Taliban militants killed dozens of Afghan security forces in fresh attacks on several government targets, according to officials.
Safiullah Amiri, deputy chairman of the regional council in the northern Kunduz province, told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that 15 Afghan military personnel were killed in an attack in the Dashti Archi district that began late on Sept. 9, 2018.
Amiri said that another 18 security personnel were injured in the attack.
A security source in Dashti Archi said Taliban militants attacked several security teams in the district.
Meanwhile, in the northern province of Jawzjan, provincial police chief Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani said at least eight police were killed in early-morning fighting with the Taliban in the Khamyab district on Sept. 10, 2018, the Associated Press reported.
Jawzjani told the AP that Afghan troops were forced to retreat from a headquarters in the district in order to prevent civilian casualties. He said seven Taliban militants were killed and eight others wounded.
“There was intense fighting and we didn’t want civilian houses destroyed, or any civilian casualties,” Jawzjani said.
In the northern city of Sar-e-Pul, the capital of the Afghan province of the same name, the Taliban carried out overnight attacks on military and police installations, officials and security sources said.
Provincial council member Asif Sadiqi was quoted by the dpa news agency as saying that at least 17 soldiers were killed in the attacks in Sar-e-Pul, which he said the militants launched from three directions.
Taliban militants reportedly seized control of several military bases and police checkpoints in Sar-e-Pul, and provincial council member Reza Alimzada said that several security personnel were taken hostage.
Meanwhile, Taliban fighters killed another 14 local Afghan security-force members and government-loyal militiamen in the Dara Suf district of the northern Samangan Province, provincial spokesman Sediq Azizi said.
U.S. Army weapons officials have begun fielding the new Modular Handgun System under a plan to issue the service’s new sidearm all the way down to the team-leader level.
Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky. began receiving the new XM17 MHS on Nov. 27 and spent time shooting the new pistol Nov. 29, according to Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for the 101st Airborne.
The 101st received more than 2,000 MHS on Nov. 17 and plan to field the new pistols over the next year, O’Donnell said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, attended the initial MHS fielding to about 25 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, O’Donnell said.
The M17 and M18 use the same polymer grip module and trigger group, with new slides and barrels for full-sized or compact models. (WATM Photo)
The Army awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth up to $580 million Jan. 19. Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America, and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the competition for the Modular Handgun System, or MHS, program.
The 10-year agreement calls for Sig to supply the Army with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol. MHS comes with Tritium sights as well as 17 and 21-round magazines.
One of the challenges of fielding the MHS will be to develop a new training program since the current plan calls for issuing the XM17 to squad leaders and team leaders, a significant change to a policy that excluded junior leaders from carrying M9s.
“The 101st has realized that this weapon is going into a lot more hands than … what we are authorized to have as equipment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Flynn, the master gunner for the 101st Airborne.
“This weapon is going to go down to the team leader, which is not what we typically have in the 101st or across most light divisions.”
The expanded policy will apply to all Army units receiving the MHS, Debra Dawson, spokeswoman for Program Executive Office Soldier told Military.com.
In addition to a standard operator’s course, “we are going to do an additional course which is basically teaching that soldier how to transition from that pistol to his M4 and the M4 to his pistol,” Flynn said, adding that the 101st is also planning to increase pistol marksmanship training.
“We are putting this weapon into the hands of a lot of younger soldiers who have never fired it,” he said.
First Lt. Andrew Borer said “today is a pretty awesome day” after shooting the new MHS.
“The weapon itself is a very simple handgun; it’s a very easy handgun to shoot,” Borer said. “There is little to no resistance on the trigger. … It’s a very easy weapon to regain our sight picture with and to aim and fire the weapon once we have put a round down range.”
The new M17 is lighter and simpler to use than the Beretta M9. (WATM Photo)
Cpl. Jory Herrmann, a team leader in C Company, said it was a great experience being of the first units to fire the MHS.
“It handled really well, very reliable,” he said. “We slung a lot of rounds down range today had little to no problems out of them. … I think it is going to be a great side arm.”
Herrmann said he was excited about the plan to issue the MHS to team leaders, like himself.
“In the heat of the fight it will give you an opportunity to maybe change up your tactics,” Herrmann said. “It will give us more choices, more options … which is great for a team leader.”
As far as the current M9 pistols, “the Army has decided that in order to maintain that lethality and ensure that everybody has what they need, we are going to maintain the 9mm Berettas until all units have qualified on MHS, Flynn said.
With the AH-1Z Viper now serving across the entire Marine Corps, one question has emerged: What will they do with their older AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters? The older Cobras, which entered service in the 1980s, still have some serious bite.
According to a report from TheDrive.com, the AH-1W Cobras will be hitting the export market. This is a path well traveled by many used aircraft from the United States. After World War II, North American P-51 Mustangs, Vought F4U Corsairs, and Republic P-47 Thunderbolts found new life in other countries as hand-me-down planes. In later years, Israel would receive surplus A-4 and F-4 planes as replacements during and after the Yom Kippur War.
Why would a country think about buying used warplanes or helicopters? After all, combat planes don’t exactly have an easy life, even in peacetime. Fighter pilots, for instance, are often involved in dissimilar air combat training – a fancy way of saying they practice dogfighting. Continued exposure to extreme G-forces has an effect on a plane. If they’ve seen combat, that adds a whole new layer of wear. Some of these planes may have been damaged while others have flown a lot of combat sorties — why buy damaged goods?
