Rob Riggle is no stranger to We Are the Mighty — and it’s no secret that we’re big fans of his. But it’s not just the fact that he’s a hilarious, self-made comedian with a background of service with the United States Marine Corps Reserve, it’s also because he’s a genuine, charitable guy.
This year, he’s back at it once again. Beginning June 1, Riggle is hosting yet another Big Slick Celebrity Weekend to raise money for Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy. Last year, Riggle and his supporting cast of celebrities from all walks of life helped raise over $1.7 million dollars for the award-winning hospital.
It all started in 2010 when Riggle called on two other alumni of Shawnee Mission South High School: Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis. Over the course of 9 short weeks, the three put together a weekend chock full of events to raise money for Children’s Mercy Hospital. Dubbed the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend, their very first run earned over $120,000 for the hospital.
(Big Slick Celebrity Weekend)
Since then, things have gotten bigger and better than ever. The three called on other celebrities, including Will Ferrel, Weird Al Yankovic, Olivia Wilde, James Van Der Beek, and many more, to come help grow the event to make an even bigger impact — and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
This year, the crew has plenty of fun in store. It all starts on the afternoon of Friday, June 1 when celebrities take the field to play a game of softball. After that, players from the Major League step in — the Oakland Athletics are taking on the Kansas City Royals. Each ticket to the MLB game sold includes a $5 donation to Big Slick.
Then, the following day, the festivities continue as celebs hit the lanes for a bowling tournament. Finally, Saturday night is capped off with a party and auction where they’ll put up some great items, all sold to the benefit of Children’s Mercy.
Children’s Mercy has been repeatedly ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.” They’ve been helping treat the sick and supporting medical research since 1897 and, with your help, they can keep offering the very best in care to kids across both Kansas and Missouri.
To learn more about the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend 2018, check out their website. To get a glimpse into the fun-filled weekend, check out this clip from last year’s event!
Investigative website Bellingcat has identified the second suspect in the nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain as a military doctor employed by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.
In September 2018, British prosecutors charged two Russians — Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov — with attempted murder for carrying out the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the Novichok nerve toxin in the southern English city in early 2018.
The prosecutors said at the time the two were undercover GRU officers.
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Skripals’ attempted murder.
“We have now identified ‘Aleksandr Petrov’ to be in fact Dr. Aleksandr Yevgenyevich Mishkin, a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” the British-based group said in a reportpublished on its website.
Bellingcat, a website that covers intelligence matters, had previously identified Boshirov on Sept. 26, 2018, as being decorated GRU Colonel Anatoly Chepiga.
“While Aleksandr Mishkin’s true persona has an even sparser digital footprint than Anatoly Chepiga’s, Bellingcat has been able to establish certain key facts from his background,” the Oct. 8, 2018 report said.
It said that Mishkin was born in 1979 in the Archangelsk region in Northern European Russia and was trained as a military doctor for the Russian naval armed forces at one of Russia’s elite military medical schools.
A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.
“During his medical studies, Mishkin was recruited by the GRU, and by 2010 had relocated to Moscow, where he received his undercover identity — including a second national ID and travel passport — under the alias Aleksandr Petrov,” the report said.
“Bellingcat’s identification process included multiple open sources, testimony from people familiar with the person, as well as copies of personally identifying documents, including a scanned copy of his passport,” the website said.
British police declined to make any specific comment in relation to Bellingcat’s latest report or the real names of those charged with poisoning the Skripals.
“We are not going to comment on speculation regarding their identities,” London’s police force said in a statement in response to a media query about the report.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the two men shown in British surveillance footage near Skripal’s home in Salisbury and identified by British authorities as Boshirov and Petrov were actually civilians on a tourist trip.
Skripal, a former GRU colonel, was convicted of treason in 2006 by a Russian court after being accused of spying for Britain. He relocated to Britain in a 2010 spy swap.
Putin on Oct. 3, 2018, said that Skripal was a “scumbag” who had betrayed his country.
The Skripals were found unconscious on March 4, 2018, on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury. They were seriously ill but made a full recovery after spending several weeks in a hospital.
British officials said the two were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Putin’s government for the attack.
In June 2018, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.
Britain on Sept. 5, 2018, announced charges against the two Russian men as police issued photographs of the suspects.
The men acknowledged they were in Salisbury at the time but claimed they were there as tourists.
Syrian rebels shot down a Russian jet on Feb. 3 and then killed the pilot on the ground, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, triggering a furious barrage of dozens of airstrikes that observers say hit hospitals and killed civilians.
Adding to a chaotic weekend in the country, Turkish forces poured into Syria on Feb. 4 to fight U.S.-backed Kurdish militias there, suffering their heaviest day of losses so far with a tank being destroyed and troops coming under attack.
Caught in the crossfire are civilians, who are likely to pay the price of a furious Russia, which looks to have picked up its bombing runs to levels unseen since the fall of 2016.
Babies on stretchers, hospitals on fire
On the morning of Feb. 5, social media was replete with horrific footage believed to be taken from the ground in Syria.
The White Helmets, a volunteer organization whose members regularly pull civilians out of the rubble from bombings, posted pictures of babies in stretchers being taken from a burning hospital.
Several videos show men being treated for attacks apparently from chemical weapons, which Syria and Russia have vigorously denied using.
Russia vowed to find out who shot down its plane and where they got the weapon, which is said to be a man-portable air-defense, or Manpad, missile. Russian lawmakers went as far as saying they had information that “Western countries” had provided the system.
Other Russian officials threatened to punish countries that may have provided the weapons to the Syrians who shot down their jet, a Su-25 attack plane.
Throughout the first six years of Syria’s bloody civil war, the U.S. considered providing Manpads to Syrian rebels as a means of defending themselves against Syria’s air force, which has been accused of bombing and gassing civilians.
