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.”
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.
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.
This week, Vladimir Shamanov, a former military officer who leads the Defense Committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, said that by the end of this year ISIS “won’t exist anymore as an organized military structure.”
While ISIS is losing large swaths of its home turf, it still operates in a number of countries. Here are nine places where the fight against ISIS is not slowing down.
The Egyptian government has been fighting Islamist insurgents since the military took power in 2013. Most of the fighting has happened in the Sinai Peninsula, where ISIS proclaimed a province in 2014.
Egypt has been under an official state of emergency since April, after a attack killed dozens of members of Egypt’s minority Christian population.
Hundreds of Egyptian police and military servicemen have been killed in battles with jihadists. In an ISIS attack on an army outpost in Sinai in July 2016, 23 soldiers were killed and at least 26 were wounded.
In late October, at least 54 policemen and conscripts, including several officers, were killed in what appeared to be a well-planned ambush. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, authorities have not ruled out ISIS.
The latest attack took place in the Giza governorate, which means the insurgency is spreading beyond the Sinai Peninsula — a worrisome sign that may have led President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to reorganize his security leadership.
Libya became a safe haven for terrorist groups after Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011. It currently has three different governments claiming authority over the country, and the lack of a strong central authority and a unified security force has allowed militias to fill the void.
ISIS seized the coastal city of Sirte — Gadhafi’s hometown — in 2015. At its peak, ISIS was thought to have over 5,000 militants in Libya. In addition to causing chaos there, they were aiding jihadist groups in Egypt and other parts of North and West Africa.
Though ISIS lost control of Sirte in December 2016, they still have what officials have described as a “desert army” operating in the regions south of the city. That army has shown signs of trying to gain ground in the country.
The US launched its first airstrike in Libya under President Donald Trump in September, 150 miles south of Sirte, reportedly killing 17 militants.
A major concern among European officials is that as ISIS loses territory in Iraq and Syria, its fighters could relocate to Libya. Among those fighters may be Westerners who could use Libya’s role as a transit point for migrants to return home.
Yemen has long been a battleground in the fight against Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. While the Saudi-led military campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in country has received much of the attention, ISIS’ presence there has gotten the notice of the US.
ISIS created its Yemen branch in 2014, during the chaos that followed the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012. Since then, its attacks have killed hundreds.
US forces launched more than 100 airstrikes against Al Qaeda in Yemen this year, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. October saw the first US airstrikes against ISIS in Yemen. According to US Central Command, the three strikes on ISIS training camps reportedly killed 60 militants.
ISIS’s Afghan affiliate, known as Islamic State in Khorasan, or ISIS-K, was declared in 2014. The group mostly made up of Taliban defectors and new recruits.
Though the group only controls small patches of territory, it has been a main focus for the US military. On April 13, the US dropped its largest nonnuclear bomb on an ISIS-K compound. Estimates of the number killed range between 36 and 96 militants.
Militants affiliated with ISIS and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have also clashed with each other, resulting in deaths on both sides.
A drone strike in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province on October 12 reportedly killed 14 ISIS militants — though an Afghan MP, Shahzada Shaheed, claimed all the casualties were civilians.
The US estimates that there are roughly 600 to 800 ISIS-affiliated militants still in the country, mostly in Nangarhar province in northeast Afghanistan.
5 – 3. Mali, Niger, and Nigeria
West Africa is becoming an increasingly important front in the fight against ISIS. Islamist violence is not new in the region. There was an insurgency that took over northern Mali in 2013, and the jihadist group Boko Haram declared allegiance to ISIS in 2015.But the violence has showed no signs of slowing down.
New groups like the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara — which reportedly carried out the early-October ambush that killed four US soldiers while they were on a mission with local partners in Niger — are being formed, and the number of militants joining these groups seems to be increasing.
On October 23, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said that ISIS “has aspirations to establish a larger presence” in Africa.
“We’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less,” Dunford said, adding that the US military will be making recommendations to Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and that US forces will remain in the area despite the casualties in Niger.
As in West Africa, Islamist violence is not new to Somalia. For the last decade, the most feared jihadist group in the country has been Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda ally. ISIS unsuccessfully tried to recruit Al Shabab in 2015, and now the two groups fight each other in addition to government forces.
Though smaller than Al Shabab, ISIS’ affiliate in Somalia has made its mark as a deadly terrorist organization. It has routinely conducted bombings and attacks that have killed hundreds. It is also outgaining Al Shabab in terms of foreign volunteers, as most aspiring jihadists want to be part of the ISIS brand.
