More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It's Because Navy Culture Is Changing - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

The Navy is moving away from the “suck it up, buttercup”-style culture of the past to appeal to the millennial generation and beyond — and new retention numbers indicate the approach is likely working.

The service blasted past its 2019 retention goals for enlisted sailors in their first 10 years in uniform. It held onto nearly 65% of Zone A sailors, or those with less than six years in. And 72% of Zone B sailors — those with six to 10 years in — re-upped.


The Navy set out to keep at least 55% of sailors in Zone A and 65% of those in Zone B. When combined with Zone C sailors, those who’ve been in the service for 10 to 14 years, the 2019 reenlistment rate was 74% across the three zones.

Fleet Master Chief Wes Koshoffer, with Navy Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, told reporters the high re-up rates are a result of an ongoing culture shift in the Navy. Leaders are listening to rank-and-file sailors, he said, and the Navy is focused on developing policies based on what’s easier for the individual and their family.

“When I was a very, very young sailor in the Navy, facing a particularly challenging … family situation, the moniker was, ‘Family didn’t come in your seabag, shipmate. We need you,'” Koshoffer said. “That is no longer our mantra.”

The entire military faces recruiting and retention challenges when it’s up against a booming economy. People have job options outside the service, Koshoffer said. Being an appealing career choice for today’s generation of sailors is crucial as the Navy builds its force back up to 340,500 personnel as it faces more sophisticated threats.

That’s up from a 2012 end-strength low of 318,000 enlisted sailors and naval officers.

“We’re going to need a bigger Navy,” the fleet master chief said. “[We have] a different national strategy, a different military and Navy strategy. … In order to really grow at the pace we want to grow, you have to have these high retention numbers.”

Yeoman 2nd Class Thomas Mahoney and Personnel Specialist 1st Class Holly Tucker say they’ve seen Navy culture change during their time in the service. Mahoney, 26, will soon reenlist for the second time. Tucker, 25, re-upped last year.

Mahoney was on an aircraft carrier when two destroyers in the Pacific suffered separate fatal collisions. When lack of sleep was found to have contributed to the accidents, Mahoney said leaders in 7th Fleet reacted immediately.

More rotational watch schedules were added, and other steps were taken to ensure people were getting good sleep while deployed, he said.

That’s a big shift, Koshoffer said. “Our attitude toward sleep [used to be], ‘You’ll sleep when you’re dead,'” he said. “We’ve changed that.”

Tucker cited the military’s 12-week maternity leave policy as contributing to her decision to stay in the Navy. The service’s maternity leave policy briefly tripled from six weeks to 18 under former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced all the services would receive 12 weeks.

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

“I think that’s a great incentive for women specifically,” Tucker said, adding that she values her leadership’s support and understanding on family matters.

The millennial generation is also focused on career progression and flexibility, the Navy found. Koshoffer said leaders are shifting the service’s culture to show sailors they’re listening and responding to what they’re looking for in a Navy career.

After years of complaints about the Navy’s career detailing program being too secretive, for example, the service unveiled a new online database called My Navy Assignment. The tool is meant to give sailors more information about requirements they’ll need for their jobs of choice so they can build up their skills well before their detailing window hits.

So far, about 11,000 sailors have used the tool to bookmark 27,000 jobs.

“The reason why we show every job available to the sailors was sailor demand for transparency,” Koshoffer said. “… We heard you, we listened, we made the change.”

Change is what the Navy must do in order to compete for top talent, the fleet master chief added. The service still relies on reenlistment bonuses to entice those in hard-to-fill jobs to stay in uniform. Tucker, for example, was eligible for an extra ,000 when she reenlisted.

But the Navy must also embrace telework, flex hours and job-sharing options, Koshoffer said.

“The nature of work is changing,” he said. “… That would be heresy in some circles that in the Navy, we would allow somebody to telework. Are you kidding me?

“But we recognize that we’ve got to adapt to a modern lifestyle and world out there.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon is unsure what will happen to these ‘dreamer’ troops

Less than 900 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients are serving in the military, and the Pentagon has no idea what will happen to them.


President Donald Trump officially declared an end Sept. 5 to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program initiated by the Obama administration to allow illegals to remain and work in the country without fear of deportation, but what that rollback means for the military is still up in the air. The program’s protections will begin being phased out in six months, but DACA recipients whose permits expire before March 2018 can renew for another two-year period.

For now, the Pentagon is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to find out what this policy change will mean for DACA recipients currently in the military. Out of 800,000 DACA recipients, the Pentagon said that less than 900 are currently serving in the military.

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing
Employees from various Department of Homeland Security agencies gather together. US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“There are less than 900 individuals currently serving in the military, or have signed contracts to serve, who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival authorization,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “These individuals are part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest Pilot Program. The Department of Defense is coordinating with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security regarding any impact a change in policy may have for DACA recipients. The Department defers to our colleagues at DHS on questions related to immigration, naturalization, or citizenship.”

Those with DACA status have been allowed to enlist in the military since 2014 through the MAVNI program.

A total of 10,400 immigrants who have made it through MAVNI have received US citizenship, but MAVNI has been put on hold as of last year.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post published Sept. 4, former Obama administration Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that if DACA ends, soldiers who are part of the program could be deported immediately. Panetta argued that GOP Sen. John McCain should allow the bipartisan Dream Act to be added to the annual defense bill, which would give illegal aliens a pathway to citizenship.

Articles

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

Typically, an amputation ends a military career. For a long time, most any level of amputation was considered to make a service member unfit for combat. As of last summer, only 57 amputees had returned to conflict zones and most of those stayed at a desk.


These three men wanted to get back into the fight.

1. The Ranger who swore he’d still be a squad leader

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing
Photo: US Army Special Operations Command

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Kapacziewski was in an armored vehicle when insurgents threw a grenade into it. Kapacziewski survived the blast with serious injuries. After months of surgeries and casts, he attempted to walk on his right leg again and heard the pins holding it together snap. Soon after, he asked doctors to remove it.

Also, watch: Bryan Anderson’s Amazing Story Showcased in ‘American Sniper’ 

Over the months and years that followed, Kapacziewski (a.k.a. “Joe Kap”) relearned how to do the basic tasks required of Rangers . He ran, rucked, parachuted, and completed Army drills with his prosthetic leg. Since his amputation, he has conducted four combat deployments and even earned an Army Commendation Medal for pulling an injured soldier 75 yards during a firefight.

2. The paratrooper who led an airborne platoon with a prosthetic

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing
Photo: US Navy Lt. j.g. Bryan Mitchell

1st Lt. Josh Pitcher finished relieving himself on the side of the road, closed his fly, and heard the loud pop of a small roadside bomb. Two days later, he was in a hospital in Germany, promising to return to combat despite losing his left leg beneath the knee. Before he could even try and return to active duty, Pitcher had to kick a pill and drinking habit he got trying to deal with the pain after his surgeries. But, he learned how to do his old job with his new leg. Less than two years after his injury, he returned with his unit, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, to Afghanistan. A few months later, he took over a 21-man platoon and led them for the rest of the deployment, most of it trudging through the mountains in the northern regions of the country .

