SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Surrounded by a small group of soldiers all dressed in physical training gear, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey kicked off the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition with a Battle Challenge event.

“Our soldiers need to be ready,” Dailey said. “Ready to do the basic skills necessary to fight and win on the battlefield. Soldiers need to have the physical … and technical skills to do their job, fight and win.”


Soldiers who participated in this year’s Best Warrior competition were among the first to run the Battle Challenge at AUSA. The winners of the Best Warrior competition will be announced at the Sergeant Major of the Army’s awards luncheon.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Surrounded by a small group of soldiers all dressed in physical training gear, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey kicked off the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition with a Battle Challenge event in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Devon L. Suits)

“PT is the most important thing you do every day. PT is a primary and fundamental thing soldiers do to fight. That is our job — fight and win our nation’s wars,” Dailey said. “AUSA put this together for us, and we couldn’t be happier.”

During the Battle Challenge, soldiers raced against the clock to be the fastest to complete a series of nine different soldier tasks. There is no prize for the winner — just bragging rights knowing that they bested some of the Army’s fiercest competitors.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Soldiers participate in a Battle Challenge event at the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. P.J. Siquig)

“The Battle Challenge was fun,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Machado, a platoon sergeant with the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and one of the Best Warrior competitors.

“During Best Warrior, we were working with some amazing competitors and the battle challenge capped off the event,” he added. “(AUSA) is a lot of fun and great opportunity to see all the things going on (in the Army), and in industry.”

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Soldiers participate in a Battle Challenge event at the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. P.J. Siquig)

AUSA’s annual meeting is the largest land power exposition and professional development forum in North America, according to event officials. With the theme, “Ready today — more lethal tomorrow,” AUSA is driven to deliver the Army’s message through informative presentations from Army senior leaders about the state of the force.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Soldiers participate in a Battle Challenge event at the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. P.J. Siquig)

The event also hosts more than 700 exhibitors, giving the estimated 300,000-plus attendees a hands-on opportunity to interact with some of the latest technologies from the Army and industry partners. Further, AUSA provides attendees with a variety of networking opportunities and panel discussions that define the Army’s role in supporting military and national security initiatives.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Military Life

5 tips to prepare potential boots to join the military

Preparing before you join the military is a great way to set yourself up for success once you take that oath.


To start your military career right from Day One, there are some vitally important factors for you to consider so you can be successful in your initial training as well as your follow-on or advanced training. This advice is for anyone planning to join any military service.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
That’s a pretty good career.

5. Start Talking to Recruiters A Year Out.

If you are considering enlisting or joining an officer commissioning program, make a plan to go and speak to all the service recruiters. If you are set on the Marines, go and explore your options with the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and the Air Force anyway. If you are just interested in the Air Force, then talk to the Army, Marines, Coast Guard, and the Navy. At this point, you “don’t know what you don’t know.”

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
For example, the Coast Guard is part of the military.

Speaking to recruiters from all military services will give you a very good idea of the full range of positions, training, and signing bonuses that are available to you. At any point in joining the military, there is a spectrum of opportunities that are and are not available based on the current size of the respective services. Speaking to all the recruiters gives you a good idea of what is truly available.

4. Drugs, Legal Violations, Some Tattoos, Obesity, and Fitness Ruin People’s Military Dreams.

There is a large group of people that want desperately to join the military but cannot due to violations of the military service standards that bar them from entering service.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
And then there are people who just know the military isn’t for them.

As a broad rule, the use of illegal drugs; legal convictions of criminal activity; some tattoo’s on the face, neck, or hands; personal weight levels above the service standard; and the inability to successfully complete a basic physical fitness test are what remove candidates from consideration for military service.

The best advice is to avoid any and all activities that will disqualify you from military service.

3. Get In Good Overall Shape. 

Your goal for fitness and bodyweight should be to get in the best overall shape that you can.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
Even if you’re joining the Air Force.

You want to balance strength training and cardiovascular fitness because too much strength training could hurt your run times and too much running may leave you susceptible to injury and could even cause you to fail the push-ups or pull-ups to military standard. There are a number of excellent fitness programs that you can pursue.

2. Do Well On Your High School GPA Graduate.

After the fitness disqualifications to military service, a lack of a high school degree with a decent GPA is next. A high school degree and a good GPA that will help you do well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) – a test that partially controls what military specialties that you can sign up to perform.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Graduating high school on time and with a good GPA really will go a long way for your military career.

1. Prepare for Times When Military Service Is Awful. 

At my first duty station in Korea, the January weather was so cold that the water buffalos froze inside of heated tents, which made serving hot food impossible. We had limited MREs because they were all in the Middle East so we ate beef jerky or nothing because the peanut butter sandwiches froze. It was a horrible time in the field.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
That happens sometimes in Korea, FYI.

You can do all the physical preparations you want, but your mind has to be prepared to suffer — and suffer mightily. Military recruits that are not prepared to suffer and to perform their best while suffering are challenged to complete a term of military service.

Talking early to recruiters, staying away from activities that disqualify you for military service, being in good shape, possessing a completed high school degree, and having your attitude focused on surpassing suffering while still serving well is how you succeed.

Have a successful military career and have fun.

This content provided courtesy of USAA.

Chad Storlie is the author of two books, Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States.

MIGHTY SPORTS

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

The sound of cheering carried across the Alliant Energy Center as the top athletes from over 100 countries took the field Aug. 1, 2019, during the 2019 CrossFit Games opening ceremony.

Amongst a sea of U.S. competitors, Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz and Capt. Chandler Smith took it all in as they looked around the crowded North Field. Kurz proudly displayed his Army Special Forces flag as a nod to the Special Forces community. Those cheering included members of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command and Warrior Fitness team who were there to support their teammates and engage with the fitness community.

It took Smith and Kurz years to get to this moment, as they stood ready for the “world’s premier” CrossFit competition. At this level, victory would not come easy, considering each workout would test the limits of their athletic ability and resolve.


Capt. Chandler Smith

Just hours after the opening ceremony, Smith was back on the field for his workout in the men’s individual bracket. He was ranked 40th overall at the start of the games.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 1, 2019. During the first workout of the day, Smith placed second overall and moved on to the next round of the competition.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits )

There was a lot at stake during the first cut of the competition. Out of the 143 men participating, only 75 would make it to the next round. The first workout was also designed to be a true test of strength and endurance.

Each competitor would need to complete a 400-meter run, three legless rope climbs, and seven 185-pound squat snatches, in under 20 minutes. The field of competitors would then be ranked based on their overall time. For some athletes, the first workout was more than they could handle.

Smith came out strong and maintained his overall pace. In the end, he took second place — 35 seconds behind the leader, Matthew Fraser.

“I knew my competitors were going to come out fast,” Smith said. “I wanted to stay within that top three. By the third set, I wanted to pick up on my squat snatches. This was a good start for the rest of the weekend.”

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 2, 2019. During the fourth round, Smith had to complete a 172-foot sled push, 18 bar muscle-ups, and another 172-foot sled push to the finish line in under six minutes.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits )

Moving into the second cut of the competition, Smith looked loose and determined to continue on his previous success.

Competitors had 10 minutes to complete an 800-meter row, 66 kettlebell jerks, and a 132-foot handstand walk. Like the first round, athletes would be ranked and scored on their overall time.

Smith was not far behind the leader after the first exercise. Sitting in a good position, he moved into the 16-kilogram kettlebell jerks and quickly fell behind after a series of “no-repetition” calls by the judge.

Smith placed 48th overall in the workout and only 50 athletes would move on to compete on day two.

