Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out - We Are The Mighty
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Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out

This week, the Pentagon made good on a policy it’s been developing to guarantee the operational readiness of the US military’s 2.1 million service members. The new message, aimed at personnel listed as non-deployable for 12 months or more, is simple: either get ready or get out.


Since the closing months of 2017, as the current administration has struggled to create a working budget and to fund the government through a series of congressional stop-gap agreements, Defense Secretary James Mattis has been fighting a singular crusade: to make the U.S. military “more lethal.”

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
Soldiers with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, prepare to fire an AT4 rocket launcher at an insurgent position during a firefight in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah neighborhood. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)

Having succeeded in securing $700 billion for the DoD in 2018 — a 4.5% increase over President Trump’s proposed $668 billion defense budget — the Pentagon is now turning its attention to increasing operational readiness across all branches.

That includes the much-anticipated policy, released Feb. 14 in a DoD memo, that will begin assessments of and, in many cases, separation procedures for service members who have been non-deployable for the last 12 months or more.

According to Robert Wilke, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, “about 13 to 14 percent of the force is medically unable to deploy” at any given time. That comes out to about 286,000 of the 2.1 million personnel serving across all branches of the military — active duty, reserves, and National Guard. Some of that number, an estimated 20,000, is sidelined due to pregnancy and over 100,000 are recovering from injury or addressing illness.

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Robbins, of the Provincial Reconstruction Team from forward operating base Kalagush, conducts a patrol through the village of Kowtalay in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan June 12, 2007.  (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Bracken)

But 34 percent of those medically unavailable, some 99,000 personnel are currently non-deployable for administrative reasons, like failing to stay up to date with immunizations or falling delinquent with required medical exams. And that subset of the force is now officially on notice from the Pentagon that they can get ready for deployment or get ready to discharge.

Waivers will be made available on a case-by-case basis, but the DoD seems to expect swift implementation. In the official language of the memo,

Military Services will have until October 1, 2018, to begin mandatory processing of non-deployable Service members for administrative or disability separation under this policy, but they may begin such processing immediately.
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How the US Navy wants to handle Iran’s naval provocations in the Persian Gulf

At a recent conference at the Center for American Progress, Chief of Naval Operations John M. Richardson discussed at length naval operations in Asia and the Pacific, touching on how he’d like to deal with the Iranian navy, which has made a habit of harassing US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf.


Throughout the conference, Richardson praised the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) that has helped Chinese and US naval vessels operate safely and at a distance in the South China Sea.

Also read: Why Iran is ‘playing with fire’ in the Persian Gulf against US Navy ships

However, the US and Iran have no such agreements, or even a diplomatic relationship for establishing them.

In fact, Iran seems rather content to provoke the US.

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

In January of this year, Iranian fast attack craft surrounded a broken down US Navy ship and captured 11 sailors. The incident was shown on Iranian TV and has been consistently milked for propaganda purposes. Reports indicate that Iran plans to build a statue commemorating the incident as a tourist attraction.

Iran has threatened, though not credibly, to close the Strait of Hormuz, and thereby access to the Persian Gulf. The country has threatened to shoot down US surveillance aircraft flying near Iran. Most recently, Tehran unveiled a new 180 foot naval vessel with a banner that read”America should go to the Bay of Pigs, the Persian Gulf is our house.”

While Cliff Kupchan, chairman of Eurasia Group and an expert on Iran, told Business Insider that Iran’s naval posturing and provocations are “one of the ways the Iranian political system lets off steam,” the threat of miscalculation, fatalities, and escalation remains very real.

How the Navy wants to deal with Iran

When asked what the Navy is prepared to do when being harassed by Iranian vessels, and if there were any limits on the way it could respond, Richardson responded unequivocally.

“Nothing limits the way they can respond,” said Richardson, leaving kinetic, or shooting solutions to this problem firmly on the table.

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan transits the Strait of Hormuz. | U.S. Navy photo by Quartermaster 1st Class Thomas E. Dowling

When asked what the Navy is prepared to do when being harassed by Iranian vessels, and if there were any limits on the way it could respond, Richardson responded unequivocally.

“Nothing limits the way they can respond,” said Richardson, leaving kinetic, or shooting solutions to this problem firmly on the table.

