Fort Bragg-based paratroopers recently concluded an intensive training exercise requiring them to test what may be the U.S. Army’s next step in Mission-Command technology.
Paratroopers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in cooperation with the Joint Modernization Command, recently executed Network Integration Exercise 18.2 from late October to early November 2018.
“The best way to test a paratrooper and his or her equipment is to replicate the demanding crucible of ground combat,” said Col. Arthur Sellers, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. “NIE provided the brigade an excellent environment to evaluate the Army’s future Mission Command Systems and associated technologies, with the purpose of creating shared understanding and enabling the BCT to be more lethal”.
A paratrooper assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division launches a PUMA Unmanned Aerial Surveillance Vehicle during the recently concluded Network Integration Exercise at El Paso, Texas.
(Photo by Sgt. Cody Parsons)
Network Integration Exercise, spearheaded by JMC, examines concepts and capabilities addressing three of the six Army modernization priorities — soldier lethality, long-range precision fires, and the future network.
Paratroopers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division operate a tethered drone during the Network Integration Exercise 18.2 in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 30, 2018.
(Photo by Pfc. Andrew Garcia)
“Our main objectives are to facilitate the execution of operationally realistic warfighting assessments for over two weeks and assess multi-domain operations while obtaining feedback from paratroopers on the ground,” said Rodger Lemons, Chief of Strategic Plans at the JMC.
Paratroopers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct a security check, Nov. 2, 2018, during Network Integration Exercise 18.2 at El Paso, Texas.
(Photo by Cpl. Deven Waller)
The exercise’s keystone concept focused on equipping 3rd Brigade paratroopers and units with emerging technology and equipment while setting them through a series of combat scenarios. Those using the equipment were then encouraged to provide candid criticism of the shortfalls and benefits of the technology.
“Paratroopers on the ground are able to give developers immediate feedback,” said Lieutenant General Bruce T. Crawford, the Army’s chief information officer. “This allows the Army to move away from the monolithic programs of record and move into a more iterative approach that allows us to keep up with technological advancements.”
We are pushing towards a culture of innovation and the role these Paratroopers are playing is a game changer, continued Crawford.
The Navy’s tradition of honoring past American Presidents by naming aircraft carrier after them is alive and well. The USS Ronald Reagan, the Abraham Lincoln, and the Gerald Ford are all symbols of the projection of American naval power all over the world. There’s just one exception, one that goes unnoticed by many, mainly because it’s supposed to.
The USS Jimmy Carter is named after the 39th President of the United States, but it’s a nuclear submarine. And there’s a great reason for it.
Carter dreamed of attending the U.S. Naval Academy even as a three-year-old.
Like many 20th Century Presidents before him, Carter was a Navy veteran. Unlike Nixon, Bush 41, or President Ford, Carter’s contributions to the Navy didn’t happen primarily in wartime, however, it happened after the Second World War. Carter, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was immediately appointed as an officer aboard a Navy submarine, the USS Pomfret. He served aboard a number of submarines, mostly electric-diesel submarines, until it was time to upgrade them. All of them.
While the United States was embroiled in the Korean War, Carter the engineering officer, was sent to work with the Atomic Energy Commission and later Union College in Upstate New York, where he became well-versed in the physics of nuclear energy and nuclear power plants. He would use that knowledge to serve under Admiral Hyman Rickover, helping develop the nuclear Navy. Carter would have to leave the active Navy in 1953 when his father died and left the family peanut farm without an owner. In less than a year after Carter’s departure, Rickover’s team would launch the USS Nautilus, the world’s first-ever nuclear-powered submarine and the first ship in a long line of nuclear ships.
The USS Nautilus
According to President Carter, Rickover was of the biggest influences on the young peanut farmer’s life. Carter’s 1976 campaign biography was even called Why Not The Best? – after a question Rickover asked the young naval officer while interviewing to join the nuclear submarine program.
Rickover asked Carter what his standing was in his graduating class at Annapolis and when Carter replied, Rickover asked him if he did his best.
“I started to say, ‘Yes sir,’ but I remembered who this was and recalled several times I could have learned more about our allies, our enemies, weapons, strategy and so forth. I was just human. I finally gulped and said, ‘No sir, I didn’t always do my best.”