In October, the largest bombing in the history of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, left at least 300 civilians dead and caused more than 275 injuries.
No group has claimed responsibility, but it is a troubling sign as it could lead to more violent competition between Al Shabab and ISIS, as they try to become the dominant Islamist group in the country.
The Trump administration sent US troops to Somalia in May — the first such deployment in more than 20 years — to aid antiterrorism efforts. On Friday, the US military carried out its first two drone strikes on ISIS targets in Somalia, killing “several terrorists,” according to US Africa Command.
ISIS made its mark in the Philippines in a manner similar to that in Iraq and Syria — suddenly emerging with a large and organized force, seizing large amounts of territory.
Led by Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Brothers — who formally lead Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group, respectively — forces that pledged loyalty to ISIS took over the city of Marawi in Lanao del Sur province on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
The siege that followed resulted in the deaths of 962 ISIS militants, including Hapilon and at least one of the Maute Brothers; 165 Philippine soldiers were killed, and nearly 1.1 million people were displaced.
Though Philippine soldiers liberated the city, ISIS remains a threat in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia as a whole.
It’s a testament to the everlasting mythology of the SEAL Teams when a screenwriter – who also happens to be an Air Force Pararescue Jumper – and his Marine veteran dad team up to write a TV show about them. That’s exactly what happened with History’s show Six, now in its second season.
David Broyles is the son of Hollywood (and Vietnam) veteran William Broyles, writer of some of the best military films and television in recent memory, including China Beach, Apollo 13, Jarhead, and Flags of Our Fathers. Now father and son can add Six to that list.
Before David joined the military, he watched the Twin Towers fall with his father, who was a lieutenant of Marines in Vietnam. He had just finished his degree at the University of Texas at Austin. Within a week, he was looking at joining the military, judging them by their special operations teams.
Yes, he considered joining the Navy to be a SEAL. What he chose was Air Force Pararescue.
(Courtesy of David Broyles)
“I looked at the SEALs, I looked at the Marine Corps, and I found Pararescue,” says David Broyles, co-creator and one of the main writers on Six. “It seemed really challenging with the high washout rate. But also the job was to save lives, so after watching the towers come down I wanted to help. I want to make a difference. And probably like most of us, I wanted to challenge myself.”
There were 82 would-be pararescue jumpers in Broyles’ initial class. By the time he graduated there were only two (and four more would graduate later). Broyles spent his career in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan. There were good times and there were bad.
“I never felt more alive and never felt more terrified,” Broyles says. “The bonds of brotherhood that I experienced have always stuck with me and the things I saw and did have always powered my writing.”
Broyles always knew he would be a writer. After the military, he attended Columbia Film School in New York City. When the opportunity came to write Six, it was a chance to express in writing what it all meant to him and his friends that went through the war together.
“It was a way to work through that through writing,” he told We Are The Mighty. “A cathartic way to explore it and really honor the guys that were still in there and the guys that didn’t come back.”
With his father William Broyles, the two wrote the pilot for Six, the elder Broyles bringing his experience in Vietnam while the younger Broyles brought his experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. For Six, however, William Broyles was also bringing his experience as a father who watched his son go off to war.
(Photo courtesy of David Broyles)
William Broyles went off to Vietnam as a youth and didn’t really think about how his mother or father felt during his time away. his recent experiences with war put him in just that position. While his son was deployed, William Broyles would go to his cabin in the mountains and not answer the phone. It was a trying time for the families back home.
So while Six highlights the military family in the field, it doesn’t forget the family at home that gets left behind.
The father-son duo knew they couldn’t please everyone (they acknowledge how hard it is to please the entirety of the military-veteran community) but were determined to zero-in on the emotional truth of those moments of what it meant to serve and to be part of a brotherhood.
And they succeeded.
David’s friends and colleagues in the special operations community reached out to him to voice their support and admiration for the show and appreciate his message of what it means to be part of that team.
“I think they respect what we’re trying to do,” Broyles says “But, it’s the toughest group to please. There’s no doubt about it. We’re constantly straddling the line between reality and drama. We try to straddle the worlds between the hard authenticity, the tactics, the equipment, the movement. We wanted to make it as real and authentic as possible without putting any of the guys who are actually doing the job at risk.”
The other side of the coin is telling the story to those who have no experience in war and loss, but making them come to understand what is to be part of that bigger picture.
“That is drilling down to the emotional truth of the moment,” he says. “It’s not just about war, it’s about brotherhood and loss and family. I think people respond to those kind of broader, deeper issues regardless of whether or not you have military experience.”
Since World War II, the Army has been using comic books to train soldiers on specific duties and reduce casualties through improved situational awareness.