Through it all, he wasn’t overly focused on his position, he said. For the first time in a long time, Smith said he was having fun, and he planned to approach each workout with the same high level of intensity.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 2 2019. During the fourth round, Smith had to complete a 172-foot sled push, 18 bar muscle-ups, and another 172-foot sled push to the finish line in under six minutes.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits )

“The experience has been phenomenal because I have been around a lot of folks that stayed positive,” he said. “I have learned so much about what it takes for me to perform at my peak. This will hopefully help me in the future in regards to maximizing [my] performance potential.”

On day two of the competition, Smith competed in three events.

The day started with a 6,000-meter ruck with increasing increments of weight. Competitors then moved to the “sprint couplet” event, where they had to complete a 172-foot sled push, 18 bar muscle-ups, and a second sled push back to the finish line. Smith placed fourth in the ruck and 32nd in the sprint couplet.

The last event of the day took place in the arena, where athletes had 20 minutes to complete as many reps as possible. Each rep included five handstand pushups, 10 pistol squats, and 15 pull-ups. Smith placed 13th in the final workout of the day, landing him a spot in the top 20.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, takes a rest after completing in the first round of the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 1, 2019. Smith placed second overall after the first workout and moved on to the next round of the competition.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge)

“I would give my performance a nine out of 10,” he said. “I met my goal of making it to the last day and maintained the right competitive attitude throughout the competition.”

Moving on to day three, Smith had one last workout to try to break into the top 10. During the sprint event, competitors had to complete an out-and-back race across North Field. Upon their return, athletes had to cut through several tight turns before crossing the finish line.

Smith gave his all, but at the end of the workout, he tied for 13th place. Officially cut from the competition, he held his head high as he walked off the field ranked 15th overall.

“I controlled everything I could, and gave my absolute maximum effort on all events,” he said. “I feel like I made significant growth this year. I will try to replicate my training and couple it with my improved mental onset to achieve a better result here at the CrossFit Games next year.”

Overall, Smith is honored to represent himself as both a soldier and an athlete, he said. He feels lucky to represent the force at large, knowing there are so many talented soldiers in the fitness field throughout the Army.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During the sprint event, competitors had to complete an out-and-back race across Field. Upon their return, athletes had to cut through several tight turns before crossing the finish line.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“The biggest lesson I can pass on: keep a positive perspective,” he said. “The nature of the Army means our schedules are unpredictable and constant [athletic] training can be hard to come by.”

Soldiers that learn to work past those scheduling conflicts will have a better respect for their journey, Smith said. In the end, there is always an approach a soldier can take to be successful — they just have to find it.

“Leaders in the Army don’t see problems, they see solutions,” he added.

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz

The men’s master competition started on day two of the CrossFit Games. Kurz, a Special Forces officer assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group at Fort Meade, Maryland, was competing in the 40- to 44-year-old age bracket.

Kurz got into CrossFit shortly after graduating from the Special Forces qualification course. While assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he received his level-one CrossFit certification and delved deeper into the sport.

Whenever he deployed as an Operational Detachment Alpha, or ODA commander, Kurz and his teammates would often engage in CrossFit-type workouts to keep them fit for the fight, he said.

“In an ODA, everybody is always competitive. We would do our [CrossFit] workout of the day and post them on the board. That healthy rivalry makes you better,” he said.

“We have some phenomenal athletes in the Special Forces community, but they train for something different,” Kurz said. “It was good to represent them [at the CrossFit Games].”

Coming into the Games, Kurz was ranked 4th overall and 1st in the online qualifier. On the floor, he appeared healthy and determined, but behind the scenes, he was quietly recovering from a minor shoulder injury, he said.

During his first timed workout, Kurz completed a 500-meter row and 30 bar-facing burpees. He placed fifth out of 10 athletes in his bracket. Hours later, he was back on the floor for his second event. He maintained an excellent position to move up the ranks.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, a member of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Fort Meade, Md., competes in the Men’s Masters (40-44) Division at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During the sandbag triplet event, athletes started with a 90-foot handstand walk, then moved to the air bike to burn 35 calories. They then had to carry a 200-pound sandbag for 90 feet to the finish line.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

During the second workout, athletes needed to complete five rounds of exercises. Each set included three rope climbs, 15 front squats, and 60 jump rope “double-unders.”

The combination of upper body exercises exacerbated his pre-existing injury, Kurz said. In frustration, he let out a loud yell during the event as he finished in last place.

“I was only pulling with one arm,” he said. “At this level of competition, if something goes wrong, there is nowhere to hide. It is frustrating, but it was also a great learning experience. Everybody wants to be on top of the podium.”

The final event for the day was a 6,000-meter ruck run with increasing increments of weight after each lap. Kurz placed 5th in the workout.

On day three of the games, Kurz had to complete two workouts. The first event was the sandbag triplet. Athletes started with a 90-foot handstand walk, then moved to the air bike to burn 35 calories. They then had to carry a 200-pound sandbag for 90 feet to the finish line. Kurz placed 7th in the event.

The second event of the day, known as the “down and back chipper,” was the most taxing workout thus far. Kurz had to complete an 800-meter run, 30 handstand pushups, 30 dumbbell thrusters, 30 box jump-overs, and 30 power cleans. Competitors had to then go back through the same exercises, finishing the event with the run.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, a member of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Fort Meade, Md., competes in the Men’s Masters (40-44) Division at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During the sandbag triplet event, athletes started with a 90-foot handstand walk, then moved to the air bike to burn 35 calories. They then had to carry a 200-pound sandbag for 90 feet to the finish line.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Kurz set a deliberate pace, knowing the event would depend on how his shoulder fared on the second set of handstand push-ups. On the last 10 reps, fatigue and a series of “no-reps” bogged him down, he said. Time expired while he was on his last 800-meter run, and judges were calling on him to stop. He kept running and crossed the finish line while the event crew was setting up for the next heat.

“I never quit on a workout, and I wasn’t going to start today,” he said. “You have got to take the small victories. I was once told: ‘Persistence is a graded event.’ It is something that has always stuck in my head.”

Kurz laid it all on the line on the final day, submitting two of his best workouts of the competition. During the two-repetition overhead squad workout, Kurz lifted 280 pounds and placed second in the event. Moreover, he took first place in the final workout, known as the “Bicouplet 1.”

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, a member of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Fort Meade, Md., competes in the Men’s Masters (40-44) Division at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During his second event, Kurz had to complete three rope climbs 15 front squats, and 60 double-unders over five rounds for time.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Kurz placed 9th overall.

“I’m glad I was able to fight back on the last day and go out with an event win. Looking back, 9th isn’t what I expected, but I’m proud of my performance,” he said. “I think I turned in the best performance possible given the limits of my body.”

“We always say that in combat you can have the best plan, but the enemy always gets a vote on how things go. This is no different. I had solid plans going into the WODs, made the right adjustments on the fly, and pushed through the adversity. I capped it all off with an event win — I’ll take it.”

In the end, Kurz was proud to represent the Army and the Special Forces community, he said.

“As I look back at my old [Special Forces] team and I feel like many of them could have done the same thing if given the opportunity and the time to train,” he said. “I feel very lucky. My life led me in a certain way, and I was able to take all this time to get to this level.

“I’m super stoked that people are still excited, given how the weekend has gone for me,” he added. “It has been frustrating and humbling. Even though there were setbacks, I gave everything I had and I’m walking away with my head high.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why US troops in World War I ditched the bayonet for the shovel

World War I brought a new kind of fighting to the world. Wars were no longer conducted on an open field of battle with colorful uniforms in an effort to outmaneuver the opposing armies. Wars from henceforth would be mechanized factories of wholesale slaughter, fought by men covered in mud, killing each other with any means at their disposal. But in those grim early days, it was a surprise to all involved. Like most troops, however, those fighting the Great War adapted pretty fast.

