A female Marine graduated from the Corps’ grueling Infantry Officer Course Monday, marking a historic feat as the first woman to earn the 0302 infantry officer military occupational specialty.
The woman, who has asked to keep her identity private, will now be assigned to the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California, the service said in a release.
“I am proud of this officer and those in her class who have earned the infantry officer MOS,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement.
Infantry Officer Course is one of the Corps’ toughest schools, where officers learn combat skills, patrolling, and leadership over 13 weeks of training. Just 88 Marines graduated from the latest class, which started with 131 students.
IOC was first opened to women in 2012 so that Marine leaders could research the feasibility of integrating all-male infantry units. Eventually, the Pentagon removed all restrictions on women in 2015.
Since the course opened up, more than 30 female officers have attempted it and failed. Meanwhile, a handful of enlisted female Marines have been able to graduate from the Corps’ Infantry Training Battalion.
“This is such a huge deal,” Kate Germano, a retired lieutenant colonel who previously commanded the all-female 4th Recruit Training Battalion, wrote on Twitter.
The Corps released a short video with clips of the female lieutenant during the course:
They’re surrounded, targeted by constant bombardments and slowly strangled of supplies and reinforcements for months so fighters for Daesh (aka ISIS) might reasonably have abandoned Mosul and tried to slink off into the night.
That’s what happened June 2016 in the battle to recapture Fallujah, when Daesh fighters were relatively quickly routed, and hundreds were killed by U.S. aircraft when their fleeing convoy was spotted in the dark with infrared targeting systems.
Everyone in the anti-Daesh coalition hoped for a similar retreat by demoralized terrorists that would separate them from the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians still cowering in Mosul’s byzantine old city, on the west bank of the Tigris River.
But Daesh’s fighters are not abandoning Mosul, which, with the Syrian town of Raqqa, forms the twin-capitals of the self-proclaimed Islamist “caliphate.”
They are falling back on defensive positions prepared for two years in the densely congested side streets and alleyways of the old city, gathering Iraqi civilians close as they can as “human shields” and apparently preparing for a last, desperate stand.
“The toughest and most brutal phase of this war, and probably the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced or even read about in my 34-year career,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve says.
A veteran of six combat tours, Townsend calls the fighting in Mosul “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”
The tragic byproduct has been an alarming spike in civilian casualties, including a U.S. strike against a reported ISIS truck bomb on March 17 that may have collapsed a nearby building and killed as many as 200 civilians gathered there by Daesh.
On a recent trip near the frontlines of the Battle of Mosul, Townsend found a possible explanation for Daesh’s determination to stage an apocalyptic fight to the death in the old city.
“Every movement has a well-spring or some home turf where it finds support, and in recently talking to Iraqi and coalition commanders and listening to their intelligence assessments, I heard about neighborhoods supporting ISIS that I remembered from being a brigade commander in Mosul 10 years ago, when those same neighborhoods were sources of support for Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Townsend, speaking recently to defense reporters by phone from Baghdad.
If the Shiite-led Iraqi government fails to reach out to those and other neighborhoods and towns of disenfranchised Sunnis after the fighting stops, he noted, then Daesh’s expulsion from Mosul will likely prove a fleeting victory.
“What’s important after ISIS is defeated is that the government of Iraq has to reach out to these groups of people and make sure they feel like they have a future in the Iraqi state,” said Townsend.
A Pivotal Moment
With roughly three-quarters of Mosul recaptured and Daesh finally on the verge of losing its grip on Iraqi territory, the campaign against them is poised at an important inflection point.
Counter-insurgency experts have long understood that the actions of the Iraqi government and the various factions involved in the fighting the day after Mosul is recaptured will largely determine whether the group is defeated, or, once again, rises from the ashes of sectarian conflict.
The complex nature of the battlespace, combined with the anti-Daesh coalition’s sprawling nature, promises to complicate the transition from urban combat to whatever comes after.
