The US Air Force has done a number of flyovers in recent months but this is the most controversial one yet. Earlier this month, the US, South Korea, and Japan conducted joint military exercises over and near the Korean Peninsula.
“This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any US fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century, underscoring the seriousness with which we take the DPRK’s reckless behaviour,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White.
“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat,” White said. “North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”
North Korea’s foreign minister responded forcefully on Saturday to Trump’s fiery comments before the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week.
Ri Yong Ho, North Korea’s foreign minister, said that Trump’s insults made “our rocket’s visit to the entire US mainland inevitable all the more,” according to The Associated Press.
He retaliated against Trump’s personal attack on the North Korean leader by calling the president “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania” who is holding “the nuclear button.”
Trump said at the UN that if North Korea didn’t back down from its nuclear aggression, the US would “have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
“No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles,” Trump said.
The president then went back to his latest nickname for the North Korean leader, saying, “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won#39;t be around much longer!/pmdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) a href=”https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/911789314169823232″September 24, 2017/a/blockquote
US Special Operations Command plans to award a sole-source contract to Dynetics Inc. for additional GBU-69B Small Glide Munitions, IHS Janes reports.
The deal, which will supposedly be signed in July 2018, will see Dynetics provide USSOCOM with the missiles, known as SGMs, until 2022. USSOCOM will buy 700 SGMs in the first two years, then 900 in 2020, and then 1,000 for the remaining two years, according to IHS Janes.
Dynetics’ SGM is a small standoff missile. At just 42 inches long, it is smaller than the Hellfire, but packed with 16 more pounds of explosives. As a standoff missile, its range is also superior to the Hellfire.
Standoff missiles, particularly the SGM, essentially act as small precision cruise missiles and glide bombs, and are often compared to short-range ballistic missiles.
The lattice control fins at the end of the missile are similar to the GBU 43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, and the GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator, both of which have control fins designed by Dynetics.
Dynetics has attached the SGM’s seeker nose section, tail kit, and wing assembly directly to the warhead case, making the system adaptable to different warheads and able to carry different systems. Unlike the Hellfire, the SGM can be detonated on impact or in the air while it is in close proximity to its target.
The SGM is specifically intended to be attached to UAVs and AC-130 gunships. Its longer range will enable pilots to strike at targets on the horizon, meaning the aircraft will no longer have to be directly over, or in close proximity to whatever it is striking.
This allows the delivery aircraft to be outside any defenses that may be used against it, like man-portable air-defense systems. For example, SGMs could enable the US to strike Taliban camps in Pakistan without crossing into its airspace.
Dynetics was awarded a contract by the Air Force June 2017 for 70 SGMs to be delivered over a 12-month period for use by USSOCOM. The deal included an option to supply 30 more munitions to the Air Force.
Given that they have now placed a much larger order, it would seem that USSOCOM is quite happy with its performance so far.
When most of Afghanistan was under Taliban rule in the late 1990s, the fundamentalist regime drafted a new constitution.
The document was never officially ratified, and it was unclear how much of it was ever implemented before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the extremist Islamic group from power.
But the constitution offers a glimpse into what kind of government the militant organization envisages as it prepares to negotiate a future power-sharing arrangement with the current Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani.
A political settlement made by the disparate Afghan sides is a key component of the peace deal signed by the United States and the Taliban on February 29 that is aimed at ending the 18-year war.
Under the deal, foreign forces will leave Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has agreed to launch direct negotiations with Afghan officials for a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing formula to rule the country.
Since 2001, the Taliban insurgency has vowed to drive out foreign forces and overthrow the Western-backed government in Kabul. But even as it seemingly pursues peace, it been vague about what kind of postwar government it envisions in Afghanistan.
Radical Islamic Seminaries
The Taliban emerged in 1994 following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first surfaced in ultraconservative Islamic seminaries in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees.
The seminaries radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought against the occupying Soviet forces.
The Taliban appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul alone.
The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce their ultraconservative brand of Islam. They captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.
In 1998, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar assembled some 500 Islamic scholars from across the country to draft a new constitution for the country.