One of the weapons they adapted saw the development of their entrenching tool as a weapon of war.


SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

They had a lot to work with.

Trench Warfare was not something the troops or planners ever anticipated, so troops were sent into combat with pretty basic weapons and supplies. The primary weapons for American troops were the rifle and bayonet, even though the United States didn’t enter the war until much later. Fighting in the trenches changed the way soldiers fought the war and thought about future conflicts. Clubs and knives became common among all troops, and British troops in particular, brought maces and other medieval devices to the fight. Americans came with all sorts of ready-made weapons, including brass knuckles.

The most terrifying but effective battlefield innovation actually saw soldiers ditching their rifle-mounted bayonets in favor of a more versatile weapon that could be used at close range, over and over, with terrifying effect.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

There was way more to fear than just trench shotguns.

World War I soldiers found that using their bayonets could result in their primary weapon being lodged in the viscera of an enemy troop, leaving that guy dead but them at the mercy of anyone else whose bayonet was not lodged in an enemy. To get around this, some soldiers stopped leading with the bayonet and favoring their entrenching tool as a more effective means of dispatching someone who doesn’t want to leave their own trench.

It turns out the edges of American entrenching tools could be sharpened to an almost razor-fine edge, making it the perfect melee weapon for pouring into the German lines and pouring Germans out of those lines by force. Another great bonus of using an e-tool to entrench enemy troops into their new graves was that it was much shorter than the bayonet, and could be used more effectively in close quarters combat. As the war drug on, however, the armies of the world got the hint and developed better weapons. But soldiers on the front lines in every conflict since have always developed an easier means of killing the enemy with what was at their disposal.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Shortly after converting to Islam, then-Sgt. Khallid Shabazz struggled to find his way while his devout Lutheran family and fellow soldiers questioned his move.

And with a few Article 15s for insubordination on his record, Shabazz, a field artilleryman at the time, wanted out of the military.

Then, one day while training out in the field, an Army chaplain approached him and struck up a conversation.


“Honestly, it was like a revelation from God,” Shabazz said. “When it hit my ears, I knew that was what I was going to do in life. It was incredible.”

The Christian chaplain had told Shabazz, who was a teacher before he joined the Army, that he should consider being a Muslim chaplain. That way, the chaplain said, he could help other Muslim soldiers in need of guidance.

Shabazz later became a chaplain, and proudly wore his uniform with the Islamic crescent moon stitched onto it. The career change was a catalyst for him, as he went on to achieve several other goals.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command’s chaplain, delivers a sermon during a Jummah prayer service, which is held on Fridays, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Sept. 21, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Claudio R. Tejada)

Currently a lieutenant colonel, Shabazz holds two doctorate degrees on top of four master’s degrees. He has written three books and teaches online courses at four colleges. This fall, he plans to teach at a fifth one, the University of Hawaii.

He recently was chosen to study at the National War College, a rare feat for chaplains — only three of them are accepted each year.

And in 2017, Shabazz became the U.S. military’s first Muslim division-level chaplain, a position he held with the 7th Infantry Division.

Now the lead chaplain of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command here, he plans to surpass yet another milestone. That’s when he is slated to be promoted to colonel, which will be the highest rank ever attained by a Muslim chaplain.

“It’s phenomenal first, but it’s unbelievable second,” Shabazz said of his pending promotion.

Becoming Muslim

Born as Michael Barnes, Shabazz grew up in a large Lutheran family in Alexandria, Louisiana.

Once a faithful Lutheran himself, Shabazz often attended church and even graduated from a Christian college.

His religious views changed in the Army when he decided to debate a Muslim soldier on the merits of both religions. He admits he was ill-prepared for the debate and had misinformation about what Muslim people actually believed in.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command’s chaplain, delivers a sermon during a Jummah prayer service.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Claudio R. Tejada)

Afterward, he became curious about Islam and began to study the Quran.

“I didn’t want to convert; I was happy where I was,” he said. “I’m a very inquisitive person. If I don’t know something, I’m going to get to know it.”

While Shabazz found more peace and solace by switching faiths, which included the Islamic custom of changing his name, many people in his life stopped talking to him.

His commander at the time, Shabazz said, even asked why he sided with the enemy.

“I was so hurt by those statements,” he said.

He eventually came to realize it was a lack of understanding some people had with Islam, which he was also guilty of until he studied it.

Islam is sometimes distorted by extremist groups, he said, similar to how other religions can be twisted to incite violent acts.

“Whether it’s the Bible, Quran, or the Torah, I want people to understand that religion really has nothing to do with violence,” he said. “99.9 percent of the people in religion are good people.”

Problem solver

As a whole, he said, the Army has improved its inclusiveness of Islamic culture. Religious accommodations allow Muslim soldiers to worship on Fridays and now give female soldiers the option to wear a hijab and males to have a beard.

He also educates leaders and soldiers about Muslim holidays and other traditions.

For those struggling as he once did, he encourages them to pursue knowledge, too. Often, he receives calls from Muslims across the Army asking for help on issues or how to deal with blowback from others in their unit.

“What I ask you to do is, keep doing your job and keep working hard,” he said he tells them. “Go to school at night and stay focused on everything else besides the treatment.

“That’s coming from a person like me who went through that type of turmoil. I was an E-5 and I received some pretty tough treatment back then. I can tell them those stories and I think it helps.”

As a chaplain, he strives to inspire soldiers to be successful, no matter their religious preference. To date, he has helped at least 70 soldiers become officers and many other NCOs gain promotion points by taking college courses.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz speaks during his Change of Stole ceremony inside the Lewis Main Chapel at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 23, 2017.

“I’m like a chaplain life coach,” he said, laughing. “I’m telling them don’t quit.”

While proud of his faith, he does not want to be known only as the Muslim chaplain — he is one of five currently in the Army. Unless a soldier wants to talk about religion, he will leave those types of discussions at the door.

“I meet soldiers where they’re at. I attack problems,” he said. “My job is not to be your spiritual advisor, your religious guru. I want to help soldiers with school, with their family, their marital problems, and be almost like an arbitrator or a mediator.”

Life changer

Years before, he had to overcome many of his own issues.

In high school, he failed the 9th and 12th grades. He was not able to graduate with his class and had to go to summer school. His destructive behavior continued throughout his first stint of college, he said.

When he was later able to get a job as a teacher, he made just under ,000 per year.

So, he decided to join the Army as a 23-year-old private to take care of his wife and children.

He also sought discipline and stability, which the Army could provide. As he initially thought it was a good idea to sign up, he admits it was a difficult change.

“I found myself getting into a lot of trouble. Having a 19-year-old sergeant cussing at you and telling you what to do didn’t go over very well with me,” he said, laughing.

Then that chaplain decided to stop and take the time to chat with Shabazz, who had just turned Muslim but still wrestled with his identity.

“I was at my lowest level and the chaplain came by and gave me what I needed at that point,” he said. “I wanted to dedicate my life, and I have, to helping people who are in that position. Not by converting them, but by being a person who can put their arm around them and try to help them get to the other side.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US in a hurry to question special operations in Africa

The deaths of four U.S. Special Forces soldiers in Niger last month have raised questions about America’s role in the fight against violent extremism in a sparsely populated region of Africa.


