This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

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.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Senator John McCain. Image from Arizona Office of the Governor.

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.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s military to end side hustles and focus on war fighting

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the military to put an end to paid service activities once and for all and focus on combat readiness as the commander-in-chief attempts to build a world-class fighting force by mid-century.

In an effort to fulfill a pledge first made three years ago, Xi instructed the armed services on July 31, 2018, to halt all commercial activities, such as “kindergarten education, publishing services, and real estate rentals,” before the year’s end, Bloomberg News reported on Aug. 1, 2018, citing China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.


Xi called for the cessation of practices that have led troops and officers to become “mercenaries for hire,” the Asia Times reported , citing the PLA Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese armed services. He reportedly stressed that the move is intended to improve the military by allowing it to “focus on its main mission of battle readiness” through concentrated efforts to strengthen war preparation and fighting ability.

Short on funds, the Chinese military began engaging in commercial activities after the reform and opening up period in the 1970s, but such activities were, with certain exceptions, prohibited by 1998. The Chinese president’s new directive “allows no exception, discount or makeshift compromise,” Xinhua explained, noting that the aim is to purify the military and reduce corruption by eliminating commercial perks and moonlighting opportunities for members of the armed services.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

Chinese President Xi Jinping

(Photo by Michel Temer)

“Paid services can sometimes encourage corruption and the military should focus on national defense,” National Defense University professor Gong Fangbin told the Chinese state-affiliated outlet Global Times in March 2016 when Xi first announced plans to eliminate the military’s paid services activities. At that time, he argued that ending paid services would enhance “the military’s combat capability.”

The Chinese military had put an end to 106,000 paid service programs by June 30, 2018, according to the China Daily.

The Chinese president’s announcement on July 31, 2018, came on the eve of China’s Army Day celebrations, when the Chinese People’s Liberation Army turned 91.

Xi, as the leader of China and head of the Communist Party of China’s Central Military Commission, stressed his goal of building a world-class military that can win wars in any theater of combat by 2050 in his speech before the 19th Communist Party Congress in October 2017, stating, “China’s dream of a strong national army will be realized” with mechanization completed by 2020 and modernization finished by 2035.

While the Chinese military has grown stronger, especially with the development of new military technologies and systems, expert observers like Adam Ni, a visiting fellow at the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at Australian National University, argue that China’s military continues to struggle to overcome certain lingering problems, including a lack of combat experience, extensive corruption, limited discipline, and nascent power projection capabilities.

Other countries, the US in particular, are watching carefully as China strives to bolster its national military power. “Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stated when the 2018 National Defense Strategy was released, highlighting the threat posed by “revisionist” powers like China and Russia.

Prior to his departure as head of what is now Indo-Pacific Command, then-Adm. Harry Harris reiterated that China is the greatest challenge facing the US. “China remains our biggest long-term challenge. Without focused involvement and engagement by the United States and our allies and partners, China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia,” he said in May 2018.

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

Articles

The Invisible War On The Brain

The cover story of National Geographic magazine’s February issue, “The Invisible War on the Brain,” takes a close look at a signature injury of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars—traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caused by the shock waves from explosions. TBIs have left hundreds of thousands of U.S. veterans with life-altering and sometimes debilitating conditions, the treatment of which can be extremely complicated. At Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, soldiers paint masks that help them cope with their daily struggles and help them reveal their inner feelings. We invite you to see the service members’ masks and read the full story here.


Impeccable in his Marine uniform and outwardly composed, McNair sits on the porch of his parents’ home in Virginia, anonymous behind a mask he made in an art therapy session. “I was just going through pictures, and I saw the mask of Hannibal Lecter, and I thought, ‘That’s who I am’ … He’s probably dangerous, and that’s who I felt I was. I had this muzzle on with all these wounds, and I couldn’t tell anyone about them. I couldn’t express my feelings.”

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Marine Cpl. Chris McNair (Ret.), Afghanistan 2011-12. (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Wearing his mask—half patriotic, half death’s-head—Hopman confronts the battery of medications he takes daily for blast-force injuries he sustained while treating soldiers as a flight medic. “I know my name, but I don’t know the man who used to back up that name … I never thought I would have to set a reminder to take a shower, you know. I’m 39 years old. I’ve got to set a reminder to take medicine, set a reminder to do anything… My daughter, she’s only four, so this is the only dad she’s ever known, whereas my son knew me before.”

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Army Staff Sgt. Perry Hopman, Iraq 2006-08. (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

“Detonation happened, and I was right there in the blast seat. I got blown up. And all this medical study—nobody ever thought that they [blast events] were very harmful, and so we didn’t log them, which we should because all blast forces are cumulative to the body. On a grade number for me, it would probably be 300-plus explosions … I’m not going to not play with my children. I’m not going to let my injuries stop them from having a good life.”

