Pentagon chief worries military doesn't say 'no' enough on risky training - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said September 18th that he’s going to look into the possibility that the military’s “can do” attitude may be responsible for the recent spate of deadly training accidents.


Almost 100 service members have been killed in training accidents since June, which reflects a definite spike in recent years, and Mattis said he’s examining whether military leaders have pushed troops beyond what they’re able because of a desire to always say “yes” to operational demands.

Also read: Mattis hints at secret ‘kinetic’ military options for North Korea

“I would say, having some association with the U.S. military, we’re almost hardwired to say “Can do.” That is the way we’re brought up,” Mattis said. “Routinely, in combat, that’s exactly what you do, even at the risk of your troops and equipment and all. But there comes a point in peacetime where you have to make certain you’re not always saying, ‘We’re going to do more with less, or you’re going to do the same with less.'”

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Mattis noted, however, that the military applauds people who decline to continue training precisely because they feel their troops aren’t prepared.

“But my point is that we always look for this and we reward people for raising their hand and saying, ‘No more. I’ve got to stop.’ We’ve had people actually stop training where they thought their troops needed to rehearse before they went forward,” Mattis said. “And that’s not that unusual, tell you the truth. So I am not concerned right now that we’re rewarding the wrong behavior.”

So far, in response to the collisions involving the destroyers USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald, the Navy has relieved six senior officers of duties, including the commander of the 7th Fleet, which is located in Japan. The Navy stated that the 7th Fleet commander was removed because of a loss of confidence in command ability.

Mattis was similarly noncommittal about whether there was a direct line from sequestration and budget cuts to training accidents, but pledged to look into that possibility.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Support for Veterans facing homelessness

Having to stay home for your health is challenging enough. Imagine being told to stay home when you had no home or were worried about losing it. What would you do? Where would you turn?

Tens of thousands of Veterans in the United States live that reality. In January 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) counted more than 37,000 Veterans living in emergency shelters, in transitional housing, or without any housing at all. Many more Veterans are at imminent risk for losing their housing in the coming months. Precise data is nearly impossible to collect because the population is transient by definition.

We do know that too many Veterans experience homelessness.


Any effort to help these Veterans must address not only their housing but also their mental health. The relationship between homelessness and mental health challenges is complicated, with each potentially impacting the other. For example, mental health issues might prevent a Veteran from holding a job that would allow them to afford stable housing. Similarly, homelessness is considered a traumatic event that can worsen mental health; it’s associated with issues such as increased alcohol use and lower recovery rates from mental illness.

As part of its commitments to improve Veterans’ mental health and relieve housing instability, VHA has developed a guidebook to provide Veterans facing homelessness with information about local resources and options.

“Connecting Veterans With VHA Homeless Programs: A Patient-Centered Booklet to Help Veterans Navigate VHA Resources” isn’t your typical informational resource. It’s a “graphic medicine” booklet, with information presented in graphic novel style, using stories and illustrations to convey important messages that makes the guidance easy to follow.

Because VA facilities vary in scope and size, the printable, 10-page booklet is designed to be customizable. Each facility can include local contact information for asking questions about program eligibility and how to access VHA and community-based services for Veterans who are homeless.

A VHA homelessness program manager said the booklet “gives providers another way to put a tangible reminder in a Veteran’s hand,” showing that VA has something for them.

One Veteran described the booklet as “in-depth and helpful” and noted that “everything is useful if you need the services.”

Why a graphic booklet?

The use of comics in graphic medicine guides has been around for decades. Today’s versions are in the graphic novel style, which gives room for the content writers to tackle more-serious-than-traditional comic books in both their topics and tone.

The combination of storytelling and expressive art can convey complex, layered ideas and information that neither writing nor pictures can achieve alone. With graphic medicine, the comic style can give even bland clinical data a familiar, approachable feel. Plus, its unique appearance stands out among VA waiting room pamphlets and may attract those who either need housing support or know a Veteran who does.

This patient-centered form of communication is gaining wider acceptance in the medical community, in part because it works. A study found that in one hospital’s emergency room, 98% of patients who received their discharge instructions in comic form read them, while only 79% read their traditional discharge instructions.

Experts also say graphic medicine books can have an emotional impact on readers because they often include authors’ personal experience with the issue at hand. In the case of “Connecting Veterans,” members of the book’s advisory committee at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System included Veterans — some with firsthand experience of housing challenges — and professionals from VA’s homelessness programs.

Ray Facundo, a social worker, researcher and Army Veteran, played an integral, hands-on role in developing the booklet. He explained that it was important to include input from other Veterans: “We should never do something for them without them.”

Integrating a range of resources

VHA took the lead in creating the guide because homelessness is associated with health concerns — some that one might expect, such as exposure, untreated injuries or being subjected to violence, as well as a suicide risk that’s 10 times that of the general population.

