Despite spending the past 20 years focused on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East, the US military still outmatches its Chinese and Russian competitors. The US is the only country that can effectively respond to a military contingency anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.
Understanding that they are conventionally overpowered, China and Russia have been using irregular warfare to achieve their goals without matching the US military’s might. And they have been quite successful.
In Africa, China has been handing out development aid and infrastructure loans like candy, with the dual purpose of securing geopolitical influence and resources for its growing economy. In Asia, Beijing has been bullying its neighbors on its way toward regional supremacy.
Russia has used social media to influence election outcomes in the US and Europe. Moscow has also been using private military companies, such as the infamous Wagner Group, to achieve strategic goals in Ukraine, Libya, and Syria, among other places.
Both countries understand that in an era of renewed great-power competition — a race between the US and Russia and China for geopolitical influence, economic advantages, and resources — irregular warfare is the ideal strategy against the US.
Now the US Department of Defense is trying to counter that threat by investing in and expanding its own irregular-warfare capabilities.
The Pentagon heralded this shift with its recent decisions to turn the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office into the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate and to release the irregular-warfare annex to the National Defense Strategy.
The creation of the directorate was included in a November memorandum signed by acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, which elevated the Pentagon’s civilian official overseeing special operations to the same level as a military service chief. The annex was released in October.
Struggle in the gray zone
The US military defines irregular warfare as a “violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s).”
Irregular warfare doesn’t necessarily mean open warfare, but it can take place in the gray zone between competition that’s below the level of armed conflict and a war that’s formally declared. It can affect all traditional and non-traditional realms of geopolitical struggle, such as the economic, diplomatic, military, intelligence, law enforcement, and cyber domains.
The difference between irregular warfare and counterterrorism is that the former is a strategy that aims to defend US global supremacy against state and non-actors, whereas the latter is a mix of activities and operations against terrorist groups and state-sponsored terrorism.
Same game, different name
Irregular warfare isn’t new to the US military. Indeed, the US campaign against terrorist organizations over the last two decades has included elements of it. But now, the irregular warfare “target deck” has been officially updated to include near-peer adversaries, such as Russia and China.
Irregular warfare against a near-peer adversary isn’t new either, but now the Pentagon recognizes that the strategy’s utility isn’t seasonal but enduring. Previously, the US would use irregular warfare against an adversary, such as the Soviets in Afghanistan, but would then let the capability and resources dedicated to it atrophy.
The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) already has potent irregular-warfare capabilities. Army special operations, in particular, take the lead on that front.
The Army’s Green Berets specialize in foreign internal defense, which means training local troops, and in unconventional warfare, which consists of creating and leading guerrilla campaigns. Both are squarely within the gray zone of irregular warfare.
Additionally, the Army’s Civil Affairs teams help create the necessary civil and political conditions for US diplomacy and political influence to be more effective. The Army’s Psychological Operations teams also help shape the geopolitical environment to favor the US.
Other special-operations units, such as the Marine Raiders or Navy SEALs, can contribute to an irregular-warfare campaign but perhaps not as effectively as their Army counterparts.
But to ensure a robust and effective irregular-warfare capability, US military has to understand and embrace it as a whole.
The conventional side of irregular warfare
Policymakers have relied on special-operations forces for almost everything for years, but conventional forces also play a big role in irregular warfare.
For example, if a US aircraft carrier cruises through the South China Sea, it sends a message to China by physically contradicting Beijing’s territorial claims in the disputed region.
Similarly, when an Army mechanized brigade deploys in Eastern Europe and trains with local forces, it sends a dual message: A psychological one to the US partners and allies about American commitment in the region, and a geopolitical one to Russia, illustrating the US’s reach and influence.
Ironically, it is the conventional might of the US military that encourages adversaries to invest more in their own ability to wage irregular warfare.
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.”
“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.
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., is the ranking Democrat on the committee and a retired command sergeant major with the Minnesota ArmyNational 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.
“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.”
“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.”
The film Black Hawk Down has left an indelible mark in the minds of United States military members and gun enthusiasts alike. The movie recounts the story of Operation Gothic Serpent, involving the Task Force Ranger mission on Oct. 3 and 4, 1993. Released mere months after Sept. 11, it was one of the first film depictions of urban combat in a post-Operation Desert Storm world.
Firearms for the film were provided by lead armorer Simon Atherton (whose film credits include The Killing Fields, Aliens, and Saving Private Ryan) with the assistance of U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. veteran and military film advisor Harry Humphries.
