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NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

Atlanta Falcon offensive lineman Ben Garland knows the meaning of service, but he took the NFL’s Salute to Service program to the next level.


Each year for Veteran’s Day, the NFL pays tribute to our nation’s servicemembers in a number of ways, but one of the most meaningful is during November’s Salute to Service. Players wear the initials of the fallen on their uniforms, the NFL donates money to non-profit organizations like the Pat Tillman Foundation or TAPS, and military families are invited to meet their favorite teams and experience some VIP fun.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl
3 year-old Cooper Dean with his new BFF, Ben Garland. (Image via TAPS)

A captain in the Colorado Air National Guard, the Veteran’s Day events are particularly meaningful to Garland. In 2017, he wore the initials of Air Force veteran Robert Dean, who took his own life in June 2016. At the game, Garland met Dean’s wife, Katie, and their 3 year-old son, Cooper, and the meeting left a lasting impression on him.

Related: Here’s how the Atlanta Falcons honored fallen heroes

On Dec. 11, Garland was honored for his community service with his team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and he decided to invite Katie and Cooper as his guests — what they didn’t know was that he had a big surprise in store for them.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl
Ben Garland surprises military widow Katie Dean and her son, Cooper, with Super Bowl tickets. (Image via TAPS)

When accepting his award, Garland invited them onstage and presented them with tickets to the 2018 Super Bowl.

“No matter what I’m doing, I give my full effort to that,” said Garland in an interview with CNN.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl
3 year-old Cooper Dean wears a helmet with his father’s initials, borrowed from Atlanta Falcon Ben Garland. (Image via TAPS)

Whether in the military, on the field, or helping others, it’s clear Garland lives by the Air Force Core Value of “Service Before Self.” From visiting cancer patients in hospitals, to fighting human trafficking with SōDE Solution, to helping families like the Deans, Garland proves how impactful service after service can be.

“This incredible connection with Ben Garland and the Dean family is just extraordinary and means so much to Katie and Cooper,” said Diana Hosford, vice president of sports and entertainment at TAPS. “Ben being in the Air Force just like their fallen hero and also being so kind, caring and thoughtful just like the man they loved and lost, makes this bond even stronger.”
Articles

US Army adds 84mm recoilless rifle to platoon arsenal

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl
US Army Special Forces soldiers train with the Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle in Basra, Iraq. | Wikimedia Commons


U.S. Army infantry platoons will soon have the 84mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle, a devastating anti-armor system, as a permanently assigned weapon.

Service officials completed a so-called conditional material release authorization late last year, making the M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System an organic weapon system within each infantry platoon, IHS Jane’s 360 recently reported.

The service is also working on an effort to achieve Full Material Release of the M3 later this year.

Army light infantry units began using the M3 in Afghanistan in 2011, but only when commanders submitted operational needs statements for the weapon.

The breech-loading M3, made by Saab North America, can reach out and hit enemy targets up to 1,000 meters away. The M3 offers the units various types of ammunition, ranging from armor penetration and anti-personnel, to ammunition for built-up areas, as well as special features like smoke and illumination.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl
A civilian instructor coaches two paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Divisions’s 1st Brigade Combat Team on how to use a Carl Gustaf 84mm recoilless rifle during a certification class at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. | US Army photo

Special operations forces such as the 75th Ranger Regiment have been using the 84mm weapon system since the early 1990s. The M3 became an official, program of record in the conventional Army in 2014.

The M3 has enjoyed success with units such as the 25th Infantry, 10th Mountain and 82nd Airborne divisions in Afghanistan.

The launcher weighs approximately 22 pounds, with each round of ammunition weighing just under 10 pounds. By comparison, the AT4 weighs about 15 pounds and the Javelin‘s launcher with missile and reusable command launch unit weigh roughly 50 pounds.

The CMR allowed the system to be quickly fielded to operational units before the more exhaustive full materiel release process is completed, Jack Seymour, marketing director for Saab North America, told IHS Jane’s.

The current plan is to equip all brigade combat teams with one M3 launcher per platoon.

MIGHTY TRENDING

MARSOC is getting a new commander—here’s what you need to know

The MARSOC (Marine Forces Special Operations Command) Communication Strategy and Operations office has confirmed that current MARSOC Commanding General, Major General Daniel Yoo, will be retiring and relinquishing his command and during a ceremony currently scheduled for June 26, 2020. MajGen Yoo assumed command of MARSOC, headquartered at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on August 10, 2018.

The Marine Corps Manpower & Reserve Affairs office confirmed with SOFREP that, at this time, incoming MARSOC commanding officer, Major General James Glynn, is scheduled to move in from his current post as Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Eastern Recruiting Region. According to Glynn’s official bio, he “served at Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC)—first as the Military Assistant to the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and then as the Director of the Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communication. A native of Albany, New York, his service as a Marine began in 1989 after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering.”


NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

Major General James Glynn. Official USMC photo.

Excluding any potential COVID-19-related delays or a last-minute change of plans by Headquarters Marine Corps, the timing of Yoo’s departure is in line with the historical two-year period that commanders spend in charge of the Marine Corps’ elite Special Operations component. However, in Yoo’s case the timing is leading many to question his public silence over supporting three of his own Marine Raiders whom he ordered to be sent to a general court martial for multiple charges related to the death of a defense contractor in Erbil, Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) on New Year’s Eve, 2018.

Video evidence would surface, confirming that the defense contractor (Rick Rodriguez) was highly intoxicated and clearly the aggressor in the situation and that Gunnery Sergeant Joshua Negron, Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Draher, and Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet did not use excessive force when defending themselves.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

Major General Daniel Yoo. Official USMC photo.

Yoo attended the funeral of Rick Rodriguez, but up to this point he has not once spoken a word of support for his men in spite of the fact that video proves they are innocent. Command silence on matters like this fuels speculation that the accused are guilty and mischaracterizes them of committing a drunken murder, yet Marine Corps and MARSOC leadership still choose to remain silent.

MajGen Glynn will soon be assuming the role of convening authority for the upcoming court-martial involving the MARSOC 3. As the new MARSOC Commanding General, Glynn will have the authority to review the MARSOC 3 case and determine whether to make changes to any aspect of it – including the ability to dismiss the charges. There is still time for him to take a fresh look at this case and do the right thing for his men. Marine Corps offices contacted by SOFREP have indicated that MajGen Glynn does not wish to provide comment at this time.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

In an interview with PBS News Hour’s Judy Woodruff, retired Adm. Bill McRaven, the former SEAL who oversaw the 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound as the head of Joint Special Operations Command, told Woodruff that there’s only thing a SEAL recruit has to do during their grueling training: “Not quit.”

“So, the one thing that defines everybody that goes through SEAL training is that they didn’t ring the bell, as we say,” McRaven said. “They didn’t quit. And that’s really what you’re trying to find in the young SEAL students, because, in the course of your career, you’re going to be cold, wet, miserable. You’re going to kind of fail often as a result of bad missions, bad training.”

McRaven started out his Navy career as a SEAL, rising through the ranks until he was charged with overseeing the entire special forces community as the commander of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

While tenacity is an essential part of being a great SEAL, there’s a lot of training that goes into being a part of the Navy’s most elite fighting squad.


NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

A U.S. Navy SEAL (Sea, Air and Land) candidate navigates a suspended cargo net at a Naval Special Warfare elevated obstacle course, May 11. SEAL candidates use the obstacle course in preparation for attending the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) course.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Les Long)

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

2. Candidates learn the ropes at Naval Special Warfare orientation, which lasts three weeks and orients trainees to what lies ahead at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.

“During Orientation, officers and enlisted candidates become familiar with the obstacle course, practice swimming and learn the values of teamwork and perseverance. Candidates must show humility and integrity as instructors begin the process of selecting the candidates that demonstrate the proper character and passion for excellence,” according to the SEALs and Surface Warfare Combatant Craft website.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Lynn F. Andrews)

3. SEAL candidates start the Surf Passage, one of the most well known parts of SEAL training.

Surf Passage is a notoriously challenging part of BUD/S training, as Business Insider previously reported. During orientation, SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen candidates, usually divided into teams of six or seven, carry their boats above their heads down the beach toward the ocean. They must take their boats waist-deep into the water before they can get in, and paddle out toward breaking waves, which can be three to five feet high — or larger.

Sometimes boats flip over, scattering crew and gear in what’s called a “yard sale.” But if teams successfully make it out past the breakers, they get to ride the waves back to shore.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

4. You’re basically guaranteed to get sandy at BUD/S or Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, which lasts 24 weeks.

BUD/S training takes place at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California.

Before prospective SEALs even enter training, they must take a physical exam, as well as a test called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), one called the Computerized-Special Operations Resilience Test (C-SORT), and a physical screening test consisting of a 500-yard swim, push-ups, pull-ups, curl-ups, and a 1.5-mile run.

The ASVAB assesses a candidate’s ability to learn, while the C-SORT determines his maturity and mental toughness, according to the Navy SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman (SWCC) website.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

5. Push-ups are another part of life for SEAL trainees.

Potential SEALs must be able to do at least 50 push-ups in two minutes to even qualify for BUD/S.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

6. SEALS have to be able to do pull-ups — lots of them.

The minimum number of pull-ups to be considered for BUD/S? At least 10 in two minutes.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau)

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL students wade ashore on San Clemente Island.