As far as capabilities go, the US wields the greatest Navy in the world, which Iran couldn’t really hope to challenge in a conventional fight.

“Is our navy ready to respond? Yes. In every respect.”

“In some super dynamic situations, and you’ve seen some of these unfold in video, the decisions are often made in extremely short periods of time,” said Richardson, referencing videos that have been released of close encounters at sea with swarming and harassing Iranian speedboats.

“We always strive to make sure that our commanders have the situational awareness, the capability, and the rules of engagement that they need to manage those situations.”

So essentially, in any given incident, if a ship’s commander makes the choice to sink an Iranian vessel, he’s well within his rights to do so, as the fast, unexpected incidents don’t “allow time to phone home to get permission.”

However, sinking and likely killing Iranians at sea doesn’t represent a diplomatic or stabilizing solution, and as such it isn’t Richardson’s preferred route.

In this case, what the US Navy can do and what it would like to do couldn’t be more starkly different. Richardson repeatedly stressed the need for the US and Iran to come to an understanding about encounters at sea, like the US and China have established.

The incidents at sea are “destabilizing things, and risking tactical miscalculations,” that could result in injury, the loss of ships, and the loss of life, Richardson said.

“Nothing good can come from it,” Richardson said of the incidents. “This advocates for the power of a leader to leader dialogue, we’re working to see our way though to what are the possibilities there.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The difference between Russian and Chinese influence campaigns

The key difference between the global influence campaigns of China and Russia is that Beijing is just better at it, according to John Garnaut, a former adviser on China to Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.


Speaking to the US House Armed Services Committee on March 21, 2018, Garnaut was giving national-security advice on influence operations when Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard asked him to compare China’s influence methods to Russia’s.

“Why is it that all we hear about is Russia’s actions, whereas there are countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other countries that purchase TV ads, fund think tanks here in Washington, that fund institutions in our universities seeking to achieve that same objective. Why is it that Russia’s actions stand out?” Gabbard asked.

Garnaut was short and to the point: “I think one answer may be because China is very good at it,” he said.

Part of this reason is the very different approaches the two countries take.

Also read: How a US military parade will compare to China’s or Russia’s

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
John Garnaut, former adviser on China to Australia’s Prime Minister.

“Unlike Russia, which seems to be as much for a good time rather than a long time, the Chinese are strategic, patient, and they set down foundations of organizations and very consistent narratives over a long period of time.”

“So, often its quite incremental in the way that China behaves, whereas Russia tends to do these focused, sharp strikes,” Garnaut said, stressing that the distinction doesn’t mean that China’s methods are less important.

Related: China beats Russia and US to hypersonic ballistic missile test

“They put an enormous amount of effort into making sure we don’t talk about what it’s doing,” he said, referring to world’s second-largest economy.

“I think we’ve just failed to recognize a lot of the activity that has been going on and that needs to change and its starting to change, certainly in Australia, and starting to change in the US.”

While the US has largely been focused on Russia’s meddling in its 2016 presidential election, Australia has been grappling with how to handle apparent attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to subtly influence its politics and society at large.

In response, Australia’s government in 2017 introduced a new law to target and broaden the definition of foreign interference.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is DARPA’s massive push for next-generation AI

The Pentagon’s science and technology research arm is launching a vigorous push into a new level of advanced artificial intelligence, intended to integrate advanced levels of “machine learning,” introduce more “adaptive reasoning” and even help computers determine more subjective phenomena.

It is called the “AI-Next” effort, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program to leverage rapid advances in AI to help train data to make computer analysis more reliable for human operators, agency Director Steven Walker recently told a small group of reporters.

DARPA scientists explain the fast-evolving AI-Next effort as improving the ability of AI-oriented technology to provide much more sophisticated “contextual explanatory models.”


While humans will still be needed in many instances, the 3rd Wave can be described as introducing a new ability to not only provide answers and interpretations, but also use “machine learning to reason in context and explain results,” DARPA Deputy Director Peter Highnam said.

In short, the AI-Next initiative, intended to evolve into a 3rd Wave, can explain the reason “why” it reached the conclusion it reached, something which offers a breakthrough level of computer-human interface, he added.

“When we talk about the 3rd wave, we are focused on contextual reasoning and adaptation. It requires less data training,” Highnam said.