The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is weak and has struggled to cope with the demands of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the fighting in Mosul.
The territorial demands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to the north, and possible acts of retribution against Sunni civilians by thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen to the west of city, cast a dark shadow over the aftermath.
A continued spike in civilian deaths by U.S. and coalition air forces could further alienate the overwhelmingly Sunni population of Mosul and surrounding Nineveh Province.
And hanging over the entire anti-Daesh campaign is the question of a continued U.S. presence in Iraq after the group is expelled, and whether that engagement can be leveraged to help achieve the long-sought national reconciliation among Iraq’s feuding Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni factions.
Perhaps no U.S. military officer of his generation better understands this difficult terrain, and the momentous challenges ahead, than retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan and at U.S. Central Command.
He is widely credited with crafting and executing the counterinsurgency doctrine that pulled Iraq back from the abyss of sectarian civil war in 2007-2008 and decimated Al Qaeda in Iraq.
“The military defeat of ISIS is only the first step. The much more challenging task is to use all elements of American and coalition power to help achieve political solutions that will avoid once again creating fertile ground for extremists, and thereby avoid the rise of ISIS 3.0,” Petraeus told [Breaking Defense] in a recent email. “Our success in that mission will determine whether the U.S. military has to do this all over again in five years.”
Sectarian Civil War
After U.S. and Iraqi military forces and the Sunni tribes of Anbar Province routed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) beginning in 2006-7, the remnants of the terrorist insurgency eventually went underground, only to rise Phoenix-like from the fires of Syria’s civil war.
That brutal conflict pitted a minority regime of Alawites, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, against a majority Sunni population.
Meanwhile, after the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, the Sunni tribes in western Iraq, which had turned against AQI in the “Anbar Awakening,” grew restive under the iron-fisted and openly sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who headed the Shiite-majority government in Baghdad.
A former AQI lieutenant named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had spent time in a U.S. detention facility in Iraq, realized that between weak Shiite-led governments in Damascus and Baghdad lay a swath of territory inhabited by millions of rebellious Sunnis.
From that strategic insight, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born, and in one of the most improbable military offenses in history, its terrorist army captured territory in Syria and Iraq and proclaimed a “caliphate” in land stretching between its twin capitals.
When the Obama administration reluctantly deployed aircraft and troops back to Iraq to defend a Baghdad government on the verge of collapse, it wisely used that leverage to help nudge out the sectarian Maliki and encourage the more moderate Abadi.
Since then Abadi has promised to lead “national reconciliation” by reaching out to Sunnis liberated from Daesh rule, and draw them back inside the government tent. He has often struggled, however, to control a fractious coalition government with many hardline Shiite politicians with close ties to Shiite Iran.
Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy and former senior Middle Eastern analyst for the CIA, worries about Abadi’s ability to bring the country together.
“I think Abadi is a very good man who wants what’s best for Iraq, to include a pluralist government, corruption reforms, and democracy. The problem is Abadi is not particularly good at building coalitions, and the Iraqi government is fragmented and paralyzed by this ongoing sectarian civil war,” he says. “Frankly, Nelson Mandela would have a hard time stabilizing Iraq at this point. So the United States needs to leverage the influence it has gained by helping fight ISIS to empower Abadi in his reconciliation efforts. And they must include limiting the activities of the Shiite militias.”
Reining in Militias
The key to Iraq’s future may lie with the Shiite-dominated militias called Popular Mobilization forces.
A number of these militias have direct links to Iran and they have been difficult for the Iraqi government to control. According to Human Rights Watch, Shiite militias involved in the battle of Fallujah last summer committed atrocities against Sunni civilians, including torture and summary executions.
In the operation to recapture Tikrit they reportedly burned hundreds of homes of Sunni civilians they accused of colluding with Daesh. If something similar happens after Daesh is expelled from the much bigger and more populous city of Mosul, the swamp of Sunni grievance is likely to rise once again.
