There's now a criminal review into the Afghan army's combat uniform program - We Are The Mighty
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There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program

The head of US oversight for Afghanistan told lawmakers July 25 that the Pentagon’s wasteful purchase of untested camouflage uniforms for Afghan forces is under criminal investigation.


Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said the Defense Department spent $94 million on a proprietary camouflage pattern — known as HyperStealth Spec4ce Forest — for Afghan army forces “without determining the pattern’s effectiveness in Afghanistan compared to other available patterns.”

The effort resulted in $28 million in excess costs to the US taxpayer and, if unmodified, Sopko said, this procurement “will needlessly cost the taxpayer an additional $72 million over the next 10 years.”

Sopko’s investigation also found that the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, or CSTC-A, could not identify the total amount of direct assistance spent on Afghan uniforms — nor could it account for the total amount of uniforms actually purchased due to poor oversight and poor recordkeeping.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
John Sopko. Photo from Special IG for Afghanistan Reconstruction via Flickr

“These problems, Madam Chairwoman, are serious. They are so serious that we started a criminal investigation related to the procurement of the [Afghan National Army] uniforms,” Sopko told the committee.

As a result of the investigation, he added, “I am going to announce today that we believe it is prudent to review all of CSTC-A’s contracts related to the procurement of organizational clothing and individual equipment in Afghanistan.”

The investigation’s embarrassing findings recently prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to scold the Pentagon bureaucracy, describing the episode as emblematic of an attitude in the Pentagon that allows poor spending decisions to be excused, overlooked, or minimized.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, the Missouri Republican chairwoman for the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, asked how the forest camouflage pattern was selected over other more economical patterns that are owned by the Defense Department.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Afghan National Army soldiers standing out against their environment. Army photo by Pfc. David Devich.

Sopko said Afghanistan’s minister of defense was never shown any Defense Department-owned camouflage patterns.

“He was basically shown only the patterns owned by one company,” Sopko said. “The only options we gave the minister of defense were the proprietary patterns. The bigger problem is no one ever did an assessment as to what type of camouflage is best in Afghanistan.

“Basically, what we were told by CSTC-A, and we are researching this right now, is the minister of defense liked this color, so he picked it,” he said.

Peter Velz, director for Afghanistan Resources and Transition for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, agreed with Sopko’s report, saying that a “DoD organization with expertise in military uniforms should conduct an analysis of whether there might be a more cost-effective uniform design and camouflage pattern that meets operational requirements.”

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Roger S. Duncan

“We believe this is the best way to determine the merits of the report’s claim that DoD may have spent as much as $28 million over 10 years on uniforms that may be inappropriate for Afghanistan’s operational environment,” Velz said.

The appropriate Pentagon experts have begun developing a plan for the study, which is expected to begin in the coming weeks, he added.

It’s unclear if Velz’ office is aware that the US Army conducted an exhaustive camouflage study, which featured an operational evaluation of multiple camouflage patterns — including HyperStealth, in Afghanistan. The effort resulted in the Army selecting Crye Precision’s MultiCam pattern in 2010 as the service’s official pattern for Afghanistan.

Since then, the Army has adopted its new Operational Camouflage Pattern, a government-owned pattern that closely resembles MultiCam.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Afghan National Army Sgt. Sarajadin, an instructor at Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest. Photo from Special IG for Afghanistan Reconstruction via Flickr

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., asked what else the subcommittee can do to help prevent these types of mishandled contracts.

Sopko said that holding these types of hearing is important, but so is making sure “tough, hard questions are asked.”

“One question you could ask, and I think the full committee should ask, is how many people identified by my office, by the DoD office, or by [the Government Accountability Office] have actually lost their jobs because of wasting taxpayers’ dollars,” Sopko said.

“Send that letter to the Department of Defense … I bet you no one. We identify these problems; no one is held accountable,” he said.

Articles

The ‘Fork-tailed devil’ terrified Japanese pilots

Among the fighters that allowed America to win World War II, the P-38 Lightning was uniquely successful and was dubbed the “fork-tailed Devil” by the Germans even though its greatest successes came in the Pacific, Mediterranean, and North African theaters.


Army Air Corps leaders first solicited for what would become the P-38 in 1937 with the specification X-608, a request for a new pursuit aircraft that could fly 360 mph at 20,000 feet, reach 20,000 feet in six minutes, and run at full power at that altitude for at least an hour. They also wanted a long combat radius and plenty of firepower.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
The J model of the P-38 carried the same .50-cal machine guns and 20mm cannons of its predecessors, but could also carry bombs. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Lockheed, a newcomer to the military market, submitted the XP-38, a radical departure from conventional aircraft design that featured three pods and two tails. The outer pods lined up with the tails and each carried an Allison V-1710 engine with 1,000 hp.

While the XP-38 was a radical design, the Army adopted it anyway because they needed its power and speed to compete with new German and British designs. And it packed a lot of punch with four .50-cal. machine guns and a single 20 mm cannon, all crammed into the nose.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
The P-38 Lightning was the premiere twin-engine American fighter in World War II. It had four .50-cal. machine guns and a 20 mm cannon in its nose. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Museum)

The plane went through continued testing and design refinements before reaching Army pilots in 1940. Upon its debut, it was capable of reaching an altitude of 3,300 feet in one minute and could hit 400 mph with a range of 1,150 miles.