“Why not?” asked Rickover. It was the last thing the Admiral said during the interview.
Rickover (far right) with then-President Carter and his wife Rosalyn, touring a U.S. nuclear submarine.
Later, of course, Carter would become Hyman Rickover’s Commander-in-Chief, having taken in everything he learned from Rickover about nuclear energy and the U.S. Navy. The nuclear sub would become one of the pillars of American national security.
As President, Carter would restrict the building of supercarriers due to their massive costs, instead favoring medium-sized aircraft carriers, much to the consternation of the Navy and defense contractors. It would make little sense to have Carter’s name on a weapons program he discouraged as President – kind of like having Andrew Jackson’s face on American currency even though the 12th President was opposed to central banking.
But the Navy had to do something for the only Annapolis graduate to ascend to the nation’s highest office and serve as the Leader of the Free World. So naming the third Seawolf-class submarine after the former submarine officer and onetime nuclear engineer made perfect sense. The USS Jimmy Carter is the most secret nuclear submarine on the planet, moving alone and silently on missions that are never disclosed to the greater American public.
If a pilot gets shot down behind enemy lines, their ultimate goal is to survive and make it back to friendly lines. Downed pilots are still considered combatants and allowed to carry weapons under the Geneva Conventions. However, due to the limitations of carrying gear in an aircraft, pilots were generally only equipped with a pistol and a survival knife. In 1952, the Air Force introduced the M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon. The folding weapon had a .22 Hornet barrel and a .410 bore. However, it was really only suitable for hunting animals for food. Pilots needed something with more punch to defend themselves. That’s where the GAU-5A comes in.
In the 1960s, the Air Force introduced the Model 608 CAR-15 Survival Rifle. Modified from the existing CAR-15, a compact version of the M16 similar to a modern M4, the Model 608 had a 10-inch 5.56x45mm barrel. It had a minimalist stock, a very thin handguard, a chopped pistol grip, and a conical flash hider. The rifle was broken down between its upper and lower receiver for easier storage and was stowed in the pilot’s seat pack with four 20-round magazines. With modern firearm technological evolutions, the Model 608 was improved upon for today’s pilots.
In June 2018, the Air Force announced the new Aircrew Self Defense Weapon. Different from the previous survival weapons, the ASDW is designed to give pilots as much firepower as possible if they have to defend themselves behind enemy lines. Designated the GAU-5A, it is based on the standard-issue M4 carbine. However, the rifle weighs less than 7 pounds and can be stowed in the seat kit of the modern ACES 2 ejection seat.
The GAU-5A utilizes a 12.5-inch barrel instead of the M4’s 14.5-inch barrel. It also uses flip-up front and rear sights to do away with the M4’s bulky triangular front sight and gas assembly. The GAU-5A’s pistol grip also folds back and locks against the collapsible buttstock which is unmodified from the M4. Unlike the Model 608, the GAU-5A features a quick-detach barrel to reduce its footprint in storage. The Cry Havoc Tactical Quick Release Barrel allows the barrel and handguard to attach and detach from the receiver in a matter of seconds. In total, the deployment of the GAU-5A from storage takes just 30 seconds.
With a complement of four 3-round magazines, the GAU-5A puts more firepower in the hands of a downed pilot than ever before. “We were asked to design a stand-off weapon that was capable of hitting a man-size target at 200 meters,” said Air Force Gunsmith Shop chief Richard Shelton. While the GAU-5A itself is only available to the military, there is a civilian version of the rifle.
The Midwest Industries MI-GAU5A-P is a pistol clone of the Air Force’s GAU-5A. It uses the same QRB system from Cry Havoc, a set of flip-up Magpul MBUS Pro iron sights, a FAB Defense folding pistol grip, and an SBA3 pistol brace. Due to the 12.5-inch barrel, the MI-GAU5A-P is built and sold as a braced pistol rather than a rifle with a stock. It is possible to file it as an SBR in order to use the proper Mil-Spec stock. Of course, the biggest difference is that the pistol clone is restricted to semi-auto fire. “THIS IS NOT FULL AUTO, STOP CALLING AND ASKING IF THIS IS FULL AUTO,” Midwest Industries notes on its product page. Whether you’re looking for an easy-to-pack 5.56mm truck or bugout bag gun, or want to get as close as you can to what Air Force pilots carry in their ejection seat, the MI-GAU5A-P comes with a lifetime warranty and is proudly 100% made in the U.S.A.
