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.

Articles

Navy bans e-cigarettes on all ships and subs

The US Navy is banning vaping aboard ships, submarines, aircraft, boats, craft and heavy equipment.


The Navy announced April 14 that it is suspending the use, possession, storage and charging of so-called “Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems” aboard navy craft following continued reports of explosions of ENDS due to the overheating of lithium-ion batteries.

The prohibition applies to sailors, Marines, Military Sealift Command civilians and any personnel working on or visiting those units.

The Navy said it implemented this policy to protect the safety and welfare of sailors and to protect the ships, submarines, aircraft and equipment. Multiple sailors have suffered serious injuries from these devices, to include first- and second-degree burns and facial disfigurement. In these cases, injuries resulted from battery explosions during ENDS use, charging, replacement or inadvertent contact with a metal object while transporting.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command
(Photo via Department of Defense)

The prohibition will be effective 30 days from the release of the policy May 14, and will remain in effect until a final determination can be made following a thorough analysis.

Deployed units may request extensions on device removal until their next port visit. Supervisors should ensure that removable lithium-ion batteries are removed from the units and stored according to the ENDS manufacturer instructions, in plastic wrap, in a plastic bag or any other non-conductive storage container.

Sailors on shore will still be allowed to use ENDS on base, but must do so in designated smoking areas ashore while on military installations.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This hero-inspired beer should be on your radar (and in your hand) in 2020

Doylestown Brewing Company, located in Doylestown, Pa., has a mission that is bigger than just making fine craft beer. They use their platform as a local brewery to honor one of their hometown heroes, Travis Manion.


Travis Manion, a Doylestown native, was killed in action while serving in Iraq in 2007, and his family established the Travis Manion Foundation in his memory. The foundation hosts events such as leadership expeditions for veterans and families of fallen heroes, youth character development through a combination of informal discussions and activity-based learning, and community engagement.

A motto and conviction that Travis lived by was the phrase “If not me, then who,” words that Travis spoke before leaving for his final deployment. This motto has inspired a movement across the nation to promote character, leadership, and service. Joe Modestine of Doylestown Brewing Company was one such individual inspired by Travis, and for the last seven years has been brewing “If Not Me, Then Who” Blonde Ale.

Initially brewing the beer for various events and fundraisers, the support has grown dramatically.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

“We have gotten calls and messages from all over the United States,” said Modestine of the brews’ popularity. “Everyone is excited about the beer and the ability to support the foundation. For every case of beer we sell, .00 goes back to the foundation, and just within the last couple of months, we have raised over 00, but that is just the beginning.

With the demand for the beer reaching all over the country we know we would never be able to support each chapter so what we are getting ready to launch is a program where we team up with a local brewery in each state, provide them the rights and recipe to brew the beer and support that state and foundation’s efforts. This has never been done before in the beer world, and we can’t wait to get things started.”

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Doylestown Brewing Company

Doylestown Brewing Company has been in business for over nine years now, and their beers are currently primarily available in the Philadelphia area, with the goal of having their products available from coast to coast by the year 2022. They have used their business as a platform to educate and advocate for causes meaningful to them, and the people of Pennsylvania. In addition to their support of the Travis Manion Foundation, the company also brews Duffy’s Cut Irish Style Red Ale, which honors the 57 Irish immigrants and railroad workers that tragically died of cholera in August of 1832 while constructing a stretch of railroad west of Philadelphia.

Modestine added, “We are completely honored to be working with the foundation on this project. I often think of Travis and wonder if he would have liked the beer; believe me, that is the only concern I have. I would have wanted his approval and hope that I did him proud, the way he has for so many others.”

Cheers to that.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump says there’s no plan to withdraw from Iraq

During a surprise trip to Iraq, his first such visit with US troops in a combat zone, President Donald Trump says he has “no plans at all” to withdraw US forces from the country, where they’ve been present since the 2003 invasion.

Trump had not previously said he would pull US troops from Iraq, but the trip comes after he abruptly announced the withdrawal of some 2,000 US troops from Syria — a decision that reportedly prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation — and reports emerged of plans to remove about half of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.


Mattis, who will leave office at the end of 2018, signed an order to withdraw troops from Syria on Dec. 24, 2018.

Trump, accompanied by his wife, Melania, traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night, flying to Al Asad air base in western Iraq and delivering a holiday message to more than 5,000 US troops stationed in the country. He is expected to make two stops on the trip, according to The New York Times.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

President Trump and the First Lady visit troops at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

The trip was kept secret, with Air Force One reportedly making the 11-hour flight with lights off and window shades drawn. Trump said he had never seen anything like it and that he was more concerned with the safety of those with him than he was for himself, according to the Associated Press.

The president said that because of gains made against ISIS in Syria, US forces there were able to return home. US officials have said the militant group holds about 1% of the territory it once occupied, though several thousand fighters remain in pockets in western Syria and others have blended back into local populations.

Trump said the mission in Syria was to remove ISIS from its strongholds and not to be a nation-builder, which he said was a job for other wealthy countries. He praised Saudi Arabia this week for committing money to rebuild the war-torn country. The US presence there was never meant to be “open-ended,” he added.

Trump told reporters traveling with him that he wanted to remove US forces from Syria but that Iraq could still be used as a base to launch attacks on ISIS militants.