After three days of deliberations, the scholars drafted a 14-page document — the first and only attempt by the Taliban to codify its views on power and governance.
‘Intensely Religious Roots’
In the document, power was centralized in the hands of an “Amir ul-Momineen,” or leader of the faithful. This supreme leader was the head of state and had ultimate authority. This was Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s spiritual leader and founder.
The constitution did not describe how such a leader would be selected or for how long he could serve. But it said the supreme leader must be male and a Sunni Muslim.
An Islamic council, handpicked by the supreme leader, would serve as the legislature and implement laws and policy. The government, headed by the head of the council of ministers — a quasi-prime ministerial position — would report to the Islamic council.
Under the constitution, Sunni Islam was to be the official state religion, even though some 15 percent of the population are Shi’ite Muslims.
The document stated that no law could be contrary to Islamic Shari’a law.
The constitution granted freedom of expression, women’s education, and the right of a fair trial, but all within the limits of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Shari’a law.
It is unclear how the document shaped the Taliban’s draconian laws and brutal policies during its Islamic Emirate, the official name of the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001.
The Taliban banned TV and music, forced men to pray and grow beards, forced women to cover themselves from head to toe, and prevented women and girls from working or going to school. The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engaged in adultery. Executions were common.
Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst for Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group, said the draft constitution reflects the “Taliban’s intensely religious roots” and reveals the importance placed on a “centralized authority” for a group that was “founded on a mission of restoring order to the country.”
The document was littered with contradictions and was never ratified. It was republished in 2005, a year after Afghanistan adopted a new constitution. But the document has disappeared from Taliban discourse in recent years.
“That may have been due to internal debate over certain articles, or just reflective of the group’s inclination to remain flexible in its policies, in part perhaps to prevent internal divisions over policy differences,” said Watkins.
‘Monopoly On Power’
As an insurgent group, the Taliban has preserved some of its key principles since it was overthrown in 2001.
Power is still centralized in the hands of an all-powerful leader, who oversees a shadow Taliban government in Afghanistan. The Taliban still enforces its strict interpretation of Islam in areas under its control. And it still regards Shari’a as the supreme law.
But analysts say the past two decades have changed how the Taliban views power.
The Taliban overcame a succession crisis after the death of Mullah Omar, has fended off competition from the global appeal of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and has remained a relatively coherent fighting force despite its 18-year war against foreign and Afghan government forces.
“The group now operates in a strange combination of increasingly centralizing its control over its own membership, while also allowing it to decentralize in other ways,” said Watkins.
The Taliban has claimed recently that it is not the same group that ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.
In a public statement, the Taliban said it does not want to reestablish its Islamic Emirate and has attempted to project a more reconciliatory image.
But the Taliban’s ambiguity on women’s rights, free speech, and elections — key democratic tenets introduced in Afghanistan since 2001 — has raised fears among many Afghans that the extremist group will attempt to restore its severe regime.
The Taliban said in February 2019 that it is committed to granting women their rights and allowing them to work and go to school, but only as long as they do not violate Islam or Afghan values.
But in the same statement, the Taliban also suggested it wants to curtail the fragile freedoms gained by women, prompting a wave of concern from rights campaigners.
Analysts said the Taliban’s great ambiguity on key issues reflects the divisions within the group.
The Taliban’s political leadership based in Pakistan is believed to be more open to an accommodation in assuming power under a peace deal.
Meanwhile, hard-line military commanders on the battlefield in Afghanistan are reluctant to budge on their demands for a full restoration of the Islamic Emirate.
“There is a cocktail of views among the Taliban on power and governance,” said Javid Ahmad, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
“More than anything, Taliban leaders need an intra-Taliban dialogue to settle their conflicting views about a future Afghan state,” Ahmad added.
There are also intense differences among the Afghan political elite.
Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, generally support a centralized state that guarantees their control of the government. But non-Pashtuns, which constitute a majority of the population, believe too much power of the state is left in the hands of one individual, and support decentralization because it would enshrine a more inclusive and equitable distribution of power.
Direct talks between the Taliban and an Afghan negotiation team over a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement were expected to start on March 10.
But the launch of the negotiations has been delayed due to disputes over the release of Taliban prisoners and the formation of Kabul’s negotiating team.