Today’s U.S. Navy can trace its origins to the Continental Navy of the Revolutionary War. It boasts the largest, most capable fleet in history, proudly serving its mission of “…winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas.” America’s sailors are the finest in the world, and their rousing song — born in victory — suits them well.
Bandmaster Lt. Charles A. Zimmerman served as director of the U.S. Naval Academy Band from 1887 until his death in 1916, and he wrote a march for each graduating class. But it was “Anchors Aweigh” would be the one ultimately adopted by the U.S. Navy as its official song.
The Navy Midshipmen take the field in the 2012 Army-Navy game.
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge)
2. It helped shut out the Army
By 1906, Navy had not beaten Army on the football field since 1900. Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles approached Zimmerman with a request for a new march — one that would lift spirits and “live forever.” According to legend, Miles and Zimmerman got to work at the Academy’s chapel organ. Later that month, the band and brigade performed the song and the Navy swept the Army in a 10-0 victory.
Sailors secure a line to the capstan while hoisting the anchor chain.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Finley)
3. It’s chock full of naval jargon, starting with the title
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael D. Cole)
4. It evolved over time
It wasn’t until 1997 that the lyrics were finally revised (by the 8th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, John Hagan) to be a little less college football and a little more domination of the high seas.
The revised lyrics include some naval lore, such as a reference to Davy Jones, whose locker on the ocean floor is home to drowned sailors and shipwrecks, and the “seven seas,” an ancient phrase for all the world’s oceans.
Russia has recently been in the news for its aggressive bomber patrols. Well, the United States has apparently flipped the script with the Russians and done a little bomber patrolling of its own.
According to a report by Reuters, at least one Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker was scrambled to intercept a Air Force B-52H Stratofortress that was flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea along Russia’s border.
Russia Today reported that the B-52 intercept was followed by Moscow scrambling a MiG-31 Foxhound to intercept a Norwegian P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The Norwegian plane was operating in international airspace over the Barents Sea, a location where Russia deploys its force of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The Russian media outlet also noted that NATO is conducting exercises in Romania.
Russia has carried out a number of similar operations against the United States, Japan, and Europe, prompting their own fighter alerts and intercepts. Russia has usually used the Tu-95 “Bear” bomber capable of firing cruise missiles, like the AS-15, in these missions.
The B-52H has been part of America’s arsenal since 1961. According to an Air Force fact sheet, 58 B-52s are in the active inventory, with another 18 in reserve. The B-52 has a top speed of 650 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 8,800 miles, and can carry up to 70,000 pounds of nuclear or conventional ordnance, including long-range cruise missiles like the AGM-86. It is expected to remain in service until 2040.
On June 20th, Australia announced it was temporarily suspending air force operations in Syria after a Syrian government fighter jet was struck down by the United States over the weekend.
Following the incident, Russia said any US-led international coalition plane detected in Syrian airspace west of the Euphrates would be considered a military target.
An Australian Defense Force spokesperson said force protection was regularly reviewed and that the ADF are closely monitoring the air situation in Syria.
“A decision on the resumption of ADF air operations in Syria will be made in due course,” the spokesperson told broadcaster ABC News.
An American F-18 downed a Syrian Su-22 fighter jet after it allegedly bombed positions close to Syrian Democratic Forces fighters, who are US allies participating in the offensive to retake the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State terror organization.
The spokesperson added the suspension will not affect Australian armed operations in Iraq.
Around 780 Australian armed forces personnel are deployed in Iraq, where they are involved in assistance and training tasks, and Syria, where they carry out airstrikes.
With less than 100 days until the 2020 election, Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has a core mission of serving America’s post 9/11 veterans. It is with this in mind that they launched The Vote Hub.