You guessed it — used combat planes and helicopters come a whole lot cheaper than those ready to fly away from the factory. And let’s face it, a number of countries, like those who got second-hand Mustangs, Corsairs, and Thunderbolts, are on a tight budget. In this case, the AH-1Ws are still quite capable, with a three-barrel 20mm gun, gun pods, and the ability to fire a wide variety of modern missiles.
So, who’s on the short list to buy these Cobras? A number of American allies have used the Cobra in the past, according to MilitaryFactory.com. These allies include Japan, Israel, Jordan, Thailand, Taiwan, Bahrain, and South Korea. They could very well get these helicopters, but it might be prudent to get a ChopperFax report on them first.
The Russian Embassy in Washington has demanded that a flag removed from the now-closed Russian Consulate in Seattle be put back.
The embassy claims that the U.S. removal of the flag “under the cloak of night” in late April 2018, violated international law and was “unacceptable treatment” of the Russian national symbol.
But U.S. State Department officials countered on May 2, 2018, that the Russian flag was lowered “respectfully” from the Seattle consul-general’s residence after it was vacated in April 2018, under orders from the department.
While the Russian Embassy said the mansion is still its property and the flag should still be flying there, the department countered that the house was built on U.S. government-owned land.
The State Department said it asked Russian consulate personnel to take the flag down themselves before they vacated the premises.
U.S. officials say that U.S. diplomats took down an American flag flying at the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg with a brief ceremony when they were similarly ordered to leave by Moscow.
“Since the Russians chose not to treat their own flag with such respect, we have done so for them,” the department said, adding that it will return the flag removed in Seattle to the Russian Embassy.
The Seattle Consulate was shut down in response to allegations that the Russian government poisoned a former Russian spy living in the United Kingdom with a nerve-agent in March 2018.
Observed on August 26, Women’s Equality Day commemorates the adoption of the 19th Amendment in 1920, guaranteeing women the right to vote. While the change to the Constitution was significant toward shaping gender equality, it highlights the complicated journey women had to gain equal rights.
“Commemorating the adoption of the 19th Amendment on Women’s Equality Day is so very significant,” said Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of Texas. Norris and Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham recently spoke about women who paved the way for today’s equality.
For instance, Abigail Adams wrote to the Continental Congress in 1776, asking them to, “Remember the ladies,” when making critical decisions to shape the country. Later in 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott led the first women’s rights convention in New York.
The convention sparked decades of activism through the Women’s Suffrage Movement, which helped lay a foundation for the 19th Amendment and paved the way for women to serve and fight alongside men in combat today.
Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley gets her Ranger tab pinned on by a family member during her Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018. Kelley was the first enlisted woman to earn the Ranger tab.
(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)
Later the civil rights movement of the 1950s generated the Equal Pay Act in 1963, followed by the Civil Rights Act in 1964. And in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments was signed into law.
However, “women have been serving their nation through military service for far longer than we have had the right to vote,” Norris said.
During the Revolutionary War, women followed their husbands into combat out of necessity. They would often receive permission to serve in military camps as laundresses, cooks, and nurses. Some women even disguised themselves as men to serve in combat.
“One of the more famous women to do this was Deborah Samson Gannett, who enlisted in 1782 under her brother’s name and served for 17 months,” Norris said. “Wounded by musket ball fire, she cut it out of her thigh so that a doctor wouldn’t discover she was a woman.”
The Army later discovered Gannett’s gender, and she was discharged honorably. She later received a military pension for her service.
Countless examples exist of women serving in various roles to support military operations during the Civil and Spanish-American Wars and beyond.
Notably during World War I, upwards of 25,000 American women between the ages of 21 and 69 served overseas. While the most significant percentage of women served as nurses, some were lucky enough to assist as administrators, secretaries, telephone operators, and architects.
These women helped propel the passage of the 19th Amendment through their hard work and dedication to service.
Now Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, visits Soldiers at Camp Bullis, Texas, on June 21, 2018.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell)
From the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948 to the day the Defense Department opened all combat career fields to women in 2016, the role of women in the Army has steadily increased.
“Women are tough,” Norris said.
“We have been proving it for a long time now, and we have a knack for forcing change,” Norris added. “As Col. Oveta Hobby, a fellow Texan and the first director of the Women’s Army Corps, put it so well: ‘Women who step up want to be measured as citizens of the nation — not as women.'”
These are exciting times, said Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, the Army’s outgoing assistant chief of staff for Installation Management. Women are now on the forefront, serving in military occupational specialties they haven’t seen in Army history.
“Quite frankly, the Army is not [solely] a man’s job,” she said.
After a 38-year career, Bingham is now enjoying her last days in service, as she waits for her official retirement in September. During her career, she served as the first female quartermaster general, the first woman to serve as garrison commander of Fort Lee, Virginia. She was also the first female to serve in commanding general roles at White Sands Missile Range and Tank-automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, Michigan.