Sheikh Jamal Al-Dhari is a Sunni tribal leader who has lost more than 70 family members in Iraq’s sectarian wars.
“The ‘Anbar Awakening’ showed that the way to defeat Al Qaeda is to work with the Sunni tribes, but our efforts to take part in the anti-ISIS fight have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Baghdad government,” he said in an interview.
Now Shiite-dominated Iraqi Security Forces and possibly U.S. airpower have inadvertently killed hundreds if not thousands of Sunni civilians in Mosul, he noted, and thousands of Shiite militiamen have captured Sunni majority villages to the west of the city.
“We fear that the use of excessive force will cost the lives of thousands of more civilians, creating hardships and hard feelings that will only set the stage for the next ISIS, or worse.”
To avoid Kurdish or Shiite forces fighting each other and mistreating liberated Sunni civilians, U.S. battle planners created separate corridors into the city.
“The U.S. military worked very hard to insure that neither the Peshmerga nor the Popular Mobilization forces would be involved in the close-in fight in Mosul, and that has been mostly successful,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.
“But the main reason we’ve seen civilian casualties increase is that ISIS is being much more aggressive in using civilians as human shields. Their backs are now against the wall in Mosul’s old city, and they seem to be preparing for a last stand.”
When the dust of battle finally settles over Mosul, the most important decision confronting the Trump administration will be whether or not to keep a residual U.S. force inside Iraq to continue advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces, and helping coordinate counterterrorism operations.
If the U.S. military packs up lock-stock-and-barrel and leaves once again, many experts believe it will only set the stage for “son of ISIS” to fill the vacuum.
“Only if U.S. forces remain in Iraq to secure the peace will we achieve a major military victory over ISIS,” said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
The U.S. can leverage that presence not only to empower Abadi’s national reconciliation agenda, he said, but also to eventually find a political resolution to the Syrian civil war.
In “On War” [ Carl von] “Clausewitz said that the art of war was using tactical victories to achieve strategic ends,” said Jeffrey.
“We need to use the victories in Mosul and Raqqa to achieve the strategic end of a stable Middle East that is not dominated either by ISIS or Iran.”
Iran has unveiled a fighter jet which it says is “100-percent” locally made.
Images on state television showed President Hassan Rohani on Aug. 21, 2018, sitting in the cockpit of the new Kowsar plane at the National Defense Industry exhibition.
It is a fourth-generation fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multipurpose radar, the Tasnim news agency said, adding that it was “100-percent indigenously made.”
State television, which showed the plane waiting on a runway for its first public display flight, said that it had already undergone successful testing.
The plane was first publicly announced on Aug. 18, 2018, by Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who gave few details of the project.
The United States has demanded that Tehran curb its defense programs, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions after President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Trump called the 2015 agreement, under which Iran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, “the worst deal ever.”
Hackers screened for their good intentions found 138 “vulnerabilities” in the Defense Department’s cyber defenses in a “bug bounty” awards program that will end up saving the Pentagon money, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Friday.
Under the “Hack The Pentagon” program, the first ever conducted by the federal government, more than 1,400 “white hat” hackers were vetted and invited to challenge the Pentagon’s defenses to compete for cash awards.
Of the 1,400 who entered, about 250 submitted reports on vulnerability and 138 of those “were determined to be legitimate, unique and eligible for bounty,” Carter said at a Pentagon news conference.
The lessons learned from the “Hack The Pentagon” challenge, an initiative of the Defense Digital Services started by Carter, came at a fraction of the cost of bringing in an outside firm to conduct an audit of the Pentagon’s cyber-security, he said.
The awards going out total $150,000 while a full-blown cyber audit would have cost at least $1 million, he said. In addition, “we’ve fixed all those vulnerabilities,” Carter said.
No federal agency had ever offered a bug bounty, he noted.