3. The captain who calmly reported his own double amputation

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing
Photo: US Army SGT Joe Padula

When then-1st Lt. Daniel Luckett’s vehicle was hit by an IED in Iraq in 2008, a squad leader called up to ask if everything was all right. Luckett calmly responded, “Negative. My feet are gone.” Two years later, Capt. Luckett was with the 101st Airborne Division again; this time in Afghanistan. He uses a small prosthetic to assist what remains of his right leg. A much larger one serves as his left. His second day with his first prosthetic, he attempted to walk away with the leg. Doctors tried to get it back, but Luckett convinced them to let him keep it. He would go on to earn the Expert Infantry Badge during his efforts to prove he was still an asset. After successfully earning the award, the soldier was promoted to captain and allowed to deploy with his unit as part of the Afghan surge.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A man just tried to ram the checkpoint at US base in England

A person has been arrested after trying to gain access to a U.S. Air Force base in England, according to media reports.


RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk was placed on lockdown after the incident, which the BBC described as an “apparent attempt to ram” the checkpoint.

U.S. service personnel opened fire when the man tried to enter the base. He was ultimately caught by police with only “minor cuts and bruises.”

Also Read: These American units will be first on the scene if World War III erupts

The base has a Royal Air Force name but is used by the U.S. military. It houses about 3,100 U.S. military servicemen and 3,000 more family members, according to Reuters.

The incident is now over, and police say there is “no wider threat to the public or occupants on the base.”

A press release from Suffolk Police said:

Suffolk Police were contacted at approximately 1:40 p.m. (Dec. 18) to reports of a disturbance at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk. […]

 

Shots were fired by American service personnel and a man has been detained with cuts and bruises and taken into custody.

 

No other people have been injured as a result of the incident.

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing
The RAF Mildenhall Honor Guard performs a three-volley salute during the Madingley American Cemetery Memorial Service in Cambridge May 28, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ethan Morgan)

During the lockdown, personnel on the base were instructed to hide in the offices, lock their doors, switch the lights off, and close their windows and curtains, according to U.S. Brian Boisvert, a sergeant deployed on the base who described the situation to Sky News.

The lockdown was lifted after about an hour, Boisvert added.

The 1,162-acre compound was due to be closed after the U.S. said it would move its operations from the base to Germany, Reuters reported.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The New Normal

Confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December 2019, the Honorable Dana Deasy is the Department of Defense chief information officer. With more than 38 years of experience leading and delivering large-scale information technology strategies and projects, Deasey serves as the primary advisor to the Secretary of Defense for matters of information management, information technology and information assurance, as well as non-intelligence space systems, critical satellite communications, navigation and timing programs, spectrum and telecommunications.

The Honorable Dana Deasy, Department of Defense chief information officer, and Lieutenant General Bradford J. “B.J.” Shwedo is the Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) /Cyber, and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, J6, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., discuss the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the DoD’s massive shift to teleworking, as well as, the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment, modernizing the cyber infrastructure, deterrence to cyber-attacks and the implementation of the Telework Readiness Task Force. Video // Andrew Breese and Travis Burcham

Lieutenant General Bradford J. “B.J.” Shwedo is the Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) /Cyber, and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, J6, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. He develops C4 capabilities; conducts analysis and assessments; provides Joint and Combined Force C4 guidance, and evaluates C4 requirements, plans, programs and strategies for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

During this interview with Airman magazine, Deasy and Shwedo discussed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the DoD’s massive shift to teleworking. They also spoke on the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment, modernizing the cyber infrastructure, deterrence to cyber-attacks and the implementation of the Telework Readiness Task Force.

Airman magazine: The COVID – 19 pandemic has driven the DoD to pivot to maximum telework capacity on short notice. What effect has this had on our ability to support the National Defense Strategy?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I think quite frankly, it’s made us more resilient. The first thing that came to my mind when we first got this tasker, is never let a good crisis go to waste. We always knew we needed to do telework, but in a battle for finite resources, we were never able to fund those. And rapidly, this gave us an opportunity to correct a lot of our shortcomings, so that’s why I feel we’re more resilient. We now have a better comms (communications) situation than we had six months ago.

Dana Deasy: I think if you go back to when we first kicked off the teleworking task force, we had some basic principles we wanted to live by. Principle number one was, ensure we could quickly get as many of our employees, service men and women working from home in a safe way. Two, was ensuring that the technical staff could do their jobs in a safe way. Third, we asked ourselves, is what we are going to build or put in place not only going to get us through the pandemic, but how does this also set us up for a better tomorrow when it comes to supporting NDS (National Defense Strategy)? I think that has actually been a very important principle, because every time we thought through a problem we were trying to solve, we looked at the immediacy. Then we always would stop and say, “Okay, but down the road is this sustainable? Are we building this in a way that will help the war fighter over the long run?”

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing
The Honorable Dana Deasy, Department of Defense Chief Information Officer, and Air Force Lt. Gen. B.J. Shwedo, Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4)/Cyber, and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, J6, hold a media briefing on the COVID-19 Telework Readiness Task Force on Monday, April 13, in the Pentagon Briefing Room. DoD photo by Marvin Lynchard

Airman magazine: The Secretary of Defense has defined our current times as “a new normal” that we will have to adapt to for an extended period of time in order to maintain a high degree of readiness. What are we learning about our infrastructure and our ability to communicate, lead during this time?

Dana Deasy: Here again, how we’ve conducted ourselves throughout this has been looking towards the future. People have said, “Will we go back to the way we used to work?” I don’t believe we ever go completely back. I think there is a new norm where we will have certain types of our workforce that will continue to work from home. I don’t think that we should think for a minute that we are out of this crisis and we’re ready to go back to a normal situation.

So, we continue to run our tele-tasking workforce, we continue to meet as if we’re still in the middle of trying to solve this problem. Let’s face it, we are going to have a sustained, new set of assets that we have been building out of COVID here, that are going to be here forever going forward. It’s not like we shut this down, we pack it up and we return it. We are going to keep what we’ve put in place. And so, I think this puts us in a much better position, if that day should come in the future, for whatever the reason might be, where the DOD has to go back to a maximum teleworking situation. We not only have the know-how, but we’ve created the technical assets to make that happen quickly.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: : I was doing a forum with cadets, midshipmen and industry, and  the Superintendent of the Air Force Academy kicked off the whole forum saying, “Now that we’re talking about the new normal and now that we know we can do this, I know every cadet and midshipman will hate what I’m going to say, but we have had the last snow day at the United States Air Force Academy.”

It drives home the point that now we know we can do these things. We’re setting up the infrastructure and it gives you more options and makes you more combat survivable in a myriad of scenarios. There’s no reason to ever want to go back. Quite frankly the landscape, not just within the Department of Defense, but across the world, has changed because of this experience.

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing
Walker Ince, a senior cadet, attends a class remotely on April 6, 2020 from his dorm room in Sijan Hall at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Due to Covid-19, freshman through junior year cadets were sent home to learn remotely while the senior class remained.    U.S. Air Force photo // Trevor Cokley

Airman magazine: Telework has always been viewed as a benefit to employees, but has quickly become a need for readiness and safety. Can you talk to the nature of telework and how this time may shift the mindset and modernize the capability of the DoD?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say that the thing that directed us and the rule sets that we had associated with telework, no longer exist. So, the limitations of going into your e-mail, for instance, it’s been blown away. On top of that, we were always talking about giving people meaningful work and there was a cut-off where classified was concerned. Well, we’ve figured that out and we’re spending lots of money to enable that capability.

We’re finding that our folks are doing a great job from home or from the office. When you look at the larger strategies, like joint all domain command and control, and the things that we’re affording for our strategies in the National Defense Strategy, all of these things we’re discussing are further enablers to ensure that happens.

