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The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

The Pentagon has identified the two soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan earlier this week as members of the 82nd Airborne Division.


The Fort Bragg-based soldiers were part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, deployed in support of the Resolute Support Mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina. (DOD photo)

Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, and Sgt. Jonathan Michael Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana, belonged to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, officials said. Jackson Springs is in western Moore County, about an hour from the All American gate of Fort Bragg.

The soldiers were part of a convoy that was attacked south of Kandahar on Wednesday afternoon, according to officials. Four other soldiers were wounded in the attack, which involved a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

NATO officials in Afghanistan said the four wounded soldiers were receiving care at a coalition medical facility and that their injuries were not considered life-threatening.

“On behalf of the men and women of the Resolute Support Mission, I offer our deepest condolences to the families of our fallen comrades,” said Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. military officer in Afghanistan and a former commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division. “These soldiers gave their lives in service of a mission that is critically important to the United States, our allies and partners. We will honor their sacrifice with our dedication to protect our homeland and complete the mission for which they sacrificed.”

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana. (US Army photo)

The Department of Defense announced the names of the two soldiers killed in the attack late Thursday.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Harris and Hunter.

On Thursday, a separate attack killed another coalition soldier and injured six other personnel during a patrol near Kabul, officials said. The wounded were reported in stable condition at the U.S. military hospital at Bagram Airfield.

The patrol was struck by an IED during a partnered mission alongside Afghan soldiers.

There are about 15,500 coalition troops in Afghanistan in support of the 16-year-old war. About 8,400 of them are from the U.S. military, with more than 2,000 of that number hailing from Fort Bragg.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team alone has approximately 1,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, with troops in Kabul, Kandahar and other parts of the country. Most of the soldiers deployed in June, led by Col. Tobin Magsig and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Cobb.

The soldiers have a variety of missions providing base security, protecting high-ranking military and government officials, serving as Theater Reserve Forces and training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces.

Harris and Hunter’s battalion, the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, has been tasked with overseeing security for a tactical base in southern Afghanistan and serving as a quick reaction force to deal with nearby attacks.

“The entire Devil Brigade is deeply saddened by the loss of two beloved team members,” Magsig, the brigade commander, said in a statement released Thursday.

“Spc. Christopher Harris was an extraordinary young man and a phenomenal paratrooper,” Magsig said. “He regularly displayed the type of courage, discipline, and empathy that the nation expects from its warriors.”

“Sgt. Jonathon Hunter was the leader we all want to work for — strong, decisive, compassionate, and courageous,” the colonel added. “He was revered by his paratroopers and respected throughout his unit.”

Both of the soldiers were on their first deployment, officials said.

Harris joined the Army in October 2013 and Hunter joined in April 2014, according to the 82nd Airborne Division. Both men attended Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, before being assigned to the 1st Brigade.

“Chris and Jon lived and died as warriors. They will always be a part of the legacy of the Devil Brigade and their memory lives on in the hearts and minds of their fellow paratroopers,” Magsig said. “Our thoughts and prayers are centered on the families and loved ones of these two great Americans.”

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Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
Photo: American Sniper/ IMDb


When the husband of one of my close friends was killed in Iraq, she slipped an E. E. Cummings poem into his casket before he was buried at Arlington. That poem ran through my mind, in verses and lines, like a skipping CD, the whole time I watched “American Sniper” in the theater this past weekend.

the boys i mean are not refined

they go with girls who buck and bite

I’ve read many commentaries about this movie in the past week, most of them heralding it for telling the wife and family side of war.

It’s true. More than any war movie I’ve seen – and loving a man who lives at the ‘tip of the spear’ means that I’ve seen most of them – “American Sniper” touches on what war was like for Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s wife.  It tells what war is like for all the wives.

I do mean wives.

I say ‘wives’ and not ‘spouses’ intentionally, though I’ve been conditioned to correct myself on this, because most, if not all, of the spouses of military operators are women.

That this is the first movie to humanize the wives of warriors – to make us out to be more than ribbon-festooned cheerleaders – is almost offensive. It is, or should be, obvious to everyone that combat exposure is not the sum total of a warrior, and that war does not only affect the warrior.

But – and I think Taya Kyle would agree with me on this – to say that the movie tells the whole family story would be like saying that ping pong at the Rec Center tells you all you need to know about Wimbledon. There is no way a movie can truly show the family side of war, but at least this one tried.

one hangs a hat upon her tit

one carves a cross on her behind

they do not give a s— for wit

the boys i mean are not refined

These are the people we sacrifice to save.

My husband and I watched the movie together, sitting in a packed theater in a town that has few veterans and even fewer – if any – operators. I glanced around at our fellow moviegoers, many overweight, most missing the inside jokes sprinkled throughout the film. I smiled to myself, proud of my husband, knowing that none of the others in the theater knew that the guy in the third row had lived through encounters exactly like the ones on the screen; knowing that these are the people we sacrifice to save.

A couple sitting behind us brought their children, who looked to be about two and four years old. My husband and I — parents of young children ourselves — were disgusted with that couple.

Only someone who has no concept of how awful war can really be would choose to force visions of it onto the innocent. Their innocent. Our own children were one block away, at a drop in childcare center. Playing. Laughing. Being kids. He goes away to war, and I make do without him, so that our kids won’t have to see it here.

We signed on for this war together.

We signed on for this war together. He, to fight it. Me, to hold his life together so that he can leave. He, to keep the bad guys ‘over there.’ Me, to give him a life to come home to. He, to place himself directly in front of the worst the world has to offer. Me, to be the place where he can go to rest.

It takes a special kind of man to volunteer to run toward the ugliest of fights. It takes a special kind of woman to let him.