“Through this pilot we found a cost-effective way to supplement and support what our dedicated people do every day,” Carter said.
“It’s lot better than either hiring somebody to do that for you or finding out the hard way,” he said. “What we didn’t fully appreciate before this pilot was how many white-hat hackers there are.”
Carter said the Pentagon had plans to encourage defense contractors to submit their programs and products for independent security reviews and bug bounty programs before they deliver them to the government.
The beginning of November saw three important organizations come together for the Heroes Work Here initiative. Easter Seals, Disney, and USAA held a conference to compel the leaders of Midwest-based companies to improve their veteran hiring programs and teach them how to integrate and celebrate veterans in their work forces.
J.R. Martinez, an Army veteran attended the event and spoke with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the President and CEO of Easter Seals, the Director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs, the Director of Veterans Initiatives for the Walt Disney Company, the founder of the Easter Seals Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, the Program Manager of Veteran Hiring Initiatives for Sears Holding Company, and Military Affairs Relationship Director of the USAA.
Travis Mills, also an Army veteran and author of Tough As They Come, is a quadruple amputee who joined the major players, devoting time and effort to bring American companies into the Heroes Work Here fold. He lent his voice to the conference as a guest speaker to advocate on behalf of Easter Seals.
“Easter Seals is really leading the way with Walt Disney, USAA, and Sears, and all these other great companies here in support of this event,” Mills said.
United States Secretary of Veteran Affairs Robert A. McDonald was the keynote speaker at the event.
“This is a national challenge to all of us,” McDonald said. “[We need] to make sure we take care of the quarter of a million veterans who are coming out of the service, making sure their transitions into their communities is seamless, and that they have jobs.”
One of the benefits of quarantine is catching up on every single television show ever made. There’s nothing better than revisiting some of the classics and clearly, Cheers has to make that list. What’s extra entertaining is when these 40-year-old shows accurately predict the future (like these M*A*S*H episodes).
In episode five of season one, Cheers absolutely nails it.
In this episode, titled “Coach’s Daughter,” customer Chuck (played by Tim Cunningham) sits at the bar and tells bartender Sam (Ted Danson) and the Cheers’ regulars that he has a new job at a biology lab. He shares his anxiety about working with mutant viruses and the reaction from the Cheers’ crew couldn’t be any more fitting to what we are experiencing with COVID-19.
Cheers ran from 1982 through 1993 with 275 half-hour episodes. Although it was almost cancelled early on, it made it an impressive 11 seasons. Set in a bar in Boston, visiting the friendly location on the airwaves became a weekly household staple, with everyone wanting to visit the place, “Where everybody knows your name.” Cheers earned 26 Emmy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards and many other accolades. It remains one of the best shows in history.
Cheers had several episodes with military-connected plots, although none better than “One for the Book,” which aired December 9, 1982. In this iconic episode, two customers enter the friendly neighborhood establishment, and of course their paths should meet. One is Buzz Crowder played by Ian Wolfe.
Buzz and his buddies from WWI agree to meet every 10 years for a reunion, but just as we see with our WWII veterans present day, Buzz’s peers are dwindling. In this episode, Buzz is the last one left. Luckily for him, you may walk into Cheers alone, but you’ll never leave without making friends. In “One for the Book,” that friend happens to be a young man getting ready to head to the monastery and looking for a night of fun before he becomes a monk.
Photo: Cheers, NBC Universal
While Cheers ran on NBC, all 275 episodes are now available for streaming on CBS All Access. Start today and we’re confident you can finish the series before the end of quarantine. Or, let’s be honest, by the end of the week.
The UK’s Special Boat Service has deployed to Libya to stop ISIS fighters and supplies from crossing over with the waves of migrants entering the European Union.
The commander of NATO, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, has said that the movement of refugees from Libya into Europe is a security concern for the alliance since ISIS fighters can infiltrate the migrant flows.