“There is no way that I would’ve stayed in the Army 38 years if I didn’t feel a sense of inclusion. I will never downplay the word ‘inclusion’ — ever,” she said. “It is one thing to have a seat at the table. However, it is another to feel included in the decisions being made at the table.”
Considered to be a trailblazer by others, Bingham acknowledges the historical significance of her stepping into each position. However, recognizing the “trailblazer moniker” brings to light all the areas that women have yet to serve, she said.
“We will get there, as women continually distinguish themselves in roles that they haven’t typically [served],” she said. “The way I see it, you can choose to spotlight [trailblazers] but progress is having … more [women serving] than what we had before.”
Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham talks with Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, after promoting her to major general Aug. 28, 2018.
(Photo by Michael Curtis)
Similar to Bingham, Norris is the first woman to serve as the Texas adjutant general. As the senior military officer, she is responsible for the overall health, wellbeing, training, and readiness of Texas’ soldiers, airmen, civilian employees, and volunteers.
“I am simply another individual in a long line of leaders of Texas military forces,” she said.
“The fact that I am the first woman is secondary to me. What truly matters is that we have a leader of the Texas Military Department who is ready to command and take care of those who serve. I believe I fulfill that role based on qualifications and experience, not by being a woman.”
When it comes to women’s equality, the Army is doing a great job, Norris added. Based on her experience, the military is often the leader when it comes to opening up roles for women to serve.
Managing talent will be critical to the Army’s way ahead. It is about getting the right person, to the right place, at the right time, regardless of their race or gender, she explained.
And to all the women out there that are considering the Army as a future career, “I would tell them — join! Your nation needs you,” Norris said. In 2015, Capt. Kristen
Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female soldiers to earn the Ranger tab, she noted.
“They are following a long line of powerful women who have forced change in our culture and by their actions opened doors for the generations that follow them,” she said.
“I challenge you to join and be the first one to break [a] barrier down,” Norris added. “The Army opened more doors for me than I could ever have imagined possible. It has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to serve our state and nation, and I encourage others to do the same.”
The 96th Medical Group opened the Air Force’s first Invisible Wounds Center Aug. 30, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base.
More than 120 people attended the event and toured the new facility, including Air Force Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, 96th Test Wing installation commander, Brig. Gen. Evan C. Dertien and members of the local community.
Hogg, the guest speaker for the ceremony, thanked everyone who helped standup the center and also reaffirmed the Air Force’s commitment to providing ‘Trusted Care’ to our military members.
“Standing up this facility is just the first step of many in our commitment to care for our warriors with invisible wounds,” she said. “We owe these brave men and women the very best treatment possible. Today, we make good on that commitment.”
The center will serve as a regional treatment center for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, associated pain conditions, and psychological injuries.
“The center is ready to treat retirees, Guard, Reserve, and active duty members from our sister services who carry the weight of invisible wounds,” said Hogg. “Our goal is to eliminate barriers to care. We want to treat our service members with dignity through every phase of their recovery.”
The IWC, modeled after the best practices of the Intrepid Spirit Centers, will assemble a team of 18 specialties under one roof, providing treatment in an individually tailored, holistic and integrated fashion, using a combination of conventional and complimentary therapies.
Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, Air Force surgeon general, speaks to the audience during a ceremony opening the Air Force’s first Invisible Wounds Center Aug. 30, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Ilka Cole)
“We’re here for you, we’re ready to serve you,” said Dertien. “The facility and the capabilities we are building here have the impact and the potential to change people’s lives. This sends the message that we can talk about invisible wounds. It’s okay to ask for help.”
Art and music therapy, yoga, acupuncture, physical and occupational therapy, and mental health services will also be included in treatment.
“Having all these services under one roof, complimenting each other, provides treatment and healing in ways that are only now being recognized,” said Hogg. “The providers will also address physical, spiritual, mental and social well-being to further ensure positive health outcomes.”
Hogg shared positive accounts from wounded warriors she met at Intrepid Spirit Centers on military installations around the country. She attributed their success to the mind and body approach to treatment and community involvement. She also noted patient, caregiver and family education is key component in the healing process.
“We learned the best outcomes occur when a host of people are involved in the healing process,” she said. “Complete healing and reintegration requires healing the patient as well as the family.”
Dr. Thomas Piazza, Invisible Wounds Center director, talks with Green Berets from the 7th Special Forces Group (A) before a ceremony opening the Air Force’s first Invisible Wounds Center Aug. 30, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Ilka Cole)
The ceremony concluded with a good news, momentous announcement for the military community.
Hogg said the Department of Defense recently accepted a proffer from Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, to build an Intrepid Spirit Center at Eglin AFB, making it the tenth of its kind and the first on an Air Force base. Plans for the ground breaking are underway, and officials expect a completion of the facility in 2020.
Fisher described these facilities as “centers of hope,” and adds that these center are not built by the government, but by donations from the American people. He said that thought is reassuring because Americans believe this is the right model to treat invisible wounds, according to Hogg.
“Fisher is determined to continue his mission to build Intrepid Spirit Centers,” said Hogg. “Today the Air Force is forever grateful to him and all the donors who will make the Intrepid Spirit Center here a reality.”
For five months in mid 2017, Emily Mason did the same thing every day. Arriving to her office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, she sat at her desk, opened up her computer, and stared at images of the Sun — all day, every day. “I probably looked through three or five years’ worth of data,” Mason estimated. Then, in October 2017, she stopped. She realized she had been looking at the wrong thing all along.
