The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis' confirmation hearing - We Are The Mighty
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The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing Thursday on whether to confirm Gen. James Mattis as the next defense secretary, and plenty of interesting bits came out of the roughly three-hour session.


The retired four-star general gave frank and concise answers on everything from cybersecurity policy to what he expects will be the biggest threats to the United States.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

Shortly afterward, he was approved for a waiver for the requirement of having a seven-year gap between being active-duty in the military and serving in the civilian role at the Pentagon.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander, U.S. Central Command visits with Marines stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait on Feb. 26, 2011. | DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeleyMattis thinks the US needs to be more aggressive going after ISIS

When asked whether the US can confront the terror group in its capital of Raqqa, Mattis said he believed the US could, but he added that the anti-ISIS strategy needed to be reviewed and “energized on a more aggressive timeline.”

He told members that “we have to deliver a very hard blow against ISIS in the Middle East so there is no sense of invulnerability or invincibility there.” For the US, according to Mattis, that means attacking ISIS’ main areas of strength so they cannot pop up elsewhere.

He mentioned Russia as the biggest threat

Despite President-elect Trump’s restraint on calling out Russian aggression and cyberwarfare, Mattis didn’t pull punches in his assessment of Moscow.

“Since Yalta, we have a long list of times that we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia,” Mattis said. “We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.” He praised NATO and its effectiveness, and added that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “trying to break” that alliance.

In some areas Russia and the US can work together, but in many others, Mattis said, Putin remained a strategic competitor or an outright adversary.

“I have very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin,” he said.

Mattis says he wouldn’t roll back the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or the change on women in combat roles

In the past, Mattis has not really been a fan of women being integrated into combat roles, such as infantry. He was asked about this repeatedly — at times having his speeches quoted to him — and asked whether he would reverse the 2013 policy change.

“I’ve never come into any job with an agenda, a pre-formed agenda of changing anything,” he said. “I assume the people before me deserve respect for the decisions they’ve made.”

That answer did not satisfy Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), however, and she continued to press him. In the end, Mattis told her: “I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military. In 2003, I had hundreds of Marines who happened to be women serving in my 23,000 person division … I put them right on the front lines with everyone else.”

He was also asked about protections for LGBTQ service members, and he had a very blunt answer to that. “Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.”

He says the Iran deal isn’t perfect, but it should remain intact

Mattis called the Iran deal an “imperfect” one, but still supported the US keeping its end of the bargain. The answer was a break from the President-elect, who has promised to “rip up” the deal with Tehran.

“I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty,” Mattis said. “But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”

Later, he said, “It’s not a deal I would have signed.”

Mattis says cyberwar is a big problem that still has no clear doctrine in place

Mattis was asked interesting questions on cyberwarfare, which were especially pertinent in the wake of Russian hacks of Democratic party officials and their affect on the presidential election. Unfortunately, he said he did not believe the US has anything resembling a sophisticated cyber doctrine.

In other words, there is no strategy in place for the US to respond to cyber attacks, like there is for other physical examples, such as a nuclear strike or an attack on a NATO ally.

Mattis said there needs to be a comprehensive plan developed to address this shortfall, because “cyber cuts across everything we do today.”

He added: “Because of the cyber domain, it’s not something the military can do in isolation.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump says he’s sending troops to guard the US-Mexico border

President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on April 3, 2018, that he would dispatch US troops to the US-Mexico border.

“Until we can have a wall and proper security we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” he said, according to Reuters correspondent Phil Stewart. “That’s a big step.”


Trump said he had spoken with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about “guarding our border with the military … until we have a wall,” according to David Nakamura of The Washington Post. “We really haven’t done that before, or certainly so much before.”

Trump’s comments come after several days of comments about an annual “caravan” of mostly Central American migrants started a trip from the southwest corner of Mexico aiming to reach the US border, where many would seek asylum.

Trump inveighed against the group, against what he perceived as Mexico’s failure to stop them, and against what he sees as weak US immigration policy that has led to such migration. Mexican immigration officials moved to break up the group on April 2, 2018, but Trump again commented on the caravan’s movement on April 3, 2018.

“If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic … it’s like we have no border,” Trump said on April 3, 2018. “They did it because you really have to do it,” he added, referring to Mexico’s decision to halt the movement.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
A National Guard Soldier from the 29th Brigade Combat Team, assisting the U.S. Border Patrol, stands watch on a ridge above Nogales, Ariz., at the Mexico border.
(Photo by Sgt. Jim Greenhill)

“The caravan doesn’t irritate me,” Trump said. “The caravan makes me very sad that this could happen to the United States.”

“President Obama made changes that basically created no border,” he said.

Trump has reference the military in discussions of border security and immigration enforcement before.

A few weeks after taking office, Trump described the removal of authorized immigration by his administration as “a military operation,” a comment that contrasted with other officials in his administration, who stressed that deportations would not be pursued en masse or in the style of a military operation. Sean Spicer, then the White House press secretary, later clarified that Trump was using the term “as an adjective.”

In late March 2018, Trump floated the idea of redirecting funds from the defense budget toward funding the wall he has promised to build on the frontier. The project is currently under the purview of the Homeland Security Department.

The Pentagon said Trump had discussed the matter with Mattis, however Pentagon and Congressional officials both said it would take an act of Congress to shift those funds. During a trip to Mexico in September 2017, Mattis highlighted the US and Mexico’s close cooperation and mutual concerns, and, when asked about the border wall, said the US military had no role in enforcing the border.

A Pentagon official was not immediately available to comment on Trump’s latest remarks.

