terrorism.”

The latest sanctions are part of the U.S. efforts to pressure Iran economically for what the Trump administration has described as Iran’s destabilizing role in the Middle East and its sponsorship of terrorism in the region.

The U.S. Treasury Department has listed a network of some 20 companies and economic entities that are believed to be funding the recruitment and training of child soldiers for the IRGC.

“Any company or individual that does business with this Iranian network is complicit in sending children to die on the battlefields of Syria and elsewhere,” Haley said.

The network providing financial support to the Basij is known as Bonyad Taavon Basij.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

“This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“The international community must understand that business entanglements with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network and IRGC front companies have real-world humanitarian consequences, and help fuel the Iranian regime’s violent ambitions across the Middle East,” Mnuchin added.

Iran’s reaction

Tehran called the U.S. sanctions a violation of international law.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet on Oct. 17, 2018, that the latest U.S. sanctions violated two orders by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“Utter disregard for rule of law human rights of an entire people. U.S. outlaw regime’s hostility toward Iranians heightened by addiction to sanctions,” Zarif said in a tweet.

Bahram Qassemi, a spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Oct. 18, 2018, it’s part of a psychological war waged by the U.S. against Iran.

“Such actions show the spitefulness of the U.S. government towards the Iranian people and are a clear insult to legal and international mechanisms,” the state-run IRNA news agency quoted Qassemi as saying.

Measures welcomed

Some Iranian rights activists have welcomed the U.S. move, however, and described it as a positive step to discipline the Iranian government for its actions in the region.

“Any action focused on children’s rights is important because it highlights the importance of protecting children’s rights and puts the issue of child soldiers under the spotlight,” Hamed Farmand, a Virginia-based children’s rights activist, told VOA. “Any international action with the purpose of condemning child soldiers is widely appreciated but it needs more action than just financial sanctions on some institutes involved in it.”

A 2017 Human Rights Watch report accused Iran of committing war crimes by recruiting and sending Afghan refugee children “as young as 14” to fight in Syria. The New York-based organization also has documented how the IRGC has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria along Syrian regime troops.

Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, also an Iranian human rights activist, said there should be an effective mechanism to force Iran to improve its human rights record.

“To change the behavior of the Iranian government, the international community needs a human rights-focused approach and must take multiple actions simultaneously,” she said during a recent Geneva Summit on Human Rights and Democracy.

Effects of sanctions

But Sadegh Hosseini, a Tehran-based analyst, said U.S. sanctions on the Basij force actually are indirect punishment inflicted on the Iranian people.

“Sanctioning the Basij could affect many Iranians who have voluntarily become members of it or have joined it in the past,” he said.

He told VOA “the purpose of this embargo is unclear but many Iranians who have bank accounts with those financial institutes could be affected, since many of them receive their employment salaries only through accounts at those targeted banks.”

Other experts say that following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the U.S. Treasury Department has stepped up its efforts on this front because it is the main pillar that can block Iran’s sale of oil and impose banking restrictions on the country.

“The latest move by the [U.S.] Treasury to sanction Iran’s Basij Resistance Force is an important part of that campaign,” said Farhang Jahanpour, a professor of international law at Oxford University.

“So far, other signatories to the [nuclear deal] have refused to go along with American sanctions on Iran, but many major European companies have cut back or have completely ended their dealings with Iran in fear of U.S. retaliation,” Jahanpour added.

Behnam Ben Taleblou, a researcher at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the recent designations were different from previous measures “because they focused on the role of select financial institutions in generating revenue that was ultimately used to benefit the Basij.”

“The [U.S.] Treasury Department’s willingness to go after the entities in the Basij financial support network highlights the challenge of doing due diligence in Iran, as well as signals to the international community that the U.S. is serious about putting the squeeze on all elements of the Iranian economy tied to the IRGC,” Taleblou added.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

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