Before the October attack, in which at least four Nigerien soldiers were also killed, some members of Congress said they were aware of U.S. operations in Niger, but others — including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) — said they did not know U.S. troops were on the ground in Niger.

U.S. involvement includes more than 800 troops, according to Pentagon officials. There are also two drone bases in the country.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with reporters about recent military operations in Niger Oct. 23, 2017, at the Pentagon. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Niger and Burkina Faso want the U.S. to do more to support local governments in their fight against extremism, mainly by funding a new regional task force. The first-year operating budget for the five-nation force has been projected at $500 million. The United States is considering making a contribution of $60 million.

A decade of involvement

The heightened U.S. presence in the Sahel dates back to at least 2007, when the Pentagon established the United States Africa Command, AFRICOM. The command, based in Stuttgart, Germany, works with regional partners in Africa to strengthen security and stability. Since at least 2013, U.S. forces have conducted missions to train, advise, and assist in Niger, collaborating with local authorities to clamp down on armed extremists.

Niger has been a particularly important strategic partner in the region. During the Obama administration, the U.S. built drone bases in the capital, Niamey, and in the northern city of Agadez.

“Because the government of Niger has been a strong ally to the counterterrorism efforts, it’s been natural for the United States to station its counterterrorism forces in that country,” said Lisa Mueller, an assistant professor of political science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

But the Green Berets’ deaths have brought new scrutiny to U.S. partnerships in the Sahel, and it is unclear how — or if — the Trump administration might shift its policy in the region.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes as a Nigerien soldier bounds forward while practicing buddy team movement drills during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. (Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros.)

Some activists and U.S. lawmakers are concerned that some regional partners have authoritarian governments. Even Niger, said Brandon Kendhammer, an associate professor and director of the International Development Studies Program at Ohio University, is “problematically democratic.”

Still, Kendhammer characterized U.S. involvement as a net positive. “It’s pretty clear that these investments do make a real difference in the ability of the region to provide its own security,” he said.

Seeking input has been key to that success, according to Kendhammer. Despite perceptions among some observers that AFRICOM works unilaterally, the command has a track record of seeking local expertise and wide-ranging perspectives, Kendhammer said.

Green Beret deaths

Pentagon officials expect to complete their investigation into the Niger attack in January.

Based on what is now known, the U.S. soldiers killed last month were involved in exactly the kind of work that troops stationed in the Sahel undertake, Kendhammer said.

Related: This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

A big part of that role involves training local forces via workshops and fieldwork. Training can cover everything from basic operations to advanced tactics, including rapid response to terrorist attacks. To maximize their impact, the U.S. follows a “train the trainer” model, Kendhammer said, working with elite local forces who, in turn, share knowledge and skills.

No one has claimed responsibility for the October attack, but the Pentagon suspects possible involvement by militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, one of several extremist organizations operating in the Sahel.

That presence typically involves local militants who pledge allegiance to an international organization like IS or al-Qaida. Such an affiliation might signal tenuous ties — occasional mention in an IS publication, for example — or ongoing communication with the broader network.

Either way, affiliating with an established terrorist organization can be more pragmatic than ideological. According to Kendhammer, the particular group alleged to be behind the Niger attack was previously affiliated with al-Qaeda and switched in 2015 or 2016 to find a better strategic partner.

The tactics employed by local militants hinge on undermining U.S. efforts. As VOA previously reported, it is likely that villagers in Tongo Tongo, where last month’s attack occurred, helped lure U.S. and Nigerien forces into a trap. The villagers’ willingness to assist militant groups reflects concerted efforts within those factions to build trust with local populations while fomenting contempt for America.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
Tongo Tongo in Niger. (image Google Maps)

Daily Beast contributor Philip Obaji Jr. reported this month that residents of Tongo Tongo blamed the U.S. for a 2016 grenade attack that killed six children. No evidence has linked the U.S. to the incident, but local militant groups have pushed the narrative of an American-led slaughter to “win the hearts and minds of the local population,” Obaji wrote.

Also Read: Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Financial constraints

Governments in the Sahel say they need far more funding to carry out critical missions tied to two task forces: the newly-formed G5 counter-terrorism force and the Multinational Joint Task Force, a longstanding effort based in Chad that has been revitalized to fight Boko Haram.

Burkina Faso’s minister of foreign affairs, Alpha Barry, told VOA’s French to Africa service this month that the G5 force needs more help from the U.S., whose recent pledge will assist regional militaries but not the G5, according to Barry.

Despite its bases and troop deployments, U.S. investment in the Sahel, particularly in Mali and Niger, has so far been eclipsed, both financially and militarily, by the EU and France, Mueller said.

Local solutions

Concerns about lack of funding and efforts to demonize the U.S. may have a common solution: more local initiatives and buy-in. But bringing those solutions to fruition is easier said than done.

“In U.S. government discourse about West Africa, [we tend] to talk about the need for everything to be regionally oriented and for everything to be an African solution to an African problem. And those are good ideas in principle, but they don’t always translate directly into obvious policy,” Kendhammer said. “Not every regional initiative is going to be the right regional initiative. Not every local solution is going to be the local solution that’s actually going to solve the problem because countries have different interests.”

Read More: This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down

In the end, countries’ interests will dictate how well a solution works. In the Sahel, that’s complicated by a diverse host of local players, each with its own economic and security concerns.

For Niger, fighting extremism is less about combating a homegrown threat and more about securing its borders. “It might be tempting to look at Niger – a country that is approximately 99 percent Muslim in its population – and assume that Nigeriens are radicalizing. And as far as I can tell, that’s just not the case,” Mueller said.

Instead, threats have spilled into the country from all sides, putting Niger in the crosshairs.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Here are the states reopening their beaches, beauty salons, and bowling alleys, from Florida to Alaska

Around 95% of Americans were under lockdown in April to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. And it was working, as the US began seeing sustained declining plateaus of new cases.

But as federal social distancing guidelines expired at the end of April, more than half of US states began reopening.

Now, there are already talks of relieving the economic pain brought on by the lockdown — but reopening the economy might look different for every state and is likely to be done in phases.


Three multistate coalitions have formed, in the northeast, west, and midwest, to coordinate measures to reopen their economies, but they have yet to make concrete plans.

That’s because the reopening plans are dependent on various factors, like controlling the rate of infections and hospitalizations, making testing and contact tracing more widespread, making sure healthcare facilities are properly equipped to handle another resurgence, and employing social distancing practices in the workplace.

Several reopening plans, such as those laid out by the Trump administration and by researchers with Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said that a state should see a declining number of new cases for at least two weeks before reopening. It’s a threshold that no state has hit yet, reported Business Insider’s Lydia Ramsey.

But some states are already making moves to begin reopening parts of their economies, even as more Americans die from COVID-19 per week than from any other common cause of death, according to data analysis by Business Insider.

Some of these states (Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina), were among the last to issue stay-at-home orders, doing so in April after many other states already had in March.

In several of the states that have begun to reopen, however, the number of new cases of COVID-19 seem to still be steadily rising. Where most cases early in the outbreak were reported primarily in urban areas like New York and Seattle, recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that from April 13 to April 27, rural counties saw an average 125% increase in new coronavirus infections, leaping from 51 to 115 new cases per 100,000 people.

After initially reopening his state, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves slowed his ‘back to normal’ plans on May 1 when the state reported 397 new cases and 20 new deaths that day, its highest daily numbers to date.

Here are the states beginning to reopen their economies.

Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey lifted the state’s stay-at-home just 26 days after it began, and reopened beaches and retail stores.