But as the war progressed and more and more hardline Islamist elements became entwined with the more moderate Syrian rebels, the U.S. publicly declined to provide the rebels with such weapons, which can also be used to take out commercial aircraft. Over the weekend, the Pentagon denied providing Manpads to Syrian rebels.
A new phase in the Syrian war?
But now Manpads are believed to have made their mark in Syria, possibly provided by powers that wish to erode Syria’s or Russia’s airpower or possibly plundered from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces themselves.
A soldier from the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group that Turkey backs, was seen on video with a Russian-made Manpad in late January. In response to the highlighted threat from Manpads, Russia has ordered its jets to fly higher to avoid ground fire.
The US Navy deployed two carrier strike groups to the Mediterranean Sea to send an unmistakable message to Russia.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS John C. Stennis and their escort ships began dual carrier operations in the region April 23, 2019, the US Navy said in a statement. The combined force includes more than 130 aircraft, 10 ships and 9,000 sailors and Marines, a force that no other power has the ability to bring together.
USS John C. Stennis.
(US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)
In addition to the carrier, a strike group typically includes a guided-missile cruiser, two to three guided-missile destroyers, an attack submarine, and a supply ship.
The last time two carriers operated in the region simultaneously was in 2016, when the Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman carrier strike groups were deployed to the Mediterranean.
Current operations are being conducted alongside allies and partners in the region.
“In the era of great power competition, particularly in the maritime domain, one carrier strike group provides tremendous operational flexibility and agility,” Adm. James Foggo III, the head of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, said.
“Two carrier strike groups operating simultaneously, while also integrating and advancing interoperability with our highly capable NATO allies and partners, provides an unprecedented deterrent against unilateral aggression, as well as combined lethality,” he added. “It also should leave no doubt to our nation’s shared commitment to security and stability in the region.”
Standing on the bridge of the USS Abraham Lincoln, he stressed that “we are not going to be deterred by any potential adversary and we are going to support our interests as Americans and also those of our allies as we steam throughout the world,” CNN reported.
USS Abraham Lincoln.
(US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)
Russia has steadily expanded its military presence in the Mediterranean since 2015, when the Russian military joined forces with Damascus in Syria.
Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador to Russia, said that the carriers, each of which represents “100,000 tons of international diplomacy,” are intended to send a message. “Diplomatic communication and dialogue coupled with the strong defense these ships provide demonstrate to Russia that if it truly seeks better relations with the United States, it must cease its destabilizing activities around the world.”
“When you have 200,000 tons of diplomacy that is cruising in the Mediterranean — this is what I call diplomacy, this is forward operating diplomacy — nothing else needs to be said,” Huntsman added, according to CNN.
“You have all the confidence you need to sit down and try to find solutions to the problems that have divided us now for many, many years.”
Russian media accused the US military and the ambassador of unnecessary “saber-rattling” near Russia’s “doorstep.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
He’s had triple bypass surgery, two leg amputations, gallbladder removal and eye surgery.
So how does Jim Jacobi feel?
“I feel healthier now at (age) 75 than I did at 50,” said the U.S. Army Veteran. “I’ve had a lot of things done to me, but I feel healthier now (because of) my attitude and the (Milwaukee) VA.
“I just have a positive attitude about everything.”
For many, the ravages of disease and age take their toll mentally as well as physically. But Jacobi, a Milwaukee native who served one year in Vietnam after being drafted in 1965, has chosen a different path.
“It’s better to be happy and friendly,” he said. “When I was 50, I said, ‘You gotta be happy. Don’t let things bother you.'”
And he has stuck by that philosophy, tackling his various physical ailments with determination and fortitude that belie his age.
“He’s unique, he’s an outlier,” said Milwaukee VA prosthetist Justin Heck. “He’s an inspiring guy.”
Sarah Mikesell, Jacobi’s physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA, agreed.
“Statistically, he’s an anomaly, being as old as he is and being able to walk with bilateral prostheses. That’s definitely against the odds.
“Jim is really super motivated. He does a good job taking care of himself and following through on recommendations. And he tries to share his good, positive attitude with everybody else.”
Jim Jacobi, a U.S. Army Veteran, stands with the help of physical therapist Sarah Mikesell at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center after putting on his new prosthetic leg.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Jacobi was just a few months out of high school when his number came up.
His job in the Army was ordering food for the troops — 150,000 when he arrived and 200,000 by the time he was discharged.
“Me and the captain were the two people that ordered all the food for the II Corps,” he said. “When I left, the captain and I got replaced by a whole company.”
His job took him to the front lines, and he remembers being shelled by mortar fire his very first day in the country.
Somewhere along the way – he’s not sure when or how – he was exposed to Agent Orange. And that is what led to the disease that has gnawed away at him – diabetes.
Exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides has been linked to the disease. And while heredity is also associated with diabetes, Jacobi said he’s the only member of his family to develop it.
After Vietnam, Jacobi worked in manufacturing for a number of years before opening a gas station. That eventually led to a job with a company that oversaw 13 convenience stores.
The work played to Jacobi’s strengths of being friendly and outgoing.
“I realized that in a factory, you see the same people every day,” he said. “When I was working for the convenience stores, I would be going to different stores. I had a lot of people working for me, and I got to know some of the customers. I’m more of a people-oriented person.”
It wasn’t long after Jacobi’s retirement when the diabetes began to take its toll.
He remembers getting an infection in the big toe on his right leg. A month later, all of his toes on his right foot had to be amputated.
“Since I’ve had this, I’ve downhill skied, curled and went sailing on Lake Michigan, all through SCI recreation. We play bocce ball, we bowl, we do air rifles, archery, kayaking, bicycling — I do all of that.”
— Jim Jacobi, talking about how his life changed after losing his first leg.