“We are absolutely bi-partisan, 100 percent. We got the idea for The Vote Hub from anecdotal things we were hearing from the community… The process is just so confusing,” Hannah Sinoway, Executive Vice President of Organization, Strategy and Engagement for IAVA explained. She shared experiences of moving and hitting roadblocks on even being able to register to vote as a veteran spouse herself. More challenges exist this year with COVID-19.
“This effort was really with one goal: to provide simple and easy access for veterans and civilians alike to be able to register to vote and/or to find polling information,” Sinoway said. “So, we built the tool on our website, which is completely free… we don’t even take anyone’s information.”
She explained that the new IAVA tool is for the people and not for any other reason. “We are excited to have people exercise their right to vote, use their voice and be heard,” Sinoway said.
Voting for military members and their families has long been a struggle, with certain studies finding that as much as 67 percent of their absentee votes haven’t been counted. One study in 2009 called it an obstacle course. “When we look at veterans, they fought for the rest of us along the way for pretty much all of our freedoms. To be able to have this tool available to them and their community, we felt was really important,” Sinoway said.
IAVA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established in 2004. Founded by Army Iraq War Veteran Paul Rieckhoff, it was created to make a space for resources and community for the veterans of the post-9/11 era. They are headquartered in New York City and have a policy office in Washington, D.C., as well. They’ve grown and evolved to continue supporting veterans and ensuring they are honored.
Membership to IAVA is completely free to veterans. Their website states, “Members all paid their dues while serving our country. Our members are true heroes.” Their 2018 impact report indicates that they are currently connecting, empowering and uniting over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide.
Sinoway herself is the longest tenured employee with IAVA and has been working for the company for almost seven years. “It’s honestly been the privilege of a lifetime,” she shared. She continued, “The social justice aspect of our work, I kind of have that in my blood. There are groups of people who don’t have a voice or a strong enough voice and we are that strength to bring them beside us — not to fight for them but fight with them. I think that’s been the best part for me.”
IAVA plans to continue the fight to ensure justice for America’s post 9/11 veterans as well as support all veterans with resources and initiatives. To learn more about IAVA and The Vote Hub click here.
There are many similarities between America’s Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown and the United Kingdom’s Queen’s Guard. Both are highly respected positions within their respective armed forces, both remain stoic in the face of terrible weather conditions, and both will readily put disrespectful tourists in their proper place.
The Queen’s Guard silently stands watch at the Royal Residences and, throughout the years, have become more ceremonial than practical, as the task of protecting the queen has been given to the Metropolitan Police. Still, they remain outside in case the worst happens.
Of course, this doesn’t stop tourists from trying to provoke the motionless sentries. Many tourists try to get a smile out of the guards with silly jokes and faces — there even reports of women flashing them just to get a reaction. The highly trained sentries will bite their tongue at mild distractions. Former sentries joke that this is just part of the position. They can’t ever show it, but they like it when tourists take photos and act politely.
It’s when the tourists really get in their face — poking them with pins, putting cigarette butts out on their rifles, anything like that — then they can act accordingly. In the case of tourists getting way too handsy in photographs, they’ll wait until the last moment to ruin the picture by marching away. If you block their movements, they’ll shout, “make way for the Queen’s Guard!” If you get in their face or if they have to shout too many times, they’ll knock you out then stoically resume their post.
If idiots act threateningly towards the Royal Family, the Queen’s Guard, or the general public around them, they will stop you.
If you touch their bear-skin hat, they’ll probably ignore you or shout at you. If you grab their rifle, the next thing you’ll see is the end of their barrel.
For more information on the Queen’s Guard and how they react to disrespectful tourists, watch the video below.
A highly-decorated Navy SEAL was killed in a skydiving accident on Sept. 30.
The SEAL, Cmdr. Seth Stone, died after jumping out of a hot air balloon in Perris in Riverside County. The Federal Aviation Administration said his parachute failed to open properly and the agency is investigating.
Stone, 41, of Texas, was most recently assigned to Special Operations Command Pacific in Hawaii, a unit that receives Navy personnel from the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego.
“The Naval Special Warfare community is deeply saddened and mourns the tragic loss of one of our best. Seth’s absence will be sorely felt across the staff, command, and the entire special operations community. NSW is a close-knit family and our primary focus is to provide care and support for Cmdr. Stone’s family,” said Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command.