If needed, the US can attack ISIS “so fast and so hard” that they “won’t know what the hell happened,” Trump said.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

As COVID-19 Hits Russia, A Self-Styled Psychic Healer And Soviet-Era Icon Returns

MOSCOW — Last week, Russians of a certain age saw a familiar face return to their screens. Anatoly Kashpirovsky, a self-styled psychic healer who entranced TV audiences as the Soviet Union was coming apart three decades ago, is back as an octogenarian YouTuber offering solace as the coronavirus spreads.

And some are taking what he has to offer, apparently, helping revive the career of a man who had become an almost forgotten symbol of a time when desperation ran high.


Almost 250,000 viewers have watched Healing Seance, a video posted on April 9 to Kashpirovsky’s channel on YouTube:

Кашпировский: Оздоровительный сеанс. Прямой эфир из Москвы. 09.04.2020г.

www.youtube.com

He sits immobile against a background of beige wallpaper and asks viewers to cover their eyes with their hands — not normally advisable as a pandemic rages.

“Over the coming days,” he says toward the end of what is essentially an hourlong monologue, “comments will keep coming in from people who have been cured.”

Kashpirovsky, now 80, achieved celebrity status in the Soviet Union through a series of televised sessions beginning in 1989 — two years before the country ceased to exist. Fixing his steely gaze on viewers who sat at home, some transfixed, he claimed powers to cure the sick and heal a nation that was hurting from the effects of economic decline.

At the peak of his celebrity in the early 1990s, Kashpirovsky was traveling the country to appear before packed halls and placed second only to President Boris Yeltsin in surveys of Russia’s most popular public figures.

In the waning days of the U.S.S.R. and the early years after its collapse, millions of people looking for meaning amid the chaos of change and stark economic challenges turned for relief to people like Kashpirovsky, who years earlier might have risked being sent by the Soviet state to a psychiatric hospital but now found a prominent place on prime-time television.

Early Morning Psychics

Kashpirovsky was not alone. Hundreds of thousands watched Allan Chumak, his main rival, as he flailed his arms in a “healing” ritual on his early morning TV slot. Viewers would place water bottles or tubs of cream in front of their TV sets to “charge” them with Chumak’s energy, which the mystic claimed was enough to heal ailments if drunk or smeared on the skin.

Kashpirovsky’s most famous stunt came in March 1989, when he appeared on a screen inside an operating room in Tbilisi, Georgia, via video link from Ukraine, and proceeded to guide a woman who could not use anesthesia through open abdominal surgery.

“Now everyone who watched me can go to the dentist and have their tooth pulled,” he told viewers afterward. “There will be no pain at all.”

The woman, Lesya Yershova, said in an interview several months later that she had felt “terrible pain” throughout the operation, which required a 40-centimeter incision, and had only cooperated because she didn’t want to let Kashpirovsky down. She agreed to forego anesthesia because Kashpirovsky had promised to make her thinner and bring her along to his shows around the world as an example of his healing powers, she told the newspaper Literaturnaya Gazeta.

He didn’t keep his promise, she said.

Kashpirovsky’s claims of supernatural powers soon drew comparisons with the 20th-century healer Rasputin, whose malign influence on the family of Tsar Nicholas II sparked accusations that he was meddling in affairs of state and contributed to the collapse of Russia’s war effort in 1917 and the ultimate downfall of its monarchy. Rasputin was said to ease the pain of the tsar’s hemophiliac son simply by talking to him.

A former weightlifter and a trained psychologist, Kashpirovsky has largely retreated from the spotlight since the 1990s. In 2009, with Russia reeling from the effects of the global financial crisis, he sought to stage a comeback of sorts by launching a TV show devoted to “paranormal investigations.” But in a country where there’s no shortage of such offerings — a show called Battle Of The Psychics is now in its 20th season — his star soon faded again.

In 2010, shortly after he announced that comeback, Kashpirovsky — who did not immediately respond to RFE/RL’s request for comment — launched his YouTube channel. Since then he has posted videos from auditorium shows performed in various countries, where he meets with locals and members of Russian emigre communities who pay money in hopes of being healed. The videos are posted with titles like Instantaneous Cure For A Slipped Disc and Salvation From Pain.

In a video he posted last August, an elderly man who appears to have a heavily curved spine walks across a stage in Taraz, Kazakhstan, to meet Kashpirovsky, before disappearing backstage. Minutes later he runs back onstage, waving his arms in triumph to rapturous applause from the audience, his back seemingly healed.

Кашпировский. Мгновенное избавление от спинно-мозговой грыжи.

www.youtube.com

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have drawn new attention to Kashpirovsky as it spreads in Russia, where the numbers of confirmed cases have risen sharply in recent days and President Vladimir Putin said on April 13 that the situation was “changing for the worse.”

Officially, the number of confirmed cases now exceeds 21,000, with 170 deaths, but experts suspect the real numbers may be higher.

Viewership of Kashpirovsky’s YouTube channel has risen substantially in recent weeks: His March 25 monologue — titled Coronavirus. Its Pluses And Minuses — has almost half a million views.

As he spoke during his “healing seance” on April 9, a scrolling text chat displayed comments from viewers.

“My tinnitus has completely gone,” one woman wrote. Another reported that a chronic neck pain had passed within three minutes. “I’ve believed in you since 1989,” wrote a third — though it was unclear whether in earnest or in jest.

After 53 minutes, Kashpirovsky signed off with a message to gullible viewers.

“Our meeting will naturally provoke in you an explosion in your immune system, which will protect you,” he said. “I crave that from the bottom of my soul.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

NASA selects new missions to study how our Sun effects space

NASA has selected two new missions to advance our understanding of the Sun and its dynamic effects on space. One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system and a second will study Earth’s response.