But production was slow and the Army had only 69 P-38s, so Lockheed was forced to subcontract parts to get the plane into combat for the U.S. But the P-38 arrived on the front lines with a vengeance. In early 1942, its pilots became the first Americans to down a Luftwaffe plane and P-38s carried seven of the top fighter aces of the Pacific theater.

The Lightning’s finest hour probably came on April 18, 1943. Naval Intelligence had learned that Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander and architect of the Pearl Harbor attacks, would be inspecting troops in the Pacific on that date.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
The last known photograph of Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto before he was killed by American P-38s. (Photo: Public Domain)

The military rushed together a plan to attack the admiral. The scheme called for fighters to fly approximately 600 miles out and 400 miles back with enough fuel available in the middle for fierce fighting. The only Pacific fighter capable of the feat in 1943 was the P-38 equipped with drop tanks.

A kill team of four P-38s flew with 12 others to an intercept point, dropped their tanks, and attacked the two bombers and six fighters of Yamamoto’s flight and escort. Two Americans had to peal off when their drop tanks failed to disconnect, but the other 14 successfully downed both bombers and the Zeros bugged out. One P-38 was lost in the battle and Yamamoto was killed along with his deputy.

America’s top-scoring fighter ace of all time, Maj. Richard Bong, achieved all of his 40 aerial victories in P-38s and the number two ace, Maj. Thomas B. McGuire, Jr., achieved most of his 38 kills in the P-38.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh with Maj. Thomas B. McGuire, America’s second-highest fighter Ace of all time. (Photo: U.S. Air Force archives)

All of this is not to say that the P-38 was perfect. It suffered a number of drawbacks including a tendency to become unstable at speeds approaching Mach 1 and to become unresponsive to controls during high-speed dives.

In Europe, the plane that dominated over the Pacific became a major liability for pilots because it wasn’t designed to withstand the extreme cold of Europe’s winter air at 20,000 feet and higher, especially in the particularly bitter 1943-1944 winter.

Pilots suffered hypothermia and frostbite in the barely heated cockpit and the engines were prone to failures as their intakes over-cooled incoming air.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program

The commander of the 20th Flight Group, Col. Harold J. Rau, was ordered to provide a written report as to why the P-38 wasn’t more successful in Europe. He asked the recipient to imagine a fresh-out-of-flight-school with less than 30 flight hours who was suddenly attacked by Luftwaffe fighters.

He must turn, he must increase power and get rid of those external tanks and get on his main. So, he reaches down and turns two stiff, difficult gas switches to main, turns on his drop tank switches, presses his release button, puts the mixture to auto rich, increases his RPM, increases his manifold pressure, turns on his gun heater switch, turns on his combat switch and he is ready to fight.

And the process was unforgiving of errors. Reversing the order of the engine steps or skipping a step could cause the engine to explode or throw a rod, either of which would rob the pilot of vital power during a dogfight. And all of this has to be done while German rounds are already ripping past or through the plane.

Luckily, the debut of the P-51 gave a viable alternative to the P-38. It didn’t suffer from the cold-weather problems of the P-38 and had comparable or better speed, range, and maneuverability at most altitudes while being easier for rookies to fly. It’s only major shortcoming against the P-38 was that it had only one engine and it was more susceptible to damage than either of the Lightning’s two.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Video from inside a Russian bomber being intercepted by F-22s

On May 12, 2018, two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to intercept and visually identify two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers flying off Alaska, north of the Aleutian Islands, in the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).

ADIZs may extend beyond a country’s territory to give the country more time to respond to possible hostile aircraft: in fact any aircraft flying inside these zones without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft.


According to NORAD, the Russians were “intercepted and monitored by the F-22s until the bombers left the ADIZ along the Aleutian Island chain heading west,” and, as usual, remained in international airspace.

Nothing special then, considered that these close encounters occur every now and then, as reported in 2017.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Alaska ADIZ detail

What’s a bit more interesting this time is the fact that the Russian Air Force has released some details and footage about the training activities conducted by its long range bombers. During the last round of “winter period” training, five long range missions were launched involving strategic missile carriers Tu-160 and Tu-95MS, as well as long-range Tu-22M3 bombers: these flights brought the Russian aircraft over the Pacific, the Arctic Ocean, Japan, East China, Black, Barents, Norwegian, Northern, Bering and Okhotsk Seas.

On May 12, 2018 mission off Alaska, the F-22s (that were filmed while shadowing the Bear, as the clip below shows) remained with the Tu-95s for 40 minutes.

“As for the last such flight, only one pair of US Air Force F-22 fighters have escorted our aircraft. Just one, it says that a certain effect of surprise has worked. Usually, during the execution of such flights, we are escorted to five or seven aircraft, while escorts are carried out by fighters of various states. I want to note that during this flight no one intercepted anyone. US Air Force planes accompanied our aircraft in the airspace over neutral waters. The pilots acted in the air correctly. No violations were recorded,” said commander of long-range aviation Lieutenant-General Sergei Kobylash in an article published by Zvezda.

