A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games

She’s competing in track and field and indoor rowing, but medically retired Air Force Senior Airman Karah Behrend couldn’t concentrate on training for the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

For the first time, Behrend was going to meet her 19-year-old biological sister, Crystal Boyd, who lives in Puyallup, Washington.

After training, Behrend anxiously waited until she was whisked off to the hotel for the meeting, which she said was surreal.

“I have been picturing this moment for a long time and for it to finally happen, I couldn’t be happier,” Behrend said. “We keep in touch through social media but we’re trying to make plans for me to meet our dad and have them meet my family.”


“I’ve been extremely excited but I knew it would happen sometime. I just didn’t know when,” Boyd said. “Throughout the time I’ve known her, she’s gone through so much and watching her overcome everything right in front of my eyes, in person here at the DoD Warrior Games, is an honor. She’s always had the strength and now she’s going out and doing what we all knew she could do. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
Medically retired Air Force Senior Airman Karah Behrend prepares to throw discus during the 2018 DoD Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 2, 2018. The sisters met for the first time in person at the games.
(DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

Boyd said she also can’t wait to meet Behrend’s family. “We’ve already talked about me visiting her and her family in Texas,” she said. “I’m excited to meet my nieces.”

Call to Service

Claiming Gilford, Connecticut, and Bradenton, Florida, as her hometowns, Behrend, 24, said she grew up moving around as a kid. She was adopted when she was four years old by an Army Ranger.


“My brother and I were adopted because when my biological dad got back from Desert Shield/Desert Storm, he wasn’t really the same person. So my mom spilt with him pretty rapidly to get us out of the situation,” she said. “As my mom told me about him, I was like, ‘I need to meet him. This is half of me. I don’t know who he is.’ We somehow got in contact with him. I think through his sister randomly. I talked to him for two hours that night and found out I had a sister.”

“Our dad told me about her and our brother while growing up, so I always knew about her. I just didn’t know her. She actually got in contact with me. I never knew how to find her so I just waited,” Boyd said.

Behrend said she’s tried to meet up with her sister a few times throughout the years, but it’s been difficult since she has been in the Air Force for the past six years.

Shared Service

Behrend said she joined the Air Force as a communications signals analyst because of her family’s military legacy. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “My grandfather served during the Vietnam era. My biological father was in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. My adopted dad was a Ranger down in Panama for the Panama crisis. It’s just something our family does.”

When Behrend reconnected with her biological dad, she said they had that military bond. “It was an immediate, talk about everything bond,” she said. “I can call him and say, ‘This is going on; what do I do?’ He tries; we’ve been working on rebuilding that relationship. He said he will always be thankful that someone was able to come in and step into our lives to make sure we’re OK.”

In 2015, Behrend had a surgical complication that resulted in reflex sympathetic dystrophy. She said the neurological disorder impacts her involuntary functions such as temperature control, blood pressure, heart rate, pain, inflammation, swelling and other functions that a person doesn’t actively control. When she runs, she said she feels like her leg will go out from under her.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
Medically retired Air Force Senior Airman Karah Behrend, right, and her sister Crystal Boyd pose for a photo at the 2018 Defense Department Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 2, 2018.
(DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

“It causes a lot of pain, instability and weakness in my right leg,” she said. “I also had a spinal injury from a car accident so it messes with my left one too.”

Her sister has epilepsy. Behrend said her disability is rare but since both of their disabilities are neurological, it’s an extra bond they can share and talk about.

Behrend has two little children as well as her sister to keep her motivated. “I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that if something happens, you just stop your entire life,” she said. “It’s not what life it about. Life it experiences. I don’t even see them as positive or negative anymore. Just experience it. It pushes me in one way or another but I grow.”

She encourages others to push themselves as well. “It doesn’t matter how early or late something happens or what he magnitude is. As long as you do it with all of your heart and you put everything you have into it, no matter what, it’s going to work,” she said passionately.

“Just because you have some kind of disability doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it,” Boyd said. “You can’t allow it to stop you from doing the things you want to do and the things you want to do. Even with obstacles, you can overcome whatever you truly put your mind to. Neither Karah nor I let our disorders define us. It’s a part of us, but it is not us.”

DoD Warrior Games

So far at these Warrior Games, Behrend has earned gold medals in her disability category in the women’s discus and shot put competitions. She broke a record in shot put in her category.

Boyd said she’s inspired not only by her sister but by the athletes at her first games.

“Watching everyone here inspires me,” she said. “These athletes decided to serve our nation, and even after they’ve been injured in some way they still continue to serve by inspiring everyone around them.”

Boyd added, “Even though you have a disability, it doesn’t define you. With a good support system, anything is possible. As long as you put your mind to it, give some effort and trust those around you, things will start moving. Don’t forget things take time. Don’t stress if things don’t happen as fast as you want them to.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Everyone who deploys during a holiday makes a special effort to feel as if they aren’t really missing it. No matter how short the war is, no one wants to miss one of those crucial days. Even if the entire buildup and fighting lasted just a few months, you still want that piece of home. The Louisiana National Guard was no different in the Gulf War. No way were they going to miss Mardi Gras.


So the celebration may not have been as raucous as it is on Bourbon Street. Nor was it a family affair as it is in other wards and and cities in Louisiana. Still, it was important to the men and women who deployed to Saudi Arabia during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Mardi Gras isn’t something to be casually missed, so the unit threw their own version: Saudi Gras.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait, sparking off a huge U.S. military buildup in Saudi Arabia call Operation Desert Shield as a bulwark against further Iraqi aggression. It was part of a larger plan to go on the offensive and expel Iraq from Kuwait in an operation known as Desert Storm. The forces required to execute Desert Storm and secure Saudi Arabia took a while to arrive. From August 1990 to January 1991, American and Coalition troops began arriving in the Saudi Kingdom.