Even when intra-Afghan negotiations begin, many expect them to be complex and protracted, possibly taking years, considering the gulf between the sides on policy and distributing power.
“It will be incredibly difficult to get the two parties to come up with compromises on every issue of governance,” Ahmad said, although he added that there were also reasons for hope.
Both the Taliban’s political vision and the Afghan political system are modeled on the centralization of power and the supreme role of Islam.
Afghanistan’s 2004 constitution prescribes that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam” and sometimes appears at odds with more liberal and democratic elements within it.
Power is in the hands of a heavily centralized government. The president has the right to appoint and fire governors, mayors, police chiefs, district governors, and senators and has a tight grip on the country’s finances and how funds are spent and distributed.
“There is much more common ground in the legal and governance systems of these two than many of their supporters, on either side, care to admit,” said Watkins.
Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, on Jan. 30, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite,” saying it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s government without firing a shot.
While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea, Blair, a former U.S. Navy Admiral, has suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons.
“The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
North Koreans have no idea how bad things are in their country, Blair said, because they’re subject to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”
North Korean citizens caught with South Korean media can be sentenced to death or sent to horrific prison camps, as control of the media and intolerance for different narratives are pillars of North Korea’s government.
But Blair said the U.S. could leverage a recent trend in North Korea: cellphones.
About one in five North Koreans own a cellphone, many of which can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu River along the countries’ border, he said.
“Texts to these cellphones can provide subversive truth,” Blair said. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.”
Blair added: “The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”
Though outside media does get into North Korea and reaches the country’s elites, the U.S. could expand efforts to flood it with outside news. The U.S. used a similar tactic during the Cold War in setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media.
“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said.
Sun said that in the past when South Korea flew balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, Kim’s government responded militarily, sensing its frailty relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.
Blair pointed to other totalitarian states where popular uprisings have become informed and sought to take down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that “once that process starts, it is hard to stop.”
Displaying images of Donald Trump staring at a cemetery filled with crosses and Vice-President Mike Pence enveloped by flames, the nearly four-minute video showed the island of Guam being targeted by intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
“Americans should live with their eyes and ears wide open. They will be tormented day and night by the Hwasong-12 rockets without knowing when they will be launched,” the caption reads, according to Yonhap. “They will be in jitters.”
“(We) just wish US policymakers should seriously think twice ahead of an obvious outcome (of a war),” another caption says, showing a photo of US Defence Secretary James Mattis. “Time is not on the US side.”
With the exercises continuing on Aug. 22, upped its rhetoric, saying it would be a misjudgment for the US to think that Pyongyang would “sit comfortably without doing anything,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said, citing an unidentified military spokesman.
The ongoing drills and visits of US military officials to South Korea create the circumstances for a “mock war” on the Korean peninsula, KCNA said.
The comments represent a more belligerent tone after a war of words between the US and appeared to have subsided.
Trump praised North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week for waiting to launch missiles over Japan into waters near Guam, after previously warning of “fire and fury” if he continued to threaten the American homeland.
Tensions increased in July after conducted two intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Trump has said military force is an option to prevent Kim from gaining an ICBM that could deliver a nuclear weapon to the US.
On Monday, South Korea President Moon Jae-in said shouldn’t use the latest round of drills as an excuse for any further provocations. The exercises “are not aimed at raising military tensions on the Korean peninsula at all,” Moon told Cabinet members.
Kim made a visit in early August to a guard post about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from the border with the South, Yonhap News reported, citing unidentified South Korean government officials. The South Korean military considers the visit an unusual act and is preparing to prevent a possible military provocation, Yonhap said.
Since at least 2015, the Air Force has been talking about mounting lasers on planes and jets, such as AC-130s and F-15s and F-16s. Lockheed Martin was recently awarded a $26.3 million contract to develop lasers for fighter jets.
It’s unclear what capabilities a sixth-generation fighter would have, but some have speculated it could have longer range, larger payloads, and an ability to switch between a manned and an unmanned aircraft. It might also be able to travel at hypersonic speeds, carry hypersonic weapons, and more.