When discussing film props, the term “hero” is used to describe the main prop weapons used by the lead characters in the film. Hero props are frequently used in close-ups and often garner the most screen time, becoming publicly recognizable or sometimes iconic.
Ironically, many of the M16s and CAR-15s used on screen were actually built as an export variation of the Colt M16. Simon Atherton, Black Hawk Down lead armorer and owner of Zorg Limited, provided examples of M16s and CAR-15s used in the movie. The CAR-15, notably, was configured with components used on the backup Gary Gordon hero prop rifle.
The blank-firing M16A2 (top) was an export M16A2 from Guatemala manufactured by Colt and redressed for The Green Zone. The rubber dummy prop (bottom) was used in the production of Black Hawk Down and carries the distinctive green duct tape used to recreate the Rangers’ weapons.
The blank-firing M16A2 in these photos was, in our best estimate, used as a Third Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment rifle. It’s nearly identical to the rifle carried by real-life Ranger Matt Eversmann, played on screen by Josh Hartnett. The Ranger M16s were ex-Guatemalan military M16A2s fitted with slings secured with green duct tape. The blank-firing M16 has been photographed, for comparison, with one of the rubber dummy rifles, still configured as used on set for Black Hawk Down.
The Guatemalan export M16A2 was configured with the M16A1 style lower emblazoned with Colt M16A2 roll marks as pictured. The fire control group markings were stamped on both sides of the lower (which is the common configurations for M16A2s) but with a BURST marking replacing the more common AUTO marking.
The rubber dummy prop M16 shows the on-screen configuration for Ranger M16s. Although the dummy’s M16A1 “slab side” lower is slightly different than the blank-firing prop — cast from a civilian Colt HBAR Sporter — it’s similar enough to pass unnoticed to most viewers.
Most CAR-15 rifles were modified M16A2 rifles. This barrel was cut to approximately 10 inches and the front sight post was moved back to accommodate the modified handguards, while retaining the traditional triangular M16A2 handguard cap.
(Photo by Jon Davey)
After receiving the M16s, Atherton’s team converted many of the ex-Guatemalan Colt M16A2s into CAR-15s. The Gordon CAR-15 blank-firing prop is the most iconic weapon in the film. Chris Atherton, Simon Atherton’s son and Zorg employee, was able to immediately locate the last known surviving Gary Gordon hero blank-firing prop CAR-15.
Master Sergeant Gary Gordon’s Colt Model 723 was represented in the film by a Guatemalan export Colt M16A2 modified into a carbine configuration similar to a Colt Model 727. The most significant visual difference between the Colt 723 and Colt 727 is in the rear sights. The Colt 723 uses an M16A1 sight, while the Colt 727 is fitted with a blockier “movable” sight.
To produce the prop, the M16’s 20-inch barrel was cut to approximately 10 inches and the front sight post was moved back. A commercial two-position buffer tube and stock were also added. A 5-inch section of the center of the M16A2 handguard was removed to construct improvised carbine handguards. As a result, the handguards have eight holes (instead of the six- or seven-hole handguards found on production 723 and 727 carbines). This rifle, and many other of Atherton’s CAR-15s, retained the triangular M16A2 handguard cap instead of the circular handguard cap found on Colt-produced carbines.
The Gordon blank-firing prop (top) is fitted with a commercial stock and fake suppressor that carry the original paint scheme used during production. The rifle was subsequently used as the on-screen hero prop in Blood Diamond. The live-fire replica, manufactured by Enhanced Tactical Arms, (bottom) features a fully functional OPS Inc suppressor. The image of the semi-auto replica has been Photoshopped with BURST fire control markings and a full auto sear.
Analysis failed to confirm that the specific stock and dummy suppressor in the photos appeared on screen, but the paint scheme on those components leaves no doubt that those parts were used on an authentic Gordon hero prop. Although it’s impossible to confirm that the CAR-15 pictured was one of the Gordon hero rifles, it has been confirmed that this weapon was later used by Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond. The Zorg staff indicated that the rifle may have been repainted in the current tan paint scheme for the film The Green Zone.
The 8-hole CAR-15 handguards were manufactured from full-length M16A2 handguards when many of the M16A2s were configured into the CAR-15 configuration.
This CAR-15, manufactured by Enhanced Tactical Arms in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a replica of the on-screen prop representing Master Sergeant Gary Gordon’s CAR-15 — a replica of a replica, as it were. These images were Photoshopped to represent the rifle in its Class III configuration. The replica is fitted with an Aimpoint CompM red dot optic.