Three years later, the leg had to be amputated. Jacobi was fitted with a prosthetic, and within months he was walking again. But that wasn’t all. Besides hooking up with the Walk a Mile or More group of Veterans at the Milwaukee VA, Jacobi also became involved with recreation groups through the Spinal Cord Injury center.
“Since I’ve had this,” he said, pointing to his first prosthesis, “I’ve downhill skied, curled and went sailing on Lake Michigan, all through SCI recreation. “We play bocce ball, we bowl, we do air rifles, archery, kayaking, bicycling – I do all of that.”
He found a “great bunch of guys” at the SCI and WAMM, which gathers three days a week at Lake Wheeler on the Milwaukee VA campus not only to walk for exercise but also to socialize.
“You meet such wonderful people,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he also went on outings to Harley-Davidson and organized bicycle rides on the Hank Aaron Trail. He and his buddies would also serve free coffee once a week at the hospital’s South Entrance.
But diabetes wasn’t done with Jacobi yet.
A familiar scenario began last summer when the little toe on Jacobi’s left leg had to be amputated. The remaining toes were taken in succession within months.
In February, he was back in the hospital, having his remaining leg amputated.
During his recovery, his friends would drop by his room every day, doing what they could and bringing him anything he needed.
“The nurses on the seventh floor, they were amazed I would have about 10 guys visiting me before the virus shut it down,” he said. “They’re great buddies… They’re always there to help you. And I’m the same way – I’ll do anything I can to help them.”
In June, Jacobi was fitted with his new prosthesis, and physical therapy began again.
He hasn’t been able to take it home yet – it’s still being tweaked. Meanwhile, the remainder of his left leg continues to heal after the amputation.
As is his nature, Jacobi has not seen this latest amputation as a roadblock, but merely a hurdle to get over.
“My goal is to walk without any device – no walker, no cane – by the end of the summer,” he said.
And according to the experts, he’s likely to do it.
“I think he’s on track,” Mikesell said.
“It’s all him. He wants to do it,” Heck said. “How positive he is – that’s the hardest part.
“Physically, we know people can walk or stand with the prosthetics. That’s fairly simple. To do it well and stay positive and work at it every day – that’s the hard part.”
Diabetes threw Jacobi another curveball in June.
He woke up one Sunday morning and noticed his vision was impaired.
“I think everybody at the VA hospital is so caring. I have a lot of buddies, a lot of Veterans, and I’ve not heard one person complaint about VA.”
— Jim Jacobi talks about the care he receives at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.
“It was like hair was hanging in my eye,” he said. “But I don’t have any hair.”
After talking with his primary care physician’s nurse on Monday, Jacobi walked into the eye clinic at the Milwaukee VA the next day and had laser surgery on the spot.
As Jacobi explained it, the diabetes led to the formation of blood vessels in the back of his eye.
“It looks like hair, but it’s actually blood,” he said.
Jacobi has one more procedure for the eye, scheduled in August.
Through all of this, Jacobi has continued to maintain his positive, upbeat attitude while lauding the care he has received at the Milwaukee VA.
“I think everybody at the VA hospital is so caring,” he said. “I have a lot of buddies, a lot of Veterans, and I’ve not heard one person complain about the VA.”
His health care providers at the Milwaukee VA are equally as appreciative of Jacobi.
“Jim’s a really good advocate for himself and other amputees,” Mikesell said, noting that Jacobi annually volunteers to work with students in training to be physical therapists. “He’s willing to share his knowledge and wisdom.”
“He has been an advocate for other Veterans as well as for the workers here,” Heck said.
Jacobi has a theory about people, saying 25% have “wonderful attitudes,” 50% have “normal” attitudes and the remaining 25% have “negative” attitudes.
“That’s just the way it is,” he said. “I wish we could get to that 25% who are angry.
“I see patients when I’m in the hospital, and some guys are so grumpy and negative. That’s a shame to see,” he said.
“It’s better to have a positive attitude. You make everybody else feel positive too.”
The U.S. Army will soon launch a redesign of Basic Combat Training intended to build more discipline after many commanders complained that new soldiers often show up to their first units with a sloppy appearance and undisciplined attitudes.
By early summer, new recruits will go through Army BCT that’s designed to instill strict discipline and esprit de corps by placing a new emphasis in drill and ceremony, inspections, pride in military history while increasing the focus on critical training such as physical fitness, marksmanship, communications, and battlefield first aid skills.
The program will also feature three new field training exercises that place a greater emphasis on forcing recruits to demonstrate Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to survive in combat.
The new program of instruction is the result of surveys taken from thousands of leaders who have observed a trend of new soldiers fresh out of training displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic as well as being careless with equipment, uniform, and appearance, Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training, told defense reporters on Feb. 9.
‘A sense of entitlement’
“What leaders have observed in general is they believe that there is too much of a sense of entitlement, questioning of lawful orders, not listening to instruction, too much of a buddy mentality with NCOs and officers, and a lot of tardiness being late to formation and duties,” Frost said. “These are trends that they see as increasing that they think are part of the discipline aspect that is missing and that they would like to see in the trainees that become soldiers that come to them as their first unit of assignment.”
As commanding general of IET, Frost was tasked with increasing the quality of training and reducing new soldier attrition.
After compiling the data from surveys of about 27,000 commissioned officers, warrant officers, and non-commissioned officers, the message was very clear, Frost said.
“The number-one thing that was asked for five-fold or five times as much as any of the other categories was discipline,” Frost said.
“First-unit-of-assignment leaders want Initial Entry Training to deliver disciplined, physically-fit new soldiers who are willing to learn, they are mentally tough, professional and are proud to serve in the United States Army.”
In addition to discipline and physical fitness, leaders also wanted technical and tactical proficiency in warrior tasks and battle drills.