Defense News reports that the Air Force hasn’t selected a developer for the F-X, also known as Next-Generation Air Dominance or Penetrating Counter Air, but hopes to put it into service around 2030.
The AFRL says it will “listen and learn from the scientific community, higher education and business professionals through a series of conversations and outreach events” at universities across the US this spring and summer.
“In order to defend America, we need your help to innovate smarter and faster,” the AFRL’s website says. “Our warfighters depend on us to keep the fight unfair and we will deliver.”
In addition to the F-X, the AFRL video features the Air Force’s Loyal Wingman initiative, in which a manned fighter jet commands and controls a swarm of attack and surveillance drones.
It also showcases the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Gremlins program and the Air Force’s Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, known as Champ, a conceptual missile designed to cause electronic blackouts.
Since the days of Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock and his exploits in Vietnam, the image of Marine Corps Scout Snipers has struck fear in the hearts of America’s enemies.
And for good reason.
The Corps has one of the most comprehensive — and toughest — training schools for its sniper teams, with a grueling curriculum of long-range shooting, covert reconnaissance and advanced camouflage.
And that’s the problem, Corps infantry leaders say.
Marine officials have confirmed that Commandant Gen. Robert Neller is considering a plan that would make being a Scout Sniper a primary military occupational specialty in the Marine Corps, a move infantry leaders say would help units better meet the increasing demand for these highly-skilled specialists.
A Marine spokesperson declined to comment on whether the Commandant would sign off on the changes but said the Corps is looking into how to improve its Scout Sniper cadre.
“The Marine Corps is currently assessing the best way to train and sustain its Scout Snipers,” Marine spokesperson 1st Lt. Danielle Phillips told WATM. “It’s important we are thorough in our review to determine the best way the Corps can improve this vital capability.”
According to officers familiar with the process who spoke to We Are The Mighty on background, the way the Corps staffs its sniper platoons falls far short of the authorized goal of around 20 per platoon. One leader said on average a platoon has four trained snipers “if we’re lucky.”
“A lot of kids come to the sniper school not prepared or not fully qualified, so they fail out,” the infantry leader said. “So we’re just not able to maintain the number of snipers we need in a battalion.”
That’s why Neller was forwarded a plan to make the 0317 Scout Sniper MOS a primary one, in hopes that the Corps will do more to make sure enough of the sharpshooters get to the fleet where they’re needed.
“There’s a struggle to find Marines who have the time to train up and get to a ‘school level’ of success,” said a senior Marine sniper familiar with the MOS change proposal. “Right now it’s almost impossible.”
The senior Scout Sniper, who spoke on background to We Are The Mighty, said if the change is approved, a Marine who signed on as an 0317 would go through boot camp and the School of Infantry then would immediately be sent to a Basic Scout Sniper course. After that, the Marine would go back to the fleet to fill a Scout Sniper job in a platoon rather than leaving to chance the option of being pulled into another combat arms job.
Today, Marines who are selected for Scout Sniper have already completed one deployment and are approaching their end of active service, making it hard to keep snipers in the Corps even if they get the secondary MOS, the sniper leader said.
“There’s no way to make sure they stay in the sniper community,” he said.
As part of the change, the Corps is looking into modifying the Basic Scout Sniper course to focus more on the “scout” part of the training as opposed to shooting skills, the senior Marine leaders said.
Over the years, scout snipers have played an increasing role in reconnaissance and clandestine observation of targets where infantry leaders need “eyes on” key areas. Additionally, it’s been increasingly difficult to teach the advanced marksmanship skills that were once part of the basic sniper curriculum, contributing to the wash-out rates and making it harder for Marines to prepare for the sniper school.
The senior sniper said a lot of the advanced shooting techniques and other sniper-specific skills can be taught by senior NCOs once the new 0317 gets to his platoon. After a deployment in a sniper platoon, the Scout Sniper is better prepared for an advanced course and will help form a more seasoned cadre of leaders back at the platoon, he said.
But there are critics, senior Marine leaders acknowledge, particularly when it comes to the training changes.
“The old timers are pointing a bony finger at us and saying the new plan waters down sniper training,” the senior sniper said. “That’s an emotional response to how it used to be.”