One of those units called to action was the Louisiana National Guard, who arrived in late January and early February. Their only problem was that Mardi Gras began on Feb. 12 that year.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games

(Louisiana National Guard)

Mardi Gras is a Christian tradition, a celebration that begins on the Feast of the Epiphany and runs through Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. While Mardi Gras may not be a big deal in the rest of the United States, for the French-descended people of Louisiana, it is. For them, it’s more than beads on Bourbon Street – it’s a time of celebration, good food, parades, and family. Some 8,000 miles away from the French Quarter, the members of Lousiana’s National Guard deployed to Saudi Arabia decided they wouldn’t let the holiday pass them by.

Saudi Arabia saw its first-ever Mardi Gras celebration, dubbed “Saudi Gras” by those who were a part of it.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games

(Louisiana National Guard)

The beer was non-alcoholic (by necessity and general order), the parade queen was a Lt. Col. who volunteered to dress in drag, and the Saudi Gras King, a member of the 926th Tactical Fighter Group and native of New Orleans, was given the title “King Scud.” Elsewhere, Louisianans formed ad-hoc krewes, those celebrating Mardi Gras with the pledge to form a group that hosts a party, builds parade floats, and attends social events all year long.

You can take the troops out of Louisiana, but you can’t take Louisiana out of the troops.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why golf courses are important to military installations

Golf is a fun and relaxing sport that’s excellent for relieving stress. Nothing’s quite like aimlessly swinging your club, hoping to hit the caddy cart on the driving range. It makes for a fantastic pastime to bond over while you and your guys get drunk as you wait for your respective turns. I’ve also heard that some people actually play the game as a sport and get enjoyment out of it, too — if you’re into that sort of thing.

The sport is directly linked to U.S. military culture. There are 234 golf courses spread across the over 800 U.S. military installations located around the globe. Nearly every major location has a course. And these courses are much more than just a place senior officers go to hide from staff meetings.


A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games

Golf courses on deployed locations also double as rifle ranges.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland)

All golf courses on military installations are required by federal law to remain completely self-sufficient and not rely on government funding for upkeep and maintenance. Despite this, the courses will almost always be the first things suggested for the chopping block when installations need to cut costs; they’re often seen as either a waste of resources or space. In reality, however, they’re neither.

When the golf course is not in use, they are, essentially, large plots of land that are free from trees. They’re secure, defendable locations that can used for any purpose at the drop of a hat.

Military golf courses are also conveniently located near population centers on most installations. If there ever came a moment when the sh*t hits the fan, the course could be quartered by the military and transformed into a landing site for helicopters, a troop staging area, or even a mass casualty site to aid the wounded.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games

In the meantime, I guess it’s fine if people play golf on it.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Conrad)

And this isn’t just theory — golf courses have been used as back-up locations in the past.

The most recent time in history a U.S. military base on American soil was attacked was when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. There, when the American pilots took to the skies to fight the Japanese, some planes were damaged. The island of Oahu is dense with hills and forests, but golf courses became invaluable places to make a relatively safe landing.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

“When you’re spiritually and emotionally fit, you’ll take care of yourself because you love yourself,” said Master Sgt. David Mundy, 35th Infantry Division chaplain assistant.


While sitting on a bench outside the main chapel at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Mundy made it clear that being spiritual is not necessarily the same as being religious, but that spiritual fitness has the ability to bring a peacefulness to anyone.

“Being spiritually, mentally, and emotionally fit will help lead to physical fitness and, ultimately, it all works toward the overall stability, fitness, and readiness of the individual Soldier,” said Mundy.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
Chaplain Emil Kapaun celebrates a Catholic Mass for cavalry soldiers during the Korean War (Photo U.S. Army)

To build spiritual fitness, Mundy had a few key pieces of advice for Soldiers that he finds helpful whether at home or in a deployed environment.

“As an individual, accept pain for what it is — don’t keep it in,” Mundy said. “Once accepted, become transparent and work through the pain and analyze the situation that brought you to that point.”

This, in Mundy’s experience, helps an individual clarify the problem and work toward a healthy resolution.

In order to successfully work to resolve life’s problems and maintain our mental fitness, Mundy explained that there are four types of people we need to surround ourselves with.

“The first type are prophets — everyone needs a person who can hold their feet to the fire and make them own up to their mistakes,” said Mundy. “The next type of person is the cheerleader — we need to be surrounded by friends who can cheer us on regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves.”

Also Read: What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

“Teasers are the friends who won’t let us beat ourselves up and also make sure to show us a good time,” said Mundy. “Finally, we need encouragers. Encouragers help you find the good in your life and expand on that.”

After a Soldier establishes these friendships and recognizes the different types of people in their lives, Mundy suggests getting into a workout routine with someone who will help drive them.

“Once you find those people, work out with someone in better shape than yourself in order to push yourself to be better,” Mundy continued. “Everyone needs friends who are like-minded, who can encourage yet challenge.”

Like any military installation, there are plenty of avenues to work on physical fitness at Camp Arifjan. Options for workouts include anything from volleyball, basketball, swimming, and weightlifting to 5Ks, marathons, flag football, and soccer.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
Master Sgt. David Mundy, 35th Infantry Division chaplain assistant (left), and friends play Christmas carols for the Christmas program at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Dec. 25, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Margaret Ziffer)

The key is maintaining a routine. Attaining spiritual fitness, according to Mundy, is no different.

“There are chapels and a mosque on Camp Arifjan if a person is looking for religious support,” said Mundy. “It’s all about finding and making the time to participate.”