The ETAC Arms live-fire replica is equipped with an 8-hole carbine handguard constructed from an M16A2 full-length handguard and a Surefire tactical light. The duct tape and zip tie matches the configuration shown in the film.
Although Aimpoint 3000 and 5000 optics were used during the real-life operation, they were out of production by 2001. Filmmakers selected the CompM, fitted on a B-Square Mount with a 30mm Weaver split ring mount, as a substitute. The dummy suppressor used on the hero prop wasn’t available, so an OPS Inc. suppressor was used in its place. Although Zorg provided access to the Gordon CAR-15 prop, they indicated that the props used to represent Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart’s M14 were rented from Gibbons Limited and returned after filming.
Gibbons sold the eight MDL.M1As to Independent Studio Services in 2008 or 2009. The ISS armory staff indicated that it was likely that the two tan weapons were used as the hero props in filming. Photo analysis by William DeMolee indicates that it is likely that the top MDL.M1A, which is equipped with a Leatherwood scope, was the hero prop used in close-ups. The live-fire replica was painted to match onset production photos and screenshots by Augee Kim.
Mike Gibbons, owner of Gibbons Limited Entertainment Armory provided eight Federal Ordinance MDL.M1A rifles to the production. Mike revealed that the weapons used to represent Shughart’s M14 were sold to Independent Studio Services between 2008 and 2009. Kate Atherton from Zorg provided specific serial numbers for the eight weapons used in the production. Travis Pierce, Enhanced Tactical Arms M14 Subject Matter Expert, then used these serial numbers to determine that most of the rifles were produced in the ’90s.
The fire control selector switch cutouts on the tan Federal Ordinance MDL.M1A have been filled in and the external surfaces refinished. Almost all traces of spray paint had been removed.
The reproduction Shughart M14 film prop is an M1A built on an LBR Arms receiver with primarily USGI Winchester parts. It was originally assembled by M14 enthusiast Cody Vaughan and then reconfigured to match the film prop by Enhanced Tactical Arms with an ARMS 18 scope mount, Aimpoint CompM red dot optic, M1907 sling, and given a screen-matching camouflage pattern by Enhanced Tactical Arms retro firearms expert Augee Kim.
The Norm “Hoot” Gibson CAR-15 rubber dummy prop, built as a rubber stand-in for Eric Bana’s blank-firing carbine, is an iconic prop worthy of special attention. The rubber dummy, cast from a semi-auto Colt AR-15A2 Carbine with a removable carry handle, was used on-screen in the close-up of the “This is my safety” scene. The prop was weathered with water-soluble aging spray and is fitted with a sling constructed from a piece of strap taken from a parachute lowering line assembly, looped through 550 cord and secured with black polycloth laminate tape.
These include the type of handguard, delta ring, castle nut, stock, lower, and carry handle configuration. The lighting and camera angle make the differences difficult to detect as the story unfolds.
The live-firing prop replica, constructed by Enhanced Tactical Arms, was created using screenshots from the film, production photos, and the Hoot rubber dummy carbine as references. Although the Colt Gray lower on the Hoot CAR-15 appears to be an export M16A2, the black upper is distinctive. The Hoot blank-firing CAR-15 is configured with a 14.5-inch barrel, six-hole handguard, circular handguard cap, flat delta ring, and M16A1 birdcage flash hider.
The Hoot replica, which is similar in general configuration to a Colt 727, weighs in at slightly over 6 pounds and is as reliable and accurate as a modern M4. The helmet, goggles, and American flag were props used during production in 2001.
When we asked Mr. Atherton if the rifles used in the film were painted using an airbrush he laughed, indicating that the rifles were painted quickly, using techniques recommended by military advisor Harry Humphries.
The Hoot character is reported to be a composite of several Special Forces veterans involved in Operation Gothic Serpent.
Black Hawk Down is one of the first films to capture post-Vietnam warfare in a realistic manner and set the standard for how modern warfare (and weapons) would be represented in film. When discussing the long-term impact of the film in a 2013 interview, First Sergeant Matt Eversmann (U.S. Army, retired) stated, “…what I’ve found over the last decade is that, there are a lot of folks that really aren’t touched by the war on terror … watch Black Hawk Down and you have a really fair, accurate, and pretty authentic view of what urban combat is like … it is the reference point, both the book and the movie, that people are going to look at when they talk about getting involved in these type of conflicts in these countries we’ve never heard of …”
This endorsement, in conjunction with the pair of Academy Awards earned in 2002, illustrates why the film continues to receive praise from many film aficionados and military veterans nearly two decades after its release.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
Choose a degree that leads to a career and a school that can help build a career network. I know it looks tempting to get the BAH, and take random classes. Don’t take that temptation. If you have to, go to a community college for two years to get a taste for school, and then choose a direction.