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The tension between North Korea and the US is not good

Repeated warnings that U.S. President Donald Trump has run out of “strategic patience” and is considering possible military options to end the North Korean nuclear threat has raised concerns that any such action would trigger a deadly response that could easily expand into a regional nuclear war.


Rejecting former President Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” policy that focused on containment and sanctions, the White House has designated North Korea’s accelerated efforts to develop a nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could reach the U.S. mainland an urgent existential security threat that cannot be allowed to continue.

The United States has increased its military posture in the region to back up the threat of force. A U.S. submarine designed to carry 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles entered a South Korean port on April 25. The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group is also heading to the region and conducting naval exercises with Japan and South Korea. And the United States this week began to move part of the THAAD missile defense system to its deployment site 250 kilometers south of Seoul.

Rain of fire

However, analysts say an actual U.S. strike is a risky proposition. A surgical U.S. missile strike to take out one or multiple nuclear or missile sites would likely not be sufficient to destroy or degrade North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals, which are reportedly in numerous fortified underground sites across the country.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. (KCNA/Handout)

But a U.S. preventive strike would almost certainly trigger an immediate North Korean retaliation against South Korea.

“It might involve artillery attacks on Seoul or elsewhere along the demilitarized zone (DMZ.) It might involve covert operations, but they have several levels of escalation to go before they get to nuclear or even chemical weapons,” said John Schilling, a missile technology specialist with 38 North, a North Korea monitoring website run by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington.

Also read: Here is what a war with North Korea could look like

North Korea has more than 21,000 artillery weapons, positioned mostly along the inter-Korean border, that could put in jeopardy the lives of 25 million people that live in and around Seoul, the South Korean capital located 56 kilometers south of the border.

An assessment of North Korean military capabilities by Strafor, an intelligence analysis organization in Texas, notes the North’s artillery arsenal includes 300mm multiple rocket launcher systems that can “rain fire across” Seoul and beyond. “A single volley,” a Strafor report said, “could deliver more than 350 metric tons of explosives across the South Korean capital, roughly the same amount of ordnance dropped by 11 B-52 bombers.”

Nuclear missiles

North Korea has more than one thousand ballistic missiles that could strike across South Korea, Japan and possibly as far away as U.S. military bases in Guam.

While the North has not yet demonstrated it can successfully mount a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a missile, U.S. and South Korean officials have said they believe Pyongyang has a nuclear Nodong missile that can fire a one ton warhead a distance of up to two thousand kilometers, which would put all of South Korea, most of Japan and parts of Russia and China in range.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
One of the most threatening things in the North’s arsenal is its powerful conventional artillery, with hundreds of these 170mm Koksan guns threatening South Korea. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)

“I think the majority of people now believe they can put a warhead on top of a missile that can hit targets in Northeast Asia. But when you get to the much longer range they need, such as hitting the United States, I think, we don’t know for sure. But most people would believe that it is a work in progress,” said Joel Wit, the co-founder of 38 North and a senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS.

In addition to the 10 to 20 nuclear warheads North Korea is believed to have, its missiles could also be armed with deadly chemical weapons from suspected stockpiles of sarin nerve gas.

A Nodong is a single stage liquid fuel rocket based on scud missiles developed by the former Soviet Union. Some of North Korea’s most recent tests were solid fuel Musudan missiles that have an estimated maximum range of three thousand kilometers, which could potentially reach targets in Japan and as far away as U.S. military bases in Guam.

Also read: How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

If left unchecked, analysts say, North Korea is on track to develop an ICBM by 2020 that could reach the U.S. mainland. Pyongyang is also developing a submarine launch ballistic missile (SLBM) capability.

The more than 28,000 U.S. forces in Korea and 50,000 troops in Japan would also be possible targets for any North Korea retaliatory strikes.

Analysts say any North Korean counter strike would draw a quick response from the United States, South Korea, and Japan that could further escalate the conflict, draw in China, and lead to a second Korean war.

Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

Articles

US Army says 500 soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan this summer

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
US Army photo


The U.S. Army on Tuesday announced 500 soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan this summer as part of a scheduled troop rotation.

The service in a release said the soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters and Sustainment Brigade, based at Fort Hood, Texas, will replace the headquarters of the 10th Mountain Division at Bagram Airfield in the northeastern part of the country.

The unit will support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel at the location as the national support element, according to the statement.

“The 1st Cavalry Division has once again been called by our nation’s Army,” Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson, III, commander, 1st Cavalry Division, said in the release. “First Team troopers are trained, well-led, and ready to accomplish assigned missions in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.”

The Army had previously announced that about 1,000 others from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, also based at Fort Hood, are also preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

The soldiers were also expected to switch out with a number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and aren’t likely to change the overall American military presence in the country of about 9,800 service members.

At the time of the previous announcement, Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky, a spokeswoman for the 1st Cavalry Division, said the regiment will probably deploy in May or June. Soldiers were returning from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and planned to take a week or two of family leave before heading overseas, she said.

Belinsky said at least some of the soldiers may join colleagues from the 10th Mountain Division in the southern part of the country, but added that planners were still “looking at the mission closely, so it may not be exactly there.”

The Defense Department announced in February that about 500 soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 87th Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, New York, would be sent to Helmand Province to shore up an Afghan Army Corps battered by the Taliban.

In recent weeks, American F-16 fighter jets have “significantly increased pressure and the number of strikes” in eastern Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan, where fighters pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, were believed to number 1,000-3,000, according to Army Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, chief spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama last year adjusted plans for U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.