The trend continued through the Vietnam War. At that time, the Army discovered a training deficiency and produced a comic book to educate soldiers about proper weapon maintenance.
Fast forward to today, the Army is facing a new challenge.
Advancements in cyber and smart technologies have the potential to alter the landscape of future military operations, according to Lt. Col. Robert Ross, threatcasting project lead at the Army Cyber Institute, West Point, New York.
The U.S. military, allied partners, and their adversaries are finding new ways to leverage networked devices on the battlefield, Ross said.
The Army Cyber Institute at West Point, New York, has partnered with Arizona State University Threatcasting Lab to produce a series of graphic novellas such as “1000 Cuts.”
(US Army photo)
“The use of networked technology is ubiquitous throughout society and the leveraging of these devices on future battlefields will become more prevalent; there is just no escape from this trend. Technology is integrated at every level of our Army,” he said.
Keeping with the Army’s legacy of producing visual literature to improve readiness, the ACI has partnered with Arizona State University Threatcasting Lab to produce a series of graphic novellas, Ross said.
The lab brings together military, government, industry, and academia experts to envision possible future threats.
The graphic seen here is from the novella titled “1000 Cuts.”
(US Army photo)
Through their research, the workshop develops potential cyber threat scenarios, and then explores options to disrupt, mitigate, and recover from these future threats.
Each graphic novella considers what cyber threats are plausible in the next 10 years — based on a combination of scientific fact and the imagination of those involved, Ross explained.
“This project is designed to deliver that understanding through visual narrative,” he said. “Technical reports and research papers do not translate as well to the audiences we are looking to influence. Graphic novellas are more influential of a medium for conveying future threats to not only Army organizations at large, but down to the soldier level.”
The graphic seen here is from the novella titled “Insider Threat.”
(US Army photo)
The novella titled “1000 Cuts” depicts the psychological impact that a cyber-attack could have on soldiers and their families. In the story, these attacks were enough to disrupt a deployed unit, leaving them open to an organized attack, Ross said.
“Given the exponential growth in soldiers’ use of [networked] devices … 1000 Cuts presents an extremely plausible threat. It demonstrates how non-state actors can leverage technical vulnerabilities within the cyber domain to their advantage in the land domain,” Ross said.
“The visual conveyance of a graphic novella enables leaders to not only envision these scenarios but retain the lessons that can be drawn from them as well,” he added.
Service members and their families at Fort Lee, Virginia, asked the Commander in Chief tough questions during a town hall meeting broadcast by CNN Sept 28.
President Barack Obama covered varied topics, including the Syrian civil war, sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, issues affecting veterans and protests during the playing of the national anthem.
When a soldier asked the president for his opinion about football players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, Obama said that honoring the flag and the anthem “is part of what binds us together as a nation,” but that he also respects the right to have a different opinion.
“We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with,” he said. “But that’s what freedom means in this country.”
He said American democracy can be frustrating at times, “but it’s the best system we’ve got. And, the only way that we make it work is to see each other, listen to each other, try to be respectful of each other, not just go into separate corners.”
The president added, “I do hope that anybody who is trying to express any political view of any sort understands that they do so under the blanket of protection of our men and women in uniform and that that appreciation of that sacrifice is never lost.”
Hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the town hall-style event included questions about sending 600 additional U.S. troops to Iraq to help in the coming offensive against the Islamic State. Obama said the decision to send troops into harm’s way is the most important one he makes.
“I’ve always been very mindful that when I send any of our outstanding men and women in uniform into a war theater, they’re taking a risk that they may not come back,” the commander in chief said. “And so, there has not been a change from the time I came into office to the time that I leave office in which that is not a somber decision.”
The president said the nature of the missions has changed during his tenure. In Afghanistan, U.S. troops have transitioned from a combat role to an advise-and-assist role, with about 9,000 U.S. service members there.
“In Iraq, our goal is to provide air support, and we’ve flown 100,000 sorties, 15,000 strikes, to decimate ISIL,” he said. “But our job is not to provide the ground forces that are rolling back territory. That’s the job of the Iraqis, where we provide training and assistance [and] logistical support.”
U.S. special operators are in Iraq and Syria to go after high-value targets and to gather intelligence, the president said. He noted that about 5,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, and about 300 are in Syria.
“But, it’s the nature of the role that has changed, rather than how I assess it,” the president said. “I am always mindful that any time our men and women in uniform are in a war theater, there is risk.”