Mason, a graduate student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was searching for coronal rain: giant globs of plasma, or electrified gas, that drip from the Sun’s outer atmosphere back to its surface. But she expected to find it in helmet streamers, the million-mile tall magnetic loops — named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet — that can be seen protruding from the Sun during a solar eclipse. Computer simulations predicted the coronal rain could be found there. Observations of the solar wind, the gas escaping from the Sun and out into space, hinted that the rain might be happening. And if she could just find it, the underlying rain-making physics would have major implications for the 70-year-old mystery of why the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona, is so much hotter than its surface. But after nearly half a year of searching, Mason just couldn’t find it. “It was a lot of looking,” Mason said, “for something that never ultimately happened.”
The problem, it turned out, wasn’t what she was looking for, but where. In a paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Mason and her coauthors describe the first observations of coronal rain in a smaller, previously overlooked kind of magnetic loop on the Sun. After a long, winding search in the wrong direction, the findings forge a new link between the anomalous heating of the corona and the source of the slow solar wind — two of the biggest mysteries facing solar science today.
Mason searched for coronal rain in helmet streamers like the one that appears on the left side of this image, taken during the 1994 eclipse as viewed from South America. A smaller pseudostreamer appears on the western limb (right side of image). Named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet, helmet streamers extend far into the Sun’s faint corona and are most readily seen when the light from the Sun’s bright surface is occluded.
Observed through the high-resolution telescopes mounted on NASA’s SDO spacecraft, the Sun – a hot ball of plasma, teeming with magnetic field lines traced by giant, fiery loops — seems to have few physical similarities with Earth. But our home planet provides a few useful guides in parsing the Sun’s chaotic tumult: among them, rain.
On Earth, rain is just one part of the larger water cycle, an endless tug-of-war between the push of heat and pull of gravity. It begins when liquid water, pooled on the planet’s surface in oceans, lakes, or streams, is heated by the Sun. Some of it evaporates and rises into the atmosphere, where it cools and condenses into clouds. Eventually, those clouds become heavy enough that gravity’s pull becomes irresistible and the water falls back to Earth as rain, before the process starts anew.
On the Sun, Mason said, coronal rain works similarly, “but instead of 60-degree water you’re dealing with a million-degree plasma.” Plasma, an electrically-charged gas, doesn’t pool like water, but instead traces the magnetic loops that emerge from the Sun’s surface like a rollercoaster on tracks. At the loop’s foot points, where it attaches to the Sun’s surface, the plasma is superheated from a few thousand to over 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit. It then expands up the loop and gathers at its peak, far from the heat source. As the plasma cools, it condenses and gravity lures it down the loop’s legs as coronal rain.
Coronal rain, like that shown in this movie from NASA’s SDO in 2012, is sometimes observed after solar eruptions, when the intense heating associated with a solar flare abruptly cuts off after the eruption and the remaining plasma cools and falls back to the solar surface. Mason was searching for coronal rain not associated with eruptions, but instead caused by a cyclical process of heating and cooling similar to the water cycle on Earth.
(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, Lead Animator)
Mason was looking for coronal rain in helmet streamers, but her motivation for looking there had more to do with this underlying heating and cooling cycle than the rain itself. Since at least the mid-1990s, scientists have known that helmet streamers are one source of the slow solar wind, a comparatively slow, dense stream of gas that escapes the Sun separately from its fast-moving counterpart. But measurements of the slow solar wind gas revealed that it had once been heated to an extreme degree before cooling and escaping the Sun. The cyclical process of heating and cooling behind coronal rain, if it was happening inside the helmet streamers, would be one piece of the puzzle.
The other reason connects to the coronal heating problem — the mystery of how and why the Sun’s outer atmosphere is some 300 times hotter than its surface. Strikingly, simulations have shown that coronal rain only forms when heat is applied to the very bottom of the loop. “If a loop has coronal rain on it, that means that the bottom 10% of it, or less, is where coronal heating is happening,” said Mason. Raining loops provide a measuring rod, a cutoff point to determine where the corona gets heated. Starting their search in the largest loops they could find — giant helmet streamers — seemed like a modest goal, and one that would maximize their chances of success.
She had the best data for the job: Images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, a spacecraft that has photographed the Sun every twelve seconds since its launch in 2010. But nearly half a year into the search, Mason still hadn’t observed a single drop of rain in a helmet streamer. She had, however, noticed a slew of tiny magnetic structures, ones she wasn’t familiar with. “They were really bright and they kept drawing my eye,” said Mason. “When I finally took a look at them, sure enough they had tens of hours of rain at a time.”
At first, Mason was so focused on her helmet streamer quest that she made nothing of the observations. “She came to group meeting and said, ‘I never found it — I see it all the time in these other structures, but they’re not helmet streamers,'” said Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at Goddard, and a coauthor of the paper. “And I said, ‘Wait…hold on. Where do you see it? I don’t think anybody’s ever seen that before!'”
A measuring rod for heating
These structures differed from helmet streamers in several ways. But the most striking thing about them was their size.