Even though “Connecting Veterans” is distributed by VHA providers, the booklet combines resources from VA offices that are often viewed as separate entities. The booklet takes a team approach in working toward improving stability and mental well-being through a range of programs and services, including:

Independently and in collaboration with federal and community partners, VA programs provide Veterans with housing solutions, employment opportunities, health care and justice- and reentry-related services.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

This charity helps troops beat Halo when they’re not beating the Taliban

Operation Supply Drop (OSD) is the kind of organization that sounds very simple at first. They collect donated video games, console systems, and cash to send gaming care packages to troops overseas and here in the United States. The nonprofit calls these care packages “supply drops.”


As anyone who’s been deployed can attest, the periods of excitement and fear are interspersed with long periods of monotony. OSD began in a garage with an Iraq War vet boxing up donations to help his peers enjoy the same hobby he loved: gaming.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ti1GrnFKwZ4
From those humble roots, OSD has now grown into a charity that does a lot more. While they still generate care packages for deployed service members, they’ve expanded into creating unique experiences for veterans, fighting veteran joblessness, and other causes which affect warriors.

The expansion had some growing pains. The founder publicly split and created his own new organization. But the CEO, Glen Banton, is excited for all the ways OSD’s expanded mission has let them serve veterans.

“We’re in the business of helping veterans,” he said in an interview with WATM. “Unfortunately, the video game thing sometimes overshadows the other things we do. But essentially, it needs to be about putting veterans first. How can we keep supporting as many vets as possible. That’s while you’re deployed and need something to spend your time with, or when you get home and have other needs.”

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Photo: Courtesy Army Maj. Erik Johnson

OSD began by enlarging the supply drop program, and then adding on new programs.

“The supply drops increased in size and scope. We started going to bases themselves, rec centers, mess halls, day rooms, hospitals, events, Halloween and Christmas parties… Anywhere we can impact a lot of troops per day and have fun.”

In a recent supply drop at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, OSD worked with Army occupational therapist Maj. Eric Johnson who has used video games to help wounded warriors progress in their therapy. But the center had just an old Nintendo Wii with which to work.

Johnson gave a wish list to OSD who was able to get the medical center six new video game consoles and almost 100 games plus peripherals like steering wheels. It was OSD’s largest supply drop yet.

“Glen and his team, they came with OSD last week and, blew me away,” Johnson said. “Way more than I had asked for, way more than I anticipated.”

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Wounded warriors play video games at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas after a the Operation Supply Drops largest drop. Photo: Courtesy Operation Supply Drop

Then there are “Thank You Deployments,” where a veteran or a small group of veterans get to participate in a special event or outing, usually by working with corporate or non-profit partners.

“There are VIP outings, genuinely relevant to the veteran,” Banton said. “So, we might take them to a gaming conference or on a trip to a studio. But there might be other stuff.

“We’ve had race car experiences. We met a driver who worked for Forza and is a vet. He helps get them full access, a ride in the pace car, access to the lounge. It’s really amazing.

“And as the community grows, it continues to get broader and broader. It doesn’t take us away from gaming. It takes us to people who are gamers and do other stuff.”

OSD also has a “Teams” program. The teams encourage people to get locally connected with active duty service members and veterans so everyone can engage at the local level on big issues like veteran suicide, depression, homelessness, and unemployment.

“The Teams Program is the action arm of OSD,” Banton said. “They’re local chapters with veteran and civilian members who address things like veteran suicide or homelessness. Really, what we look at with the teams is, how do we create within Seattle, L.A., Muncie, Indiana, how do we engage in a way that helps?”

While it may seem like this is OSD straying from their roots as a gamer-veteran focused charity, Banton and his team don’t see it that way.

Glenn explained, “If someone asks, ‘Hey, OSD, I need some help and don’t know where to go. I think I can get this job but I don’t have the clothes,’ or ‘I don’t have the home base to do the interview,’ we can help with that.

“So we can, for a thousand dollars, get them housed for six months and get them help through this community, then they become a big part of the community.

“That individual doesn’t have space to enjoy an XBox if he wanted to. to us, it’s very clear and it’s easy. We know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing: Inspiring veterans and other civilian supporters to give back to those around them.”

For those interested in getting involved helping veterans through OSD, head to “The Teams” page, make a donation, or learn about the 8-bit Salute where gamers can play to raise money for future supply drops and other events.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happens next in the North Korea missile situation

Experts may debate trajectories, payload weights, and re-entry shields, but North Korea’s claim that the entire United States is within range of its rapidly improving missiles just got a lot more credible.


The Nov. 29 launch of what the North called the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile demonstrated a greater range than other missiles it’s tested and showcased several capabilities the North must master if it were ever to actually try to unleash them at the United States.