(U.S. Navy photo by Kyle Gahlau)

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

10. It’s important to stay hydrated during training, which is designed to push candidates to their breaking points.

BUD/S has an attrition rate of between 73% and 75%, the Navy told NPR in 2017.

“So, while it is important to be physically fit when you go through training, you find out very quickly that your background, your social status, your color, your orientation, none of that matters,” according to McRaven, who recently wrote the memoir, “Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations.”

“The only thing that matters is that you go in with this purpose in mind and this — the thought that you are just not going to quit, no matter what happens.”

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

(U.S. Navy)

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd class Megan Anuci)

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

(U.S. Navy photo/Petty Officer 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle)

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

SEAL Team seven members jump from an MC-130J Commando II during Emerald Warrior/Trident at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., January 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erin Piazza)

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

SEAL Qualification Training students endure a long hike after finishing their second day of close quarters combat instruction.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Menzie)

16. SEAL recruits participate in a land training exercise during the Seal Qualification Training, a 26-week course after BUD/S.

Recruits also receive weapons training, medical training, and demolitions training during SQT. They also learn how to operate in cold weather.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

(U.S. Navy photo)

17. After 24 grueling weeks in BUD/S, SEAL candidates receive their SEAL Qualification Training diploma.

After receiving the SQT diploma, SEALS are assigned to their SEAL team to prepare for deployment.

Enlisted and officers must complete SQT and be designated as SEALs to earn the coveted Trident insignia worn on a SEAL’s uniform.

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

Articles

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

Performance will be the primary factor in the future if the Defense Department has to resort to a civilian reduction in force, DoD officials said today.


The department revamped the rules for the reduction-in-force process as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016.

That law requires the department to establish procedures to provide that, in any reduction in force of civilian positions in the competitive or excepted service, the determination of which employees shall be separated from employment shall be made primarily on basis of performance.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl
(from left) Officers Jacob Hughett and Adam Cruea, both with the 88th Security Forces Squadron, stand ready to answer any emergency or call for help, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Sept. 12, 2016. Both officers work as GS level employees and are part of a civilian contingent within the 88th SFS. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Al Bright)

A reduction in force, or RIF, as it is known, is the term used when the government lays off employees. The RIF procedures determine whether an employee keeps his or her present position, whether the employee has a right to a different position or whether the employee must be let go.

In the past, tenure was the primary factor when making RIF calculations. Now, an employee’s performance rating of record will carry the greatest weight followed by tenure group, performance average score, veterans’ preference and DoD service computation date-RIF.

“The DoD civilian workforce is one of the department’s most important assets,” said Julie Blanks, acting assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy. “However, there are times when the department must make difficult decisions that impact our civilians, and in doing so, it is imperative these decisions result in our continued ability to seamlessly execute our national security mission. When circumstances necessitate a RIF, the department must ensure we are retaining our highest performing employees.”

The changes will apply to almost all of DoD’s 750,000 civilian employees. This change in the RIF process only applies to DoD. The government-wide provisions that rank four retention factors by tenure of employment; veterans’ preference; length of service; and performance remain in place for other federal agencies.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl
(U.S. Navy photo by Mark Burrell)

Under the new system, if an agency is forced to employ a RIF, employees will be placed on a retention register based on periods of assessed performance of 12 months or more or less than 12 months. The idea is to give an equitable comparison for employees whose performance has been assessed over a comparable period of time.

The first retention factor is rating of record. The rating of record is the average drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four-year period preceding the cutoff date for the RIF.

The second factor is tenure group. There are three tenure groups, with group III being temporary or term employees, these employees will be ranked at the bottom of the retention register below groups I and II.

Tenure group I and II employees are those serving on permanent appointments. Tenure group I includes employees who are not on probation and whose appointments are not career-conditional.

Tenure group II employees are those hired into permanent appointments in a career-conditional or probationary status. In general, tenure group II employees must have three years of creditable service and meet all other stated conditions of their probationary period in order to attain Tenure group I status. Tenure group I will be ranked above employees in tenure group II within each rating of record group.

The third factor is an employee’s average score. In general, an employee’s average score for one performance appraisal is derived by dividing the sum of the employee’s performance element ratings by the number of performance elements. For purposes of RIF, average score is the average of the average scores drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four year period preceding the “cutoff date” for the RIF.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl
Under new rules, the Pentagon will evaluate job performance first before letting civilian employees go as part of any downsizing. (DoD photo)

Veterans’ preference is the fourth factor. “Veterans are a key part of the civilian workforce, representing a highly skilled, extremely well-qualified cadre of employees,” Blanks said. “The department firmly believes that highly performing veterans in the civilian workforce will not be disadvantaged by the new RIF policy.”

The final factor is the DoD service computation date-RIF, with those serving the longest having the edge.