“These loops were much smaller than what we were looking for,” said Spiro Antiochos, who is also a solar physicist at Goddard and a coauthor of the paper. “So that tells you that the heating of the corona is much more localized than we were thinking.”
Mason’s article analyzed three observations of Raining Null-Point Topologies, or RNTPs, a previously overlooked magnetic structure shown here in two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. The coronal rain observed in these comparatively small magnetic loops suggests that the corona may be heated within a far more restricted region than previously expected.
(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Emily Mason)
While the findings don’t say exactly how the corona is heated, “they do push down the floor of where coronal heating could happen,” said Mason. She had found raining loops that were some 30,000 miles high, a mere two percent the height of some of the helmet streamers she was originally looking for. And the rain condenses the region where the key coronal heating can be happening. “We still don’t know exactly what’s heating the corona, but we know it has to happen in this layer,” said Mason.
A new source for the slow solar wind
But one part of the observations didn’t jibe with previous theories. According to the current understanding, coronal rain only forms on closed loops, where the plasma can gather and cool without any means of escape. But as Mason sifted through the data, she found cases where rain was forming on open magnetic field lines. Anchored to the Sun at only one end, the other end of these open field lines fed out into space, and plasma there could escape into the solar wind. To explain the anomaly, Mason and the team developed an alternative explanation — one that connected rain on these tiny magnetic structures to the origins of the slow solar wind.
In the new explanation, the raining plasma begins its journey on a closed loop, but switches — through a process known as magnetic reconnection — to an open one. The phenomenon happens frequently on the Sun, when a closed loop bumps into an open field line and the system rewires itself. Suddenly, the superheated plasma on the closed loop finds itself on an open field line, like a train that has switched tracks. Some of that plasma will rapidly expand, cool down, and fall back to the Sun as coronal rain. But other parts of it will escape – forming, they suspect, one part of the slow solar wind.
Mason is currently working on a computer simulation of the new explanation, but she also hopes that soon-to-come observational evidence may confirm it. Now that Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, is traveling closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it, it can fly through bursts of slow solar wind that can be traced back to the Sun — potentially, to one of Mason’s coronal rain events. After observing coronal rain on an open field line, the outgoing plasma, escaping to the solar wind, would normally be lost to posterity. But no longer. “Potentially we can make that connection with Parker Solar Probe and say, that was it,” said Viall.
Digging through the data
As for finding coronal rain in helmet streamers? The search continues. The simulations are clear: the rain should be there. “Maybe it’s so small you can’t see it?” said Antiochos. “We really don’t know.”
But then again, if Mason had found what she was looking for she might not have made the discovery — or have spent all that time learning the ins and outs of solar data.
“It sounds like a slog, but honestly it’s my favorite thing,” said Mason. “I mean that’s why we built something that takes that many images of the Sun: So we can look at them and figure it out.”
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
Older U.S. Air Force jets — including the A-10 Thunderbolt II, eyed in recent years for retirement, and the F-15E Strike Eagle — are leading the air war against the Islamic State, statistics show.
U.S. military fighter-attack jets, bombers and drones have dropped more than 67,000 bombs since the 2014 start of Operation Inherent Resolve, the Defense Department’s mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, according to information provided by Air Forces Central Command.
Notably, fighter-attack aircraft released more than three times as many weapons as bombers did, the figures show. Drones dropped the least of any category of aircraft.
Aircraft like “the A-10, F-15E, and F-16 are breaking their backs because they are the right platform for the job and providing the right function,” Brian Laslie, an air power historian and author of the book, “The Air Force Way of War,” said in an email to Military.com.
Weapons Released by Aircraft
U.S. aircraft have released a total of 67,333 weapons from Aug. 8, 2014, through May 16, according to the data. While the F-15E released the most, the F-22 Raptor — one of the most advanced stealth fighters — dropped the least.
Here are the figures for the 10 types of U.S. aircraft flying combat sorties: F-15E Strike Eagle, 14,995 weapons released; A-10 Thunderbolt II, 13,856; B-1 Lancer, 9,195; F/A-18 Super Hornets, 8,920; F-16 Fighting Falcon, 7,679; B-52 Stratofortress, 5,041; MQ-1 Predator drone, 2,274; MQ-9 Reaper, 2,188; AV-8B, 1,650; and F-22, 1,535.
Broken down by aircraft type, fighter and attack planes dropped a total of 48,635 weapons, or 72 percent of the total; bombers released 14,236, or 21 percent; and drones dropped 4,462, or 7 percent, according to the statistics.
Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff, a spokeswoman for Air Force Central Command, or AFCENT, cautioned that the numbers released by the command — which includes assets and actions under the Combined Forces Air Component Commander, or CFACC — don’t reflect the “entirety of kinetic activity in OIR,” such as assets belonging to coalition partners or other U.S. components, like the Combined Joint Land Component Commander and Special Operations Joint Task Force.
“The amount of weapons employed by each aircraft varies due to a number of factors, such as time in theater, types of missions (i.e. close air support, air-to-air, escort, interdiction, etc.), ordnance type, etc.,” Atanasoff said in an email last week.
‘Lion’s Share of the Work’
While the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets actually flew the most combat missions, the Air Force’s F-15Es dropped the highest number of bombs, releasing more than one in five of the total amount, according to AFCENT.