The Sun generates a vast outpouring of solar particles known as the solar wind, which can create a dynamic system of radiation in space called space weather. Near Earth, where such particles interact with our planet’s magnetic field, the space weather system can lead to profound impacts on human interests, such as astronauts’ safety, radio communications, GPS signals, and utility grids on the ground. The more we understand what drives space weather and its interaction with the Earth and lunar systems, the more we can mitigate its effects — including safeguarding astronauts and technology crucial to NASA’s Artemis program to the Moon.


PUNCH

“We carefully selected these two missions not only because of the high-class science they can do in their own right, but because they will work well together with the other heliophysics spacecraft advancing NASA’s mission to protect astronauts, space technology and life down here on Earth,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These missions will do big science, but they’re also special because they come in small packages, which means that we can launch them together and get more research for the price of a single launch.”

The Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere, or PUNCH, mission will focus directly on the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, and how it generates the solar wind. Composed of four suitcase-sized satellites, PUNCH will image and track the solar wind as it leaves the Sun. The spacecraft also will track coronal mass ejections – large eruptions of solar material that can drive large space weather events near Earth – to better understand their evolution and develop new techniques for predicting such eruptions.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

A constant outflow of solar material streams out from the Sun, depicted here in an artist’s rendering.

(NASA)

These observations will enhance national and international research by other NASA missions such as Parker Solar Probe, and the upcoming ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA Solar Orbiter, due to launch in 2020. PUNCH will be able to image, in real time, the structures in the solar atmosphere that these missions encounter by blocking out the bright light of the Sun and examining the much fainter atmosphere.

Together, these missions will investigate how the star we live with drives radiation in space. PUNCH is led by Craig DeForest at the Southwest Research institute in Boulder, Colorado. Including launch costs, PUNCH is being funded for no more than 5 million.

TRACERS

The second mission is Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites, or TRACERS. The TRACERS investigation was partially selected as a NASA-launched rideshare mission, meaning it will be launched as a secondary payload with PUNCH. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate is emphasizing secondary payload missions as a way to obtain greater science return. TRACERS will observe particles and fields at the Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region – the region encircling Earth’s pole, where our planet’s magnetic field lines curve down toward Earth. Here, the field lines guide particles from the boundary between Earth’s magnetic field and interplanetary space down into the atmosphere.

In the cusp area, with its easy access to our boundary with interplanetary space, TRACERS will study how magnetic fields around Earth interact with those from the Sun. In a process known as magnetic reconnection, the field lines explosively reconfigure, sending particles out at speeds that can approach the speed of light. Some of these particles will be guided by the Earth’s field into the region where TRACERS can observe them.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Artist concept of MMS, a mission to study how magnetic fields release energy in a process known as magnetic reconnection.

(NASA)

Magnetic reconnection drives energetic events all over the universe, including coronal mass ejections and solar flares on the Sun. It also allows particles from the solar wind to push into near-Earth space, driving space weather there. TRACERS will be the first space mission to explore this process in the cusp with two spacecraft, providing observations of how processes change over both space and time. The cusp vantage point also permits simultaneous observations of reconnection throughout near-Earth space. Thus, it can provide important context for NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, which gathers detailed, high-speed observations as it flies through single reconnection events at a time.

TRACERS’ unique measurements will help with NASA’s mission to safeguard our technology and astronauts in space. The mission is led by Craig Kletzing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Not including rideshare costs, TRACERS is funded for no more than 5 million.

Launch date for the two missions is no later than August 2022. Both programs will be managed by the Explorers Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Explorers Program, the oldest continuous NASA program, is designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space using principal investigator-led space science investigations relevant to the work of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in astrophysics and heliophysics. The program is managed by Goddard for the Science Mission Directorate, which conducts a wide variety of research and scientific exploration programs for Earth studies, space weather, the solar system and universe.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

Morgan Lerette, a former Army intelligence officer who spent 18 months in Iraq, writes about his experience as a Blackwater operative with countless missions in his new book, ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq.’ His memoir recounts what it is like to be a modern-day Ronin in the sands of Iraq. At a time when U.S. civilian employers discriminated against hiring veterans, he ventured with Blackwater at the age of 23 at the recommendation of a friend. This was the start of a road bathed in prostitutes, gold, blood and the ruthlessness required to be successful in clandestine operations. Yet, balancing weight retains one’s humanity.

“Blackwater was a real turning point in my life, much more than my stints in the military,” said Lerette, now 40. “I wanted to write about the people, my brothers and how we survived.”

Morgan Lerette, author of Welcome to Blackwater

We Are The Mighty, with the support of Onward Press and United States Veterans Artists Alliance, bring you this exclusive interview with a warrior who lived the dream most combat Military Occupational Specialties dream of: to be set loose upon the enemies of the west and give no quarter – for money.

WATM: Politicians constantly debate the morality of hiring contractors to protect our interests abroad, regardless that the practice of hiring mercenaries is as old as war itself. How has Blackwater impacted the evolution of warfare? 

I think [people] really have to understand the paradigm of where Blackwater came in. The ground combat ended, and the interim government was created in Iraq. As soon as that interim government was created and we gave them sovereignty, it went from a Department of Defense mission to a Department of State mission. 

They didn’t have the power to protect their own diplomats as they were running around all over Iraq. So that’s really where Blackwater came in. The war was not planned well as it was. What compounded it was that Blackwater came in and were told they had diplomatic immunity and the rules of engagement were different than the other soldiers. It opened up this gray space where we could operate autonomously. 