Be a soldier
After working out the details in a pilot at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the Army has approved a new POI that Frost hopes will better instill into recruits exactly what it means to be a soldier.
“We really tried to attack it by getting after more discipline and esprit de corps,” Frost said.
One new aspect features a series of history vignettes of major battles that the Army has fought in, from Valley Forge in the Revolutionary War all the way to Iraq in Baghdad, Frost said.
“We highlighted those battles; we tied them to Army Values and the Soldier’s Creed and highlighted an individual who received the Medal of Honor or other valor award for actions during each battle,” Frost said.
“So soldiers will learn across all of Basic Combat Training at all the Army training centers what it means to be a soldier, the history of the United States Army through the battles and the campaign streamers and the wars that we have fought and they will be able to look to and emulate a soldier who executed a valorous act during that war.”
The new standardized booklet will be given to each recruit along with their Blue Book at the beginning of training.
Recruits will also learn discipline by doing more practice at a skill that may be as old as soldiering itself — drill and ceremony.
Drill and ceremony
When the war began after the attacks of 9/11, the Army decreased its focus on DC, inspections and other skills that stress attention to detail to make more time for combat skill training.
“There are a lot of folks that say ‘we need to go back to the drill and ceremony because we have lost a lot of the discipline aspect of what it means to be a United States Army soldier,'” Frost said.
“It’s not like they are going to be sitting out there just doing DC all the time. The drill and ceremony is going to be interwoven into when they move to and from places … so the movements won’t just be lollygagging, non-tactical movements, they will be actually executing some team drill and ceremony as they move to and from the chow hall and move to and from the barracks.”
But the new BCT isn’t all about spit and polish, Frost said.
Hammer, anvil, forge
“The other big piece we are doing in Basic Combat Training that helps with the esprit de corps and the discipline aspect and also lends a measure of grit and resilience to [BCT] is we have three major field training exercises that we are going to do now. We are calling them the Hammer, the Anvil, and the Forge,” Frost said, describing how the final Forge FTX is an homage to the Army’s historic ties to Valley Forge.
“That is going to be a culminating FTX which is a graduation requirement. It will be an 81-hour field training exercise with about 40 miles of tactical road marching that is conducted through a series of tactical events and mini field training exercises.”
The Forge will include a night infiltration course and a medical evacuation mass casualty exercise. There will be ethical dilemmas soldiers have to negotiate as well as a battle march and shoot, a resupply mission which involves moving supplies, ammo, water to a link-up point, patrol base activities, combat patrols as well as an obstacle course, Frost said.
“If you succeed in making it through the 81-hour FTX … then what will happen is you will earn the right to become a soldier,” Frost said. “You will earn your beret, you will earn a ‘soldier for life’ certificate, you will get your National Defense Service Medal and your uniform will look exactly like a United States Army soldier.”
‘Get after the basics’
The new BCT POI weeded out “a lot of redundant areas and areas that have crept in that did not get after the basics” — shoot, move, communicate and protect or survive, Frost said.
For weapons qualification, recruits will be required to qualify with backup iron sights instead of just on close-combat optic sights.
Physical fitness standards will also be increased, requiring each soldier to score at least 60 points on all three events of the Army Physical Fitness Test instead of 50 points on each as a graduation standard.
Each recruit will also receive 33 hours of combatives training instead of 22 hours, Frost said.
Recruits will receive an increased amount of tactical combat casualty care training such as basic combat lifesaver.
The course will also teach “some of the basics that we had kind of lost with respect to communications such as basic hand and arm signals, and we have doubled the amount of basic reporting on the radio communications” such as MEDEVAC and similar requests, Frost said.
Some qualifications nixed
The new BCT does, however, do away with hand grenade qualification and land navigation course qualification as graduation requirements.
“What we have found is it is taking far, far too much time. It’s taking three to four times as much time … just to qualify folks on the hand grenade course than we had designated so what is happening is it is taking away from other aspects of training,” Frost said.
“We are finding that there are a large number of trainees that come in that quite frankly just physically don’t have the capacity to throw a hand grenade 20 to 25 to 30 meters. In 10 weeks, we are on a 48-hour period; you are just not going to be able to teach someone how to throw if they haven’t thrown growing up.”
Recruits will still receive the same amount of training in these areas, Frost said.
“Just because we took it off as a graduation requirement does not mean they won’t be conducting hand grenade or land navigation training,” Frost said. “They are going to learn all the technical aspects of the hand grenade, and they are going to learn tactical employment and they will throw a live hand grenade.
“With land navigation, it’s the same thing they are still going to conduct land navigation training; they are still going to conduct the day course they are still going to conduct the night course.”
The new changes to BCT, Frost said, will hopefully make new soldiers better prepared for their advanced individual training, first unit of assignment and result in a lower, new-soldier attrition rate
“If we can get a more physically fit, better prepared, more-disciplined soldier in Basic Combat Training, AIT and [One-Station Unit Training] then we believe we will have less attrition in first unit of assignment,” Frost said.
Taliban militants now control or contest nearly half of all districts in Afghanistan as the U.S. pours thousands more troops into the country, a new analysis from The Long War Journal reveals.
The insurgent group predominately controls rural districts throughout the country where the Afghan government and national security forces do not have an extended presence. “Rural areas in Afghanistan are essential to the Taliban’s resilience and ability to consistently undermine Afghan security,” the LWJ noted, citing the insurgent groups ability to use rural districts to mount attacks on urban centers.
The large Taliban control of the country comes as the U.S. is sending approximately 3,000 more troops to the country to support the Afghan National Security Forces. This deployment is in tandem from a new declared strategy from the Trump administration which will place an emphasis on cracking down on Pakistani sanctuary for Taliban militants, and making a sustained and prolonged commitment to Afghanistan.