Here is a quick look at the advancements made, the developments still to come, and the implications for the United States and its Asian allies:

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
The Hwasong-14 missile, the predecessor to the missile launched on Nov. 29, rockets into the sky. (Photo from KCNA)

The missile itself

According to North Korea’s announcements about the launch, the Hwasong-15 can be tipped with a “super-large heavy warhead” and is capable of striking anywhere in the U.S. mainland. The North claims it reached an altitude of 4,475 kilometers (2,780 miles) and flew 950 kilometers (600 miles) from its launch site just outside of Pyongyang. It was airborne for 53 minutes before splashing down in the Sea of Japan.

The launch data coincides with what foreign experts observed. U.S. scientist David Wright, a physicist who closely tracks North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, estimates the Hwasong-15 has an estimated range of more than 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles) if flown on a standard trajectory — putting it within reach of Washington, D.C.

Pyongyang claims the missile has significant tactical and technical improvements from the Hwasong-14 ICBM it tested in July and is the North’s “most powerful” to date. KCNA also said Kim Jong Un “declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
(Photo from KCNA)

The repeated claim in the announcement that North Korea has now completed its “rocket weaponry system development” is new and important. It could be bluster, but might also suggest a shift away from tests — at least of these kinds of missiles — toward production and deployment.

The North’s arsenal is still a far cry from the quality and quantity of what the United States can field. The Air Force’s development of the Minuteman ICBM goes back to the late 1950s. It now has about 400 of the latest version, the Minuteman III, which also has a maximum range of about 13,000 kilometers.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test Feb. 20, 2016, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford)

How it was launched

The timing and location are important. It was launched in the dead of night, most likely from a mobile launcher, near the capital. That indicates the North was trying to show it can launch whenever and wherever it pleases — a capability that makes it more difficult to take pre-emptive action. It’s impossible to blow up a North Korean missile on the launch pad if the missile can be moved and there isn’t any launch pad at all.

Interestingly, however, Japanese media reported on Nov. 28 their government had intercepted radio signals from the North suggesting a launch was imminent. It’s not clear if that was a first, since details on such intelligence are normally not made public. But it does suggest the North’s neighbors are having some success with surveillance efforts.

The trajectory of the launch is also significant. The missile was “lofted” at an extremely sharp angle and reached an altitude more than twice as high as satellites in low Earth orbit.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
The ballistic missile, launched from Sain Ni, near Pyongsong, North Korea, was launched at an angle so as to arch sharply and fall into the Sea of Japan, avoiding crossing over enemy countries. (Image Google Earth and We Are the Mighty)

North Korea needs to launch toward the Pacific because it would otherwise be shooting its missiles at Russia or China — a very unwise proposition. And lofting avoids flying over Japan, which could prompt Tokyo or Japan-based U.S. missile-defense facilities to attempt an intercept, and hits open seas instead of other nations.

But lofting doesn’t closely simulate conditions of a real launch. Experts can roughly gauge the range of the missile from its lofted performance, but a missile on an attack trajectory would fly a lower, flatter pattern that presents some different challenges, particularly in the crucial re-entry stage of the nuclear payload.

So what now?

North Korea claimed, as it always does, that the test is part of its overall strategy to defend itself against Washington’s “nuclear blackmail” and that its development of missiles and nuclear weapons does not pose a threat to any country “as long as the interests of the DPRK are not infringed upon.” DPRK is short for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Related: The US can survive a nuclear North Korea — but a first strike could start World War III

In an equally familiar manner, the move was immediately condemned in the strongest terms by Tokyo and Seoul. President Donald Trump said Washington “will handle it,” while giving no indication of how or what handling it actually would mean.

Clearly, however, the problem isn’t going away.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea participate in joint statements on Friday, June 30, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The launch broke a two-month lull in what has been a record pace of tests for the North. While some claimed that was the result of pressure from the United States and its allies, it’s common for the North to re-focus its energies to farming activities during the harvest season and for its military to shift into a lower-profile mode for its winter training cycle.

North Korea still needs to conduct further missile tests, particularly of its submarine-launched missile systems, to improve its overall arsenal. But having now demonstrated what it claims to be the primary missile it needs to deter attack from the United States, Pyongyang may turn to more testing of its nuclear weapons.

So far, five of its six nuclear tests have been conducted in a series of tunnels under Mount Mantap, a 2,205 meter (7,200 foot) tall granite peak in the northeast part of the country. But Pyongyang has hinted it might attempt an atmospheric test over the Pacific Ocean.

That would be a far more provocative move than the Nov. 29 missile test and might prompt a military response.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s high time veterans have access to weed

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been credited with major medical advancements since its research office was created in 1925 — the cardiac pacemaker, shingles vaccine and the first successful liver transplant topping its list of accomplishments.


Now, a group of lawmakers wants VA researchers to turn their attention to marijuana.

