Following the deaths of four US soldiers in Niger earlier in October, several questions remain unanswered, spurring lawmakers to press the White House and Pentagon for answers on the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Leading this charge is Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who says he may seek a subpoena to receive information on the attack, according to CNN.
On Wednesday, McCain said that the White House was not being upfront about the Niger ambush, and said he would like the information his committee “deserves and needs.”
“I haven’t heard anything about it, to tell you the truth, except that they were killed,” McCain said in a Daily Beast report on Tuesday.
Although the Special Forces unit involved in the ambush and US Africa Command (AFRICOM) — the combatant command in charge of operations in Niger — are conducting investigations, McCain indicated he may want details before the results.
“That’s not how the system works,” McCain said to CNN. “We’re coequal branches of government. We should be informed at all times.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis was reportedly also dismayed by the dearth of information surrounding the ambush, but there was no sign that he was going to rush the investigation process multiple officials told CNN.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon claims it will keep the Armed Services Committees “up to date” on the ambush: “We will work with Sen. McCain and his staff to make sure they get everything that they need,” the Pentagon reportedly said on Thursday.
One of the primary questions that circulated in news reports has been why President Donald Trump had not addressed the casualties or the circumstances behind the ambush.
Following initial media reports of the ambush, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement saying that Trump had been informed of the incident. However, it wasn’t until 12 days later after the reports that Trump made his first public acknowledgment of the ambush.
A statement of condolence was reportedly drafted by a staffer from the National Security Council for Trump to immediately deliver following the ambush. But Trump never made the statement that was circulated around the Defense Department and the National Security Council. Instead, he delivered a speech that has been widely criticized for making false claims about his predecessors’ actions after a service member’s death and was condemned by a Gold Star father.
McCain also questioned why US troops were operating in that specific area of the Niger-Mali border without sufficient resources. French officials were frustrated with the US troops — who were there to establish relations with local leaders — because they acted on limited intelligence and didn’t have an emergency plan, a diplomat familiar with the incident told Reuters. France, a key US ally in the region, has a military presence that includes attack helicopters and Mirage jets, according to CNN.
While Special Forces troops have operated under AFRICOM’s purview for years, intelligence and contingency plans still remain the backbone of any mission US forces undertake. The investigation into the ambush — which spans the Special Forces group, AFRICOM, and the Pentagon as well as French and Nigerien forces — will likely take longer, given the broad scope of the mission.
Photo By Cpl. Christopher Madero | Staff Sgt. Billy C. Dixson, a recovery crew leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma, talks about his actions that got him an award atMCAS Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, Nov. 13, 2020. Dixson, with complete disregard for his own safety, saved a drowning woman from a rip current off the coast of Okinawa. Dixson was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his actions. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher A. Madero).
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan- Okinawa is well known for its beautiful beaches. The last thing anyone wants to visualize while admiring the ocean’s natural wonders is getting caught in the natural conditions of tides and overwhelming currents.
Staff Sgt. Billy C. Dixson, a recovery crew leader with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, was enjoying his time in Mermaid’s Grotto, a popular diving location, on Oct. 4, when he noticed a woman frantically signaling him for help. The woman herself was not in danger, but her friend, Ms. Miyagi, a member of the local Okinawa community, was losing a battle with a rip current. Ms. Miyagi soon found herself disappearing from the surface.
According to Dixson, he knew the time he spent wondering what to do could be used helping someone in need. With complete disregard for his own safety, Dixson swam toward the location Ms. Miyagi’s friend was pointing toward. He then rushed over as fast as he could. He didn’t see anybody. It wasn’t until he swam to her last location; he dove three meters and spotted Ms. Miyagi struggling to resurface. He swam with the rip current to reach her. When he reached her, he managed to resurface and drag Ms. Miyagi to shore. It was a quick extraction, taking only a few minutes to release Ms. Miyagi from the ocean’s strong grip.
Dixson credits his ability to perform the way he did to his physical fitness and Marine mindset.
“As Marines, this is something that is ingrained into us. We stay vigilant and we’re always looking to assist,” said Dixson. “I’m no different from any other Marine. I’m sure if you put any other Marine in that position, they would have reacted to the best of their abilities just as I did.”
According to Dixson, he did not seek appreciation or notoriety for his heroic actions. He did not let his chain of command know what had happened. In his eyes, his actions were not extraordinary. It wasn’t until Ms. Miyagi, the woman Dixson saved, left a letter of gratitude at the gate of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma, that his chain of command was notified of what had happened. According to Col. Henry Dolberry Jr., commanding officer of MCAS Futenma, the humility shown by Dixson struck a chord with the command – it communicated to them the caliber of Marine Dixson is.