As the workhorses of the ISIS fight, the “E” model Strike Eagle is a dual-role jet with the ability to find targets over long ranges and destroy enemy ground positions.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II, the gunship popularly known as the Warthog or simply the ‘Hog’, has released almost as many weapons, albeit with a special type of accounting. Every 100 rounds from the Hog’s 30 mm Avenger gun is counted as one weapon, Atanasoff said.
Laslie said he wasn’t surprised that commanders are turning more frequently to fighters and close-air support aircraft in the campaign against ISIS — an operation estimated to cost roughly $13 billion so far.
After the Vietnam War, the service has operated as “a much more tactical Air Force,” he said. “From El Dorado Canyon in 1986 [campaign in Libya], to Desert Storm in ’91 and the Balkan campaigns of the mid-to-late 90s, tactical assets have done the lion’s share of the work.”
‘See the Airpower’
Atanasoff said the relatively lower strike number for the B-52 doesn’t mean the bomber isn’t as active as other aircraft, but rather that it simply hasn’t been in theater as long. The B-1 left the campaign in early 2016 and was replaced by the B-52 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein in February said, “You’re just going to see a continual rotation of both of those weapons systems.”
Col. Daniel Manning, the deputy director of the Combined Air Operations Center, last year noted the Stratofortress’ unique ability to stay airborne for a long duration.
“Frankly, we want our partners and the enemy to see the airpower [the B-52] has overhead,” he said at the time. “A B-52 encourages our partner force that we have their back. Being seen is actually a pretty good thing.”
Laslie said, “GPS and stand-off weapons (and permissive environments) have kept the B-52 in the game, but it really is a tactical conflict in OIR.” He said bombers like the B-52 — though strategically useful — “aren’t really optimized for this mission set” in quick, one-off strike sorties.
Hunting for Intel
Similarly, the relatively lower strike numbers for the F-22 stealth fighter and the MQ-1 and MQ-9 drones may be attributed to the fact that they’re often used for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance to relay to other platforms and the Combined Air and Space Operations Center.
“We have refined our targeting process and become more efficient in layering our ISR to uncover targets that have made themselves available to us, which also has facilitated the number of weapons we’ve been able to deliver,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, told reporters last week.
Leaders have also “relied on the F-22’s ability to fuse information, understand where our friendly forces are,” to watch, and deconflict with multiple forces on the ground, he said.
At times controllers are using Reapers, Predators or both “combined in a formation” as a more efficient way of using their sensors, according to Lt. Col. Eric Winterbottom, chief of the Commander’s Action Group, U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
Remotely piloted aircraft are likely the first aircraft dictating “strike or no strike calls based off what we’re seeing” from the sensors, Winterbottom said in October. They’re an example of why officials ask for more ISR assets to ease pressure on manned aircraft and to minimize collateral damage from airstrikes.
Lt. Col. Megan A. Brogden was handed a flag today that was full of symbolism.
It marked her new position as a battalion commander and all the responsibilities associated with that job.
It marked the pinnacle of her U.S. Army career so far.
And it marked a milestone in the continued diversification of Army special operations.
Brogden, who assumed command of the Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, is the first woman to assume command of a battalion within any of the Army’s seven Special Forces groups.
“It was a very humbling moment,” she said after the ceremony on Fort Bragg’s Meadows Field. “It’s such a great organization.”
But while happy to take on the challenges and proud of her accomplishments, Brogden is hesitant to mark herself as breaking new ground or smashing through any so-called glass ceilings.
“I don’t necessarily see it as much of a milestone,” she said. “I didn’t go to Ranger school or selection. It’s a lot about timing.”
Officials have called Brogden’s assuming command a historic moment for 3rd Group and the rest of the Special Forces Regiment. But during the change of command, leaders made clear that she was chosen for her expertise and leadership, not because she is a woman.
“She is without a doubt the right choice to assume command of this great unit at this time,” said Col. Bradley D. Moses, the 3rd Special Forces Group commander who passed the battalion colors to Brogden, symbolically starting her time in command.
Moses said Brogden has an unwavering dedication to soldiers, and a long history of supporting and leading special operations soldiers and maintaining the force.
“You’re a great officer, Megan. Smart, humble and full of energy. It’s an honor to serve with you again,” he said. “Lead from the front. Focus on the mission and take care of your soldiers and their families. I look forward to working with you in the days ahead.”
Brogden said the Group Support Battalion has a noteworthy reputation. It’s the largest, most diverse of five battalions within the 3rd Special Forces Group, charged with supporting Special Forces teams deployed to remote and austere environments in Africa and the Middle East.
“They have an awesome reputation,” she said.
And for the next two years, she said, she’ll work to build on that reputation and innovate to better support soldiers and their missions.
In taking command, Brogden said she feels no added pressure due to her gender. She said her selection as battalion commander shows the continuing growth of women within the special operations community.
“I think the doors are already opening, and if females want to be in the Special Forces community, the opportunities are there,” Brogden said.
She noted that women are already assigned within the Group Support Battalion, have served within U.S. Army Special Operations Command as civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers for nearly two decades and have served in cultural support teams with Army Rangers and as part of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Capt. Christopher Webb, a spokesman for the 3rd Special Forces Group, said the percentage of women serving in special operations is comparable to the active Army. The first female service members served alongside the predecessors of today’s special operations soldiers as early as World War II, he said.