Lawmakers on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs — led by the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress — are calling on the VA to initiate research into the efficacy of medical cannabis. In a letter Thursday to VA Secretary David Shulkin, the lawmakers cited the country’s opioid crisis and the growing demand from veterans and major veterans service organizations that want cannabis available as a treatment option for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

VA research into medical marijuana, the lawmakers wrote, is “integral to the advancement of health care for veterans and the nation.”

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Dank. (Image via flickr)

“There’s the possibility research can help inform not just veterans’ care, but everyone’s care,” said Griffin Anderson, press secretary for Democrats on the committee.

Also read: This is what the new VA chief thinks about using medical marijuana to treat PTSD

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., is the ranking Democrat on the committee and a retired command sergeant major with the Minnesota Army National Guard. He’s one of nine Democrats and an Independent who signed the letter Thursday. The others are: Reps. Mark Takano, D-Calif.; Julia Brownley, D-Calif.; Ann Kuster, D-N.H.; Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas; Kathleen Rice, D-NY; J. Luis Correa, D-Calif.; Kilili Sablan, I-Northern Mariana Islands; Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., and Scott Peters, D-Calif.

The letter marks the first instance that the leadership of veterans’ affairs committee in the House or Senate has urged a VA secretary to conduct research on medical marijuana, Anderson said. Only recently, medical marijuana was thought of as a “fringe issue” by staff of committee Democrats.

The timing of the letter was based on Shulkin’s comments regarding medical marijuana in May, followed by months of advocacy from groups such as the American Legion. During a “State of the VA” address at the White House, Shulkin — who is also a practicing physician — acknowledged there was some evidence marijuana could be effective as a medical treatment and said he was open to learning more about it.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (left) meets with doctors. Photo from Health.mil

“The secretary expressed interest to look into this. I think he was speaking from a personal standpoint, but it was on a public stage,” said Megan Bland, a staff member for committee Democrats. “When you look at that, and take the veterans’ suicide rates, the opioid crisis and the complexity of post-traumatic stress disorder, it just makes so much sense that if there’s a solution, we should explore it.”

Since May, the American Legion has strongly advocated for more research into medical marijuana. At its national convention in August, the organization adopted a resolution urging the VA to allow doctors to discuss and recommend medical marijuana in states where it’s legal. That’s in addition to a resolution that the group passed the previous year asking for marijuana to be removed from the list of Schedule I drugs, which include with heroin, LSD, ecstasy and others designated as having no medical use.

The Legion has been supportive of research in Phoenix, Ariz., that is the first federally approved study of marijuana’s effects on veterans with PTSD.

Louis Celli, a leader within the Legion, said the organization is trying to prove to lawmakers that medical marijuana is a politically safe topic.

Celli described the letter that lawmakers sent Thursday as “the beginning of the snowball.” He noted it carried weight being led by Walz, whom Celli called a “major player in the veteran community.”

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
The medicine we can all agree on. (Image via YouTube)

“The U.S. government has to address this issue… they can’t turn a blind eye and pretend it’s not coming to critical mass,” Celli said. “If veteran research could lead the way for a national, medical shift in the efficacy of cannabis and start that dialogue, that’s good for America.”

Staff for Democrats on the House committee found no regulatory barriers that would prevent the VA from immediately researching medical marijuana. Bland said the VA already possesses a Schedule I license, which is required by the Drug Enforcement Administration to study marijuana.

Lawmakers asked Shulkin to respond to their letter by Nov. 14, with either a commitment to develop research into medical marijuana or a detailed reason for why the VA can’t.

“Everything we looked at suggests the VA can pursue this tomorrow,” Bland said. “And if they can’t, we want them to tell us why they can’t, with the idea that hopefully we’d be able to help them overcome those barriers in the next year.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Author and Green Beret Jason Kasper releases edge-of-your-seat thriller

USA Best Selling Author Jason Kasper just released his newest book series, Shadow Strike. Enemies of My Country is his tenth book in four years since walking away from the Army to pursue writing.  

In 2016 Kasper released his first book, Greatest Enemy. Despite his relative success since beginning a new journey and his quite obvious talent for story-telling – he didn’t set out to be an author. The military was always it for him. He was the young boy playing GI Joes and then a 17-year-old signing up for the Army before he’d even graduated high school. 

“I enlisted in a ranger contract and went to basic and infantry training. It was towards the end of our infantry training for a job qualifier that 9/11 happened,” Kasper shared. He described a quiet and somber scene where recruits who’s families worked in the World Trade Center or lived in New York City were pulled out and then everyone else was told of the attack. 

After those events, there was no slowing down. Kasper attended Airborne school and was picked up for the Ranger Regiment and assigned to 3rd Ranger Battalion. He’d deploy to Afghanistan in 2002 and took part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Then, he was picked up for West Point. It was a dream realized. 

He completed his four years and became an Infantry Officer. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne for three years and did another deployment to Afghanistan. Not long after that, he found himself in Special Forces Selection and eventually became a Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg. There were many deployments and he found himself leading a team. 