In the movie, when Chris and Taya first meet, she tells him that she would never date a SEAL. When my husband and I first met and he told me he was in the Army, I told him, “So long as you aren’t one of those psycho killers.” We laugh about that now.

the boys i mean are not refined

they cannot chat of that and this

they do not give a fart for art

they kill like you would take a piss

I got my college minor in studio art. I can chat expertly about “that and this.” I was a Journalism major and well into a career as a newspaper reporter when I met my soldier. I harbored no visions of deployments or camouflage back then. I did not want to be a warrior’s wife.

I never imagined that my vacuum cleaner would break because it sucked up a brass shell casing or that my dryer’s lint screen would be dotted with orange foam ear plugs.

I did not know that I would come to find the smell of Army – dirt, sweat and metal – sexy. That the sound of ripping velcro would become a turn-on. It had never before occurred to me that I could love someone whose job might involve killing. Killing people.

In an early scene, Taya and Chris Kyle lie together in bed, her hair long and dark like mine, fanned out across her pillow as his arm is slung across her body, his wrist near her face.

“I wonder if her hair will get caught in his G-Shock?” I whispered to my husband, laughing. The watch was an excellent, accurate, detail that was probably lost on most of the movie goers.

“Maybe,” he replied. “But I bet she won’t bitch about it.”

I shuddered both times in the movie when Taya was on a satellite phone call with Chris and combat erupted around him, turning war into a conference call. I have been on that call.

The movie didn’t show what came next.

The movie didn’t show what came next. I wished it would have. The throwing up, reflexively, again and again, out of pure fear. The dry heaves, streams of snot, and the feeling of your own body temperature dropping as you curl into a fetal position and stay like that for hours.

The movie didn’t show how you must use every ounce of energy just to exist through the two days of wondering if you’re a widow yet, and then relaxing a bit on the third day because the casualty notification team has not come. If he were dead, they would have been here by now.

That friend who put the poem in her husband’s casket, she and I used to talk about casualties a lot. In one of our conversations she said, “You’re strong. When it happens, you’ll be okay. It will make you sad, but it won’t destroy you.”

“When,” not “if.”

She corrected herself immediately, but it had already been said. It felt like a “when” to me in those days. I attended so many memorial services for friends then. It seemed like there was at least one every month. It seems like those days are behind us now. Like we are the lucky ones. The ones who got away. But I’m sure it felt like that to Taya Kyle, too.

“American Sniper” is a excellent film, deserving of all the praise it is receiving. It has started a long overdue conversation, about warriors, and family, and life after war. About PTSD and what it really means. About the nature of people who will give absolutely everything they have – their arms, their legs, their minds, their years, their families, their memories, their lives – for something bigger than themselves. For their friends. For their country. For their childrens’ futures.

the boys i mean are not refined

they shake the mountains when they dance

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. She writes the Must Have Parent column for Military.com. Her work has been published nationwide including in The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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How Kim Jong Un became one of the world’s scariest dictators

For the past 50 years, the world has grown used to crazy threats from North Korea that don’t lead anywhere.


But the threats have taken a decidedly sharper and more ominous tone under Kim Jong Un, the third supreme leader of the hermit kingdom.

North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests under his rule. And on Sunday, the secretive regime attempted to fire a missile. It blew up within seconds.

Also read: 3 jokes that could get you sent to a firing squad in North Korea

With all this attention, still relatively little is known of Kim. Here’s what we do know of how he grew to be one of the world’s scariest dictators:

Kim Jong Un was born on January 8 — 1982, 1983, or 1984.

His parents were future North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Young Hee. He had an older brother named Kim Jong Chul and would later have a younger sister named Kim Yo Jong.

While Kim Jong Un’s official birth year is 1982, various reports suggest that the year was changed for symbolic reasons, including that it was 70 years after the birth of Kim Il Sung and 40 years after the birth of Kim Jong Il.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
DPRK propaganda via www.atimes.com

However, a recent move by the US Treasury Department to sanction Kim Jong Un listed his official date of birth as January 8, 1984.

Jong Un — here with his mother — lived at home as a child.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
DPRK propaganda via www.atimes.com

 During this period, North Korea was ruled by “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung. While Kim Jong Il was the heir apparent, Kim Jong Un’s path to command was far less certain.

Then it was off to Switzerland to attend boarding school.

Called “Pak Un” and described as the son of an employee of the North Korean embassy, Kim Jong Un is thought to have attended an English-language international school in Gümligen near Bern.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

Kim Jong Un is described by former classmates as a quiet student who spent most of his time at home, but he had a sense of humor, too.

“He was funny,” former classmate Marco Imhof told The Mirror. “Always good for a laugh.”

“He had a sense of humor; got on well with everyone, even those pupils who came from countries that were enemies of North Korea,” another former classmate told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “Politics was a taboo subject at school … we would argue about football, not politics.”

Kim Jong Un loved basketball and idolized Michael Jordan.

The young Korean reportedly had posters of Jordan all over his walls during his Swiss school days. Although Kim Jong Un was overweight and only 5-6, he was a decent basketball player.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
Via Flickr

“He was a fiercely competitive player, very explosive,” former classmate Nikola Kovacevic told The Mirror. “He was the play maker. He made things happen.”

“He hated to lose. Winning was very important,” said former classmate Marco Imhof.

He also had a “fantastic” collection of Nike sneakers.

After school in Switzerland, he returned home for military schooling.

Upon his return to North Korea, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University with his older brother. Some reports say they started to attend their father’s military field inspections around 2007.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
Female soldiers in North Korea military parade | Wikimedia Commons

While his father faced death, Kim Jong Un was rapidly promoted up the chain of political and military leadership, despite having little experience in either.

He was made a four-star general, deputy chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party, and a member of the Central Committee, according to the BBC.

Kim Jong Un has a theme song known as “Footsteps.”