But there’s little doubt that the role of women in special operations is changing. In addition to filling more leadership roles, USASOC continues to integrate women into previously closed military jobs, officials said, stressing that standards have and will remain high for any position.
Brogden took command from Lt. Col. Chris Paone, who had led the Group Support Battalion, also known as the Nomads, for two years.
Moses honored the work the battalion has done under Paone’s command, praising his role in a massive shift that saw the 3rd Group’s mission focus move from Afghanistan to Africa.
Along the way, Paone and the battalion had to adjust from the resource-rich Central Command area of operations to a more austere environment, often hours away from supply lines.
The Group Support Battalion, on any given day, has soldiers deployed to about 12 countries in North and West Africa. It also has soldiers in Afghanistan, working alongside local partners.
The battalion, formed more than a decade ago, has more than 400 soldiers assigned to more than 35 military occupational specialties, and nine officer branches. The soldiers provide communications and electronics support, military intelligence, food service, chemical reconnaissance, supply and services, transportation, maintenance, water purification, medical support, engineering, water purification, parachute rigging, unmanned aerial reconnaissance, contracting support and more.
Paone praised the soldiers and battalion leaders. The special operations community needs leaders to be team-builders, Paone said. And there’s no doubt Brogden is uniquely qualified.
“The battalion can only benefit from your strong sustainment experience,” he said. “Best of luck.”
Brogden is a native of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, and was commissioned as a quartermaster officer from Oregon State University. She has served in Korea, within the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, and at Fort Lewis in Washington.
With the 82nd Airborne, she was executive officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. She also served in other Fort Bragg units including as J4 plans chief at Joint Special Operations Command and, most recently, as secretary of the general staff for the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
According to her Army bio, Brogden served two tours with a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan and Kuwait.
She said her past experiences have molded her into the leader she is today and will help guide her in the future.
In words of advice to younger female officers, Brogden said they will need to challenge themselves as officers and take the tough jobs that will develop them into leaders.
For Brogden, those jobs have often put her in contact with leaders who have become mentors. On Friday, many of those mentors were by her side. They included retired generals, such as Lt. Gen. Kathy Gainey, Brig. Gen. Ed Donnelly and Maj. Gen. Jim Hodge; and other leaders, including Col. Kathy Graef, Col. Geoff Kent and her most recent former commander, Brig. Gen. Chris Sharpsten.
Brogden’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and numerous other honors. She is also authorized to wear the Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge, Rigger Badge, German Parachutist Wings and a Joint Meritorious Unit Achievement Medal.
Editor’s note: The following is an encore presentation of an Airman magazine story documenting an Operation Pacific Angel mission to build international partnerships. In 2012, an Air Force veterinarian, Lt. Col. Douglas D. Riley, partnered with Mongolian veterinarians to improve the health of the livestock which provides the country with much of its food.
Despite widespread poverty and malnutrition, Lt. Col. Douglas D. Riley believes Mongolia, with its vast amount of livestock, could be Asia’s “protein basket.” Of course to reach its potential and feed the continent’s many hungry people, changes have to be made.
That’s why the Air Force veterinarian has been visiting the country. To date, he’s made four trips to Mongolia, and on his most recent visit, Riley worked with Mongolia’s armed and border forces to show veterinarians how to produce healthier herds.
“What’s really ironic is that Mongolia, being part of Asia, sits in the poorest section of the world with the most malnutrition in the world,” said Riley, who’s assigned to the 13th Air Force Cooperative Health Engagement Division. “Yet Mongolia has the ability, with its livestock alone, to feed the vast majority of Asia through the protein in the animals if the animals and the ground were managed properly.”
The Department of Defense and Air Force interest in humanitarian operations in countries like Mongolia is to foster a more stable country, one more difficult to be infiltrated by terrorists. On the ground in Mongolia, Riley hoped his work assisted this effort.
13th AF/SGK International Health Specialist Lt. Col. Douglas Riley and a veterinarian with the Mongolian Border Forces try to coral a sheep for a hands-on class room exam in northeastern Mongolia near the Russian border.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)
“If we can find a way to build partnerships, maybe, just maybe, at the end of the day, we won’t have to worry about country or state-on-state war,” he said.
“Because we are so small a world now, through globalization and the ability to move from point to point, if we don’t find a way to tie ourselves together with an understanding, we are missing an opportunity that is far greater than any weapon we could create. We are missing an opportunity to tie societies together to better each other.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
“My administration is taking steps to ensure that the men and women who bravely fought for us when they were called will be given the care and attention they need during some of their darkest hours,” said President Donald J. Trump.
The roadmap is the result of an Executive Order that President Trump signed on March 5, 2019. It calls for several steps to advance this critical national goal, many of which are already underway:
National Suicide Prevention Activation Campaign
This summer, the PREVENTS Office will launch a nationwide public health campaign aimed at educating Americans that suicide is preventable. It creates awareness of mental health and suicide prevention best practices with a call to action for ALL Americans to take the PREVENTS Pledge to Prevent Suicide.