Jason Kasper during his active service

“That was the high water mark of my career. I had the perfect storm of guys and missions, it couldn’t have gotten any better,” Kasper shared. Despite his happiness and success, he walked away from it all. “I got out and made the full-time transition to writing.”

Leaving after all of those years of active duty service was easier for him than you’d think, he said. But he didn’t always want to do it, it just happened. “I found it by accident at West Point where I sort of went into war withdrawal. I went from being a ranger to a rigid academic environment,” Kasper explained. To make up for what he was missing, he went all in on adrenaline sports. Skydiving and base jumping, which wasn’t legal. He started writing about his experiences. 

“Those descriptions became longer and longer and I began to relieve those experiences of standing at the edge of a building and looking down. I was reliving the rush as I was writing. That’s where I kind of wanted more of that,” he said.

Jason Kasper jumping out of a plane

Jason Kasper developed a protagonist and wrote the first scene. “After that, I was completely jacked. Adrenaline was flowing and I was like ‘Man, I want more of this’. After that, I was a closet writer for about 10 years,” he said with a smile. He had one book ready to go when he began his terminal leave in November of 2016. “That day, I hit publish on Amazon.”

Despite how good it was, he was pretty terrified when it was go-time. “It was pretty daunting, I am not going to lie … I committed fully and there was no backing out,” Kasper said. “The only people who said I was crazy were people who’d never been in the military themselves… Everyone I went to war with and my command, they were and are incredibly supportive.”

The publishing house he writes for is a veteran-owned business, making the fit even smoother for Kasper. “The founder is an author and Navy veteran and he built the company from the ground up by hiring both veterans and military spouses as employees,” he explained. “Severn River Publishing has a great portfolio of mystery and thriller authors, many of which served in the armed forces or law enforcement prior to starting their writing careers.”

Four years in, he’s found his grove. His tenth book and new series starter, Enemies of My Country, is riveting, from start to finish. Kasper truly has a talent for weaving words that come alive off the page. Reviews for his new book are steller, one on his website saying “…this book slaps you with a weapon, helmet, and body armor, and screams ‘You’re coming with me!’ Buckle up and enjoy the ride.”

Enemies of My Country book cover, by Jason Kasper

So, what’s it about? “David Rivers is an elite-level assassin. He’s an expert in the art of violence. Honing his skill first as a Ranger, then as a mercenary, and now as a CIA contractor conducting covert action around the world,” Kasper explained. “But in his secluded mountain home in Virginia, David Rivers lives a double life. There, Rivers is known as a caring husband to his new wife, and the doting father to his young daughter.”

It isn’t long before the character discovers a sinister plot, this time against his own country, hometown and his much-loved family. “The Enemies of My Country kicks off a ten-book series outline that will take David to the world’s most dangerous corners, as he uncovers a sinister conspiracy with global implications. The second book is in the works now, and will be released later this year,” Kasper said.

From the start of his writing and still today, Kasper gives a portion of all of his sales to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. For the new series, he matched every dollar for preorders. “We ended up getting a little over $4,000 prior to the launch,” he shared. 

Jason Kasper with his family

Although there are still those who can’t believe this Green Beret walked away with only nine years left until full retirement benefits, he’s never looked back. “I am a pretty domesticated suburban dad right now,” Kasper said with a laugh. He shared his happiness at home with his wife, child, new baby coming and his two cats. “It’s about as manly as it gets. I kind of took a hard right from the military but it’s been great.”

Despite leaving the thrill and excitement of serving, Kasper has found his new purpose and that same rush he once craved. Writing one page at a time. 

To learn more about Jason Kasper and his thrillers, click here.

Articles

US forces are quickly cutting off ISIS’ only escape route in Syria

The offensive to destroy ISIS in Syria took a big step forward recently with US military advisers, helicopters, and artillery helping position a force of about 500 soldiers near a strategic damn outside of Raqqa, ISIS’s Syrian capital.


The US military, along with Kurdish forces and the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Foces rebel group, have moved to put a stranglehold on Raqqa with shelling, air support, and ground forces at the last route in and out of the city, according to a press release.

Related: US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

Operation Inherent Resolve, the 68-nation mission to destroy ISIS, flew in fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed rebel group, behind enemy lines to a strategic dam.

“It takes a special breed of warrior to pull of an airborne operation or air assault behind enemy lines,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve told the Times.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Marines with the 11th MEU train in Djibouti. Leathernecks from the 11th MEU reportedly just deployed to Syria to bolster an assault on Raqqa. | US Marine Corps photo

“Seizing Tabqah Dam will isolate Raqqah from three sides and give the SDF the strategic advantage and launching point needed for the liberation of the city,” said the release. But while the US says they’re mainly backing local forces, they seem poised to take on a more active role with conventional forces fighting ISIS on the ground in Raqqa.