U.S. personnel are engaging in a fight that is dangerous, the president said. “Each and every time we make a decision, I want to make sure that the Pentagon is describing how it is that those folks are going to add to our ability to dismantle ISIL in a smart and sustainable way,” he said.
The president told the service members that he constantly reviews options as he looks at the Syrian civil war. “There hasn’t been probably a week that’s gone by in which I haven’t re-examined some of the underlying premises around how we’re dealing with the situation in Syria, and explored whether there are additional options that we haven’t thought of,” he said.
Those include military options, the president said. “We have, by a mile, the greatest military on Earth, he said. “And we are going to always be in a position to defend the United States, defend our personnel, defend our people, our property and our allies.”
Obama said the question he always asks himself as commander in chief is whether inserting large numbers of U.S. troops will provide a better outcome.
“There have been critics of mine that have suggested that, well, if early enough you had provided sufficient support to a moderate opposition, they might have been able to overthrow the murderous Assad regime,” he said. “The problem with that is, as we’ve seen, that the Assad regime is supported by Russia. It’s supported by Iran.”
Because the Assad regime did not directly threaten the United States, Obama said, any deployment of troops would have violated international law.
“And unless we were willing to sustain a large presence there and escalate, if and when Russia or Iran got involved, then we were going to be in a situation where at some point the situation would collapse, except we would have a bunch of folks on the ground, and be very much overextended,” he said.
The key in Syria at this point, the president said, is to get the parties involved to talk together on diplomatic and political tracks.
“We will try to mitigate the pain and suffering that those folks are undergoing,” he said. “This is part of the reason why our approach to refugees, for example, has to be open-hearted, although also hard-headed, to protect our homeland.”
The Veterans Affairs Department received some criticism from the audience, and the president acknowledged the validity of the complaints. VA medical care must improve, he said, adding that there has been progress. The department had been underfunded for years, Obama said, noting the administration has increased its funding by 85 percent. But this is not a problem that will be solved by throwing money at it, he said. The department, he added, has to change procedures and its culture.
The president noted that VA makes 58 million medical appointments per year. Like a large ship that has turned and is on the right course now, he said, it will take time to reach its destination.
“We now have a situation where about 80 percent of individuals who interact with the VA are satisfied that they’re getting timely treatment,” Obama said. I want that to be 100 percent, and that requires more work.”
A Coast Guard detachment in Florida is asking for tips that may help investigators track down a person making fake “mayday” calls on marine band radio and describing a military response to a nuclear attack.
The calls and threats originate off the Gulf Coast of Florida, according to a news release from Coast Guard Public Affairs Detachment Tampa Bay. The pattern of threats and false alarms has continued for some time; the release, issued Sept. 12, 2019, states that Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg received the latest threat Aug. 13, 2019, via VHF channel 22A.
“In this call, the male caller makes threats against the Coast Guard personnel, aircraft, and vessels,” officials said in the release. “The broadcast sounds like the same person who has made other radio broadcasts that start with MAYDAY three times and then talks about, ‘scrambling all jets we are under nuclear attack.'”
Coast Guard Investigative Service St. Petersburg is calling on the public to share any information leading to the identification of the hoaxer. CGIS, a federal law enforcement agency, investigates crimes within the Coast Guard, but is also tasked as part of its mission with investigating external maritime matters, including false distress calls.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jamie Thielen)
These kinds of calls are not uncommon; in June 2019, the Coast Guard published several releases asking the public to track down people behind hoax radio transmissions. One caller, from the Pamlico Sound and Oregon Inlet area of North Carolina, made calls “stating that they were ‘going down’ and regularly broadcasts ‘mayday’ or ‘help,’ along with a string of other calls, including profanity,” according to a report from news outlet Coastal Review.
Around the same time, a suspected hoax caller from the Ocean City, Maryland, area made transmissions claiming to be “going down with the ship” and interspersed “mayday” calls with profanity.
According to the recent release, those found guilty of making false distress calls may face up to 10 years in prison and 0,000 in fines on top of whatever it costs to search for and apprehend them.
(Coast guard photo)
While the Coast Guard does not always announce when suspected hoax perpetrators are apprehended, some do end up doing time. In 2015, a 23-year-old man from Vinalhaven, Maine, was sentenced to a year in prison, up to one year in community confinement and restitution of ,000 to the Coast Guard “for the costs associated with the search that it conducted in response to the hoax calls,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Hoax calls are costly to the taxpayer and our service,” Charles “Marty” Russell, resident agent-in-charge of the Coast Guard Investigative Service office in St. Petersburg, said in a statement. “When the Coast Guard receives a distress call, we immediately respond, putting our crews at risk, and risking the lives of boaters who may legitimately need our help.”