DoD officials stress that a RIF is always the last resort for the department. They will do everything they can to mitigate the size of reductions, including the use of voluntary early retirement authority or voluntary separation incentive payments. Agencies will also use hiring freezes, termination of temporary appointments, and any other pre-RIF placement options.

The new DoD RIF policy and procedures are consistent with the implementation of the DoD Performance Management and Appraisal Program. This program standardizes the civilian performance appraisal system throughout the department.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why CBD is a popular – and safe – choice for pain relief

As of August 2019, 25% of the 4.7 million veterans had a service-connected disability (and, given: how difficult it is to pursue a disability rating, how few veterans even know about it as an option and how many feel discouraged or guilty about even applying, we can assume that many more live with conditions that would qualify them for a rating). While the federal government often treats pain with prescription medications, many veterans are now turning to CBD for pain relief. 

Cannabis (most commonly known as marijuana or hemp) has three major components: cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids. The two major components of marijuana cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While THC has a psychoactive effect, doctors and scientists have been able to procure CBD by itself, which is non-psychoactive (in other words, it won’t get you “high”) and has many promising medicinal properties.

As federal and state restrictions on marijuana evolve, more and more people have access to cannabis products. Forbes predicted the CBD market alone to increase to $20 billion by 2024 as people turn to it for its medicinal properties. While there are a lack of human studies due to federal restrictions, animal studies and user testimonials suggest that CBD is a very promising pharmaceutical agent to treat pain, inflammation, seizures and anxiety with very few side effects and low potential for abuse.

How does it work?

According to Harvard Health, as CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid, inflammatory and nociceptive (pain sensing) systems, it exerts pain-relieving effects throughout the body. Users report improvement in physical function, sleep, well-being and improvement in pain or stiffness.

CBD oil

CBD is still an emerging medicine and there are potential side effects such as sleepiness, lightheadedness, and, rarely, liver problems. It’s also difficult to trust whether a product contains the amount of CBD advertised, so it’s always important to test out new products with caution and to speak with a physician before trying new medications.

“CBD should also be part of an overall pain management plan that includes non-medication options (such as exercise) and psychological support,” reminds the Senior Faculty Editor of Harvard Health Publishing, Robert H. Shmerling, MD.

What product is right for me?

CBD comes in many forms including liquid, capsule, edibles and topical. There are many different factors to consider when trying a new product, including flavor, absorption rate, quality and experience. It may also take some trial and error to determine how potent you want your product to be and how you want to imbibe. 

You will absorb CBD at a different rate if you ingest it than if you apply it topically to your body. One of the fastest absorption methods is placing a CBD tincture under your tongue but a more effective method to ease chronic pain might be daily use of a CBD massage oil.

The best thing to do is start small. A bath bomb might contain 200mg of CBD — but if you tried to drink that much you might regret the experience. A 5 – 25mg drink is probably a better starting range (and pay attention to serving sizes so you don’t accidentally overdo it). 

Finally, if you’re experiencing chronic pain, talk to your doctor about experimenting with CBD. They may not be able to actually advocate for its use, but they can talk to you about risks or conflicts with your current medications.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Special Forces accused of lowering standards to meet quotas

The Army’s Special Warfare Center and School has launched an investigation into an anonymous email that accused its leaders of “moral cowardice” for ditching training standards and allowing undeserving soldiers to become members of elite Green Beret teams.


The sharply critical message was sent earlier this week to a wide swath of the Army’s Special Forces community. The nearly 6,300-word message declared that the school’s senior officers and enlisted leaders are primarily interested in advancing their careers by meeting demands for greater numbers of Green Berets and enforcing “political agendas.”

Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, commanding general of the school located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Nov. 30 defended the process for selecting Green Berets and rejected a number of the claims in the email. He said he stands firmly behind the “quality of every soldier we are sending to the operational force,” in a statement delivered to “men and women” of the Special Warfare Center and School.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl
U.S. Army Special Forces prepare to load a MH-60 Black Hawk after fast roping onto a target, during the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 28, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Justin P. Morelli)

Sonntag also said comments in the email “warrant further evaluation” and that is being done through “formal inquiries and a number of existing institutional forums.” He wasn’t more specific, however.

The anonymous email said the push to hit unrealistic quotas has led to a “dangerously less capable” force as dozens of flawed Green Beret candidates are nonetheless graduated. The message said instructors who’ve sought to hold students accountable for their academic, physical, and character performance have been instead muzzled or punished.

Also read: This Green Beret lived in a cave before receiving the Medal of Honor

But Sonntag denied that instructors have been sidelined. He said the school is consistently told its graduates “are well-trained, physically fit, and ready to join their teams from day one.”

Each of the five active-duty Special Forces groups consists of roughly 1,400 troops. The groups’ primary fighting units are 12-man “A Teams” that are led by captains.