“Nobody’s watering down what the Scout Sniper is and what he can do,” he added.
Earlier in August, a team from the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) won the 2020 Best Warrior Competition that was organized by the 1st Special Forces Command (1st SFC).
The 10th SFG team was comprised of a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (18C), who competed in the NCO category, and a Nodal Network Systems Operator-Maintainer (25N) who competed in the junior enlisted category. Both soldiers came from the 2nd Battalion of the Group and had previously won a unit-level competition that qualified them from the big event.
Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the competition was conducted virtually. Teams from across the command competed in a series of events.
The competition was broken up into a series of several events that assessed soldiers holistically. Competing teams had to take the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), shoot the M4 qualification test, write an essay, take a military knowledge exam, complete a 12-mile ruck march, and answer questions for an oral military board. Attention to detail throughout the competition was paramount, and teams were even graded on the correctness of their uniforms.
The Engineer Sergeant explained that some of the tasks were unfamiliar even for a Special Forces operator.
“I have very little background in Army doctrine and the reasons they do certain things,” he said in a press release. “It got me out of my comfort zone and now I have a greater base of knowledge than I did prior to this.”
The junior member of the 10th SFG team added that “it was definitely weird for us because you can’t see who you’re competing against. It’s a different feeling for sure and in a competition that really drives me.”
Both soldiers remained anonymous due to the sensitive nature of their job.
10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) snipers training at Fort Carson (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jacob Krone).
1st SFC is responsible for the Army’s Special Forces Groups (there are five active duty, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 10th, and two National Guard, 19th and 20th), the 75th Ranger Battalion, the 4th and 8th Psychological Operations Groups, and the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade.
The command sergeant major of 2/10th SFG said that “hands down I’m proud, they represent the battalion very well. This battalion has a blue-collar work ethic, so if they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it to the best of their ability.”
Green Berets primarily specialize on Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defence, Direct Action, and Special Reconnaissance. True to their soldier-diplomat nature, they embed with a partner force, which, depending on the situation, might be a guerrilla group or a government army, and work with and through that local force to increase their effectiveness and achieve their mission.
(Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)
Special Forces soldiers deploy in 12-man Special Operations Detachment Alphas (ODAs). Each ODA is comprised of an officer, warrant officer, operations sergeant, intelligence sergeant, and two weapons, engineer, communications, and medical sergeants. The idea behind the duplicate military occupational specialties is to enable the ODA to split into two, or even more, smaller teams.
The 10th SFG troops had to prepare for the competition while still excelling at their jobs. “Right from the beginning you could tell that they were putting in the effort to study and brush up on warrior tasks,” added their sergeant major. “Ultimately they displayed impressive levels of physical and mental toughness.”
Special Forces teams are often the first in a hot spot because of their unique combinations of combat effectiveness and cultural expertise. They led the campaign against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan; they invaded northern Iraq and held numerical superior enemy forces during the 2003 Iraqi invasion; and they were the first in Iraq to stop the Islamic State onslaught.
Army Reserve soldiers of American Samoa will soon train at the first indoor rifle range in the Army Reserve, a Modular Small Arms Range scheduled for a grand opening the end of April 2019.
“The sons and daughters of American Samoa serving in the Armed Forces will have the single best indoor training facility in the Army,” Brigadier Gen. Douglas Anderson, 9th Mission Support Command Commanding General, said. “We are providing our soldiers in American Samoa state of the art training facilities and the ability to conduct training at home, keeping these citizen soldiers with their families and employers to the maximum extent possible.”
Prior to this construction, soldiers of the region flew to Hawaii to conduct their regular required training. Now with the training site locally based, soldiers will be able to complete their annual requirements without having to leave home to do so.
“We need to train our soldiers to be ready so that when they are called to go in harms’ way they can meet the challenge but also defeat the enemy,” Jon Lee, 9th MSC civilian executive officer, said. “They are all serving our country to protect our freedoms. So we are giving them the newest and best to train and succeed.”
(U.S. Army photo)
“We have a commitment to the community to build the soldiers’ readiness so they can be ready at their home station which lessens their time away from their families,” Lee said.