I believe we’re not going to turn back. The rules set has been blown away and we’re finding, as with every technology, better ways of doing business every day.

Dana Deasy: Could you imagine either of us standing up in front of the Air Force or even the whole DoD back in January of this year and saying, “Hey, we’ve got a whole new model how you can equip, train, create readiness, do operational reviews. People will be able to do that from home. People will be able to do that in a highly collaborative way and you will learn that you can do things highly effectively. I think we would really struggle trying to get people convinced.

You know, COVID forced us to revisit what we thought were the traditional ways of doing your various training, readiness, et cetera. I think now that people have actually seen that people can still do the training, they can still have conversations about readiness, they can still do their ops reviews is quite telling.

I think services such as the Air Force are going to challenge themselves and say, “Okay, we’ve been working this way, what can we continue to do versus falling back to all of the old ways of working going forward?”

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing
U.S. Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and The Director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. Shanahan hold a round table meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2019. DoD photo // U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Airman magazine: Speaking of the old ways, what was the mindset regarding telework when you were young officers coming up?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I think it was probably clouded by the limitation of technology, quite frankly. You can roll in and maybe get your e-mail but OWA (Outlook Web Access; email) wouldn’t let you get in and then would kick you out, it was incredibly frustrating. You had a lack of capability to do any classified work, rapidly. It (telework) had a bad connotation because there was not a lot of what would be portrayed as productive work.

I think all of the things that we set in motion very quickly, and proved that we can do, have blown away all of those false mindsets and all of the naysayers, quite frankly, were proven wrong.

Dana Deasy: I’d say all of the services probably had a preconceived view that the only way you can truly get readiness done, that you can get operational planning done, is you’ve got to have people face to face sitting in a room.

To General Shwedo’s point, about new tools that are available today, 10 years ago, five years ago, to be able to put 500 people in a video conference where they all would have full motion, not choppiness, fully could hear each other.  They could put charts into that presentation. They could mark up things as if they were going to a whiteboard sitting in a command center, is quite telling. I would say that it’s become very clear that the technology is at the right level in capabilities today. But it’s not only the technology, it’s the way that people are getting creative and using that technology. I think is what’s made all of the difference in the world.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I’ll just finish up. When you look at all of the things that we’re being asked to do in the National Defense Strategy, joint all domain command-and-control in air, land, sea, space, cyber in a globally-integrated form, everything Mr. Deasy just described, is going to be your foundational base.

We are getting stronger on all of these things. Going back to never let a crisis go to waste, for a lot of these things, per Mr. Deasy’s scenario, if we walked in and tried to make a funding line for that, it probably would fall below the cutoff lines. So, this has been fortuitous, and not just enabling the telework, but also forwarding our defense strategies.

Dana Deasy: In the NDS we talk about allies and partnerships. We’ve clearly been able to demonstrate through teleworking that you can have very, very effective meetings. As a matter of fact, you might almost argue that when you’re talking to your allies and partners, that’s typically someone getting on a plane and going to a different time zone, you’ll lose a day going over, you lose a day coming back at minimum. This is a case where people were able to quickly say, “I need to speak to so-and-so,” whether it’s the U.K., Australia or whatever, and make that happen.

I think even in our relationships with our allies and partners, people are going to be stepping back and going, “Why do we really need to do all of this always face to face?” 

Airman magazine: The DoD has a culture of innovating as a necessity to adversity, are there any analogies you can relate this crisis to from our history?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I struggle with that question. I think there was lots of standard planning processes that we attacked this problem with. So, the first thing you do is study your adversary and you have to protect your forces. So, to negate the adversary’s strength, if you want to superimpose COVID on this, the strength was getting us all together, so we’re going to take that away from them and force telework.

Also, you need to remember that the enemy gets a vote, and in this scenario, there were multiple enemies and we anticipated that when we opened up this attack access, when we brought all of these different people into these different forums, we had to make our folks ready for that realm.

What did we do?  We did lots of education. Mr. Deasy’s shop and the greater task force put lots of products to increase the knowledge base, because they were going to be fighting in this cyber environment. The next piece is we needed to increase their tools and needed to ensure that we were securely operating. And then the last part is we knew they were coming, so increased vigilance. So, across the board we were attacking it as a battle plan and we were doing the organized train-and-equip things that is standard operation when we have an adverse situation.

Dana Deasy: I guess if I had to pick an analogy, and I have no idea how well this analogy works, but I think aspects of it work. I remember back when President Kennedy said, “We’re going to go to the moon.” We didn’t really know how we were going to get there or how we were going to pull that off, but a lot of new things were invented that were used not only for space missions, but were used for consumers. They were used for defense. And I think by us being forced to rethink our paradigm around how we get things done throughout the DOD, we created things, tools, techniques and technologies that we will find other ways to continue to use throughout the DOD.

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing
Members of the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron conduct a virtual flight commander sync via video conferencing tools April 3, 2020, near Travis Air Force Base, Calif. Many Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing have teleworking from home since March 13, all in an effort to avoid unnecessary potential exposure to the COVID-19. Photo // U.S. Air Force

Airman magazine: To accommodate the massive shift to telework, the DoD has activated more than 900,000 remote user accounts under the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment (CVR) launched in late March. Can you explain this system and the enhanced collaboration capabilities?

Dana Deasy: You know, it’s interesting, when we knew we were going to have to start putting people at home, everybody was fixated, early on, around e-mail. Everybody thought that was the way that people were going to solve how we were going to communicate.

But what is it about humans? Humans like the visual, they like to hear people’s voices, there’s a stimulus that occurs. We quickly realized it wasn’t about e-mail, it wasn’t about pushing a document from point A to point B, it was about trying to create and mimic if you and I were sitting right in our same office together, or if we were all in a conference room together.

We pivoted to this idea of what people really want is to look and talk to somebody on video. They want to push a button, have a phone call. They want to have chats, they want to move documents back and forth. So, CVR was the culmination of the variety of things that you think about that you do every day, when you’re in the office, that all came together through the concept of delivering a CVR.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say that they brought together a team very quickly.  What was impressive was, we’ve watched kind of lethargic pace of whenever we wanted to bring on a new tool or anything else and the fact that this task force had NSA (National Security Agency), CYBERCOM (Cyber Command), DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency) and all of the services knew we needed tools very quickly. 

You rapidly found things that they were already working on being brought forward. What was most important was for all of them to look at it quickly and get approval on a secure solution to implement them fast. Had we not had this crisis, I will tell you, the timelines associated with a lot of these initiatives would probably water your eyes.

Dana Deasy: You know, I’ll end by saying, when we set up CVR, we had no idea what the uptake would be. I remember early days, somebody asked me, “What would be an ambitious goal?”  I said, “Boy, if we get up to 100,000 people using this tool, that would be great.”

But, never underestimate the need for humans to want to try to find ways to communicate in styles that work for them. And it clearly became apparent that we were going to blow by that 100,000 and to your point, you know, almost 900,000 accounts later and still growing.

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing
Tech. Sgt. Andrew Wilson, 911th Communications Squadron mission defense team member, checks the connection of wires on a server at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Feb. 4, 2020. One of the primary duties of the mission defense team is to ensure that servers are properly connected. U.S. Air Force photo // Joshua J. Seybert

Airman magazine: How has the coronavirus task force and relief legislation for DoD to support IT procurement and increase agency network bandwidth directly impacted the Air Force?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: If you’re just talking about the Air Force, they got about $47 million. They went from VPN (Virtual Private Network) users of about 9,000 users to 430,000. So, it was very, very quick.