“Footsteps” looks and sounds like a propaganda song from the Soviet Union.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
YouTube

The song calls people to follow in “Our Admiral Kim’s footsteps.” Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

Footsteps, Footsteps … spreading out further the sound of a brilliant future ahead … tramp, tramp, tramp, ah, footsteps.

Many North Koreans see Kim Jong Un as a youthful version of “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung.

Kim bears a clear resemblance to his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, in appearance, haircut, and mannerisms.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
Kim Il Sung in 1956. | Wikimedia Commons

Rumors had circulated that Kim Jong Un had received plastic surgery to enhance the resemblance even further, although the North finally responded and called the allegations “sordid hackwork by rubbish media.”

“The false report … released by enemies is a hideous criminal act which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate,” said the official Korean Central News Agency.

After his father died, Kim Jong Un was quickly declared “Supreme Leader” of North Korea.

When Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack on December 17, 2011, the young Kim Jong Un inherited the world’s fourth-largest military, a nuclear arsenal, and absolute control over North Korea.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
North Korean painting of Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il.

He took over ahead of his older brother Kim Jong Chol, who their father thought was “effeminate” and weak. His other brother Kim Jong Nam apparently said negative things about the regime, according to The Australian.

Around 30 when he took power, Kim Jong Un is the youngest head of state in the world.

Some originally believed that Kim Jong Un’s aunt and uncle were actually calling the shots.

Among Kim Jong Un’s most trusted advisers were his aunt Kim Kyong Hui and her husband, Jang Sung Taek, both 66. The couple was reportedly ordered by Kim Jong Il to control the country’s military and help the young leader consolidate his position while he gains more experience.

At a meeting of the DPRK Workers’ Party, both were photographed sitting close by. Their most important job, it seems, is to push his role as a powerful figure among some generals who do not trust him, according to The Telegraph.

He’s married to a former cheerleader and may have two kids.

Leaders in the hermit kingdom are often very secretive when it comes to their significant others, but Kim Jong Un often has his wife join him and allows photographs.

North Korean media revealed in July that he was married to Ri Sol Ju — a former cheerleader and singer — but no one knows exactly when they were married, according to NBC News.

South Korean intelligence believe the couple probably married in 2009 and already had one child. There are rumors Ri Sol Ju gave birth to a child in 2012, with many believing it was a girl.

The couple is believed to have had another child, in 2015.

Kim Jong Un lived out a childhood fantasy when former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman visited.

Everyone in the family is apparently a huge Chicago Bulls fan.

His father owned a video library of “practically every game Michael Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls.” Kim Jong Il tried unsuccessfully to get Jordan to visit in 2001.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
Courtesy of Vice

Kim Jong Un had tons of Jordan posters as a kid. Brother Kim Jong Chol was photographed as a child wearing a Bulls Jersey: No. 91 — Rodman.

But recently, things haven’t been going so well.

In 2013 he was reportedly the target of an assassination attempt. South Korean intelligence believes the young leader was targeted by “disgruntled people inside the North” after he demoted a four-star general, which resulted in a power struggle.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
DPRK

Perhaps as a means of reasserting control, Kim Jong Un has become extremely belligerent, shutting down all links with South Korea and threatening thermonuclear war against his neighbor and the US. His father and grandfather used to make these threats all the time without following through.

Kim Jong Un has continued to be belligerent with South Korea and the West throughout his rule in hopes of bolstering his authority.

North Korea has continued to test ballistic missiles and nuclear devices under Kim Jong Un’s rule, despite the threat of sanctions. In 2012, the country launched its first satellite into space. And since Kim Jong Un has taken over, the country has continued to push ahead with its construction of ballistic and nuclear weapons.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

In 2013, North Korea conducted its third-ever nuclear test and its first under Kim Jong Un. And in April 2015, a top US general warned that North Korea could develop nuclear missiles capable of reaching the shores of the western US.

The nuclear tests and international condemnations continued into 2016.

On January 5, 2016, North Korea conducted its fourth-ever nuclear test and its second under Kim Jong Un. Pyongyang claims the test was a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.

In response to the detonation, world leaders have strongly come out against North Korea. Even China, North Korea’s main ally, has said that it strongly opposes the tests.

That test was followed up by a series of increasingly successful ballistic missile launches that have landed in the Sea of Japan. North Korea has also successfully test launched a ballistic missile from a submarine.

In September 2016, Kim Jong Un oversaw the fifth and most powerful nuclear test by North Korea to date. Based on some estimates, the blast from the warhead was more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The tests signal a commitment on the part of Kim to press forward with the armament of his nation. If undeterred, experts estimate North Korea could develop nuclear warheads that could reach the US by 2020.

The assassination of Jong Un’s half-brother Kim Jong-Nam in a Malaysian airport led to a global investigation of North Korea’s involvement.

On February 13, 2017, Kim’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam was fatally poisoned in a Kuala Lumpur airport.

Amid worldwide suspicion of North Korean involvement, Malaysian police conducted an autopsy against the wishes of the Kim’s government and named a North Korean official and several other nationals as suspects alongside two foreign women believed to be working as hired assassins.

By March, the conflict between the former allies escalated after Malaysia directly accused the North Korean government of orchestrating the murder. North Korea issued an order that prevented Malaysian citizens from leaving the country while Malaysia responded by canceling visa-free entry to North Koreans.

In the Trump era, conflict with North Korea has reached a new high.

Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump reportedly labeled North Korea the single biggest threat to the US.

Breaking with President Barack Obama’s attempts at diplomatic negotiation via “strategic patience,” the Trump administration started demanding for North Korea’s immediate de-nuclearization and hinted at the possibility of a preemptive military strike if its impulsive leader does not comply.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
Kim Jong-Un on the summit of Mt. Paektu. Photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 19, 2015

On Sunday, Kim retaliated by unsuccessfully test launching another nuclear missile at the same time that US Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to discuss the country’s arms program in Seoul, South Korea. After the US threatened a “pretty significant international response” in the event of another test, a North Korean envoy warned that nuclear war could break out at “any moment.”