This not only makes determinations more reliable but massively increases an ability to make more subjective interpretations by understanding how different words or data sets relate to one another.

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out

A computer can only draw from information it has been fed or given, by and large. While it can add seemingly limitless amounts of data almost instantaneously, AI-driven analysis can face challenges if elements of the underlying stored data change for some reason. It is precisely this predicament which the 3rd Wave is intended to address.

“If the underlying data changes then your system was not trained against that,” Highnam explained.

For instance, 3rd wave adaptive reasoning will enable computer algorithms to discern the difference between the use of “principal” and “principle” based on an ability to analyze surrounding words and determine context.

This level of analysis naturally creates much higher levels of reliability and nuance as it can empower humans with a much deeper grasp of the detailed information they might seek.

“That is the future — building enough AI into the machines that they can actually communicate, share data and network at machine speed in real time,” Walker said.

Yet another example of emerging advanced levels of AI would be an ability to organize hours of drone collected video very quickly – and determine moments of relevance for human decision makers. This exponentially increases the speed of human decision making, a factor which could easily determine life or death in combat.

“In a warfighting scenario, humans have to trust it when the computer gives them an answer…through contextual reasoning,” Highnam said.

Given these emerging 3rd Wave advances, making more subjective decisions will increasingly be a realistic element of AI’s functional purview. For this reason and others, DARPA is working closely with the private sector to fortify collaboration with silicon valley and defense industry partners as a way to identify and apply the latest innovations.

DARPA’s 1st, 2nd & 3rd wave of AI

The third wave, described in DARPA materials as bringing “contextual explanatory models” and a much higher level of machine learning, is intended to build upon the 1st and 2nd Waves of DARPA’s previous AI progress.

The 1st Wave, according to available DARPA information, “enables reasoning over narrowly defined problems.” While it does bring certain elements of learning capability, it is described as having a “poor level of certainty.”

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out

This points to the principle challenge of AI, namely fostering an ability to generate “trust” or reliability that the process through which it discovers new patterns, finds answers, and compares new data against volumes of historical data is accurate. Given this challenge, certain existing models of AI integration might have trouble adjusting to changing data or determining sufficient context.

The 2nd Wave enables “creating statistical models and training them on big data,” but has minimal reasoning, DARPA materials explain. This means algorithms are able to recognize new information and often place it in a broader context in relation to an existing database.

The 2nd Wave, therefore, can often determine meaning of previously unrecognized words and information by examining context and performing certain levels of interpretation. AI-enabled computer algorithms, during this phase, are able to accurately analyze words and information by placing them in context with surrounding data and concepts.

With this 2nd wave, however, DARPA scientist explain that there can be limitations regarding the reliability of interpretation and an ability to respond to new information in some instances; this can make its determinations less reliable. Highnam explained this as having less of an ability to train existing data when or if new information changes it. Therefore, this Wave is described by DARPA information as having “minimal reasoning.”

Can AI make subjective determinations?

Raytheon, for example, is currently exploring a collaborative research deal with the Navy to explore prognostics, conditioned-based maintenance and training algorithms to perform real-time analytics on otherwise complex problems. It is a 6-month Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to explore extensive new AI applications, company developers said.

Raytheon developers were naturally hesitant to specify any particular problems or platforms they are working on with the Navy, but did say they were looking at improved AI to further enable large warfigthing systems, weapons, and networks.

Todd Probert, Raytheon’s Vice President of Mission Support and Modernization, told Warrior Maven in an interview what their effort is working on initiatives which compliment DoD’s current AI push.

“Part of deploying AI is about gaining the confidence to trust the AI if operations change and then break it down even further,” Probert said. “We are training algorithms to do the work of humans.”

Interestingly, the kinds of advances enabled by a 3rd Wave bring the prospect of engineering AI-driven algorithms to interpret subjective nuances. For instance, things like certain philosophical concepts, emotions and psychological nuances influenced by past experience might seem to be the kind of thing computers would not be able to interpret.

While this is of course still true in many ways, as even the most advanced algorithms do not yet parallel human cognition, or emotion, in some respects, AI is increasingly able to make more subjective determinations, Probert said.

Probert explained that advanced AI is able to process certain kinds of intent, emotions, and biases through an ability to gather and organize information related to word selection, voice recognition, patterns of expression, and intonations as a way to discern more subjective phenomena.