The email also asserts that the officers and enlisted leaders in charge of Green Beret training want to enhance their prospects for promotion by ensuring female candidates are capable of completing the punishing qualification course. Women, the author said, should be outraged by the implication they need preferential treatment.

“The cruelty of the situation is that any woman with the fortitude to attempt this training would most definitely have wanted the standards to remain the same,” according to the message. “It is a point of pride to know you are every bit as capable as the best of the best, if you can do it. But they have been robbed of the ability to earn that achievement.”

Read Also: This classified American special ops unit has been recruiting females for decades

The author of the email is identified only as “A concerned Green Beret.” But the amount of detail in the message — the names of some Green Beret candidates are listed — suggested the author is a current or very recent instructor in the Special Forces qualification course.

The person who wrote the message aimed to be unknown. A copy of the message obtained by The Associated Press shows it was sent through ProtonMail, a secure service based in Switzerland that assures users their data is protected by strict Swiss privacy laws.

Green Beret units have been at the forefront in the fight against terrorist groups since the Sept. 11 attacks and their success has led Republican and Democratic administrations to conclude more of them would be better. So they’ve grown in size, putting pressure on the Special Warfare Center and School to turn out enough graduates to keep the ranks full.

But that’s triggered concerns quality is being sacrificed for quantity. A retired Green Beret officer who still works for the U.S. government used a sports analogy to make the point. No matter how popular Division 1 college football becomes, he said, there’s a finite number of people capable of playing at that level. The same holds for Special Forces. The former officer wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl
Green Berets, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group-Airborne, exit the water during a beach infiltration training exercise, part of Combat Diver Requalification, in Key West, Fla., Jan. 20, 2016. (U.S. Army Photo)

The author of the message said the grueling Green Beret qualification course has been watered down so much that candidates are almost assured of graduation once they’re selected to go through the yearlong program.

“After passing a 19-ish day selection process, there are no physical barriers to earning the coveted Green Beret,” according to the message. “These all were standards for EVERY Green Beret in modern history prior to this month. To say that standards have not been eliminated would be laughable, were it not so tragic.”

But Sonntag said no fundamental standard for assessing future Green Berets has been removed or adjusted even as the qualification course has modified multiple times since the Sept. 11 attacks. And he said the training remains among the most difficult in the U.S. military. So far in 2017, 541 soldiers have completed the Green Beret qualification course out of more than 2,000 who sought to be selected for the program.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

As the Pentagon reorients toward great-power competition with adversaries like Russia and China, its preparations go beyond learning to ski and practicing to drive across Europe.

US military units rely on wireless networks and radio-frequency communications to talk on the battlefield, sharing intelligence, targeting data, and orders.


But concern is growing that rivals like China and Russia could pick up those transmissions and jam them, change them to confuse or deceive, or track them to target the people sending and receiving them — tactics Russia and Russian-backed forces are believed to have used before.

The Pentagon has started exploring the use of laser communications systems that are harder to detect and disrupt.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

Marine Corps field radio operators remove the free space optic system from a tactical elevated antenna mass at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Aug. 17, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Timothy Valero)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been working on sensors and hardware to send and receive signals from free-space optical technology — which sends light beams through the air rather than a cable — for some time.

in early 2017, the Defense Department awarded million for a three-year project involving three of the service branches, focused on developing a laser communications system — “basically fiber optic communications without the fiber,” Linda Thomas, whose team at the Naval Research Laboratory got about one-third of the grant money, told Breaking Defense at the time.

Thomas’ team’s Tactical Line-of-sight Optical communications Network, or TALON, was able to send messages through laser beams over distances similar to those of Marine Corps tactical radios, which typically can range to about 45 miles.

Free-space-optical communications systems are available commercially, but their range is limited. The Naval Research Lab team was able to exceed the range of those systems, a problem that involved sending the low-power beam through the atmosphere without it being made unintelligible, though Thomas didn’t say how they did it.

Marines have already gone into the field to test a free-space optics system developed by the Naval Research Lab.

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Marines lift a tactical elevated antenna mass mounted with the free space optic system at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, August 17, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kindo Go)

Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force tested a free-space optics system that “transfers data on a highly secured and nearly undetectable infrared laser, separate from the radio frequency spectrum” in Okinawa this month, according to a Marine Corps release.

The mobile system allows more data — larger files and imagery — to be transmitted without using more of the radio-frequency spectrum, “an already constrained resource,” one of the Marines involved said.

“When it first came up, we thought it would be a lot more difficult to set up and understand,” said Marine Sgt. William Holt, a cyber-systems administrator. “When the Marines heard ‘free space optics’ and ‘lasers,’ they got nervous about that. Then when they actually got behind the gear and were able to operate it, it was easier than expected.”

Thomas and other engineers from the Naval Research Laboratory were also on hand.