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New Army body armor is lighter, more flexible than before

The average Generation II Improved Outer Tactical Vest weighs about 26 pounds. But the new “Torso and Extremity Protection System” or TEP, under development now at Program Executive Office Soldier, sheds about five pounds of weight and also adds a wide degree of scalability that commanders can make use of depending on threat level and mission.


The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
The Torso and Extremity Protection System

The TEP is part of the new “Soldier Protection System” under development now at PEO Soldier. The SPS includes both the TEP and the Integrated Head Protection System.

The TEP can replace the IOTV, at less weight and greater scalability, depending on the mission. It includes the “Modular Scalable Vest,” the “Ballistic Combat Shirt,” the “Blast Pelvic Protection System,” and a “Battle Belt,” which is aimed at getting weight off a Soldier’s shoulders and onto the hips.

With the TEP, commanders can require Soldiers to go with full protection — which provides the same level of protection as a fully-loaded IOTV — or go all the way down to wearing soft armor under their uniforms for missions that require less protection.

“It’s about giving commanders on the battlefield the ability to use the modularity capability of the equipment to fit their particular mission profile or protective posture level,” said Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, the product manager for Personal Protective Equipment at PEO Soldier, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The IOTV sometimes required Soldiers to wear the Deltoid Auxiliary Protection — cumbersome parts that snapped on to the IOTV and protected their shoulders. Soldiers might have also been asked to wear the smaller, easily-lost collars that also snapped on to the IOTV. Both are gone with the TEP. They’ve been replaced by the Ballistic Combat Shirt, which is a shirt with breathable fabric and which also includes those smaller ballistic protection parts built in. Soldiers would wear the BCS under the TEP’s Modular Scalable Vest.

“We have tested it,” Brown said of the Ballistic Combat Shirt. “Soldiers like it. There is 95 percent Soldier acceptability of it. What we are working on now is tweaking the sizes.”

The TEP also includes the Blast Pelvic Protection System, which is designed to protect a Soldiers thighs and groin against ballistic threats and burns. The BPPS is meant to replace the current combination of the pelvic undergarment and the pelvic outer-garment, or “PUG” and “POG.” The PUG has sometimes been referred to as “ballistic underwear.”

Brown said the BPPS “provides the same level of protection” as the PUG and POG combined, including both burn and fragment protection. She said Soldiers have reported that it feels more like it is “part of the pants.”

The “Battle Belt” included with the TEP is part of a weight management system, but it also offers some protection as well.

“It’s designed to remove the weight from your shoulders and put it on your hips,” Brown said. Whereas Soldiers might strap a radio or other gear onto their IOTV in the past, the Battle Belt can now take that gear and move the weight onto a Soldier’s hips.

Brown said that after successful ballistic testing, production of the TEP will begin in probably May of this year, and that Soldiers could see it in 2018 or 2019.

Another part of the Soldier Protection System is the Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS. In its full configuration, it looks similar to a motorcycle helmet.

The IHPS consists of a base helmet, similar to the polyethylene “Enhanced Combat Helmet” that some Soldiers are already wearing. The IHPS also includes add-ons for the base helmet, including a visor, a “mandible” portion that protects the lower jaw, and a “Ballistic Applique” that is much like a protective layer that attaches over the base helmet. The complete ensemble is known as the “high threat configuration.”

Brown said that eventually all deploying Soldiers will get the IHPS with the base helmet, which is the standard configuration. Other Soldiers, vehicle gunners in particular, will also get the mandible portion and the ballistic applique as well, known as the turret configuration.

The IHPS currently has a Picatinny rail mounted on the side for attaching gear, and will also provide for attaching head-mounted night vision goggles.

The visor portion on the IHPS provides ballistic protection to a Soldier’s face, but doesn’t provide any protection against the sun. So Soldiers wearing it will need to wear darkened sunglasses underneath the visor if they are in bright environments.

Maj. Jaun F. Carleton, also with PEO Solider, had a pair of new sunglasses that are authorized for use by Soldiers if they want to buy them, or if their commanders buy them for them.

The sunglasses, which also come in a face mask version as well, start off as un-darkened — offering no protection against the sun. But with the press of a button, LCD modules that adhere to the lenses darken and provide protection against the sun. That happens in less than a second.

“The benefit is that using one pair of protective eyewear, you wouldn’t have to switch from a clear goggle to a dark goggle — you’d have one protective eyewear for all conditions,” Carleton said.

Brown said the goggles will be available for units to be able to requisition as part of the Soldier Protection System.

“If we are able to drive the price down, the Army could eventually make a decision to include that on the list of items that we carry for deploying Soldiers,” Brown said.

Brown said the IHPS will likely be available to deploying Soldiers sometime between 2020 and 2021.

As part of extensive human factors evaluations, Brown said that PEO Soldier has used Soldiers, extensively, to evaluate the new gear.

“We had a massive scale of Soldiers to evaluate the equipment, usually over a three-week to month-long timeframe, where they would perform their different mission sets, where they will execute basic rifle marksmanship, and ruck marches,” she said.

Afterward, she said, those same Soldiers were asked what they think of the gear through a qualitative evaluation methodology (Soldier survey).

“They would give us the good, the bad, the ugly,” Brown said. “It’s extremely important to get Soldiers’ input. First, Soldiers are brutally honest and they are going to tell you exactly how they feel about the equipment. Second, why buy equipment Soldiers won’t wear? And third, who’s better to give us the best answer about how the kit should be designed than the Soldier who will actually wear the equipment?”