While it’s somehow hard to believe that the large strategic bombers caught someone by surprise, the video is interesting, especially the short part where you can see a pair of F-22s from the window of a Russian Bear.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

popular

Troops pick which Army job is the best

People approach joining the Army as if all soldiers are the same, but there are actually a ton of different jobs recruits can enlist for. And since soldiers are willing to leave reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com, it’s easy to see which recruits might re-enlist without prompting and which will spend the next few years counting down to the end of their contract.


1. Human Resources Specialists

 

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Photo: US Army Sgt. Jason Means

Human resource specialists apparently love being in the Army, giving it a rating of 4.3 out of 5. It looks like sitting behind a desk at headquarters isn’t a bad way to earn the GI Bill.

2. Psychological Operations

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Samuel Bedet

Psychological Operations soldiers gave their career a 4.3 as well. Multiple reviewers cited their free foreign language training and incentive pays as reasons they like their job.

3. Artillerymen

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Photo: US Army

Artillery has the highest rating of the combat arms branches with a 4.1. Considering the fact that they get to pull strings and make stuff go boom all day, this isn’t a huge shocker.

4. Combat Engineer

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret

 

Considering the fact that combat engineers are stuck with missions like route clearance, it’s surprising that they rated their time serving as a 4 out of 5. But sappers are crazy like that and explosives are fun.

5. Communications specialists

 

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Pfc. Chris McKenna

 

The Commo guys also gave the Army a 4 out of 5. This is a broad category, including everyone from Satellite Communications Operators to Cable Systems Installer-Maintainers.

6. Army Pilots

 

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Photo: Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rissmiller

 

Helicopters are awesome, and their pilots rated serving at 3.9 out of 5. Some of the lower ratings came from OH-58 pilots who are understandably disappointed that the Army has gotten rid of their scout aircraft.

7. Cavalry

 

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Photo: US Navy Chief Photographer’s Mate Edward Martens

 

Cavlarymen cited their long work hours and the danger of combat arms as drawbacks, but the adrenaline rush, The benefits, and working outside were huge positives. The average review was a 3.9.

8. Army Special Forces

 

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bradley C. Church

Like the cavalry, Special Forces soldiers gave the Army a 3.9. Reviews cited the incentive pays for Special Forces and the professional environment as big positives. SF guys also get free language training.

9. Intel Analyst

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Photo: US Army Spc. Nathan Goodall

 

Intelligence analysts gave the Army a 3.8 out of 5. In charge of collecting data from the battlefield and figuring out what the enemy is doing, these guys spend a lot of time locked in secure offices seeing photos and reports no one else gets to.

10. Army Infantry

 

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann

 

The iconic rifleman may be all over the recruiting posters, but sleeping on rocks and rucking 100 pounds of gear isn’t exactly an ideal weekend. They still gave their employer a 3.7 rating, so it must not be all bad.

11. Army Medic

 

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Kaily Brown

Everyone loves medics, but they only rated the Army as a 3.6, so the feeling isn’t mutual. That 3.6 probably comes from their easy access to IV bags for curing hangovers, not from having to look at everyone else’s infections.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Saudis want a nuclear program of their own

The US recently opened talks with Saudi Arabia to potentially allow the Gulf country to enrich and process uranium within its borders, a move that could be driven by the growing threat of Iran.


Early March 2018, Energy Secretary Rick Perry led a delegation in London to discuss the conditions of the potential nuclear deal, Associated Press reported.

It’s possible the deal, which could allow US firms to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, may waive a US government prerequisite — called a 123 Agreement— that ensures countries agree to the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
United States Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The talks come as President Donald Trump focuses on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the country’s role as a threat in the Middle East.

Despite the 2015 Iran Nuclear deal, which significantly reduced the country’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, some officials are concerned that Iran’s facilities could still lead to the creation of nuclear weapons.

Also read: For first time in 70 years, Saudi Arabia may grant Israel access to airspace

As the world focuses on Iran, Saudi’s nuclear ambitions continued to expand, leading experts to draw connections in the timeline of Iran and Saudi Arabia’s heightened nuclear ambitions.

Saudi Arabia sees an opportunity to get on par with its nuclear nemesis Iran

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Experts say Saudi Arabia’s renewed push towards nuclear power is linked to Iran’s growing threat in the Middle East.

“It is hard not to draw conclusions regarding Saudi Arabia’s interest in nuclear power given how much it views Iran as a regional threat,” Lydia Khalil, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute, told Business Insider.

Khalil points to Saudi Arabia’s desire for a modified 123 Agreement with the US as evidence of the kingdom’s close eye on Iran’s nuclear program.

“Iran’s ability to enrich uranium for energy has impacted Saudi Arabia’s decision in that they argue that they should be treated no differently than other countries,” Khalil said.

In 2011, a Saudi prince expressed concern over Iran’s nuclear capabilities and said the kingdom could consider its own nuclear weapons if both Iran and Israel eventually had nuclear weapons. That stance was reportedly reiterated by officials in 2012.

Khalil explained that if the Saudi-US deal did not include crucial restrictions on uranium enrichment as typically required with American-brokered deals, the nation certainly has the capacity to pursue nuclear weapons “as any determined country would.”