Lee, a retired general officer and former 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment commander, his first unit was the American Samoa-based 100th Battalion, B Co., in 1984. Years later he deployed with American Samoan soldiers in 2004 to Operation Iraqi Freedom and recalled what the soldiers previously endured in order to train for said deployment.
“The first time the 100th Battalion was mobilized to go to Iraq, the soldiers of American Samoa spent almost 9 months to train and get certified,” he recalled. “So that’s almost two years they were away from home. It shouldn’t be that way.”
“The Army is committed to the training and readiness, for the people of American Samoa who have sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, wives, husbands who serve, and we are bringing in a State of the Art facility, the first of its kind for their sons and daughters,” Lee said. “We are bringing them the best of the best so that they can maximize to train in their local area.”
“We now have a greater chance to focus on the mission and training instead of spending a whole day at the shooting range,” Staff Sgt. Faiupu Tagaleo’o, unit supply sergeant for Theater Support Group- Pacific, American Samoa. “Now we don’t have to travel 5,000 miles or 10,000 miles to qualify with weapons. We can do it right here at home.”
Other Army Reserve soldiers of American Samoa expressed similar sentiments.
(U.S. Army photo)
“I support the building of MSAR because I won’t have to wait a whole year for Annual Training to shoot,” Sgt. K. Moetala, C. Co. 100th Battalion, 442nd Inf. Regt. said. “Also I get to train but I will be spending more time with my family.”
Furthermore, Lee stated, the MSAR is safe.
“It has zero escape for a round, 100 percent containment, from the ceiling to the walls to the ground,” he specified. “We issue ammo inside the building, with the doors closed and lock the building while firing. We take accountability of spent casings. We do accountability before we open the room again.”
The MSAR is also environmentally safe, with a filtration system so the fumes and gases released from the weapons are filtered. An additional benefit of the indoor facility, not only is it environmentally sound, but contains literal sound within from insulation.
“Noise abatement measures have been taken so that our community neighbors aren’t listening to the sounds of the rifle range during a training weekend,” said Anderson.
While maintaining U.S. Army Safety standards during use of the facility, the existence of the facility will also enable law enforcement and other security and protection entities such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard, access to train.
Through the duration of construction, 9th MSC has hosted three community town halls continuing the relationship with its neighbors.
“Thanks to the community for participating in the three community engagements that we’ve held,” Anderson said. “Safety is a priority for the Army Reserve and the Modular Small Arms Range is safe and we welcome any opportunity to show this.”
It may take up to five years to finalize the standards for the Army Combat Fitness Test as the service struggles to address the performance gap between male and female soldiers on the service’s first-ever gender-neutral fitness assessment.
The Army just completed in late September 2019 a year-long field test of the ACFT, involving about 60 battalions of soldiers. And as of Oct. 1, 2019, soldiers in Basic Combat Training, advanced Individual training and one station unit training began to take the ACFT as a graduation requirement.
So far, the data is showing “about a 100 to a 110-point difference between men and women, on average,” Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com.
North Carolina National Guard Fitness Manager Bobby Wheeler explain the proper lifting technique of the ACFT deadlift event to the students of the Master Fitness Trainers Level II Certification Course, Sept. 25, 2019, at Joint Forces Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alonzo Clark)
Final test-score averages taken from soldiers in the active forces, National Guard and Reserve who participated in the ACFT field test illustrate the performance gap that currently exists between male and female soldiers.
Maximum deadlift: Male soldiers deadlifted an average of 238 pounds; females lifted an average of 160 pounds.
Standing power throw: Male soldiers threw an average of 9 feet; female soldiers three average of 5.5 feet.
Hand release pushups: Male soldiers performed an average of 34 pushups; female soldiers performed an average of 20.
Sprint-drag-carry: Male soldiers completed the SDC in an average of 1 minute, 51 seconds; female soldiers completed the event in an average of 2 minutes, 28 seconds.
Leg tuck: Male soldiers completed 8.3 leg tucks; female soldiers completed 1.9 leg tucks.
Two-mile run: Male soldiers completed the run in an average of 16 minutes, 45 seconds; female soldiers completed it in an average of 18 minutes, 59 seconds.
U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.