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15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July

Do you think you know everything about the 4th of July? The U.S. national holiday has a surprising, enlightening, and sometimes worrying history that you probably don’t know about. Millions are unaware of the truths behind how and why America really celebrates Independence Day. Some of those nagging questions you have at the back of your mind will be answered in this revealing fact list about Independence Day in the United States.


What is the true story behind 4th of July? Why is it celebrated and how? From the number of hot dogs consumed, to inside jokes with Nicolas Cage (he was kind of right, you guys), to historical untruths revealed for what they really are, you’re about to learn the secrets behind one of the most popular national holidays in America.

15 Things You Didn’t Know About the 4th of July

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The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

You’d think that employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs would be spending every bit of their time on the job helping America’s veterans. But that may not be case — some of them may instead be working on “union business.”


Worse, there may be no way to know how much time they have spent on their outside work for federal employee unions.

According to a report by Government Executive, the VA has no standardized method of tracking how much “official time” is spent by government employees on union activities like mediation. The Office of Personnel Management website defines “official time” as “paid time off from assigned Government duties to represent a union or its bargaining unit employees.”

The report noted that 350 of those employees are working full-time on union activities, and that almost 1.1 million man-hours were spent on official time in Fiscal Year 2012.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
The Tomah, Wisconsin VA hospital.

A 2015 Government Accountability Office report done at the request of House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) casts doubt on those reported figures.

The GAO said, “the data VA provided were not sufficiently reliable to determine the amount of official time used by VA employees and the purposes for which it was used for the period of our review.”

The biggest reason for the lack of reliability was due to the fact that the VA had no standardized means to track the amount of “official time” used by employees of that agency.

The report noted that the VA had arrangements with five unions: the National Association of Government Employees; the American Federation of Government Employees; National Nurses United; the National Federation of Federal Employees; and the Service Employees International Union.

Government Executive reported that the VA had agreed to resolve the time-tracking issues.

The VA has been hit with a number of scandals, including one case where a deceased veteran was left lying around for nine hours in a Florida VA facility and another case in a Wisconsin VA hospital where a dentist may have infected hundreds of veterans with HIV and hepatitis.

Those cases came on the heels of a VA hospital using “separate waiting lists” to conceal a backlog of cases, a practice that is believed to have lead to over 200 deaths.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Florida incident drew the wrath of Rep. Gus Biliakis (R-FL), who angrily noted that nobody had been fired over the improper treatment of a veteran’s corpse.

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Pentagon reveals covert Chinese fleet disguised as fishing boats

The Pentagon’s new report on China’s developing military capabilities exposes the fighting force on the front-line of China’s quest to control the seas.


The Chinese Maritime Militia, a paramilitary force masquerading as a civilian fishing fleet, is a weapon for gray zone aggression that has operated in the shadow of plausible deniability for years. Supported by the People’s Liberation Army Navy “grey hulls” and Chinese Coast Guard “white hulls,” the CMM “blue hulls” constitute China’s third sea force.

The CMM engages in “low-intensity coercion in maritime disputes,” according to the Department of Defense report.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
A Pentagon report reveals that China has a covert fleet of fishing trawlers intended to wreak havoc in the maritime ‘grey areas’ of the South Pacific. (US Navy photo)

“China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict,” the report explains. For instance, after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague discredited China’s claims to the South China Sea last July, Beijing dispatched the CMM to the territories China aims to control.

“China is building a state-owned fishing fleet for its maritime militia force in the South China Sea,” the Pentagon report introduced.

China presents the CMM as a civilian fishing fleet. “Make no mistake, these are state-organized, -developed, and -controlled forces operating under a direct military chain of command,” Dr. Andrew Erickson, a leading expert on Chinese naval affairs, explained during a House Committee on Armed Services hearing in September.

The maritime militia, according to the Pentagon, is a “subset of China’s national militia, an armed reserve force of civilians available for mobilization to perform basic support duties.” In the disputed South China Sea, “the CMM plays a major role in coercive activities to achieve China’s political goals without fighting, part of broader [People’s Republic of China] military doctrine that states that confrontational operations short of war can be an effective means of accomplishing political objectives.”

The Department of Defense recognizes that the CMM trains alongside the military and the coast guard. A 2016 China Daily article reveals that the maritime militia, a “less-noticed force,” is largely “made up of local fishermen.” The article shows the militia training in military garb and practicing with rifles and bayonets.

“The maritime militia is … a component of China’s ocean defense armed forces [that enjoys] low sensitivity and great leeway in maritime rights protection actions,” explained a Chinese garrison commander.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
A helicopter attached to Chinese Navy ship multirole frigate Hengshui (572) participates in a maritime interdiction event with the Chinese Navy guided-missile destroyer Xi’an (153) during Rim of the Pacific. (Chinese navy photo by Sun Hongjie)

The CMM is not really a “secret” weapon, as it has made its presence known, yet throughout the Obama administration, government publications failed to acknowledge the existence of the maritime militia. “We have to make it clear that we are wise to Beijing’s game,” Erickson said in his congressional testimony.

The CMM harassed the USNS Impeccable in 2009, engaging in unsafe maneuvers and forcing the U.S. ship to take emergency action to avoid a collision. The maritime militia was also involved in the 2011 sabotage of two Vietnamese hydrographic vessels, 2012 seizure of Scarborough Shoal, 2014 repulsion of Vietnamese vessels near a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters, and 2015 shadowing of the USS Lassen during a freedom-of-navigation operation. China sent 230 fishing vessels, accompanied by several CCG vessels, into disputed waters in the East China Sea last year to advance China’s claims to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands administered by Japan.

Commissar of the Hainan Armed Forces Department Xing Jincheng said in January that the members of the Maritime Militia should serve as “mobile sovereignty markers.” He stated that this force is responsible for conducting “militia sovereignty operations” and defending China’s “ancestral seas,” territorial waters “belonging to China since ancient times.”