“Being able to take your qualities, your physical and mental attributes, to help others is very rewarding,” said Dolberry. “In an ocean that has claimed many lives over the years; [Dixson] went out there and did that! Good swimmers go out there and never come back. [Dixson] went out there and performed above expectations by saving a life, so I’m very proud.”
Dixson received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his selfless act of bravery on Nov. 13 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The award was presented to him by Dolberry
“We use the term “Japanese local”, but I would like to say they’re more family. Last time I checked we are members of the Ginowan family, right?” said Dolberry amongst a group of Marines. “Just like your brother or sister needing some assistance, you’re going out there to put your life in danger to save theirs.”
This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.
KYIV, Ukraine — China sent fighter jets into Taiwanese airspace on Monday morning amid the first visit by a senior US official to Taiwan in decades, underscoring a steady deterioration in Sino-American relations that is increasingly edging the two countries closer to a military clash, some experts warn.
“The risk of conflict in the Taiwan Strait is rising,” Ryan Hass, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies, told Coffee or Die. “At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that Taipei, Washington, and Beijing each continue to have a strong incentive to manage competition without resorting to force, given the risks of rapid escalation and the catastrophic consequences that any conflict in the Taiwan Strait would create for all parties.”
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar landed in Taiwan on Sunday afternoon, marking the most significant official US visit to the island country in more than four decades. Around 9 a.m. Monday morning, Chinese J-10 and J-11 fighter jets crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait — the narrow body of water dividing mainland China from Taiwan — and briefly entered Taiwanese airspace.
A Chinese Su-27 Flanker fighter makes a fly by while the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, visits with members of the Chinese Air Force at Anshan Airfield, China Mar. 24, 2007. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, released.
After the Chinese warplanes ignored Taiwanese warnings, Taiwan’s air force scrambled fighters to intercept the Chinese jets, Taiwanese military officials reported on Monday. Taiwanese missiles were also tracking the Chinese jets, Taiwanese defense officials said.
“Beijing is using its military to demonstrate its capabilities to audiences that are likely watching,” Dean Cheng, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, told Coffee or Die.
“This is part of the Chinese approach to compellence — which is translated often as deterrence,” Cheng said.
In a release, Taiwan’s air force stated that the Chinese aerial maneuver was a “deliberate intrusion and destruction of the current situation in the Taiwan Strait” and that it “seriously undermined regional security and stability.”
Beijing has not yet commented on the incident, which marked the third time since 2016 that Chinese warplanes have violated Taiwan’s airspace.
“Chinese fighters crossed the [Taiwan Strait] mid-line in 2019 and have done so several times this year,” Cheng told Coffee or Die.
“So, on the one hand, this is part of the new normal, put in place since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan in 2016,” Cheng said, adding that the Taiwanese president is “committed to Taiwan independence, so as you can imagine, she — and her party and government — are not seen as friendly to Beijing.”
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base, flies in formation over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson.
Azar’s visit was meant to signal US recognition of Taiwan’s role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. However, amid mounting tensions with Beijing, Washington has made it a priority to tighten its ties with Taiwan, including increased arms sales to the island nation.
“We consider Taiwan to be a vital partner, a democratic success story, and a force for good in the world,” Azar said at a meeting with the Taiwanese president Monday.
Rather than a significant, escalatory move by China, some experts say Monday’s aerial incident is further evidence of a new era of strategic competition between Washington and Beijing — an era, experts add, that is fraught with danger due to the risk of an accidental conflict arising from an unintended, escalatory domino chain set in motion either by accident or an ill-conceived military maneuver.
“The risk of a clash is trending upward,” said Steve Tsang, director of SOAS University of London’s China Institute. “In the run up to the US presidential election, I do not expect Beijing to want to create an incident involving Chinese and US military forces. […] But the risk of an unintended incident is trending higher.”
According to the Defense Department’s 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, China “seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and, ultimately […] global preeminence in the long-term.”
Ens. David Falloure, from Houston, uses a rangefinder to determine the ship’s distance to the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Stuart (FFH 153), left, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116) from the port bridge wing aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) during a trilateral photo exercise, July, 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Hong.
Greater sway over the Pacific region would expand China’s regional economic and military influence — it would also help China undercut Taiwan’s network of regional allies, experts say. Thus, in the minds of America’s military leadership, the larger contest between the US and China for global dominance is currently playing out in the Indo-Pacific region.
Highlighting the region’s newfound importance to the US, the White House National Security Council recently created the new position of director for Oceania and Indo-Pacific Security. And, looking forward, the Pentagon is set to beef up the US military’s presence in the Indo-Pacific, taking advantage of existing partnerships and developing new ones to pre-position US forces and equipment.