Related: Saudi Arabia is paying $15 billion for this advanced anti-missile system

Additionally, without putting clear restrictions on enrichment towards weapons in place, Saudi Arabia could weaken nonproliferation protocols throughout the region, opening up the possibility for a nuclear arms race.

“Given [Crown Prince] Mohammed Bin Salman’s unpredictable foreign policy and domestic policy decisions of late and his current unilateral hold on power — who knows where this can all lead in the future.”

Articles

Meet the most decorated working dog of World War II

Chips, a German shepherd, collie, husky mix, was the most famous and decorated sentry dog in World War II, one of 10,425 dogs that saw service in the Quartermaster Corps’ new “K-9 Corps.” Prior to the K-9 Corps, dogs such as Admiral Wags on the carrier Lexington and World War I canine hero Sergeant Stubby were mascots without any official function.


The K-9 Corps was the culmination of a program begun by the Dogs for Defense, a civilian organization created in January 1942 by a group of notable dog experts and the American Kennel Club. Concerned about the vulnerability of America’s long coastline to infiltration by enemy saboteurs, it offered to provide the Army and Coast Guard with trained sentry dogs. After some initial resistance, the Army authorized an experimental program using 200 dogs. The success of that program caused the Quartermaster General to authorize the acquisition of 125,000 dogs (later reduced). Of the 10,425 dogs that served in the military during the war, most conducted sentry duty along America’s coastline and at military installations. But roughly 1,000 dogs were trained as scout dogs. Chips was one of those dogs.

Also read: A brief history of dogs in warfare

Chips’ owner was Edward J. Wren of Pleasantville, New York, who enlisted Chips in the Army in August 1942. After training at the War Dog Training Center in Front Royal, Va., he was assigned to Pvt. Rowell. Chips participated in Operation Torch, and was one of three dogs assigned guard duty for the Roosevelt/Churchill Casablanca Conference.

In the predawn hours of July 10, 1943, the 3rd Infantry Division under the command of Maj. Gen. Lucian Truscott landed on the shore of southern Sicily near Licata in Operation Husky. Among the troops that hit the beach was the 3rd Military Police Platoon, 30th Infantry Regiment, containing Pvt. John R. Rowell of Arkansas and his sentry dog, Chips. As dawn broke, the platoon was working its way inland when a machine gun nest hidden in what appeared to be a nearby peasant hut opened fire. Rowell and the rest of the platoon immediately hit the ground. But Chips broke free from his handler and, snarling, raced into the hut. Pvt. Rowell later said, “Then there was an awful lot of noise and the firing stopped.” The soldiers heard someone inside the hut fire a pistol. Roswell said he then “saw one Italian soldier come out with Chips at his throat. I called him off before he could kill the man. Three others followed, holding their hands above their heads.”

Chips suffered powder burns and a scalp wound from the pistol fired at close range. Medics treated Chips and released him to Rowell later that day. That night, while on guard duty Chips alerted Rowell of an infiltration attempt by ten Italian soldiers. Together they captured all ten.

Within days the story of Chips’ heroics had swept through the division. Chips was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star. More was to come. The platoon’s commander, Capt. Edward G. Parr put in a recommendation that Chips receive the Distinguished Service Cross for “courageous action in single-handedly eliminating a dangerous machine gun nest and causing surrender of its crew.”

War Department regulations prohibited the awarding of decorations to animals. But in the case of Chips, Truscott’s attitude was “regulations be damned.” He waived them and on November 19 in Italy he personally awarded Chips the Distinguished Service Cross.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
U.S. National Archives

The people back home learned of Chips’ heroism in newspaper stories published on July 14, 1944. While most people were thrilled, acclaim was not universal. The next day the War Department released a statement that it was conducting an investigation, noting the War Department regulations. In addition, William Thomas, the national commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, angrily wrote letters to the president, secretary of war, and adjutant general of the U.S. Army protesting that the Purple Heart was a decoration for humans, not animals. Then Congress got into the act. After a debate lasting three months, it decided no more decorations were to be awarded to non-humans adding “appropriate citations may be published in unit general orders.” This meant that at least they would receive honorable discharges.

Though they took away his medals, that didn’t make Chips any less a hero. Among those who honored Chips was Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. But, when Eisenhower leaned down to pet him, Chips, only knowing that Eisenhower was a stranger and possibly stressed from the attention he had been receiving, nipped the general’s hand.

Chips remained with the 3rd Infantry Division throughout the war. Shortly before he was honorably discharged, the men in his platoon unofficially awarded him a Theater Ribbon with arrowhead for an assault landing and eight battle stars. He returned home to the Wren family in December 1945.

Chips died seven months after coming home from complications of his war injuries at the age of 6. He is buried in the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, United States of America.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Afghanistan got its bizarre panhandle

For a country that hasn’t been conquered since Tamerlane rolled through, Afghanistan has sure been shaped by all those who tried to control it. Today, there’s even a little strip of land in the country’s northeast that forms a panhandle – strange for such a small strip considering the major powers who fought for control of the area.


There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Good luck getting there.

It was those major powers who created the panhandle in the first place. Today it borders China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. But during a period of time in Afghan history known as “The Great Game,” those countries were parts of China, the Russian Empire, and the British Empire, respectively.