If Soldiers are not necessarily religious in their beliefs, Mundy also encourages meeting with behavioral health support specialists to help lift or ease burdens.

“Both chaplains and behavioral health support will help you on your way to establishing spiritual and emotional fitness,” said Mundy. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to Soldier stability, but Soldiers should be aware that they have all the resources available to them to stay strong.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s big propaganda win is moving attack subs near the US

Russian media reported on March 16, 2018, that its military snuck nuclear attack submarines near US military bases and left undetected just weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin hyped up his country’s nuclear capabilities.


“This mission has been accomplished, the submarines showed up in the set location in the ocean and returned to base,” Sergey Starshinov, a Russian navy submarine officer, told Russian state-owned media. Starshinov said the vessels came and went “undetected” and that, without violating the US’s maritime borders, they got “close enough” to US military bases.

The Russian media, known for trafficking in propaganda to glorify Putin and the state’s military, will reportedly release a TV series on the exercises.

Also read: Russians are making fun of election ballots skewed for Putin

The Pentagon did not respond to request for comment on this story.

The incident remains unverifiable with deniability baked in. If Russian submarines truly came and went undetected, no credible third party could likely verify the exercises. The fact that the military drill will become a TV series suggests that it was carried out, at least in part, for propaganda purposes, rather than practical military needs.

The submarines, which carry long-range cruise missiles that can fire from underwater, have no business coming close to the US, as they have an effective range of more than 1,500 miles. The submarines named by Russian media are powered by nuclear reactors but have no nuclear weapons.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
A Varshavyanka-class submarine. (Photo from Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation)

The incident comes as Putin prepares for an election on March 18, 2018, though he is expected to win handily. Putin has limited which opposition figures can run and controlled the state’s access to information throughout.

Russia frequently engages in propaganda to glorify its military, as it did when it recently deployed early-stage supposedly stealth fighter jets to Syria. After a few days of dropping bombs on undefended villages in Syria, Russia declared the planes, which are designed for high-end warfighting against US stealth jets, “combat proven.”

In February 2018, Russian military contractors suffered a humiliating defeat to the US military in Syria, with airstrikes and artillery wiping out up to 300 Russian nationals while US forces suffered no combat losses, a US General has confirmed.

Does it matter if Russia can sneak its submarines around like this?

Both the US and Russia have heavily entrenched mutually-assured-destruction nuclear postures, meaning that any nuclear strike on the US by Russia would be immediately returned by US missiles fired from silos, submarines, and airplanes pummeling Russia.

Related: Russia threatened the UK with nukes after nerve agent attack

Russia is currently facing increasing scrutiny and sanctions over its meddling in the US’s 2016 presidential election and its alleged role in the poisoning of former spies in Britain. Russia’s economy is heavily dependent on energy exports, and the weak price of oil and competitiveness from the US and other players have crippled its economy, though it continues to spend heavily on the military.

Despite having four times the population, Russia’s GDP is roughly equivalent to Canada’s and military sales and power remain one of its few lifelines to national prestige.

Though the US and Russia are Cold War foes increasingly at odds over foreign policy, the only recent significant clash between the two countries came in February 2018, during the battle in Syria which Russia overwhelmingly lost.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS dubs New York terrorist a ‘soldier of the caliphate’

The Islamic State extremist group on Nov. 3 called the attacker accused of killing eight people in a truck rampage in New York “soldier of the caliphate,” according to a US-based extremist monitoring group.


“One of the soldiers of the Islamic State attacked a number of crusaders on a street in New York City,” said an article in the group’s al-Naba weekly newspaper, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

Sayfullo Saipov, 29, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, has been charged with terrorism in connection with the Oct. 31 attack in which he allegedly used a rented pickup truck to mow down bicyclists and pedestrians on a mile-long stretch of bike path near where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
The West Side Highway Bike Path, where the attacks took place. Flickr photo by user Sarah_Ackerman.

Prosecutors say Saipov confessed to being inspired by IS and “felt good about what he had done,” even demanding to hang an IS black flag in his hospital room as he was recuperating from being shot by police in the abdomen.

Police said Saipov appeared to have followed very closely instructions IS has disseminated online on how to stage such truck attacks.

IS’s embrace of Saipov came after US President Donald Trump repeatedly called for a death sentence for Saipov on Nov. 2, At the same time, Trump appeared to rule out a sending him to the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a series of tweets on Twitter.

 

 

Prosecutors in presenting their case against Saipov highlighted evidence that he sympathized with IS. Prosecutors have not said he acted alone, but New York’s governor and other authorities have said they believe it was a “lone wolf” attack inspired by IS.

Court documents said the Uzbek immigrant had kept thousands of IS propaganda photos and videos on his cell phone, some showing gruesome executions of IS prisoners.

Questioned in his hospital bed, Saipov said he had been inspired by IS videos that he watched on his cellphone, and began plotting an attack about a year ago, FBI agent Amber Tyree said in court papers.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
ISIS-produced propaganda portray the group as a highly organized military force. The suspect in the Oct. 31 New York truck attack claims he was influenced by such videos.

In the past few years, IS online posts have exhorted followers to use vehicles, knives, or other readily available means of killing people in their home countries.

England, France, Sweden, Spain, and Germany are among the countries which have all seen similar deadly vehicle attacks since mid-2016, often by suspects that police said were followers of IS.

Acquaintances of Saipov have told RFE/RL that he appeared to be radicalized only after leaving Uzbekistan and moving to the United States in 2010.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
NYPD Counterterrorism officers are investigating an attack that killed 8 and injured more in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017. The attack is being considered a terrorist attack. Image from Twitter user @NYPDSpeechley

While embracing Saipov as an adherent of its extreme brand of Islam, IS provided no evidence that the group was directly responsible for the New York attack. Its claims of responsibility for previous mass killings have not always been borne out by evidence.