The Pentagon has been considering sending as many as 1,000 ground troops to help take back Raqqa from ISIS, which would signal a reversal of the Obama-era policy to fight ISIS via train and equip methods and airstrikes.

The coalition says they’ve conducted more than 300 airstrikes around Raqqa in the past month.

Raqqa, situated along the Euphrates river in the mostly barren Easter Syria has been ISIS’ main Syrian stronghold since 2014.

The US, Inherent Resolve coalition partners, and local forces have been involved in a massive air and ground campaign to rid the country of the terrorist group while simultaneously carrying out similar operations in neighboring Iraq.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
ISW

A spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How engineered viruses could protect soldiers

Antibiotic resistance is a one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Scientists working on an Army project have developed a new weapon to combat super-bugs, which could protect soldiers and fight resistance.

Bacteriophage, a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria, kill bacteria through different mechanisms than antibiotics, and they can target specific strains, making them an appealing option for potentially overcoming multidrug resistance. However, quickly finding and optimizing well-defined bacteriophages to use against a bacterial target is challenging.

Researchers at the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, identified a way to do just that. The U.S. Army established the institute in 2002 as an interdisiciplinary research center to dramatically improve protection, survivability and mission capabilities of the soldier and of soldier-supporting platforms and systems.


“This is a crucial development in the battle against these superbugs,” said Dr. James Burgess, program manager, Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. “Finding a cure for antibiotic-resistant bacteria is particularly important for soldiers who are deployed to parts of the world where they may encounter unknown pathogens or even antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Wounded soldiers are even more susceptible to infections, and they may come home carrying these drug-resistant bugs.”

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training

Green Berets assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) move to load onto a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for extraction during a training event.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis)

In this study, published in Cell, MIT biological engineers showed that they could rapidly program bacteriophages to kill different strains of E. coli by making mutations in a viral protein that binds to host cells. The results showed that these engineered bacteriophages are also less likely to provoke resistance in bacteria.

“As we’re seeing in the news more and more now, bacterial resistance is continuing to evolve and is increasingly problematic for public health,” said Timothy Lu, an MIT associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering and the study’s senior author. “Phages represent a very different way of killing bacteria than antibiotics, which is complementary to antibiotics, rather than trying to replace them.”

The researchers created several engineered phages that could kill E. coli grown in the lab. One of the newly created phages was also able to eliminate two E. coli strains that are resistant to naturally occurring phages from a skin infection in mice.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a handful of bacteriophages for killing harmful bacteria in food, but they have not been widely used to treat infections because finding naturally occurring phages that target the right kind of bacteria can be a difficult and time-consuming process.

To make such treatments easier to develop, Lu’s lab has been working on engineered viral scaffolds that can be easily repurposed to target different bacterial strains or different resistance mechanisms.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training

‘Blues Platoon’ conducts ‘Fallen Angel’ training.

(U.S. Army photo)

“We think phages are a good toolkit for killing and knocking down bacteria levels inside a complex ecosystem, but in a targeted way,” Lu said.

The researchers wanted to find a way to speed up the process of tailoring phages to a particular type of bacteria. They came up with a strategy that allows them to rapidly create and test a much greater number of tail fiber variants.

They created phages with about 10 million different tail fibers and tested them against several strains of E. coli that had evolved to be resistant to the non-engineered bacteriophage. One way that E. coli can become resistant to bacteriophages is by mutating LPS receptors so that they are shortened or missing, but the MIT team found that some of their engineered phages could kill even strains of E. coli with mutated or missing LPS receptors.

The researchers plan to apply this approach to target other resistance mechanisms used by E. coli and to develop phages that can kill other types of harmful bacteria.

“Being able to selectively hit those non-beneficial strains could give us a lot of benefits in terms of human clinical outcomes,” Lu said.

The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies engages in fundamental, multidisciplinary nanoscience research relevant to the soldier. In collaboration with Army and industrial partners, this focused nanoscience research creates opportunities for new materials, properties and phenomena that will directly advance modernization efforts. As an Army University-Affiliated Research Center, the institute’s contract is administered and overseen for the U.S. Army by the Army Research Office.

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

Humor

The 14 funniest memes for the week of Jan. 26

We started with a shutdown, some of us went to furlough, but we were all once again volunteers.


Now there’s nothing to worry about…

…except nuclear armageddon, an unending war, and Chelsea Manning running for Senate.

Cheer yourself up with some memes. These memes.

1. Before you get offended, we were all sh*t bags at some point.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Just relax. Breathe — as long as your profile says it’s okay.

2. We can’t have the world blowing up our phone.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
But a LOT of them will try. Along with our houses.

3. I got you, fam.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
As long as the mountains are blue.

Check out: What it’s like having a submarine crash into your ship

4. Must promote.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
If you’ve ever had MIDRATS, you know that 58-minute rice is a little crunchy.

