When the idea for an Army Futures Command was first broached by Chief of Staff General Mark Milley and then acting Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, it was part shock and part thrill. The civilian and military leadership of the Army was united in their intention to radically change the service’s approach to acquisition.
The centerpiece of their strategy for change was the creation of a Futures Command. The goal of the new command, according to the Vice Chief of Staff General James McConville, is to kickstart Army modernization by starting with a vision of the future, imagining the world you want and then working backward to figure out what it would take to get there. This approach is much more likely to produce revolutionary change, and it’s the one Army Futures Command will adopt.
In recent public statements, General John Murray, the newly-confirmed commander of the Army’s fledgling Futures Command, has been downplaying expectations for his new organization. He has cautioned listeners not to expect miracles from the new organization. In fact, in General Murray’s estimation, it will take the next three to five years to achieve buy-in from the Army and Congress for Futures Command. According to him, buy-in is achieved “by being a little bit disruptive, but not being so disruptive you upset the apple cart.” So much for the goal of revolutionary change.
The trouble with this perspective is that the current state of the Army requires some miracles. Virtually the entire array of Army ground and aerial platforms is in serious, in some cases desperate, need of modernization. Also, at the end of the Cold War, the Army essentially abandoned several capability areas, most notably tactical air defense, electronic warfare and chemical-biological defense, that it now is scrambling to resurrect. Then there are the emerging areas such as cyber warfare and robotics which the Army and the other services are struggling to master.
General John Murray, the newly-confirmed commander of the Army’s fledgling Futures Command.
The Army leadership may not believe in miracles. However, they do seem to be indulging in wishful thinking. By locating Futures Command in Austin, a city with a reputation as a hotbed of innovative thinking regarding technology, they believe that a staff composed largely of mid-career Army officers and government civilians can be magically transformed into a cohort of Steve Jobs, Peter Thiel and Bill Gates. Army secretary Mark Esper described their intentions this way: “We needed to immerse ourselves in an environment where innovation occurs, at speeds far faster than our current process allows.”
Neither Silicon Valley nor Austin created the innovative culture that has become so attractive to defense leaders. There is nothing in the air or water in either location that promotes creative thinking or an entrepreneurial spirit. There are many cities in the United States that possess the combination of characteristics that Army leaders said they wanted in the place that would house Futures Command: academic talent, advanced industries, and an innovative private sector. Army leaders initially had a list of thirty potential candidates. The five finalists, Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Raleigh, are spread across the United States.
Department of Defense and Army leaders have it exactly backward. Innovators created Silicon Valley, Austin and the other locations that were identified as prospective homes for Futures Command. Moreover, innovators are not made, they are born. They begin by seeing the world differently than conventional thinkers. They don’t learn to take risks; it is part of their DNA.
This is, even more, the case for entrepreneurs, those who successfully translate the innovator’s creations into marketable products. Entrepreneurship is inherently about using the products of innovation to destroy old devices, systems and ways of behaving. Can one imagine Steve Jobs’ response if he had been told to restrain himself to being just a little disruptive?
If immersion in a “hothouse” environment of innovation is necessary in order for the Pentagon to produce cutting-edge military capabilities, how does one account for the successes of Kelly Johnson, Hyman Rickover, Donn Starry and the other defense innovators in the decades before Silicon Valley emerged? How do we explain the stream of innovations that have emerged from the Lockheed Martin Skunkworks, the Boeing’ Phantom Works and BAE Systems’ state-of-the-art Integration, Assembly and Test facility?
It is unclear how Futures Command is going to infuse the rest of the Army’s acquisition system with the spirit of innovation and the drive of entrepreneurship. There is an urgent need to get control over the requirements process that can often take five or more years to develop a set of validated requirements. But this is only a palliative measure.
What must be disrupted, even destroyed, is the risk-averse, do it by the books, write iron-clad contracts mentality that afflicts much of the acquisition system. There is also an imperative to change the risk-averse mindset of many Program Executive Officers and Program Managers.
Futures Command could be most useful, at least initially, by focusing on removing impediments to innovation and entrepreneurship rather than searching for new and potentially exciting technologies. It could focus on deregulation and retraining contracting officers so that they are supportive of the process of innovation. Then the Command could look for law schools that teach their students how to find ways to change policies and procedures rather than identifying all the reasons why it can’t be done. Building a flexible acquisition system with a culture supportive of innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit would be a miracle. But this is what the Army needs.
The craziest thing we could do for this franchise was to fly people and equipment to Hawaii and try to tell a story that has all the elements people love about Jurassic Park but from a tactical military perspective,” producer and Army veteran Gregory Wong told We Are The Mighty.
It was crazy — and somehow he pulled it off.
Wong brought members of the military, firearms, and Jurassic community together to execute his vision: an epic fan film for one of the most iconic franchises of all time.
Hold on to your butts.
Whatever it takes to get the shot.
“We had so many partners on this project and every one of them helped with different aspects of the film. Paradise Park welcomed us in to their home for two days in the most authentic ‘Jurassic Jungle’ any filmmaker could dream of,” said Wong.
The cast and crew had 5 days to get every shot they needed on the island. Like any indie filmmakers could attest, it meant a brutal schedule. Dogs of War helped with three locations and active duty service members stationed on the island helped transport cast and crew — and jumped in for stunts and background work.
Back at base camp, Travis Haley conducts tactical training.
Force Reconnaissance Marine Travis Haley, along with his company, Haley Strategic, was involved with development of prototype gear and equipment just for the film. Haley brought his Spec Ops background and weapons expertise to the film, and he got to learn first-hand how challenging it can be to navigate the military-Hollywood divide.
His knowledge brought authenticity to the film that’s often difficult for filmmakers to get right. Military operations might not always look dynamic on film, but Haley was up to the challenge of portraying realistic tactics while telling an entertaining story.
