SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn't hastily planned - We Are The Mighty
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SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

Reports that the Jan. 19 special operations intelligence-gathering raid in Yemen that left a Navy SEAL and 30 local civilians dead and six more troops injured was a result of hasty planning are “absolutely incorrect,” the head of U.S. Special Operations Command said Tuesday.


Army Gen. Raymond Thomas briefly addressed reporters after speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference outside Washington, D.C. He declined to go into operational details but emphasized that such raids are common and infrequently reported.

Related: How SEALs were caught in ‘ferocious’ firefight during Yemen counter-terrorism raid

The White House has maintained that the raid, which resulted in the first military casualty of President Donald Trump’s administration, was well-planned and executed, but multiple news outlets have cited military sources complaining that the raid was hastily assembled and poorly planned.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned
General Raymond A. Thomas III | Creative Commons photo

Thomas told Military.com he does not categorize such operations as successes or failures, a hotly debated question surrounding the Yemen operation. He said discussion of the raid lacked the context of the frequency of such U.S. operations around the world.

“I don’t think that there’s awareness in the great American public that we’re a country at war, that ISIL and al-Qaida are in countless countries,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “That an operation like Yemen is what goes on any given night out there. And unfortunately it wasn’t in that context.”

Instead, he said the operation has only been reported and considered in terms of the death of Chief Special Warfare Operator Ryan Owens and the loss of an MV-22 Osprey that suffered a hard landing while transporting troops.

“But in context, I think America needs to know we’re in a tough fight right now,” Thomas said. “We’re making progress, but unless we get governance on the backside of our military efforts, this is going to be a long struggle.”

Thomas, who replaced Army Gen. Joseph Votel as head of SOCOM last March, repeatedly declined to comment on the workings and decision-making of the Trump administration.

But, speaking just hours after news broke late Monday night that retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn had resigned as national security adviser after 24 days in the position, he gave a nod to the tumult at the highest levels of leadership.

“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope we sort it out soon, because we’re a country at war,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how background checks are starting to hurt US national security

The Defense Department is pledging to improve the way background investigations are done, according to Garry Reid, DoD’s director for defense intelligence and security.


There is currently an enormous backlog in the investigations, Reid said. Some personnel have been waiting up to nearly two years for a top secret security clearance, he said, explaining the goal for completing a top secret investigation is 80 days.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned
There are a lot of secrets in that building. (National Security Agency Headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.)

The delays are impacting readiness, he explained to DoD News.

“Units are deploying without a full complement of cleared intelligence analysts and technical experts,” Reid said.

Read: How hurricane relief is stalling US troops’ Afghanistan deployment

“Service members competing for positions that require top level clearances are held in check,” he said. “Our research and development programs are not operating at capacity due to shortage of cleared defense industry contractors.”

The long delays in processing clearances result in loss of talented people, particularly those just entering the workforce who have highly desired technical skills but cannot afford to wait a year or more before starting the job, he said.

“We are prepared to take this matter in hand and aggressively develop better approaches that can deliver quality investigations, at sustainable cost, within acceptable timelines,” he said.

Changes in Procedures

The fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Section 951, Enhanced Security Programs for Department of Defense Personnel and Innovation Initiative, directed the defense secretary, to provide the following to the DoD committees:

— An implementation plan, by Aug. 1, 2017, for the Defense Security Service, or DSS, to conduct, after Oct. 1, 2017, background investigations for DoD personnel, whose investigations are adjudicated by the DoD Consolidated Adjudications Facility.

— A report, by Aug. 1, 2017, on the number of full-time equivalent employees of the DoD management headquarters that would be required by DSS to carry out the transfer plan.

— A plan, by Oct. 1, 2017, along with the Office of Personnel Management, to transfer government investigative personnel and contracted resources to the DoD from OPM, in proportion to the background and security investigative workload that would be assumed by DoD if the implementation plan were executed.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned
The Defense Department requires security clearances for service members and civilians, allowing them to be mission ready for deployment around the globe for DoD missions. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremy Graham)

Backlog Impacts Readiness

DoD does not plan to assume the cases the OPM is already investigating, according to Reid. The pending cases are in various stages of completion and the department has already paid OPM’s National Background Investigation System to conduct those investigations.

“The enormity of the backlog is staggering,” Reid told members of Congress last month.

The backlog hurts readiness, erodes warfighting capacity, debilitates development of new capabilities, and wastes taxpayer dollars, he explained to the House Oversight and Government’s Subcommittee on Government Operations.