There was no check and balance in place. 

No grownup supervision of what we were doing, when we were doing it, or how we were doing it. I think that’s really when it went bad. If you don’t have the government agency that you are contracted by in the vehicles with you – there is no way for them to supervise. I don’t put the blame on Blackwater entirely or the State Department entirely. They both failed to make sure that people were doing the right thing at the right time. 

Lerette aims a firearm over a humvee

WATM: Your book is brutally honest about a different kind of deployment than is usually experienced overseas. How did you forge a bond between you and your peers to become brothers?

It is very similar to what you go through in the military. You go in there with a number of people you recently met, who you would not normally come into contact with, and are tasked with protecting an individual and each other. You can’t trust that the Iraqis are going to welcome you with open arms. You can’t expect that the State Department people are going to be able to help you out. You have to trust and count on that person sitting next to you with their body armor and rifle. 

The bonding was very similar [in that aspect]. Where it was dissimilar is when you come home from a contract there is no support system. As a unit in the Army or the Air Force, you leave as a unit and come back as a unit. You go to your base and it’s comfortable. 

As a contractor it’s really just you.

Your new buddies, people whom you would literally die for and would die for you, are scattered across the nation. It makes it hard to keep that camaraderie, so people start chasing those contracts. They go back for the camaraderie and adrenaline of war. Whereas in the military they tell you when to go. 

WATM: Some corporations have propaganda that they will hire veterans but when it comes time to put their money where their mouth is, they do not. How has this barrier for veterans to assimilate into the civilian world affected recruitment to companies like Blackwater?

It definitely helped. When I got into Blackwater in 2004 you had a number of special operations soldiers that have trained for years and years and they never really got to do their job. [For example] you had a guy who trained for [a job] for three years and at the end of it they say ‘okay, that was great, but I still want to [keep doing it.’] That’s where a lot of these guys were: special operations, SEALs, Rangers, Recon Marines and they didn’t get to go to war like they were trained for. 

This was their chance to extend that service – to get their war. 

Blackwater definitely took advantage that there were people who haven’t seen combat but were trained for it. Even to this day, since I came out with the book ‘Welcome to Blackwater,’ people say to me, ‘Well, how do I join?’

Those companies are saying, ‘This is your chance at war, Iraq has dwindled down to 2,500 troops and Afghanistan the same way. They get there and they sit as a gate guard and they’re frustrated because they really think this is their chance. It’s just not the way it was back then and you don’t have the option of finding that fortune like you used to. 

WATM: Current and former members of the military have this idea that Private Military Contracting is the final frontier of combat. Would you encourage or discourage their pursuit of fortune?

Yeah, so, the money dried up a number of years ago. It’s definitely not paying what it did when I was with Blackwater in 2004-05. Not only has the money dried up but so have the missions. It used to be a lot of escorting diplomats around combat zones. Now, the majority of jobs are within site security. 

Gate guard, tower guard.

Whereas we were making around $210,000 a year, if you’re a gate guard in Kuwait, you’re going to make around $60,000 a year. I would not encourage anyone to go to the final frontier because the final frontier is no longer available. 

Lerette with kids in Iraq
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WATM: Onward Press is an avenue for warriors to give up the sword and pick up the pen. What was your experience working with them on ‘Welcome to Blackwater’?

Onward press is specifically looking for people who have been in the military community, such as spouses, who want to get their story told and be able to tell that story well. Every veteran has an amazing story and being able to put that on paper, get it done, put it on Amazon and be able to purchase it – it takes professionals to do that. 

So, Onward Press bridged that gap for me.

They were able to say ‘yes, you do have a good story, you have a good voice, but here’s how you should be able to frame it. Here’s how you get started, here’s where you need to add stuff, here’s where you need to take out stuff. In order to make sure the story was entertaining, and it flowed and people would actually be interested in it.

It’s an awesome organization but writing your experience is very cathartic. Even if I don’t become a bestseller, it’s almost a way for me to give my story over to paper. It took some of the burden I have carried with me throughout my almost three years in Iraq. To be able to give that over to something else, for that reason, it is very, very cathartic. 

WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to our readers and the military community? 

There is honor in service. There are a lot of extremely intelligent people that don’t have college degrees that do the same thing as me. I’m not unique or special. What I was, was willing to reach out. I couldn’t get to where I needed to go. That goes all the way back to reaching out to figure out my G.I. Bill, to figure out the VA, to getting my book about Blackwater to a publisher and get published. 

Whether you’ve spent three to 30 years in the military, set that pride aside and ask for help. If I hadn’t asked for help there is no way I could have published Welcome to Blackwater. 

A lot of these stories about soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines would be lost if we can’t get them documented. 

So, reach out. Heck, reach out to me. Go to my website www.welcometoblackwater.com and shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you. I’m always willing to help. 

‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ is available now on Amazon. 

About Onward Press

Onward Press is the publishing imprint of the United States Veterans Artists Alliance, Inc., a 501-c-3 educational non-profit.  www.usvaa.org

Our mission is to publish well-written, compelling books by military veterans, spouses, military brats, and other family members. Also, people who served in other agencies overseas and their family members.

We are interested in great stories well-told, and are not limited to military, veteran or government-service topics. We publish literary novels, non-fiction, memoirs, mystery, true crime, suspense-thrillers, to name just a few.