Stone earned two silver Silver Stars, the military’s fifth-highest commendation, including one for a well-known firefight in Ramadi, Iraq. On Sept. 29, 2006, Stone and the group of SEALs under his charge were attacked with small arms fire and rockets while they were protecting another unit.
“The mortar fire, machine gun fire randomly sprayed the patrol, who were contacted by the enemy about 75 percent of the time,” Stone told National Public Radio in 2008.
According to the citation for the medal, Stone led them through the firefight to wounded SEALs, and helped evacuate the wounded.
One SEAL under Stone, Petty Officer Second-Class Michael Monsoor, was killed after he threw himself on top of an enemy grenade. He was credited with saving several lives and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
“He recognized immediately the threat, yelled grenade, and due to the fact that two other SEAL snipers, our brothers, could not possibly escape the blast, he chose to smother it with his body and absorb the impact and save the guys to his left,” Stone told NPR.
Stone, who died one day after the tenth anniversary of Monsoor’s death, was on an adjacent rooftop during that battle and later said the petty officer’s bravery inspired him to re-enlist after the end of that deployment.
Besides the two Silver Stars, Stone also received a Bronze Star with a “V” insignia for valor, and the Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Commissioned through the Naval Academy in 1999, he was a surface warfare officer and was assigned to a cruiser before he trained to become a SEAL.
The FAA said it typically looks into whether parachutes were properly packed when it investigates accidents that occur during skydiving. The accident is being investigated by civilian authorities since it occurred off-duty.
According to the Naval Safety Center, a command that tracks on- and off-duty accidents involving sailors and Marines, the last fatal skydiving accident involving a member of the Navy outside of training or a mission was in June 2010 when a petty officer first class died after he attempted to jump from a cell phone tower in southeast Virgina.
Regulations require that the main parachute must be packed within 180 days by a certified parachute rigger, a person under the supervision of a parachute rigger, or the person making the jump. The reserve parachute must have been packed by a certified rigger within 180 days if it’s made of synthetic materials.
The United States Parachute Association held the National Skydiving Championship in Perris over the last two weeks, but the accident was not related to that event, the organization said. The Army’s skydiving team, the Black Knights, participated in the competition.
The US Navy has reportedly been firing hypervelocity projectiles meant for electromagnetic railguns out of the 40-year-old deck guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers in hopes of taking out hostile drones and cruise missiles for a lot less money.
During 2018’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, 20 hypervelocity projectiles were fired from a standard Mk 45 5-inch deck gun aboard the USS Dewey, USNI News reported Jan. 8, 2019, citing officials familiar with the test.
USNI’s Sam LaGrone described the unusual test as “wildly successful.”
BAE Systems, a hypervelocity projectile manufacturer, describes the round as a “next-generation, common, low drag, guided projectile capable of executing multiple missions for a number of gun systems, such as the Navy 5-Inch; Navy, Marine Corps, and Army 155-mm systems; and future electromagnetic (EM) railguns.”
The MK-45 5-inch/62 caliber lightweight gun of the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) is fired at a shore-based target, Nov.4, 2012.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devon Dow)
The US Navy has invested hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a decade into the development of railgun technology. But while these efforts have stalled, largely because of problems and challenges fundamental to the technology, it seems the round might have real potential.
The hypervelocity projectiles can be fired from existing guns without barrel modification. The rounds fly faster and farther than traditional rounds, and they are relatively inexpensive.
While more expensive than initially promised, a hypervelocity projectile with an improved guidance system — a necessity in a GPS-contested or denied environment — costs only about 0,000 at the most, Bryan Clark, a naval-affairs expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told USNI News. The Navy reportedly estimated that the high-speed rounds ought to cost somewhere around ,000.
The cost of a single hypervelocity projectile is a fraction of the cost of air-defense missiles like the Evolved Seasparrow Missile, Standard Missile-2, and Rolling Airframe Missile, all of which cost more than id=”listicle-2625534158″ million each.