Also, if a system has a large enough database, perhaps including prior expressions, writing or information related to new information — it can place new words, expressions and incoming data within a broader, more subjective context, Probert explained.

AI & counterterrorism – Torres AES

Other industry partners are using new levels of AI to fortify counterterrorism investigations and cyber forensics. For example, a US-based global security firm supporting DoD, the US State Dept. and friendly foreign governments, Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, employs advanced levels of AI to uncover otherwise obscured or hidden communications among terrorist groups, transnational criminals or other US adversaries.

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out

While much of the details of this kind of AI application, company developers say, are naturally not available for security reasons, Torres cyber forensics experts did say advanced algorithms can find associations and “digital footprints” associated with bad actors or enemy activity using newer methods of AI.

As part of its cyber forensics training of US and US-allied counterterrorism forces, Torres prepares cyber warriors and investigators to leverage AI. Torres conducts cyber forensics training of US-allied Argentinian and Paraguayan counterrorism officials who, for instance, often look to crack down on terrorist financial activity in the more loosely-governed “tri-border” area connecting Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil.

“The system that we train builds in AI, yet does not eliminate the human being. AI-enabled algorithms can identify direct and indirect digital relationships among bad actors,” said Jerry Torres, Torres AES CEO.

For instance, AI can use adaptive reasoning to discern relationships between locations, names, email addresses, or bank accounts used by bad actors.

To illustrate some of the effective uses of AI for these kinds of efforts, Torres pointed to a proprietary software called Maltego — used for open-source intelligence analysis and forensics.

“AI can be a great asset in which our defensive cyber systems learn about the attackers by increasing the knowledge base from each attack, and launching intelligent counter attacks to neutralize the attackers, or feign a counter attack to get the attacker to expose itself. AI is critical to countering attackers,” Torres added.

The software uses AI to find relationships across a variety of online entities to include social media, domains, groups, networks, and other areas of investigative relevance.

The growing impact of AI

AI has advanced quickly to unprecedented levels of autonomy and machine learning wherein algorithms are instantly able to assimilate and analyze new patterns and information, provide context, and compare it against vast volumes of data. Many now follow the seemingly countless applications of this throughout military networks, data systems, weapons, and large platforms.

Computer autonomy currently performs procedural functions, organizes information, and brings incredible processing speed designed to enable much faster decision-making and problems solving by humans performing command and control. While AI can proving seemingly infinite amounts of great relevance in short order — or almost instantaneously — human cognition is still required in many instances to integrate less “tangible” variables, solve dynamic problems or make more subjective determinations.

When it comes to current and emerging platforms, there is already much progress in the area of AI; the F-35s “sensor fusion” relies upon early iterations of AI, Navy Ford-Class carriers use greater levels of automation to perform on-board functions and Virginia-Class Block III attack submarines draw upon touch screen fly-by-wire technology to bring more autonomy to undersea navigation.

Other instances include the Army’s current experimentation with IBM’s AI-enabled Watson computer which, among other things, can be used to wirelessly perform real-time analytics on combat relevant maintenance details on Stryker vehicles. In a manner somewhat analogous to this, a firm called C3IOT uses AI-empowered real-time analytics to perform conditioned-based maintenance on Air Force F-16s.

“Despite higher levels of autonomy, in the end a human will make the decision, using computers as partners. We see the future as much less having machines do everything but rather humans and machines working together to fight the next battle,” Highnam explained.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Supreme Court will uphold transgender military ban

The US Supreme Court has lifted an injunction against the Trump administration’s transgender military ban, allowing him to enforce his policy barring certain transgender troops from joining or staying in the military.

President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court in November 2018 to lift injunctions issued by federal court judges, which placed a hold on the policy’s implementation while a legal challenge continues in lower courts.


The conservative majority granted the president’s request on Jan. 22, 2019, essentially allowing the ban to be implemented while lower courts decide on its constitutionality. Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have kept the injunctions in place blocking the policy, Reuters reported.

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Along with the request to lift injunctions, the Trump administration also asked the Supreme Court to bypass normal judicial proceedings by deciding the legal merits of the policy. The justices refused, allowing a California-based federal appeals court to issue a ruling.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How 10k soldiers helped out during Hurricane Irma

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2017 — The Total Army, which includes active duty, Reserve, and Army National Guard personnel, remains involved in or prepared to support state, territory and other federal agencies as part of Hurricane Irma relief operations, Army spokesman Col. Patrick Seiber said yesterday.