Those with information about the identity of the hoax caller can call Coast Guard Investigative Service St. Petersburg at (727) 535-1437 extension 2308.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Female Soldiers may now wear dreadlocks and male Soldiers whose religious faith requires beards and turbans may now seek permanent accommodation.
Army directive 2017-03, signed earlier this month, spells out changes to Army Regulation 670-1, the uniform policy, for the turban, worn by male Soldiers, the under-turban; male hair worn under a turban; the hijab, which is a head scarf worn by females; and beards worn by male members.
Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Moore, the uniform policy branch sergeant major inside the Army’s G-1, said the policy change was made largely as a way to increase diversity inside the service, and to provide opportunity for more Americans to serve in uniform.
“This is so we can expand the pool of people eligible to join the Army,” Moore said. “There was a section of the population who previously were unable to enlist in the Army. This makes the Army better because you’re opening the doors for more talent. You’re allowing people to come in who have skills the Army can use.”
Female Soldiers have been asking for a while for permission to wear “locks,” or dreadlocks, Moore said.
“We understood there was no need to differentiate between locks, corn rows, or twists, as long as they all met the same dimension,” Moore said. “It’s one more option for female hairstyles. Females have been asking for a while, especially females of African-American decent, to be able to wear dreadlocks, and locks, because it’s easier to maintain that hairstyle.”
The Army directive says that each lock or dreadlock “will be of uniform dimension; have a diameter no greater than 1/2 inch; and present a neat, professional, and well-groomed appearance.”
All female Soldiers can opt to wear the dreadlocks, Moore said.
The Army has granted waivers to Sikh Soldiers since 2009 to wear a turban in lieu of issued Army headgear, and allowed those same Soldiers to wear the turban indoors when Army headgear would normally be removed. Moore said for those Soldiers, the waivers were permanent, but that it was unclear Army-wide that this was the case. That is no longer true, he said.
The new policy is that religious accommodation for Soldiers wanting to wear the turban needs to be requested only once, and that the accommodation will apply to them for their entire Army career.
In an Army directive dated Jan. 3, then-Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning made official the policy regarding the wear of turbans, beards, hijabs, and under-turbans.
“Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations, and I direct that the wear and appearance standards established in … this directive be incorporated into AR 670-1,” Fanning wrote in the directive.
“With the new directive, which will be incorporated into the Army regulation, religious accommodations are officially permanent for Soldiers,” Moore said.
Also a change: whereas in the past requests for such accommodation rose to the Pentagon before they could be approved, permission can now be granted by brigade-level commanders. Bringing approval down to that level, Moore said, speeds up the approval process dramatically.
That was the intent, Moore said. “They are trying to speed up the process for the Army and for the Soldier.”
Moore said the same religious accommodation rules apply for those Soldiers seeking to wear a beard for religious reasons, and to female Soldiers who want to wear a hijab as well.
If brigade-level commanders feel it inappropriate to approve the accommodation for some reason, he said, then they can recommend disapproval, but it must be channeled to the GCMCA for decision. Under the new policy, requests for religious accommodations that are not approved at the GCMCA-level will come to the secretary of the Army or designee for a final decision.
Still at issue for Soldiers is wear of a beard in conjunction with a gas mask.
“Study results show that beard growth consistently degrades the protection factor provided by the protective masks currently in the Army inventory to an unacceptable degree,” Fanning wrote in the Army directive. “Although the addition of a powered air-purifying respirator and/or a protective mask with a loose-fitting facepiece has demonstrated potential to provide adequate protection for bearded individuals operating in hazardous environments, further research, development, testing, and evaluation are necessary to identify masks that are capable of operational use and can be adequately maintained in field conditions.”
Moore said that until further testing is completed, and alternatives are found to protect bearded Soldiers in environments that are affected or are projected to be affected by chemical weapons, Soldiers with beards may be told to shave them in advance, with specific and concrete evidence of an expected chemical attack.
If a chemical warfare threat is immediate, Moore said, instructions to shave their beards would come from higher up, at the General Court-Martial Convening Authority-level — typically a division-level commander.
Likewise, Soldiers who seek religious accommodation to wear a beard will not be allowed to attend the Army schools required for entry into chemical warfare-related career fields, Moore said.
For wear of the beard, Moore said, the new directive allows for beards to be as long as the Soldier wants, so long as the beard can be rolled up and compressed to less than two inches from the bottom of the chin. Additionally, for those Soldiers wearing a beard under a religious accommodation, the rules for wearing a mustache are also new. Mustaches may extend past the corners of the mouth, but must be trimmed or groomed to not cover the upper lip.