Intelligence officials have said that as IS has rapidly lost territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria this year, it has put more effort into trying to inspire and sponsor attacks overseas.

“The grace of Allah, the operation instilled fear in crusader America, prompting them to increase security measures and intensify actions against immigrants to America,” IS said in the al-Naba article, according to SITE.

Articles

US service member killed by enemy fire in Iraq

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
US Marine Corps


A US Marine was killed in northern Iraq on Saturday, according to a Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve report.

The service member was providing force protection fire support at a base in Makhmur when troops came under ISIS (also known as Islamic State, ISIL) rocket fire.

Makhmur is approximately 45 miles southeast of ISIS-held Mosul.

“Several other Marines were wounded and they are being treated for their varying injuries,” according to a statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the service members involved, their families and their coalition teammates who will continue the fight against ISIL with resolved and determination,” Cook wrote.

The identity and nationality of the service member will not been released until the family is notified.

To date, Operation Inherent Resolve has conducted 10,962 strikes, with 7,336 in Iraq and 3,626 in Syria.

Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Oklahoma, became thefirst American to die in combat operations against ISIS, Reuters reports.

He was killed during an overnight October 2015, mission to rescue hostages held by ISIS militants.

Wheeler is survived by his wife and four sons.

Articles

This is how the Swedish air force planned to survive World War III

In the event World War III broke out between the Soviet Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Sweden intended to remain neutral.


After all, they’d managed to sit out World Wars I and II.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
An underside view of a Swedish Saab 37 Viggen fighter aircraft during Exercise BALTOPS ’85. (US Navy photo)

 

But there’s also a growing recognition that their neutrality would not be respected. A 2015 New York Times report noted that a Russian submarine sank in Swedish waters in 1916 after colliding with a Swedish vessel. In the 1980s, there were also a number of incidents, the most notorious being “Whiskey on the Rocks.” According to WarHistoryOnline.com, a Soviet Whiskey-class diesel-electric submarine ran aground off the Swedish coast in 1981, prompting a standoff between Swedish and Soviet forces that included scrambling fighters armed with anti-ship missiles.

The Soviets knew Sweden could threaten their northern flank, and the Swedes knew that they may well have to fight the Soviet Union, even though they were neutral. Should a NATO-Warsaw Pact war break out, the Swedes made contingency plans to be able to deploy their Air Force, and keep fighting in the event the Soviets attacked.

Swedish fighters serving with the Flygvapnet (Swedish air force) in that timeframe were the Saab J 35 Draken and the JA 37 Viggen. The Swedes did draw lessons from how the Israeli Defense Force hit Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in the opening hours of the Six Day War, and developed a way to make sure that the Soviets (or anyone else) would not be able to carry out a similar strike.

The new approach was called “Airbase System 90” or “Bas 90” and featured not only dispersal of the aircraft, but the widening of roads to allow them to be used as runways.

Below is a video produced by the Flygvapnet discussing the new system. While the audio is in Swedish, it has English captions.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Former NASA scientist explains why there is no dark side of the moon

Contrary to what you may have heard, there is no mysterious dark side of the moon.

Yes, there is a side of the moon that we never see from Earth, but it’s not dark all the time.

James O’Donoghue, a former NASA scientist who now works at the Japanese space agency (JAXA), made a new animation to explain how that works.

“Remember not to say ‘dark side of the moon’ when referring to the ‘far side of the moon,'” O’Donoghue said on Twitter. “This graphic shows the dark side is always in motion.”


The video shows how sunlight falls across the moon as it orbits Earth. In one orbit of about 29.5 days, all sides of the moon are bathed in sunlight at some point.

Sun-Earth-Moon interaction: NORTHERN hemisphere view

www.youtube.com

We always see the same side of the moon from Earth

The moon is tidally locked with Earth, which means that we are always looking at the same side of it. The other side — the far side — isn’t visible to us, but it’s not in permanent darkness.

The video shows our view from Earth as the moon passes through its month-by-month phases, from full moon to new moon. At the bottom right corner, the animation also tracks the boundary of sunlight falling across the moon as it rotates.

So, half of the moon is in darkness at any given time. It’s just that the darkness is always moving. There is no permanently dark side.

“You can still say dark side of the moon, it’s still a real thing,” O’Donoghue said on Twitter. “A better phrase and one we use in astronomy is the Night Side: It’s unambiguous and informative of the situation being discussed.”

Here’s what it looks like from Earth’s southern hemisphere:

Sun-Earth-Moon interaction: SOUTHERN hemisphere view

www.youtube.com

In the last year, O’Donoghue has created a slew of scientific animations like this. His first were for a NASA news release about Saturn’s vanishing rings. After that, he moved on to animating other difficult-to-grasp space concepts, like the torturously slow speed of light.

“My animations were made to show as instantly as possible the whole context of what I’m trying to convey,” O’Donoghue previously told Business Insider, referring to those earlier videos. “When I revised for my exams, I used to draw complex concepts out by hand just to truly understand, so that’s what I’m doing here.”

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

Jobs

This is how military linguists get fluent in just 64 weeks

The job title “military linguist” sounds pretty impressive, right? It should, since linguists work around the world to translate highly classified documents and connect with troops and allied forces.

You don’t have to know anything but English to go into that career, either. That’s where the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center comes in. It’s one of the world’s foremost language schools that can make you fluent quickly, whether you’re learning Arabic, Farsi, Pashto or Mandarin Chinese.


The DLIFLC teaches 17 foreign languages in Monterey, California. Most enlisted students take its immersion courses to go into military intelligence jobs, while federal employees from other agencies, such as the FBI and National Security Agency, also go there.