“Governors are best postured to determine the needs of their residents and establish response priorities,” he said. The state governors are using Army National Guardsmen to help meet those needs.

“The Army has pre-positioned or is in the process of positioning equipment and personnel in the affected areas to ensure adequate resources are readily available if needed,” Sieber added.

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
Nearly 10,000 Army personnel are involved in the response to Hurricane Irma, which battered the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico before coming ashore in Florida in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm, Sept. 10, 2017. Army graphic

As of 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time yesterday, the Total Army response includes the following:

— The Army response for Hurricane Irma involves more than 9,900 soldiers and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civilians in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S.

— The Army has six aircraft, about 500 trucks and more than 80 generators committed to relief efforts with more than 150 aircraft, almost 600 generators, 150 boats and nearly 3,000 trucks on standby to support response efforts if called upon.

— Army National Guardsmen from Florida, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are on State Active Duty status and are either responding or prepared to respond to each governor’s priorities. Additionally, Army National Guard units in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas are conducting routine inactive-duty training that they will utilize to prepare for a Hurricane Irma response if required.

— The Army Corps of Engineers is already working in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to assist with power restoration efforts and have teams on standby to assist in Florida if needed. The Corps is also monitoring conditions at the Herbert Hoover Dike around the waters of Lake Okeechobee, Florida, and will continue to provide expert status updates.

— The Army also has active-duty officers assigned with Federal Emergency Management Agency Regions II, IV, and V Headquarters to provide expert military advice on storm response efforts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

After 5 years, Navy reunites two brothers while deployed

Two brothers, separated by service to their country, reunited aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) after five years apart.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Casey Halter met with his brother, Fire Controlman 2nd Class Lucas Halter in the captain’s in-port cabin May 17. Casey is assigned to CVN 75 and Lucas is currently forward deployed on USS Porter (DDG 78).


“We got word that one of our Sailors has a brother that’s also serving in the Navy,” said Truman’s Command Master Chief Jonas Carter. “Because of their two duty assignments, they haven’t seen each other in five years. This was an opportunity where we could bring them together for a reunion. We coordinated with his brother’s command for him to fly over. Their only request was a picture for their mom.”

The Halter brothers have been on opposites sides of the country and even an ocean apart during their assignments thus far. While both have wives and families, they said the opportunity to see each other has been more or less impossible for the last five years.

Both of the brothers admitted they didn’t think this was possible since both ships would have to be close enough for a helicopter to stop over. Casey said he thought he was in trouble when he was called up to the in-port cabin.

“I think this is one of the highlights of my career so far,” said Lucas. “I leave in [a few] weeks so this was the highlight of finishing out this patrol. I was looking forward to going home, but this kind of tops it now.”

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
USS Harry S. Truman


The brothers toured Truman and watched nighttime flight operations from a variety of locations. Lucas stayed the night in the same berthing as his brother, catching up and taking the time to rekindle their relationship, said Casey.

“We can’t do this without the support of our families, and to have another family member serving alongside you across the world is huge,” said Carter. “That says a lot about the family and the support they have back home. They wouldn’t be able to do what they do here without that.”

“Everybody has their ups and their downs with the Navy and in general,” said Casey. “If I’m having a tough time or a problem with the Navy, [Lucas has] been through it so I can talk to him and vice versa.”

And while serving in the Navy has kept these two apart, it’s also brought them together.

“This is just proof that your chain of command will look out for you,” said Casey. “It’s amazing. I really didn’t think this would happen.”

Not many people can say that they’ve been on the same ship as their sibling during a combat deployment, added Casey.
“To be such a big organization and to have the opportunity for family members to one, serve with sacrifice; but two, come together, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Carter. “They may never get the chance to do this again.”

As the Carrier Strike Group EIGHT (CSG-8) flag ship, Truman’s support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) demonstrates the capability and flexibility of U.S. Naval Forces, and its resolve to eliminate the terrorist group ISIS and the threat it poses.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @usanavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

Dozens of US states have reported mysterious seeds showing up in packages from China and are warning citizens not to plant them because they could be an invasive species.