All books are available as e -books, trade paperbacks, hardcover and audio.  We pay royalties to our authors and provide editorial guidance and engaging cover art.Onward Press is open for submissions.  Please see Submission Guidelines.

Learn more about Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem, here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine Corps suspends physical fitness tests (PFT)

As the Marine Corps continues to adjust fire in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, General David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, has ordered a halt to Physical Fitness Tests (PFTs) across the Corps until further notice. Despite testing being suspended, however, Marines are still expected to stay in fighting shape.


Marines, the PFT requirement for this semi-annual period is cancelled in accordance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Our fitness to fight remains a priority, and I expect each of us to continue to maintain our fighting condition. Find details in a forthcoming MARADMIN.

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“Marines, the PFT requirement for this semi-annual period is cancelled in accordance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Our fitness to fight remains a priority, and I expect each of us to continue to maintain our fighting condition. Find details in a forthcoming MARADMIN.” General Berger wrote.

The forthcoming MARADMIN, or Marine Administrative Message, will likely provide further guidance upon its release, including when Marines can expect to commence testing again.

The Marine Corps PFT, which consists of three timed events, is one of two fitness tests the Marine Corps uses to assess the physical readiness of each Marine. The PFT consists of dead hang pull ups (which can be substituted for push ups), crunches, and a three mile run. Because Marines do their crunches with a spotter that both holds their knees and keeps tally of the repetitions, it may have been deemed impossible to effectively practice social distancing during the execution of the test. Other events do not necessarily include such close proximity to other Marines, but may still have resulted in unnecessary exposure.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

(Marine Corps photo by: Lance Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torre)

The military as a whole has been taking proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of service members, their families, and civilian DoD personnel. Recently, all members of the military were ordered to wear cloth masks in circumstances that don’t allow for social distancing, and everyone on base, regardless of whether they are military or civilian, are expected to wear masks when in close proximity with others.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

(Lance Cpl. Zachary T. Beatty/ Marine Corps)

Despite multiple overlapping initiatives, the military has seen a sharp rise in the number of infected service members in recent weeks, many of which hail from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Thus far, nearly 700 Sailors from the Roosevelt have tested positive for the coronavirus. The USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group has been ordered to remain at sea for the time being in order to ensure the safety of the crew and the readiness of America’s rapid response to any potential threats.

Marines have played an active role in numerous DoD efforts relating to COVID-19, including a small detachment of Marines deployed to Guam to support the recovery of the Roosevelt’s crew. Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment made headlines around the world last week when they sprinted life-saving oxygen tanks to ambulances waiting to transfer COVID-19 patients that were stuck waiting in traffic.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients

VA scientists are working to create a 3D-printed artificial lung that they tout as having the potential to revolutionize the treatment of Veterans affected by lung disease.

One such lung disorder—chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—is one of the most prevalent and costliest ailments in the Veteran population.

Dr. Joseph Potkay, a biomedical engineer at the VA Ann Arbor Health Care System in Michigan, is leading the VA-funded research. It calls for making a prototype of the 3D-printed artificial lung. Potkay and his team hope to build what they call the first wearable artificial lung that is compatible with living tissue and is capable of short- and long-term respiratory support.


The lung is seen initially as a temporary measure, a bridge to help patients awaiting a lung transplant or an aid for those whose lungs are healing. Future versions could have longer-term applications, the researchers say.

Potkay says this is the first time high-resolution 3D polymer printing is being used to create microfluidic lungs with three-dimensional blood flow networks.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

Potkay’s artificial lung model relies on microfabrication to achieve highly efficient gas exchange and blood paths similar to those in a human lung.

(Photo by Brian Hayes)

Microfluidic artificial lungs, a new class of artificial lungs, mimic the structure of the natural lung better than conventional artificial lungs. Tiny blood channels, some thinner than a human hair, are closer in shape and dimension to those in a person, allowing for blood flow similar to that in the human body.

The biocompatible coatings on the lung’s surface are equally important. Anytime blood comes in contact with an artificial surface, an immune response leads to hardening of the blood and clotting. Biocompatible coatings will help curtail that immune reaction.

“We hope that these microfluidic flow paths and biocompatible coatings will be more compatible with living tissue, thereby reducing the body’s immune response and increasing the lifetime of the device,” says Potkay, who is also a researcher at the University of Michigan. “The flexibility in design afforded by 3D printing gives us more freedom and thus the ease to build artificial lungs with a small size and pressure drops that are compatible for operation with the body’s natural pressures.”

To read the full article, click here to visit VA Research Currents.

Featured image: Biomedical engineer Dr. Joseph Potkay, with the VA Ann Arbor Health Care System, displays a 2D prototype of an artificial lung. A 3D version is in production.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

After five days, over 70 tested events and hundreds of evaluated standards, the U.S. Army named its top drill sergeant in a ceremony hosted by the Center for Initial Military Training, or CIMT, the lead in the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, for all initial entry training.

Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, representing Fort Jackson, S.C. and the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Staff Sgt Benhur Rodriguez, representing Fort Sill, Okla. and the Fires Center of Excellence, was named runner up to the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year and also received an award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition. In the event the primary selectee is unable to perform his duties, Rodriguez will assume the role.


By design, the competition is one of the most physically demanding and mentally tough challenges any soldier may face in a competition. The Army level event tests and highlights the professionalism and readiness of the U.S. Army by testing the drill sergeants that are responsible for training the total force.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, with camouflage face paint at a Camp Bullis shooting range. Knight is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The annual event was conducted at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, Texas for the first time since the Drill Sergeant of the Year was established 50 years ago.