“I feel that the calm seas are not peaceful for us,” he said. “We have to strengthen our combat readiness.”

While the maritime militia has been mentioned by Navy officials, as well as congressional research and commission reports, the new Department of Defense report is the first high-level government publication to address the third sea force. “The fact is that it is there,” U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift said in November, “Let’s acknowledge that it is there. Let’s acknowledge how it’s being command-and-controlled.”

Dragging the maritime militia into the light significantly limits its ability operate. “It is strongest—and most effective—when it can lurk in the shadows,” Erickson wrote in the National Interest.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This former SEAL serves by helping burn victims

Ryan Parrott was a Navy SEAL on his first deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom when the vehicle he was in hit an improvised explosive device. Parrott was launched out of the vehicle and suffered a mix of first-degree and second-degree burns – and he got the nickname “Birdman.”


Parrott would serve eight years with the SEALs, but when he left the military, an encounter would change his life’s direction. Parrott met an Army Ranger who had suffered third-degree burns while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was angered when the Ranger told him that things were as good as they would get after three dozen surgeries.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center surgeon, Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Christopher Burns, center, uses a surgical instrument to prepare a wound for surgery while, Burn Center Director, Col. (Dr.) Evan M. Renz, left, and OR technician Spc. Dennis Ortiz look on during the first surgery procedure performed in the new Burn Center OR on May 25 at the new consolidated tower of the San Antonio Military Medical Center. (DOD photo)

“I decided I could continue to serve my country away from the battlefield,” he told the online media outlet. Decided to channel his anger at the Ranger’s difficulty at getting treatment into action, Parrott founded Sons of the Flag, a non-profit organization intended to help fund research into burn treatments, and to also train doctors on how to treat patients suffering from burns.

Since it was founded in 2012, Sons of the Flag has connected over a thousand burn survivors to treatment. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what the charity does. It also has provided direct support to burn survivors and families, including rent assistance, utility assistance, travel costs, and assistance with special medication needs not covered by insurance.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
Army veteran and burn survivor Omar Aviles. (Youtube screenshot)

Families of burn victims also receive “go bags” filled with essentials like water bottles, chargers for cell phones, snacks, toiletries, and a new blanket for while their loved one is being treated. The charity also steps in to help children and teenagers who suffer serious burns, providing items used for entertainment and rehabilitation as well as establishing pediatric “burn camps” for young survivors who may face bullying as a result of the lasting scars from serious burns.

In roughly five years, this charity has been making an impact, primarily in the Texas area. For more information on Sons of the Flag, go to https://sonsoftheflag.org/. One thing for sure – with this SEAL on a mission, survivors of serious burns have a much better chance at a good life.

Articles

Navy SEALs team up with Israeli special forces

Elite soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces’ Shayetet 13 special operations unit joined forces with U.S. Navy SEALS in late March for a joint exercise between the two allies.


According to an IDF statement, the exercise was designed to improve upon the operational capabilities of the special forces of the IDF and of the militaries of Israel’s allies, such as the United States. The drill also included knowledge sharing between fleets, strengthening of common language, and operational cooperation in the field.

On the Israeli side, a Saar 5 missile ship (Eilat), Naval Special Warfare vessels, and other navy crafts took part in the training event. Troops practiced parachuting over the sea and carrying out a nighttime raid on a ship and rescuing hostages in enclosed areas.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
Members of U.S. and Israeli Special Operations Forces prepare rigid-hulled inflatable boats prior to participating in a water jump training exercise in the Mediterranean Sea as part of Juniper Falcon 17, on March 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by SSG Russell Gilchrest)

Following the drill, the head of operations of the Israeli Navy, Rear Adm. Ido Ben Moshe, said that “the cooperation between the two fleets is reflected in annual drills, reciprocal visits and operational mutuality. During the joint exercises, professional relations are created that contribute to both sides on the strategic level.”

In 2016, IDF Special Forces and U.S. Marines held a joint military exercise in the Negev Desert in part aimed at coordinating techniques for combating terrorist activities. Dubbed ‘Noble Shirley,’ the drill involved special units from the Israeli Air Force and Navy, and ground forces.

During the drill, the troops practiced simulating helicopter landings behind enemy lines, urban warfare both above and below ground, as well as close-range combat and military takeover techniques. The troops also held exercises concentrating on medical response to injured troops in hostile territory as well as the coordination of U.S. and Israeli medical networks.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes this week – battle buddy edition

This week’s meme roundup is dedicated to the friends you go to war with: Your battle buddies. These friends would do anything for you, even take a bullet, or in the case of Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, jump on a grenade. The bond between battle buddies is second to none, and most people will never experience friendship on this level. Although it’s difficult to capture the bromance in 13 memes, here’s our attempt:


1. Battle buddies depend on each other.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

When the leadership fails, your buddy won’t.

2. Battle buddies aren’t always human.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

Man’s best friend is just as dedicated.

3. War is intense, so jokes and pranks are also elevated to the same level.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

This is their version of “kick me.”

4. You get in trouble together.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

No worries, it’s a just a mouth lashing.

5. You find creative ways to entertain each other.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

This would make a great, “shut the fu– up Carl” meme.

6. Their idea of going to the movies is a little different.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

Their camaraderie makes up for the lack of screen size.

7. They fight together, they watch movies together, and they also drink together …

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

… because sometimes you need someone to stagger home with.

8. Buddies look after each other, they don’t report each other.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

Seriously, how do those dixie cup hats stay on?!

9. They settle things differently.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

The quickest way to getting over a disagreement. (from Military Memes Facebook fan page)

10. Your pain is the butt of their jokes.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

They brandish bumps and scars like badges of honor, but more importantly, to show you how much tougher they are.

11. Despite all the shenanigans, buddies will always have your back.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

They’ll follow each other to the gates of hell. (from Military Memes Facebook fan page)

12. They’ll look after each other like their life depends on it.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
There’s no worse feeling than the feeling of letting your buddy down.