It was Britain’s way of containing a quickly-growing Russia.

A treaty between Russia and Great Britain in 1873 made the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border between the Russian Empire and Afghanistan’s northern border. In 1893, the Durand Line became Afghanistan’s border with British India. A mostly independent Afghanistan was a buffer zone between the two growing empires.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
The red line through the center represents the British-imposed Durand Line.

The resulting narrow strip of land became known as the Wakhan Corridor.

It’s an area even more ungovernable than the rest of Afghanistan. At elevations as high as 17,000 feet in some areas, the area is inaccessible to most Afghans – and even the Taliban and the Soviet Union were unable (or unwilling) to fully move into the area.

The form of Islam practiced in the Wakhan is very hostile to the Taliban, a further explanation of the lack of central interference from Kabul.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
A valley in the Wakhan Corridor.

The 3,500-mile area used to be a route along the Silk Road and was traversed by great historical figures like Alexander the Great and Marco Polo. People there still depend on trade, but this remote part of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province sees little in the way of tourists or even Afghan visitors.

Today the area has few roads, no government, and is home to roughly 12,000 nomadic and semi-nomadic people.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the first enlisted female Guard soldiers to graduate Ranger School

Two soldiers from the South Carolina and Pennsylvania National Guard are the first enlisted National Guard females to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, a South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and U.S. Army Sgt. Danielle Farber, Pennsylvania National Guard 166th Regional Training Institute Medical Battalion Training Site instructor, completed the mentally and physically challenging school at Fort Benning Dec. 13, 2019. The school prepares soldiers to be better trained, more capable and more resilient leaders.


“My mindset going into this was to leave 100 percent on the table and never have regret or look back and say, ‘I should have pushed harder or I should have done something different,'” said Smiley. “My mindset today is that I did just that. I gave 100 percent. I did everything that I could, and now here I am.”

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program

U.S. Army Sgt. Danielle Farber, Pennsylvania National Guard 166th Regional Training Institute Medical Battalion Training Site instructor, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer currently serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, graduate U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2019, as the first National Guard enlisted females to complete the leadership school.

(Photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)

As the first female National Guard enlisted soldiers to graduate from the school, Smiley and Farber join a small group of women who have earned a Ranger tab since the Pentagon lifted the ban on women serving in combat arms positions. The others are U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, who in 2015 became the first women to ever complete the school; U.S. Army 1st Lt. Emily Lilly, who was the first female National Guard officer to graduate in 2018; and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley, the first enlisted soldier to graduate, also in 2018. However, Smiley and Farber do not think Ranger school is an accomplishment only they are capable of achieving.

“I don’t think it’s charting a course for other women because it’s something that we all have in us. We just haven’t been allowed to do it … There are many women out there who are completely capable of doing it,” said Smiley. “Do it … Put in the hard work, put in the dedication to accomplish the goal.”

Smiley and Farber said the accomplishment took years of training and did not come without setbacks. Farber has been working toward this goal since 2016 when she first tried for the Pennsylvania Ranger/Sapper state assessment program and was not selected. She tried again in 2018 and was selected, with approximately 10 other soldiers. A year later, she left for Ranger school.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer currently serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, graduates U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2019, as one of the first National Guard enlisted females to complete the leadership school.

(Photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)

“Train hard for it,” said Farber. “Come into it knowing you’re going to be doing things that every other male that comes through here has to do. Don’t come through here and expect any sort of special treatment because it won’t happen.”

Now that they have earned their Ranger tab, Smiley and Farber hope to use the skills they’ve gained and help the soldiers they work with and lead.

“This day to me is not the end of the school, but is the beginning of the new chapter in my career, not only for myself but for future soldiers,” said Smiley.

U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Russ Vickery, South Carolina National Guard command sergeant major, said he is proud of what Smiley and Farber achieved.

“It is a big deal to be the first enlisted females in the National Guard graduating Ranger School. … It’s groundbreaking,” he said. “We always tell [soldiers] that they can do it. Physical size is not the limitation; it’s the amount of heart and soul that a soldier brings.”

Articles

This is how agile ‘Lightning carriers’ could rule the South China Sea

The US Marine Corps just set forth its vision of a battle plan to take on growing threats around the world — and it calls for small “Lightning carriers” armed to the teeth with F-35s.


The 2017 Marine Aviation Plan acknowledges the burgeoning “missile gap” between the US and adversaries like China, who have a number of “carrier killers” — long-range precision weapons specifically designed to hit land bases and aircraft carriers before they can hit back.

While the US Navy is working on the MQ-25A Stingray as an unmanned refueling system to extend the range of its carrier aircraft, the Marines seem ready to press ahead with a similar concept in “Lightning carriers.”

Basically, the Marines will already have enough F-35Bs to equip several of their smaller amphibious assault ships, sometimes known as helicopter carriers, while the Navy waits on their F-35Cs to sort out carrier-launch issues for its larger, Nimitz-class carriers.

Related: Here’s when the F-35 will use stealth mode vs. ‘beast mode’

“While the amphibious assault ship will never replace the aircraft carrier, it can be complementary, if employed in imaginative ways,” reads the plan. The Marines refer to one such creative use of the smaller carriers as a “Lightning carrier,” or an amphibious assault ship with 20 F-35Bs and an “embarked, organic aerial refueling capability” to extend their range.