5. Gonna fly now. (via Inkfidel)

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Don’t miss the chance to be a contender.

6. “No one will take care of you like the Corps.”

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Now polish the floors, boot.

Now read: 6 ways for a POG to be accepted by grunts

7. When you don’t give a sh*t about the Air Force in WWI. (via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Also, you had a few drinks to relax the night before.

8. “Here’s your in-processing checklist”

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Seriously though, the checklist explains everything.

9. Everything after basic training is a little fuzzy. (via Pop Smoke)

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
I also didn’t drink during PT. Before, maybe, but not during.

Also: 4 ways to have fun with that Russian spy ship off the coast

10. The truth hurts pretty darn good.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Don’t forget where you came from.

11. What a joke.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
No one’s getting this medal.

12. No one kneels during this guitar riff.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Also, it’d take a lot more than the Royal Navy to capture the Hulkster.

13. The ultimate “do as I say, not as I do.” (via Decelerate Your Life)

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Let them fight the war in Afghanistan, then. That sh*t will end in a hurry.

Of interest: 5 reasons you should know about the hardcore Selous Scouts

14. Prepare for zero likes. (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Just f*ck me and tell me why you’re f*cking me, alright?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what it takes to guard the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’

Every year, approximately 4 million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our great country. Most gather in solemn awe at the historic site of “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” standing atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.


If you plan your visit accordingly, you may get to witness the awesomeness that is the changing of the guard, which occurs every 30-minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.

Related: This is the story behind the pre-inauguration wreath laying ceremony

In April of 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24-hours day. Being a sentinel guard isn’t just about walking back and forth keeping a close eye out, it takes professionalism, honor, and most importantly commitment as one must volunteer for the role.

 

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Tomb Sentinels at the Changing of the Guard, Arlington National Cemetery. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

 

Prospects are hand-selected after volunteering and undergo either a 2 or 4 week TDY to learn rifle precision, uniform maintenance, and marching, as well as to, memorize seven pages of knowledge. Verbatim.

 

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Sentinel prospect practice drill marching together before heading out for their watch. (Source: 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment/Screenshot)

On average, 60% of the hopefuls will not graduate, but those who do complete the training will move on and become “Newman”.

Newmans assist sentinels prior to guard changes, maintain their uniforms, and must endure three more tests before earning their future position. The entire training takes six to nine months and has a fail rate of 90%.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Looking for more patriotic content, from sea to shining sea—and beyond? Military service members and veterans can get a FREE FOX Nation subscription until for a year! Sign up for your free subscription here!

Sentinels stand a 27-hour guard shift, walking their post a dozen times. Contrary to popular belief, they are allowed to verbally discipline tomb visitors.

Check out 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment‘s video for more behind the scenes of what it take to guard the tomb.

Articles

5 crew are still missing after Black Hawk crashes off Hawaii coast

Five people are missing after a US Army helicopter  into the sea close to Hawaii.


Officials lost contact with the UH-60  helicopter at around 10pm, during a night-time training exercise off the coast of Oahu island.

The search began immediately, and rescuers later spotted debris in the ocean two miles from the island’s westernmost Kaena Point.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training
Company C, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment (1-207th Aviation) conducts an air assault mission out of Wheeler Army Air Field (WAAF) in Wahiawa, Hawaii. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Lisa K. Lariscy/Released)

A plane, two helicopters and several boats are now being used in the search. No unusual weather conditions were reported.

Night-time training of this kind is commonplace for helicopter crews, according to Lieutenant Colonel Curtis Kellogg, public affairs officer for the Army’s 25th Infantry Division.

The loss of the helicopter was reported from the Wheeler Army Airfield near Honolulu, Hawaii’s largest city, also on Oahu.

Another helicopter, also a part of the Army’s 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, was also taking part in the exercise.

The UH-60  is a four-bladed twin engine utility helicopter, manufactured for the Army since the 1970s, by Silorsky Aircraft.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Captured Western ISIS recruits confess anti-drone strategies

ISIS terrorists recruited from western countries like the US and UK always kept their distance from each other because of the threat of drone strikes, according to a captured member of the terror group.

“A lot of the westerners were kept distances from one another because one of the primary affairs was targeted drone strikes,” captured ISIS member and ex-police cadet from London, Hamza Parvez, told the BBC from a Kurdish prison in Syria.


Parvez left the UK to join ISIS in 2014 but was captured in Baghuz, the final ISIS bastion in Syria, according to the BBC. The government has stripped him of citizenship.

In an interview from prison he described the extreme fear among western members about being killed by drones.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training

An MQ-1 Predator drone over southern Afghanistan.

“So, people wouldn’t want to be associated with one another just in case.”

“Because we didn’t actually have the list of who’s on the drone list or not. So we’d really be scared of, OK, this guy might be, and this guy might be.”

“So it’s better I just keep to myself,” he said.