Across the entire Indo-Pacific region, both China and the US are jostling for influence over island nations for the sake gaining strategic military advantage over the other.
Establishing a far-reaching footprint across the region will allow US military forces to forward deploy military forces — including long-range, precision strike weapons — which are meant to deter China from aggressive power grabs that threaten the status quo balance of power.
Some warn, however, that tensions between China and the US are edging away from innocuous diplomatic sparring and increasingly toward military competition. Thus, as the China and the US continue their tit-for-tat military maneuvers in the Indo-Pacific region, the danger of a military clash is trending upward.
“Sending fighter jets into Taiwan’s airspace should always been considered significant but given the context of Secretary Azar’s visit, it symbolizes something else,” said SOAS University of London’s Tsang.
“The impotence of the Chinese state in its response to something that it would have seen as unacceptable,” Tsang told Coffee or Die. “Sending the jets is clearly meant to show how tough Beijing is, but Beijing knows perfectly well that it will have no effect on the USA or Taiwan, so it remains essentially a gesture.”
An MH-60S Sea Hawk, attached to the Golden Eagles of Helicoper Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12, approaches the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a trilateral exercise in the Philippine Sea, July 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erica Bechard.
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, opposed Azar’s visit, calling it an escalatory move. Ahead of Azar’s arrival in Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin urged Washington to cut off all official contact with Taipei to “avoid serious damage to China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
“Foreign Minister Wang’s statement last week confirms my assessment that Beijing would prefer to lower the temperature at the moment,” Tsang said. “Hence, the gesture in the response to Secretary Azar’s visit to Taipei. Beijing cannot afford not to respond in a way that can be presented as robust.”
Also on Monday, China announced it had placed sanctions on 11 high-profile US senators and officials in response to American criticisms of Beijing’s authoritarian crackdown on Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s protests began in June 2019 over a new bill allowing the extradition of the special autonomous-city’s citizens to mainland China. In November, Washington passed a new law — the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act — that supports the Hong Hong protesters and the city’s democratic autonomy from the rest of China.
After months of protests, Beijing announced in May that it would tighten its grip on Hong Kong under a new “national security” law.
On Friday, President Donald Trump enacted new sanctions against Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as well as law enforcement personnel. Then on Monday Chinese authorities arrested Hong Kong media magnate Jimmy Lai, who has been a staunch supporter of Hong Kong’s anti-Beijing, pro-democracy protest movement.
“In response to those wrong US behaviours, China has decided to impose sanctions on individuals who have behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reportedly said, according to multiple news outlets.
F-15C Eagles fly in formation over the East China Sea Dec. 11, 2018, during a routine training exercise out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Seefeldt.
At the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, Chinese national forces under the command of Chiang Kai-shek retreated from the Chinese mainland and established an autonomous government on Taiwan called the Republic of China. Communist China has continued to claim Taiwan as its sovereign territory.
In 1971, Taiwan was booted from the United Nations and many countries have refused to officially recognize the autonomous island nation for fear of sparking reprisal from Beijing. The US does not recognize Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. And even though Washington officially ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, the US has sold military hardware to Taipei — including missiles, missile defense systems, and F-16 fighters.
Despite the escalating tensions, The Heritage Foundation’s Cheng remained skeptical about the possibility of an imminent armed clash between US and Chinese forces.
“I don’t think this signals that there is a greater likelihood of military conflict,” Cheng said of China’s warplane incursion into Taiwanese airspace on Monday. “It does reflect China’s greater willingness to employ the military to signal others, a natural outcome as China’s military becomes mores sophisticated and more capable.”
Cheng added: “Beijing seems to have a far different view of crisis stability compared with Western nations. It seems to think that it has the ability to unilaterally escalate and deescalate crises. It is this attitude, if it were transferred to the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, or the East China Sea, that might precipitate a military confrontation.”
North Korea tested the Hwasong-14 ICBM for the second time July 28, demonstrating previously-unseen offensive capabilities. The missile flew for around 45 minutes, soaring to a maximum altitude of about 2,300 miles and covering a distance of roughly 600 miles.
Expert observers assessed that were the missile fired along a standard trajectory, it would have a range between 6,500 miles and 6,800 miles, putting most of the continental US within striking distance.
The Pentagon has not released information on the range of the missile, but two intelligence officials have confirmed that Pyongyang likely has the ability to launch an attack against cities across the US, escalating the threat, Reuters reports.
The missile test on July 28 performed better than the Hwasong-14 tested earlier last month. Experts and defense officials estimated that the first missile could hit targets at ranges somewhere between 4,600 miles and 5,900 miles, putting Alaska, and possibly Hawaii and parts of the West Coast, in range.
The improved performance might be linked to additional motors.