Not only did the Health Readiness Center of Excellence, based at Fort Sam Houston, have a candidate in the competition, but the support of their staff and soldiers, along with CIMT planners, were crucial to the success of the event.

Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Specht, HRCoE’s Senior Drill Sergeant and Sgt. 1st Class Gabriel Hulse were the CoE’s lead planners for the event. They were both honored with an Army Commendation Medal presentation during Aug. 22, 2019’s ceremony. Six other HRCoE soldiers were also recognized for their significant contributions to the planning and execution of the competition.

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U.S. Army Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major (right), presents U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy with the Drill Sergeant of the Year award.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Specht, who was recently selected for promotion to Master Sgt. and was himself a Drill Sergeant of the Year competitor in 2018, discussed how HRCoE was honored to conduct the 50th Anniversary of the Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition on behalf of CIMT and TRADOC as the newest CoE within the Combined Arms Center and TRADOC.

“Every Drill Sergeant competitor gave 100% and it was inspiring to see their individual resolve and how each rose to the challenge and represented their respective CoEs and the noncommissioned officer corps as a whole,” said Specht. “Command Sergeant Major Mitchell and his staff outlined the expected standards of excellence and vison and allowed us, the mission command, to take ownership and host this historic event.”

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, firing an M9 at the mystery event.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The 2017 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Chad Hickey and the 2017 Platoon Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Bryan Ivery, as the CIMT representatives, conducted two site visits, multiple initial planning reviews, and were on site over a week prior to the event validating test components. Specht continued, “The success of the event is really a demonstration of what cohesive teams can accomplish with 61 dedicated support noncommissioned officers, CIMT and our staff.”

The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year competition was rigorous, highly structured and covered a broad base of subject areas at a relentless pace. The noncommissioned officers were evaluated in marksmanship, unknown distance road marches, individual warrior tasks, collective battle drill tasks, modern Army combatives, written exams, drill and ceremony, leadership, oral boards, and much more for the honor of being recognized as the top drill sergeant in the Army. The competitors, who truly had to be prepared for anything also took the Army Physical Fitness Test that is the current test of record and the new Army Combat Fitness Test that becomes the Army’s physical test of record in October 2020.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy on a ruck march.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, said each event is designed to stress the candidates and push their limits physically and mentally to determine if the drill sergeant’s performance, abilities or professionalism become degraded.

Mitchell believes the competition is an extreme example of what all drill sergeants face in their daily tasks of training the Army’s newest recruits. He said that though many things in the Army have changed since he was a Drill sergeant from 1995 to 1998, “the soldierization process has not changed in the last 50 years. Drill sergeants are still tasked with turning ordinary citizens into soldiers.”

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command
U.S. Army TRADOC hosts the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year (DSOY) Competition

(Photo by Sean Worrell)

On the first day of competition, Mitchell described the logic of putting these “soldier makers” to such an extreme test to determine the best of the best. “The drill sergeant that we select will be the number one drill sergeant in the Army as well as the TRADOC enterprise,” said Mitchell. “Sometimes you are going to be tired from what you do [as a drill sergeant], but we need that individual to still be able to be in front of soldiers and be able to be professional, no matter the conditions.” He explained how drill sergeants across the Army epitomize that type of endurance and professionalism each day.

Knight’s road to victory story makes for a good example. He said, “I started my quest to become the Drill Sergeant of the Year in 2017 when I was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood. I made it to the 2nd quarter Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Competition that year and lost.” Hickey, who helped plan this year’s competition eventually became the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, or MSCoE’s winner that year and subsequently the 2017 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence (right), with Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, receiving the award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

When he was transferred to Fort Jackson last year, Knight was, once again, encouraged to pursue the top drill sergeant prize through a competition at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy; he won the Fort Jackson competition earlier this year to allow him to compete and win this week.

“I really appreciate moments like that,” Knight recalled, speaking of his original loss at the MSCoE. “As drill sergeants we are expected to be subject matter experts so we can tend to think we know everything. Having a humbling experience like competing against other highly qualified people who just out performed you, leaves you two options: better yourself or just accept that someone got the better of you.”

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, going through the low crawl obstacle at Camp Bullis.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition began with 12 of the most proficient, determined and rugged drill sergeants in the Army representing Basic Combat Training, One-Station Unit Training, and Advanced Individual Training. There was one reservist, the rest were active duty noncommissioned officers. They had all won division level competitions at their home stations to earn the right to compete at the Army level.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, runner up at the 2019 Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition, instructs Soldiers on the correct method of conducting a drill and ceremony maneuvers.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Officially, the competition lasts four days with most evaluated events conducted in a field environment at Camp Bullis beginning on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The last field event was completed by six o’clock in the morning on Day Four. In actuality, tested events began on Sunday with “Day Zero” elements that included height and weight measurements, written tests and an oral board held at Fort Sam Houston. Board questions, from seven command sergeants major, led by this year’s board president, Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, U.S. Army Medical Command Sergeant Major, were exhaustive on a variety of military and U.S. government related questions.

All of the remaining 10 competitors that outlasted the rigors of the week were honored during the recognition ceremony at Fort Sam Houston mere hours after they completed their last event at Camp Bullis: a 12 mile road march.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, firing an M9 at the mystery event. In this lane while firing from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions the competitors first fired the M4 rifle then transitioned to the M4 pistol.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

When Knight was asked how he thought he was able to win over so many other highly qualified candidates, he said it came down to who was able to be more resilient, the most well-rounded, and maybe even who wanted it the most. Knight said he spent any small windows of free time during the competition studying and refreshing his memory on a wide range of subjects.