Remember, when I was talking about getting tools on board, they rapidly found secure (classified network access), because that was the main thing we were concerned about; getting secret-level capabilities as fast as we could. So, the ABMS, the Air Battle Management System program, device one, others, they had some things that we rapidly took, experimented and started using those pieces.

Also, for the folks that were able to use that just at the unclassified level, the Bring Your Own Device program, which had been in the process for a long time but rapidly got attention, you’ll find that DISA, Vice Admiral Nancy Norton and her team, did a lot of quick work to acquire products and push them out to the combatant commands and the other places to enable this capability.

Dana Deasy: I’d say the Air Force, not necessarily for teleworking, had been laying a lot of groundwork. If you think about the Joint All Domain, for some time they had been spending a lot of time and effort and money on technology to figure out how to get warfighters to collaborate in a different way, either within the Air Force or across services. I think that mindset and the fact that they were already down that road, when you overlaid COVID on top of that and the need for teleworking, I think they had positioned themselves well to be able to accelerate quickly.

Airman magazine: As we continue to adapt with increased telework, how do we ensure the adoption of cybersecurity strategies are ingrained into our solutions and not an add-on?

Dana Deasy: From the moment we held the first task force and we talked about keeping people safe, embedded in that was the need to keep people safe from in the cyber realm as well.

One of things I was worried about early on, was when people are sitting inside the Pentagon, or wherever they’re sitting around the world, they feel there is this extra layer of protection and when they go home and when they think they have that same layer of protection.

We spent a lot of time in the early days of educating the workforce. “Remember, when you are at home, here’s what’s different versus if you’re sitting inside the Pentagon.”

And I think that early education and coaching really paid dividends in helping to build a more safe, secure environment for us.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say that the education’s not going to go away. As a matter of fact, I see us continuing because this is a thinking enemy when it comes to this realm.

Also, when we start talking about transitioning from being very narrowly focused on a violent extremist threat to what we’re being directed in a National Defense Strategy, you’ll find that investment, attention and capabilities are herding us in a direction where we’re not going to go back to the way we were doing things.

We, quote, “accepted risks” in this violent extremist fight because the foes we were fighting did not have capability to counter our command-and-control systems, to jam our capabilities. All of these things that we’ve now teased out during this COVID environment are going to be very applicable for the future and the National Defense Strategy.

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing
Lt. Col. James Wall, 436th Airlift Wing inspector general and current battle staff director, teleworks from his house using government equipment April 28, 2020, on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Wall, the battle staff and Team Dover members resorted to teleworking, if possible, after shelter-in-place orders were put into place in mid-March to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. U.S. Air Force photo // Roland Balik

Airman magazine: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released an interim Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) 3.0 guidance focused on the rapid wide spread transition of telework, can you briefly outline this guidance?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: This is an initiative from the Department of Homeland Security. I think it’s very helpful. The reasons why I say that is, watching hackers for years and years, like water, they go to the least defended place. So, you’ll see them fish around and they’ll hit hard points, and then go down to the lowest level.

What they produced was kind of a government-wide capability. So, the Pentagon can build their castle walls very high, but if our interaction with the rest of the government’s very low, they’ll go to that place and now they’re in the castle.

So that’s the larger conversation. When we start talking about defense for cyber and the defense for the future of telework, we have to have more of a whole of government (outlook). We have to have more of these collaborative documents and instruction as we go forward.

We have regular meetings with DHS and others to start securing the cyber landscape.

Airman magazine: Are we seeing increased cyber-attacks during the pandemic and does teleworking pose a greater threat to our security?

Dana Deasy: You know, every day I come to the Pentagon is a great threat day. We continue to use technology and we make it more and more pervasive. Every day you continue to do that, you are increasing the surface base of risk. Obviously, now that you’re taking a million people and you’re putting them at home, you’re increasing that risk.

One of the things that I think NSA and U.S. Cyber Command and JFHQ-DODIN (Joint Force Headquarters – Department of Defense information network) did extremely well, was in the very early days of our task force, we started getting them to give us the intel briefs. They were reporting what the adversaries were doing and there wasn’t a single meeting we had where we didn’t stop and say “OK, if we introduce X and we make that part of what we’re going to now provide for teleworking, what do we understand about an adversary’s intent or an adversary’s knowledge as far as how they can exploit that?”

From very early on, everything we architected, we always pivoted to ensure that we were understanding what was the exposure side, how would we monitor for it and how would we correct for it?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I will say with – there is something to the yin and yang. With great challenges comes great opportunity. So, what we found was, yes, we were expanding our attack access, but we also knew they were coming.

When you know they’re coming – and that’s not always the case in lower level conflicts – we got to study them, we got to move and it is a constant cycle. It is a spy versus spy. They are a learning enemy and what we’ve got to do is incorporate that.

And then back to the opportunity point, once you defend, now you have greater opportunities to go in the other direction. So as opposed to taking your football and going home, you look at it in the other direction as a great opportunity to start exploiting the cyber landscape.

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Airman First Class Sabrina Zarate (left) and Senior Airman Melvin Williamson (right), 88th Communication Squadron server operations system administrators, perform routine maintenance on a Wright-Patterson Air Force Base computer server bank. Photo // U.S. Air Force

Airman magazine: How do we build a more modern architecture and what does it look like? What will it look like in 10 years?

Dana Deasy: I think what we’ve done with CVR is an absolute example of a modern architecture. If you say today, “what does modern computing look like?” whether it’s in the defense world, whether it’s in other agencies, the consumer world, it starts with an instantaneous ability to reach out, touch somebody, communicate with them, get information from Point A to Point B.

Then there is the whole idea of how machines will help us think more rapidly, help us take more decisions more rapidly in the future? That will be things like artificial intelligence. If we’re going to have those machines help us think more rapidly, take better decisions, then our quality of data is going to have to change dramatically in terms of how we bring it together. The Joint All Domain discussion is a real perfect example, in that, you’ve got to create that instantaneous ability for war fighters to communicate. They’ve got to have the right data and they’re going to want the assistance of machine learning or artificial intelligence.

All of these elements, we were working already. I think this element of how you get people connected at large scale was just accelerated in COVID, but we were already on that journey towards that modern architecture.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: When we talk about with Joint All Domain C2 (Command and Control) you’ll find we are looking 10 years out when we’re thinking, but the bottom line is we want to be able to securely talk anywhere on the planet at any level of classification. We want all of the data that Mr. Deasy’s talking about and, quite frankly, we’ve got to have a tablet or something that’s going to give us the ability to manage it.

I anticipate it’ll be managed by a series of apps that you’ll either turn on or turn off to rapidly overcome whatever event you’re in, the bottom-line is we have an on-ramp and it was actually aided by the COVID crisis.

Airman magazine: As the increasing number of cyber actors makes our systems vulnerable, how do we defend the cyber infrastructure? How do you build retaliation credibility in cyber?

Dana Deasy: Well I’ll speak to the defense side of this. You’re going to have to experiment and try new things, especially where you’re dramatically changing and pivoting your workforce – in this case, you know, pre-COVID we were maybe 90, 95,000 people any given day around the DoD world were teleworking and you’re now sitting over a million.

That right there is going to force you to step back and have a really hard, tough conversation about what defense looks like in that world? And I think there is defense around how you monitor. How do you collect the intel to know about our adversary’s intent? How do you educate the end user on their responsibilities of what they need to do differently when working from home?