“We came out to Okinawa because it was one of the harshest humid environments with highly variable weather on very short time scales,” she said. “We are looking at how the system operates and handles these conditions and how we can better fulfill the needs of the future Marine Corps.”

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Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

‘The threat is out there’

US Marines are not the only ones gearing up to communicate in a contested environment.

China’s People’s Liberation Army considers electronic warfare a central component of its operations, and its EW doctrine “emphasizes using electromagnetic spectrum weapons to suppress or to deceive enemy electronic equipment,” the Defense Department said in a report about Chinese military capabilities released in August 2018.

Chinese units “routinely conduct jamming and antijamming operations against multiple communication and radar systems and GPS satellite systems in force-on-force exercises,” the report said. In addition to testing Chinese troops’ ability to use these systems, such tests “help improve confidence in their ability to operate effectively in a complex electromagnetic environment.”

Russian forces carried out similar tests during the massive Zapad 2017 exercise conducted late 2017.

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

A training specialist from the Army Space and Missile Defense Agency shows Army National Guard soldiers on how to detect electromagnetic interference on a GPS receiver, June 23, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)

According to Estonia’s military intelligence chief, Col. Kaupo Rosin, the amount of jamming Russia deployed against its own forces during that exercise “was at a level we haven’t seen.”

“The threat of the Russians is that if they are jammed, they can fall back into a civilian infrastructure on their own land, which gives them an advantage in operating in the vicinity of Russia,” Rosin told Defense News in 2017. “So they have that advantage.”

US troops have also tested their capacity to thwart electronic interference.

Ohio National Guard troops trained with a team from the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command in summer 2018 in order to be to detect and mitigate cyberattacks on GPS systems.

“There are adversaries out there with the capability to deny, degrade and disrupt our capabilities,” said Capt. Kyle Terza from US Army Space and Missile Defense Command. “The threat is out there and … we have to be trained and ready to operate without it.”

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

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The US foiled an alleged plot to illegally send missile technology to Russia

Three men — a US citizen and two Russian nationals — were arrested on Thursday and charged with attempting to send sensitive technology used for military devices to Russia, according to a released from the Department of Justice.


On Thursday, Alexey Barysheff of Brooklyn, New York, a naturalized US citizen, was arrested on federal charges of illegally exporting controlled technology from the US to end-users in Russia.

Dmitrii Aleksandrovich Karpenko and Alexey Krutilin, both Russian citizens, were arrested in Denver, Colorado, on charges of conspiring with Barysheff and others in the plot, the DOJ said.

Authorities said Barysheff, Krutilin, and Karpenko, among others, used two Brooklyn-based front companies, BKLN Spectra, Inc. and UIP Techno Corp., to buy and unlawfully export sensitive electronics without a mandatory federal license. US officials also said the three men falsified records to conceal where they were shipping the electronics, routing them through Finland, according to the Associated Press.

The electronics in question were restricted for “anti-terrorism and national security reasons,” the DOJ said.

According to complaints unsealed in Brooklyn federal court on Thursday, Krutilin and Karpenko arrived in Colorado from Russia on October 1 and tried to access Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs but were prevented from doing so.

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Wikimedia

“The microelectronics shipped to Russia included, among other products, digital-to-analog converters and integrated circuits, which are frequently used in a wide range of military systems, including radar and surveillance systems, missile guidance systems and satellites,” the DOJ said in a release.

Exporting such technology requires a license from the Department of Commerce, which places restrictions on items it believes “could make a significant contribution to the military potential and weapons proliferation of other nations and that could be detrimental to the foreign policy and national security of the United States.”

The three men were held without bail, according to the New York Daily News. If convicted, they face up to 25 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US troops found rockets and bombs on island ISIS was using ‘like a hotel’

On Sept. 10, 2019, US Air Force F-15 Strike Eagles and F-35 Lightning II aircraft dropped 80,000 pounds of ordnance on 37 targets on Qanus Island in Iraq’s Tigris River. Approximately 25 Islamic State (ISIS) fighters were killed in the operation, according to Sabah Al-Numaan, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS).

Al-Numaan told Insider that US aircraft hit 37 targets, “trenches and caves,” on the island ISIS fighters were using as a stopoff on the way into Iraq from Syria. The island, which has thick vegetation, was “like a hotel for Daesh,” Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab Al-Saadi, commander of the Iraqi CTS told Insider, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.


Lt. Gen. Al-Saadi’s team made a sweep of the island after it was partially destroyed by US strikes. He told Insider that his team found rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPGs), several rockets, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve confirmed on Sept. 10, 2019, that a weapons cache was found on the island after the air strike.

Lt. Gen. Al-Saadi said that US drones had provided surveillance data for the secret operation, and that there were no civilians on the island.