A number of key ISIS figures have been killed in drone strikes.

They include media director Abu Anas al-Faransi in March 2019, British ISIS fighter Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John,” in December 2015, and British defector Sally Jones in October 2017.

Parvez also told BBC reporter Quentin Sommerville that he regrets joining, wants to come home, and never knew the “realities” of being part of ISIS.

“I didn’t know there was something waiting for me like that so most of the foreign fighters, when you do talk to them, the first thing they say to you is that we would never ever have come if we had known the realities of ISIS,” he said.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training

Hamza Parvez.

(BBC)

“There was many times where I thought ‘time to pack up and leave,’ and there’s many times I did try to pack up and leave but the reality was that it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.”

ISIS forces in Syria were declared defeated by joint US and Kurdish forces on March 23, 2019. Since then a number of western recruits have spoken to media about the caliphate’s final days from prison.

General Mazloum Kobani, the commander-in-chief of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said that his forces liberated the last ISIS stronghold in the village of Baghuz, ending the terror cell’s presence in Syria.

ISIS is still active in Iraq, and parts of Africa.

In recent weeks, apologetic ISIS brides from the US, Europe, and Canada have attempted to secure their safe return to the west after defecting to ISIS.

The Syrian government has called for western countries to take back their ISIS members.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about NATO as it turns 70 this week

Since its Cold War inception, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been keeping Russian aggression in check as an increasingly fragmented Europe has shifted and moved over 70 years. Founded in 1949, the alliance started off with 12 members but has grown over the years to 29 member states. Even as the Soviet Union gave way to the Russian Federation, the alliance has cemented its status as the bulwark that keeps Western Europe free.


A lot has happened over 70 years. Political shifts in member countries caused members to rethink their role in the alliance. Russian threats kept many members out for a long time – and still does. And the mutual defense clause, Article V, was invoked for the first time ever.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training

There were 12 founding members.

Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States founded NATO on April 4, 1949, as a hedge against growing Soviet power in the east. The centerpiece of the alliance is Article V, which obliges member states to consider an attack on a NATO ally as an attack on itself and respond with armed forces if necessary.

The alliance is more than a bunch of disparate parts, it has a unified military command that guides its strategy, tactics, and training on land, on the oceans, and in the air, complete with its own installations and command structure.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training

You might know of the first Supreme Allied Commander.

An American is always at the top.

The alliance is organized almost like the United States’ command structure. A Chairman of the NATO military committee advises the Secretary General on policy and strategy. The second highest position is the Supreme Allied Commander, always an American general, who heads the operations of the alliance in Europe.

The United States, Britain, and France are currently the most powerful members of NATO, but after the U.S., only Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Poland, and Romania met NATO spending standards. Greece and Estonia are the second-highest spenders as a percentage of GDP.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training

“Paix en quittant.”

Countries actually left NATO.

Many balked at the idea of the United States leaving the alliance, as then-candidate Trump threatened to do while running for President of the United States. While the U.S. withdrawing from NATO would be a disaster for everyone, a member country leaving NATO isn’t unprecedented.

France left NATO between 1966 and 2009 because President Charles DeGaulle resented the idea that France wasn’t on an equal military and nuclear footing with the United States and wanted more independence for French troops. Greece left between 1974 and 1980 because of a conflict with NATO ally Turkey.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training

This is as close as they get. Right after this photo, they raided English coastal towns. Because tradition.

One member doesn’t have an Army.

Iceland doesn’t have a standing army (it has a Coast Guard though!) but is a member ally to NATO anyway. The island nation actually does maintain a peacekeeping force of troops who are trained in Denmark, but Iceland joined the alliance on the condition that it wouldn’t have to establish a standing army – NATO wanted Iceland because of its strategic position in the Atlantic Ocean. The island is protected by the Canadian Air Force.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training

Poland will no longer be taking Russia’s sh*t. Ever again.

Former enemies have joined NATO.

With the fall of the Soviet Union came a slew of countries who were much smaller than their former Soviet benefactor. Many of these countries were once members of the Warsaw Pact, the USSR’s answer to the West’s NATO. In order to keep former Soviet Russia from meddling in their newly-independent domestic affairs, many Warsaw Pact countries who trained to fight NATO then joined it, including Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and (after the unification of Germany) East Germany.

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training

Pictured: Why Georgia wants to join NATO.

New NATO members could trigger the war it was designed to prevent.

The alliance is always courting new members to counter the threat posed by Russia. This means eventually NATO had to start looking east to find new partners – and many were willing. Unfortunately, pushing eastward puts NATO troops on Russia’s doorstep and there are certain countries that Russia considers a national security threat were they to go to NATO. Two of those, Ukraine and Georgia, have seen Russian invasions of their territory in the past few years in an attempt to thwart their eventual membership.

Russia warned NATO of a “great conflict” should either of them join the alliance.

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