The Obama administration made a point of tying its troop deployments to a declared timeline for withdrawal, something President Donald Trump has explicitly rejected instead embracing a “conditions” based approach.
The conditions however are dire. The Taliban now control more territory than at any time since 2001 and the Afghan National Security Forces’s are suffering historic casualties.
The tank is far from obsolete and the US will need a new armored vehicle to replace its 1980-vintage M1 Abrams, the Army Chief of Staff said here this afternoon. But what kind of tank, on what kind of timeline? Gen. Mark Milley made clear he was looking for a “breakthrough,” not incremental evolution – which probably means that the new tank will take a long time.
“Are we sort of at that point in history where perhaps mechanized vehicles are going the way of horse cavalry and going the way of the dinosaur?” Milley asked. “I don’t think so — but I’m skeptical enough to continue to ask that.”
“We have a good, solid tank today,” Milley said of the M1. “Having said that, we do need a new ground armored platform for our mechanized infantry and our tanks, because it’s my belief that, at least in the foreseeable future — and you can follow that out to 25 years or so — there is a role for those type of formations.”
“What are some of the technologies?” Milley said. “There’s Active Protection Systems” – electronic jammers and mini-missiles to stop incoming anti-tank weapons – “(and) there’s reduced crews with automated turrets” – as found on Russia’s new T-14 Armata, which Milley said the Army is studying closely – “but the real sort of holy grail of technologies that I’m trying to find on this thing is material, is the armor itself…. If we can discover a material that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.
“There’s a lot of research and development going into it,” Milley said. That’s true, but in all my conversations with Army and industry experts in recent years, no one believes we’re close to a “breakthrough.” Modest improvements in armor materials are in the works, but nothing that would change the fundamental calculus that makes protection heavy.
The trend, in fact, has been for everything to get heavier. The M1 tank started out in 1980 weighing about 60 tons, enough to stop most Soviet anti-tank shells and missiles of the day, but has grown to almost 70. The M2 Bradley, a heavily armed troop carrier called an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, grew from a fairly fragile 25 tons to a robust 40, with contractor BAE now proposing a 45-ton model. Some designs for a Bradley replacement, the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle, grew as heavy as 84 tons before the cash-strapped Army cancelled the program.
While the Army is now looking at lighter vehicles, the experts I’ve talked to are not counting on lighter armor. Instead, they’re contemplating trade-offs once deemed heretical, like building an air-droppable light tank to support paratroops, or having the Bradley replacement only carry half an infantry squad.
Such smaller vehicles would be lighter, as well as more maneuverable on narrow city streets – a key consideration because many Army leaders, including Milley, expect future warfare to be fought increasingly in urban settings. Mosul is a brutal but ultimately small-scale “preview” of future city fights in sprawling megacities, Milley said July 28. In Mosul – as in Fallujah in 2004 and Sadr City in 2008 – it took tanks to retake the city, working closely with regular infantry and special forces, he noted.
Lasers, Railguns, Robotics
While Milley put lighter-weight protection as priority number one, he also highlighted two other technologies that could revolutionize armored vehicle design. One is electrically-powered weapons, such as railguns – which use electromagnets to accelerate a solid metal slug to supersonic speeds – and lasers – which fire pure energy at the speed of light. “We’ve been using kinetic or powder-based munitions for five centuries,” Milley noted, but there are now major advances in alternative forms of firepower.
So far, lasers and railguns are being developed primarily as defensive weapons, able to shoot down drones or cruise missiles more quickly and cheaply than surface-to-air missiles. However, Air Force Special Operations Command plans to put a 150-kilowatt laser on its AC-130 gunships to disable enemy vehicles by silently burning through key components. It’s not too far from an offensive laser that can fit in a big airplane to one that can fit in a big ground vehicle.
The other potential breakthrough Milley mentioned was the “revolution in robotics.” The land is harder to navigate than empty sky or open sea, he emphasized, so ground robots will lag drones or unmanned ships, “but eventually we will see the introduction of wide-scale robotics.” Many of those will be small and relatively expendable scouts, designed to carry sensors or weapons ahead of the human force. Milley also wants his future tank to have enough automation not just to reduce the human crew required, but to optionally leave out the humans altogether, depending on the mission.
“Every vehicle that we develop, we probably need sure it’s dual use, so the commander on the battlefield at the time has the option of having that vehicle manned or unmanned,” Milley said. “They can flip a switch and have it be a robot.”
Building these future warbots will take a lot of thought. If you make an artificial intelligence smart enough to operate the tank some of the time, can you et the AI drive all the time and leave the human crew safe at home, where they can’t get killed or screw things up? If the humans aren’t inside the tank, do you let the AI pick targets and make the decision to kill them on its own? Pentagon policy says “never,” but if our robots have to wait for a human to say (or just think) “fire,” less scrupulous adversaries will be quicker on the draw. It’s a hornet’s nest of difficult questions that the Army – and the nation – will have to answer.
“Sir, my father was an Islamic State militant, but he divorced my mother in 2013,” said Jassem Mohammad, 21, pulling out his identification card and presenting it to the camp manager. “He now has two other wives.”
In a tiny patch of shade on the edge of a blistering desert camp outside of Mosul, the manager listened as Mohammad made his case. He wanted to leave the camp and go back to college. He had good scores, he said, and was never involved with IS.
Militant rule in Mosul has collapsed and IS fighters here are dead, fled, arrested, or in hiding. But as their relatives try to re-integrate into society, Iraqi authorities face impossible questions with only bad answers.
If someone loved or even tolerated an IS militant, is that person guilty? How do the relatives of the perpetrators make peace with the relatives of the victims?