Alabama had one of the shortest-lived stay-at-home orders, which began on April 4 and ended on April 30. Now, retail stores may operate at 50% capacity and beachgoers must stay 6 feet apart. Hair and beauty salons remain closed, and restaurants are restricted to takeout only.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy permitted some restaurants and nonessential services to begin reopening on April 24, with certain restrictions.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy allowed some restaurants and nonessential services to reopen for business, with certain restrictions. Open restaurants must take reservations and refuse walk-ins, they can be filled to only 25% capacity at one time, customers must either dine alone or with members of their household (meeting up with friends is not allowed), and restaurants must provide hand sanitizer for guests to use. Also, restaurant employees must wear protective face masks while working.

Governor Dunleavy also eased restrictions on public gatherings, saying that they can include people from different households, as long as individuals stay six feet apart. If you plan on singing or projecting your voice, however, the minimum distance apart is 10 feet.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis initiated a new ‘safer at home’ order on April 27, allowing elective medical procedures to resume and curbside delivery options for retail stores.

Colorado’s stay-at-home order expired on April 26, replaced by a “safer-at-home” policy that permitted some businesses to open their doors. Childcare facilities could reopen under certain safety measures, including keeping rooms to less than 10 children, staggering meal times, and frequently sanitizing common areas. Some retail stores and beauty salons began reopening on May 1, allowed to operate at 50% capacity.

Gyms and nightlife destinations remain closed, however, and restaurants are still restricted to take-out service. Schools will remain remote for the rest of the semester.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order expired April 30, and he allowed some beaches in northern Florida to reopen as early as April 17.

On Friday, April 17, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed some beaches in northern Florida to reopen, The Associated Press reported, even though the state has continued to see an increase in coronavirus cases.

DeSantis had initially left it up to local officials to close their beaches and other establishments, receiving backlash for crowded beaches swarming with spring breakers. He finally issued a statewide stay-at-home order on April 1. Since then, he has deemed the WWE Performance Center in Orlando to be an essential business and has refused to ban church services.

In a press conference, he said that some counties could start reopening their beaches if they wanted to, adding that it was important for people to get fresh air, the AP reported. “Do it in a good way,” DeSantis said. “Do it in a safe way.”

Gatherings of 50 or more people are still banned, and people are encouraged to socially distance on the beach as they exercise or do activities like surfing, reported Business Insider’s Dominic-Madori Davis. But photos showed hundreds of locals flooding Jacksonville Beach, apparently without adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp allowed many businesses, including gyms and movie theaters, to reopen in phases beginning in April.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp allowed businesses to begin reopening in phases over the weekend, he said during a news conference on Monday, April 20.

Gyms, hair salons, barbershops, fitness centers, and massage-therapy centers were allowed to reopen on April 24, as long as they follow social distancing and “regular sanitation,” reported Business Insider’s Jake Lahut. On Monday, restaurants, private social clubs, and movie theaters could also reopen. But bars, night clubs, amusement parks, and other businesses will remain closed pending further advice from public-health experts.

Kemp didn’t give much specific detail, but said businesses should “adhere to the minimum basic operations.”

Kemp said Georgia’s rate of new infections had flattened. In response to backlash about the decision, Kemp told Fox News that “it’s a tough balance.”

“We are talking about a few businesses that I closed down to help flatten the curve, which we have done in our state,” he said. “But for us to continue to ask them to do that while they lose everything, quite honestly, there are a lot of civil repercussions of that, mental health issues. We are seeing more patients in our trauma centers in our state.”

But both President Donald Trump and local mayors have criticized the decision. “I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities,” Trump said on April 22.

His directive also “directive explicitly supersedes all local orders,” The Washington Post’s James Hohmann reported. As a result, he wrote, Georgia city mayors are worried he’s jeopardizing their citizen’s health.

“There is nothing essential about going to a bowling alley or getting a manicure in the middle of a pandemic,” Atlanta mayor Keisha Bottoms said on ABC News’ “Good Morning America.”

Kemp didn’t issue a statewide stay-at-home order until April 3, saying during a press conference at the time that a key part of his decision was that “we didn’t know … until the last 24 hours” that asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus could infect other people.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little initiated a four-phase process to reopen the state, beginning May 1.

Idaho’s stay-at-home order also expired on April 30, and Gov. Little enacted a four-stage reopening plan over the months of May and June. The first stage began on May 1 and allowed daycares, childcare centers, summer camps, and places of worship to reopen. Other nonessential business may begin reopening during the second phase, which starts May 16.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order expired on May 1, and a partial reopening began May 4.

Gov. Eric Holcomb rolled out a multi-phase plan that involves different reopening dates for different counties. Retail businesses and restaurants may operate at 50% capacity, and personal services salons may see customers by appointment only. Office workers can return to work in small or staggered groups.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds allowed gyms, libraries, and other venues to reopen in certain regions on May 1.

Gov. Kim Reynolds extended the state’s emergency declaration until May 27, but allowed businesses (including restaurants, gyms, libraries, and indoor malls) to reopen in select counties beginning May 1, under social distancing restrictions.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly began to lift the state’s lockdown measures on May 4.

Kelly’s “Ad Astra” plan breaks the reopening into three phases, which allowed some businesses to reopen May 4 as long as social distancing measures were in place, and crowds were limited to no more than 10 people.

The initial phase will last 14 days. Bars, casinos, fitness centers, museums, hair salons, and swimming pools will remain closed, and large community events will remain prohibited.

Phase two of the plan will start no earlier than May 18 and will allow childcare facilities, libraries and some organized sports facilities to reopen.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills extended a new ‘safer at home’ order through May 31, but allowed some businesses to reopen on May 1.

Beginning May 1, residents of Maine were able to resume hunting and fishing, go to drive-in movie theaters, get car washes, and visit beauty salons, under set social distancing restrictions.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz extended the state’s stay-at-home order until May 18, but allowed certain nonessential businesses to begin reopening on May 4.

Retail locations that can offer curbside pickup may do so, but services-based companies like beauty salons must remained closed.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves began easing restrictions on April 27, but backtracked the reopening after COVID-19 cases spiked in the state on May 1.

Restaurants and some retail stores began reopening on April 27 in Mississippi, and were told to operate at 50% capacity and maintain six feet of space between customers, while tattoo parlors, beauty salons, and gyms to remain closed. However, when the state’s infections and death count reached a new high on May 1, Governor Reeves decided to put additional reopening on hold.

Missouri’s stay-at-home order expired May 3, and Gov. Mike Parson has since reopened restaurants and stadiums.

Gov. Mike Parson allowed the reopening of movie theatres, sports stadiums, and other large venues, encouraging patrons to maintain social distancing regulations. Retail spaces are restricted to maintaining customers at 25% capacity.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock allowed select retail businesses to reopen on April 27, and restaurants and bars to resume dine-in service on May 4.

Places of worship were permitted to open on April 26, and told to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people that make social distancing difficult. Restaurants, bars, distilleries, and breweries were allowed to reopen on May 4 if they adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Businesses where sanitation and social distancing is less possible, such as gyms, music venues, movie theaters, and bowling alleys, were to remain closed.

Nebraska never had a stay-at-home order, and on May 4, Gov. Pete Ricketts eased restrictions to allow personal services businesses to reopen.

As of May 4, Gov. Pete Ricketts allowed dine-in restaurants to operate at 50% capacity. Beauty parlors and tattoo shops may also open, with a limit of serving 10 customers at one time.

Nevada’s stay-at-home order is in effect until May 15, but Gov. Steve Sisolak allowed all retail businesses to operate via ‘curbside pickup’ beginning May 1.