North Korean state media reported the test “confirmed the performing features of motors whose number has increased to guarantee the maximum range in the active-flight stage as well as the accuracy and reliability of the improved guidance and stability system.”
The missile may have featured second-stage yaw maneuvering motors, according to Ankit Panda, senior editor for The Diplomat. He added the North may have also increased the burn time for its engines.
After two successful ICBM tests, doubts remain about North Korea’s capabilities.
Russia, for instance, has yet to acknowledge North Korea even has an ICBM. After the July 4 test, Moscow claimed the North tested a medium-range ballistic missile, and they said the same after the July 28 test. It is unclear if Russia is being intentionally defiant or whether their outdated radar systems simply failed to detect the second stage of the ICBM.
There are also questions about whether or not North Korea has developed a reliable re-entry vehicle, a key step in the process of fielding ready-for-combat ICBMs and establishing a viable nuclear deterrent. Some also suspect that North Korea has not yet designed a suitable nuclear warhead for its missiles.
Several leading experts, however, assess the North has either already achieved these goals or will do so soon. The Pentagon expects North Korea to be able to field a reliable, nuclear-armed ICBM as early as next year, two years earlier than initially expected.
President Donald Trump signed a bill August 18 authorizing the construction of a privately funded Global War on Terrorism Memorial in Washington, DC.
In signing the “Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act” passed by the House and Senate, Trump did not designate a site but authorized a memorial somewhere on “federal land in the District of Columbia,” the White House said.
Trump also authorized the non-profit Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation to raise funds and oversee the project.
The bill to establish the memorial was sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, an Army veteran of the Iraq War, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia.
On the House side, the bill’s sponsors were Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, and Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; both are Marine Corps veterans of the Iraq War.
In a statement, Ernst said “I am thrilled the President has signed into law this important legislation authorizing the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation to begin creating a place of remembrance for those who served, their loved ones, and all impacted by this war.”
Manchin said “I’m proud of the work done by my colleagues in approving the first step towards building a memorial that commemorates our sons and daughters who answered the call to fight.”
Both Manchin and Ernst said the likely site for the memorial would be the National Mall. “This authorization is the first step in a process that will culminate with the design and construction of a Global War on Terror[ism] Memorial on the National Mall without using any federal funds,” they said.
The Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation has on its advisory board retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, and retired Army Capt. Florent Groberg, a Medal of Honor recipient for valor in Afghanistan.
In a statement following Trump’s signing, the foundation said the bill exempted the memorial from the 10-year waiting period under the Commemorative Works Act of 1986, and authorized the foundation to oversee the fundraising, design, and construction of the memorial.
“Today’s historic signing is dedicated to our three million brothers and sisters who have deployed in the Global War on Terror, especially to the ones we have lost, and those who face great obstacles since their return home,” said Andrew J. Brennan, a West Point graduate and Afghanistan veteran who started the foundation and serves as executive director.
“We’re looking forward to building a sacred place of healing and remembrance for our veterans and their families, and want to thank our partners and advocates who worked tirelessly on Capitol Hill to pass this bipartisan legislation,” he said.
There’s nothing like government-imposed isolation to bring out the best and the worst in people. It’s time to take a break from the empty shelves, homeschooling, terrifying headlines (and harrowing reality) and the truly unprecedented times we’re currently living in and lighten the load with our favorite memes of COVID-19.
In seriousness, we know these are scary times. We hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.
Appearing May 3 before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Shulkin told lawmakers the VA had compiled a list of 1,165 vacant or underused buildings that could be closed, saving the federal government $25 million annually.
Shulkin didn’t specify which facilities would close and local VA officials didn’t return messages seeking comment that afternoon.
Shulkin, a deputy holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration whom Congress then unanimously approved to run the VA earlier this year, said Congress needs to determine how the facilities would be closed. He suggested the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure — or BRAC — process might be a good model.
But Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R- Nebraska, urged him to never “use the term BRAC because it brings up a lot of bad memories” and sets up the VA “for a lot of controversy.”
President Donald Trump seeks $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, a 6 percent increase from the 2017 fiscal year level. Trump’s budget plan requests $3.5 billion to expand the Veterans Choice Program, which enables veterans to receive certain kinds of treatment outside of the VA system.
If enacted, Trump’s proposal also would add $4.6 billion in funding to spur better patient access and greater timeliness of medical services for the agency’s more than 9 million patients.
Shulkin said the VA authorized 3.6 million patient visits at private-sector health-care facilities between Feb. 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017 — a 23 percent boost compared to the previous year.
With more than 370,000 employees, the VA has the second-largest workforce in the federal government. Shulkin said it must become more efficient at delivering services to veterans. Some of the most entrenched problems are in the appeals process for veterans who have lodged disability claims following their military service.