He said 93,000 DoD cases were waiting in a queue for a top secret investigation, and the prices for the investigations continue to rise at a “staggering rate.”

“In 2015, after promising to provide credit monitoring to 22 million government employees and federal contractors whose personal data was compromised, OPM retroactively passed on these costs on to its customers — resulting in an additional $132 million bill for DoD,” he said.

Read More: Army reports lack of training as biggest setback to readiness

DoD to Reset Process and Procedures

Reid said the situation is “unacceptable and must be remedied through immediate mitigation measures and a long-term reformation of the personnel vetting system.”

He said that is why Congress directed DoD in 2017 to develop plans for assuming control of the background investigations.

In August, the defense secretary approved the plan and notified Congress, the director of national intelligence, the director of OPM, and the director of the Office of Management and Budget of his intent to execute the plan over a three-year period, according to Reid.

“The DoD plan goes far beyond a transfer of personnel and resources associated with the legacy process at OPM; this will be a full resetting of process and procedures in desperate need of modernization and system reform,” he said.

Articles

This special ops sniper challenge is the most ridiculous video you’ll see all day

Snipers are considered one of the most dangerous warfighters in the battlefield, taking out targets from concealed and undisclosed locations while homing in on prey that has no clue that they’re even in the crosshairs.


So who in their right mind would challenge a highly-trained sniper to a duel without having a weapon?

Answer: This freaking guy.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned
Comedian and BuzzFeed Blue host Mike Carrier. (Source: Buzz Feed Blue/ Screenshot)

Related: WWI’s deadliest sniper was from Canada

You may have seen Mike on the popular show “Outsmarted” currently on the BuzzFeed Blue channel on YouTube as he attempts to outsmart some of the toughest minds and computer software out there.

In the episode “I Tried Escaping A Special Operation Sniper,” Mike challenges a retired Marine Corps sniper, claiming that he can evade the devil dog’s crosshairs in a wide open space for 10 minutes.

If Mike wins, he’ll eat his favorite candy — Reese’s peanut cup. But if he loses the duel, he’ll be forced to eat wet cat food.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned
Yum. (Source: Buzz Feed Blue/ Screenshot)

Let the games begin!

Step 1: Mike stands out in the open and strips down a layer of his clothing. Underneath, he is wearing a Zentai suit which he finishes putting on.

What a nice beach bod? (Images via Giphy)

Step 2: A car pulls up next to Mike, and four other men with matching body types also wearing Zentai suits pop out. A decoy perhaps?

Yeah, it’s a decoy. (Images via Giphy)

Step 3: Mike and his team ignite colored smoke grenades which confused the sh*t out of our trained sniper.

The confusion draws out the sniper. (Images via Giphy)

Step 4: The decoys dance in a circle, bringing the sniper in for a closer look.

Ring around the rosy. (Images via Giphy)

Step 5: After showing off their incredible dance skills, the decoys pair off and hide under blankets.

Team work. (Images via Giphy)

Step 5: Time is up! The sniper shoots one of the decoys in the a**.

Shot directly on the right cheek. (Images via Giphy)

Step 6: The winner is! Mike.

It’s time to celebrate. (Images via Giphy)

Step 7: Claim your prize.

Looks delicious. (Images via Giphy)Check out Buzz Feed Blue’s video to watch this intelligent dude attempt to outsmart a retired Marine sniper.
(YouTube, BuzzFeedBlue)
MIGHTY TRENDING

B-1 Bomber may become the new face of US military power in the Pacific

The Air Force‘s B-1B Lancer bomber is about to move front and center in the U.S. military’s power-projection mission in the Pacific.

As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the Air Force is not only making its supersonic bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes in the Pacific, a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.


The “nice thing about the B-1 is it can carry [the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile], and that’s perfectly suited for the Pacific theater,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview Tuesday.

“Not only are we resetting the airplane’s mission-capability rates and the training done for the aircraft, we’re also resetting how we employ the airplane to get more toward great power competition to align with the National Defense Strategy,” added Dawkins, who supports the warfighting air component to U.S. Strategic Command, as well as operations within Air Force Global Strike Command.

According to the 2018 NDS, “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.”

Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson stated that China has become “a pacing threat for the U.S. Air Force because of the pace of their modernization” in the region.

The Pentagon’s strategy prioritizes deterring adversaries by denying their use of force in the first place.

That’s one reason four bombers from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, have been launching from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for patrols across the East and South China Seas since May 1, according to Air Force social media posts. The bombers deployed to Andersen after the service suspended its continuous bomber presence mission in the Pacific for the first time in 16 years.