It’s no cake walk

The courses are intense. They’re six to seven hours a day (NOT including homework), five days a week, and they last for 64 weeks over three semesters.

“Usually starting from the second month of their study, the teachers – we already use almost all of the target language in the classroom,” said Zhenshuai Liu, one of the DLI’s many native Chinese-language instructors.

Utah Army National Guard Pfc. Logan Jensen and Air Force Airman 1st Class Joseph Rutledge are two of the school’s current students. Both loved language and culture going into it, but neither knew a word of Mandarin. Rutledge said he was nearly panicked when his class began having days without using any English.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
A student works with a teacher at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Asian School on calligraphy of Chinese letters as part of activities to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

“You definitely realize how much you do and don’t know all at the same time,” he said. “They do it in such a way that it’s manageable … but you’re definitely out of your comfort zone.”

Air Force Tech Sgt. Benjamin Walton, the school’s chief military language instructor, knows all about that. Walton was a DLI student a decade ago. He was trained in Chinese, too.

“It kicked my butt, but I was able to survive it,” he said. “None of the students are prepared for the amounts of information and the pace of the course and what they’re going to have to go through when they come here.”

That’s not a knock on the students, though, who are very bright.

“Students who coasted through high school and those who even may have coasted through college – they really didn’t have to study much,” Walton said. “They all come here … and think they’re going to jump into this and ace it, despite our repeated warnings.”

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
Students at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center play Chinese games as they immerse themselves in the culture during the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

But they’re still fast learners. Liu said DLI students only need about one week to learn basic syllables and phonetic sequences to the level of greeting people.

“In a civilian school, this can usually take one semester,” Liu said.

Jensen and Rutledge were about a third of the way through the course when we spoke, and they were learning 25-30 words a day, as well as how to distinguish them – an often confusing task.

“A lot of them sound alike. So, you could say one thing, and depending on the context or tone you say it in, it could have up to five different meanings,” said Jensen, who spent the first few months drinking a lot of coffee and doing pushups to stay awake. “You’re spending so much brain power just trying to understand what you need to do.”

The keys to learning

Liu said the key is to link your interests with the language so you can stay motivated and keep up with the pace. The school incorporates extracurricular activities such as cooking days, storytelling of legendary warriors and heroes, and there are immersion trips to places like a local Chinese market to get the students to appreciate the culture.

A retired airman met her sister for the first time at the Warrior Games
A Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center instructors shows Chinese language students a tea-tasking ceremony as a way to immerse them in the culture.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

“You have to be interested in it in order for it to be successful,” Rutledge said.

And that’s not guaranteed. In general, the success rate for students at DLI is 75 percent. Some can’t keep up academically, while others fail out due to disciplinary reasons. Walton said the students who make it to the end of the Chinese course have one of the highest passing rates – 95 percent – which makes students’ “ah-ha moments” so satisfying.

“To actually be able to get through to somebody – that’s the reason why we [instructors] came back here … to try to impart our wisdom to the students now,” Walton said.

Most of the students who do succeed reach the college level of understanding within a year and a half, which requires a lot of studying. Some students listen to the language in the shower, while others review flashcards whenever they have the chance. Liu calls them “super students.”

“They don’t only take care of their study, they actually have military duty after class hours. They have to go to training and pass all the tests,” he said.

If the students do well, they get the chance to go to Taiwan or mainland China to do a month of immersive language study.

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A student at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Asian School practices calligraphy of Chinese letters as part of activities to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

Jensen and Rutledge still have a way to go before they finish the course. But they’re getting there.

“In some ways, the grammar is similar, even sometimes easier,” Rutledge said. “Sometimes you can express rather complex ideas in very few words or written characters.”

One thing’s for sure: it takes a lot of focus, especially as a military student.

“If you slip up on a test or opt to go out and have drinks with friends instead of study, that can really come back to bite you,” Rutledge said, who will be a cryptologic language analyst when he’s finished at DLI. He isn’t sure if he’ll stay in the military long term, but either way, he’d like to be a translator or do international business, both of which will make the course worth it.

The DLI’s headquarters is in California, but it has the ability to instruct another 65 languages through its Washington, D.C., branch. There are also several language training detachments at sites in the U.S., Europe, Hawaii and Korea.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Navy just launched an effort to built this super-stealthy submarine

The Navy is now launching the most technologically advanced attack submarine it has ever developed by christening the USS South Dakota – a Block III Virginia-Class attack submarine engineered with a number of never-before-seen undersea technical innovations.


While service officials say many of the details of this new “acoustic superiority” Navy research and development effort are, naturally, not available for pubic discussion, the USS South Dakota has been a “technology demonstrator to prove out advanced technologies,” Naval Sea Systems Command Spokeswoman Colleen O’Rourke told Scout Warrior.

Many of these innovations, which have been underway and tested as prototypes for many years, are now operational as the USS South Dakota enters service; service technology developers have, in a general way, said the advances in undersea technologies built, integrated, tested and now operational on the South Dakota include quieting technologies for the engine room to make the submarine harder to detect, a new large vertical array and additional “quieting” coating materials for the hull, Navy officials explained.

The USS South Dakota was christened by the Navy Oct. 14 at a General Dynamics Electric Boat facility in Groton, Ct.

“As the 7th ship of Block III, the PCU South Dakota (SSN 790) will be the most advanced VIRGINIA class submarine on patrol,” O’Rourke said.

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Sailors, aboard the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Texas (SSN 775), moor the boat to the pier. Texas is visiting Yokosuka for a port visit. U.S. Navy port visits represent an important opportunity to promote stability and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, demonstrate commitment to regional partners and foster growing relationships. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds)

In recent years, the service has been making progress developing new acoustics, sensors and quieting technologies to ensure the U.S. retains its technological edge in the undersea domain – as countries like China and Russia continue rapid military modernization and construction of new submarines.