“The filming schedule was rough but the people made it worthwhile. Most of us did this on our own dime and I hope the audience sees the passion we had for bringing this vision to life,” reflected Jones.
Baret Fawbush, a pastor and fundamental shooting instructor, was another social media influencer new to a narrative film set, but he was more than prepared to lend his expertise to the film, personally demonstrating the “manual of arms” for each cast member with a weapon.
U.S. Marine Robert Bruce conducts location scouting on Oahu.
Many, many brands came together to help Wong bring the film to the screen. A few of the major ones included Evike, JKarmy, PTS, Krytac, GP, and GG, who donated replica prop firearms and uniforms for the production. Ballahack Outdoor helped outfit the film’s leads with tip-of-the-spear footwear. There’s even a raptor puppet involved, created by Marco Cavassa, a prop builder for the film industry.
“I think a lot of people will appreciate the attention to detail and production value. Never before has a Jurassic fan film been so ambitious and daring. The making of such a project was a wild ride which we hope to embark on again soon,” said Wong.
Congratulations, Greg, you did it. You crazy son of a bitch, you did it.
The Department of Defense says the service branches aren’t spending enough taxpayer dollars to fund their morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) programs, according to a memo sent to each of the services last month.
Military Times reported this week that Todd Weiler, assistant defense secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, sent the memo to each branch to remind them that they were responsible for using a specific percentage of taxpayer funds to operate MWR programs.
“These standards are not optional and are not subject to Military Department waiver,” Weiler wrote.
MWR programs are required to receive a percentage of funding from Congress through either appropriated funds or non-appropriated funds, or a combination of the two.
The DoD requires that programs determined to be “Category A” must receive 85 percent of funding from taxpayer dollars. “Category A” are considered “mission sustaining programs” and “promote the physical and mental well-being of the military member,” according to Military One Source.
“Category B” requires 65 percent of operational costs to come from taxpayer dollars. Those programs consist of community support programs like child development centers, which charge families for use and therefore get some funding from customers.
“Category C” are programs that are nearly fully self-funded and include golf courses, base clubs, and recreational lodging. These programs are authorized some limited appropriated funds.
Weiler had previously sent a memo in June to remind the services to return their feedback on MWR funding by August, but both the Army and the Navy missed their deadlines.
Rather, the Army decided to cut $105 million from MWR funds, and the Navy only sent feedback on its Category A funding.
“I thought we needed to up our communication,” Weiler said in response to the Army’s planned slashing of the MWR budget.
The executive director of The National Military Family Association, Joyce Raezer, told Military Times that, due to budget cuts, sequestration, and changes to various other budgetary items, she believed families didn’t expect much from the services. “There are too many other worries,” she said.
Of the services, only the Marine Corps did not meet the 85 percent requirement, coming in at 77 percent of Category A program expenses funded by taxpayer dollars.
Every service fell short of utilizing the required percentage of taxpayer funding for Category B programs.
Weiler called out the Air Force specifically for not having met the requirements for four straight years, with no plan in place to correct the issue.
In the memo sent to the Army, Weiler asked Army Secretary Eric Fanning to halt the planned $105 million cut, a plea that was accepted and approved by Fanning. The Army plans to complete an analysis of its MWR programs and funding later this year.
Military.com reported that Colonel James Love told them that the $105 million cut would go into effect once the Pentagon approved the Army’s requested changes. He blamed a lack of “good business” practices, such as not raising prices for MWR programs, for the decision to cut the Army MWR budget.
“It’s good for families,” Love told Military.com. “But it’s not sustainable.”
The Navy is firing weapons, engaging in combat scenarios, and refining warfighting tactics through a rigorous training regiment aimed at better preparing the sea service for massive warfare on the open ocean.
Described by Navy officials as “high-velocity learning,” Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) is focused on speeding up combat decision making and responding in real time to emerging high-tech enemy weapons such as missiles, lasers, sea mines, long-range anti-ship missiles, and torpedoes, among others.
“We are focused on the high-end fight” Cmdr. Emily Royse, SWATT leader, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The emphasis also has a heavy academic focus, lead by specially prepared Warfare Tactics Instructors, aimed at briefing — and then debriefing — a range of operational maritime warfare scenarios.
“For each training type we focus on sea control type events. Warfare units are presented with a scenario and we are there to help them through the decision making process to help them fight that scenario. For surface warfare, for instance, they might plan how they are going to get all their ships through narrow, high-risk straights or how to respond to small boat threats,” Royse added.
The training crosses a wide swath of maritime combat missions, to include mine countermeasures, Amphibious Ready Groups, Carrier Strike Groups, and other elements of surface warfare. The idea is to further establish and refine tactics, techniques, and procedures needed for major warfare against high-tech enemies.
“Sea control objective is to ensure that our forces are able to move freely within the sea lanes and ensure that they are free from threats or able to counter threats,” Royse said.
U.S. Navy ships assigned to the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group sail in formation for a strike group photo in the Caribbean Sea.
Some of the particular kinds of enemy weapons these courses anticipate for the future include a range of emerging new systems — to include lasers, rail-guns, and long-range missiles, among other technologies.
Not surprisingly, these courses appear as somewhat of a linear outgrowth or tactical manifestation of the Navy’s 2016 Surface Force Strategy document. Tilted “Return to Sea Control,” the strategy paper lists a number of specific enemy threat areas of concern focused upon by course trainers.
Examples of threats cited by the strategy paper include “anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, integrated and layered sensor systems, targeting networks, long-range bombers, advanced fighter aircraft, submarines, mines, advanced integrated air defenses, electronic warfare, and cyber and space technologies.”
Much like the training courses and the Surface Force Strategy, the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept also builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, in place now for a number of years. This strategic approach emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed.
Having cyber, space, and missile weapons — along with over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons — are relevant to offensive attack as well as the “distributed” portion of the strategy. Having an ability to defend against a wider range of attacks and strike from long-distances enables the fleet to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations, making US Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower.