13. Battle buddies forever.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

Battle buddies keep their promises. If they said they’ll be there, they’ll be there.

NOW: 10 tips for dating on a forward operating base

AND: 9 Military terms that will make you sound crazy around civilians

OR WATCH: 13 Signs you’re in the infantry:

Articles

The attack on Pearl Harbor by the numbers

The words “Pearl Harbor” evoke images and emotions only rivaled in American history by “The Alamo,” and “9-11.” As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it in the wake of the surprise attack, December 7, 1941 is “a day that will live in infamy.” Here’s WATM’s brief look at how it went down.


The Japanese task force was comprised of six carriers — Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, Hiryū, Shōkaku, and Zuikaku — carrying a total of 408 airplanes (360 bombers, 48 fighters).

 

The attack on Pearl Harbor came in two waves. The first wave of 183 planes (six failed to launch because of maintenance issues) crossed into American airspace on December 7, 1941 at 7:48 local time. Ironically and tragically, as the first wave approached Oahu, it was detected by the U.S. Army SCR-270 radar at Opana Point near Oahu’s northern tip. The operators reported a target, but their superior, a newly assigned officer at the thinly manned Intercept Center, presumed it was the scheduled arrival of six B-17 bombers from California.

 

The Japanese fighters shot down several American airplanes on the way in.

 

The first wave bombers were supposed to take out ‘capital ships’ — aircraft carriers (famously not in port) and battleships, while the Zeros strafed Ford Field in an effort to keep American fighters from launching.

 

The famous message, “Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not drill,” was sent from the headquarters of Patrol Wing Two, the first senior Hawaiian command to respond.

Despite this low alert status, many American military personnel responded effectively during the attack. Ensign Joe Taussig Jr., aboard the USS Nevada, commanded the ship’s antiaircraft guns and was severely wounded, but continued to be on post. Lt. Commander F. J. Thomas commanded Nevada in the captain’s absence and got her under way until the ship was grounded at 9:10 a.m. One of the destroyers, USS Aylwin, got underway with only four officers aboard, all ensigns, none with more than a year’s sea duty; she operated at sea for 36 hours before her commanding officer managed to get back aboard. Captain Mervyn Bennion, commanding the USS West Virginia, led his men until he was cut down by fragments from a bomb which hit USS Tennessee, moored alongside.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing
Photograph of Battleship Row taken from a Japanese plane at the beginning of the attack. The explosion in the center is a torpedo strike on the USS West Virginia. (Photo: Japanese military archives)

 

The second wave of 171 planes (four others didn’t get airborne) came shortly after the first had egressed and focused on the airfields at Hickham, Kanehoe, and Ford (right in the middle of Pearl Harbor), taking out hangars and strafing airplanes on flight lines. The second wave also went after the battleships that had survived the first wave.

 

In total, 2,403 Americans died and 1,178 were wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk or run aground, including five battleships. All of the Americans killed or wounded during the attack were non-combatants, given the fact there was no state of war when the attack occurred. (The attack was later ruled a war crime because occurred without a declaration of war from Japan.)

 

In the wake of the attack, 15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, four Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, and three Bronze Star Medals were awarded to the American servicemen who distinguished themselves in combat at Pearl Harbor.

The following day President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, and Congress obliged an hour later.

 

On December 11, Germany and Italy — honoring their treaty with Japan — declared war on the U.S., so Congress issued a declaration of war on them in return.

The United States was now fully involved in World War II.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wires and cross chat to blame for deadly Pave Hawk crash

A U.S. Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk slammed into a steel cable in western Iraq in March 2018, causing the helicopter to tangle and crash, killing all seven airmen on board, according to a new investigation report.

An Accident Investigation Board report released Oct. 29, 2018, says the Pave Hawk, assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, was part of a two-aircraft formation flying toward Al Qaim, Iraq, on March 15, 2018. The mission objective was to position a helicopter landing zone closer to ground operations, according to the document.


During the flight, the formation refueled from an HC-130 King recovery aircraft. Then, roughly 40 minutes into the night operation, for which “night illumination for the flight was low,” the mishap Pave Hawk, flying in the lead, overshot its targeted landing area, the report states.

It was too dark for night-vision goggles to detect the cables.

The HH-60G “erroneously overflew the intended [helicopter landing zone] and descended to low altitude,” the report states. “As a result, the aircraft descended into an unplanned location, striking a 3/8-inch diameter galvanized steel cable strung horizontally between two 341-foot-high towers.”

Images within the report show the cables to be part of a powerline structure. The towers were roughly 1,000 yards apart.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

An HC-130P/N Combat King and an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter simulate an in-flight refueling during the Aerospace and Arizona Days air show here March 20, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alesia Goosic)

The co-pilot turned left to avoid one of the towers. But a helicopter blade “struck the second of four” of the 3/8 inch cables, the report said. “The cable quickly entangled in the HH-60G’s main rotor assembly, resulting in catastrophic damage and an unflyable condition.”

The investigation, conducted by Brig. Gen. Bryan P. Radliff, concluded the pilot “misinterpreted aircraft navigation displays,” causing the formation to overfly the intended destination.

Communication on the helicopter’s route and scheduled waypoints was never resolved between the crew and a Joint Terminal Attack Controller on the ground, Radliff said.

“The [mishap pilot] was interrupted multiple times during his navigation duties, including communications with the [mishap wingmen] regarding landing zone plan changes and [mishap crew] requests for prelanding power calculations and JTAC information requests,” the report states.

The conversation continued as the JTAC reiterated that there were towers in the area, but the Pave Hawk was already slightly northeast of the designated landing spot, according to an illustrated diagram in the accident report.