Knight explained, “Some [competitors] would take the opportunity to eat, some would take naps or got on their phones. I just spent a lot of time studying during the downtime to make sure I stayed in the zone; I didn’t want to open the door to distractions or self-doubt.” Though the competitors weren’t aware of what would be required of them at any given time, he said that many of the notes he studied ended up being on test events so that made him even more energized to put his time to good use.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

U.S. Army Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, on the reverse climb obstacle during the first day of competition.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

“I kept the junior soldiers, the trainees, in mind at all times,” said Knight. Soldiers in training are often in situations where they don’t exactly know what is going to happen next. “They don’t have the privilege or luxury of just taking a nap or picking up their phone when they want to.” He explained that soldiers are always told to study during any break in training, “During downtime a drill sergeant will always tell a trainee, ‘pull out your smart book’ so I just felt like this was a great opportunity to bring myself back to the basics.”

Knight pointed out that this strategy for success is not a technique he invented for this competition, it is in the Drill Sergeant Creed: “I will lead by example, never requiring a soldier to attempt any task I would not do myself.”

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence drill instructor, Ft. Benning, Ga., cools himself down after the M4 stress shoot event.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

As the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Knight will be reassigned to CIMT and TRADOC; he will report to Fort Eustis, Va. in 60 days. Knight, a 25 Victor, Combat Documentation Production Specialist, “Combat Camera” by trade is used to telling the Army story through photos. For 12 months, his tenure as the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year, he will serve as a sort of ambassador, called upon to be the example of the resilient, professional, and highly proficient drill sergeant that he just proved himself to be.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class William Hale (left), Foxtrot Company 232nd Medical Battalion range safety officer, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, hands out ammunition for the M4 stress shoot event.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

List of 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Nominees in alphabetical order:

  • Staff Sgt. Mychael R. Begaye, Army Training Center, Fort Jackson, S.C.
  • Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Frank D. Dunbar III, Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Va.
  • Staff Sgt. Ariel D. Hughes, Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE), Fort Rucker, Ala.
  • Staff Sgt. Lillian C. Jones, Cyber Center of Excellence, Fort Gordon, Ga.
  • Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, Fort Jackson, S.C.
  • Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
  • Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Martinez, Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
  • Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Mubarak, Defense Language Institute, Monterey, Calif.
  • Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, Fort Sill, Okla.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Marianne E. Russell, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
  • Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, Charlotte, N.C.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

VP open to the new Space Force using orbital weapons

If officials can advocate for reusable rockets to deliver cargo to troops from space ports, perhaps more firepower in space is possible, too.

Vice President Mike Pence on Oct. 23, 2018, didn’t immediately rule out positioning nuclear weapons in space sometime in the future. In a conversation with the Washington Post during its “Transformers: Space” summit, Pence was asked if the United States was looking to renegotiate the terms of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which currently bans “weapons of mass destruction,” but still allows for conventional weapons in orbit.


“That treaty…doesn’t ban military activity,” Pence said. “It gives nations a fair amount of flexibility in operating in their security interests in outer space. At this time we don’t see any need to amend the treaty, but as time goes forward, the hope that we could continue to see outer space as a domain where peace will reign will require military presence.”

Post reporter Robert Costa, who interviewed Pence onstage at the forum, asked him if he thought nuclear weapons should be banned from space.

“They are now,” Pence replied.

“Should they always be banned from space?” Costa said.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

A SpaceX “flight proven” first stage booster successfully lands on Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Dec. 15, 2017.

(SpaceX photo)

“Well, look. I think what we need to do is make sure that we provide for the common defense of the people of the United States of America. And that’s the president’s determination here,” Pence replied. “What we want to do is continue to advance the principle that peace comes through strength.”

The vice president on Oct. 23, 2018, headlined a few events to promote plans for the Trump administration’s proposed Space Force, intended to be the sixth military branch.

Following his appearance at the Post, Pence convened a meeting of the National Space Council at Fort McNair, where cabinet secretaries, members of the national space and security councils, and policy officials discussed recommendations to begin forming the Department of the Space Force.

Echoing a plan Pence unveiled at the Pentagon in August 2018, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the Defense Department would move to:

  • Establish the creation of a unified space command, known as U.S. Space Command
  • Direct a legislative proposal for a Space Force for the White House to review
  • Form a budget request proposal to include Space Force elements in the fiscal year 2020 budget Review various space agency authorities to understand and streamline chain-of-command
  • Establishes the Space Development Agency for new satellite and technology procurement
  • Strengthen relationships between the new military space branch and the intelligence community

The recommendations, approved unanimously in the meeting, will eventually be woven into Space Policy Directive-4, known as SPD-4, Space News reported.

When SPD-4 may be signed by the president was not disclosed, even though members of the Pentagon have been waiting to discuss the directive for some months, Military.com reported last week.

During the two-hour meeting, the conferees heard from Doug Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy; Mark Sirangelo, an “entrepreneur-in-residence” at the University of Colorado Boulder’s aerospace engineering program and former head of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s space business; and Air Force Lt. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, Deputy Commander of U.S. Cyber Command.

All were in favor of establishing a Space Force. McLaughlin, however, stressed interoperability and warned of bureaucratic overlap.

“I think you undermine the need for a department if you try to create a combatant command with service-like authorities,” McLaughlin said. “We have to be careful about these three entities not overlapping, and drawing clear lines.”