Choose a school that lets you go to school year-round. If you can take 6 classes per semester, do it. If four is better for your school-life balance, do that. Remember, it may be more economical to take more classes. If your school charges the same for 12 credits as 18, take 18 credits. It might be hard, but you will be pushing through more effectively. Again though, you want to succeed, so only take a course load that helps you succeed.
Life hack: bend your young, naïve classmates to your war-hardened will.
3. Plan it out
Plan your classes down to the day. Look at the schedule for each semester. The GI Bill is prorated down to the day. If you have even one-day left, you will qualify for the entire semester including BAH. By planning this, you’ll be able to get more from your GI Bill. Also, the BAH is lower for an online program, but if the degree gives you something of benefit, it might be worth it to take a lower BAH rate. Focus on the long-term plan.
4. Choose a school based on the professors and the network they offer you
This is not GI Bill specific, but your professors and fellow-students will be your network in the future. Look at alumni. Look at the research by your professors. Look at who works for the school in a consulting or a part-time capacity. These relationships are super important towards shaping your future. Utilize them.
5. Don’t be afraid to change direction and re-plan everything
I did this in my first semester of undergrad. I had a plan that wasn’t smart. My professors pushed me toward a degree that would get me to my goals. That being said, my last semester of Graduate School, I changed my mind on what I wanted to do with my life. It happens. I am creating my own peacebuilding business instead of going to work for the UN. I have all the skills for this from my two degrees, and it fits my interests better.
6. Be active in planning, preparing, and choosing all aspects of your degree path
This is part of planning your schedule, but it’s also about taking classes that will help you in your career. Don’t take a math class that you don’t need. Don’t take gym just to take it. Take classes that teach you things that you will use. If you do this, you’ll get more than your money’s worth from the GI-Bill.
This is how I’ve used the GI-Bill with purpose, and how I think you can do the same.
The Army private responsible for a massive leak of classified documents to Wikileaks has reportedly made the short list for presidential clemency.
According to a report by The Independent, Pfc. Chelsea Manning (then known as Bradley Manning), who was sentenced to 35 years in prison, reportedly has attempted suicide twice in the last year.
Manning’s supporters believe it could be the last chance the former intelligence analyst receives for clemency for a long time. Manning had also gone on a hunger strike over the government’s refusal to provide gender-reassignment surgery.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has urged President Obama to pardon Manning, saying that “you alone” could save the 29-year-old’s life. Manning has been in solitary confinement for at least eight months, according to a column in the Guardian.
Manning was convicted of espionage in a July 2013 court-martial for handing the documents to Wikileaks. The documents pertained to the Global War on Terror, and according to a report by the Daily Caller, included diplomatic cables.
In September, the Daily Caller reported Manning was sentenced to two weeks in solitary confinement for a July suicide attempt. That report noted that Manning had provided Wikileaks with video of an attack by an AH-64 Apache against insurgents, during which two employees of the British news agency Reuters were also killed.
The September report by the Daily Caller noted that Manning could be eligible for parole after serving seven years of the 35-year sentence handed down at the court-martial.
The push for clemency, though, has its critics.
Following legal proceedings that protected PFC Manning’s rights of due process, he was ordered to pay the price for betraying his country,” Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness told WATM in a statement. “If President Obama grants clemency, he would set a problematic precedent that would have long-term consequences for national security.”
Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, also was critical of the potential clemency.
“Manning is serving time for treason, giving away secrets that endangered fellow soldiers,” he told WATM. “I have no sympathy for those who betray our country by committing treason.”
“Keep in mind when president’s grant clemency to those who were convicted by Courts Martial he is undermining the military justice system,” Maginnis added.
Dodging enemy gunfire in close-quarter urban combat, seeking to destroy enemy fighters hiding behind walls, rocks and trees and firing ammunition especially engineered to explode at a particular, pre-planned point in space – comprise the highly sought-after advantages of the Army’s XM25 “airburst” weapon.