Throughout this, we always asked ourselves adversary intent; do we have the tools to be able to monitor what’s going on with the adversary and are we feeling confident that our workforce and the men and women that serve this great country know exactly what’s expected of them?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say the holistic nature of taking on offense and defense and then operating the net is making sure that we’re exploiting our advantages and negating any of their strengths while you go forward.

On the defensive standpoint, you’ll rapidly find that we need to reduce their attack platforms – so cyber hygiene, education, reduce their infrastructure, reduce their tools, their capabilities and you do that from publicly exposing those tools or where you’ve seen us publicly expose their hackers on the defensive side.

On the attack side – on the offensive side – you’ll see opportunities, on-ramps from defense to defense and going back and forth. I love football, but it’s not football, it really is hockey. I like the hockey analogy because it goes a lot faster and it hurts bad if you don’t do it right. The bottom-line is going back and forth along those lines, there’s great opportunities and the whole time you’re trying to ensure that you have access and the capability to communicate where your bad guys do not.

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Cyber warfare operators assigned to the 275th Cyber Operations Squadron of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group of the Maryland Air National Guard configure a threat intelligence feed for daily watch in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md. U.S. Air Force photo // J.M. Eddins Jr.

Airman magazine: How critical is cyber to the future of the U.S. deterrent capability? How do we communicate our capabilities in order to deter adversaries?

Dana Deasy: Well first, you’ve got to buy into the premise that future warfare is going to be about who has superior technology. Then you then go to the next premise – then it’s all going to be about who can take out, disable, disrupt, spoof that technology. That becomes completely paramount.

I firmly believe that we’re looking to a future where everything that we are building, has to start with the mindset of technology’s going to be our superiority and how do we protect that, defend that and how do we use that technology, not only the connect side, but the cyber side to put us in advantageous position at all times?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: We’ve been very clear our strategy is to do Joint All Domain C2 – air, land, sea, space, cyber. Unfortunately, I think some people have been confused. They would probably pick the worst analogy, which is nuclear weapons and superimpose it on cyber and there’s nothing that could be worse, because they’re two completely different worlds.

The capabilities to be able to produce a nuclear weapon or a cyber effect are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The reason why I bring that up is they carry that analogy further and they believe that we will only play this game of responding in kind, like mutually assured destruction with nuclear weapons. That is a false premise and could lead people down a very, very wrong road.

In 2011, we made very clear if you have cyber effects that are on the same level as any other weapon, we may come back at you not with cyber, but with some other kinetic strategy. A lot of people who were banking on this in-kind game plan rapidly destroyed all of their war plans, because they thought they could hit us and they could absorb our cyber blow; both are bad premises.

I think when you have the synergistic nature of air, land, sea, space and cyber and not separate them out, then it’s just another tool in your toolbox. You’re not going to put a round peg in a square hole, you are going to use the precise weapon in the precise scenario, for the precise solution.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the DoD’s massive shift to teleworking, modernizing of cyber infrastructure, deterrence to cyber-attacks and the implementation of the Telework Readiness Task Force. U.S. Air Force photo illustration // Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron

Airman magazine: Is there anything else you would like to add about or discussions today that we have not asked?

Dana Deasy: I think that the Department of Defense, or maybe just the government in general, sometimes can get a bad rap about its inflexibility; that it doesn’t have agility. It doesn’t know how to think out of the box and doesn’t know how to innovate and it doesn’t have speed.

I mean, you do not take Department of Defense and move it to a million plus people working from home with like capabilities that there were in the office, and collaborating as if they were still sitting in the office, unless you can do that quickly with agility and with real innovation. I think this just demonstrated that we have incredibly talented people and, when set free, to have to do something in a completely tight, compressed time frame, great, great results will come.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I’ll just end it with one of the key strengths for the United States. We have friends. 

You know, our adversaries have clients. When we watched during COVID they threatened them. Taking large swathes of their property because they weren’t paying their bills or even the manipulation of their free press.

The compare and contrast model; we start defending forward in cyber is we start sharing information, we learn in both directions, that is our strength, our partnerships, with all of our friends around the world. When you think about a realm of warfare where it is a manipulation of code or tactics, techniques and procedures that can rapidly get into our attack access in the United States, one of the quickest counters is ensuring that you have friends with whom you share intel. Then you push the defense further from your borders and it rapidly provides you an information advantage for yourself and all of your partners.

Airman magazine: I always like to end with asking how proud are you of the men and women that you are working with and is there anything that you would like to say directly to them?

Dana Deasy: From the moment we kicked off the task force, it looked like an insurmountable task. You know, somebody said “Well you can’t get a million plus people working from home?” There were so many challenges. No one ever walked into any of the meetings and had an attitude of “I’m not sure we could do that.” The Department of Defense is at its best when its back’s up against the wall and it truly has to deliver on something that appears to be insurmountable. And I think this was a great example of everybody coming together across services, civilians, contractors, our industry partners and doing truly extraordinary things.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would just say I’m truly humbled. Mr. Deasy hit it right on the head. I love telling a story, especially to our younger airmen, when I’m traveling around, they always have an app for me and it’s always wonderful. One Airman showed me (an app) and I was wowing over this piece and he goes “Sir, do you want to know what I call it?”  I go “sure, what do you call it?” And he goes, “Stonewall.” And I’m like “cool, how did you come up with Stonewall?” And he goes, “because that’s the reception it’s going to get from my boss when I show it to him.”

I buried my head in the sand and I was like, “god dang it” cause generally the very high (ranking) and the very low (ranking) get it, it’s these curmudgeons in between. To Mr. Deasy’s point, what I have found is this has been a learning opportunity where curmudgeons are getting smaller and smaller. We’ve forced them into an uncomfortable space and they’re excelling.

Every day, I am nothing but impressed and very proud to be on this team, because these guys are very adaptable and that is probably why I feel very good about a future fight. I know we’ll outthink them, we’ll outproduce them and we’ll make whatever changes we have to make sure that we have victory at the end.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iranian state media cited a nonexistent Associated Press report to claim ‘nearly 100 corpses’ were found after a US military plane crash in Afghanistan

Iranian state TV cited a report by the Associated Press (AP) claiming that 100 bodies were found at the site of a US military plane crash in Afghanistan, but the news agency says this report doesn’t exist.

The Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN), which is part of the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, reported Tuesday, according to BBC Monitoring: “US authorities have not yet released official casualty figures but the Associated Press, quoting local officials in Ghazni Province in Afghanistan, has announced that nearly 100 corpses have been found at the crash site.”

The AP has published reports on the disaster, but none of them have contained the 100-bodies figure. The AP told Business Insider it did not report this.

Neither officials in the US nor in Ghazni, the Taliban-held province where the crash took place, have given a death toll so far.

The Taliban claimed it shot down the plane, and said it contained high-ranking CIA officers. The US has disputed this claim, with defense officials warning on Monday that the “first report’s always wrong.”

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e30558fe0e14463ba20a3f7%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=593&h=d9586a82712451d9e1abc3c5026433568c4905577b9425b0504b60baaaae3f28&size=980x&c=923117439 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e30558fe0e14463ba20a3f7%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D593%26h%3Dd9586a82712451d9e1abc3c5026433568c4905577b9425b0504b60baaaae3f28%26size%3D980x%26c%3D923117439%22%7D” expand=1]

US officials on Tuesday recovered the remains and are confirming the identities of people involved in the crash, Reuters reported. The officials did not give a number.