Officially in Iraq, the answer to the first question is “no,” especially when speaking of small children. Women and children fleeing areas IS occupied are checked for bombs, and when cleared, they are considered civilians.
Unofficially, families of militants are shunned, feared and often separated from the “regular” people, all traumatized by violence and extreme poverty under IS. Many IS families now live in camps, like Mohammad, where they are not quite sure if they are being detained or protected. And both, in fact, are true.
“We’d need to see the divorce papers,” the camp manager explained to Mohammad. If Mohammad offered evidence that his father was not in his life during IS rule in Mosul, it might be possible for him to go back to school.
“I want to study and do humanitarian work,” Mohammad continued, pleading his case to a nearby journalist.
As Mohammad and the reporter chatted, the camp manager looked nonplussed and strolled away. A security officer, in contrast, was visibly annoyed and abruptly ended the conversation.
“You cannot talk to him without official permission,” he said, ushering all journalists out of the camp. Other Iraqi officers said they worry that news about camps set aside for IS families will make them look like monsters, locking up women and children.
“What can we do as the Iraqi government?” said a member of a community police force who didn’t want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We are exposed to danger. They are families, but we can’t loose them without rehabilitation.”
Inside the city, at the base of a long-dormant Ferris wheel, a short row of tents served as a collection point for families fleeing Mosul in the final days of battle.
Women and children filed into the tents, some collapsing where they sat. Medics treated injuries and food and water alleviated some of the most pressing pains. Many of the people had been hiding in basements for weeks, after months of water shortages. The smell of unwashed bodies was pungent and the heat in the stagnant tents was overwhelming.
“We were imprisoned,” said Khalifa, 46, a mother of three. Unlike the rest of the women in the tent, she wore no veil and her curly hair was tousled. “We tried to run away and militants locked us in a basement. For the past three days we’ve had no food or water.”
“Once they brought us food in the basement,” adds Hoda, 25, her daughter. “He came down wearing a suicide vest.”
Their story echoed tales from families all over Mosul and, even if their husbands or fathers were IS fighters, it could still be true. However, local authorities worried they were lying, casting themselves as victims, rather than somehow complicit.
One man peppered Hoda with questions about the neighborhood she said she was from. IS militants in Mosul were often not stationed near their original homes. Hoda failed to identify the most famous church, mosque, and graveyard in the area.
“See, they are an IS family,” the man said. “They are lying.”
Another woman, Fatima, a mother of eight, said for relatives of IS omitting certain truths is a matter of survival. Sitting with an intelligence official, Fatima admitted she had two brothers that fought with IS. Both, she said, are now dead and she never supported their decision to join IS.
But when the officer walked away, she said at least one of her brothers is alive and now in Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still held by IS.
“We are afraid to tell them when we talk to family members who are with IS,” she whispered. “We don’t want to be blamed for what they did.”
On Thursday, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island issued a press release identifying Marine Recruit Austin Farrell as the deadliest recruit ever to pass through the Corps’ infamously difficult rifle qualification course. Farrell grew up building and shooting rifles with his father, and when it came time to qualify on his M16A4 service rifle, the young recruit managed a near-perfect score of 248 out of a maximum possible 250 points on Table One.
“I grew up with a rifle in my hand; from the time I was six I was shooting and building firearms with my dad, he was the one that introduced me to shooting, and when I got to Parris Island, what he taught me was the reason I shot like I did,” said Farrell.
The Marine Corps is renown for its approach to training each and every Marine to serve as a rifleman prior to going on to attend follow-on schools for one’s intended occupational specialty. As a result, Table One of the Marine Corps’ Rifle Qualification Course is widely recognized as the most difficult basic rifle course anywhere in the America’s Armed Forces.
All Marines, regardless of ultimate occupation, must master engaging targets from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions at ranges extending as far as 500 yards. In recent years, the Corps has shifted to utilizing RCOs, or Rifle Combat Optics, which aid in accuracy, but still require a firm grasp of marksmanship fundamentals in order to pass.
While no other military branch expects all of its members to be deadly at such long distances, for Farrell, 500 yards wasn’t all that far at all. While new to the Corps, this young shooter is no stranger to long-distance shooting.
“I would go out to a family friend’s range five days a week and practice shooting from distances of up to a mile, it’s a great pastime and teaches you lessons that stay with you past the range.”
Recruit Austin Ferrell with Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion fires his M16A4 Service Rifle during the Table One course of fire on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island S.C. July 30, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)
As all recruits come to learn, being a good shooter isn’t just about nailing the physical aspects of stabilizing yourself, acquiring good sight picture, and practicing trigger control along with your breathing. Being a good shooter is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one. As Farrell points out, being accurate at a distance is about getting your head in the right the place. Of course, getting relaxed and staying relaxed is one thing… doing it during Recruit Training is another.
“Practice before I got here was definitely a big part of it, but getting into a relaxed state of mind is what helped me shoot… after I shot a 248 everyone was congratulating me, but when I got back to the squad bay my drill instructors gave me a hard time for dropping those two points,” Farell laughed.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)
The young recruit is expected to graduate from Recruit Training on September 4, 2020 and while it’s safe to say most parents are proud to see their sons and daughters earn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, Farrell’s father George is already celebrating his son’s success.
“I’m so proud of him, no matter what I’m proud of him but this is above what I expected,” said George. “I always told him to strive to be number one, and the fact that he was able to accomplish that is just a testament to his hard work.”
It’s time to get out your stars and stripes – it’s Flag Day! June 14, 1777, is the date that Congress officially chose the design for our flag, and Americans have been pledging their allegiance to it ever since. While you’ll only get the day off work if you live in Pennsylvania, the state where the flag originated, the holiday’s history and meaning are important to know. Whether you’re reading this on Flag Day or any other day, these facts are fun enough to learn all year long.