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(OIR Spokesman Myles B. Caggins / US Air Force / Twitter)

One of the reasons the island was an ideal hideout for ISIS militants on the move was the absence of Iraqi troops nearby, Lt. Gen. Al-Saadi said. According to a Pentagon Inspector General report on Operation Inherent Resolve, the US operation in Iraq, Iraqi security forces on the whole don’t have the infrastructure to consistently counter ISIS.

Part of Qanus Island was destroyed in the airstrike, Al-Numaan, the CTS spokesperson told Insider. “The important [thing is] that Daesh lose this area and they cannot use [it].”

ISIS has ramped up its presence in Iraq and Syria since the US drew down troop presence in Syria and decreased its diplomatic presence in Iraq. Although President Donald Trump proclaimed that ISIS’s caliphate was completely defeated at a July cabinet meeting, there are still an estimated 14,000 to 18,000 ISIS fighters. Combatants in Iraq and Syria continue to carry out suicide bombings, crop burnings, and assassinations.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Um, Russian ministry report claims soldiers have dolphin-derived telepathy?

Elite Russian soldiers can crash computers, treat wounded troops, and read foreign-language documents locked inside a safe using the power of their minds, a report in the Defense Ministry’s official magazine claims.

Using “parapsychology,” a catch-all term for any psychic ability, soldiers can detect ambushes, burn crystals, eavesdrop, and disrupt radio waves, according to a report by reserve colonel Nikolai Poroskov.

The techniques were developed over a long period starting in the 1980s Soviet Union, by studying telepathy in dolphins, the report said. It also claimed soldiers can now communicate with the dolphins.


The article, entitled “Super Soldier for the Wars of the Future,” was swiftly scorned by experts. But its appearance in the February 2019 edition of the Russian defense ministry’s Armeisky Sbornik (Army Collection) magazine is nonetheless remarkable.

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The front cover of February’s “Armeisky Sbornik.”

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The report says: “With an effort of thought, you can, for example, shoot down computer programs, burn crystals in generators, eavesdrop on a conversation, or break television and radio programs and communications.”

“Those capable of metacontact can, for example, conduct nonverbal interrogations. They can see through the captured soldier: who this person is, their strong and weak sides, and whether they’re open to recruitment.”

Soldiers could even “read a document in a safe even if it was in a foreign language we don’t know,” the report said.

Soldiers have also been trained in “psychic countermeasures,” the report said — techniques which help soldiers stay strong during interrogations from telepaths in rival armies.

The report also says Russian special forces used these “combat parapsychology techniques” during the conflict in Chechnya, which ran from the mid-1990s until the late 2000s.

The chairman of the commission to combat pseudoscience at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yevgeny Alexandrov, told news outlet RBK that “combat parapsychology” is a fabrication and is recognized as a pseudo-science.

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(Photo by michelle galloway)

He said: “Such works really existed and were developed, but were classified. Now they come out into the light. But, as in many countries of the world, such studies are recognized as pseudo-scientific, all this is complete nonsense.”

“All the talk about the transfer of thought at a distance does not have a scientific basis, there is not a single such recorded case, it is simply impossible.”

However, Anatoly Matviychuk from Russian military magazine “Soldiers of Russia” told RBK that parapsychology is the real deal.

“The technique was developed by the Soviet Academy of Sciences in an attempt to discover the phenomenal characteristics of a person.”

“A group of specialists worked under the leadership of the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces. The achievements of that time still exist, and there are attempts to activate them.”

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

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This blind WWII Marine veteran protected his US flag from vandals

Howard Banks is a WWII veteran who was injured while protecting Old Glory. Not in Europe or the Pacific, but in front of his Texas home.


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Onetime Cpl. Howard Banks at home in Texas. (Credit: Yona Gavino/CBS 11)

The 92-year-old Banks is legally blind, but could spot someone trying to tear down the American flag posted in front of his house in Kaufman, Texas. When he went out to see what was happening, he was pushed to the ground.

“They could see me. I couldn’t see them,” Banks told the Dallas-Fort Worth CBS affiliate. “I turned and looked in the other direction, and about then – ‘wham!’ They knocked me down.”

Banks didn’t stay down for long. Just the previous year, vandals took down his U.S. flag, shredded it and then tore up his Marine Corps. Still holding on to the railing, Banks stood back up, ready to meet his attackers.

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Howard Banks’ American Flag, still up on its pole. (Credit: Yona Gavino/CBS 11)

But they ran off. Banks was left with a twisted knee and some other bruises, but his flags were intact. Neighbors moved to help the 92-year-old, whose flags were still there. Banks attributed his dedication to the flag as more than just defending his property and his Marine Corps heritage.