The US Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was investigating the unsolicited packages of seeds reported by at least 27 states and urged anyone who receives them to contact local agricultural officials.


“Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a press release. “Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”

The agency also said the packages were likely a “brushing scam,” in which consumers are sent packages and a company then forges positive reviews of the products.

But they could also quickly become an ecological disaster.

“An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture,” Sid Miller, Texas’ agriculture commissioner, said in a press release.

And scientists agree — that’s why the USDA has such strict rules on importing plants and other organic materials.

“The reason that people are concerned is — especially if the seed is the seed of a similar crop that is grown for income and food, or food for animals — that there may be plant pathogens or insects that are harbored in the seed,” Carolee Bull, a professor with Penn State’s Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology program, told The New York Times.

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

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This whiskey is a WWII victory, distilled

…I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains…

Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da…
There’s whiskey in the jar, oh
— Thin Lizzy, Whiskey in the Jar

Whiskey is a mountain spirit. After a cold day on the slopes, are you thirsting for a Cosmo? A margarita? Nope. And we’re not even offering rum as an option. In the mountains, you long for an end-of-day bourbon, scotch, or rye to light your insides on fire. It’s tradition and it’s awesome.

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
You… ( Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
…complete me. ( Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

In Vail, Colo, there’s another mountain spirit that has to be reckoned with and unlike whiskey, it’s 100 percent military. It’s the legacy of the Army’s venerable 10th Mountain Division, the special alpine tactical force that trained at nearby Camp Hale during WWII.

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
Men of the 10th Mountain Division. Not a cocktail in sight.

Spirits, however, are made to blend. It’s tradition and it’s awesome.

Now, almost 75 years after 10th Mountain defeated the Germans in Italy, a Vail whiskey distillery is honoring the Division by taking its name. In the tradition of service, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Co. is distinguishing itself as an ardent supporter of area veterans.

Sensing the makings of a 90-proof military food story, Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl made the trek out to the Colorado mountains to meet the founders of the 10th Mountain Whiskey over two fingers of their best bourbon.

The distillery was founded by Christian Avignon, the grandson of an 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment medic, and his friend and fellow Colorado ski obsessive, Ryan Thompson. Together, they made it their mission to honor the 10th, whose veterans are responsible not only for key victories against the Nazis, but also for the establishment and leadership of so many of America’s great mountain institutions.

The Northern Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the Sierra Club, the Peace Corps chapter in Nepal, even the famous ski resorts at Vail and Aspen, all count 10th Mountain Division vets among their founding leadership. A storied fighting force inspires a whiskey maker determined to give back. It’s a potent cocktail of tradition, patriotism, and mountaineering that will absolutely warm your insides on a cold day.

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

Army food will make you feel the feels

This is what happens when you run your kitchen like a platoon

This is what it means to be American in Guam

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Hundreds rescued from wildfires by military helicopters

The situation in California has worsened as 25 separate wildfires are currently burning across the state torching property and stranding fleeing citizens. Overwhelmed, California firefighters summoned National Guard and USN helicopters to aid in the extraction of hundreds of individuals trapped by the flames.

Over the holiday weekend, many people went to the Sierra National Forest, staying at the Mammoth Pool Reservoir, a popular camping spot. The “Creek Fire,” which reportedly started Friday night, quickly began spreading and trapped over 200 people. The fire was aided by record-breaking temperatures and accompanying dry air and winds.


Massive “Creek Fire” Threatens Town of Auberry – RAW Footage

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Raw footage from ON SCENE TV on September 8, 2020.

Ch-47 Chinooks and UH-60 Black Hawks began responding to the area to evacuate the trapped campers. The rescues began Saturday night and went into Sunday morning. In total, helicopter crews rescued 214 people, several of whom were severely injured. It was reported that the helos were within 50 feet of the flames while loading people on.

Outside of Fresno, wildfires trapped more people as they were trying to escape the burning forest, in the areas of Lake Edison and Chinese Peak.

On Monday night, National Guard and U.S. Navy helicopter crews were dispatched to the area to conduct rescue operations. Heavy smoke thwarted rescue attempts and helicopters were kept at bay until flight conditions improved.