However, despite the initial promise of prototypes of the technology in combat in Afghanistan as an emerging way to bring a decisive advantage to soldiers in a firefight, the future of the XM25 is now uncertain due to ongoing Army needs, requirements, weapons inventory assessments, and budget considerations, service officials told Scout Warrior.
The Army’s XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement airburst weapon system, in development for several years, was used to destroy Taliban fighters hiding behind grape-growing walls in Afghanistan during a Forward Operational Assessment of the weapon several years ago. Extensive analysis and adjustments to the weapon followed this operational combat evaluation, Army officials explained.
Part of the calculus regarding a production decision about the weapon relates to the possibility of the weapon “misfiring,” several news reports said. Army officials did not comment on this, however a 2015 news report in the Economist said a US soldier was slightly injured during training with the XM 25 when it misfired. It does now, nonetheless, appear as though this problem was pervasive or persistent with the weapon – but it could be a factor amidst ongoing plans for the weapon’s future.
Army and Pentagon weapons developers and budget planners are now deliberating plans for the weapon, which could be formally produced and deployed within the next several years – or passed over due to fiscal constraints.
While the XM25 would clearly be useful in a major force-on-force engagement or great power conflict, airburst attacks have particular value in a counterinsurgency type-fight wherein enemies seek to use terrain, building, rocks, ditches or trees to protect themselves from being targeted.
By attacking with an “airburst” round, soldiers do not have to have a linear view or direct line of sight to an enemy target; if they know an enemy is behind a rock or tree (in defilade) – the weapon can explode above or near the location to ensure the target is destroyed.
The weapon uses laser-rangefinder technology to fire a high-explosive airburst round capable of detonating at a specific point near an enemy target hidden or otherwise obscured by terrain or other obstacles, Army developers have explained.
Program managers had been seeking to expedite development of the system, refine and improve the technology, and ultimately begin formal production by the fall of 2014, however its current trajectory is now unclear.
“The XM25 brings a new capability to the soldier for the counter-defilade fight, allowing him to be able to engage enemy combatants behind walls, behind trees or in buildings,” former XM25 program manager Col. Scott Armstrong previously explained in an Army statement.
Thirty years is a long time to stick it out in any career, let alone one where a person is routinely put into harm’s way over and over again. But that’s exactly what retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Victor Wright did. Wright served our country for thirty years, first as a Sailor and then later as a Soldier. Wright’s decade’s long career offers him a prestige that many never receive. He’s served in every conflict since the Vietnam War.
For those in the military, it’s often difficult to find a path. We want adventure but we also want stability. OCONUS moves are a way to see the world but they take us far from home. It’s even more difficult to find that balance with high op-tempos and jobs that take all our energy.
But none of that stopped retired Army Sgt. First Class Victor Wright. Instead of getting bogged down with the details, his thirty-year career kept him pushing forward. Wright didn’t let the challenges of work-life balance stop him from achieving his goals.
A Legend in the Making
Victor Wright enlisted in 1974 because he wanted to see the world. He served on the USS Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Wright deployed to Vietnam shortly after enlisted. During his three decades of service, Wright earned twenty-four awards.
Whereas some might use their accomplishments as an opportunity to brag, Wright remains honest and unassuming. Wright insists he’s not a legend or a hero, despite the fact that his campaign rack might say otherwise. Instead, he maintains he’s just “enjoyed his life” exploring the world.
The humble sixty-two year-old Victor Wright retired on August 21, 2018. After his retirement, Wright began working as an Apache Helicopter Mechanic and Instructor. In true Army fashion, he’s always looking for a way to give back – a by-product of his 30 years of service, no doubt.
Under his instruction, new service members not only learn new vocabulary and how to employ technology, but how to live a life fulfilled and well-travelled.
Wright remains optimistic regarding the future of the Army. “I’m coming off the wall, and I’m glad there are others that are still willing to stand.
As one of the last retiring Vietnam War veterans, we can only hope that Wright’s dedicated service and commitment to America continue to inspire future generations of warfighters.
Early on in 2019, two plaintiffs representing the National Coalition for Men sued the U.S. Government in Texas on the grounds that registering only males for the draft was unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled in their favor, saying the males-only Selective Service rules should now extend to American women within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
The Trump Administration just filed an appeal to defend the all-male draft rules.
Trump’s Justice Department called ordering women to register for Selective Service “particularly problematic,” saying it would force women to register for the draft through a judicial ruling before Congress could actually address the issue. The DoJ is essentially saying the court is legislating instead of the Congress.