Rather than reduce the military footprint in the country to a nominal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, Obama said the U.S. will maintain 5,500 troops and a small number of bases, including at Bagram and Jalalabad in the east and Kandahar in the south into 2017 to continue the mission of training and providing support to Afghan security forces, according to the Pentagon.

Articles

This study of Iraq fighters reveals what makes people prepared to die for a cause

When ISIS launched its attack on Mosul in 2014, they were outnumbered by opposition forces by almost 40 to one – yet they took the city. Now a group of scientists working on the frontline in Iraq have analysed what motivates such fighters in research they say could help combat extremists.


While predicting the will to fight has been described by the former US director of national intelligence James Clapper as “imponderable,” researchers say they have begun to unpick what leads members of groups, including ISIS, to be prepared to die, let their family suffer, or even commit torture, finding that the motivation lies in a very different area to traditional ideas of comradeship.

“We found that there were three factors behind whether people were willing to make these costly sacrifices,” said Scott Atran, co-author of the research from the University of Oxford and the research institution Artis International.

Those factors, he said, are the strength of commitment to a group and to sacred values, the willingness to choose those values over family or other kin, and the perceived strength of fighters’ convictions – so-called “spiritual strength” – over that of their foes.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Kurdish PKK Guerilla. Photo from Flickr user Kurdishstruggle

The findings support the idea, put forward by previous research, that the will to fight lies not in rational action but in the idea of the “devoted actor” – individuals who consider themselves strongly connected to a group, fighting for values considered to be non-negotiable, or “sacred.”

Writing in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, Atran and an international team of colleagues describe how they came to their insights by travelling to the frontline in Iraq.

As well as speaking to captured ISIS fighters, the team carried out in-depth interviews with Arab Sunni combatants, as well as Kurdish fighters from the PKK, Peshmerga, and members of the Iraqi army. The frontline approach, the authors note, was crucial to capturing the sacrifices individuals actually make for their values, rather than merely what they claim they might do.

The results revealed that all followed the model of “devoted actors”, but that the level of commitment to making costly sacrifices, such as dying, undertaking suicide attacks, or committing torture varied between groups. With the sample size of fighters small, the team also quizzed more than 6,000 Spanish civilians through online surveys.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
February 15, 2015 – ISIS militant stands with a knife. Photo credit: News Pictures/Polaris

The results revealed that the majority of civilians placed their family above a value they considered sacred. However, in a finding that echoed evidence from the frontline, the team discovered that those who placed their sacred value above their group said they were more willing to make dramatic, costly sacrifices such as dying, going to prison or letting their children suffer.

Surveys of the Spanish population also revealed that they made links between spiritual – but not physical – strength and the willingness to make sacrifices.

But the team stress that decisions made by devoted actors on the frontline were not made without emotional turmoil.

“One particular Peshmerga fighter had to make a decision when the Islamic State guys decided to enter his village – he wasn’t in a position to take his family with him and escape and get in front of the ISIS fighters, and so what he did was he left his family behind,” said Richard Davis, co-author of the research from the University of Oxford and Artis International.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Photo from Flickr user Kurdishstruggle

While being interviewed, the fighter received a phone call from his wife behind ISIS lines, knowing the penalty if caught would be death. “You could see the man getting emotional, and as he gets off the phone, he begins to lament the decision that he had to go through to leave his family behind, but he indicated that fighting for Kurdistan was more important, and that he hoped that God would save his family,” said Davis. “When you hear things like that and you see a broken man – then you recognise how difficult this was for people.”

The team note that understanding the willingness to fight and die among devoted actors could prove valuable in fostering forces against ISIS, including in exploring ways to elicit deeper commitment to, and willingness to sacrifice for, values such as democracy and liberty.

“Instead of just taking volunteers into an army, we might be able to screen who we put into the army based upon the types of values they commit to, and this would create an entirely different fighting force than the one that melted in Mosul in 2014, ” said Davis, adding that the study could also inform efforts attempting to prevent fighters from joining ISIS.

Stephen Reicher, professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews welcomed the research, adding that it contributed to the understanding of terrorists as “engaged followers”. “The fundamental finding is that those prepared to kill – and die – for a cause are to be understood not in terms of a distinctive personality but in terms of their immersion in a collective cause and their commitment to the ideology of that cause,” he said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Army is tripling the power on its combat laser cannon

The US Army is turning up the power on its plans for a high-energy laser to shoot down everything from rockets and mortars to even “more stressing threats,” the service recently revealed.

The Army plans to field a 50-kilowatt laser on Stryker armored combat vehicles within the next few years to defend troops against enemy unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery, and mortars. The Army has previously practiced shooting down drones with 5-kilowatt lasers.

The next step for the Army was to develop and deploy more powerful 100-kilowatt combat lasers on heavy trucks, but the Army has since changed its plans, deciding to instead pursue a 250-300 kilowatt laser, Breaking Defense reports.


Rather than develop the 100-kilowatt High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD), the Army will instead work on developing the more powerful directed energy weapon to support the Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) aimed at countering cruise missiles.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

United States Tomahawk cruise missile.

(U.S. Navy)

The Army declined to clarify whether or not “more stressing threats” included cruise missiles, a growing threat facing American warfighters, but experts told Breaking Defense that 300 kilowatts was the threshold for shooting down cruise missiles.

The Strykers armed with 50-kilowatt lasers are expected to be fielded in 2022, and the more powerful HEL-IFPC is likely to be in the hands of US soldiers by 2024.

Directed-energy weapons are cost-effective alternatives to traditional air-and-missile defense capabilities.

“The advantage of the laser is that we have the ability to have an unlimited magazine when it comes to unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery, mortars,” Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said in July 2019.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

A Stryker Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser.