(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)
All of the test-score averages are high enough to pass the ACFT, data that contrasts dramatically with that shown on a set of leaked slides posted on U.S. Army W.T.F! Moments in late September. Those slides showed an 84% failure rate for some female soldiers participating in the ACFT field test, compared to a 30% failure rate among male soldiers.
CIMT officials said the slides were not official documents. Hibbard said the field test showed that soldiers’ scores improved significantly between the first time they took the ACFT and after they were given time to work on their problem areas.
Currently, female soldiers at the start of Basic Combat Training taking the ACFT average about “a third of a leg tuck,” Hibbard said.
“If you have 144 women in basic training, the average is .3; by the end of it they are doing one leg tuck,” Hibbard said, who added that that is all that is required to pass the ACFT in that event. “So, in 10 weeks, I can get from a soldier not being able to do a leg tuck on average to doing one leg tuck.”
Hibbard said there are critics that say, “it’s too hard; females are never going to do well on it.”
“Well, we have had women max every single category, [but] we haven’t had a female max all six categories at once.”
Hibbard said the Army would be in the same position if it tried to create a gender-neutral standard for the current Army Physical Fitness Test.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test, Dec. 19, 2018.
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
“We would still have challenges, because you have to make the low end low enough that 95% of the women can pass,” Hibbard said, adding that the Army will likely have to make small adjustments to the standard over time as soldiers improve their performance in each event.
“It’s going to be three to five years, like we did the current PT test.”
The Army first introduced the APFT in 1980 and made adjustments over time, Hibbard said.
“Once the Army began to train and understand how to do the test, we looked at the scores and we looked at everybody was doing and we rebased-lined,” Hibbard said.
The next key step for implementing the ACFT by Oct. 1, 2020, will be to have active duty soldiers take two diagnostic ACFT tests and National Guard and Reserve soldiers take one to establish to get a better sense of the force’s ability to pass the test.
“I don’t think it is going to be hard for the Army to pass; what have to figure out as an Army is how do we incentivize excellence,” he said. “The goal of this is we change our culture so that we incentivize and motive our soldiers to be in better physical shape.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) was buzzed multiple times by Russian aircraft on Feb. 10.
According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the Porter was operating in international waters in the Black Sea after taking part in Sea Shield 2017 when the series of flybys occurred. One incident involved an Ilyushin Il-38 “May,” a maritime patrol aircraft similar to the P-3 Orion. The other two incidents involved Sukhoi Su-24 “Fencer” strike aircraft.
“These incidents are always concerning because they could result in miscalculation or accident,” Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for United States European Command, told the Free Beacon, who also noted that the Porter’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Andria Slough, considered the Russian actions to be “unsafe and unprofessional.”
The Free Beacon reported that the Russian planes did not respond to messages sent by the destroyer, nor were they using their radars or transponders.
Last April, Russian Su-24s buzzed the Porter’s sister ship, the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75). The Daily Caller also noted other incidents where Russians buzzed American warships. The Free Beacon also noted that this past September, a United States Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close encounter with Russian fighters.
Tensions with Russia have increased since Vladimir Putin’s government seized the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine in 2014. Incidents involving American ships in the Black Sea have happened before.
The Soviet Krivak I class guided MISSILE frigate Bezzavetny (FFG 811) impacts the guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) as the American ship exercises the right of free passage through the Soviet-claimed 12-mile territorial waters. (US Navy photo)
In 1986, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Caron (DD 970) exchanged messages with a Krivak-class frigate while sailing an “innocent passage” mission within six miles of the Soviet coast.
In 1988, the Yorktown and Caron were involved in another incident, with the Yorktown being “bumped” by a Krivak-class frigate, and Caron being “bumped” by a Mirka-class light frigate. All four ships suffered what was characterized as “minor” damage.
On the same day he touted the “Space Force” to veterans, President Donald Trump’s plan to create a sixth military branch hit a roadblock in Congress.
A House-Senate conference committee working on the $716 billion defense budget for fiscal 2019, which begins Oct. 1, 2018, left out money to start building the Space Force.
Early July 24, 2018, in address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Kansas City, Trump cited the Space Force as part of an unrivaled military buildup under his administration.