During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Dawkins said.

Close-air support, the B-1’s primary mission in recent years, is a much different skill set than “shooting standoff weapons like JASSM-ER and LRASM,” he said, referring to the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile and Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles-Extended Range.

While Dawkins wouldn’t get into specifics of how crews are conducting the practice runs in the Pacific, the non-nuclear B-1s have been spotted recently carrying Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles.

Photos recently posted on DVIDS, the U.S. military’s multimedia distribution website, show Dyess’ 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons crew members loading a JASSM into the belly of a plane. The B-1 is capable of carrying 75,000 pounds — 5,000 pounds more than the B-52 Stratofortress — of both precision-guided and conventional bombs.

The JASSM’s newer variant, JASSM-ER, has a higher survivability rate — meaning it’s less likely to be detected and shot down — due to low-observable technology incorporated into the conventional air-to-ground precision-guided missile. It is said to have a range of roughly 600 miles, compared with the 230-mile reach of JASSM, according to The Drive.

The LRASM, a Navy missile integrated on both the B-1 and F/A-18 Super Hornet, is able to autonomously locate and track targets while avoiding friendly forces.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

Joint air-to-surface standoff missiles are loaded into a 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 9, 2020. The B-1Bs carry the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman River Bruce)

The precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile was first tested on a B-1 in August 2017. A single B-1 can carry up to 24 LRASMs, or the same number of JASSM-ERs. The LRASM missile achieved early operational capability on the bomber in 2018.

The vast expanses of the Pacific are well-suited for training with these kinds of missiles, Dawkins explained. Stateside ranges, which may lack surface waters or enough distance between two points, depending on location, cannot always accommodate the needs of bomber crews training with these long-range weapons.

Also, “[when] we deploy, for instance to Guam, taking off from [the U.S.] and going to the Pacific, it allows us to do some integration with our allies, as well as exercise the command-and-control … and also allows us to practice our long-duration flights and work with the tankers,” he said.

Prior to the Dyess deployment, a B-1 from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, flew a 30-hour round-trip flight to Japan in late April. There, it operated alongside six U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, seven Japan Air Self Defense Force F-2s and eight JASDF F-15s over Draughon Range near Misawa, Pacific Air Forces said in a release.

The flight was part of the Air Force’s new unpredictable deployment experiment to test crews’ agility when sending heavy aircraft forces around the world, since the need to improve the bombers’ deployability rate is also crucial, Dawkins said.

Mission-capability rates refers to how many aircraft are deployable at a given time. The B-1 has been on a slow and steady track to improve its rate — which hovers around 50% — after being broken down by back-to-back missions in the desert, officials have said.

The B-1 could become the face of the Pacific for the foreseeable future, Dawkins said.

“We want … to be the roving linebacker, if you will, particularly in the Pacific,” he said, adding the mission could also pave the way for incorporating hypersonic weapons into the bomber’s arsenal.

In August, the Air Force proved it can transform the Lancer to hold more ordnance, a first step toward it carrying hypersonic weapons payloads.

Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, has expressed support for the B-1 as a future hypersonic weapons platform.

“Basically, the configuration we’re seeking is external hardpoints that can allow us to add six Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapons [ARRW, pronounced “Arrow”], and then you still have the bomb bay where you can carry the LRASM or the JASSM-ER,” Ray told reporters last month. LRASM or JASSM-ER could also be carried externally, he added.

“They’re not doing any testing with the hypersonic on the B-1, but that’s definitely in the mix,” Dawkins said.

If configured with that payload in the future, that would be “quite a bit of air power coming off that airplane, whether it’s JASSMs, JASSM-ERs or some combination of those, and hypersonics,” he said.

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

Articles

300 Marines heading back to Helmand

The US Marine Corps has returned to Helmand, the restive province in southern Afghanistan where it fought years of bloody battles with the Taliban, to help train Afghan forces struggling to contain the insurgency.


Many of the 300 Marines coming to Helmand as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support training mission are veterans of previous tours in the province, where almost 1,000 coalition troops, mostly US and British, were killed fighting the Taliban.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dustin D. March)

When they left in 2014, handing over the sprawling desert base they knew as Camp Leatherneck to the Afghan army, the Marines never expected to return. The fact that they are back underlines the problems Afghan forces have faced since being left to fight alone.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This veteran donated more than 2 feet of hair for wigs for cancer patients

Fernando Trujillo grew out his hair, like many sailors do when they retire. About six years later, he finally cut it — about 28 inches of dark, graying hair — and donated it to make wigs for cancer patients.