1. Betsy Ross may not be the flag’s real designer
Betsy Ross is often cited as the designer of the first American Flag, but we have little evidence to support that claim. Her grandson presented statements by his own family in 1870, but beyond that, there’s no proof. Some historians want to transfer the credit to Francis Hopkinson, who was named as the flag’s designer in journals from the Continental Congress.
2. The celebration of the flag was invented by a teacher
In 1885, a 19-year-old teacher named Bernard J. CiGrand asked his class to write an essay on the symbolism of our flag. He spent the following half-century trying to make Flag Day a national holiday.
3. There have been 27 official versions of the American flag
On the American flag, the stripes represent the 13 original colonies, while the stars represent each state. Since there weren’t always 50 states, there weren’t always 50 stars. Each flag was similar, but with a different number of stars. If you visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, you can see the remnants of the 15-star, 15-stripe flag that inspired the national anthem.
4. The colors of the flag have important meanings
Red, white and blue were chosen to represent, respectively, valor, liberty and purity. The colors also have specific names; “Old Glory Blue,” “Old Glory Red”, and white. Just plain white.
5. The current version of the flag was designed by a student
In 1949, 17-year-old Robert G. Heft created an updated flag for a class project, and the poor kid only got a B-. Luckily, that didn’t dissuade him. He submitted his idea to President Eisenhower when Alaska and Hawaii gained statehood. Our of over 1500 submissions, his design was chosen.
6. The flag has rules of its own. Lots of them.
According to the U.S. Flag Code:
– The flag shouldn’t be flown in bad weather. – It should be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously. – No other flags should be placed above it. – When flags from two or more nations are flown, they should rest on separate poles at the same height. They should also be about the same size. – It must be flown at every school and during all school days. – If flown at night, the flag should be illuminated. – Flags can be burned if they become damaged and can no longer be flown. – And many more.
7. You can’t sign your name on it
Despite what flag-signing politicians would have you believe, The Flag Code strictly prohibits adding any markings or drawings to the flag.
8. … or put it on a t-shirt
Every 4th of July, half the country is decked out in stars and stripes. As it turns out, we’re not really supposed to do that. The Flag Code actually specifies that the Stars and Stripes should never be used on clothing, bedding, or decorations. Considering how much Americans love our flag merch, that’s one rule we’ll probably keep breaking for a long, long time.
9. Flying a flag upside down isn’t necessarily disrespectful
At least not in the way you’re thinking of. An upside-down flag isn’t usually a signal of protest, rather, it’s a signal of distress. On your next cruise, if you see someone frantically waving an upside-down flag on a nearby island, he’s probably not a rebel. He’s stranded.
10. Burning a flag isn’t technically illegal
Historically, unlike flying a flag upside down, burning the flag WAS done as an act of protest. The Flag Protection Act of 1968 made this illegal, but the act was revoked 20 years later. The Supreme Court ruled that the government couldn’t limit citizens’ First Amendment rights, making it legal to do whatever you want to a flag with no legal consequences.
11. Indestructible flags exist
Historically, enemies of the United States have burned or defaced our flag to make a statement. (That’s why messing with the flag is a really, really bad idea, even if it’s not illegal!) To protect defaced flags from being used as a propaganda tool by enemies, a Green Beret veteran has designed an all but indestructible flag. Made out of kevlar and Nomex, the new materials ensure the flag can’t be burned or torn while still allowing it to fly naturally. Here’s how to order your Firebrand Flag today.
12. Using the American flag in burial ceremonies isn’t just for veterans
While draping the flag over the coffins of government officials and veterans is common practice, it’s not their exclusive right. Anyone can adopt this tradition if they like it!
13. Old Glory was the nickname of a specific American flag
We now refer to any ol’ flag as Old Glory, but that wasn’t always the case. It started with a sea captain named William Driver, who nicknamed the flag on his ship “Old Glory” when he saw it flying on his ship’s mast back in 1831. It was such a good nickname that it stuck for good.
14. After 9/11 we held our flag a little closer
National tragedies are known for bringing our country together. According to Karen Burke of Walmart’s Corporate Communications, their stores sold 115,000 flags on September 11, 2001, compared to only 6,400 flags in 2000. In the following year, they sold a whopping 7.8 million US flags- around triple the sales of the previous year.
15. There are 6 American flags on the moon
…but only 5 are standing. Over the course of many moon expeditions, six US flags have been planted. The wind generated by the landing and takeoff of a shuttle, however, dislodged the original flag placed there by Neil Armstrong during the first-ever moon landing.
16. ‘Gilligan’s Island’ directors respected the flag.
During the opening sequence of the first season of the show, the American flag is filmed at half-staff. This was done to honor President Kennedy, who was assassinated the day the pilot episode was filmed.
IT jobs are some of the fastest growing, most secure jobs around today. Although they require a lot of education and experience, military veterans who held similar roles in the military tend to transfer extremely well. We did some research on the IT jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics say are growing the fastest, and these are the most in demand, and will be in the future.
1. Software Developer
What software developers do
Software developers are the technical and creative minds who design and develop software for computer programs and applications.
Duties of software developers:
Analyze users’ needs and then design, test, and develop software to meet those needs
Recommend software upgrades for customers’ existing programs and systems
Design each piece of an application or system and plan how the pieces will work together
Create a variety of models and diagrams (such as flowcharts) that show programmers the software code needed for an application
Document every aspect of an application or system as a reference for future maintenance and upgrades
Collaborate with other computer specialists to create optimum software
Software developers are responsible for overseeing the entire development process for computer systems and applications. One of their main responsibilities is to identify how the users of the software will interact with it. Software developers must also keep in mind the type of security that their software will need in order to protect users.
Developers design and write the instructions for a program, and then give the instructions to the programmers to actually write the code. Some developers, however, might even write the code for the software.