“My thinking is always on military and military strength. That is why I’m proud to report that we are now undertaking the greatest rebuilding of our United States military in its history. We have secured 0 billion for defense this year, and 6 billion next year — approved,” he said to applause.
President Donald Trump
“And I’ve directed the Pentagon to begin the process of creating the sixth branch of our military. It’s called the Space Force,” Trump said to more applause. “We are living in a different world, and we have to be able to adapt, and that’s what it is. A lot of very important things are going to be taking place in space.
“And I just don’t mean going up to the moon and going up to Mars, where we’ll be going very soon,” he added. “We’ll be going to Mars very soon. But from a military standpoint, space is becoming every day more and more important.”
However, the conference report of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees left out funding for the Space Force in the National Defense Authorization Act. The conference report must still be approved by the full House and Senate.
Instead, the report directs Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to come up with a plan for how the Defense Department would organize for warfighting in space.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis
(DoD photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
The House version of the conference report was also leery of Trump’s vision for the creation of a new military branch for space, instead calling for the establishment of “a subunified command for Space under United States Strategic Command for carrying out joint Space warfighting.”
In June 2018, Trump appeared to give the job of creating a Space Force as a separate military branch to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.
At a White House meeting of the National Space Council, the president said, “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”
“We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force — separate but equal. It’s going to be something,” he said.
Trump then looked around the room to find Dunford and said, “General Dunford, if you would carry that assignment out, I would be very greatly honored.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The new US strategy in Afghanistan, by working more closely with Kabul and taking a harder line toward Pakistan, stands a better chance of working than previous plans, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sept. 20.
Speaking at an Asia Society meeting in New York, Ghani said former President Barack Obama’s previous strategy to try to successfully conclude the 16-year war and withdraw US troops failed because Obama “did not have a partner in Afghanistan.”
Ghani did not elaborate, but his remarks implicitly criticized his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, who had a sometimes rocky relationship with Washington.
Unlike Obama, US President Donald Trump has “a team of partners in Afghanistan,” Ghani said, and Trump developed his strategy after holding “immense consultations with us.”
Ghani gave Obama credit for his decision to maintain some US forces in Afghanistan rather than following his pledge to pull them all out, saying that decision “ensured our survival” at a time when Taliban militants were strengthening in their drive to defeat and unseat the government.
Ghani, in a separate interview with National Public Radio due to air on Sept. 21, revealed some details of Trump’s Afghan strategy not previously disclosed by the White House.
He said the administration’s objective is to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan back under the government’s control in the next four years. The United States currently estimates that the government directly controls only about half the country.
Ghani told NPR that the new strategy’s goal is to double the size of the Afghan commando force and elevate it from a division to a corps command, while bolstering the Afghan military’s airpower.
All this would occur as Kabul overhauls its military leadership, he said.
“We ourselves are changing management and leadership. Our minister of defense is under 40. A new generation is taking over,” he told NPR, adding that older generals are being honorably retired.
Under the plan, Ghani told NPR that US troops will continue to advise, assist, and train Afghan forces and will not return to a combat role.
But “the advisers will be working now at the division level to make sure that the systems processes are there,” he said.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this week that more than 3,000 additional US troops are being deployed to Afghanistan under the new strategy, raising the total number of US forces to more than 14,000. That compares with a high of more than 100,000 troops under Obama.
Part of Trump’s announced strategy is to take a tougher line toward Pakistan for allegedly providing refuge to the Afghan Taliban and other extremist groups. Pakistan denies the accusations.
Ghani told the Asia Society that by targeting Pakistan and taking a more “regional approach,” the Trump strategy provides a new opening for peace talks.
“The message to Pakistan to engage and become a responsible stakeholder in the region and in the fight against terrorism has never been clearer,” he said.
“What I am offering the Pakistan government, the Pakistan security apparatus, is the invitation to a comprehensive dialogue,” Ghani said. “If Pakistan does not take this opportunity, I think they will pay a high price.”
Ghani said Afghan forces are getting better, having gained more experience by assuming a bigger role in the fighting after the massive cuts in US forces under Obama.
He said he believes it will not take another decade to win or settle the war but rather “some limited years.”