“I just decided to let it grow — one less expense,” Trujillo, 49, said in an Army news release. “In the military, I pretty much had to get my hair cut every two weeks to stay within regulations.”


The 24-year Navy veteran decided to part with his waist-length hair Jan. 18 so he could participate in his younger brother’s upcoming New Mexico National Guard promotion ceremony. But Trujillo, who was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in 2012, didn’t just want to throw his locks away.

“I’ve lost some friends and family over the years and also had some acquaintances that have had battles with cancer who lost their hair going through radiation,” he said in the release. “I figured my hair would be something that someone could benefit from.”

Currently a contractor at Fort Detrick in Maryland, Trujillo’s been in remission since an operation removed a 10-millimeter tumor from the roof of his mouth. While the treatment was fast, he said the initial cancer diagnosis scared him.

“Your heart just kind of drops and you have that bad feeling, like ‘Damn, how bad is it?'” he said in the release. “The first thing the doctor did was try to calm me down and let me know that everything should be fine. It was just a matter of how much they were going to have to cut out.”

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

Trujillo lost about 20 pounds after the surgery because the only thing he could eat was pumpkin soup and protein drinks.

Other than some tenderness around the surgical spot in his mouth, he said his life has pretty much returned to normal, which is something cancer patients long for and wigs can help.

“Hopefully, that little bit will be able to help them retain a little dignity out of the whole situation they are facing,” Trujillo said in the release about his donation to Hair We Share. “It’s more about not drawing attention from people who constantly ask questions and feel sorry for you.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why moving Fort Campbell’s Gander Memorial Park is for the best

On this day in 1985, two-hundred and forty-eight Screaming Eagles and eight crew members were on their way home for Christmas after a six-month peacekeeping mission on the Sinai Peninsula. Their plane stalled due to iced wings and crashed less than a mile from the runway at Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. There were no survivors.

This horrific plane crash resulted in single largest loss of life the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) has ever endured and December 12th has since been a solemn day at Fort Campbell. The citizens of Gander donated a sugar maple tree for each life lost, planting a total of 256 trees in Kentucky in their honor. The trees stand in formation, each before a plaque bearing the name of a fallen soldier. For more than thirty years, this memorial has remained in the median separating Airborne Road.

After much consideration and with an extremely heavy heart, it was decided that the memorial needed to be moved to the nearby Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum.


SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

As a Screaming Eagle soldier who had to police call the park because Blue Falcons tossed litter out of their cars, I can attest to how this change will be a positive change.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula)

The sugar maples serve as a living monument in a location that’s visible to everyone. Any time you drive on or off post, you’ll see the rows of trees and be reminded of the sacrifice of those we lost. But that resting spot may not have been the best place for the memorial.

All 256 trees are nestled into a tightly-packed space that spans just 1.5 acres. Sugar maples are hardy trees, but they need plenty of room to grow. This wasn’t a concern when they were originally planted, but after thirty-three years of growth, the roots are becoming intertwined, which may cause them whiter and die. A typical sugar maple tree can live up to 400 years, but those planted in memoriam are already showing signs of weakening.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

As much as it hurts to more then, it’d be more disrespectful to the fallen to let their trees die.

(U.S. Army photo by Sam Shore)

The decision to move the memorial was not made lightly and it will require a major undertaking. All of the monuments will be moved less than a mile away in a much larger, 40-acre plot next to the Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum. This will give every tree the room it needs to grow into a mighty maple that can withstand the test of time.

Trees will be excavated gently to ensure that they can be replanted successfully. The trees that don’t make it — and the trees that have already started to whither — will be replaced by new trees, again gifted by the citizens of Gander.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

All 248 soldiers who died that day were a part of the 3-502nd Infantry Regiment.

(National Archives)

The same, annual ceremony honoring the lost soldiers will still occur, just as it always has, only now it will be in a wider, more open space that doesn’t have traffic buzzing by.

In a statement to the Army Times, Col. Joseph Escandon, the commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 110st Airborne Division (Air Assault) said,

“We will always honor the memory of our Gander fallen. Maintaining this annual tradition at a living memorial is essential to ensuring that the memory of those lost will never be forgotten. The Gander tragedy affected not only the Fort Campbell community but countless others across the United States and Canada.”

“Every year on Dec. 12, we take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in service of their nation. While we are saddened by the need for the relocation of the original memorial, one thing will not change: our commitment to honoring their sacrifice and the sacrifices of their families, friends and fellow Soldiers.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to be a Cyber Soldier in the field

Army cyber warriors often say one of the things they like about cyber as a career is that it offers the challenges and opportunities of engaging in cyberspace operations either at a desk or in a tactical environment.