Interestingly, the pressing need to emphasize offensive attack in the Navy fleet appears to have roots in previous Navy strategic thinking.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Doug Pearlman)
Part of the overall strategic rationale is to move the force back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors, such as that which was emphasized during the Cold War. While the importance of this kind of strategic and tactical thinking never disappeared, these things were emphasized less during the last 15-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, securing the international waterways, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure.
These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increase its offensive “lethality” given that rivals such as Russia and China have precision-guided anti-ship missiles able to hit targets at ranges greater than 900 miles in some cases. The advent of new cyber and electronic warfare attack technologies, enemy drones and the rapid global proliferation of sea mines all present uniquely modern nuances when compared to previous Cold-War strategic paradigms.
Nevertheless, the most current Naval Surface Warfare Strategy does, by design, appear to be somewhat of a higher-tech, modern adaptation of some fundamental elements of the Navy’s Cold-War-era approach — a time when major naval warfare against a Soviet force was envisioned as a realistic contingency.
A 1987 essay titled “Strategy Concept of the US Navy,” published by Naval History and Heritage Command, cites the importance of long-range offensive firepower and targeting sensors in a geographically dispersed or expansive open ocean warfare environment. The paper goes so far as to say the very survivability of US Naval Forces and the accomplishment of their missions depends upon offensive firepower.
“Integrated forces may be geographically distant, but their movements, sensors, and weapons are coordinated to provide maximum mutual support and offensive capability,” the paper writes.
The Cold War-era Strategic Concepts document also specifies that “Naval defensive capability should include long-range detection systems such as airborne early warning, quick reacting command and control systems and effective defensive weapons systems.”
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Trump’s speech focused largely on the long history of North Korea’s human-rights abuses, though Trump departed from his past rhetoric by offering North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his people “a path to much better future” if the country abandoned its nuclear ambitions.
But returning to typical form, Trump also brought up the US’s victories over ISIS and its nuclear submarines in the region. Trump said misinterpreting the US’s restraint for weakness would be a “fatal miscalculation” by North Korea, and he called on the international community to implement the UN’s strict sanctions on Pyongyang.
North Korean officials, who spoke with CNN about the speech, were not thrilled. “We don’t care about what that mad dog may utter because we’ve already heard enough,” they said.
The officials reaffirmed North Korea’s commitment to building nuclear weapons, bringing up the US’s “nuclear aircraft carriers and strategic bombers” before promising to “counter those threats by bolstering the power of justice in order to take out the root cause of aggression and war.”
North Korean officials have repeatedly said they will not look to negotiate with the US until they complete their country’s nuclear weapons program. At the same time, the US remains intent on preventing North Korea from perfecting a nuclear-equipped missile capable of reaching the US mainland.
On Wednesday, Trump arrived in China to talk to President Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Chairman Mao, about North Korea among other things. China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, has been unusually helpful in the US’s recent push to increase sanctions on Pyongyang.
The autonomous drone would quietly travel to “great depths,” move faster than a submarine or boat, “have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit,” and “carry massive nuclear ordnance,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin translation of his remarks (PDF).
“It is really fantastic. […] There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them,” he said, claiming Russia tested a nuclear-powered engine for the drones in December 2017. “Unmanned underwater vehicles can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads, which enables them to engage various targets, including aircraft groups, coastal fortifications and infrastructure.
“Putin did not refer to the device by name in his speech, but it appears to be the “oceanic multi-purpose Status-6 system” — also known as Kanyon or “Putin’s doomsday machine.”
Nuclear physicists say such a weapon could cause a large local tsunami, though they question its purpose and effectiveness, given the far-more-terrible destruction that nukes can inflict when detonated above-ground.
Why Putin’s ‘doomsday machine’ could be terrifying
A nuclear weapon detonated below the ocean’s surface can cause great devastation.
These underwater fireballs were roughly as energetic as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki in August 1945. In the tests, they burst through the surface, ejecting pillars of seawater more than a mile high while rippling out powerful shockwaves.
Some warships staged near the explosions were vaporized. Others were tossed like toys in a bathtub and sank, or sustained cracked hulls, crippled engines, and other damage. Notably, the explosions roughly doubled the height of waves to nearby islands, flooding inland areas.
“A well-placed nuclear weapon of yield in the range 20 MT to 50 MT near a seacoast could certainly couple enough energy to equal the 2011 tsunami, and perhaps much more,” Rex Richardson, a physicist and nuclear-weapons researcher, told Business Insider. The 2011 event he’s referring to is the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people in Japan.
“Taking advantage of the rising-sea-floor amplification effect, tsunami waves reaching 100 meters [328 feet] in height are possible,” Richardson said.
Richardson and other experts have also pointed out that a near-shore blast from this type of weapon could suck up tons of ocean sediment, irradiate it, and rain it upon nearby areas — generating catastrophic radioactive fallout.
“Los Angeles or San Diego would be particularly vulnerable to fallout due to the prevailing on-shore winds,” Richardson wrote, adding that he lives in San Diego.
The problem with blowing up nukes underwater
Greg Spriggs, a nuclear-weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, acknowledges that a 50-megaton weapon “could possibly induce a tsunami” and hit a shoreline with the energy equivalent to a 650-kiloton blast.
But he thinks “it would be a stupid waste of a perfectly good nuclear weapon.”
That’s because Sprigg believes it’s unlikely that even the most powerful nuclear bombs could unleash a significant tsunami after being detonated underwater.
“The energy in a large nuclear weapon is but a drop in the bucket compared to the energy of a [naturally] occurring tsunami,” Spriggs previously told Business Insider. “So, any tsunami created by a nuclear weapon couldn’t be very large.”