In Nevada, all retail stores can now operate under the restaurant curbside takeout order, and people can engage in outdoor activities such as golf and tennis, as long as they do so “in a way that prevents the spread of COVID-19.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said certain areas upstate (not New York City) may be able to partially reopen beginning May 15.

Gov. Cuomo has placed some of the heaviest restrictions in the country on New York state, and has been hesitant to lift any so far. He is closely adhering to guidelines set by the CDC, requiring officials to show a steady, continual decline in new coronavirus infections in their area over a two-week period before considering reopening nonessential businesses.

Regions in New York that do meet this criteria by May 15 and are permitted to reopen will have to follow strict sanitary and social distancing precautions. While the infection rates in upstate areas may be more promising, Cuomo said that “unless a miracle happens,” it’s highly unlikely that New York City or nearby counties downstate will be able to anytime soon.

North Dakota never had a statewide mandatory stay-at-home order, and Gov. Doug Burgum invited most businesses to reopen when they want to beginning May 1.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum placed restrictions on schools, gyms, dine-in restaurants and bars, and movie theaters in early April through the end of the month. Other businesses which weren’t told to close were welcome to reopen at any time, the governor said.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine initiated a multi-phase reopening plan to begin May 1, with veterinarians and dentists allowed to return to work.

In Ohio, medical procedures, dental offices, and vet clinics were allowed to reopen on May 1. Later in the month, on May 12, retail stores can reopen with certain restrictions. Gov. DeWine has yet to say when beauty salons or dine-in restaurants will be able to welcome customers again.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt began a three-phase plan on April 24, and allowed personal care services such as spas, nail and hair salons, and pet groomers to reopen.

Under relaxed guidelines in Oklahoma for personal care businesses, customers must make appointments ahead of time and the business should maintain social distancing protocols as much as possible by staggering appointment times.

Entertainment facilities including movie theaters, sports venues, gyms, and dine-in restaurants reopened on May 1, with state guidelines saying that it’s up to the businesses to “ensure that customers and employees are maintaining 6 feet of social distancing.”

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster opened up beaches and some businesses previously deemed nonessential on April 21.

South Carolina was one of the last to issue a statewide stay-at-home order from all the states that issued such orders, doing so on April 7.

On April 20, Gov. McMaster said that department stores and some other businesses previously deemed nonessential would be allowed to reopen if they abided by social distancing guidelines. That includes clothing stores, furniture stores, and florist shops, reported Josiah Bates for Time.

“We are still in a very serious situation … we must be sure that we continue to be strict and disciplined with our social distancing,” McMaster said in a press conference. “Our goal was to cause the most damage possible to the virus, while doing the least possible damage to our businesses. South Carolina’s business is business.”

South Dakota never had a stay-at-home order, and Gov. Kristi Noem began encouraging a ‘back to normal’ approach in late April.

Gov. Noem encouraged local people and businesses to resume activities, but also to be careful and maintain social distancing as much as possible. When asked about potential surges of COVID-19 infections, Gov. Noem said she will handle those locally as they come.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee allowed restaurants to resume dine-in operations on April 27, and retail stores reopened on April 29.

In Tennessee, gyms were allowed to reopen on May 1 under rules to operate at 50% capacity and maintain a clean and sanitized environment. Reopened restaurants must also follow additional restrictions, including using disposable menus, limiting each table to six customers, and eliminating shared condiment stations.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott allowed restaurants and movie theaters to begin operating on May 1, at 25% capacity.

Malls, retailers, and dine-in restaurants reopened in Texas on May 1 at reduced capacity. Curbside delivery and to-go service has already been permitted at certain eateries since since April 27. Gyms, bars, and salons remain closed.

On May 1, Gov. Greg Abbott concurred with the dangers of reopening the state on a private phone call with members of the state legislature and Congress, according to an audio recording obtained by local Texas political site Quorum Report. He had publicly acknowledged the week earlier that “It’s only logical to see there would be an increase and the number of people that test positive.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert never enacted a stay-at-home order, and eased other restrictions starting May 1.

Dine-in restaurants, public parks, and gyms reopened in Utah on May 1, and Gov. Gary Herbert increased limits on public gatherings from 10 people to 20 people, provided they adhere to social distancing protocols. Schools, however, remain closed.

Vermont’s stay-at-home order is in effect through May 15, but Gov. Phil Scott allowed certain businesses to reopen on April 27.

Governor Phil Scott allowed “outdoor retail spaces” to return to in-person shopping on April 27, with a restriction of 10 shoppers at one time. Outdoor farmers markets also reopened on May 1, under rules to “transition away from shopping and social events, to primarily a food distribution system.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s new ‘safer at home’ order began on May 4, and allowed restaurants to open for outdoor dining.

Beginning May 4, hair salons, barbershops, and pet groomer were allowed to resume operations, and must maintain social distancing and proper sanitation between customers.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon had never put in place a stay-at-home order, and he began lifting other restrictions May 1.

On May 1, Gov. Gordon allowed the reopening of gyms, beauty salons, barber shops, massage parlors, and tattoo shops, among other personal service businesses.

Other states are slated to partially reopen later in May, including New Jersey, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what the 400 US troops in Somalia are actually up to

The U.S. military dramatically escalated its military presence in Somalia in recent months to nearly 400 troops, the Pentagon confirmed Monday.


The troop escalation marks an increase of four-fold since President Donald Trump took office and reflects growing U.S. concern over the robust al-Qaida affiliate Al-Shabab in Somalia. Trump has similarly escalated aerial operations against al-Shabab since taking office by designating the country an “area of active hostilities” which allows U.S. military commanders greater latitude in deciding which targets to strike.

The U.S. military’s confirmation of the troop increase comes just days after Al-Shabab killed nearly 300 civilians in twin truck bombs, marking the deadliest attacks in the country’s history.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
The US military confirmed a June strike killed eight al-Shabab militants in Somalia. (AP photo via News Edge)

The U.S. troops in Somalia are both engaged in operational support missions and train, advise, and assist for the Somalian National Army. They also provide planning and assistance in intelligence operations. Approximately half of the U.S. forces are special operators accompanying the Somalian army outside the capital on missions to provide advice and some assistance.

A U.S. Africa Command spokesman speaking of the U.S. mission in April characterized the mission as “various security cooperation and/or security force assistance events in Somalia in order to assist our allies and partners.”

A U.S. Navy SEAL was killed in May during a mission with the Somalian army becoming the first U.S. casualty in the country since 1993 during the Black Hawk Down incident.

Articles

7 stunning photos of Air Force spec ops planes getting ready for action

Air Force Special Operations pilots are some of the best in the world. But what is it like to be with this awesome community as they make sure they’re ready for action?


Here are some photos that are worth more than the proverbial thousand words.