(Photo by Farzad Nazifi)
Work environment of software developer jobs
Software developers typically work in teams that also consist of programmers. They must be able to work together and exchange ideas freely in order for the product to work. Typically, software developers work in an office and work 40 or more hours per week.
How to become a software developer
Software developers usually have a bachelors degree in computer science, software engineering or a related field. If you are going to school for software development you can expect to take courses that focus more on building the software. Many students gain experience by completing an internship with a software company while they are in college.
Even though writing code is typically not the responsibility of the developer, they still must have a strong background in computer programming. Through the course of their career developers will need to stay familiar with the newest computer tools and languages.
Software developers must also have knowledge of the industry they work in. For example, a developer working on digital recruitment software should probably have some knowledge about how the recruiting industry works.
Looking closer, the employment of applications developers is expected to grow by 31%, while system developers is expected to grow by 11%. The need for new applications on smart phones and tablets contributes to the high demand for applications developers.
The insurance industry is expected to need new software to help their policy holders enroll. As the number of people who use this software grows over time, so will the demand for developers.
Growing concerns with cybersecurity will contribute to the demand for software developers to design security systems and programs.
Job applicants who are proficient in multiple computer programs and languages will have the best opportunity to secure employment.
2. Information Security Analyst
What information security analysts do
Information security analysts are responsible for creating and overseeing security measures to protect an organization’s computer systems and digital assets from cyberattacks.
Duties of information security analysts:
Monitor their organization’s networks for security breaches and investigate a violation when one occurs
Install and use software, such as firewalls and data encryption programs, to protect sensitive information
Prepare reports that document security breaches and the extent of the damage caused by the breaches
Conduct penetration testing, which is when analysts simulate attacks to look for vulnerabilities in their systems before they can be exploited
Research the latest information technology (IT) security trends
Develop security standards and best practices for their organization
Recommend security enhancements to management or senior IT staff
Help computer users when they need to install or learn about new security products and procedures
Information security analysts are heavily leaned upon to create their organization’s disaster recovery procedures, which allow an IT department to continue operating in the face of an emergency. Because cyberattacks are so common and dangerous now, these measures are extremely important to the stability of an organization.
Analysts must be familiar with how cyber attackers are operating, and be prepared for new ways they may infiltrate a computer system.
(Photo by Markus Spiske)
Work environment of information security analysts
The work environment of IT security analysts is typically set in the headquarters of a company so that they can monitor the computer systems, unless the company has a separate office strictly for their computer networks. As you can imagine, the majority of their work involves being on computers and monitoring for unusual activity.
Most IT security analysts work at least 40 hours per week, and some work more than that. They often work in teams and may even have specific people assigned to monitoring different aspects of a network.
How to become an information security analyst
To become an IT security analyst you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in a computer-focused field, and many employers prefer a masters degree and some work related experience. A Master of Business Administration in information systems is the preferred degree for upper level positions. This is where military experience comes into play. If you had experience in this field in the military, you will have a great edge over your competition.
Information security analysts are very well paid and will enjoy great job security and profession growth in the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of information security analysts was ,510 as of May 2017. Employment of information security analysts is expected to increase 28% by 2026, which is considerable faster than the average occupation is expected to grow over that same time period.
Because cyberattacks are so common now, information security analysts will see a high demand for their job in the future. They will be expected to come up with innovative solutions to combat cyberattacks. As banks and other financial institutions continue to increase their online presence, they will need to ensure the safety of their own data and that of their users. This is true for many organizations, which makes information security analysts valuable.
Prospects who have prior experience, such as military veterans, are expected to have the best chance at gaining employment. Additionally, having special certifications and advanced degrees will be preferred moving forward.
Companies hiring for information security jobs
AECOM: AECOM is built to deliver a better world. We design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries.
ORACLE: At Oracle, our vision is to foster an inclusive environment that leverages the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of all of our employees, suppliers, customers and partners to drive a sustainable global competitive advantage.
Oracle: At Oracle, our vision is to foster an inclusive environment that leverages the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of all of our employees, suppliers, customers and partners to drive a sustainable global competitive advantage.
California Air National Guardsmen from the 129th Rescue Wing are providing search and rescue support in Southern California for those impacted by the recent mudslides.
The 129th Rescue Wing has deployed an HH-60G Pave Hawk Helicopter with air crews and two elite Guardian Angel pararescuemen to Santa Barbara Municipal Airport and are performing search and rescue operations in the surrounding areas adversely impacted by the recent mudslides.
The aircraft is one of eight California National Guard aircraft and a dozen high-water vehicles supporting mudslide-response efforts. The California National Guard and the 129th Rescue Wing are working closely with the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office and stand ready to send additional personnel and resources as needed.
“Like we’ve done time and time again, your local Air National Guardsmen answered the call at a moment’s notice to help those in need,” said Col. Taft O. Aujero, 129th Rescue Wing commander. “The extraordinary women and men of the 129th Rescue Wing are always ready to execute our life-saving mission.”
Over the last few months, hundreds of these Silicon-Valley based Airmen deployed to support relief efforts in Texas for Hurricane Harvey, in Florida for Hurricane Irma, in Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria, and in California for the Wine Country Wildfires and the Thomas Fire.
The 129th Rescue Wing is credited with saving the lives of more than 1,100 people since 1977. From arid deserts and snow-covered mountain tops to urban and rural settings, 129th Rescue Wing Air guardsmen can reach any destination by land, air, or sea. Equipped with MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft, HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, and Guardian Angel teams (pararescuemen, combat rescue officers, and SERE Specialists), the 129th Rescue Wing conducts combat search and rescue missions, as well as the rescue of isolated persons on board ships, lost or injured hikers, and medical evacuations across the West Coast.