For example, the 2011 tsunami in Japan released about 9,320,000 megatons (MT) of TNT energy. That’s hundreds of millions of times more than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, and roughly 163,000 times greater than the Soviet Union’s test of Tsar Bomba on October 30, 1961.
Plus, Spriggs added, the energy of a blast wouldn’t all be directed toward shore — it’d radiate outward in all directions, so most of it “would be wasted going back out to sea.”
A detonation several miles from a coastline would deposit only about 1% of its energy as waves hitting the shore. That scenario may be more likely than an attack closer to the shore, assuming a US weapons-detection systems could detect an incoming Status-6 torpedo.
But even on the doorstep of a coastal city or base, Spriggs questions the purpose.
“This would produce a fraction of the damage the same 50 MT weapon could do if it were detonated above a large city,” Spriggs said. “If there is some country out there that is angry enough at the United States to use a nuclear weapon against us, why would they opt to reduce the amount of damage they impose in an attack?”
Is the Doomsday weapon real?
Putin fell short of confirming that Status-6 exists, though he did say the December 2017 tests of its power unit “enabled us to begin developing a new type of strategic weapon” to carry a huge nuclear bomb.
In a 2015 article in Foreign Policy, Jeffrey Lewis — a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies — dubbed the weapon “Putin’s doomsday machine.”
He wrote that in part because of speculation that the underwater weapon might be “salted,” or surrounded with metals like cobalt. That would dramatically extend fatal radiation levels from fallout (possibly for years or even decades), since the burst of neutrons emitted in a nuclear blast could transform those metals into long-lived, highly radioactive chemicals that sprinkle all around.
Since 2006, the Snowball Express has served to provide comfort and a sense of community to the families of fallen service members. Year-round activities across the country culminate in a grand, all-expenses paid excursion to Disney World. This year, when COVID-19 threatened to derail the annual event, the Gary Sinise Foundation, backed by its sponsors, A-list celebrities and hundreds of volunteers, engineered a virtual game plan that kept this inspiring joy ride on track.
“This has been a tough year for our nation,” said retired Gen. Robin Rand, CEO of the Gary Sinise Foundation. “Compound dealing every morning waking up to deal with the loss of a loved one with the pandemic. Gary wanted the families to know we were not going to forget them. He’s a genuine force of nature; his commitment to this community of our nation’s veterans and first responders is unmatched. So when we realized we had to pivot from an in-person event, he began reaching out to his connections made over the last 40 years. Gary is hard to say no to.”
Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band were frequent participants in the original iteration of Snowball Express. His foundation absorbed the program in 2018. Planning for a year of Snowball Express activities begins in January. In August, Rand said, the decision was made to cancel the in-person event out of concerns for the safety of more than 650 families and 1,750 Snowball Express-goers. “We quickly went virtual. The sponsors, entertainers and about 500 volunteers (including members of the original Snowball Express team) exceeded expectations.”
Held earlier in December, this year’s Snowball Express featured a “something for everyone” itinerary, including an opening night event streamed from the Museum of Magic hosted by David Copperfield and a dance party hosted by DJ D-Nice, a guided tour by Jay Leno of his classic and vintage car collection, a screening of the Oscar-winning documentary, “Free Solo” followed by a Q&A with climber Alex Honnold and a bedtime reading of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Kristen Chenowith.
Throughout the weekend, actors, musicians and entertainers, including Angelina Jolie, Mark Wahlberg, Tom Hanks, Patricia Heaton, Kaley Cuoco, Joe Mantegna, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks, Olympian Simone Biles and Keanu Reeves, offered messages of love and support.
But the core mission of Snowball Express is not just to give the families a much-needed and deserved good time, Rand said. It is also about providing resources to help them cope with their grief (children are encouraged to messages of love to their fallen parent) as well as information on such topics as college tuition. Perhaps the most meaningful and moving portion of the weekend is the Remembrance Garden. This year’s garden was re-staged as a virtual event; participants were able to navigate online to find a flag with their fallen hero’s name.
It is these aspects of the Snowball Express weekend that offer the most lasting value to families, according to Peggy Riggen, the legal guardian and great-aunt of 13-year-old Joshua Ryan Blackwell, whose father, Justin R. Blackwell, was killed in action when his son was five-months-old.
“Snowball Express has brought not only fun, but camaraderie, understanding, and a place to go to for help on questions that you just don’t know where to go to get the answer,” she said via email. “Josh and Allyson, my niece, developed great friendships with other Gold Star families and kids who understood what they were going through. They helped each other when they needed to talk, when they needed to grieve, when they needed to be angry or sad and lonely, and they could talk each other through it. I know that they found a lot of solace in that.”
This year’s Snowball Express was literally a “little engine that could” operation. Preparations for the Remembrance Garden along required volunteers to set up upwards of 2,000 flags, each with its own identifying marker.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the Foundation staff,” Rand said. “It was all hands on deck, a lot of late nights and long hours. It goes to show you, give people a task and if they are passionate about the mission there are no limits to what we can accomplish.”
The Commandant of the Marine Corps plans to reduce the configuration of Marine Rifle Squads from 13 down to 12 by increasing firepower and adding drone technology.
When are 12 Marines more lethal than 13? That math is the equation informing the recently reconfigured Marine Rifle Squad.
Said to arrive in FY 2020, the new formation will be smaller, shrinking from 13 positions to 12. Yet these newly-configured squads will add a suite of new technology, including tablets and drones, and a significant increase in firepower, including a fully automatic rifle for each of the 12 squad members — up from the three automatic rifles assigned per squad currently. The result? Increased firepower, because now all 12 Marines in the Rifle Squad will be equipped with automatic weapons.
The sum of these changes equals a squad ever “more lethal, agile, and capable” according to Marine Commandant Robert Neller in video posted to Twitter.
Currently, a Marine Infantry Rifle Squad is run by one squad leader who guides three fire teams of four members each, for a total of 13 positions. The breakdown of the current configuration is that each of these three fire teams at present is led by a fire team leader, who guides one automatic rifleman, one assistant automatic rifleman, and one rifleman.