The MC-130J, like the C-130J, can be loaded with vehicles. In this case, they can carry the specialized vehicles used by other special operators like Rangers, Green Berets, and SEALs.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 17th Special Operations Squadron prepare to load a vehicle onto a MC-130J Commando II as part of a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Routine flights and airdrops are conducted to maintain proficiency and training certifications for prospective missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Of course, before take-off, there is the ritual of the pre-flight checklist. At least the tablet means there’s no chance of losing a page.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Parris, 17th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II loadmaster, reviews a preflight checklist as part of a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The MC-130J was among four others that flew in formation and completed airdrop training on Ie Shima Range, Okinawa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The pilot, of course, will be in his office during this exercise, so the tablet is conveniently mounted.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
A U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II pilot from the 17th Special Operations Squadron maneuvers toward a five-aircraft formation during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. This is the third iteration of the annual training, which is referred to as ‘The Day of the Jakal.’ It entailed a series of airdrops at Ie Shima Range, Okinawa, to hone in low-altitude maneuvers and supply-delivery capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

“Tail-end Charlie” gets a good look at the other planes in the formation.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs from the 17th Special Operations Squadron line up in a five-aircraft formation during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017 off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. Airmen from the 17th SOS conduct training operations often to ensure they are always ready perform a variety of high-priority, low-visibility missions throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific-Region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Here, you can see two of the planes breaking, while others wait patiently in line. This isn’t just a training exercise for AFSOC, it’s also practice for the VA.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
Four U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs from the 17th Special Operations Squadron break out of a formation June 22, 2017 off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during a mass launch training mission. Airmen from the 17th SOS conduct training operations often to ensure they are always ready perform a variety of high-priority, low-visibility missions throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific-Region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The view from the front of the line is much better, no?

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
MC-130Js in a line behind another MC-130J during a training exercise. (USAF photo)

Preparing for the air-drop: This is what all that flying is about – delivering the supplies to the boots on the ground.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
A U.S. Air Force loadmaster from the 17th Special Operations Squadron prepares to airdrop a package onto Le Shima Range, Okinawa, Japan, during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017. Aircrews must consider a number of variables in order to execute a precise and effective airdrop, to include wind speed, aircraft velocity, altitude, location and timing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Every day, this is the type of stuff that Air Force Special Operations Command does to support America’s top commandos.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

Country music star and Army veteran Craig Morgan is releasing his newest album — God, Family, Country on May 22. “God, Family, Country” pays tribute to his past and his future both in the music industry and in his amazing life story.

He will also be part of the Grand Ole Opry’s Memorial Day Special. The venerable show that made country music famous will salute the United States Military with its annual Memorial Day Salute the Troops Opry performance on Saturday, May 23.


Joining Craig are Steven Curtis Chapman and Kellie Pickler. This year, the Opry will also honor essential workers who are on the frontline against the war on COVID-19. You can watch it live on Circle and Gray TV stations, DISH Studio Channel 102, Sling TV and other TV affiliates in addition to live streams on Circle All Access Facebook and YouTube channels.

We Are The Mighty talked to Craig about his album and what influenced some of the songs on it. Craig talked to us about his faith, family and love of our country. His faith is a big part of his life and Craig shared how it carried him through personal tragedy. That was the cornerstone of this album and Morgan does what a lot of great musical artists do. He takes his life and puts them into words that everyone else can relate to.

Before his long career in country music, Craig served in the United States Army. He took part in Operation Just Cause, during which the United States removed General Manuel Noriega from power in 1989. He later deployed with the 82nd Airborne as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After service on both active duty and the reserves, Craig left the military in 2004.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

He then began a career as a chart-topping country music singer, songwriter and live performer. Craig returns now with his first new music in nearly four years.

“God, Family, Country”, however, is a little different. It combines five new songs with some of the most powerful tracks he recorded previously in his career including, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Almost Home,” and “God, Family, Country”.

Craig came onto the country-radio scene with hits like, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Redneck Yacht Club,” “International Harvester” and “Little Bit of Life.” These songs showed off his unquenchable spirit and joy for life and resonated with fans of all walks of life.

But, he and his family have also known great loss: particularly the death of their son Jerry in 2016. Needless to say, the tragic death of Jerry had a great impact on Craig. Being the artist he is, he took that emotion and that unimaginable tragedy led to him writing his most stunning song to date, “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost.” The achingly personal ballad is an emotional journey for the listener and is the centerpiece of both God, Family, Country and of Craig’s story itself.

“We’ve never had a song like this. If you put ‘Almost Home,’ ‘What I Love About Sunday’ and ‘Tough’ all together, they didn’t have the emotional impact that this song is having,” Craig says. “It’s a very tough song to sing, and sometimes I can’t even look at people when I perform it, but it’s amazing to know what God has done, and how He has used something so traumatic in my life for good.”

When asked about the song and the process he went through to write it, Craig said, “Overall, it took four hours to write. But it was a painful four hours. Writing the song didn’t take away the pain of losing my son. But it’s going to help others.” And it has. Since the song’s release, people from all walks of life have reached out with messages telling him how it really helped them emotionally. “It’s given people hope. We all have a cross we have to bear, but if my pain brings comfort then that’s what I am supposed to do.”

The story of other songs on the album is absolutely epic. For “Sippin’ on the Simple Life,” he teamed with a pair of active duty Army Airborne Rangers who were about to deploy to Afghanistan for an impromptu writing session. Craig was speaking at a USO event when two soldiers came up to him.

“These two guys came up to me after a show in Washington, D.C., and said, ‘We want to write a song with you tonight.’ I joked with them and told them it doesn’t work that way!” Craig recalls.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

But after realizing they weren’t kidding, he sat down with the servicemen, ordered drinks and started putting pen to paper. just before they deployed to Afghanistan. “I thought, ‘This is a tailgate drinking song,’ and I fell in love with it. I called them and told them I’m putting it on the record. They lost their minds.”

Morgan also features a cover of the Gavin DeGraw song, “Soldier.” “I loved the lyrics but the melody is what got me,” Craig said, “As a dude, we almost always listen to the melody first and that’s what caught me.” Listening to the song, it really resonates with anyone who served. Morgan said, “It truly exemplifies the personality and the character of a soldier and I just had to record it.”

“Whiskey” is another great track on the album. A song that talks about the pain people go through and how they try to find ways to ease that pain was something that really resonated with Morgan. After the death of his son, he was tempted to find outlets to mask the pain, but his faith was able to carry him through. However, many others don’t and turn to vices like drugs or alcohol and Morgan said the emotion of the song led him to record it.

“God, Family, Country” is an incredible album that features Craig taking us on an emotional journey that most veterans (and Americans for that matter) can relate to. We have dealt with loss, pain, challenges, uncertainty, and despair. But we have also relied on things important to us, like faith, family, and our patriotism to guide us through dark times.

The album comes out on May 22 on Broken Bow Records.

Articles

That time World War II vets violently overthrew corrupt politicians in Tennessee

When veterans of World War II returned home to McMinn County, Tennessee, they probably weren’t surprised to find that many of the same politicians from before the war were still running the place. A local political machine run by Paul Cantrell had been suspected of running the county and committing election fraud since 1936.


However, when the sheriff’s deputies began targeting the veterans with fines for minor arrests, the vets suspected they were being taken advantage of. One veteran, Bill White, later told American Heritage magazine:

“There were several beer joints and honky-tonks around Athens; we were pretty wild; we started having trouble with the law enforcement at that time because they started making a habit of picking up GIs and fining them heavily for most anything—they were kind of making a racket out of it.

“After long hard years of service—most of us were hard-core veterans of World War II—we were used to drinking our liquor and our beer without being molested. When these things happened, the GIs got madder—the more GIs they arrested, the more they beat up, the madder we got …”

By early 1946, the vets and the townspeople were tired of what they saw as corrupt practices by Paul Cantrell and his lackeys. The vets started their own political party with candidates for five offices. The focus of the contest was the race for sheriff between Paul Cantrell and Henry Knox, a veteran of North Africa.

Everyone knew that the election could turn violent. Veterans in nearby Blount County promised 450 men who could assist in any need that McMinn County had on election day. In response, Cantrell hired two hundred “deputies” from outside the county to guard polling places.

What happened next would go down as the “Battle of Athens,” or the “McMinn County War.”