Sgt. Alexander Lecea, Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams and Pfc. Kleeman Avery are Cyberspace Operations Specialists assigned to the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment (ECSD), 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) who were recently at the National Training Center, supporting a training rotation for a battalion from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 1st Cavalry Division.


All three say they chose an Army cyber career because of that mix — being able to move between working in an office and taking part in operations and exercises.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams, Pfc. Kleeman Avery, and Sgt. Alexander Lecea (left to right), cyberspace operations specialists with the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) provide cyberspace operations support to a training rotation for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at the National Training Center on Jan. 13, 2019.

(Photo by Mr. Steven P Stover, INSCOM)

The detachment provides, “A little bit of both aspects of the cyber field,” Lecea said. “You get hands-on technical training — you can do this job in an office. But at the same time you can do it in the field. And there are real-world applications.”

While cyberspace operations can be done in an office, it’s not as effective as being on the ground with maneuver units, the sergeant said.

During training exercises such as this rotation in the southern California desert, the trio functioned alongside the cavalry battalion as an Expeditionary Cyber Team that provided cyber effects and intelligence for the rotational training brigade, Lecea said.

“We provide the maneuver commander with cyber effects and support the troops on the ground,” working in concert with the 3rd BCT’s Electronic Warfare officer and Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) chief, Lecea explained, to achieve the brigade commander’s intent and guidance.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

Capt. Adam Schinder, commander of the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment (ECSD), 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), provides command and control for ECSD cyberspace operations specialists supporting training for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at the National Training Center on Jan. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Mr. Steven P Stover, INSCOM)

Lecea said he went became a cyber warrior because he, “wanted to do something that was challenging and rewarding and also have applications outside the Army. It’s one of the toughest [Military Occupational Specialties], but at the same time I feel that it’s the most rewarding. You have a lot of challenging situations and you have to use your brain. You have to have good teamwork, too.”

The sergeant said he isn’t sure if he will stay in uniform long-term, but added that the Army also offers training opportunities that will prepare him for the future, whether or not he reenlists.

“We’re talking about SEC+, NET+, a lot of industry standards certifications you’ll need outside in the civilian world to get hired. It’s all the stuff they look for,” he said.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams, Pfc. Kleeman Avery, and Sgt. Alexander Lecea (left to right), cyberspace operations specialists with the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) provide cyberspace operations support to a training rotation for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at the National Training Center on Jan. 13, 2019.

(Photo by Mr. Steven P Stover, INSCOM)

“I was interested in the field and I didn’t just want to go to college, so I joined Army Cyber,” said Lethrud-Adams. “The Army is a great opportunity because you’re getting paid to learn all this stuff and you get experiences you wouldn’t get elsewhere in the world. You’re not going to get experiences like this in college.”

Lethrud-Adams said his favorite part of cyber operations is malware analysis, and his two teammates vehemently agreed.

Avery, the newest soldier on the team, said he wants to become an ION (Interactive On-Net Operator) and eventually join the FBI.

Until then, he said, he enjoys the challenges of cyber operations and trying to figure things out.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Air Force hopes to train 1,500 pilots per year

The U.S. Air Force announced plans to ramp up its pilot training to produce 1,500 pilots a year by fiscal 2022. Now, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) has divulged preliminary blueprints on how it anticipates accomplishing the task.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said before a Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee hearing Oct. 10, 2018, that the service will increase its current 1,160 pilot training slots to 1,311 in fiscal 2019, aiming for 1,500 every year shortly thereafter.


The moves come as the service faces a shortage of roughly 2,000 pilots overall.

“AETC has been tasked to produce about 1,500 pilots per year … That number includes active-duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves, Air National Guard and international students,” command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday told Military.com this in October 2018.

While the undertaking is in its initial stages, the command will use programs such as the experimental Pilot Training Next — paired with Pilot Instructor Training Next — to improve how teachers and incoming students work together.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Brett Bultsma, Pilot Training Next student, and Capt. Jeffery Kelley, PTN instructor pilot, prepare for a training flight aboard a T-6 Texan at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

AETC is also updating its Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) curriculum to streamline how quickly the Air Force can produce new pilots, Holliday said.

“The final touches to the new Undergraduate Pilot Training syllabi were adjudicated and are now in the initial stages of execution,” she said.

Revising pilot training

The curriculum’s redesign gives squadron commanders the ability to refine training to better meet the needs of individual students, AETC said in a recent release.