Maj. Kamaljeet Kalsi, a civil affairs officer in the Army Reserve’s 404th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Dix, New Jersey, is a Sikh Soldier who wears both a turban and a beard. He said he welcomes the new policy change as an indication that the Army is now looking to both accolade his faith, and to open its doors to talent in the United States that might have been previously untapped.
“It means a lot to us,” Kalsi said. “And not just to Sikh Americans, but I think Americans that value religious freedom and religious liberty, and value diversity. I think it means a lot to all of us. To me it says the nation is moving in a direction that the founders intended, a pluralistic democracy that represents all. I think we’re a stronger nation when we can draw from the broadest amount of talent, the broadest talent pool. And it makes us a stronger military when the military looks like the people it serves.”
Capt. Simratpal Singh, with the 249th Engineer Battalion prime power section, said the policy is for him about acceptance.
“On a personal level, it means that I can serve freely and without having to worry about any stipulations or constraint,” he said. “That’s all I want: is to serve in the U.S. Army just like any of my peers.”
Because the next edition of AR 670-1 is expected to be published next month, the Army will not be able to include the new rules. But Moore said Soldiers can expect to see these most recent changes in the AR 670-1 that comes out at this time next year.
If you have a smart phone and Google, you can take photos of various animals in your house and it’s basically the greatest thing that’s ever happened in quarantine (and if we’re being honest, maybe outside of that, too).
Using Google’s AR (augmented reality) technology, kids and adults alike can spend an unbelievable amount of time seeing animals up close and personal, and, the best part? To scale. There’s nothing like seeing a Great White take up your backyard to understand how large these creatures are. With a few clicks on your phone, your Tiger King selfie is mere moments away.
To get started, open Google on your smart phone’s browser. Type in any one of the animals currently featured (they continue to add, so if your favorite isn’t listed, keep checking back!). Currently, they have:
Once you’ve googled the animal, scroll down a tiny bit until you see “Meet a life-sized (animal) up close.” Click on the “View in 3D.”
Once you click the view in 3D, you’ll have the option for AR or Object. The object will just be the animal. AR is where it’s at. Move your phone around until you see the animal’s shadow and then touch it until it appears. Then, enjoy having your children pose with an interactive, 3D, life-size animal in your house. Quarantine just got a million times better. Thanks, Google.
The US and its coalition partners have dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in the first ten months of 2018 than any year in the past five years, the US military revealed Nov. 29, 2018.
Between January and October of 2018, the US-led coalition dropped 5,982 bombs in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support, significantly more than the previous years.
Coalition strike aircraft flew 6,584 sorties during that time, 783 of which involved the release of a weapon, the US Air Forces Central Command’s Combined Air Operations Center disclosed in its monthly Airpower Statistics report.
The Trump administration made airpower a priority for the war in Afghanistan. With the relocation of Air National Guard KC-135 refueling tankers from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar to Kandahar last fall, the US-led coalition has been able to increase the number of airstrikes against the Taliban and other enemy combatants.
In addition to the refueling tankers, a number of A-10C Thunderbolt attack aircraft, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, and MQ-9 Reaper drones were also shifted to Kandahar, Military.com reported Nov. 28, 2018.
A U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.
The US and its coalition partners have made progress in the fight against ISIS, but while the number of bombs falling on Afghanistan is on the rise, the coalition continues to struggle to secure victory against a surging and brutal Taliban foe.
The Afghan government’s control of the country has been slipping over the past few years, falling from 72 percent in 2015 to just over half in the third quarter of 2018. In that period, Afghanistan lost 28,529 security force personnel, the Afghan president said in November 2018.
The US continues to suffer losses as well.
Five US troops were killed in November 2018, one to an insider attack, one to accidental friendly fire, and three to an improvised explosive device. Thirteen US service members have died fighting in Afghanistan in 2018, as US forces have largely shifted to advise, assist and training missions.
The Taliban “are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much.”
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“We do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile,” Dunford added, stressing that the key is to pressure the Taliban, which has also suffered heavy losses, to eventually negotiate.
Reporters from the Washington Post recently questioned President Donald Trump on America’s presence in Afghanistan. “We’re there because virtually every expert that I have and speak to say if we don’t go there, they’re going to be fighting over here. And I’ve heard it over and over again,” he replied.
He further remarked that there is talk of peace, but added that he was unsure if that is a real possibility.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Nov. 28, 2018, Mattis said the peace process is “picking up momentum,” but did not go into additional detail.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Two Army Rangers who were killed in Afghanistan earlier this week may have been struck by friendly fire, the Pentagon said.