The Marines plan to further reduce reliance on land and sea bases with “mobile forward arming and refueling points” that employ decoys and deception to confuse the enemy and keep US aircraft spread out and unpredictable.

The F-35B with its stealth, unparalleled intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, plus extended range, can match the long range missiles fielded by Russia and China and help the Marines secure land and sea bases by allowing them to see first, and if need be, shoot first.

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program
Four F-35B Lightning II aircraft perform a flyover above the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration. | US Navy photo by Andy Wolfe

In December, an F-35 pilot aboard the USS America, a new type of amphibious assault ship built specifically for the F-35, called the “Lightning carrier” concept “the most powerful concentration of combat power ever put to sea in the history of the world.”

Additionally, the F-35 won’t just increase capabilities, but if acquired faster to replace the aging F-18s and Harriers in the Marines’ fleet, it could save $1 billion, according to the US Naval Institute.

But the Marines aren’t just waiting on the F-35B to save them. The service has big plans to network every single platform into a “sensor, shooter, electronic warfare node and sharer – able to move information throughout the spectrum and across the battlefield at light speed.”

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From boots on the ground to satellites in the sky, this complicated graphic details how the Marine Corps plans to integrate every bit of data from any platform, anywhere. | USMC Graphic

With upgraded data sharing and command and control abilities, every asset from boots on the ground to satellites in the sky will work together to provide decision-quality information to war fighters, whether they’re on carriers, land bases, or taking a beach.

While China cements its land and sea grab with militarized islands in the South China Sea, the Marines’ aviation plan takes on a new urgency. The plan details how the first F-35B squadrons will deploy to Japan and the US’s West Coast.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here are the top shooting tips according to a sniper

Hidden, the sniper peers through his scope. Watching from the shadows, he sets his sights on his target. He thinks through his shot. Holding his breath, he fires. The enemy never sees it coming. Target down.

When you hear the word “sniper,” the image that likely pops into your head is that of a concealed sharpshooter armed with a powerful rifle preparing to fire a kill shot from hundreds of yards away. There’s a good reason for that.

Snipers are defined, at least in part, by their unique ability to eliminate targets at a distance, taking out threats without letting the enemy know that they are coming. It’s a difficult job. Snipers typically operate at ranges between 600 and 1,200 meters, and occasionally take an enemy out from much farther away.


A Canadian special forces sniper, for instance, shattered the world record for longest confirmed kill shot in 2017, shooting an ISIS fighter dead in Iraq from over two miles away.

“There’s definitely people out there who have done amazing things,” US Army First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper and instructor at the sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Business Insider. “Anything is possible.”

We asked a handful of elite US Army snipers, each of whom has engaged enemies in combat, what goes into long-range shots. Here is what these expert marksman had to say about shooting like a sniper.

“There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” Sipes told BI.

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U.S. Army sniper Spc. Nicholas Logsdon, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

First, a sharpshooter needs the right gear. A sniper’s rifle is his most important piece of equipment, his lifeline. The two standard rifles used by conventional Army snipers are the gas M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and the bolt-action M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle.

Bullets fired from these rifles leave the barrel at speeds in excess of 750 meters per second, more than two times the speed of sound.

The other critical assets a sniper never wants to go into the field without are his DOPE (Data on Previous Engagements) book and his consolidated data card or range card — hard data gathered in training that allow a sniper to accelerate the challenging shot process. Snipers do not have an unlimited amount of time to make a shot. They have to be able to act quick when called upon.

Second, while every Army sniper has the ability to carry out his mission independently, these sharpshooters typically work closely with their spotters, a critical set of extra eyes on the battlefield.

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A U.S. Army sniper, paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, uses his spotter scope to observe the battlefield during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

The two soldiers swap roles in training so that each person is crystal clear on the responsibilities of the other, ensuring greater effectiveness in combat.

Third, a sharpshooter needs a stable firing position, preferably one where the sniper is concealed from the watchful eyes of the enemy and can lie prone, with legs spread to absorb the recoil. Snipers do, however, train to shoot from other positions, such as standing or kneeling.

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U.S. Army sniper Spc. Nicholas Logsdon, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

Fourth, the sniper and his spotter must have a comprehensive understanding of all of the difficult considerations and calculations that go into the shot process, Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, sniper instructor team sergeant at Fort Benning, explained to BI. The team must measure atmospherics, determine range, determine wind, and then work together to fire accurately on a target.

“The biggest thing you have to consider is, right off the bat, your atmospherics,” he said. These include temperature, station pressure, and humidity for starters. “The sniper has to account for all of that, and that is going to help formulate a firing solution.”

An important tool is a sniper-spotter team’s applied ballistics kestrel, basically a handheld weather station. “It automatically takes readings and calculates a firing solution based on the gun profile we build,” Rance told BI.

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U.S. Army sniper Spc. Nicholas Logsdon, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

Next, the pair determines range, which is paramount.

Against lower level threats like militants, snipers can use laser range finders. But trained soldiers likely have the ability to detect that. Against these advanced battlefield enemies, snipers must rely on the reticle in the scope.