Previously, students went back and forth between simulators and the flight line. The new syllabus moves “11 simulators that had been previously spread out over a three- to four-month time frame, into a single block of training prior to the first flight in the aircraft,” Holliday said.

It’s also a blended learning model, she said, that incorporates several best practices from “advanced military flight training and civilian flight training.”

Students will cut their training time from 54 to 49 weeks once the changes are fully implemented.

“We are still in the early phase of executing the syllabus redesign, but initial performance from students indicates increased pilot performance,” Holliday said.

Students will advance at their own pace. Previously, they had to wait until the entire class completed stages or assignments before moving on to the next. AETC will now allow for individual students to complete courses faster or slower as needed, officials said.

Holliday said this will not alter the official course length, but the time a given student spends in the course could change. The first UPT students to use the adjusted curriculum will graduate in spring 2019, she said.

Pilot Training Next

Thirteen students graduated from the first, experimental Pilot Training Next (PTN) class in August 2018 after six months of learning to fly in virtual-reality simulators. The program ran 24 weeks and “included 184 academic hours, with approximately 70 to 80 flight hours in the T-6 Texan II, as well as approximately 80 to 90 hours of formal flight training in the simulator,” Holliday said. Students also trained on their own time in the simulators.

“We want to learn as fast as possible,” said 2nd Lt. Christofer Ahn, a student pilot, in an interview before graduating. “Being able to use the simulators is a huge step in allowing us to accelerate through our training.”

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

U.S. Air Force students and instructor pilots from the Pilot Training Next program fly a T-6 Texan during a training flight at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

The service recently announced there will be a second class to test Pilot Training Next before the results are briefed to Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who will decide whether the program will be incorporated into formal pilot training. The second class will begin training in January 2019.

Holliday said that lessons learned from PTN have already been incorporated into traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training, as well as Pilot Instructor Training.

Instructors are also refining the ways they connect with students through innovation and simulation training. With a program called Pilot Instructor Next, they are looking for ways to develop what AETC calls the “Mach-21” airman, or the next generation of 21st century pilots.

Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the AETC commander, coined the term to describe what the Air Force wants in its new pilots.

“This is an airman who can learn faster than their competition, can adapt when things are not working, and they can innovate faster than any opposition to create an advantage as a kind of lethality that allows our nation to defend its freedoms,” he said in May after taking the helm of AETC.

In a news release, he expanded on his vision.

“A Mach-21 Air Force essentially is comprised of airmen who learn faster, adapt faster and strategically out-think the enemy, because they are moving at Mach-21 speed,” he said.

To produce such high-quality and sought-after pilots, instructors need to up their game.

“Through Pilot Instructor Training Next, AETC flying squadrons have been equipped with virtual-reality simulators and 360-degree video headsets to integrate into syllabi,” Holliday said. “Since implemented, there have been measurable benefits from the addition of technology, and 10 instructor pilots are slated to graduate from the PIT Next program each month.”

The program applies to members of the 560th Flying Training Squadron and the 99th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Brett Bultsma, Pilot Training Next student, and Capt. Jeffery Kelley, Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, prepare for a training flight aboard a T-6 Texan at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

Its biggest advantage, AETC says, is the ability to test students in high-stress environments in the safe space of a simulator.

“Virtually, instructors can put students in any situation to determine if they would recognize the danger and whether or not they take the right course of action,” Holliday said. “Students also have the opportunity to take home mobile-video headsets, which connect to the pilot’s smartphone and allow for on-command and on-demand training, which has also been helpful.”

She added, “Incorporating this level of technology and deep-repetition learning allows these students to see the flight environment so many more times than they would have in the past.”

Aircrew Crisis Task Force

AETC is also coordinating with the Aircrew Crisis Task Force — set up in 2016 by the Pentagon — building on its “holistic plan to ensure the Air Force’s pilot requirements are met through retention of currently trained pilots as well as through the production pipeline.”

At the Oct. 10, 2018 hearing, Wilson said the Air Force is placing an emphasis on addressing the national aircrew shortage by focusing on pilot quality of service and quality-of-life issues.

The task force has looked at ways of giving fighter pilots and aircrew the ability to stay in rotations longer at select commands and bases in an effort to create stability for airmen affected by the service’s growing pilot shortage.

It has also included increasing financial incentives such as bonuses and providing more control over assignments and career paths, Wilson said.