The impetus for the Navy’s “acoustic superiority,” is specifically grounded in the emerging reality that the U.S. undersea margin of technological superiority is rapidly diminishing in light of Russian and Chinse advances.

Described as a technology insertion, the improvements will eventually be integrated on board both Virginia-Class submarines and the now-in -development next-generation nuclear-armed boats called the Columbia-Class.

Some of these concepts, described as a fourth generation of undersea technology, are based upon a “domain” perspective as opposed to a platform approach – looking at and assessing advancements in the electro-magnetic and acoustic underwater technologies, Navy developers explained.

“Lessons learned from South Dakota will be incorporated into Block V and later Virginia Class submarines, increasing our undersea domain advantage and ensuring our dominance through the mid-century and beyond,” O’Rourke added.

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Casey Hopkins

The idea with “acoustic superiority,” is to engineer a circumstance wherein U.S. submarines can operate undetected in or near enemy waters or coastline, conduct reconnaissance or attack missions and sense any movement or enemy activities at farther ranges than adversaries can.

Acoustic sensor technology works by using underwater submarine sensors to detect sound “pings” in order to determine the contours, speed and range of an enemy ship, submarine or approaching weapon. Much like radar analyzes the return electromagnetic signal bounced off an object, acoustics works by using “sound” in a similar fashion. Most of the undersea acoustic technology is “passive,” meaning it is engineered to receive pings and “listen” without sending out a signal which might reveal their undersea presence or location to an enemy, Navy technology developers explained.

Some of these concepts, described as a fourth generation of undersea technology, are based upon a “domain” perspective as opposed to a platform approach – looking at and assessing advancements in the electro-magnetic and acoustic underwater technologies, Navy developers explained.

The new “acoustic superiority” effort is immersed in performing tactical assessments as well as due diligence from an academic standpoint to make sure the service looks at all the threat vectors – whether that be hydrodynamics, acoustics, lasers, among others.

The emerging technologies, however, are heavily focused upon sensitive, passive acoustic sensors able to detect movement and objects of potential adversary boats and ships at much further ranges and with a higher-degree of fidelity. While high-frequency, fast two-way communication is currently difficult to sustain from the undersea domain, submarines are able to use a Very Low Frequency radio to communicate while at various depths beneath the surface, Navy leaders told Warrior.

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Groton, Conn. (July 30, 2004) – The nationÕs newest and most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine and the lead ship of its class, PCU Virginia (SSN 774) returns to the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard following the successful completion of its first voyage in open seas called “alpha” sea trials. Virginia is the NavyÕs only major combatant ready to join the fleet that was designed with the post-Cold War security environment in mind and embodies the war fighting and operational capabilities required to dominate the littorals while maintaining undersea dominance in the open ocean. Virginia and the rest of the ships of its class are designed specifically to incorporate emergent technologies that will provide new capabilities to meet new threats. Virginia will be delivered to the U.S. Navy this fall. U.S. Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat (RELEASED)

Building upon developments with the South Dakota, the Navy, DARPA and industry are continuing to explore a new-generation of undersea technologies including quieter, stronger, longer-range communications, sonar detection and undersea drone autonomy.

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency and BAE-Systems have begun a high-tech project to engineer undersea drones that can use active sonar to find enemy submarines and network back to a host submarine in real-time.

The project, called Mobile Offboard Clandestine Communications and Approach (MOCCA) program, brings the prospect of a major breakthrough in undersea communications technology – allowing submarines to detect enemies from a much safer standoff distance. These days, in the dangerous and complication realm of undersea warfare, most undersea drones typically gather intelligence before returning to download data at the mother ship; this emerging technology would enable near real-time undersea connectivity between drones and larger submarines.

Instead of using passive sonar technology which listens for acoustic “pings” picked up from undersea enemy movement, MOCCA plans to use active sonar technology able to proactively send active acoustic pings forward and analyze the return signal to discern the counters, speed, shape and distance of an enemy submarine – all while enabling the host submarine retain its stealth properties.

Using satellite integrated telemetry, some underwater drones can transmit information back to boats in near real time; this provides a substantial tactical advantage because smaller drones are less detectable to enemy sonar and therefore able to access areas that are more difficult for larger submarines to penetrate. Such a technology allows for closer-in reconnaissance missions when it comes to operating in enemy territory, close to the shoreline, or overcoming the anti-access/area-denial challenges posed by potential adversaries.

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The PCU Illinois returns to base Oct. 6, 2016, after completing its sea trials. The Illinois was commissioned and became the USS Illinois on Oct. 29. (Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Steve Owsley)

Such scenarios, envisioned for the not-too-distant future, provide the conceptual foundation of the Navy’s emerging drone strategy. The idea is to capitalize upon the fast increasing speed of computer processing and rapid improvements in the development of autonomy-increasing algorithms; this will allow unmanned systems to quickly operate with an improved level of autonomy, function together as part of an integrated network, and more quickly perform a wider range of functions without needing every individual task controlled by humans.

Groups of underwater drones will soon simultaneously use sonar and different sensors to identify and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships, search for mines, collect oceanographic data and conduct reconnaissance missions – all while a single human performs command and control functions aboard a Navy ship or submarine, senior service officials explained.

The approach is designed as a mission multiplier to increase efficiency and perform a wider range of functions much more quickly. Armed with a small fleet of underwater drones, a submarine or destroyer will be able to perform higher-priority missions while allowing unmanned systems to quickly gather and transmit combat-relevant tactical and strategic information.