Improving Suicide Prevention Research
Too often, we focus on a one-size-fits-all approach to suicide prevention that fails to take into account an individual’s specific risk factors. As a key element of the roadmap, PREVENTS will launch the National Research Strategy to accelerate the development and implementation of effective solutions to help prevent suicide among Veterans and all Americans.
The PREVENTS Office has built relationships with dozens of organizations across the country. These include Veteran and military service organizations, faith-based groups, universities, non-profits, corporations, small businesses. It also includes state and local governments to share best practices for promoting mental health, to ensure awareness of and access to federal, state, local and tribal resources.
“The release of the PREVENTS Roadmap is a critical step in advancing the national priority of preventing suicide in this nation, but it is only a first step” said PREVENTS Executive Director Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen. “With our Veterans leading the way, we will engage all Americans as we fully implement the PREVENTS Roadmap. Together we will prevent suicide.”
Memorial Day is a time to remember the lives lost to preserve American freedom. It’s a solemn holiday most often spent by sharing a day off with loved ones, usually around a grill with a cold one in your hand. But as you enjoy a burger and a beer and share laughs with friends and family, take a minute to remember everyone who can’t be with their loved ones.
It’s really astonishing just how many people celebrate Memorial Day in America by having a cookout, watching a parade, and enjoying a frosty beverage. In fact, a staggering sixty percent of American households will spend one day during the Memorial-Day weekend at a barbecue — second only to Independence Day. Memorial Day is the second biggest period for beer sales in America and $1.5 billion will be spent on meat and seafood.
Even more astonishing is the number of volunteers that go out to cemeteries to plant the Stars and Stripes on the graves of fallen troops and veterans. While 1.5 million people watch more than a thousand active duty service members in the National Memorial Day Parade and 900,000 people gather for the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day motorcycle rally in our nation’s capital, over 260,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery will be adorned with flags by volunteers.
More than 45 million men and women have served the United States in a time of war (you know, doing that thing we all got our National Defense Service Medal for) and more than 1.35 million American men and women have died fighting in armed conflicts around the globe. So, with all these numbers in your head, remember that the most important of all is “three.” At 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, Americans everywhere will put down the burger, turn off the TV, and take a moment in silence.
The National Moment of Remembrance is where we forget our personal and political differences for and come together as a nation to remember those who lost their lives fighting for our rights, freedoms, and privileges as Americans — so we can enjoy that burger, watch that TV, and ride our motorcycles.
So, take a moment. 3pm, Memorial Day. Be there.
Here are a few more interesting numbers surrounding Memorial Day.
After years of being featured at trade shows and trotted out for high-ranking Marine Corps officials, the Marines’ barrel-chested Legged Squad Support System — known affectionately as the robotic mule — has been put out to pasture.
The machine, which resembles a headless pack mule made of metal, came about through a $32 million, two-and-a-half year contract between the Pentagon’s research arm, known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Google Inc.’s Boston Dynamics, of Waltham, Massachusetts.
DARPA teamed up with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to create an autonomous four-legged creature that could lighten troops’ load by carrying 400 or more pounds of weight, according to reports about the 2010 contract.
A second contract worth almost $10 million was awarded in 2013 for an additional phase of the LS3 program that would demonstrate how the legged robot would work by following troops on foot through rugged terrain, carrying their gear, and interpreting verbal and visual commands. The contract also provided for the construction of an enhanced version of LS3 that featured a quieter power supply and better survivability against small arms fire.
In 2012, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos attended a demonstration of the prototype’s capabilities at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. At the time, Amos expressed pride in the developing technology and said it was getting close to something the Marines might use, according to reports.
The robo-mule had its big moment in summer 2014 at Rim of the Pacific, the largest military exercise in the Pacific region. It was featured in high-profile field tests with Marines who put it through its paces on patrols and demonstrated its ability to respond to commands and cross rugged ground.
But the experiment also exhibited the shortcomings of the prototype, Kyle Olson, a spokesman for the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.
“As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself,” Olson said. “They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.”
In addition to the lawnmower-like noise of the mule’s gas-powered engine, there were other challenges without clear solutions, including how to repair the hulking robot if it breaks and how to integrate it into a traditional Marine patrol.
With the final funds remaining in the second Boston Dynamics contract, the DARPA-Warfighting Lab team built “Spot,” a robotic quadruped the size of a large dog that functioned on quieter electric power. Last September, Marines put the smaller robot to the test in the woods of Quantico, Virginia.
But while Spot eliminated the noise problem, its slighter frame could only carry loads of 40 pounds or so and didn’t display the advanced autonomous technology that LS3 had.
“I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset,” said Capt. James Pineiro, the Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab. “The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn’t have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it’s completely controller-driven.”
For now, both Spot and LS3 are in storage, with no future experiments or upgrades planned. Pineiro said it would take a new contract and some new interest from Marine Corps top brass to resurrect the program.
While it may seem as though years of work with the robot quadrupeds has wrapped up without a tangible result, Warfighting Lab officials said the Marine Corps did gain important insights about autonomous technology and its potential.
“We tend to play with things that are fanciful and strange,” Olson said. “Learning from it was a big part, and we’re still learning.”
Meanwhile, the lab has ongoing experiments featuring drones and other unmanned vehicles and are exploring uses for them including medical resupply and reconnaissance.