(U.S. Army photo)

“Where before we were shooting 0,000 missiles at ,000 [Unmanned Aerial Systems]. This puts us in a position where we’re not spending that kind of money to do that. We’re taking those targets down in a much more rapid fashion and a much cheaper fashion.”

And, the Army isn’t the only service trying to develop combat lasers.

The Navy is planning to equip its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with the 60-kilowatt High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system designed to target small attack boats and drones, and the Air Force is working on the Self-Protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program to develop a weapon to counter surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now this is a proper funeral procession for a vet

After being lost for 66 years on a battlefield a world away, Sgt. Philip James Iyotte returned home to South Dakota last week. In so doing, the Army veteran killed so long ago in the Korean Conflict brought with him the tears of a nation melded with the happiness of his homecoming.


As a young man, Iyotte was given the Lakota name Akicita Isnala Najin, meaning “Soldier Who Stands Alone.” But in two days of observances on Oct. 24 and 25, Iyotte was feted as a proud warrior who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that his countrymen could live in peace. And he will never again stand alone.

Just 20 years old when he enlisted in the Army in 1950, Iyotte was assigned to the 21st Infantry Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division and soon was deployed to the Korean theater. Seriously injured in battle by fragments from an enemy missile on Sept. 2, 1950, Iyotte was hospitalized for treatment but returned to his regiment in just 19 days.

Then, on Feb. 9, 1951, while in the heat of battle yet again near Seoul, Iyotte and several of his fellow soldiers were captured by Chinese forces and marched to a prisoner of war camp. Shot in the stomach by his captors and suffering from gangrene, Iyotte could not join two of his fellow Native American POWs in their flight for freedom. Instead, the young warrior sang them a Lakota honor song before their successful escape.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
American M26 Pershing tanks in downtown Seoul, South Korea, in the Second Battle of Seoul during the Korean War. In the foreground, United Nations troops round up North Korean prisoners-of-war. Photo from the Naval Historical Center.

Then, the Lakota warrior disappeared for more than six decades, leaving behind anguished parents and 13 siblings who knew not what had become of their fearless son and eldest brother.

Waiting game

In the years since the last word of the Lakota warrior filtered down to rural South Dakota, the Iyotte family never gave up hope for the warrior who mysteriously disappeared at the hands of his Chinese captors. They maintained contact with the Army and attended meetings conducted by the Army’s Past Conflict Repatriations Branch, also known as the Army Casualty Office. And they provided DNA samples and contacted their state’s congressional delegation asking for assistance in finding their lost sergeant.

Read Also: Remains of fighter pilot hero return home after 10 years

Eva Iyotte, 63, the youngest child of the large family, wasn’t even born when her oldest brother disappeared into the Chinese POW camp. But as she grew up, revering a soldier she had never met, Eva promised her father on his deathbed that she would work to bring her brother home.

In August, the Army informed the family that Sgt. Iyotte’s remains had been identified with the assistance of Chinese officials. In short order, the serviceman’s remains were transported to Hawaii before being transferred to his South Dakota homeland.

Grand procession

On Oct. 24, Eva and her 40-year-old daughter, Dera, made the trek from their White River residence to a funeral home in Rapid City to retrieve the serviceman’s remains and begin two days of observances in honor of Sgt. Iyotte and his service to a grateful nation.

But what they encountered left them in wonderment. And what Sgt. Iyotte’s return created over the ensuing two days united Native nations, veterans of all colors and stripes, and a handful of remote reservation communities that dot western South Dakota.

“When we arrived at Kirk Funeral Home, there were probably 75 people waiting, including the Black Hills Chapter of the American Legion Motorcycle Riders, two honor guards, including Chauncey Eagle Horn and the Rosebud Legion Post honor guard, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe veteran’s group,” Dera said. “It was so amazing.”

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Photo courtesy of the American Legion Riders.

Promptly at 10 a.m., the procession left Rapid City with an escort from the South Dakota Highway Patrol and stopped in Interior to top off the bikes, before being met at the reservation border by an escort from the Oglala Sioux Tribal Police. Along the way, the procession grew to two miles in length. At Wanblee and a stop at the Eagle Nest College Center, virtually the entire town and tribal elders greeted the procession, before Richard Moves Camp offered prayers and the Eagle Nest singers sang a Korean honor song.

“It was a riveting moment, and we were so overwhelmed with love,” Dera recalled last week. “I could not believe how much love our people poured out to Philip. It was the most beautiful moment of my life, the whole day.”

“This was a man they never met, but a warrior, a hero,” she added. “They came out en masse to greet him. I loved the unity and happiness he brought to the whole state of South Dakota.”

As the procession departed Wanblee, Dera and Eva began noticing rural residents standing along the highway at the end of their driveways, many waving, others with their hand over their heart. Veterans stood alone on that endless highway, several in their uniforms, saluting the fallen soldier.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
The procession for Sgt. Iyotte rides through Wanblee, South Dakota. Screengrab from a Rosebud Sioux Tribe YouTube video.

“Somewhere along the way, we passed a young man, maybe 14 years old, who was standing on the side of the road with his hand on his heart, just crying,” Dera said. “It was clear that Philip had brought the tears of a nation and happiness to his home. It’s been a long time since our nation cried tears of happiness, and that’s what he brought.”

Leaving Wanblee and proceeding toward the Rosebud Indian Reservation, still more local residents stood along the highway paying tribute to the soldier. At the reservation line, Rosebud Tribal Police Capt. Hawkeye Waln greeted the procession and escorted it to the Corn Creek community, with families standing at every turnout, many with American flags. Rosebud Councilman Russell Eagle Bear joined the motorcade, which headed south to the Black Pipe community, where they discovered every student and teacher with the Head Start program standing outside, all smiling and waving.