This year over 30,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean between Africa and Italy. SBS operators have been ordered to look out for suspected terrorists trying to enter Europe posing as migrants, according to the Daily Star Sunday.
Currently, migrants from Libya, Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan pay nearly $1,500 to be smuggled to Europe on small boats. ISIS makes money off the smuggling operations and could conceal their fighters among the boat passengers.
The SBS is perfect for disrupting the ISIS effort.One of their skills is clandestine coastline reconnaissance of beaches and harbors. SBS operators are trained to conduct surveillance. From the coasts they can develop a list of smugglers and fighters, sink boats and ships, destroy warehouses and smugglers’ camps, and kill or capture key leaders.
The SBS was formed during World War II and is like the US Navy SEALs and has defended Britain since its founding in 1940. The SBS began as the Special Boat Section, a British Army commando unit tasked with amphibious operations. They operated in canoes launched from submarines, sabotaging infrastructure and destroying enemy ships. The modern SBS conducts both naval and ground operations and has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
The US military put on a show of force in China’s backyard on Sept. 26, 2018, as a US B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bomber linked up with Japanese Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets in the contested East China Sea.
US bombers have been increasingly active in both the East and South China Sea recently following a pattern of behavior set in August 2018, when the US sent B-52 bombers through the disputed seas four times in total.
These flights come at a time of increased tension between Washington and Beijing over both economic and military matters.
A B-52H Stratofortress bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets.
The flight through the East China Sea was flown in support of Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence, Pacific Air Forces said in a statement on Sept. 27, 2018.
Source: Pacific Air Forces
A B-52H Stratofortress bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets.
A B-52H Stratofortress bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets.
A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for a routine training mission in the vicinity of the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, Sept. 23, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)
B-52 bombers flew through the South China Sea once on Sept.23, 2018, and again on Sept. 25, 2018, showing off America’s capabilities over tense tides. Beijing warned the US against “provocative” military behavior in response.
B-52H Stratofortress bomber taking off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis says that these flights are only an issue because China made these seas global hot spots. “If it was 20 years ago and had they not militarized those features there it would have been just another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or wherever,” he explained on Sept. 26, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The challenges the United States sees from Russia and China are similar because both have studied the America way of war, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Oct. 1, 2018.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford was visiting Spanish officials after attending the NATO Military Committee meeting in Warsaw, Poland.
The bottom line for the United States and the country’s greatest source of strength strategically “is the network of allies we’ve built up over 70 years,” Dunford told reporters traveling with him. At the operational level, he added, the U.S. military’s advantage is the ability to deploy forces anywhere they are needed in a timely manner and then sustain them.
“Russia has studied us since 1990,” Dunford said. “They looked at us in 2003. They know how we project power.”
Russian leaders are trying to undermine the credibility of the U.S. ability to meet its alliance commitments and are seeking to erode the cohesion of the NATO alliance, he said.
Russia has devoted serious money to modernizing its military, the chairman noted, and that covers the gamut from its nuclear force to command and control to cyber capabilities. “At the operational level, their goal is to field capabilities that challenge our ability to project power into Europe and operate freely across all domains,” Dunford said. “We have to operate freely in sea, air and land, as we did in the past, but now we also must operate [freely] in cyberspace and space.”
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, center, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attends the official welcome ceremony before the start of the NATO Military Committee conference in Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 28, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The nature of war has not changed, but the character of war has. The range of weapon systems has increased. There has been a proliferation of anti-ship cruise missiles and land-to-land attack missiles. Cyber capabilities, command and control capabilities, and electronic warfare capabilities have grown.
Great power competition
These are the earmarks of the new great power competition. Russia is the poster child, but China is using the same playbook, the chairman said.
“What Russia is trying to do is … exactly what China is trying to do vis-a-vis our allies and our ability to project power,” Dunford said. “In China, what we are talking about is an erosion of the rules-based order. The United States and its allies share the commitment to a free and open Pacific. That is going to require coherent, collective action.”