The decision to change this standard Marine Rifle Squad configuration follows a re-evaluation sparked by two modernization initiatives, Marine Corps Vision and Strategy 2025 Marine Corps Vision and Strategy 2025 and Sea Dragon 2025, the active experiment program which, according to a Marine statement, is dedicated to “assess changes to the infantry battalion mandated by Marine Corps Force 2025.”
(US Marine Corps photo)
“To be clear,” explained Neller, “the mission of the Marine Rifle Squad remains unchanged: to locate close with and destroy the enemy by means of fire, maneuver, and close combat.”
The new arithmetic works like this: there will still be three fire teams in each rifle squad, but each of those three fire teams will lose one position, and going forward each fire team will have only have three members each, no longer four. So, what the are other positions that will bring the new Marine Rifle Squad up to 12?
The answer: changes at the top.
As noted above, instead of a squad leader directing three teams of four, we will soon see a squad leader leading three teams of three. Yet, this Rifle Squad Team Leader position will itself now get significant dedicated support from two other newly-established positions assigned to support the Squad Team Leader — and the mission — in the field: an assistant squad leader, a corporal, who, according to the Marines, assists with “increasingly complex squad operations.” The other new position is a lance corporal who serves as “squad systems operator” integrating and operating new technology, according to a statement from the Marines.
The new Marine Rifle Squad Leader, a sergeant, charged with carrying out the platoon commander’s orders, is now expected to have “five to seven years of experience” and will be given “formal training as a squad leader,” according to a statement from Marine Captain Ryan Alvis.
The lighter footprint of this new 12-position formation reflects an approach long-articulated in training materials — “the Marine Corps philosophy of war fighting is based on an approach to war called maneuver warfare.” This legendary maneuverability continues to inform the focus of Neller’s recent changes and explains why the Marine Corps is changing up the math of its long-established Marine Rifle Squad formation.
This “reorganization of the infantry will occur over the next three to five years, although some of the changes are happening now” according to Captain Alvis. This means that in addition to one fewer marine, the changes also bring newer tech. The positions are changing, but so are the assigned equipment and weaponry.
Now each member of the Rifle Squad will be assigned an M320 automatic rifle, designed and built by Heckler Koch, a German company founded in 1949. The M320s will replace the M4 carbine semi-automatic, a legacy weapon developed by the American manufacturer Colt. Heckler Koch also developed and manufactures the M320 grenade launchers that the Marines have determined will be used by each of the three dedicated grenadiers assigned to each newly configured fire team.
Other hardware to be assigned includes a MAAWS, Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System, known as the Carl Gustaf. This anti-tank rifle is described by its manufacturer, the Sweden-based Saab corporation, as “light and ruggedized and its multi-purpose capability provides freedom of action. . . in all environments.” The Carl Gustaf has in the past been hailed for its accuracy and portability by tech and design outlet Gizmodo, because the weapon “looks like a Bazooka but shoots like a rifle.”
Each of the new 12-spot rifle squad formations will also get one M38 Designated Marksmanship Rifle. At a range of 600 meters, the M38, a Heckler Koch product, has, in the past, been criticized as not being comparable to the world’s best sniper rifles. Yet it should work well, according to the Marines, as a marksman rifle. The M38, a Marine statement notes, is equipped with a suppressor and also a variable 2.5-8 power optic. Although not intended for sniper use, a Marine statement explains that the “individual employing this weapon (will receive) additional training on range estimation, scope theory, and observation.”
Battles of the future will not be won by firepower alone. General Neller has long been quoted as saying that each infantry squad would one day be assigned its own small unmanned aerial device. That day is coming. A Marine statement confirmed that “each squad will have a . . . quadcopter to increase situational awareness of the squad leaders.”
Another addition to the field? The PRC-117G Radio will be lighter, more portable than the current radio equipment, and will provide more than audio. Encrypted visuals allow “warfighters to communicate beyond the lines of sight,” according to its manufacturer, the Harris Corporation, a publicly traded U.S company that specializes in communications, electronics, and space and intelligence systems.
Also in the mix: a Marine Corps Common Handheld Tablet. As General Neller explains, the mix of technology and weaponry allows the USMC “to move forward and get ready for the next fight. Wherever it is.” A Marine Corps statement notes that the infantry would remain a key focus of Marine Corps strategy because “superior infantry is a Marine Corps asymmetrical advantage.” The statement also quotes Gen. Neller as saying “The surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to dominate one.”
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
“Consider that, first of all, you are a United States Marine. That is the beginning,” Joseph Owen said just days before his death in August 2015.
He said it as if he were addressing all Marines.
“You are something beyond ordinary people. Now you want to take a step up from there. If you’re not the best, you’re gonna be. If you’re not trying to be the best the Corps has, you’re not worth a sh*t. Why are you here?”
Owen commanded a mortar platoon as a 2nd lieutenant in Baker Company, 1-7 Marines during the Korean War. Owen enlisted during World War II but saw the bulk of his service in Korea. As an officer, he was charged with turning an undisciplined group of reservist mortarmen into a force to confront the enemy.
“You always have to perform to your limit,” he said. “Myself and a fellow officer, we used to sit around and talk about leadership all the time. Combat leadership doesn’t mean a goddamn thing unless you have Marines that will continue the fight no matter what.”
Becoming an officer changed his world.
“I’m not bragging, I’m just saying the facts: two Navy Crosses and a Silver Star – we know what the hell we’re talking about,” he said.
1. His most vivid memories:
“The North Koreans had much more initiative,” he said. “They would come on you tenaciously and keep on the attack until you killed them. And in defensive positions, they were aggressive and used offensive tactics. Even pinned down they would get out and come at you. I had great respect for them. They fought with their brains individually. The Chinese were only tenacious because there was no going back.”