“I even saw a couple of homeless veterans carrying flags,” Eva said, her voice breaking as her eyes teared. “That really touched me. They showed such heart and such compassion in bringing this warrior home.”

“They say there are bad relations in South Dakota, but everyone knows Philip was just a veteran like them. Perhaps it’s time for healing and reconciliation.”

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Flag of the Rosebud Indian Reservation from Wikimedia Commons user Elevatorrailfan.

At Parmelee, known to the Lakota as Wososo, once the capital of the reservation, the entire town turned out to welcome their lost warrior.

“They had it decked out so beautifully, with random soldiers, brothers, and sisters of the struggle standing at attention,” Dera remembered. “I just cried. To see them come to attention after so many years, their pride so evident, was all you could ask out of your people.”

And the procession continued to grow. Dera’s brother, tribal policeman Bryan Waukazoo, estimated the line of the procession at seven miles.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
The procession for Sgt. Iyotte was estimated by some as being more than 15 miles long. Screengrab from a Rosebud Sioux Tribe YouTube video.

Moving forward on BIA Highway 1 past the Ironwood community, with observers manning every approach, the convoy drove through the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Forest, sacred as the final resting place of many of the tribe’s legendary warriors.

“I wanted Philip to go by our leaders because he was a great warrior, so that they could see him as well and sense the forest because that is our greatest resource as a nation – our land and water,” Dera noted.

But the surviving Iyottes were unprepared for their greeting at the town of Rosebud. As they crested the hill above the community, they were met by the students and teachers of St. Francis Indian School and stopped for two Korean honor songs, and enough time for them to show appropriate respect for Eva, who had spent a lifetime looking for her brother. In turn, each student gave the lone sibling survivor a handshake or a hug.

As the throng headed down the hill to Rosebud, a fire engine from nearby Valentine, Neb., had its ladder extended, supporting a giant American flag, while townspeople lined the streets.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
American Flag Hanging from Fire Truck Ladders. Photo from the City of Ludington.

“As we neared the fairgrounds at Rosebud, we were met by at least 2,000 people, a huge crowd, and they greeted my uncle like he was sitting in the back of a convertible,” Dera observed. “The unity was simply amazing.”

Still 30 miles from their destination, trailing nine miles of cars, the procession turned north onto US Highway 18 for White River. Ten miles from that town stood Navy veteran Leonard Wright, decked out in his dress whites, saluting his fellow serviceman in the middle of nowhere.

Horseback riders joined the solemn parade six miles from White River and Philip’s remains, contained in a simple pine casket, were transferred from a hearse to a horse-drawn wagon driven by John Farmer, whose parents, the late Eddie and Tressie Farmer, had long supported Eva’s quest to bring her brother home.

Ever so slowly, the procession now estimated at 12-15 miles long, then followed the wagon through White River to Sgt. Iyotte’s sister’s home, where a tipi stood on the lawn in the Swift Bear community. A medicine man offered a homecoming prayer and the Red Leaf Singers, led by Pat Bad Hand Sr., sang several Wakte Gli (coming home) songs, which told the story of Philip’s enlisting, of his injuries suffered in battle, of his rejoining the war, getting captured, and, ultimately, his untimely death.

Related: WWII veteran’s remains return home 74 years after ill-fated mission

“It was powerful and one of the most riveting experiences I’ve ever seen, a tribute to Philip’s sacrifice in serving his country and his people,” Dera said.

As the sun set that Oct. 24, Philip’s casket was loaded into a pickup and taken to the White River School gymnasium, which had been decorated by family members and local veterans. Prayers were said and a POW/MIA dinner took place, conducted by retired US Marine Corps veteran Brenda White Bull, the granddaughter of Sitting Bull, One Bull, and White Bull, all noted Sioux warriors.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
After 66 years, Sgt. Philip Iyotte is finally brought home from Korea to South Dakota. Screengrab from a Rosebud Sioux Tribe YouTube video.

During a veterans roll call, Korean vets Dennis Spotted Tail, Homer Whirlwind Soldier, and Eugene Iron Shell Sr., the latter of whom attended school with Philip, were recognized. As the roll call, conducted in darkness, concluded, the final name called was Sgt.Philip J. Iyotte, whose name was repeated three times. Then someone spoke for the fallen warrior and said, “Sgt. Iyotte has gone to the great beyond.”

As the long day and reverential evening ceremony came to its finale, taps was played, followed by the Lakota Flag Song. Then every woman in attendance gave Philip a trill, the highest form of respect a woman can give a warrior.

“Never have I heard that many trills in my life,” Dera said, the memory still sending a chill up her spine. “I think some were from woman of the past, from every corner, from every place, a powerful thing in our nation.”

Laid to rest

Last week, on the sunny morning of Oct. 25, at the urging of Gov. Dennis Daugaard, flags in South Dakota were lowered to half-staff in recognition of Sgt. Iyotte’s service and sacrifice. In Washington, DC, flags also were lowered and the serviceman’s name and honors were entered into the Congressional Record.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth.

Half a nation away, at the tiny White River School gymnasium, Larry Zimmerman, secretary of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, gave remarks, followed by short speeches from representatives of US Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds, all lauding the young serviceman lost so long ago.

Before embarking on Sgt. Iyotte’s final journey to his resting place, Vietnam Army veteran Trudell Guerue, whose own uncle, John, is still missing in action from an American conflict, presented Eva with a handmade 24th Infantry Division flag made by his wife. Episcopal Church Bishop John Tarrant provided a blessing.