Study: US Undersea Technological Dominance in Jeopardy

Senior Navy officials have explained that the innovations contained in the USS South Dakota do, at least in part, help address an issue raised by a report several years ago by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The report, titled “The Emerging Era in Undersea Warfare,” says the technological margin of difference separating the U.S from potential rivals is expected to get much smaller. This is requiring the U.S. to re-think the role of manned submarines and prioritize innovation in the realm of undersea warfare, the study says.

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Newport News, Va. (May 17, 2006) Ð The Pre-Commissioning Unit Texas (SSN 775) sails past the Coast Guard cutter Sea Horse (WPB-87361). The fast-attack submarine returned to the Northrop Grumman Newport News, Va. shipyards after successfully completing alpha sea trials to test the boat’s capabilities. Texas is the second Virginia-class submarine, the first major U.S. Navy combatant vessel class designed with the post-Cold War security environment in mind. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Apprentice Patrick Gearhiser (RELEASED)

“America’s superiority in undersea warfare results from decades of research and development, operations, and training. It is, however, far from assured. U.S. submarines are the world’s quietest, but new detection techniques are emerging that don’t rely on the noise a submarine makes, and may make traditional manned submarine operations far more risky in the future. America’s competitors are likely pursuing these technologies even while expanding their own undersea forces,” writes the report’s author Bryan Clark.

In the report, Clark details some increasingly available technologies expected to change the equation regarding U.S. undersea technological supremacy. They include increased use of lower frequency active sonar and non-acoustic methods of detecting submarine wakes at short ranges. In particular, Clark cites a technique of bouncing laser light or light-emitting-diodes off of a submarine hull to detect its presence.

“The physics behind most of these alternative techniques has been known for decades, but was not exploited because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine. Today, ‘big data” processing enables advanced navies to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time to exploit these detection techniques,” Clark writes.

Although the CSBA study was published several years ago now, the issues it raises have been of great relevance to developers of undersea technology working to sustain US dominance in an increasingly contested domain. In addition, Navy developers have specifically said that many newer innovations have been engineered to address the concerns mentioned in the study.

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China’s Yuan-class attack submarine. | Congressional Research Service

Chinese Submarine Threat

When asked about the pace of Chinese undersea military construction and modernization, Navy officials say that the Navy is focused on sustaining the research and development, or RD, sufficient to ensure the U.S. retains its technological superiority.

Maintaining an advanced submarine fleet, and strategic nuclear deterrence in particular, is all the more pressing and significant now that China has operational nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to hit part of the United States, Navy developers say.

Several Congressional reports in recent years have pointed out that Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.

The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, Congressional information says.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Gear Porn: Atibal X 1-10x First Focal Plane Scope

The future of modern carbine sights are low-power variable optics (LPVOs). Like the leap from iron sights to red dots, there’s an upfront cost, but unfortunately for the consumer, making the next step typically requires you to double your ante to upgrade from a red dot to a variable. The free market has responded, and we’ve seen a significant increase in new and inexpensive options. Even five years ago, this would’ve been unthinkable. The realm of variable optics, once relegated between the options of Walmart-cheap and S&B costly, now has a big fat middle range.


Since their inception, Atibal has been steadily improving the quality of their product line, while keeping their prices affordable. The first Atibal optic we got hands on with was their inexpensive second focal plane (SFP) XP8. Though it had some warts, it was also a mere 0. Atibal followed it up with their FFP 1-6x Mirage (better) and then the Apex 4-16x FFP (better still).

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Don’t get us wrong, NightForce they’re not — but they don’t pretend to be. Often, we’re cajoled by budget optic companies proclaiming they’re “just as good as,” and Jimmy Labita of Atibal has never tried to feed us that line. Frankly, in an industry full of wild claims and exaggerations, it was a breath of fresh air.

And, at least at the time of this writing, the Atibal X is the first and only front focal plane (FFP) 1-10x power optic on the market.

The Atibal X has a lot of the features that we look for in an optic like this: a Mil Dot reticle, 1/10th mil adjustments, FFP, great tactile clicks, easy zooming, and illumination that’s actually what we’d consider daylight bright (with an asterisk).

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It’s exceedingly hard to make a daylight-bright illuminated reticle with a FFP scope; most on the market sans a small handful with bright reticles are second focal plane. This is because the reticle on an FFP scope is exceedingly small — and the higher the variation in power, the smaller the physical reticle itself has to be. Usually with the brightness pumped on one of these, it turns into a blurry mess. Atibal’s solution with the X wasn’t necessarily to needlessly dump light into the reticle, but instead opted for a reticle design that aids in this endeavor.

Reminiscent of the EOTech VUDU line of optics, the Atibal X features four thick segments in a 20mil by 20mil diamond outside the reticle itself that illuminates along with a quarter-mil center dot. For those who live in the MOA world, this translates to roughly a 68.75 MOA (~72 inches at 100 yards) diamond. Being right around 6 feet in height makes it very easy to get rough range estimation against human targets.

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Being an FFP scope, as you zoom in for a more refined aiming point, the diamond moves out of the center giving you access to the Mil Dot reticle. Up close? Put the red on the target and pull. Further away? Zoom right in.

One feature that we were extremely happy to see was that the six illumination levels feature an “off” between each setting. If you want to save battery life, select your desired brightness level and then just give it one click in either direction.

The turrets are easy to float, and all you need is a hex wrench to pop it off and shift after zeroing. The turrets also lock and are in a “pull out to move” arrangement. Zero worries about minor bumps or bangs playing mucky muck with your adjustments.

The eye box of the Atibal X is more than reasonable with 3.6 inches at high magnification and 5.5 inches at low magnification. For comparison’s sake, the 1-6x Vortex Razor HD II has 4 inches of eye relief at the highest magnification.