“So, basically, we have this ruler, about three and a half, four inches in front of our eyes that’s inside the optic that can go ahead and mil off a target and determine a range through that,” Rance said.

Once the sniper determines range, the next step is to determine the wind speed. Based on the distance to the target, the sniper must determine wind speed for different zones. “The sniper will then generally apply a hold,” Rance explained. “He will dial the elevation on his optic, and he will hold for wind.”

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program

U.S. Army sniper Spc. Nicholas Logsdon, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

When firing from great distances, bullets don’t fly straight. Over long range, bullets experience spin drift and gravity’s toll, which causes it to slow down from initial supersonic flight.

When it comes time to take the shot, the sniper will “fire on a respiratory pause,” Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander at the sniper school at Fort Benning, explained to BI. “He is naturally going to stop breathing before he pulls the trigger.”

For an expert sniper, the gun will come straight back into his shoulder, and the scope ought to fall right back on target.

Fifth, a sniper has to be ready to quickly put another shot down range if the first fails to eliminate the threat. “If [the sniper] were to miss,” Rance explained, “they only have a few seconds to do the second shot correction before that target seeks cover and disappears.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now you can read about every single fallen US troop in the Vietnam War

From the day the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was erected in 1982, it has brought closure and healing to veterans who visit the solemn site. And millions of people visit “The Wall” each year.


How can a memorial bring the same feeling of remembrance and gratitude to those who can’t make the trip to Washington every year? The answer is to bring the wall to them.

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Now, the Virtual Wall, a website that archives the names of the 58,300 Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War — the names depicted on The Wall — gives veterans and curious visitors the chance to search for specific people from anywhere in the world.

There’s more to the Virtual Wall than searching for veterans by name, though. To safeguard American history and preserve local history, the Virtual Wall allows people to browse and search the names by state and city. More importantly, visitors can read about each individual’s death, often see a photo, and read more about their awards and decorations.

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Today I learned about my hometown’s Vietnam War heroes. (VirtualWall.org)

The Virtual Wall allows visitors to leave photos, memories, poems — basically anything to remember the fallen. It also allows others to see and read those personal memorials.

Related: How to honor Vietnam veterans

Each name on the pages of The Virtual Wall leads to a memorial, written by someone who had a personal connection to the man or woman remembered.

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It doesn’t have to be from a fellow veteran. It can be from someone who knew them.

While The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on Washington’s National Mall is operated by the National Parks Service, the Virtual Wall is a creation of private citizens who thought a virtual version of the memorial was a good idea.

It looks a little dated (it was first launched in 1997), but the site is maintained for free, by Integration, Incorporated, a Batavia, N.Y.-based corporation and from “the pockets of three veteran volunteers.”

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For example, Robert Louis Gunther died Nov. 23, 1967, the result of an artillery-related accident.

The Virtual Wall’s founder, Jim Schueckler, is a Vietnam veteran himself and its creation led the effort to the Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. It is also an official partner of the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress.

MIGHTY FIT

5 chest exercises that you should never forget

In the gym world, Mondays are known as “International Chest Day.” Many believe that the chest is the focal point of a perfect physique, so, to start your week off right, you need to work out those muscles first. Having a well-trained chest tends to draw wandering eyes wherever you go — and who doesn’t want that positive attention?

Now, doing a few dozen push-ups is a good start, but it isn’t going to give you that fully defined look that most people want. It takes solid form, controlled movements, and a continual introduction of new exercises to achieve maximum results.


Since our bodies are amazing at adapting, switching up our workouts is an essential aspect to achieving continued growth. You can do a variety of movements to get a good pump, but remember, it’s all about how long you keep the muscle under tension. That’s the best way to get those muscles to bulk up or lean out.

So, warm up for a few minutes with some cardio and let’s hit chest!

Also Read: 5 back exercises that can cure ‘ILS’

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Decline dumb bell press

In terms of defining your lower chest, the decline dumb bell press is one of the best. Carefully position yourself on a decline bench and start the movement by holding manageable weights just above the outside part of your chest. Once you’re ready, take a breath and use your chest muscles to push the weights up, centering them.

While slowly exhaling, lower the weights back down toward your body and stop as your forearms and biceps form 90-degree angles. Congrats! You just correctly executed a decline dumb bell press.

Note: Use a spotter if you’re using heavy weight during this exercise.

Now, do three to five more sets of eight to twelve reps each.

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Close grip dumb bell press

This one’s perfect to rip your inner chest.

As you lay back onto the bench (flat or incline), bring the weights up over your chest and hold them together. With the dumb bells continuing to touch one another, lower them down in a controlled manner toward your sternum. Stop when the weights are about an inch above your chest. Do not bounce the weights off your upper torso — that’s cheating.

Use all your might and explode the weights back up the sky to their original position. Nicely done!

As always, aim for three to five sets of eight to twelve reps each.

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Single-arm dumb bell chest press

This exercise will make you realize just how heavy the weights can be — even at a low load. Grab a manageable dumb bell in one hand (start small), and position yourself on the center of the bench. Once you’re ready, take a breath and use your chest muscles to push the weight up and center it.