Sgt. Iyotte took his last ride on earth in a horse-drawn wagon to the family plot in a Two Kettle cemetery, escorted by horseback riders and making a slow, plodding trek up a hill, flags at half-staff streaming in a gentle breeze.

More prayers were made at the cemetery, followed by a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps. As the final notes spread across the prairie, a Black Hawk helicopter flew in from the east, passing over the assembled crowd and leaving several hundred people in awe in its wake. A member of the honor guard reverentially presented Eva with the folded flag that had cloaked her brother’s casket.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
A member of the Honor Guard presents a folded American flag to Eva Iyotte, the lone surviving sibling of Sgt. Philip Iyotte. Photo courtesy of South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations.

Wrapped in a buffalo robe, handmade moccasins with porcupine quillwork at his feet, and enough wasna (pemmican with crushed berries and buffalo jerky) “to last him long enough on his final journey to the new camp where he will find his relatives,” Sgt.Philip James Iyotte was laid to rest, ending a 66-year odyssey that took him from the rolling plains of South Dakota to a Korean battlefield and back home again.

As the graveside ceremony concluded, the serviceman’s nephews and grandsons began covering his casket with sacred soil. As they did, two bald eagles soared on the updrafts overhead, as if acknowledging the return of a young man taken too soon and a warrior never to be forgotten.

“That’s how we knew Philip was home,” Dera said.

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Meet ‘Viper’ – the newest F-16 Fighter

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Photo: Lockheed Martin


Meet the F-16V ‘Viper’ – the newest, most advanced fighter in the F-16 family that has just made its maiden flight.

The latest version of the F-16 introduces numerous cutting-edge enhancements.

Made by Lockheed Martin, the fourth-generation aircraft is often referred to as the Fighting Falcon. The F-16 can travel speeds faster than Mach 2 – that’s more than 1,500 mph. The aircraft is just under 50 feet long and has a wingspan of about 31 feet.

The F-16V flew with Northrop Grumman’s advanced APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) and Northrop’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) for the first time last week.

Northrop’s SABR AESA fire control radar provides next-gen air-to-ground and air-to-air radar capability. The technology supports countering advanced threats. These AESA radars are also used by the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.

SABR works by scanning electronically, rather than mechanically. This helps reduce the need for moving parts. The receiver, exciter, and processor functions are all contained in one replaceable unit. According to Northrop calculations, their advances produce three to five times greater reliability than current fire control radar systems.

SABR’s electronically scanned beams mean faster area searches. This also means earlier detecting, tracking and identification of targets at longer ranges. All-weather targeting and situational awareness have all been enhanced.

“BIG SAR” is SABR’s Synthetic Aperture Radar capability for larger areas and high definition. This mode gives pilots remarkable detail of their target areas. The digital map displays can be tailored with slew and zoom.

The tech automatically scans SAR maps to exactly locate and classify targets.

Viper also features a new cockpit Center Pedestal Display, a more advanced mission computer and other mission systems enhancements. This tech is expected to give the aircraft a big leap in capability.

There are more than 4,550 F-16s supporting the U.S. military and its allies.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter@Allison_Barrie.

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Trump nominates VA undersecretary to take over top job

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he will nominate Dr. David Shulkin, the undersecretary for health at the Veterans Affairs Department, to take over the top job at the agency.


Trump made the surprise announcement during a press conference in New York, saying Shulkin is “fantastic” and will do a “truly great job,” The Associated Press reported.

Also read: What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

If Shulkin is confirmed, he would be the first non-veteran to head the VA. With its nearly $180 billion budget, the VA is the second-largest federal agency behind the Defense Department.

Many veterans groups had pushed for Trump to keep current VA Secretary Robert McDonald on the job, but the president-elect has signaled he wants someone else to reform the agency in part by giving vets more access to private care — an issue he frequently raised during his campaign.

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Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs

A selection for the post, expected last month, was delayed after the two frontrunners — Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and Luis Quinonez, an Army veteran of Vietnam and founder of IQ Management Services — dropped out of consideration.

Shulkin was confirmed for his current position at the VA in 2015. In that role, he oversees the Veterans Health Administration and a health care system that covers nearly nine million veterans across more than 1,700 sites.

A physician, Shulkin has previously served as president at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization, according to his VA biography. Shulkin also previously served as president and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and completed his internship at Yale University School of Medicine, and residency and fellowship in general medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center.

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The US’ fresh Iran sanctions aim for the Revolutionary Guards

The US has imposed new sanctions on Iran, the first since President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

The new measures target six individuals and three companies said to be funneling millions of dollars towards an elite unite of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.


The US Treasury Department, acting jointly with the UAE, also accused Iran’s central bank of helping the IRGC access hundreds of millions in US currency which it held in foreign banks to avoid crippling sanctions.

“The Iranian regime and its central bank have abused access to entities in the UAE to acquire US dollars to fund the IRGC’s malign activities, including to fund and arm its regional proxy groups, by concealing the purpose for which the US dollars were acquired,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

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Steven Mnuchin, United States Secretary of the Treasury

Iran’s central bank was not formally sanctioned in the action, but the Treasury has recently said it will reimpose a number of widespread sanctions aimed at crippling oil and banking sectors in the coming months.

The IRGC is a powerful arm of Iran’s armed forces, established after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The sanctions specifically take aim at the IRGC’s Quds Forces, which operate the groups overseas operations, including in Syria. They are said to have been behind recent rocket attacks launched against Israel in the Golan heights.