The plane, a US Air Force Bombardier E-11A, is widely believed to have been carrying no more than six people at the time of the crash. New York Times correspondent Mujib Mashal said on Tuesday that the most widely-cited figure is two.

Ghazni provincial police chief Khalid Wardak told Reuters on Tuesday “there are four bodies and two onboard were alive and they are missing,” but said Taliban fighters repelled Afghanistan’s attempt to access the crash site.

Iran’s state-run Channel One network also peddled a theory that a senior CIA official named Michael D’Andrea had been on the plane.

In reports broadcast by the channel, a photo of actor Fredric Lehne — who played a character inspired by D’Andrea in the 2012 movie “Zero Dark Thirty” — was shown instead of D’Andrea himself.

Channel One also claimed that D’Andrea — who leads the CIA’s activities on Iran — played a key role in the US assassination of Iranian military general Qassem Soleimani, according to BBC Monitoring.

It’s not clear if this is true, and the CIA declined to comment when contacted by Business Insider.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were the helicopters of World War II

Think of a military helicopter. Think of it in combat. Is it a Black Hawk dropping off operators in urban combat? A Chinook picking troops up from a remote ridge or rooftop? Maybe you’re old school and you see a Piasecki H-25 or H-19 Chickasaw from the Korean War. But few people will think all the way back to World War II when German and American helicopters all served on the front lines.


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The Sikorsky R-4 helicopter was one of America’s only helicopters to see active service in World War II, acting predominantly as a rescue and transportation asset in the China-Burma-India Theater.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

America’s military helicopter program was largely carried by two companies, both prominent helicopter manufacturers today who, oddly enough, are now competing to create the Army’s next generation of vertical lift aircraft. Sikorsky’s founder, Igor Sikorsky, was a Russian-American immigrant who wanted to help his adopted country fight in World War II.

He received financial backing from friends to start manufacturing aircraft, predominantly fixed-wing planes, for the U.S. military. But, off to the side, he was developing new helicopter designs including the VS-500, an aircraft that used one large rotor blade to generate lift and another, smaller rotor blade mounted on a long boom to generate anti-torque. This is the same blade configuration now used on everything from the UH-60 to the AH-64 Apache.

The VS-300 prototype quickly gave way the R-4, a two-seater helicopter that would serve most predominantly with the U.S. Army but also the Navy, Coast Guard, and the Royal Air Force. It first began rolling off the production line in 1942 and was primarily used for observation and to ferry supplies.

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The German-made Flettner 282 helicopter was employed against Allied naval assets near the end of World War II, but was then captured by Allied troops. In this photo, it’s undergoing testing with the U.S. military.

(Public Domain)

But, the helicopter was also employed in two daring rescue missions in the challenging terrain of the China-Burma-India Theater. The helicopters could just barely make it through the high mountain passes that planes could easily fly over, but the rotary aircraft could land in small clearings that were impossible for planes to stop in or take off from.

Other helicopters were in development during the war. The Bell Aircraft Corporation, later known as Bell Helicopters and now Bell Flight, created the Bell Model 30 that would see limited use on the home front, but it would not be deployed overseas.

Meanwhile, Germany’s helicopter program was much more advanced than America’s or the Allies’. They debuted experimental helicopter designs before the war and even flew prototypes in front of adoring crowds for weeks in 1938.

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The Focke-Angelis Fa-223 helicopter was a German machine popular during the war. It had a heavy lift capability for the day that allowed it to re-position artillery in forward positions.

(U.S. Air Force)

This pre-war research led to the Fa-223, the “Dragon.” Five types were planned with missions from anti-submarine, to search and rescue, to cargo carrying. But it really predicted future developments when it was used to recover crashed aircraft and to move artillery batteries to inaccessible mountaintops where they would have greater range and better defenses.

Meanwhile, the Flettner-282 Hummingbird was designed to seek out enemy submarines at sea and other threats. It was completed late in the war with early models going through testing in 1943. But the first 24 were completed in time for limited deployments to the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Aegean Sea.

A number of other models were in experimental phases during the closing months of the war, but saw limited or no combat use before war’s end. But the American, German, and other designs that didn’t quite make it into the fight would prove influential for decades to come.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3-D printing limbs for amputees is a thing now

One wounded warrior wanted to amble around the hotel pool during his honeymoon without strapping on prosthetic legs. Another wanted ice skates to fit snugly onto his prosthetic feet so he’d receive the sensory feedback he’d come to expect when engaging in his favorite pastime. And yet another wanted to hold a fishing rod while enjoying full use of the hook where his hand used to be.


These requests for custom prosthetic attachments were fulfilled by the 3-D Medical Applications Center, or 3DMAC, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. There, a small staff of engineers and technicians use advanced digital technology and additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, to design and produce personalized devices quickly and cost-efficiently.

“We’ve made more than 100 unique devices to enable activities that able-bodied people often take for granted,” said Peter Liacouras, the center’s director of services who holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering.

Also See: DARPA’s new bionic arm is now available for vets at Walter Reed — Video

The devices make it easier for amputees to engage in leisure activities they enjoy, Liacouras said, as well as routine things such as drinking a glass of wine or brushing teeth. Returning to their everyday lives helps wounded warriors overcome the physical and emotional trauma of limb loss, health care experts say.

Part of Walter Reed Bethesda’s radiology department, 3DMAC is located in a small suite of offices and computer rooms tucked behind double doors at the end of a long hallway. Although it’s an unassuming-looking place, what’s happening inside is state-of-the-art. Among the center’s many projects are surgical models to produce custom implants used in dentistry and oral surgery; skull plates for blast injuries; and other models to help surgeons prepare to perform intricate procedures, and to train the next generation of dental and medical professionals.

“We also have several research projects going on,” Liacouras said. They include 3-D surveying and mapping of the human face to create a digital archive of facial anatomy. This archive could be used to fabricate implants for reconstruction if a service member became disfigured in a blast injury. “The face is the most complicated region to reconstruct and, of course, it’s what everyone sees every day,” Liacouras said.

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Peter Liacouras, director of the 3-D Medical Applications Center, sits behind his desk at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Licouras is part of a smaill team of engineers and technicians that use advanced digital technology and additive manufacturing to design and produce personalized devices for amputees. (Courtesy photo)

So 3-D printed cellphone and cup holders that attach to wheelchairs or other assistive devices “may sound like they’re on the lower scale of what we do, in terms of importance,” Liacouras said. “But they’re not, because they mean a lot to wounded warriors.”

The center fabricates by request from the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs health care providers. When a request is received, Liacouras usually searches the web to see if the item already exists and can be purchased and adapted. If not, 3-D printing “enables us to create custom devices, making them patient-specific,” he said. The items are made from plastic or titanium.

The center’s first assistive technology project was “shorty feet” for the honeymoon-bound bilateral amputee, in 2002. “Wearing full prosthetic legs can be cumbersome and also, the full prosthesis for pool wear are very expensive and not necessarily 100 percent waterproof,” Liacouras said.

He and his team used computer-assisted design to plan the shorty feet, then printed a plastic prototype for a fit test. They made the permanent pair in titanium alloy.

Also Read: How Marines used a 3D printer and a little ‘grunt ingenuity’ to make gadgets that help them in combat

“They attach to sockets that attach to the stumps,” Liacouras said. “Think of it like walking on your knees.”

And though Liacouras admits “we didn’t fully understand the need at first,” the center has produced more than 70 pairs to date.