Against Russia, the United States and its NATO allies have a framework in place around which they can build: a formal alliance structure allows the 29 nations to act as one, Dunford said.
However, he added, a similar security architecture is not in place in the Pacific.
The United States has treaties with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. Politically and economically, the United States works with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“I see the need for all nations with an interest in the rules-based architecture to take collective action,” Dunford said. “The military dimension is a small part of this issue, and it should be largely addressed diplomatically and economically.”
He said the military dimension is exemplified by freedom of navigation operations, in which 22 nations participated with more than 1,500 operations in 2018. “These are normal activities designed to show we will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and not allow illicit claims to become de facto,” the chairman said.
Developed by the Germans as early as 1939, night-vision goggles, or NVGs, have been a massive staple in the allied forces’ arsenal, enabling troops to conduct vital missions in the dead of night.
The optic devices produce exceptional images from very low-lit environments by identifying decreased levels of light and amplifying them through a specific set of lenses.
For years, the U.S. has used this sensitive technology to capture and kill enemies after the sun goes down. But, in recent events, Afghan officials have reported that Taliban insurgents have sacked three different checkpoints during a series of nighttime raids in the western province of Farah, killing approximately 20 police officers.
A German soldier holding a “Zielgerät 1229” night-vision scope, attached to his rifle.
Afghan officials have stated that the night-vision goggles the Taliban have been using appear to have Russian markings on them, but that theory has yet to be confirmed. This “evidence” has led Afghan authorities to believe that Russian officials have been arming the Taliban — an accusation the Russians deny.
Although implicated, Russia isn’t the only possible source for the NVGs. Since the Taliban regularly trade through Pakistan, the night-vision goggles may have been obtained there via the black market.
An inside look through a pair of night-vision goggles. (Screenshot from NightVisionGuys YouTube)
Multiple companies sell NVGs to civilians via hunting stores and, in some former Soviet countries, they’re available online. In fact, members of the Taliban terrorist network have been seen, on occasion, using U.S.-manufactured tactical equipment.
Although this isn’t enough information to implicate the Russians in aiding the Taliban, it’s not too far-fetched. Political analysts in Moscow revealed that the Russian government has lost their confidence in the U.S.’s approach to balancing the ongoing Taliban threat. This lack of uncertainty has caused the nation to reach out on its own to other various factions, which may include the Taliban.
Fort Bragg is sending thousands of additional soldiers to Afghanistan to bolster US forces in the nation’s longest war.
Approximately 2,200 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers began quietly deploying this month, part of a long-discussed troop surge that involves more than 3,000 US service members on top of the more than 10,000 already serving in Afghanistan.
The local soldiers — part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team — were alerted to the mission earlier this month and quickly deployed. Once in Afghanistan, they will be reunited with their brigade leadership and about 1,500 soldiers from the brigade who deployed to Afghanistan earlier this year.
Those soldiers are spread throughout the country, from Bagram Airfield and Kabul to Kandahar and Helmand provinces.
They also have a variety of missions, tasked with training, advising, and assisting Afghan partners and providing security for other US forces in the country.
The commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. Erik Kurilla, said the latest deployments are an example of how the division’s paratroopers remain ready for whatever the nation asks.
“This past week, the remainder of our 1st Brigade Combat Team departed Fort Bragg to join their fellow Devil Brigade paratroopers already engaged in Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan,” Kurilla said. “We were directed to provide additional forces in Afghanistan and, as always, we stand prepared to provide combat power on short notice while continually maintaining readiness for other contingencies should those emerge. We are the 82nd Airborne Division; this is who we are and the business we are in.”
The 82nd Airborne Division is part of the nation’s Global Response Force — which is tasked with deploying anywhere in the world on short notice. The division’s paratroopers also are often in high-demand by combatant commanders around the world.