The move came just says after Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. The agreement — signed with the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Germany, and the European Union — promised Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.

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

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At military town hall President says Colin Kaepernick should appreciate troops’ sacrifice

Service members and their families at Fort Lee, Virginia, asked the Commander in Chief tough questions during a town hall meeting broadcast by CNN Sept 28.


President Barack Obama covered varied topics, including the Syrian civil war, sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, issues affecting veterans and protests during the playing of the national anthem.

When a soldier asked the president for his opinion about football players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, Obama said that honoring the flag and the anthem “is part of what binds us together as a nation,” but that he also respects the right to have a different opinion.

“We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with,” he said. “But that’s what freedom means in this country.”

He said American democracy can be frustrating at times, “but it’s the best system we’ve got. And, the only way that we make it work is to see each other, listen to each other, try to be respectful of each other, not just go into separate corners.”

The president added, “I do hope that anybody who is trying to express any political view of any sort understands that they do so under the blanket of protection of our men and women in uniform and that that appreciation of that sacrifice is never lost.”

Hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the town hall-style event included questions about sending 600 additional U.S. troops to Iraq to help in the coming offensive against the Islamic State. Obama said the decision to send troops into harm’s way is the most important one he makes.

“I’ve always been very mindful that when I send any of our outstanding men and women in uniform into a war theater, they’re taking a risk that they may not come back,” the commander in chief said. “And so, there has not been a change from the time I came into office to the time that I leave office in which that is not a somber decision.”

The president said the nature of the missions has changed during his tenure. In Afghanistan, U.S. troops have transitioned from a combat role to an advise-and-assist role, with about 9,000 U.S. service members there.

“In Iraq, our goal is to provide air support, and we’ve flown 100,000 sorties, 15,000 strikes, to decimate ISIL,” he said. “But our job is not to provide the ground forces that are rolling back territory. That’s the job of the Iraqis, where we provide training and assistance [and] logistical support.”

U.S. special operators are in Iraq and Syria to go after high-value targets and to gather intelligence, the president said. He noted that about 5,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, and about 300 are in Syria.

“But, it’s the nature of the role that has changed, rather than how I assess it,” the president said. “I am always mindful that any time our men and women in uniform are in a war theater, there is risk.”

U.S. personnel are engaging in a fight that is dangerous, the president said. “Each and every time we make a decision, I want to make sure that the Pentagon is describing how it is that those folks are going to add to our ability to dismantle ISIL in a smart and sustainable way,” he said.

The president told the service members that he constantly reviews options as he looks at the Syrian civil war. “There hasn’t been probably a week that’s gone by in which I haven’t re-examined some of the underlying premises around how we’re dealing with the situation in Syria, and explored whether there are additional options that we haven’t thought of,” he said.

Those include military options, the president said. “We have, by a mile, the greatest military on Earth, he said. “And we are going to always be in a position to defend the United States, defend our personnel, defend our people, our property and our allies.”

Obama said the question he always asks himself as commander in chief is whether inserting large numbers of U.S. troops will provide a better outcome.

“There have been critics of mine that have suggested that, well, if early enough you had provided sufficient support to a moderate opposition, they might have been able to overthrow the murderous Assad regime,” he said. “The problem with that is, as we’ve seen, that the Assad regime is supported by Russia. It’s supported by Iran.”

Because the Assad regime did not directly threaten the United States, Obama said, any deployment of troops would have violated international law.

“And unless we were willing to sustain a large presence there and escalate, if and when Russia or Iran got involved, then we were going to be in a situation where at some point the situation would collapse, except we would have a bunch of folks on the ground, and be very much overextended,” he said.

The key in Syria at this point, the president said, is to get the parties involved to talk together on diplomatic and political tracks.

“We will try to mitigate the pain and suffering that those folks are undergoing,” he said. “This is part of the reason why our approach to refugees, for example, has to be open-hearted, although also hard-headed, to protect our homeland.”

The Veterans Affairs Department received some criticism from the audience, and the president acknowledged the validity of the complaints. VA medical care must improve, he said, adding that there has been progress. The department had been underfunded for years, Obama said, noting the administration has increased its funding by 85 percent. But this is not a problem that will be solved by throwing money at it, he said. The department, he added, has to change procedures and its culture.

The president noted that VA makes 58 million medical appointments per year. Like a large ship that has turned and is on the right course now, he said, it will take time to reach its destination.

“We now have a situation where about 80 percent of individuals who interact with the VA are satisfied that they’re getting timely treatment,” Obama said. I want that to be 100 percent, and that requires more work.”

 

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A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

War can be hell…and war can be absolute boredom. There are few better ways to pass the time than by playing cards. Anyone who served in the military and made it past basic training probably ended up in a game of cards with their fellow troops.


The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Photo taken by an 82d Airborne paratrooper during WWII. (Portraits of War)

They’re easy to carry: small and lightweight, they fit into a rucksack, duffel bag, or Alice pack without having to sacrifice any piece of essential gear. Plus, they’re cheap. It just makes sense that the troops and playing cards would pair so well together.

The Bicycle Playing Card Company recounts the history of American troops and playing cards, though many other nations’ militaries also have a tradition of playing cards in their downtime. It just beats sitting around thinking about everything that could go wrong in a battle. As one Civil War soldier said, “Card playing seemed to be as popular a way of killing time as any.”

Wartime decks have been used to help soldiers in the field learn about their enemies and allies, to identify aircraft, and even teach a little about American history. Even in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, American forces used playing cards to identify the most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
These cards are probably well-known by now.