“They’ve really taken off,” he said, noting wounded warriors like to use them instead of full prosthetic legs if they need to get up after going to bed, and also to play with young children at the little ones’ level. Physical therapists use them to help new patients feel more comfortable and confident about getting up and moving again.

“Whatever our wounded warriors need, we’ll create,” Liacouras said.

Articles

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.

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The fist bump was their thing in Afghanistan, where both Marines lost legs in the same attack, and the fist bump is still their thing in the hunt for child predators under a special law enforcement program to train and hire medically retired veterans.

Cpl. Justin Gaertner and Sgt. Gabriel Martinez in their dress blues bumped fists at an event earlier this year in Florida, just as they bumped fists while recovering from their wounds.

Gaertner, 26, of Tampa, Fla., has been partnered for the last two years with retired Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Nathan Cruz, 42, executing the computer forensics to track down sex traffickers in the ICE/HERO program.

Working out of the Tampa, Fla., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, Gaertner and Cruz use their newly-acquired computer skills to determine probable cause and go on raids to seize evidence hidden in computer hard drives, software programs and cell phones, much of it involving disturbing images of young children.

Martinez has just committed to training for the same job that falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s mandate in a program that began two years ago.

He was expected to start the year-long training in the fall for the program that was initially limited to U.S. Special Operations Command veterans but now is open to medically retired vets from all the services, said Tamara Spicer, an ICE spokeswoman.

Martinez and Gaertner were both wounded while on a route clearance mission outside Marjah in Afghanistan’s southwestern Helmand province on Nov. 26, 2010.

An improvised explosive device went off and “my best friend blew up right in front of me,” Gaertner said. He was wounded when he stepped on a mine while trying to clear a medevac landing zone.

STUNNED AT THE SCOPE

In phone interviews last week, Gaertner, who served five years in the Marines, and Cruz, a 15-year Army veteran, said they were both channeling the discipline and determination they brought from the military into going after child predators and pornographers. Despite their training, both admitted they were stunned at the scope of the problem.

“I don’t think we ever realized fully what we were getting into or the nature of the suspects we were going after,” Gaertner said. “We don’t really understand them. There’s no character to the people who do these crimes.

“We’ve seen schoolteachers to daycare workers to sports photographers to diplomats – there’s really no face to these crimes,” Gaertner said. “It’s been hard and it’s been a long road but luckily Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on.”

Cruz also said “I didn’t know what I was going to get into” at the start. “I wasn’t working, I wasn’t doing anything,” but “I heard from some SOCOM buddies about this so I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Now, as the father of three children, “I think there’s nothing better I should be doing,” Cruz said. “Kids are being victimized over and over. They need someone to get their back. We just want to put the guys that are hurting them behind bars.”

Cruz and Gaertner were part of the first HERO Corps (Human Exploitation Rescue Operations Corps) in 2013 working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to meet the growing backlog of sex trafficking cases.

2,300 CHILD PREDATORS

Last year, ICE seized more than 5.2 million gigabytes of data related to child exploitation and pornography and arrested more than 2,300 child predators on criminal charges.

“The HERO program, and the resulting hiring of Nathan and Justin, has paid great dividends for HSI Tampa across the board,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “We gained skilled employees with valuable experience and training.”

In October 2013, the first class of 17 HEROs graduated from the initial training as computer forensic analysts and in October 2014 a second class of 13 HEROs graduated. In August, ICE was expected to begin training another 50 candidates for the HERO Corps.

In May, Congress passed a bill to make the ICE/HERO program a permanent part of Homeland Security and its budget. The bill was quickly signed into law by President Obama as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.

The program had been partly funded by a five-year, $10 million contribution from individuals and foundations through the non-profit National Association to Protect Children.

At a Washington ceremony last month, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson and ICE Director Sarah Saldana swore 22 new vets into the HERO Corps designed “to allow wounded, ill or injured warriors the chance to continue serving their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators.”

“These heroes have all served their country with honor and distinction and, despite the traumas of war they all have endured, they have answered the call yet again,” Johnson said.

“The main thing we’re focusing on is child exploitation,” Cruz said. “I’d say maybe 80 percent of our cases are child pornography.” The average suspect might have about 1,000 images but “we’ve seen cases with more than 40,000 images. They trade them with their buddies so they can get more – that’s how it works. The more I find, the more years you’re going to get.”

RESCUING CHILDREN

Once they have zeroed in on an offender, the hardest, and most rewarding, part of the job begins – finding and rescuing those children in the images, Cruz said.

“We try to save that kid, try to see where he or she is from. That brings more satisfaction, knowing those kids are not going to be harmed anymore.”

Gaertner said that a recent case in which a suspect had 28,000 images led to the rescue of 130 children nationwide.

Cruz and Gaertner also said that part of the job was focusing on themselves and the potential effects of constantly dealing with the worst of society and the images of exploited children. “Luckily, Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on,” Gaertner said.

“We cannot bring work home, we were taught that during our military careers,” Cruz said. “I tell everybody that when I went to SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), the one thing they stress the most is ‘stay in the circle.’ I stay in the circle. Work stays at work, when I go home it’s Nathan the dad.”

While partnering with Gaertner, “we talk about it all the time,” Cruz said of the potential psychological effects. “He knows what I do, I know what he does. Me and Justin, we’re lucky that we’re here together.”

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

Articles

This is what happens when celebrity Lidia Bastianich cooks for WATM’s vets

Over the holidays, the Emmy award-winning TV host and celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich prepared a world-class cuisine for the troops aboard the USS George Washington.


But leading to the holiday festivities, she traveled the country meeting veterans and learning their incredible service stories.

Related: Back in the day a soldier’s chow came in a can

“I was inspired as I learned about their food traditions and offered them comfort through food,” Lidia said in her PBS video Lidia Celebrates America.

One of her stops included a visit with some of We Are The Mighty’s veterans who shared some of their fondest food memories while serving in the military.

For Edith Casas (U.S. Navy), it was missing her mother’s meals during deployments. For Bryan Anderson (U.S. Army), it was the meals he prepared in the barracks. For Mike Dowling (U.S. Marine Corps), it was sharing his last meal with Rex, his military working dog.

Here’s a short clip from our visit with Lidia:

Lidia Bastianich, YouTube

Watch the full hour-long documentary special on PBS to see how Lidia pays homage to the men and women of our military and the sacrifices they make. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Anyone who’s ever deployed can tell you there’s more to worry about in the field than just the enemy. While of course the North Vietnamese were the primary concern of American troops in the Vietnam War, just being in the jungle presented an entirely unexpected series of its own challenges – like giant centipedes.


Rumors persisted about things like fragging, rampant drug use, and even the appearance of Bigfoot in Vietnam. But when US troops weren’t earning the Medal of Honor while completely stoned, they were fighting off things that only previously appeared in their nightmares.

Related: This is the story of US troops who think they saw Bigfoot in Vietnam

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

Bring on the flamethrower.

Giant insects

As seen in the cover photo of this post, the creepy crawlers of the jungle have the space and the food necessary to grow to an insane level. That guy in the photo is Scolopendra subspinipes, also known as the Vietnamese centipede, Chinese redhead, or Jungle Centipede. It’s extremely aggressive, and its venomous bite hurts like hell, sources say. But the fun doesn’t stop with centipedes, giant scorpions were also known to bother American troops in bivouac.