“Some of the Chinese front line soldiers didn’t even have weapons, they had stakes. They would try to get in close and kill you with that. The ones who came after them would try to pick up the burp guns of the first wave. If they got killed the third wave would come and pick up the weapons.”
“The Chinese were wearing sneakers in 30-below-zero temperatures,” he remembered. “Sometimes we came up on them, and some of them would still be in position, frozen solid. They’d put their hands up to surrender. We would take them, pull them out, and find they were just stumbling around on frozen feet.”
2. On racial integration of the military:
“Two Southerners came to request to be in my platoon when they received a black squad leader, a Sgt. Long. When Sgt. Long was killed during a night fight with the Chinese, those two Marines requested to carry Long’s body, because they wanted to pay proper respect to ‘the best damn squad leader in the Corps.’ When the fighting started, everyone was a Marine.”
3. His take on modern American warfare:
“Today’s troops cannot fight the way I know how to fight. You have to take the battle to the enemy and kill them. These days you have to go through rules of engagement, which ties the hands of soldiers behind their back. You have to keep on going and do not stop. Keep going and kill those bastards. No pity, no mercy, just kill them. As many as you can.”
4. On North Korea today:
“We fought them to a defeat and now they have risen back and are – in effect – giving us the finger and getting away with it. What are we gonna do? We shouldn’t let that little son of a bitch play around with atomic weapons. That pisses me off.”
5. On harboring ill will toward an enemy:
“Hell no. They were fighting under the same orders I had. They were out to kill me, as I was out to kill them. Hell no. I respect them. I’d love to sit down with one of them and bullshit with them about what they were doing at such and such a time, especially if they were in the same battle as I was.”
6. Why he wrote a book:
“I had been thinking for a long time something should be done to honor the Marines I fought with,” Owen said. “I knew if I wrote about Baker Company it would also cover Able Company. We were all the same, formed up by the numbers, and we bonded very quickly. If I said Baker was the best, they’d say ‘F– you, we’re the best.’ We were the same. So I quit my business and wrote the book. This was a story that needed to be told.”
“What I wrote about getting to Fox Company after they were under fire for five nights… we came up to Fox Company’s positions. They had stacks of Chinese bodies set up as protective walls against enemy fire. They were using those walls to put down fire on the oncoming Chinese. When we came up on them, I was able to walk 50 yards on just Chinese bodies. There must have been hundreds of them thrown against Fox Company. This is the kind of thing I needed to write.”
7. On life after the Corps:
“Stay active, be proud of what you do. What I say about the pride of being a Marine. That’s all over the place — the rest of your life, make it a good one. Do good things for people to the best of your ability. I had a hell of a life, way beyond the Marine Corps. I look back at night before I go to sleep… I got millions of great, great memories. I remember everything. I think ‘son of a bitch… you were able to get away with that!’ ”
8. Advice for anyone, military or civilian:
“If you’ve never been scared sh*tless, what kind of life have you led?”
The Russian Air Force plans to purchase a dozen Su-57s fitted with the AL-41F1 engines in 2019, and over “the next eight years … will continue to purchase small numbers of these planes for testing,” CNA senior research scientist Dmitry Gorenburg recently wrote.
Production of the Su-57, which made its maiden flight in 2010, has not only been hampered by budgetary problems, according to The Drive, but also “delays, accidents, and rumors of massive design changes.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
They’re surrounded, targeted by constant bombardments and slowly strangled of supplies and reinforcements for months so fighters for Daesh (aka ISIS) might reasonably have abandoned Mosul and tried to slink off into the night.
That’s what happened June 2016 in the battle to recapture Fallujah, when Daesh fighters were relatively quickly routed, and hundreds were killed by U.S. aircraft when their fleeing convoy was spotted in the dark with infrared targeting systems.
Everyone in the anti-Daesh coalition hoped for a similar retreat by demoralized terrorists that would separate them from the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians still cowering in Mosul’s byzantine old city, on the west bank of the Tigris River.
But Daesh’s fighters are not abandoning Mosul, which, with the Syrian town of Raqqa, forms the twin-capitals of the self-proclaimed Islamist “caliphate.”
They are falling back on defensive positions prepared for two years in the densely congested side streets and alleyways of the old city, gathering Iraqi civilians close as they can as “human shields” and apparently preparing for a last, desperate stand.
“The toughest and most brutal phase of this war, and probably the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced or even read about in my 34-year career,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve says.
A veteran of six combat tours, Townsend calls the fighting in Mosul “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”
The tragic byproduct has been an alarming spike in civilian casualties, including a U.S. strike against a reported ISIS truck bomb on March 17 that may have collapsed a nearby building and killed as many as 200 civilians gathered there by Daesh.
On a recent trip near the frontlines of the Battle of Mosul, Townsend found a possible explanation for Daesh’s determination to stage an apocalyptic fight to the death in the old city.
“Every movement has a well-spring or some home turf where it finds support, and in recently talking to Iraqi and coalition commanders and listening to their intelligence assessments, I heard about neighborhoods supporting ISIS that I remembered from being a brigade commander in Mosul 10 years ago, when those same neighborhoods were sources of support for Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Townsend, speaking recently to defense reporters by phone from Baghdad.
If the Shiite-led Iraqi government fails to reach out to those and other neighborhoods and towns of disenfranchised Sunnis after the fighting stops, he noted, then Daesh’s expulsion from Mosul will likely prove a fleeting victory.
“What’s important after ISIS is defeated is that the government of Iraq has to reach out to these groups of people and make sure they feel like they have a future in the Iraqi state,” said Townsend.
A Pivotal Moment
With roughly three-quarters of Mosul recaptured and Daesh finally on the verge of losing its grip on Iraqi territory, the campaign against them is poised at an important inflection point.