Currently, the VA has nearly 470,000 such cases pending appeal. For cases awaiting action by the Board of Veterans Appeals, the typical wait time is six years for a decision. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that hosted Shulkin on May 3, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, termed the appellate system an “absolute mess.”
Shulkin conceded that it “undoubtedly needs further improvements” and urged Congress to legislate reforms and streamline the process into a “modernized” system. The longer Capitol Hill waits to fix the process, he said, “the more appeals will enter the current broken system.”
In addition to physical exercise, proper nutrition plays a major role in overall health, fitness, and training for the Army Combat Fitness Test, says Maj. Brenda Bustillos, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command dietitian.
“It’s important for soldiers to recognize the impact proper nutrition has on them,” said Maj. Bustillos. “From how they get up and feel in the morning, how they recover from an exercise, how they utilize energy, and whether or not they have energy at the end of the day — proper nutrition is powerful, and stretches far beyond what we were taught as kids.”
Dietary decisions affect every soldier’s individual physical performance differently, too, she said, and has the power to impact careers “whether that be good or bad.”
Bustillos, a clinician who’s seen patients for the last 15 years of her career, believes the ground rules for healthy eating are only that — ground rules. “Every patient I’ve met with is different, and their needs are all different, too.”
Soldiers weave through an obstacle course.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski)
“Nutrition and dietary patterns are not one size fits all,” she said. “A registered dietitian understands this, and understands the biomechanics of each individual, along with the unique metabolic concerns they may have.”
She added, “How someone eats can be what makes or breaks them during big events, such as the ACFT. That’s why it’s important for soldiers to take advantage of resources available to them, and meet with a dietitian about what works for them while training for the test.”
Army combat fitness test
The ACFT is a six-event, age- and gender-neutral, fitness assessment set to replace the Army’s current physical fitness test by October 2020. It’s the largest physical training overhaul in nearly four decades, and is currently in its second phase of implementation, with every soldier slated to take the test as a diagnostic at least once this year.
The test is designed to link soldiers’ physical fitness with their combat readiness. Each event is taken immediately following the next, and aims to be an endurance-based, cardio-intensive assessment of overall physical fitness.
“The ACFT will require soldiers to properly fuel their bodies to be fully ready to perform,” she said. “The six events require many different muscle movements, with both aerobic and anaerobic capacities, making the fueling piece of fitness incredibly important — as important as physically training.”
Nutrition has often been attributed as “fuel for the body,” she said. For example, proteins repair you, and give the body the building blocks it needs for everyday activities, carbohydrates give the body energy, vitamins strengthens the bones, minerals help regulate the body’s processes, and water is essential for being alive.
But, nutrition also plays a role “in terms of preparation and recovery,” she said. It doesn’t matter if someone is training for a marathon or the ACFT, how they eat, or what they drink makes a world of difference.
U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.
(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)
For example, if a soldier wakes up early on an empty stomach when scheduled to take the ACFT, that soldier will lack the glucose needed for a good performance. This can make the short-term decisions as critical as the lifestyle choices made in the months prior to testing, she said.
“Consider an individual like an automobile,” Bustillos said. “If an automobile starts running out of gas, it will begin running on fumes, and then be completely empty. That’s how an individual [regardless of training leading up to the test] will perform, especially if they don’t properly fuel their body before an ACFT.”
Bustillos urges soldiers to always “train to fight,” meaning all their nutritional decisions, at all times, should holistically enhance their physical fitness, mental alertness, and overall health.
“If a soldier only eats right the night before, or morning of an ACFT — but not during the months of training leading up to it, they won’t do as well on the fitness test [regardless of physical activity],” she said.
The best course of action, according to Bustillos, is eating right “day in and day out” while training. “Muscles are hungry, and they need fuel, so if you implement a healthy dietary lifestyle while training, then your body performs much better while performing.”
Soldiers should consume a variety of healthy nutrients in their diet, she said. For example, carbohydrates, fats, dietary fiber, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and water should be taken in.
(U.S. Army photo by Jorge Gomez)
When a soldier doesn’t eat properly in both short- and long-term capacities, muscles will break down because the body is continually searching for the fuel it needs to perform, she said.
“The night before an ACFT, a soldier should take in some proteins and carbohydrates,” she said, adding that carbohydrates are the No. 1 source of fuel for the brain and body.
Examples include moderately-sized, protein and carbohydrate-rich meals, such as a grilled chicken breast and brown rice, followed by a light breakfast the next morning, ideally two hours prior to taking the ACFT, she said. However, the possibilities for what foods to eat are seemingly endless, as long as they fall in the food healthy groups.