“We continue to work with the Aircrew Crisis Task Force to ensure our pilot production planning encompasses an airman from commissioning through training and then to their operational flying units,” Holliday said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s latest threats remind us we’re still close to nuclear war

President Donald Trump addressed a key North Korean complaint on May 17, 2018, ahead of a planned historic summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

But in doing so he evoked the threats that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 2017.


Asked about comments by his national security adviser, John Bolton, that the White House was looking at a “Libya model” for ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons, something to which North Korea responded angrily, Trump essentially issued an ultimatum: Denuclearize or die.

The ultimatum was clear, but Trump’s understanding of the history of disarmament in Libya was not.

“The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation,” Trump said. “We went in there to beat him.”

The US and other nations agreed with Libya in 2003 to remove the Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s nascent nuclear weapons program and his chemical weapons.

Gaddafi gained international acceptance as a result, and he ruled for eight more years until a popular uprising plunged his country into civil war.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned
Muammar Gaddafi

The US, along with NATO allies, then backed the uprising against him, and attacked Gaddafi’s forces, but did not kill Gaddafi.

Though the US strikes were effective, they were focused and did not “decimate” the country in the way that, say, US bombers pounded North Korea in the Korean War.

Gaddafi died within six months of the US intervention, but it was his own people who killed him after finding his hideout and dragging him through the streets.

Bolton’s original comments about a Libya model appeared to address the disarmament in 2003, while Trump on May 17, 2018, appeared to address Gaddafi’s death in 2011, something North Korea has picked up on and responded to.

A model involving national devastation for the country “would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely,” Trump said. “But if we make a deal,” he continued, “I think Kim Jong Un is going to be very, very happy.”

Return to fire and fury

On May 14, 2018, the US and North Korea were going into their fourth month of warming relations, preparing for a summit for Trump and Kim to discuss peace and possible denuclearization.

On May 15, 2018, North Korea threatened to back out of the talks, spewed vitriolic anti-US rhetoric, and reasserted itself as a nuclear power.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jon Un.

By May 17, 2018, Trump was back to talking about decimation and framing North Korea’s future as a choice between death or denuclearization.

Both Trump and Kim have incentives to keep the summit and peace push on track. But as Trump’s comments on May 17, 2018, show, despite the hand-holding and peace talks, almost nothing has changed in North Korea, or with Trump.

Experts warn that a Trump-Kim summit carries huge risk. If the summit fails to achieve peace and agreement, the highest cards in both countries’ diplomatic decks have been played, and all that remains is confrontation.

So far, 2018 has been almost clear of nuclear brinkmanship between Trump and Kim, but May 17, 2018, should remind us that as long as North Korea has nuclear weapons, the US stands a hair’s breadth from war.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Awesome nonprofit helps wounded service members surf

Service members often encounter physical, psychological, and emotional adversity when protecting the freedoms this country was founded on. The injuries sustained both on and off duty require recovery in many forms – including physical competitions, religious programs, community outreach opportunities, behavioral health, and more. Some may only need a surfboard and a wave to ride.

Veterans, recovering service members and their loved ones attended the 12th Annual Operation Amped Surf Camp at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 17-19, 2018. Operation Amped is a non-profit organization that promotes surf therapy to aid in the recovery of wounded, ill and injured veterans, and active-duty service members.


According to Joseph Gabunilas, Operation Amped co-founder, this program exists to provide a positive change in a participant’s future. Operation Amped accomplishes this by providing surf training once a year to wounded warriors, family members and veterans.

“It’s a good way to keep that negative stuff out of your mind while catching a wave,” said retired U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. David Simons, participant at Operation Amped. “Surfing has given me a goal, something to work towards and keep my focus straight.”

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

Recovering service members, veterans, volunteers, and their loved ones surf during the 12th Annual Operation Amped Surf Camp at San Onofre Beach at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Noah Rudash)

The organization, which began in September 2006, had helped nearly 300 recovering service members, veterans, and their loved ones. Along with the support and attendance of family members and friends, that number has now reached the thousands, said Gabunilas, who served in the U.S. Army. Having both the recovering service members and their loved ones in attendance, can provide the therapy needed to overcome the trials and tribulations they may be experiencing.

“Ocean therapy is good for the mindset,” said Simons. “It’s good for those that have difficult issues they’re dealing with.”

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

Recovering service members, veterans, volunteers, and their loved ones prepare to surf during the 12th Annual Operation Amped Surf Camp at San Onofre Beach at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Noah Rudash)

Some of the adversity these warriors face include the loss of fellow service members in and out of combat, overcoming pain and physical injury. For three days each year, with the support of organizations such as this one, participants move closer to recovery one wave at a time.