Counter-insurgency experts have long understood that the actions of the Iraqi government and the various factions involved in the fighting the day after Mosul is recaptured will largely determine whether the group is defeated, or, once again, rises from the ashes of sectarian conflict.
The complex nature of the battlespace, combined with the anti-Daesh coalition’s sprawling nature, promises to complicate the transition from urban combat to whatever comes after.
The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is weak and has struggled to cope with the demands of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the fighting in Mosul.
The territorial demands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to the north, and possible acts of retribution against Sunni civilians by thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen to the west of city, cast a dark shadow over the aftermath.
A continued spike in civilian deaths by U.S. and coalition air forces could further alienate the overwhelmingly Sunni population of Mosul and surrounding Nineveh Province.
And hanging over the entire anti-Daesh campaign is the question of a continued U.S. presence in Iraq after the group is expelled, and whether that engagement can be leveraged to help achieve the long-sought national reconciliation among Iraq’s feuding Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni factions.
Perhaps no U.S. military officer of his generation better understands this difficult terrain, and the momentous challenges ahead, than retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan and at U.S. Central Command.
He is widely credited with crafting and executing the counterinsurgency doctrine that pulled Iraq back from the abyss of sectarian civil war in 2007-2008 and decimated Al Qaeda in Iraq.
“The military defeat of ISIS is only the first step. The much more challenging task is to use all elements of American and coalition power to help achieve political solutions that will avoid once again creating fertile ground for extremists, and thereby avoid the rise of ISIS 3.0,” Petraeus told [Breaking Defense] in a recent email. “Our success in that mission will determine whether the U.S. military has to do this all over again in five years.”
Sectarian Civil War
After U.S. and Iraqi military forces and the Sunni tribes of Anbar Province routed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) beginning in 2006-7, the remnants of the terrorist insurgency eventually went underground, only to rise Phoenix-like from the fires of Syria’s civil war.
That brutal conflict pitted a minority regime of Alawites, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, against a majority Sunni population.
Meanwhile, after the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, the Sunni tribes in western Iraq, which had turned against AQI in the “Anbar Awakening,” grew restive under the iron-fisted and openly sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who headed the Shiite-majority government in Baghdad.
A former AQI lieutenant named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had spent time in a U.S. detention facility in Iraq, realized that between weak Shiite-led governments in Damascus and Baghdad lay a swath of territory inhabited by millions of rebellious Sunnis.
From that strategic insight, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born, and in one of the most improbable military offenses in history, its terrorist army captured territory in Syria and Iraq and proclaimed a “caliphate” in land stretching between its twin capitals.
When the Obama administration reluctantly deployed aircraft and troops back to Iraq to defend a Baghdad government on the verge of collapse, it wisely used that leverage to help nudge out the sectarian Maliki and encourage the more moderate Abadi.
Since then Abadi has promised to lead “national reconciliation” by reaching out to Sunnis liberated from Daesh rule, and draw them back inside the government tent. He has often struggled, however, to control a fractious coalition government with many hardline Shiite politicians with close ties to Shiite Iran.
Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy and former senior Middle Eastern analyst for the CIA, worries about Abadi’s ability to bring the country together.
“I think Abadi is a very good man who wants what’s best for Iraq, to include a pluralist government, corruption reforms, and democracy. The problem is Abadi is not particularly good at building coalitions, and the Iraqi government is fragmented and paralyzed by this ongoing sectarian civil war,” he says. “Frankly, Nelson Mandela would have a hard time stabilizing Iraq at this point. So the United States needs to leverage the influence it has gained by helping fight ISIS to empower Abadi in his reconciliation efforts. And they must include limiting the activities of the Shiite militias.”
Reining in Militias
The key to Iraq’s future may lie with the Shiite-dominated militias called Popular Mobilization forces.
A number of these militias have direct links to Iran and they have been difficult for the Iraqi government to control. According to Human Rights Watch, Shiite militias involved in the battle of Fallujah last summer committed atrocities against Sunni civilians, including torture and summary executions.
In the operation to recapture Tikrit they reportedly burned hundreds of homes of Sunni civilians they accused of colluding with Daesh. If something similar happens after Daesh is expelled from the much bigger and more populous city of Mosul, the swamp of Sunni grievance is likely to rise once again.
Sheikh Jamal Al-Dhari is a Sunni tribal leader who has lost more than 70 family members in Iraq’s sectarian wars.
“The ‘Anbar Awakening’ showed that the way to defeat Al Qaeda is to work with the Sunni tribes, but our efforts to take part in the anti-ISIS fight have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Baghdad government,” he said in an interview.
Now Shiite-dominated Iraqi Security Forces and possibly U.S. airpower have inadvertently killed hundreds if not thousands of Sunni civilians in Mosul, he noted, and thousands of Shiite militiamen have captured Sunni majority villages to the west of the city.
“We fear that the use of excessive force will cost the lives of thousands of more civilians, creating hardships and hard feelings that will only set the stage for the next ISIS, or worse.”
To avoid Kurdish or Shiite forces fighting each other and mistreating liberated Sunni civilians, U.S. battle planners created separate corridors into the city.
“The U.S. military worked very hard to insure that neither the Peshmerga nor the Popular Mobilization forces would be involved in the close-in fight in Mosul, and that has been mostly successful,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.
“But the main reason we’ve seen civilian casualties increase is that ISIS is being much more aggressive in using civilians as human shields. Their backs are now against the wall in Mosul’s old city, and they seem to be preparing for a last stand.”
When the dust of battle finally settles over Mosul, the most important decision confronting the Trump administration will be whether or not to keep a residual U.S. force inside Iraq to continue advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces, and helping coordinate counterterrorism operations.
If the U.S. military packs up lock-stock-and-barrel and leaves once again, many experts believe it will only set the stage for “son of ISIS” to fill the vacuum.