Next, slowly lower the dumb bell back down toward your outer chest and stop as your arm forms a 90-degree angle. You’ll probably notice that, even when using a low weight, this movement isn’t as easy as you thought. The asymmetrical nature of this exercise helps improve your stabilizer muscles. An off-kilter load requires more than just your chest to lift, making it feel much harder — but it will help build more muscle when done correctly.

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Reverse-grip dumbbell bench press

While positioned on either a flat or incline bench, grab a weight and rotate your wrists so your fingers are pointed toward your face. Once you’re ready to press, use those chest muscles to push the weight up while slowly exhaling.

Lower the weights back down toward your body and, as always, stop as your arms form 90-degree angles. That’s all there is to it.

You know the drill: Push out three to five sets of eight to twelve reps each.

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Decline push-ups

This is one of the best and most under-utilized exercises of all time. This movement can be done practically anywhere and will help define the upper chest big time. As with all push-ups, you’ll get the best results by using perfect form and going at a slow pace.

The rep count for decline push-ups is simple: Go until you hit failure.

Articles

Here’s how the Nazis helped Israel during the first wars against Arab states

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Israeli Bf 109 variant during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. (Photo: IDF archives)


In 1948, the state of Israel was a new nation without a unified military and without sufficient weapons.

The one thing it did not lack was enemies. Surrounding Arab nations attacked Israel almost immediately, precipitating the War of Independence. The fledgling military that would eventually become the Israeli Defense Forces was desperate for weapons.

So desperate they were willing to use arms once destined for the soldiers of the Third Reich.

One of the little known facts of 1948 Arab-Israeli war is Nazi weapons armed Jewish freedom fighters, many of whom had faced the same armaments in the hands of their German oppressors during World War II and the Holocaust.

Before independence, both Great Britain and the United States embargoed weapons sales to the Yishuv, the Jewish settlers who lived in Palestine under the control of the British Mandate.

Thanks to one of the most unlikely arms deals in history, the Israeli government circumvented the embargo. The deal was part of Operation Balak, named after the biblical king of the Moabites whose name meant “he who lays waste to an enemy.”

The deal included hundreds of MG34 general purpose machine guns, which first saw action when the Germans fought in the Spanish Civil War. There were thousands of Karabiner 98 bolt-action rifles – the basic infantrymen’s weapon of the Wehrmacht.

The young Israeli Air Force even flew Czech-built Avia S-199 fighter planes, which was really the German Messerschmitt Bf 109. In fact, the Israeli pilots even called the planes “Messerschmitts.”

Even the MP-40 submachine gun – a weapons favored by Waffen-SS troops during World War II – was in the hands of the various Jewish militias that Ben-Gurion ordered absorbed into the early IDF.

Make no mistake – Israelis were happy to have the weapons, even if some the firearms still had Nazi proof marks.

“The feeling in those crucial days in Israel was that any way it could defend itself against the Arab armies attacking the young state was justified,” said Uzi Eilam, a senior research fellow with the Israel-based Institute for National Security Studies and a retired brigadier general in the IDF.

The genesis of what might qualify as the world’s most ironic arms deal is a decision made by one of the Third Reich’s leading strongmen and an unrepentant anti-Semite: Hermann Göring.

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Hermann Goering, Nazi, commander of the German Luftwaffe, and facilitator of Israel’s independence.

In 1938, Göring was in charge of administering the Nazi’s Four Year Plan, a program of economic development and increased arms production in violation of the Versailles Treaty. At the same time, Hitler’s goal of taking European territory without firing a shot was moving along briskly, including the annexation of part of Czechoslovakia under the terms of the Munich Agreement – the infamous treaty that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said granted “peace for our time.”

What it really did was place Czech heavy-industry under Nazi control. Göring later ordered the Skoda works transformed into weapons production plants – the Hermann Göring Werke complex that became one of the leading arms production plants for the Reich.

The plant made thousands of rifles and machine guns for German use throughout World War II. After World War II when Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Red Army, the Soviets captured the German weapons and the plants.

By 1947, Jewish political leaders knew independence could only be achieved through warfare. Surprisingly, Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia was open to a deal.

“The Czech government agreed because they had a huge surplus of German weapons, some of which had been produced in Czechoslovakia during the war, and because they got paid – in dollars,” said Martin van Creveld, an Israeli military historian and theorist. “By the summer of 1948, the IDF had enough (weapons) to arm all its troops, so no more imports were needed.”

Czechoslovakia sold the weapons to Israel with Joseph Stalin’s blessing, no less, probably in the hope that the deal might persuade the new Israeli government to lean toward a close relationship with the U.S.S.R. That didn’t happen, and eventually the Soviet Union adopted a staunchly pro-Arab foreign policy.

Eventually, Israel would eventually acquire weapons from other sources, including British Sten guns, French 65-millimeter howitzers and other leftovers from World War II.

But Nazi weapons stayed in Israel’s arsenals. The Israelis dubbed the Karabiner 98 bolt-action rifle the P-18. Re-chambered in Israeli arsenals for the 7.62 x 51 millimeter NATO round, it saw active service during the 1956 Suez Crisis before designated a weapon for reservists by the IDF.

Many of those German rifles remained in use through the 1970s.