“I understand not everyone wants to wake up two hours before a performance test just to eat,” she said. “So, a light snack in the morning is also good. It can be a performance bar, a whole-grain English muffin, a banana, or just half of a muffin with smear of peanut butter — something to not disrupt the stomach while providing a fuel source for the body.”
With the ACFT around the corner, or if you have questions on how nutrition can enhance your lifestyle based on body type, Bustillos recommends you seek answers from a registered dietitian nearby.
“It’s important to remember there’s no such thing as bad foods, just bad dietary patterns,” she said. “As long as we’re eating well, taking good care of our bodies, and putting good things in it — it’s okay to have the scoop of ice cream, or sharing a tub of buttered popcorn with friends at the movies, those are certainly things that make life more enjoyable.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the establishment of a space command that will oversee the country’s military operations in space.
Trump signed the one-page memorandum on Dec. 18, 2018, directing the Department of Defense to create the new command to oversee and organize space operations, accelerate technical advances, and find more effective ways to defend U.S. assets in space, including satellites.
The move comes amid growing concerns that China and Russia are working on ways to disrupt, disable, or even destroy satellites on which U.S. forces rely for navigation, communications, and surveillance.
The new command is separate from Trump’s goal to create an independent space force, but could be a step in that direction.
Speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Vice President Mike Pence said: “A new era of American national security in space begins today.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Codie Collins)
Space Command will integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military, Pence said, adding that it will “develop the space doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures that will enable our war fighters to defend our nation in this new era.”
It will be the Pentagon’s 11th combatant command, along with well-known commands such as Central Command and Europe Command.
Space Command will pull about 600 staff from existing military space offices, and then add at least another 1,000 over the coming years, the Associated Press quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying.
Its funding will be included in the budget for fiscal year 2020.
For its latest recruiting commercial, the Marine Corps got an Oscar-winning filmmaker to draw a dramatic contrast between the often-isolating online world and the Corps’ pitch to Generation Z that service in its ranks offers a path toward a life of “belonging, community, and purpose.”
Wally Pfister, who won an Academy Award for his cinematography on Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending thriller, Inception, directed “Battle to Belong,” the Corps’ latest recruiting commercial.
The ad’s protagonist, played by Marine Staff Sgt. Jordan Viches, a correctional specialist stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, is shown walking down a near-future street while being bombarded with digital marketing, notifications, and alerts. Frustrated, he breaks through the electronic assault and emerges training to become a Marine.
Pfister told Military.com the inspiration behind the style in the opening scenes was based on science fiction films such as Steven Spielberg’s 2018 Ready Player One, which portrays a dystopic future where human beings spend much of their lives escaping reality in a virtual world called “the Oasis.”
“‘Battle to Belong’ takes a bold step to showcase how America’s youth can be caught up in a world that creates a confusing, and sometimes suffocating, digital hum as the new normal,” said Lt. Col. Christian Devine, national director of marketing and communication strategy, Marine Corps Recruiting Command. “The campaign is designed to provoke reaction from a generation of youth who are often disillusioned by the very technology and types of social connectivity that were supposed to bring us closer together.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing more and more human interaction into the virtual realm, the Corps’ message may resonate even more with its increasingly isolated target audience.
“Many high schools and colleges are returning to school via remote learning, which further challenges Marine recruiters who value the relationships they normally build with students and educators on campus,” said Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg, communication strategy chief at Marine Corps Recruiting Command. “At its height, the COVID pandemic had a dramatic effect on our ability to prospect and it continues to limit our ability to do some of the in-person activities so important to our success.”
Marines and sailors with Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct a live fire range during a pre-deployment training exercise at MAGTF Training Command/Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at 29 Palms, California, Nov. 11, 2018. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck.
Kronenberg said the Corps’ contracted advertising agency, Wunderman Thompson, regularly conducts research to gain insight on how the Marines’ brand is resonating with its target demographic of young people and influencers.
“We validated that young people of recruitable age hunger for belonging and self-transcendence and participation in a common moral cause or struggle,” he said.
“Like generations before, these youth are seeking identities that will define them,” Devine said. “They crave belonging, community, and purpose.”
The partnership between Wunderman Thompson and the Marine Corps goes back more than 74 years, according to Kronenberg, and the agency was again awarded the Corps’ business after a contract recompete last year.
“We value the team’s creative acumen and deep understanding of the Marine Corps’ ethos and brand identity,” Kronenberg said.
US Marine Corps Sgt. Sean Nash provides cover fire during the Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) at Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Jan. 28, 2020. ITX is a month-long training event that prepares Marines for deployment. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jack C. Howell.
The new commercial features original music from legendary composer and Academy Award and Grammy Award winner Hans Zimmer, and Marine Corps musicians performed Zimmer’s music for the spot.