“Only if U.S. forces remain in Iraq to secure the peace will we achieve a major military victory over ISIS,” said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
The U.S. can leverage that presence not only to empower Abadi’s national reconciliation agenda, he said, but also to eventually find a political resolution to the Syrian civil war.
In “On War” [ Carl von] “Clausewitz said that the art of war was using tactical victories to achieve strategic ends,” said Jeffrey.
“We need to use the victories in Mosul and Raqqa to achieve the strategic end of a stable Middle East that is not dominated either by ISIS or Iran.”
A top authority on North Korea has jokingly suggested the U.S. launch an unorthodox attack on the country’s leader.
Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk and the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterrey, California, has outlined a plan for the U.S. to strike Kim Jong Un’s personal toilet.
Writing at The Daily Beast over the weekend, Lewis was responding to increased chatter of a U.S. strike on North Korea. Though Lewis was approaching the issue in a tongue-in-cheek way, his writing nonetheless illustrates the dangers of and motivations behind using military force to send a message.
Basically, reports have come forth that the U.S. is tired of North Korea’s constant defiance and wants to carry out a limited strike in response. In theory, the use of force against a weaker opponent can serve as a reminder of who is in charge.
But while North Korea couldn’t really defend against a small U.S. strike, it doesn’t intend to defend. North Korea’s military posture is entirely offensive. While the country could do little to stop an incoming cruise missile or airstrike, it has long had artillery aimed at Seoul, South Korea’s capital of 25 million.
Lewis seems to think that the idea has some merit but that the difficulty lies in finding a target that’s important enough to matter but not big enough to provoke war. From The Daily Beast:
The central challenge, as we contemplate a ‘bloody nose’ option for a limited military strike, is finding a suitable target that represents Kim Jong Un’s nose — a target that will allow our strike to be intimidating and humiliating to Kim, but not the sort of broad assault that might prompt him to retaliate with his growing stockpile of nuclear weapons.
Lewis settles on a target of little strategic importance but great personal relevance to Kim: his port-a-potty.
Kim almost always observes North Korean missile launches from a private trailer. The launches normally happen in the middle of nowhere, so comforts like a port-a-potty suited for a supreme party leader need to be shipped in.
“Destroying the port-a-potty will deny Kim Jong Un a highly valued creature comfort, while also demonstrating the incredible accuracy of U.S. precision munitions to hold Kim and his minions at risk,” Lewis wrote. “It will send an unmistakable message: We can kill you while you are dropping a deuce.”
Lewis refers to his idea as hilarious, “a comedy and an action movie — both at the same time.” The U.S. military, however, may not be laughing.
Lewis’ playful idea represents a rather circumspect approach to selecting the right target to use military force to send a message. While the verbal, diplomatic, and economic messages the world has tried time and time again have failed to get through to North Korea, President Donald Trump’s administration has floated the idea of military action more than any before it.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) successfully completed a Live Fire With A Purpose (LFWAP) exercise, Dec 6, 2018.
LFWAP is a reinvigorated missile exercise program conducted by the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), designed to increase the proficiency of the Combat Direction Center watch team by allowing them to tactically react to a simulated real-world threat.
SMWDC, a supporting command to strike groups and other surface ships in the Navy, is responsible for training commands and creating battle tactics on the unit level to handle sea combat, Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), amphibious warfare and mine warfare. SMWDC is a subordinate command of Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Its headquarters are located at Naval Base San Diego, with four divisions in Virginia and California.
Two IAMD Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) led teams aboard Abraham Lincoln through LFWAP. They’ve spent the last month working closely with Combat Systems Department to plan a simulated threat, train them on response tactics and execute a safe live fire.
“The most challenging aspect of these exercises is getting the ship’s mindset to shift from basic unit-level operations to integrated, advanced tactical operations,” said Lt. Cmdr Tim Barry, an IAMD WTI instructor aboard Abraham Lincoln. “On the opposite side of that, the best feeling is seeing the watch team work together, developing confidence in themselves and their combat systems.”
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln fires a RIM-116 test rolling airframe missile during Combat System Ship Qualification Trials.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kyler Sam)
LFWAP is an important evolution that departs from scripted events to focus more on scenario-driven events. Watch teams have the opportunity to use their pre-planned responses and the commanding officer’s orders to defend the ship from dangers that mirror potential threats on deployment.
“This isn’t a pass or fail event; it’s a validation — a means for sailors to develop confidence prior to deployment,” said Lt. Lisa Malone, the IAMD WTI execution lead from SMWDC. “This is the ‘Battle Stations’ for Combat Systems. We want them to come out of this with a new sense of teamwork, a feeling of preparedness and an excitement for what the future will bring.”
LFWAP allowed Abraham Lincoln to react to a sea-skimming drone in real time. The lead for this evolution was Abraham Lincoln’s Fire Control Officer, Ens. Ezekiel Ramirez.
“To show everyone we’re ready to defend the ship and our shipmates is best feeling ever,” said Ramirez. “Today, we put the ‘combat’ in Combat Systems.”
After detecting the target using radar, Combat Systems used the ship’s Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) to engage it.
A Close-in Weapons System fires during a pre-action Aim Calibration fire evolution aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremiah Bartelt)
“This training has really brought us all together and made us work more cohesively; we feel like a real unit now,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Matthew Miller, who fired the RAM that brought down the drone. “We’ve worked hard this last month and had this scenario down-pat, and to see that drone finally go up in an explosion was the perfect payoff.”
LFWAP is another example of how Abraham Lincoln is elevating Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12’s operational readiness and maritime capabilities to answer the nation’s call.
The components of CSG-12 embody a “team-of-teams” concept, combining advanced surface, air and systems assets to create and sustain operational capability. This enables them to prepare for and conduct global operations, have effective and lasting command and control, and demonstrate dedication and commitment to become the strongest warfighting force for the Navy and the nation.
The Abraham Lincoln CSG is comprised of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 2, associated guided-missile destroyers, flagship Abraham Lincoln, and the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55).