Sergeant Joshua Rodgers, 22, and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, 23, both deployed from Fort Benning, Georgia, died during a Wednesday night raid targeting the emir of the Islamic State, a group also known as ISIS and ISIL. A third soldier was injured during the operation but is expected to recover.
Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis, said officials are investigating whether the soldiers were killed by American forces or Afghan commandos involved in the raid. He said it was “possible” the Rangers were struck by friendly fire but there are “no indications it was intentional,” he said.
“War is a very difficult thing, in the heat of battle, in the fog of war the possibility always exists for friendly fire, and that may have been what happened here and that is what we are looking into with this investigation,” he said.
Officials said 50 Army Rangers and 40 Afghan commandos were dropped by helicopter into the Nagarhar Province, located about a mile fro the site where the United States dropped the MOAB on April 13.
Several IS leaders and operatives were killed in the raid.
“We did know going in that this was going to be a very tough fight,” Davis said. “We were going after the leader of ISIS in Afghanistan and doing it in a way that required us to put a large number of people on the ground as part of this mission, and it was a mission that appears to have accomplished its objective but it did so at a cost”
Kyiv says Russia has “partially” unblocked Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, allowing Ukrainian ships to pass through the Kerch Strait for the first time since Nov. 25, 2018, when Russian forces seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels and detained 24 crewmen.
“Berdyansk and Mariupol are partially unlocked,” Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said on Dec. 4, 2018, as NATO reiterated its call on Russia to allow “unhindered access” to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.
“Vessels make their way to the entrance and exit through the Kerch Strait toward Ukrainian ports,” Omelyan said.
The minister said that ships navigating through the Kerch Strait to and from Ukrainian ports “are stopped and inspected by Russia as before, but the traffic has been partially restored.”
Ukraine’s Agriculture Ministry later said that the country had resumed grain shipments from the Sea of Azov.
“Passage of vessels with agricultural products through ports in the Sea of Azov has been unlocked,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The loading of grain to vessels through the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk is restored and carried out in regular mode,” it added.
Captured BK-02 Berdyansk with a hole in the pilothouse.
The naval confrontation between Russia and Ukraine topped the agenda of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting with their Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, in Brussels.
After the talks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the 29 members of the alliance called on Russia to “immediately release the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized.”
“Russia must allow freedom of navigation and allow unhindered access to Ukrainian ports,” he added.
“In response to Russia’s aggressive actions, NATO has substantially increased its presence in the Black Sea region over the past few years — at sea, in the air, and on the ground,” Stoltenberg also noted.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Russia continues to hold 24 Ukrainian sailors detained in the Nov. 25, 2018 incident, despite demands from NATO for their release from detention centers in Moscow.
Moscow Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Potyayeva was scheduled on Dec. 4, 2018, to visit three Ukrainian sailors who were injured in the Nov. 25, 2018 incident, when Russian forces rammed a Ukrainian Navy tugboat and fired on two other ships before seizing the vessels.
The clash has added to tension over Crimea, which Russia occupied and illegally annexed from Ukraine in March 2014.
It also has raised concerns of a possible flare-up in a simmering war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
The Russia-backed separatists hold parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, including a piece of shoreline that lies between the Russian border and the Ukrainian Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Dec. 3, 2018, said concerns that Moscow could seek to create a “land corridor” linking Russia to Crimea were “absurd.”
At their Brussels meeting, the foreign ministers “restated NATO’s solidarity with Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
“We recognize Ukraine’s aspirations to join the alliance, and progress has already been made on reforms. But challenges remain, so we encourage Ukraine to continue on this path of reform. This is crucial for prosperity and peace in Ukraine,” the NATO chief said.
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Sniper teams from across the United States travel to Fort Benning, Georgia, to compete in the U.S. Army Best Sniper Competition, April 12, 2021, on post. The goal of this competition is to identify the best sniper team from around the Army. (U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs).
Last week was Infantry Week at Fort Benning, GA, an entire week dedicated to celebrating some of the most sought-after awards and training events. This year’s schedule included Best Sniper and Best Ranger.
First up was Best Sniper, where teams of two soldiers competed in a three-day event through an array of tests and obstacles, including close-up shots with pistols, to those where they must hit targets 600+ meters away with a rifle, as well as shotgun events. The entire competition is built off of individual and collective tasks focused around key Army Sniper Course basic teachings, like increasing validity and survivability through reconnaissance.
Competitors traveled from across the nation and from various branches of the military; Marines and members of the Coast Guard were present in this year’s event.