“The Marine Corps makes three promises to the American people: Win Battles, Make Marines, and Develop Quality Citizens,” Kronenberg said. “We consider each of those promises to be chapters of what we call the Longer Marine Corps Story.”
“Battle to Belong” is the third installment in the Longer Marine Corps Story. “Battle Up” focused on developing quality citizens, and “A Nation’s Call” showed the Corps’ winning battles.
When people think of traveling 1,000 miles it often conjures thoughts of long, uncomfortable drives with kids shouting “are we there yet?” or perhaps of long lines waiting to get through airport security.
But what it almost certainly does not evoke is the thought of running those 1,000 miles.
The mere idea of running such a distance would seem crazy to most people. But it seemed like a great idea to Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Arizona Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, and he decided to set out to accomplish it in one year.
For Hanson running 1,000 miles in a year was a chance to strive for a goal that would stretch his physical and mental limits.
“I believe if you are not setting goals that stretch you, you’re probably not setting those goals high enough,” said Hanson.
To reach for such a goal, Hanson would take the lessons he learned while attending the Senior War College.
Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, stands with the shoes and race bib he wore when running the Revel Mt. Lemmon Marathon, along with the medal he earned for completing the race held in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)
“In 2017 I accepted admission into the Senior War College,” said Hanson. “I had seen several of my friends and leaders come out of the school wrecked. It is very hard to keep a balanced life in that, and so I decided when I accepted Senior Service College that I was going to make sure I kept all my fitness’s in check.”
For Hanson, this simply means focusing on establishing and maintaining a balance between all aspects of his life.
“Try not to be over-focused,” said Hanson. “If our goals support other goals, all of our fitness’s, I think that we find that we have a much better experience in getting to those goals and accomplishing them.”
Running 1,000 miles in a year is difficult in the best of circumstances, but it would be nearly impossible without the support of his wife. Fortunately for Hanson, his wife was right beside him providing support, balance, and often a training partner.
“In my case, my spouse is very involved in my military life, and she’s very involved in my spiritual life, and she’s very involved in my physical life,” said Hanson. “We’d go places and we’d run together. We’d go places and we’d hike together. We find ways to make physical fitness not separate from each other.”
Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Arizona Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, gestures to the camera as he runs the Revel Mt. Lemon marathon in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)
Hanson also had the support of his Army Family to help bolster his efforts.
“I know my team out here, they would make sure that I would hydrate,” said Hanson. “They would make sure that I ate properly. They would support me and motivate me.”
As he approached the homestretch of his journey, the idea of running a marathon to complete his 1,000 miles began to gain traction in his mind. He also saw it as an opportunity to take another shot at a goal he had once reached for but fell short of grasping.
“I did a marathon in 2004 and I did not reach my goal of doing a less than 3 hour and 30-minute marathon,” said Hanson. “But this one here, as I was running I was kind of watching my splits and in the back of my mind, I knew I had not met my goal in 2004. I started to mention to my wife that my splits are getting close to Boston times.”
Hanson decided to complete his journey and pursue his secondary goal at the Revel Mt. Lemmon marathon held in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019. As the marathon progressed, he knew he would complete his 1,000 miles and felt confident he would finally achieve the goal that eluded him in 2004.
“I would say I was pretty doggone focused,” said Hanson. “Certainly you’re feeling discomfort, but up until the point I started having debilitating cramps, I fully felt I was going to be able to accomplish my goal.”
Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, returns the salute of Capt. Aaron Thacker, Public Affairs Officer In Charge, Arizona National Guard, at Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix, Ariz. on Nov. 07, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)
Hanson would complete the marathon and reach 1,000 miles. However, despite his spirit willing him to keep going, his body would rebel and he would fall short of his secondary goal of a sub 3 hour and 25-minute marathon. He would cross the finish line with a time of 3 hours and 40 minutes, which would place him in the top 23% of all finishers.
“So, my goal was to be under 3 hours and 25 minutes,” said Hanson. “I think I was on pace to be under until mile 23. Somewhere in the 23rd is when the cramping started and I lost my pace.”
Failure to reach a goal, even if not the primary goal, is often enough for many people to avoid striving for difficult goals in the future. For Lt. Col. Hanson it is simply a confirmation that he is setting goals that will continually push him to expand his own limits.
“Not meeting a goal is a disappointment, but it’s only a setback,” said Hanson. “It’s a mentality thing. Although I felt like I failed, it’s just setting goals for yourself that are relevant to yourself that push you to the next level.”
And that disappointment is not enough to stop Hanson, it is just more motivation to keep chasing his white rabbit.
“There is a marathon here in Phoenix/Mesa in February,” said Hanson with a grin. “I think I can get it next time. I just need to tweak a couple of things.”