The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team returned from Iraq, Kuwait and Syria this week, following a nine-month deployment in support of the fight against the Islamic State.
The 1st Brigade Combat Team, in addition to the paratroopers in Afghanistan, also has several hundred soldiers in Kosovo, deployed as part of a peacekeeping mission.
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which has soldiers training at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, is serving on the Global Response Force.
And the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade has had soldiers deployed to South Korea and the Horn of Africa in the past year.
This month, the division also deployed several hundred paratroopers — most from the 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade — to Florida where they are part of Hurricane Irma relief efforts.
Kurilla said the division focuses on sustainable readiness to ensure its paratroopers are able to deploy rapidly when the nation calls.
That means working to avoid the peaks and valleys of readiness from past training models. Those models — fueled by regular deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan — would see units train up to reach peak readiness just before a deployment only to have that readiness plummet once the unit returned and soldiers began to leave for other units while newer troops replaced them.
“We can’t afford those kinds of cliffs and valleys in today’s uncertain environment,” Kurilla said. “Instead, we maintain a model whereby our paratroopers maintain a continuously high level of readiness.”
That means that even when a unit is deployed, paratroopers will rotate in and out of theater to attend professional development schools, transfer to new units, or even retire. New paratroopers are brought into the organization through rear detachment units, rapidly trained, and then sent into theater to join their fellow paratroopers.
Commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. Erik Kurilla. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jerry Griffis, 1st Inf. Div. Public Affairs.
“This model allows units to sustain readiness while deployed, and to return from deployment ready to immediately move on to the next mission as required,” Kurilla said.
The general said his paratroopers are ready to deploy anywhere in the world in as little as 18 hours, no matter the threat or mission.
“But, more than just that, we are prepared to have multiple elements from the division deployed all while continuing to maintain readiness and preserving combat power for the long haul,” he said. “In an era of near-persistent conflict, this is what sustainable readiness must look like.”
“In an environment in which persistent, unpredictable threats loom, it is important to maintain this readiness model that allows us to counter those threats as they emerge,” Kurilla added.
While the latest deployments to Afghanistan came with short notice, they were not completely unexpected.
The 1st Brigade Combat Team, like most of the 82nd Airborne Division, has repeatedly deployed to the country, with the most recent tours in 2012 and 2014.
And when 1st Brigade soldiers deployed in June, Col. Tobin Magsig told the paratroopers remaining at Fort Bragg to be prepared. He said those not set to deploy would stand ready in case they were needed.
In addition to the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers, Army officials in Alaska announced that an additional 1,000 soldiers there would also be deploying to Afghanistan.
Those soldiers are part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. Originally, 1,200 paratroopers from the brigade were slated to deploy to Afghanistan, but the pending troop increase in Afghanistan increased that number to about 2,100 soldiers.
The 1st Brigade soldiers have deployed in small groups over more than a week.
On Sept. 13, nearly 150 paratroopers waited to deploy from a building at Pope Field. They said they had been eagerly awaiting the call that would send them to join their brigade in Afghanistan.
“Absolutely,” said 1st Lt. Mason Bell when asked if the soldiers were ready. “We’ve been waiting for the word since June.”
Bell and other soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment had said their goodbyes to families and friends earlier in the day. Now, with a huge American flag as a backdrop, they waited the last several hours before leaving for Afghanistan.
For the past several months, the soldiers had received several tentative dates for deployments. But nothing was ever final.
Then, last month, President Trump made a national address recommitting the United States to the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.
“That’s when we kind of knew it would go down,” said 2nd Lt. Alexander Rodino.
The soldiers had about a week’s notice that they would deploy. They spent that time preparing themselves and their families for what is expected to be a six- or seven-month deployment.
Some, like Staff Sgt. Adam Watkins, will be returning to Afghanistan for the first time in years. Watkins last deployed to the country seven years ago. He said he’s eager to see what has changed in that time.