With the standard deck guns, which rely on proven powder propellants, rather than electromagnetic energy, the Navy achieves a high rate of fire for air defense. “You can get 15 rounds a minute for an air defense mission,” Clark told USNI News.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) fires a MK 45 5-inch, 62-caliber lightweight deck gun during a live-fire exercise, Jan. 12, 2013.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King)
“That adds significant missile defense capacity when you think that each of those might be replacing an ESSM or a RAM missile. They’re a lot less expensive,” he added. Furthermore, US warships can carry a lot more of the high-speed rounds than they can missile interceptors.
USNI News explained that the intercept of Houthi cruise missiles by the USS Mason in the Red Sea back in 2016 was a multimillion-dollar engagement. The hypervelocity rounds could cut costs drastically.
The hypervelocity projectile offers the Navy, as well as other service branches, a mobile, cost-effective air-defense capability.
“Any place that you can take a 155 (howitzer), any place that you can take your navy DDG (destroyer), you have got an inexpensive, flexible air and missile defense capability,” Vincent Sabio, the Hypervelocity Projectile program manager at the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, said in January 2018, according to a report by Breaking Defense.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In an October 2013, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, then the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative to the United Kingdom, outlined sectors of the economy then being developed in Iraqi Kurdistan.
She discussed relevant prospects in the autonomous region’s oil and gas sector, as well as its tourism industry.
One particular area she outlined was referred to as “sites of conscience,” or “dark tourism.”
“I’m sure you know people visit Auschwitz as a way of discovering the history of the Nazis and what happened the Jewish community,” Rahman said. “This is apparently a sector of tourism worldwide that does very well.
“We want the world to know our story and what happened in Kurdistan, both positive and negative,” she added. “We want the world to know about the genocide, the chemical weapon bombardments, the torture, the executions.”
Rahman was referring to the Anfal, the genocidal campaign waged by the Saddam Hussein regime against Kurdistan in the late 1980s which killed 182,000 Kurds. One notably infamous incident of that period was the gassing and killing of 5,000 Kurdish civilians in a single day in the town of Halabja on the Iranian border.
The sites of these atrocities still exist. Amna Suraka, for example, was a headquarters of Iraqi intelligence during Saddam’s rule, where his regime applied the most brutal forms of torture against his Kurdish victims and “disappeared” many. It is now a museum.
Rather than destroy the site, which was known as Saddam’s ” House of Horrors,” the Kurdish authorities decided that preserving it as museum would commemorate those who were killed there, and as a stark reminder of the regime’s brutality against the Kurds.
A hall of mirrors in the complex consists of a staggering 182,000 shards of glass, one for each victim of the Anfal. Also in Halabja there is a memorial and museum to the gas attack.
A relatively new weapon to combat the enemy is being used in Afghanistan and Southwest Asia. It’s been around a little more than a decade and fits into the counterinsurgency warfare necessity of being able to identify who the enemy is by person versus just identifying an enemy organization.
The Afghanistan Captured Material Exploitation Laboratory is aiding combat commanders in their need to know who is building and setting off the enemy’s choice weapon — Improvised Explosive Devices. With this positive identification of enemy personnel, coalition units working within NATO’s Resolute Support mission can then hunt down the enemy for detention or destroy if need be.
“The commanders are starting to understand it more and seeing the capability and asset it provides,” said Kim Perusse, incoming ACME lab manager at BAF.
Perusse said commanders are embracing it and wanting more forensics exploitation.
Personnel from ACME deploy from the Forensic Exploitation Directorate which is part of the Defense Forensics Science Center located at the Gillem Enclave, Forest Park, Ga. DFSC also contains the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, and the Office of Quality Initiatives and Training.
Shown is an RFT2 device which consists of a CWC-11 A/0 receiver module with a custom switching circuit. The RFT2 functions as a receiver and switch of IED’s initiators.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
The DFSC’s mission is to provide full-service forensic support — traditional, expeditionary, and reachback — to Army and Department of Defense entities worldwide; to provide specialized forensic training and research capabilities; serve as executive agent for DOD Convicted Offender DNA Databasing Program; and to provide forensic support to other federal departments and agencies when appropriate, its website stated.