The Justice Department said it’s not for a court to decide what change in policy should be adopted without any involvement by the political branches and the military.
“If the Court’s declaratory judgment is upheld, it should be left to Congress, in consultation with the Executive Branch and military officials, to determine how to revise the registration system in response,” writes Justice Department lawyer Michael Gerardi.
President Trump’s Selective Service Card.
The two men who filed the initial lawsuit argued that their chances of being sent to war were higher because women were exempt from the draft. The judge’s ruling means that women will either sign on for the draft or Congress may have to get rid of the draft altogether, something the Trump Administration says is not an option as it would compromise the country’s readiness and ability to respond to a military crisis.
When Selective Service was instituted in 1980, then-President Jimmy Carter wanted females to register, but Congress did not include mandatory registration for women. In the past, courts have upheld the all-male draft, arguing that since men were the only ones who were able to fill combat roles, then the draft was acceptably all-male. Since President Obama allowed women to serve in those roles, the door for changing Selective Service registration opened once more.
It may take up to five years to finalize the standards for the Army Combat Fitness Test as the service struggles to address the performance gap between male and female soldiers on the service’s first-ever gender-neutral fitness assessment.
The Army just completed in late September 2019 a year-long field test of the ACFT, involving about 60 battalions of soldiers. And as of Oct. 1, 2019, soldiers in Basic Combat Training, advanced Individual training and one station unit training began to take the ACFT as a graduation requirement.
So far, the data is showing “about a 100 to a 110-point difference between men and women, on average,” Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com.
North Carolina National Guard Fitness Manager Bobby Wheeler explain the proper lifting technique of the ACFT deadlift event to the students of the Master Fitness Trainers Level II Certification Course, Sept. 25, 2019, at Joint Forces Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alonzo Clark)
Final test-score averages taken from soldiers in the active forces, National Guard and Reserve who participated in the ACFT field test illustrate the performance gap that currently exists between male and female soldiers.
Maximum deadlift: Male soldiers deadlifted an average of 238 pounds; females lifted an average of 160 pounds.
Standing power throw: Male soldiers threw an average of 9 feet; female soldiers three average of 5.5 feet.
Hand release pushups: Male soldiers performed an average of 34 pushups; female soldiers performed an average of 20.
Sprint-drag-carry: Male soldiers completed the SDC in an average of 1 minute, 51 seconds; female soldiers completed the event in an average of 2 minutes, 28 seconds.
Leg tuck: Male soldiers completed 8.3 leg tucks; female soldiers completed 1.9 leg tucks.
Two-mile run: Male soldiers completed the run in an average of 16 minutes, 45 seconds; female soldiers completed it in an average of 18 minutes, 59 seconds.
U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.
(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)
All of the test-score averages are high enough to pass the ACFT, data that contrasts dramatically with that shown on a set of leaked slides posted on U.S. Army W.T.F! Moments in late September. Those slides showed an 84% failure rate for some female soldiers participating in the ACFT field test, compared to a 30% failure rate among male soldiers.
CIMT officials said the slides were not official documents. Hibbard said the field test showed that soldiers’ scores improved significantly between the first time they took the ACFT and after they were given time to work on their problem areas.
Currently, female soldiers at the start of Basic Combat Training taking the ACFT average about “a third of a leg tuck,” Hibbard said.
“If you have 144 women in basic training, the average is .3; by the end of it they are doing one leg tuck,” Hibbard said, who added that that is all that is required to pass the ACFT in that event. “So, in 10 weeks, I can get from a soldier not being able to do a leg tuck on average to doing one leg tuck.”
Hibbard said there are critics that say, “it’s too hard; females are never going to do well on it.”
“Well, we have had women max every single category, [but] we haven’t had a female max all six categories at once.”
Hibbard said the Army would be in the same position if it tried to create a gender-neutral standard for the current Army Physical Fitness Test.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test, Dec. 19, 2018.
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
“We would still have challenges, because you have to make the low end low enough that 95% of the women can pass,” Hibbard said, adding that the Army will likely have to make small adjustments to the standard over time as soldiers improve their performance in each event.
“It’s going to be three to five years, like we did the current PT test.”
The Army first introduced the APFT in 1980 and made adjustments over time, Hibbard said.
“Once the Army began to train and understand how to do the test, we looked at the scores and we looked at everybody was doing and we rebased-lined,” Hibbard said.