Also Read: This is how POWs got playing cards with secret escape maps for Christmas

Playing cards themselves can be traced back to 12th century China. Some scholars think they made their way to Europe through Italian traders. The cards (and maybe even the games) predate the United States. But Americans have their own love affair with cards, and the military is no different.

Early special decks were released depicting Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and (John Quincy) Adams as the kings of the deck. By the time of the Civil War, playing cards were in every American camp, Union or Confederate.

Since troops in the Civil War spent a lot of time in camp and had easy access to decks, alcohol, and firearms, a cheater could make the game go very badly for himself. The war actually shaped the way playing cards are printed, so players could hold a tighter hand.

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Another innovation of that era was the design on the backs of cards. Before then, most were made with plain backs, ones that were easy to mark and see through. The new back designs made short work of that problem.

In 1898, the Consolidated Playing Card Company created a cheap deck and poker chips for troops deploying to the Spanish-American War. For World War I, the U.S. Playing Card Company released special decks just for a few specialties of service in the Great War, namely Artillery, Navy, Air Corps, and Tank Corps. The German High Command in WWI considered the game so important to morale, they called the cards kartonnen wapens – cardboard weapons.

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German soldiers playing cards on the Western front in the summer of 1916. (Playing Card Museum)

Many playing card factories converted to war production during World War II, but that certainly didn’t mean no decks were printed. The aforementioned cards used to identify aircraft, known as “spotter cards,” were essential to the war effort.

During the Vietnam War, playing card companies sent deployed soldiers and Marines special decks comprised of just the ace of spades, believing the Viet Cong considered the symbol to be a deadly serious omen.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

As late as 2007, American forces were given decks meant to inform them about important cultural and historical relics in the countries to which they deployed.

Watch below as magician Justin Flom recounts the oft-told story of a Revolutionary War soldier and his deck of cards, which acts as his bible, calendar, and almanac. Be sure to watch til the end for a magician’s tribute to American troops overseas.

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Army tests laser that shoots down drones

During a recent Army exercise, a prototype laser shot down so many drones that its operator started losing count. “I took down, I want to say, twelve?” Staff Sgt. Eric Davis told reporters. “It was extremely effective.”


The Army has made air defense an urgent priority, especially against drones. Once icons of American technological supremacy, unmanned aircraft have proliferated to adversaries around the world. The Islamic State uses them for ad hoc bombing attacks; the Russian army to spot Ukrainian units for artillery barrages.

So last month’s Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment threw 14 different types of drones against a slate of counter-UAS technologies, from a .50 caliber machine gun loaded with special drone-killing rounds, to acoustic sensors that listened for incoming drones, to jammers mounted on rugged, air-droppable Polaris 4x4s.

But the laser was the star.

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The Army wants to arm the versatile Stryker combat vehicle with high-energy lasers to defeat a variety of threats — including drones. (Photo: US Army)

“We had a lot of fun with the Stryker vehicle this time,” said John Haithcock, the civilian director of the Fires Battle Lab at Fort Sill, which hosts the exercise. The Stryker is a moderately armored eight-wheel-drive vehicle, lighter than an M1 tank or M2 Bradley but much heavier and more robust than a Humvee or MRAP, and its boxy hull has proved adaptable to a host of variants.

Earlier MFIX exercises had tested a counter-drone Stryker, with radar and optical sensors to detect drones, plus jammers to scramble drones’ datalinks, causing them to lose contact with their operators and even crash. Two prototypes of this CMIC vehicle (Counter-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability) are now in Europe with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the unit on the cutting edge of testing new technology to counter the Russians.

But there’s still space and electrical power to spare on the CMIC Stryker, so for April’s MFIX the Army added the 5 kilowatt laser, derived from the Boeing-General Dynamics MEHEL 2-kw prototype. For November’s MFIX, they plan to double the power, 10 kilowatts, which will let it kill drones faster — since the beam delivers more energy per second — and further away. If November’s tests go equally well, Haithcock said, the 10 kw laser Stryker will graduate to an Army-led Joint Warfighting Assessment at Fort Bliss, Texas, where soldiers will test it in all-out mock battle.

Not that the MFIX exercise was easy: Soldiers operating the laser Stryker had to contend with real drones and simulated artillery barrages. Just managing the Stryker’s complex capabilities — laser, radar, jammers, sensors — was challenging. In fact, a big part of the experiment was assessing whether the soldiers’ suffered “task saturation,” a polite way of saying “overloaded.”

“The crew on the Stryker had never worked together….We didn’t know each other,” Staff Sgt. Davis said. “(But) all the systems were pretty easy to use, and after 15-20 minutes, I was able to program all the different types of equipment.”

Once the shooting started, he managed to multi-task, Davis said: “I was able to troubleshoot the radar while I was using the laser.” The artillerymen manning the laser Stryker were even able to continue acting as forward observers, spotting targets for artillery attack, at the same time they defended the force against incoming drones.

A Stryker-mounted 10 kw laser should be far more maneuverable and survivable on the front lines than the Army’s early experiment, a 10 kw weapon on an unarmored heavy truck. (The truck’s still in play as a platform for a 60 kw long-range laser to kill artillery rockets). But a Stryker is too much hardware for the Army’s light infantry brigades, which mostly move on foot with a smattering of Humvees and other offroad vehicles.

For those forces, this MFIX experimented with splitting the CMIC kit of sensors and jammers across two Polaris MRZR 4x4s. The Army also tested a heavy-duty jammer called the Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS), currently mounted on a cargo pallet in the back of a medium truck but potentially Polaris-transportable as well. No word whether they can make a laser that compact — at least, not yet.

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