ACME provides forensic/technical intelligence, analysis, and exploitation of captured enemy material. The findings are then provided to coalition forces and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to counter the IED threat, attack the counterinsurgent networks, advise the Afghanistan government’s exploitation labs, and provide prosecutorial support to the Afghan justice system, an ACME slide presentation stated.
ACME capabilities include latent print examination; explosive/drug chemistry; electronic engineering; explosive triage; DNA; firearm/toolmark analysis; weapons technical intelligence analysis; and, provide assistance to the Afghan Ministry of Interior, National Directorate of Security, and Afghan National Security Forces.
Triage, the first stop for all evidence, tests an unknown substance on the HazMatID for any hazards.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
As part of employment with DFSC, FXD, personnel must deploy every 18 months to a deployed lab for six months, as there are currently two, one here and one in Kuwait.
The Forensic Exploitation Laboratory — CENTCOM in Kuwait supports military operations in Iraq and Syria, and is located at Camp Arifjan.
ACME’s primary mission “is to allow the commanders on the ground to understand who’s within the battlespace,” said Lateisha Tiller, outgoing ACME lab manager.
Whether this is people coming onto the coalition locations as part of employment or those building the IEDS, forensics exploitation results in positive identification of such individuals.
“Our mission is to identify nefarious actors that are in the CJOA [Combined/Joint Operations Area] right now,” Tiller said.
“We don’t want them putting IEDs in the road, and blowing up the road, blowing up the bridge. We want that type of activity to stop,” Tiller said. ” ‘How do you stop it?’ You identify who’s doing it; identify the network of people who’s doing it. Eliminate them from the battlespace” as evidence collected is then shared with military intelligence, she said.
X-rays are taken of all evidence in Triage to ensure no hazards such as Trojan horses are observed. This x-ray shows a pressure plate containing a hazard.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
“It’s never just one person; identify the network,” she said. By taking people out, the network “eventually is going to dismantle itself.”
“The secondary mission is the Rule of Law,” Perusse said. “Helping get the information out to the Afghans to potentially prosecute those nefarious actors that we may identify” through biometrics, chemistry, firearms, and toolmarks.
The conclusive findings and evidence — criminal activity analysis reports — is then shared with the Afghan laboratories as they work to build a case against alleged personnel who could be tried in an Afghan court.
The reports are also shared with military intelligence — U.S. and NATO — and also sent to the Justice Center in Parwan to assist in the prosecution of the enemy. The JCIP is located in the Parwan Province where BAF is located too in east-central Afghanistan.
The justice center was a joint U.S.-Afghan project to establish Afghanistan’s first national security court. Established in June 2010, the JCIP exists to ensure fair and impartial justice for those defendants alleged of committing national security crimes in the Afghan criminal justice system. Coalition forces provide technical assistance and operate in an advisory capacity.
The reports are accepted in the Afghans courts because the Afghans understand and trust the findings of ACME. “Building that alliance is absolutely part of the mission,” Tiller said. “The lines of communication are definitely open.”
The evidence room is the hub of the lab that distributes and stores the evidence while located at ACME.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
Because of this fairly new application of forensics to counterinsurgency warfare, the Afghans initially didn’t understand it, the lab managers said.
“They didn’t understand forensics. They didn’t trust it,” Perusse said. “Especially DNA, it was like magic to them.”
But as she explained, the U.S. also took a long time to accept DNA as factual and evidential versus something like latent prints. Latent prints are impressions produced by the ridged skin, known as friction ridges, on human fingers, palms, and soles of the feet. Examiners analyze and compare latent prints to known prints of individuals in an effort to make identifications or exclusions, internet sources stated.
“Latent prints you can visualize, DNA you can’t,” she said.
The application of forensics exploitation as part of the battle plan started in the latter years Operation Iraqi Freedom, the lab managers said. OIF began in March 2003 and lasted until December 2011.
This type of warfare — counterinsurgency — required a determination of who — by person — was the enemy in an effort to combat their terrorist acts.
A latent print examiner develops a latent print on the neck of a plastic bottle with Superglue Fuming and Rhodamine 6G processing, then visualized with a forensic laser.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
“I think there was a point where the DOD realized that they weren’t utilizing forensics to help with the fight,” Tiller said.
The operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were not big units fighting other big units, with mass casualties, but much smaller units engaging each other with an enemy using more terrorist-like tactics of killing.