Follow-on waypoints had been incorporated into flight plan as backups should the formation need to divert and land elsewhere. The report says those waypoints could have been the reason the pilot began flying slightly farther north than planned.

The helicopter was traveling at an estimated 125 knots, or about 144 miles per hour, at an altitude between 250 and 270 feet above ground level.

Having witnessed the crash and the illumination from the helicopter’s impact, the second aircraft was able to spot the cables and divert. The second crew called in search-and-rescue forces immediately, the report said.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

A U.S. HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin O’Shea)

Radliff said limited visibility also contributed to the crash. Current HH-60G “tactics, techniques and procedures contain a warning stating, ‘electric power lines, unlit towers, poles, antennas, dead trees, and all types of wires are extremely difficult to see while conducting NVG operations,’ ” the report states.

The Pave Hawk has a “wire strike protection system” in an effort to prevent such accidents. Radliff said the post-crash analysis determined “it was not effective because it does not appear that the cable had the opportunity to be pulled through any of the WSPS wire cutters.”

Killed in the crash were: Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso, 39, a special missions aviation flight engineer; Capt. Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, an HH-60G pilot; Capt. Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, an HH-60G pilot; and Staff Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs, 30, a special missions aviation flight engineer, all of whom belonged to the 106th Rescue Wing at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, according to a Saturday news release. The rescue wing is based on Long Island.

Master Sgt. William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida, and Staff Sgt. Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida, belonged to the 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. The squadron, known as an Air Force’s “Guardian Angel” personnel and recovery unit, is part of the Air Force Reserve’s 920th Rescue Wing.

Also killed was Capt. Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Weber was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

The HH-60 is known as the backbone of combat search-and-rescue operations. It is a variant of the Army‘s Black Hawk helicopter, used to conduct personnel recovery and medical recovery missions. The crew is normally composed of two pilots, one flight engineer and one gunner.

The aging HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet is expected to be replaced within the next decade by the Sikorsky HH-60W, the latest combat rescue helicopter based on the UH-60M Black Hawk.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Marine Corps gets personnel ready to kill with pistols

Every Marine is a rifleman. This is evident in every photo of a Marine donning the service alpha uniform, courtesy of the shimmering marksmanship badge over their left breast pocket. Oftentimes this rifle marksmanship badge is accompanied by another badge, indicating the Marine is qualified with the Beretta M9 service pistol.

The pistol qualification is one that is not required by every Marine; instead, only certain military occupational specialties, officers and staff non-commissioned officers require annual qualification on the service pistol. In order to ensure these Marines are properly trained with the weapon, the Marine Corps implemented the Combat Pistol Program.

The CPP was introduced in 2012 after the Corps decided it needed to revamp its pistol qualification, the entry level pistol program. The ELP course of fire was less combat-oriented and was more inclined to promote fundamentals and accuracy.


While these are essential aspects of pistol marksmanship that challenge the shooter to maintain pinpoint accuracy, the ELP lacked sufficient tactical drills to prepare Marines to draw their weapon and engage a target. Thus, the CPP was introduced.

“The goal of marksmanship training is to develop this proficiency to a combat-effective level,” states Weapons Training Battalion Training Command lesson plan CPP.

One of the hallmarks of the CPP is how the first two stages of qualification start with the weapon in the holster, requiring the Marine to present the weapon and engage the target in one motion – this gives the training a more combat-oriented and tactical approach.

While the CPP is known for its tactical application, the fundamentals and coaching are not abandoned.

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

U.S. Marine Cpl. Bradley Binder conducts pistol qualification with a Beretta M9 service pistol at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 6, 2018.

Marine Corps Order 3574.2L states, “The execution of dry practice conducted by properly trained CMT [combat marksmanship trainer] and CMC [combat marksmanship coach] Marines is a critical element in the development of a Marine’s fundamental marksmanship skill, speed, and accuracy in the Combat Pistol Program.”

Following classroom instruction and non-fire sessions, Marines participate in live-fire drills — training blocks one through three. During these training blocks, range coaches have the opportunity to mentor and guide Marines during practical application where the ELP did not provide this luxury, which results in a more qualified, skilled and effective Marine with the service pistol.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Schuster, a CMT with the 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, vehemently supports coaching and its effects – “If we can hone those qualities, those little things…we can take your shooting to another level.”

The ELP was conducted on a National Rifle Association 50-yard bullseye target. To replace this, the Marksmanship Program Management Section combat pistol target (MPMS-1) was introduced. This scoring system trains Marines to see, present their weapon, and engage the target, rewarding shooters for hitting vital areas – the tighter the grouping in the center, the higher the score.

The MPMS-1 is a favorite with Schuster who states, “The scoring rings, while they’re bigger, they’re more applicable… You’re not grading on a circle, you’re grading on – did you neutralize the target?”

Gunnery Sgt. Jarod Vedsted, the lead instructor with 3rd LE Bn, III MIG and former instructor of the protective services course, states “we’re in tandem with them” when asked how the CPP correlates with civilian counterparts in the sense of basic pistol training.

Tables one through five of the CPP teach basic pistol skills and marksmanship, but any further pistol training does not exist in formal standards in the Marine Corps.

“I do think that’s the direction we’re headed. Now how fast do we get there? And at what varying degrees? I don’t know,” states Schuster, “but from my experience with Marine Gunners, they are always looking for ways to better the program.”

The CPP is just one of the ways the Marine Corps has made efforts to make its training more realistic and combat-oriented to better prepare Marines. “Programs evolve as we learn new things about marksmanship,” says Schuster.

Marines are supporters of the CPP, and five years after its official release, it still receives praise among marksmanship instructors. “I prefer it,” said Schuster, “The CPP definitely introduced a more tactical mindset on the pistol range.” Wherever the Marksmanship Program Management Section goes next, Marines are likely to be enthusiastic and motivated to send rounds down range.

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

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