Last year’s competition was canceled due to COVID-19, and the event hasn’t fulfilled its international status since 2018.
Best Sniper competitors for 2021 gathered for a chance to win different titles, including: Field Craft Award, which encompasses land navigation, target detection, and night range estimation; Top Pistol; Coach’s Award; and Iron Man, for the team with the fastest time; and the coveted title of Best Sniper.
SFC Zachary Small, NCOIC for the Best Sniper Competition 2021, said, “I think the community needed this, i think the competitors needed this, and I know the coaches absolutely needed this.”
On describing the design, he said: “The competition was based on creating realism with some of the events. It’s kind of difficult to replicate combat scenarios, but trying to make it as realistic as humanly possible was primarily the goal here.”
The teams participated in an event called Flavortown where users gave away their position at the top of a building, then had to remove targets and exfil from the top of the structure. Other events included night range estimation, with some items in an urban setting and others in a woodland point of view. Physical tests were also brought in, such as the standard two-mile run, Small said, but with teams wearing uniforms and boots.
Certain technologies were also banned to test soldiers’ abilities without certain equipment, he said. Land navigation was done with SUAs (small unmanned aircraft system) and UAVs (unmanned air vehicles) trying to find the competitors in the woods.
Because different units have their own weapon systems, which tend to vary, SFC Small said competitors were restricted to using certain calibers. For their primary weapon they shot a .300 Win Mag and for their secondary, 7.62 mm.
“It’s an overall problem solving competition, he said. “It’s cool because you get to see how different services handle the problems mentally and their solution to the problem physically.”
As for the competition being held at Benning, Small said they had overwhelming support from leadership, ForceCom, Special Operation Forces, and sister services.
“The benefit of having other sister services is increasing the interoperability. We’re branching out and get to talk to other subject matter experts.”
A team consisting of First Sergeant Guillermo Roman and Staff Sergeant William Orr, former Sniper instructors and current hunting buddies, joined forces in their first sniper competition. Previously, they had worked and coached shooting events.
“It’s a different kind of stress, it’s more fun than I thought it would be,” Orr said. “It’s much more mentally stressful to see your time tick away, as opposed to seeing your target get away while you’re going through the process.”
As previous Sniper instructors, Roman agreed that they know the process, but the time pressure is the most difficult aspect to get used to.
“We’ve taught kids, take your time, check twice, take your shot. But when you’re under pressure, all that stuff almost goes out the window for a split second. You have to check yourself, remember to slow down and remember what we were taught and then engage.”
Winners of the event included:
Ironman Award: USMC School of Infantry West
Field Craft: UT ARNG (19th Special Forces Group)
Top Pistol: Special Forces Sniper Course
Top Coach: SFC Daniel Horner CA ARNG
1st Place: Special Forces Sniper Course
2nd Place: 3/75 Ranger Regiment
3rd Place: UT ARNG (19th SFG)
6th Place: CO ARNG
8th Place: CA ARNG
9th Place: IA ARNG
Overall, an OUTSTANDING performance and representation for the Army National Guard.
The largest non-nuclear weapon in the Air Force‘s arsenal recently got an upgrade from Boeing, Air Force officials told Military.com.
While they couldn’t comment on how many GBU-57 weapons received the upgrade for operational security reasons, “the Enhanced Threat Response IV modification improved the weapon’s performance against hard and deeply buried targets,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said. The announcement was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, the bomb is a bunker buster meant to take out hard, deeper-rooted areas, such as underground lairs. While the MOP weighs in at 33,000 pounds, its warhead is only roughly 5,300 pounds.
Whether or not the MOP is currently deployed was not disclosed.
In October 2017 The Aviationist website posted an account of Northrop Grumman-made B-2s simulating airstrikes across various targets in Missouri. According to the witness, the strikes, simulated in the Ozarks, resembled a practice run in a mountainous terrain such as Afghanistan or North Korea.
Meanwhile, citing a test and evaluations report, Aviation Week recently reported that three B-2s, each armed with a GBU-57, struck at targets at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in May, 2017.
The MOP outweighs the Air Force’s Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, bomb. However, the air-burst MOAB — first deployed in combat in 2017 — is the most powerful conventional bomb with 18,000 pounds of explosives, equivalent to about 11 tons of TNT.
The 21,600-pound GBU-43 — nicknamed “mother of all bombs” — dropped from an MC-130special operations cargo plane onto a specific location in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan in April 2017. The intention was to take out militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s branch Khorasan, or ISIS-K, amassed in a tunnel complex.
That strike killed at least 94 militants, a U.S. military official said at the time.