The next key step for implementing the ACFT by Oct. 1, 2020, will be to have active duty soldiers take two diagnostic ACFT tests and National Guard and Reserve soldiers take one to establish to get a better sense of the force’s ability to pass the test.
“I don’t think it is going to be hard for the Army to pass; what have to figure out as an Army is how do we incentivize excellence,” he said. “The goal of this is we change our culture so that we incentivize and motive our soldiers to be in better physical shape.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Russia has lashed out at the United States over new sanctions announced by Washington, calling the measures “unacceptable” and illegal and saying it reserves the right to retaliate.
In remarks on April 9, 2018, senior officials in President Vladimir Putin’s government also said they were assessing the damage to Russian companies and promised state support for big Russian firms targeted by the punitive measures.
They spoke as the ruble and Russian stock indexes fell, with companies included on the U.S. sanctions list — such as tycoon Oleg Deripaska’s aluminum giant Rusal — taking substantial hits.
On April 6, 2018, the United States imposed asset freezes and financial restrictions on a slew of Russian security officials, politicians, and tycoons believed to have close ties to Putin — part of an attempt to punish Moscow for what the U.S. Treasury Department called “malign activity around the globe.”
The new sanctions were “glaring in their illegality,” said Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, adding that Russian authorities were analyzing the potential effects on the economy. He refrained from quantifying the potential losses when asked, saying that “we are seeing the first effects” of the sanctions.
“We need time to understand the scale and work out measures to react,” Peskov said.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that the new sanctions were “unacceptable, without a doubt, and we consider them illegitimate as they are entirely outside the realm of international law.”
He alleged that they were imposed to protect U.S. companies from Russian competition, warned that Moscow reserves the right to retaliate, and ordered the government to work out “specific proposals on what concrete support” the state could provide the companies targeted.
The dollar, and the euro rose substantially against the ruble, hitting their highest rates since the second half of 2017, and the dollar-denominated RTS stock index was down more than 11 percent, hitting its lowest level since September 2017.
The sanctions were levied under a 2017 law passed by Congress over President Donald Trump’s objections.
In January 2018, the administration came under criticism in Congress and elsewhere for releasing an “oligarchs list” — naming the business and political leaders who could be potentially targeted — but not actually imposing any penalties.
In other fallout from the new sanctions, Russian aluminum giant Rusal saw its share price plummet after the company and co-owner Deripaska were targeted, prompting the producer to warn of potential debt defaults.
Rusal stock nearly halved to HK$2.39 in Hong Kong trading on April 9, 2018, while aluminum prices surged. Rusal shares were losing more than 20 percent in the Moscow stock exchange.
Trading of Deripaska’s En+ Group, which manages Deripaska’s assets, was temporarily halted in London after its shares lost almost one quarter of their value.
The sanctions increase the risk that Russian companies could lose access to the U.S. market — which accounted for about 14 percent of Rusal’s revenue in 2017, Reuters quoted analysts at Russia’s Promsvyazbank as saying.
In a sign that Russian companies could also see investment partners withdraw to reduce their risks, Swiss engineering company Sulzer decided to buy back 5 million of its own shares from majority shareholder Renova Group after an emergency board meeting on April 8, 2018, Reuters reported.
Viktor Vekselberg, a prominent Russian tycoon who is Renova’s chairman, was included on the sanctions list.
Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, one of several officials who suggested the state would step up support for Russian companies hit by the sanctions, portrayed them as a blow to ordinary workers — not just tycoons like Deripaska.
“Support for these companies is being provided on a consistent basis. We are very attentive toward our leading companies — these are thousands-strong collectives that are very important to our country,” Dvorkovich told journalists when asked about the issue.
“But in the current situation, as their situation deteriorates, we will provide this support.”
Rusal said the sanctions may result in technical defaults on some credit obligations and be “materially adverse to the business and prospects of the group,” casting a cloud over its future performance.
Rusal is the biggest aluminum maker outside China, accounting for some 7 percent of the world’s production.
Deripaska has called the U.S. decision to impose sanctions on him “groundless, ridiculous, and absurd.”
Earlier on April 9, 2018, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow was considering how to respond.
“We have a whole list of possible measures that are being studied,” Zakharova said.
Asked whether the Russian response would be harsh, Zakharova said that she “would rather not jump the gun.”
“We are considering our countermeasures, as we always do,” she said.
Take a look and tell me if you have an idea what that object might be.