The US Navy hit a major milestone in its quest to make aircraft carriers a more deadly, potent force by sailing the USS Abraham Lincoln with F-35C stealth fighters training alongside F/A-18s for the first time.
The F-35C’s ability to launch off the decks of the US’s 11 supercarriers positions it as the replacement to the long-serving F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the first carrier-launched stealth fighter to ever take to the seas.
The USNI News reported on Aug. 28, 2018, that the F-35C has trained alongside F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes early warning planes.
The new F-35C prepares to takeoff alongside an F/A-18E/F.
Rear Adm. Dale Horan, charged with integrating the F-35C into the Navy, told USNI News that unlike previous tests that merely saw carriers launching and landing the stealth jets, this time they’re “conducting missions they would do in combat, if required.”
Additionally, the crew of the carrier will become familiar with maintaining the F-35C while at sea.
Since the F-35’s inception, boosters have billed it as a revolution in aerial combat. Never before have stealth aircraft launched off aircraft carriers, nor have planes with such advanced sensors and capabilities.
The US’s move towards stealth platforms meant to challenge the defenses of top-tier militaries like Russia and China represents a broader shift towards strategic competition against great powers, rather than the usual mission of suppressing small non-state actors on the ground.
Several key organizations recently came together to advance exoskeleton technology for the soldier during an intensive three-day Operations and Maneuver and Technology Interchange meeting.
The User Technical Touch Point Exoskeleton event was a three-day living classroom, hands-on experience. It offered an interactive forum for operational and technology immersion on both infantry maneuvers and technology demonstrations. Groups of several Military Operational Specialties, or MOS’s, were represented, laying down their kits and equipment and walking observers through a day “in the field, on the job.”
Operational vignettes and subject interviews offered context on the physiological and cognitive demanding infantry tasks, before, during, and after operations. Vendors, requirement developers, and engineers discussed “what they are and what they aren’t” in the current exoskeleton marketplace, debunking the Hollywood “iron man” effect and focusing on real-time products: the Dephy Exo Boot and Lockheed Martin’s ONYX.
Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division show some of the equipment that they use during everyday tasks and learn how an exoskeleton can help.
(Photo by David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)
Soldiers were encouraged by the endurance improvement, mobility, and lethality benefits of donning the systems. Those who wore the systems commented on how it felt to wear an exoskeleton and the relationship between a new user and the system. Their candid feedback regarding form, fit and function will help developers prioritize and make modifications to the systems in preparation for a Fall 2019 VIP demonstration.
Observers commented on the flexibility of use as the systems were adjusted with minimal effort from one user to the next over three days. User comments, such as those made by field artillery soldiers, emphasized the potential value of having an exoskeleton or exoskeleton-like system to provide enhanced endurance during operations, which means a positive impact on lethality and combat effectiveness.
“The importance of this User Touch Point event was two-fold: it gave those involved in developing this technology the ability to better understand the physical aspects of the tasks and duties of the soldiers and gain an understanding of the soldier’s perspective in how this capability can be of value,” said James Mingo, a senior military analyst at TRADOC. “They understand it.”
“It provided hand-on experience to the movement and maneuver soldiers of some of the top seven combat MOS’s,” said Raul Esteras-Palos, Robotics Requirements Division, Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate, or CDID, Maneuver Center of Excellence, or MCoE. “This event is an effective way to gain valuable feedback necessary for the advancement of the Army’s exoskeleton program.”
Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division show some of the equipment that they use during everyday tasks and learn how an exoskeleton can help.
(Photo by David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)
Soldiers believe that endurance translates into improved lethality while preserving the body from the effects of what is already strenuous work. Comments included discussion on injuries (lower back, neck, shoulder and leg) directly related to both training and combat conditions, impacts that are well documented in the medical community.
The RDECOM Soldier Center is preparing soldier touch point events with 82nd and 101st Airborne, followed by meetings with requirement developers, stake holders and senior leadership. The data from these User Touch Point events will be made available to the Lethality Cross-Functional Teams.
“Major General Piatt, CG 10th MTN DIV’s support has allowed us to tap into the expert knowledge of some of the most experienced Army professionals of our Nation,” said David Audet, branch chief, Mission Equipment and Systems Branch at the RDECOM Soldier Center. “This was a unique opportunity for developers and engineers. We are indebted to the troops for their selfless service and owe them the opportunity to listen to their concerns and take action.”
Teams from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, Program Executive Office Soldier, the Maneuver, Aviation, and Soldier Division at ARCIC/TRADOC, requirement developers from the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Army Research Labs, exoskeleton developers from Dephy Inc. (Massachusetts) and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (Florida), and other support contractors attended the event.