According to a report from DefenseOne, the Pentagon already has some lines drawn.

Current space operations conducted by bases that belong to Air Force Space Command, the Army‘s 1st Space Brigade, the Navy‘s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and the Naval Satellite Operations Center will all be absorbed into the Space Force, according to plans.

Space Force will not initially include “the transfer of [the] strategic intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance mission of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO),” the 13-page memo said, as reported by DefenseOne Monday. Whether the intelligence agency will be incorporated at a later date remains to be seen.

“It was not easy to do this,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “But we are moving out.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what a Mexican cartel has done to up its drone game

A Mexican drug cartel, the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, or CJNG, has been caught with a kamikaze-style drone, marking an escalation of the threat posed by the non-state actors. The drone was discovered when Mexican police arrested four men in a stolen pickup truck.


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The seized 3DR Solo quadcopter drone, rigged with a remote-detonated improvised explosive device. (Mexican Federal Police photo)

According to a report by the Washington Times, the cartels have been using drones to smuggle drugs into the United States in recent years, but this marks a move to the type of armed drones used by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The drone captured by Mexican police was equipped with an improvised explosive device and remote detonator.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command
ISIS is using drones more and more in their warfighting tactics.

An analysis by Small Wars Journal noted that the drone appeared to be a 3DR Solo quadcopter drone. This drone is available for purchase on Amazon.com for $229. Small Wars Journal reported that the takedown took place in an area of Mexico contested by multiple cartels, including the Sinaloa cartel, the Zetas, and CJNG.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command
A 3DR Solo quadcopter drone. (Photo from Amazon.com)

The United States has been pursuing a number of counter-UAV technologies. One, the Battelle DroneDefender, can end drones running back to their home base. This could prove a nasty surprise for some bad guy using a drone with an IED. Nammo has developed programmable ammo to shoot down enemy drones. Another promising approach had been to use lasers. Last month, Lockheed and the Army tested the ATHENA laser system against five MQM-170C drones.

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command
The Battelle DroneDefender. (Photo from Battelle)

In any case, some of those counter-drone systems could very well find themselves being deployed on the southern border of the United States to counter the threat of cartel drones. The scary thing is, the cartels may not be the only folks using drones.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the hero Soldier that stopped an active shooter with his truck: MSG David Royer

On Wednesday, an active duty U.S. Army soldier brought an active shooter situation in Kansas to an abrupt end by ramming the suspect with his vehicle. By the time police officers had arrived on the scene, multiple vehicles had been hit by small arms fire, and one other Soldier had been wounded, but the suspect was safely pinned beneath a vehicle.

Now, the heroic soldier whose quick action likely saved a number of lives has been identified as Master Sgt. David Royer, a corrections noncommissioned officer with the 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention).


Royer was traveling eastbound when he arrived at the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth, where he found stopped traffic. MSG Royer was talking to his fiancée on speakerphone when he noticed an armed man exiting another vehicle. Without hesitation, Royer instructed his wife to call 911 as the suspect opened fire at nearby vehicles.

“I assessed the situation very quickly, looked around and just took the only action possible that I felt I could take,” Royer said. “I accelerated my truck as quickly as possible and struck the active shooter and pinned him underneath my truck.”

Law enforcement arrived only minutes later, where they found Royer had already assessed that the shooter was no longer a threat, and he’d already begun providing first aid to another Soldier who had been driving in a different car, and had been wounded in the initial volley of small arms fire. According to police, the suspect was armed with a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle.

Royer, who has served in the Army for the past 15 years, received training on how to handle these sorts of situations throughout his career, including Military Police Special Reaction Team Training (Military SWAT Team), Air Assault School, and a Military Police Investigator Course. While many see Royer’s action as heroic, he’s quick to credit the training he’s received in service for his handling of the situation.

“I was shocked that it was happening, but the adrenaline took over and with the military training that I’ve received, I took appropriate action and took out the threat as fast as possible,” Royer said. “I didn’t imagine (an active shooter situation) would happen in traffic, but it was always in the back of my mind because of how crazy things are in the world today.

Despite Royer’s reluctance to take the credit for his actions, Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens made a point to address the bravery and skill Royer demonstrated on Wednesday.

“He won’t call himself a hero, but I will,” said Kitchens in a press conference. “He saved countless lives. … His actions were extraordinary, and he should be commended for that. We’re grateful … on behalf of the entire Leavenworth community.”

Despite the accolades of local law enforcement and his command, Royer believes many people would respond in the same way if faced with the same circumstances. The career Soldier’s selflessness in the face of danger echoes similar sentiments offered by other heroic service members over the years, as he pointed out that while his life has value, he would be willing to sacrifice it for the safety and security of his fellow countrymen.

“My life is worth something, but there are also many other lives out there, too,” he said, “so if I can sacrifice myself for the majority, that is my motive.”

Col. Caroline Smith, 15th Military Police Brigade commander, also issued a statement honoring Royer’s quick action, bravery, and level headedness.

“I think many people will sit back and wonder what would they do at a time of adversity like that and would they have the confidence and the courage to act when necessary,” Smith said. “I think Master Sergeant Royer did exactly what needed to happen in order to neutralize the threat. He had a split second to decide and he made the decision and he made the right decision.
“He acted with courage and conviction. Because of that, I have no doubt that he saved many people’s lives,” she said. “We’ll never know how many lives he saved, but I can say I’m super proud of the actions he took and who he is as an NCO and a soldier in the Army.”

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