He said finally knowing that the unit is leaving was a relief to his family, who had dealt with a constant “will they or won’t they” for the past several months.
“We are finally here,” Watkins said. “That part is over.”
Bell said families were understanding of the mission.
“It’s mixed emotions,” he said. “They’re proud of us. But they’re worried, too.”
The soldiers expect to hit the ground running, they said.
“We train all the time,” Rodino said. “Very few of us get to go do what we train to do.”
“We’re excited,” added Bell. “We’re getting to join the others in our brigade. And we’re serving our country.”
Joe Quinn, a West Point graduate and the current Director of Leadership Development for Team Red, White Blue (RWB), has been hand-selected as in the incoming Executive Director for Headstrong, a non-profit organization that provides post-9/11 military veterans with free mental health care. He’ll begin his new role on Jan. 1, 2018.
U.S. Marine Zach Iscol, Chairman and Co-Founder of The Headstrong Project (and a previous veteran-to-watch on WATM’s Mighty 25) personally attested to Quinn’s character in the announcement made to the Headstrong team:
Despite graduating from West Point, Joe has had an exemplary and impressive career. He deployed twice to Iraq, served as an advisor to General Petraeus’ Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance team’s in Afghanistan, and earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard. As the Director of Leadership Development at Team RWB, a leading Veteran Service Organization, he has managed their growth to a major national organization and personally developed nearly 2,000 community leaders.
No stranger to service-after-service (Team RWB enriches the lives of vets by connecting them to their community through various activities), Quinn’s own letter to the Team RWB family was filled with sentiment, purpose, and praise for his team:
Beginning January 1st, I’ll be the next Executive Director of the Headstrong Project, an organization that heals the hidden wounds of war through stigma-free, bureaucracy-free, cost-free, evidence-based treatments. At Headstrong, we are going to lead a vast movement across the country that heals the hidden wounds of war to help prevent veteran suicide. This is only the beginning, and I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity.
Quinn is a highly respected member of the veteran community, and one who knows the space and is connected to the vets he serves. He’s someone to watch out for in the coming year and we can’t wait to see what good he’ll do for veterans next!
It isn’t every day we see headlines like this, but today is a proud day for the military spouse community. Why? Because it’s OFFICIAL: Air Force spouse Tatiana Matta prevailed in the primary election for California’s 23rd Congressional district; winning the chance to face U.S. Congressman Kevin McCarthy in the November 2018 general election.
For military spouses like you and I, it’s not uncommon for us to get down on ourselves when we encounter roadblocks in our careers or goals. That’s why Tatiana’s primary win in this election for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is such a big deal. She is tangible proof that hard work, tenacity, grit, dedication and a passion to serve others – (trademarks in the military spouse world) – can, indeed, make a significant impact…ESPECIALLY when we acknowledge those who help move us forward to greatness (i.e. our tribe, our clan, our people… our surrogate family).
This acknowledgment is evident in Tatiana’s powerful message to supporters, and highlights the importance of having a tribe…a message we should all stop and think about when it comes to our own supporters in this military life.
“This election, OUR victory, OUR voice will be felt across the nation. Please do not lose sight of how powerful each one of your votes are, or how important YOU are in the efforts to fortify our communities, our families, and our nation.”
We’ll be following Tatiana’s journey throughout the election process and hope you’ll join us and follow along as well. It doesn’t matter if you’re a democrat, a republican, an independent or completely out of the loop by choice. Tatiana’s special message for our military spouse community spans across party lines:
“I am humbled that our country embraces military spouses as an integral part of the community. Now, more than ever, our voices are needed in the halls of Congress to bring consensus and unity in times of uncertainty. Our experiences are valuable and we can create the change we want to see in our communities if we believe and work hard.”
Tatiana Matta, this spouse right here? Yea…she’s a motivator. Whether you lean left, right or center, let’s ALL lean in and support a member of our own tribe! #OneTeamOneFight
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.