Forensics told you “who you were fighting. You kind of knew the person in a more intimate way,” Tiller said, adding, it put a face on the enemy.
Forensics exploitation goes hand-in-hand with counterinsurgency warfare, Perusse said. “They’re (Taliban/ISIS) not organized like a foreign military were in the past” but instead have individuals and groups fighting back in a shared ideology, she said.
Because of the eventual drawdown in NATO troop strength in Afghanistan, the ACME labs at Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar Province, and Camp Leatherneck, Helmand Province, were closed and some assets were relocated to BAF’s ACME in 2013.
A DNA analyst prepares DNA samples for analysis on the Lifetech 3500XL Genetic Analyzer.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
The evidence is collected at the sites of detonation by conventional forces — explosive ordnance personnel, route clearance personnel — through personnel working in the Ministry of Interior’s National Directorate of Security, and other Afghan partners, Perusse said.
From January 2018 to December 2018, the ACME lab was responsible for:
1,145 cases processed based on 36,667 individual exhibits
3,402 latent prints uploaded; 69 associations made from unknown to known
3,090 DNA profiles uploaded; 59 unique identifications made from unknown to known
Adding credibility to ACME was that it became accredited by the International Organization of Standard in 2015. Both lab managers said they believe that ACME is probably the only deployed Defense Department lab accredited — besides the FXL-C in Kuwait — in the forensics field.
Forensic chemist conducts a single-step extraction to prepare the samples for analysis by Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
The International Organization for Standardization is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations comprised of members from 168 countries. It is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards and facilitates world trade by providing common standards between nations. It was founded in 1947.
Tiller and Perusse said this accreditation is quite meaningful, personally and professionally.
Interestingly, both lab managers offer extensive deployment experience to the ACME lab.
Tiller has deployed four times for FXD — three times to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait — for a total of 26 months. Likewise, Perusse has 28 months of deployment experience too with FXD, with now four deployments in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait. And, because of mission requirements, no rest and relaxation periods — vacations — are allowed during their deployments. The reason is because most positions are one-person deep and the mission cannot continue without all sections working collectively, they said.
Currently, there are 17 people working at the BAF ACME lab.
FXD’s mandatory deployment policy can be viewed as positive and negative depending on a person’s particular situation.
An electronic exploitation examiner uses the Advanced Aggregate Data Extractor test equipment to perform testing on an RFT2 device. The AADE produces the following tests: Filter Analyzer, Emissions Analyzer, Peak Harmonic Distortion and Bit Error Rate.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
As Perusse points out, there are plenty of other places to work that do not require mandatory deployments which require forensic skills such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Homeland Security to name several.
So those who do work at ACME do so because they want to be.
“There is nowhere else in the world where you’re going to get a [final] forensic result of the quality that you’re going to get from the ACME as quickly as you do,” Tiller said, which often brings immediate gratification to one’s work.
Whether it’s producing a DNA profile or finding a latent print on some material, finding this evidence within two days is a big reason why people at ACME find their work rewarding.
“It happens nowhere else,” Tiller said, describing it as the “ultimate satisfaction,” knowing the evidence produced will ultimately save lives.
Shown are incoming ACME lab manager Kim Perusse (left) and outgoing ACME lab manager Lateisha Tiller. Tiller has deployed four times for FXD for a total of 26 months. Perusse has 28 months of deployment experience with FXD, with four deployments in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
As Perusse put it, there is no place like ACME’s lab in Afghanistan.
“We are in war zone. We are around everything, we get IDFed,” she said, referencing the periodic indirect fire of mortar attacks at BAF. She said it is much different type of deployment than at the Kuwait lab where examiners can “have more freedom to include going into the city and shop at the mall.”
“There’s a reason why we’re doing this,” Perusse said, of identifying the enemy, which leads to saving lives and helping the NATO coalition.
“It’s very powerful to be able to see that and be with the people who are going out the field and risking their lives,” she said of those who look for and submit items for evidence.
As Tiller redeploys back to her normal duty station in Georgia, she knows ACME will continue in experienced hands with Perusse who will now take over as lab manager for a third time.