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We’ve seen a trend of larger optical tubes for increased light-gathering properties, and the Atibal X is no different. With a 35mm tube, it bulges out 1 millimeter more than the “standard” large tube, but there are still several options out there (it doesn’t hurt that the new Leupold Mk5 also rocks a 35mm tube). Additionally, Atibal teamed up with Bobro Engineering for a 35mm mount option, so you can order them as a pair — at a helluva discount too! Currently, the Atibal X is 9 with a mount and 9 without. Not too shabby for the best optic Atibal has ever put out.

There was a time when “Made in China” was the kiss of death, at least as far as firearms accessories were concerned. But place of manufacture alone is no longer a disqualifier regarding optics — at least not this one. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise; we’ve been using a handful of camera lenses with Chinese glass in them for some time.

Undoubtedly, we’ll see both Vortex and Primary Arms release similar models, just as they’ve done with every other Atibal release. But for some reason, Jimmy gets them into the hands of the public before everyone else; hell, he was showing this one off a year ago.

Featured image: Recoilweb.com

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army nerfed its ammunition before WWII

The bottom line for the military is always cost-effectiveness (barring elite tier-1 units). As we’ve seen with the Modular Handgun System competition, acquisitions are driven by the lowest bid and not necessarily performance. The argument between Glock and Sig Sauer aside, the necessity of fiscal responsibility forced the Army to limit the effectiveness of their .30-06 ammunition prior to America’s entry into WWII.


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The Spanish-American War showed the inferiority of the Krag to the Mauser (U.S. Army)

The Army adopted its first smokeless powder cartridge, the .30-40 Krag, to replace the black powder .45-70 in the early-1890s. After a review of the cartridge’s performance in the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Army ordnance corps made modifications to the round in an attempt to match the ballistics of the superior 7x57mm Mauser cartridge used by the Spanish during the war. Though the ordnance department succeeded in increasing the muzzle velocity of the .30-40, the new cartridge had a tendency to damage the rifles that shot it due to the increase in pressure.

In 1903, following the recommendations of the infantry Small Arms Board, the Army replaced the .30-40 with a higher velocity cartridge, the .30-03. Also called the .30-45 due to its 45 grain powder charge, the .30-03’s service was short-lived. The heavy 220 grain M1903 bullet required high pressures and temperatures to achieve its maximum effective velocity which caused severe bore erosion in rifle barrels. Additionally, the bullet’s weight and roundnose design still left it ballistically inferior to its European 7mm and 8mm counterparts. After just three years, the .30-03 was replaced by the venerable .30-06.

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The M1 Garand was designed in .30 caliber due to the surplus of wartime ammo (Springfield Armory)

Equipped with a modern pointed spitzer bullet, the .30-06 was more effective at long range than the .30-03. However, the Army’s claim of a maximum range of 4,700 yards was disproved when the cartridge saw service in WWI. Machine gun barrages used as indirect fire with the .30-06 M1906 round proved to be 50% less effective than expected. In 1918, extensive testing showed that the M1906 cartridge actually had a maximum effective range of 3,300 to 3,400 yards. The Germans experienced a similar problem with their ammo which they solved by replacing the flat-based bullet with a boat-tail bullet. The result for the Germans was a round with a maximum range of approximately 5,140 yards.

In 1926, the U.S. Army ordnance corps applied the same solution to the .30-06. After extensive testing of the 7.5x55mm Swiss GP11 cartridge, the ordnance corps replaced the M1906 flat-based bullet with the M1 Ball’s boat-tail bullet. The new round had a higher ballistic coefficient, greater muzzle velocity, and a maximum range of approximately 5,500 yards. Despite the development of the .30-06 M1 Ball cartridge, the Army continued to field the M1906 cartridge.

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Left to right: M1903, M1906, M1 Ball, M2 Ball, and M2AP .30 caliber bullets (Public Domain)

With over 2 billion rounds of wartime surplus ammunition, the Army needed to expend the old ammo before it introduced the new. Over the next decade, old stocks of M1906 rounds were shot in training as the supply of the new M1 Ball ammo was allowed to grow. However, by 1936, the Army realized that its new long-range rifle round had a serious problem—it was too effective.

Firing ranges are designed with an emphasis on safety. When Murphy’s Law rears its ugly head and Private Joe Schmo has a negligent discharge at an angle that lobs a bullet as far as it can possibly travel, that round needs to land within a designated impact area. As a result, military firing ranges of the day had all been designed with the ballistics of the .45-70, .30-40 Krag, and .30-06 M1906 rounds in mind. Due to its increased maximum range, the performance of the .30-06 M1 Ball was beyond the safety limitations of most ranges.

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Infantrymen fire both the M1 Garand and M1903 Springfield (U.S. Army)

With war looming on the horizon and the cost of modifying ranges to accommodate the M1 Ball prohibitively expensive, an emergency order was issued to manufacture mass quantities of a new .30-06 round that more closely matched the ballistics of the expended M1906 cartridge as quickly as possible. Developed in 1938, the new M2 Ball cartridge was nearly identical to the M1906, though it had a slightly greater maximum range of 3,450 yards. While the M2 Ball became the standard cartridge for the U.S. military, the Marine Corps retained stocks of the superior M1 Ball ammo for use by their snipers and marksmen.

Despite its ballistic inferiority to the M1 Ball, the M2 Ball was still an extremely capable cartridge. It saw service through WWII, Korea, and even saw limited use in Vietnam before it was replaced by the 7.62x51mm and 5.56x45mm NATO rounds. Today, a high volume of military surplus firearms chambered in .30-06 and a dwindling supply of military surplus ammunition has led to many manufacturers producing commercial .30-06 M2 Ball ammo.