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
Photo: Wikipedia/Brian Stansberry

Tensions built on election day as the veterans faced off with the special deputies. By 3 p.m., an hour before the polls closed, violence broke out. Deputies beat and shot a black farmer who tried to vote and arrested two veterans who were then held hostage in the Athens Water Works. Other veterans responded by taking hostage deputies who were sent to arrest them. Still, Cantrell was able to fill most of the ballot boxes with purchased votes and get them to the jail, ensuring he would win the election.

While the sheriff and his lackeys counted the votes in the jail, White and the other veterans were getting angry. Finally, sometime after 6 p.m., White led a raid on the National Guard armory to get guns.

White said in a 1969 interview that they “broke down the armory doors and took all the rifles, two Thompson sub-machine guns, and all the ammunition we could carry, loaded it up in the two-ton truck and went back to GI headquarters and passed out seventy high-powered rifles and two bandoleers of ammunition with each one.”

The veterans set siege to the jail, firing on deputies that were outside the jail when they arrived. One deputy fell wounded into the building while another crawled under a car after he was hit in his leg. But, Cantrell and others were safely locked behind the brick walls of the jail. The veterans needed to get through before other police or the National Guard arrived.

Molotov cocktails proved ineffective but at 2:30 in the morning, someone arrived with dynamite. At about the same time, an ambulance arrived and the veterans let it through, assuming it was there for the wounded. Instead, Paul Cantrell and one of his men escaped in it.

A few minutes later, the vets started throwing dynamite. The first bundle was used to blow up a deputy’s cruiser, flipping it over. Then, three more bundles were thrown. One landed on the porch roof, one under another car, and one against the jail wall. The nearly simultaneous explosions destroyed the wall and car and threw the jail porch off of its foundation.

The deputies in the jail, as well as some hiding out in the courthouse, surrendered immediately. The veterans were then forced to protect the deputies as local townspeople attempted to kill them. At least one deputy had his throat slit and another of Cantrell’s men was shot in the jaw.

The veterans established a patrol to keep the peace. To prevent a counterattack by Cantrell, the vets placed machine guns at all the approaches to Athens, where the jail and courthouse were located.

The rest of the incident played out without violence. Henry Knox took over as sheriff Aug. 4, 1946 and future elections dismantled what was left of Cantrell’s machine.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 5 best and worst cities for veterans to live in 2018

There are now an estimated 19.6 million American military veterans living in the United States, and that number is only going to rise. While veterans face a lot of the same economic and social pressures as lifelong civilians, we also tend to face a few different issues as we reintegrate into civilian life — and where we live can make as much a difference for us as it does for our children.

It’s an important decision to make, so why not do the research? Luckily, WalletHub did it for us.


The highly-popular personal finance website compared the largest 100 U.S. cities and indexed them for key factors of livability, affordability, and veteran-friendliness. What the latter means is that the cities have important resources and opportunities for veterans. Things like services to aid transition from military life, finding employment with military skills, and opportunities for growth are weighted in the rankings. Also important to study is access to VA facilities and services in these cities.

Related: A new study shows your chances of achieving the ‘American Dream’

You can read all about the methods WalletHub used to grade the cities and see each city’s grade on the WalletHub website. There, you can also see how each is ranked overall versus the 99 other biggest cities in America, along with each city’s rank according to job opportunities, economic factors, veteran quality of life, and veteran health issues.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

1. Austin, Texas

It should come as no surprise that a hip city in Texas came in at number one. Austin makes the top of many lists and a home for veterans is not going to be different. The city is 20th in the health rank for veterans, but overall quality of life is rated very highly.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

2. Scottsdale, Ariz.

Arizona is another historically military-veteran friendly state. Scottsdale actually beats Austin in many weighted areas, but its overall health ranking is much, much lower, leaving it at number 2 on the list.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

3. Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Air Force doesn’t choose poorly when it comes to quality of life, anyone who’s spent a day on an Air Force installation can attest to that. The home of the Air Force Academy has the highest quality of life of any of America’s top 100 cities, while ranking high on quality of the economy.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

4. Raleigh, N.C.

Job opportunities and the chances of economic growth are high in Raleigh, higher than any other city in the top five. It has some work to do in the health category, as far as veterans’ healthcare needs are concerned, but getting a good job with promotion potential can make the difference for a veteran family.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

5. Gilbert, Ariz. 

There may be many people who are surprised to see a city with a population of just above 208,000 make the top-five list of best places for veterans, but this Phoenix suburb offers great economic growth opportunity and a high quality of life for vets.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

96. Baltimore, Md.

Does ranking in the bottom five mean that Baltimore is a terrible place to live? Not necessarily. It means that of America’s 100 biggest cities, Baltimore has some work to do to attract veterans, especially in terms of quality of life and economic growth opportunities. No one wants to end up in a city that doesn’t grow with them.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

97. Fresno, Calif.

Fresno, with just under a half million people, is not the worst of the worst in any of the four rankings that comprise its overall 97th position. In terms of jobs and the local economy, it’s a better city than the other bottom five, but not by much.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

98. Memphis, Tenn.

It’s surprising to see Memphis make the bottom of the list, but while the economic factors for veterans fare better than other cities on the bottom of the list, jobs, veteran health, and overall quality of life for vets suffer in Memphis.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

99. Newark, N.J.

Newark is actually more toward the middle of the the overall 100 on the list when it comes to veteran health care, but it sits at dead last for veteran jobs and quality of life.

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

100. Detroit, Mich. 

Poor Detroit has taken a beating over the past few years. While the Michigan city ranks dead last on the overall list of American cities for veterans to live, it doesn’t take last place in any of the four factors that comprise the list.

And, since it’s a proven fact that a large veteran population can strengthen communities, maybe the Motor City is exactly where we should be headed.

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2 obvious ways to revitalize America’s nuclear arsenal

Donald Trump broke major news on his Twitter account on Dec. 22, tweeting, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”


The tweet came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to strengthen the Russian nuclear arsenal. So, how can we revitalize the nuclear arsenal?

1. Modernize the Tech

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
A collection of floppy disks. Your parents and grandparents used these for your computers, but they also handle nuclear launch codes. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

As 60 Minutes reported in 2014, our land-based ICBMs still use 8-inch floppy disks for the computers that receive the president’s launch orders. In an era where a MicroSD card that can hold 128 gigabytes is available on Amazon.com for about $40, it seems like the computers could have been upgraded and made much more reliable a long time ago.

Related: The US nuclear launch code during the Cold War was weaker than your granny’s AOL password

Some systems have fared better than others. The B61 gravity bomb is slated for some modernization. So have the planes that deliver that bomb, like the B-2 Spirit. The B-1 and B-52 have received upgrades as well.

That said, those upgrades are mostly for delivering conventional weapons.

2. Develop New Delivery Systems

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jovan Banks

According to Designation-Systems.net, the LGM-30 Minuteman entered service in 1962. The AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile entered service in 1981. The BGM-109 Tomahawk was operational in 1983. The B-52H entered service in 1961, while the B-1B Lancer entered service in 1986.

The only strategic systems younger than music superstar Taylor Swift (born on Dec. 13, 1989) are the UGM-133 Trident II, which entered service in March, 1990, and the B-2 Spirit, which entered service in 1997.

At the end of the Cold War, some new systems were also chopped, notably the AGM-131 Short-Range Attack Missile II and the Midgetman small ICBM, while the LGM-118 Peacekeeper was negotiated away.

Newer means of delivering nukes might be a good idea, including versions of the AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon, or the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.