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

Weaver ants

Imagine you’re in some kind of tank or armored vehicle, busting down trees in the jungle when suddenly, you bust down the wrong tree, one filled with a nest of red ants. These buggers were reportedly immune to the issued bug spray and, given the choice between NVA small arms fire and dealing with red ants in the tank, tank crews would either bail on the tank or man the vehicle completely naked. They were often referred to as “communist ants” because they were red in color and never seemed to attack the Vietnamese.

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

Very pretty, but also what the KGB used to kill dissidents.

Debilitating plants

Troops in Vietnam were sometimes lifted right up out of troop carriers and other vehicles by low-hanging vines that seemed innocent at first, but as soon as they were touched, constricted around an unsuspecting driver, grabbing them by the arms or neck. They became known as the “wait-a-minute” vines. But that’s just the beginning.

Vietnam’s most beautiful trees and flowers are also its deadliest. Heartbreak Grass, Flame Lillies, Twisted Cord Flowers, and Bark Cloth Trees are all powerful enough to kill a human or cause blindness upon contact or accidental ingestion, which is more common than one might think.

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

Bring that flamethrower back over here.

Venomous snakes

You know what kinds of animals love a hot, humid place with lots of shade? Reptiles and amphibians, both of which Vietnam has in droves. Vietnam has so many snakes, American troops were advised to just assume they were all deadly – because most of them are. The country is filled with Cobras, Kraits, Vipers, and more. The snakes that weren’t venomous were all giant constrictors, still very capable of murdering you in your jungle sleep.

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

Yes, troops were mauled by tigers.

Large wildlife

Since we’re talking about giant jungle snakes, we should discuss the other giant creatures that inhabit the wilds of Vietnam. Southeast Asia is also home to aggressive tiger species, leopards, and bears. Those are just the traditional predators. There are also elephants, water buffaloes, and gaurs, giant cows, who will go on a murder rampage that an M-16 isn’t likely to stop.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China says it has a one-shot kill against US warships

China is showcasing its powerful new hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile, which could raise the stakes as tensions flare between China’s military and the US Navy.

China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) unveiled the CM-401 short-range anti-ship ballistic missile at Airshow China in Zhuhai, the country’s largest military and commercial aviation exhibition.


“The system is intended for rapid and precision strikes against medium-size ships, naval task forces, and offshore facilities,” a CASIC representative told IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.

The Chinese state-affiliated Global Times, citing a press release from the company that produced the weapon, reported that the missile can travel at speeds roughly six times the speed of sound.

The speed and unpredictable flight patterns made possible through mid-flight changes to the trajectory make the missile much more difficult, if not impossible, to intercept.

The CM-401s are assumed to fly on a “skip-glide trajectory,” The War Zone reported, citing graphics detailing the capabilities of the new system.

“The weapon has the potential of destroying a hostile vessel with one hit,” the paper reported, citing a Chinese military expert. The CM-401 is believed to include an independent phased array radar in the nose for terminal targeting.

The missile, which has a maximum range of 180 miles, can be launched from a shore-based launcher or from a ship-based launch-canister. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy’s new Type 055 destroyers could potentially carry the CM-401 missiles, The National Interest reported, although it is possible the vessel will carry a longer-range variant.”The country will possess greater deterrence against hostile sea attacks, especially from large vessels like aircraft carriers,” a military expert told the Global Times.

Other Chinese anti-ship systems include the DF-21D and DF-26 ballistic missiles, as well as the YJ-12 and YJ-18 supersonic anti-ship cruise missile and a handful of subsonic cruise missiles. The development of a hypersonic strike platform represents a potentially-alarming advancement in stand-off anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) technology, a consistent challenge for the US military.

In September 2018, the US Navy had a tense encounter with the PLAN when a Chinese warship challenged a US destroyer in the South China Sea. US and Chinese military officials anticipate additional confrontations in the future.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

2:20 p.m. on February 20, 2020, is not a time Nikki James Zellner will soon forget.


Zellner received an emergency notification from the daycare her two sons, Ronan and Owen, attend in Virginia Beach, where the Navy family is stationed. The facility alerted parents to come pick up their children due to a carbon monoxide leak.

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

“When we arrived, the children and staff had been evacuated and I was starting to hear stories related to what was going on behind the scenes,” she said. “The one that gave me the biggest pause was that a teacher’s husband had to bring in a detector because the teachers and students were getting sick after hours of symptoms, and there was no detector on site, because there was no Virginia law requiring them to be.”

At that moment, the narrative for Zellner went from “this happened to my child” to “I’m not going to let this happen to anyone else’s child.”

She started by communicating directly with the daycare, asking direct questions, and refusing to jump to conclusions.

“While waiting for their feedback, I got busy researching,” Zellner explained. “I learned that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors weren’t required in Virginia schools, regardless of if they had a source for CO on-site (common sources are fuel-fired sources like furnaces, HVAC systems, kitchen appliances), if the school was built prior to 2015. It wasn’t part of the state code – and in Virginia, it wouldn’t be retrofitted to existing unless legislation was passed to make it apply.”

But Zellner’s research also uncovered a scary reality nationwide.

“Only five states require CO detectors in educational facilities like daycares, public schools, private schools and any place where children are taken care of,” she said. “How many kids and educators aren’t being protected because people just assume carbon monoxide detectors are on site?”

Zellner’s first points of contact were Senators, Representatives and Delegates that represent Virginia and her district. Then, she spoke to the Director of State Building Codes at the Department of Housing and Community Development to make sure she had a firm understanding exactly of the law and when it applied.

“I also started a petition making folks aware of the situation,” she shared. “Within three days, we had 1,000 signatures. Within the week, we had a breaking news story and a commitment from one of the Delegates to work with us on possibly introducing legislation in the 2021 session.”

To date, Zellner’s petition has more than 1,200 signatures, and her determination landed her on the front page of the Sunday edition of Virginia’s leading newspaper.
More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

“There’s this strange feeling that comes over you when you know that you’re the person that’s supposed to do something,” Zellner emphasized. “That you have the means to do something, and you have the unique perspective to tell the story on why something needs to change. I have a background in media relations and content development, I know how to investigate and ask direct questions, I know how to navigate the political landscape after working in a nonprofit and I’m not afraid to put myself in the line of fire and make a ruckus about it. These are our children. These are our educators. It’s too big of a risk. I feel compelled to raise awareness about it – I can’t explain it any other way. All stakeholders are accountable for solving this – hopefully before it upgrades from close call to tragedy.”

What inspires you about the military community?

The most inspiring thing to me about the military community is their ability to problem solve any situation. What’s today’s mission? How can we help each other? What’s our end goal? This isn’t just the service members – these are the wives, the mil-kids, the support givers – it truly is a community of givers. And it’s up to each member of the community to give more than they take – and I think that really sets the military community apart.

What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?

The biggest piece of advice I have for military spouses is to share your stories. Get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable. Humanize your experiences and make those connections. If we as a group want people to understand our lives, we have to share our lives not just inside but outside of the military community.

What is your life motto?

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re going to stay silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

If you could pick one song as the theme song of your life, what would it be and why?

‘No Hard Feelings’ by The Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers have some of the most honest music out there – and this one just really hits home for me. For me, it’s really about forgiving and being forgiven – and just being able to distinguish what’s important and what’s not so you can live a meaningful life. I think it’s my theme song because even after some really impossible hardships, I’m still able to take gifts from those moments instead of just pain.

What’s your superpower?

I have a fierce love for my people. I will turn superhuman when it comes to their needs – regardless of how much time I have or what’s going on in my life. If you’re someone I trust and love, I will spring into action for you in the biggest way possible.

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