Back in 2007, a user (cometa2) of the popular Above Top Secret (ATS) forum posted an alleged official CVW-11 Event Summary of a close encounter occurred on Nov. 14, 2004. Back then, when the encounter had not been confirmed yet, many users questioned the authenticity of both the event log and the footage allegedly filmed during the UFO intercept. More than 10 years later, with an officially released video of the encounter, it’s worth having a look at that unverified event log again: although we can’t say for sure whether it is genuine or not, it is at least “realistic” and provides some interesting details and narrative consistent with the real carrier ops. Moreover, the summary says that the callsign of the aircraft involved in the encounter is Fast Eagle: this callsign is used by the VFA-41 Black Aces – incidentally the very same squadron of David Fravor, formed Co of VFA-41, the pilot who recalled the encounter to NYT.
FAST EAGLES 110/100 UPON TAKE OFF WERE VECTORED BY PRINCETON AND BANGER (1410L) TO INTERCEPT UNID CONTACT AT 160@40NM (N3050.8 W11746.9) (NIMITZ N3129.3 W11752.8). PRINCETON INFORMED FAST EAGLES THAT THE CONTACT WAS MOVING AT 100 KTS @ 25KFT ASL.
FAST EAGLES (110/100) COULD NOT FIND UNID AIRBORNE CONTACT AT LOCATION GIVEN BY PRINCETON. WHILE SEARCHING FOR UNID AIR CONTACT, FAST EAGLES SPOTTED LARGE UNID OBJECT IN WATER AT 1430L. PILOTS SAW STEAM/ SMOKE/CHURNING AROUND OBJECT. PILOT DESCRIBES OBJECT INITIALLY AS RESEMBLING A DOWNED AIRLINER, ALSO STATED THAT IT WAS MUCH LARGER THAN A SUBMARINE.
WHILE DESCENDING FROM 24K FT TO GAIN A BETTER VIEW OF THE UNID CONTACT IN THE WATER, FAST EAGLE 110 SIGHTED AN AIRBORNE CONTACT WHICH APPEARED TO BE CAPSULE SHAPED (WINGLESS, MOBILE, WHITE, OBLONG PILL SHAPED, 25-30 FEET IN LENGTH, NO VISIBLE MARKINGS AND NO GLASS) 5NM WEST FROM POSITION OF UNID OBJECT IN WATER.
CAPSULE (ALT 4K FT AT COURSE 300) PASSED UNDER FAST EAGLE 110 (ALT 16KFT). FAST EAGLE 110 BEGAN TURN TO ACQUIRE CAPSULE. WHILE 110 WAS DESCENDING AND TURNING, CAPSULE BEGAN CLIMBING AND TURNED INSIDE OF FAST EAGLE’S TURN RADIUS. PILOT ESTIMATED THAT CAPSULE ACHIEVED 600-700 KTS. FAST EAGLE 110 COULD NOT KEEP UP WITH THE RATE OF TURN AND THE GAIN OF ALTITUDE BY THE CAPSULE. 110 LOST VISUAL ID OF CAPSULE IN HAZE.
LAST VISUAL CONTACT HAD CAPSULE AT 14KFT HEADING DUE EAST.
NEITHER FAST EAGLES 110 OR 100 COULD ACHIEVE RADAR LOCK OR ANY OTHER MEANS OF POSITIVE ID. FAST EAGLE 100 WAS FLYING HIGH COVER AND SAW THE ENGAGEMENT BY FAST EAGLE 110. FAST EAGLE 100 CONFIRMS 110 VISUAL ID; 100 LOST CONTACT IN HAZE AS WELL.
The United States and Israel are putting on a large-scale joint exercise — one with high stakes in the Middle East. Right now, the two countries are rehearsing defense against a ballistic missile attack.
According to a report by the Jewish Press, Juniper Cobra, an exercise held every two years, is underway. This time, the exercise is simulating a massive, two-front attack against Israel, which, historically, has been no stranger to hostile ballistic missiles landing in its territory.
During Operation Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein launched dozens of modified SS-1 “Scud” missiles at Israel. A total of 39 missiles landed on Israeli territory, causing two deaths and substantial property damage. That number would have been higher had the United States not deployed batteries of MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Israel.
The stakes for this exercise are high and have increased as tensions mount over Israeli allegations of Iranian actions in Syria and Lebanon. Iranian leaders have vowed in the past to wipe Israel off the map. An American missile-defense test in Hawaii ended in failure when a RIM-161 Standard SM-3 Block IIA missile missed a target late last month. Let’s hope this exercise proves to be more successful.