Provisions come from volunteers and supporters who donate surfboards, wetsuits, food, tents, and tables. Most importantly, they donate their time.

“This is my way of giving back,” said Gabunilas. “I served 21 years and this is another way I can give back to the brave men and women fighting for our country.”

This annual event drives a passion for surfing for some and provides a recreational outlet for warriors and their family members to enjoy while physically and mentally challenging themselves in the water. The next clinic is scheduled for summer 2019.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia might allow U.K investigators to question alleged spies

The Kremlin says it will study any British request to question the two men London suspects of trying to murder a former spy, in strict accordance with Russian law.

But spokesman Dmitry Peskov said no such request has been received so far.

Britain has charged two men, Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov, with attempting to murder former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

British authorities accuse them of spraying a military-grade nerve agent, Novichok, on Skripal’s front door in Salisbury in March 2018.


Peskov on Septe. 14, 2018, reiterated that the Kremlin denied any Russian state involvement in the poisoning.

Peskov’s comments come a day after the two men appeared in an interview on Kremlin-funded RT television station to proclaim their innocence.

The two denied they were agents of the military intelligence service widely known as the GRU and said they were merely tourists in the city southwest of London.

“Our friends had been suggesting for quite a long time that we visit this wonderful city,” Petrov said in the interview.

“They have a famous cathedral there,” Boshirov said, adding: “It is famous for its 123-meter spire.”

James Slack, spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May, derided their claims as “lies and blatant fabrications.

“More importantly, they are deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack,” he said.

British officials have accused the suspects of smuggling Novichok into Britain in a fake perfume bottle and smearing some of it on the front door of Skripal’s home in Salisbury, where the former intelligence officer settled after being sent to the West in a Cold War-style spy swap in 2010.

The attack left Skripal, 67, and his daughter Yulia, 34, in critical condition, but both have recovered after weeks in the hospital.

The men interviewed by RT denied carrying the fake women’s perfume bottle with them.

“Isn’t it silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume?” one of the two men was quoted as saying by the Kremlin-funded RT.

“The customs are checking everything.They would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it.”

They also said they stayed less than one hour in Salisbury due to poor weather.

“We went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere,” one of the two men said, referring to local landmarks.

In a statement, the British government said the interview reflected more “obfuscation and lies” by Moscow.

“The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service — the GRU — who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country,” it said.

“We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March,” the statement also said. “Today — just as we have seen throughout — they have responded with obfuscation and lies.”

The RT interview was aired a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country had identified the men Britain suspects of poisoning Skripal and his daughter, but claimed they were civilians.

“They are civilians, of course,” Putin said on Sept. 12, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

The Blue Angels just turned 70 — here’s what makes them the best

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned
The Blue Angels, perform a flyover during a graduation and commissioning ceremony for the Naval Academy Class of 2015. | U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Anthony Koch/Released


On Sunday, the US Navy’s Blue Angels military demonstration team turned 70 years old. The pilots of the team are some of the world’s best, performing death-defying tricks in fighter jets.

While the individual skills of each pilot is admirable, what sets the pilots of the Blue Angels apart is their ability to work as a synchronized team.

Here are 14 of our favorite action shots showing this beautiful coordination.

The Blue Angels demonstrate choreographed flight skills during the annual Joint Service Open House.

The Blue Angels demonstrate choreographed flight skills during the annual Joint Service Open House.

The Blue Angels fly in formation above Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.

The Blue Angels perform the Diamond Low Break Cross maneuver at the Randolph Air Force Base Air Show during San Antonio Navy Week.

The Blue Angels, demonstrate choreographed flight skills during the annual Joint Service Open House.

The Blue Angels lead the diamond in the Echelon Parade during a performance at the Rhode Island National Guard Open House Air Show.

Cmdr. Dave Koss, flight leader of the US Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, calls for smoke before take off at the Sun ‘N Fun Air Show as part of the 2011 show season.

The Blue Angels fly in formation over Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii

The Blue Angels perform a Diamond 360 at the Rhode Island National Guard Open House Air Show.

Pilots assigned to the US Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, join their F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter over the Gulf of Mexico into the diamond formation while approaching Naval Air Station Pensacola.

The Blue Angels, perform a breakaway maneuver at the Fargo AirSho during Fargo Navy Week, one of 21 Navy weeks across America in 2011.

The US Navy fight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, demonstrate choreographed flight skills during the annual Joint Service Open House.

The Blue Angels perform their Double Farvel maneuver.

SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

Flickr/Official US Navy Page

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