“We’ve honored our flag all that time and doggone it, with our political climate the way that it is, we need something to rally around and that’s our flag,” Banks told the local Fox affiliate. “Once a Marine, always a Marine. I try to live that way.”

In the days since, Banks was surprised with a gift from Honor Flight, whose mission is to help older veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., free of charge so they can visit their war’s memorial.

Banks’ neighbors moved in quickly to assist him. He now has security cameras in place to monitor his flags.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban

The Breadwinner, a new, critically acclaimed animation film that depicts the heroic struggles of a young Afghan girl under hard-line Taliban rule, is a testament to the desire for storytelling “when our world tips upside-down,” says its award-winning Irish filmmaker.


Adapted from Canadian author Deborah Ellis’s bestselling children’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of 11-year-old Parvana, who disguises herself as a boy to support her family after her father is wrongfully imprisoned.

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The Breadwinner (Image from Cartoon Saloon YouTube)

Undaunted by oppression and the horrors of war around her, the heroine embarks on a quest to free her father. To console her younger siblings and find refuge from her struggles, Parvana invents a fable about a courageous boy who stands up to the so-called Elephant King.

“As the film is set around 2001, all of the characters in this film are a product of decades of war, each character deals with their challenges in different ways,” director Nora Twomey, whose other credits include the Academy Award-nominated The Secret Of Kells and Song Of The Sea, tells RFE/RL. “The film explores the idea of transformation, how small actions, or words, have the potential to become a catalyst for change.”

During its brutal rule of Afghanistan from 1996-2001, the fundamentalist Taliban banned women and girls from attending school, working outside the home, or even venturing outdoors unless accompanied by a male relative.

The Breadwinner has earned plaudits and been well received by audiences around the world since its November release, and has been nominated for the Best Motion Picture, Animated, at the Golden Globes.

Oscar-winning actor-director Angelina Jolie is an executive producer.

 

(Cartoon Saloon | YouTube) 

Historical Affinity

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland when Northern Ireland was engulfed in war and sectarianism, Twomey says she feels an affinity for Afghans who have endured nearly four decades of almost uninterrupted bloodshed.

“As an Irish woman, having grown up as Northern Ireland experienced conflict and reconciliation, I have some small understanding of a few of the issues facing Afghan people,” she says.

“Afghans, much like the Irish, are a nation of storytellers,” she adds. “I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The Irish experienced occupation, famine, and war yet the storyteller was a welcome visitor to any house they came to. When our world tips upside-down, we all look to stories to try to make sense of what is going on inside of us.”

Twomey says her film is not just an appeal for women’s rights or a critique of misogyny in Afghanistan.

“By telling a story like this through animation, there is the potential to create empathy,” says Twomey, “whether that be empathy between the genders or between different parts of the world.”

Also Read: Watch This Iraq War Veteran’s Tragic Story Told Through The Lens Of A Cartoon

Twomey has said she hopes the film will prompt discussions about the West’s involvement in wars in the Muslim world and evoke compassion for immigrants and refugees amid growing anti-Islam and anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe and the United States.

Twomey and her Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon studios gained international fame with The Secret Of Kells, which she co-directed.

The Breadwinner marks her solo directing debut with a feature-length film.

“I believe animation can allow an audience to identify more closely with a character,” she says. “If you express a character with a few drawn lines, that character could be you or me. The more detail you add, the more ‘other’ it becomes. There is a language created between the characters, their environment, reality, and the animator which says something new.”

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The Breadwinner (Image from Cartoon Saloon YouTube)

Red Flags

The Breadwinner might have raised some red flags for international audiences increasingly aware of cultural appropriation. It is set in Afghanistan but made mostly by Westerners and based largely on the accounts of Ellis, the book’s activist author, who interviewed Afghan refugees in Pakistan in the 1990s.

But Twomey, who has not visited Afghanistan, says that at every stage Afghans were involved in crafting the sensibility of the film. She says it is based on the interviews conducted by Ellis for her novel and the testimonies of Afghan members of her cast.

“We found moments that ring true, like the dread of a knock at the door, the smell of fresh bread, [or] the VHS tapes strung up on electricity poles as a warning against media of any kind,” Twomey says. “These moments in the film come from Afghan memory, and it seems fitting that these moments are translated through the hands of artists and animators to reflect back these words in an empathetic way.”

The Breadwinner is not the first film to delve into the issue of bacha posh — literally “dressed like a boy” in Dari, the form of Persian spoken in Afghanistan. The device of a girl dressing as a boy was central to the award-winning film Osama (2003), directed by Siddiq Barmak; the Disney animated film Mulan (1998); and even Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

“Parvana and Osama are very different characters, who undergo different journeys, with different relationships,” says Twomey.” With The Breadwinner, I wanted to make a film that was accessible to young adults and also one that leaves our audience with hope. Hope in the form of Parvana herself.”

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