Helicopters were able to access the area by Monday night and began extracting those trapped by the flames. Equipped with night vision, helicopter crews flew through the darkness, rescuing 35 more people, some of whom were reported to have had injuries. Rescue flights continued throughout the day on Tuesday, rescuing another 148 people as the inferno ripped through the California forests.

At the time of this report, some 385 people and 27 animals have been saved from the wildfires by the helicopter crews. It is unknown how many people are still trapped.

Cal Fire’s firefighters have been fighting these aggressive wildfires non-stop since Saturday. One firefighter has already been killed. Three others were injured when their remote fire station was overtaken by the fire. Fourteen firefighters were at the location and were forced to deploy their emergency shelters. The three firefighters injured suffered smoke inhalation and burns. They were airlifted to Fresno; two are stable and one is in critical condition.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, this year so far 87 wildfires have burned, resulting in 4.7 million acres burned; 2.2 million of those acres have been in California. This is a new worrisome record for California, as experts say that peak wildfire season has not yet arrived.

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


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School owner admits stealing $2.8M from veterans program

The owner of a New Jersey computer training center has admitted stealing $2.8 million from a program designed to help veterans find employment.


Elizabeth Honig pleaded guilty June 21 to theft of government funds. The 52-year-old Morganville, New Jersey, resident faces up to 10 years in prison when she’s sentenced Sept. 25.

Honig owns the Eatontown-based Computer Insight Learning Center.

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
Photo courtesy of DoD.

Federal prosecutors say she helped 182 veterans enroll to receive federal funding under a program designed to help older, unemployed veterans receive training and find employment in high demand occupations.

But the vast majority of these veterans were either not eligible or not actually attending the training.

Honig admitted logging on to the applications system more than 100 times and certifying that she was the actual veteran who was applying for benefits.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Judge denies bail for Air Force vet accused of leaking US secrets

A woman charged with leaking US secrets must remain jailed until her trial, a federal judge ruled Oct. 5, saying her release would pose an “ongoing risk to national security.”


Reality Winner, 25, is a former Air Force linguist who worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency at a facility in Augusta, Georgia, when she was charged in June with copying a classified US report and mailing it to a news organization.

Winner’s defense attorneys asked a judge to reconsider releasing her on bail after her trial date was postponed from October to next March. They argued Winner had no prior criminal history and served admirably in the military. Winner’s mother in Kingsville, Texas, planned to move to Georgia to ensure her daughter obeyed any terms of her bond.

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
Reality Leigh Winner. Photo from her Facebook.

But US Magistrate Judge Brian K. Epps sided with prosecutors in ruling that keeping Winner jailed is the only way to ensure she doesn’t flee overseas or leak more secret information. The judge referenced prosecutors’ transcript of a Facebook chat in February in which Winner wrote to her sister: “Look, I only say I hate America like 3 times a day.”

“By her own words and actions, (Winner) has painted a disturbing self-portrait of an American with years of national service and access to classified information who hates the United States and desires to damage national security on the same scale as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden,” Epps wrote.

Assange is the founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. Snowden is a former NSA contractor who leaked classified material exposing US government surveillance programs.

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out
Julian Assange (left) and Edward Snowden. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The judge also said evidence against Winner appears strong, noting she confessed to FBI agents that she leaked a classified document and made similar admissions to relatives in recorded jailhouse phone calls.

Winner has pleaded not guilty.

Authorities have not publicly described the document Winner is charged with leaking, nor have they identified the news organization that received it. But the Justice Department announced Winner’s arrest on the same day The Intercept reported it had obtained a classified National Security Agency report suggesting Russian hackers attacked a US voting software supplier before last year’s presidential election.

The NSA report was dated May 5, the same as the document Winner is charged with leaking.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Saudis ramp up oil production to hurt Iran and Venezuela

U.S. President Donald Trump says Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has told him Riyadh will ramp up oil production in response to turmoil in Iran and Venezuela.

The Saudi government confirmed the two leaders had spoken about global oil markets, but made no mention of any agreement for Riyadh to increase production.

The June 30, 2018 conversation comes as oil prices have ticked upward following Trump administration pressure on allies to stop buying oil from Iran.


In a post to Twitter, Trump said Salman had agreed to an increase, but did not indicate a time frame for the possible 2 million barrels.

“Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil and disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference,” Trump said in a June 30, 2018 tweet.

Trump added: “Prices to high! He has agreed!”

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

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