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Tam (Ret.), Iraq 2004-05, 2007-08, (with wife Angela and their two children). (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Tiffany H., as she prefers to be known, was “blown up” while helping women in a remote Afghan village earn additional income for their families. Memory loss, balance difficulties, and anxiety are among her many symptoms. The blinded eye and sealed lips on her mask.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Tiffany H., Iraq 2007-08, Afghanistan 2010-11. (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Suiting up before attempting ordnance disposal “is the last line. There’s no one else to call … It’s the person and the IED … and if a mistake is made at that point, then death is almost certain. They call it the long walk because once you get that bomb suit on, number one, everything is harder when you’re wearing that 100 pounds … Two, the stress of knowing what you’re about to do. And three, it’s quiet, and it seems like it takes an hour to walk.”

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert “Bo” Wester (Ret.), Iraq 2007, 2008-09, Afghanistan 2010. (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Brain injuries caused by blast events change soldiers in ways many can’t articulate. Some use art therapy, creating painted masks to express how they feel. (Photos by © Rebecca Hale /National Geographic)

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

Articles

2 Army Marksmanship Unit instructors just competed in the Olympic double trap

Two Army infantrymen and U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit instructors competed in the double trap shotgun event on Aug. 10 in Rio de Janeiro where they placed seventh and 14th, failing to advance to the medal round.


Sergeants 1st Class Joshua Richmond and Glenn Eller are shotgun instructors for the USAMU and prior Olympians. Eller won gold in the Olympic double trap event in Beijing in 2008. Both NCOs competed in the Rio 2016 Qualifiers Aug. 10.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Staff Sgt. Glenn Eller, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and 2008 Olympic gold medalist, fires his shotgun during a competition. Eller placed 14th in the Double Trap at the 2016 Olympics. (Photo: US Army Marksmanship Unit Brenda Rolin)

Double trap is a shotgun shooting sport where two clay targets are fired into the air at the same time, and the shooter has two shots to hit them.

Both athletes struggled in the early rounds of Rio qualification, but Richmond fought his way back up to seventh with a score of 135, just barely missing his chance to shoot in the semi-finals. Eller finished in 14th position with a score of 131.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Sgt. 1st Class Josh Richmond competes in the Double Trap event in preparation for the 2016 Olympics. Richmond went on to place seventh in Rio. (Photo: US Army Marksmanship Unit Brenda Rolin)

While the result is disappointing for U.S. military fans, they still have a lot to look forward to over the next few days. SEAL training graduate and Navy officer Edward King will compete in the rowing finals on Aug. 11.

Marine Corps 2nd Lt. David Higgins, Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail, and Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Sanderson will compete in shooting events Aug. 12, while Naval Academy Cadet Regine Tugade will race in the 100-meter dash.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Air Force raises its remarkable working dogs

Candy is a military working dog with six deployments under her collar, and, on Nov. 9, she was finally able to rest her paws when she officially retired from duty during a ceremony.


Her career, like hundreds of canines before her, serves as a reminder of the power of these four-legged airmen.

 

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Candy, a military working dog assigned to the 27th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, receives an Air Force Commendation medal from the unit’s commander, Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Hamilton, during her retirement ceremony at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Nov. 9, 2017. Candy deployed six times across the Middle East and became one of the most experienced and decorated military working dogs in the Defense Department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lane Plummer)

For most of these working dogs, it all starts across the Atlantic Ocean. The Military Working Dog Buying Program will travel to European kennels to purchase canines for the Defense Department. In some cases, however, MWDs are born and raised at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where training occurs for both canines and their aspiring handlers. The way to tell the difference between foreign and domestic canines is in their name. For example, if their title is “MWD Kkeaton” or “MWD Ttoby,” the double consonant will signify they’re a dog raised through Lackland’s Puppy Program. Names without the double consonant are for all other adopted dogs.

After being adopted, the dogs live with foster families before the initial training regimen, which begins when they are 18-24 months old. Once they enter the training program, the dogs have 120 days to graduate.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Senior Airman Jordan Crouse pets his MWD Hector during a patrol dog certification qualification. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Training Dogs, Handlers

During training, they learn all the basics. Basic commands, such as down, sit, and stay, are the starting point. Once they learn these commands, the canines begin learning more advanced techniques, such as patrol work, detection, and more. Successfully completing the four-month program means they’ll graduate and be assigned their base.

Simultaneously, aspiring dog handlers are training nearby. It was an experience that, for Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Pethtel, a dog handler with the 27th Special Operations Security Forces, was fun and filled with challenges for both canine and handler.

“It felt hard at times because you didn’t know how much work it takes to become [a handler],” Pethtel said. “I remember how nervous we’d be [when] pulling our first working dog.”

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Xxyliana, military working dog, Provost Marshal’s Office, sprints toward her target during a demonstration for the summer reading program at the Twentynine Palms Public Library, July 13, 2017. Xxyliana demonstrated her obedience to not only show what MWD’s are capable of, but to foster a positive relationship with the community. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Margaret Gale)

Before they get to handle their first working dog, the handlers must also learn the basics and proper commands. Not only that, they also must learn how to groom the dogs and keep them fit to fight.

When the newly trained dogs arrive at their first assignments, they will be assigned a handler and begin learning more advanced techniques.

Also Read: This is what happens to military working dogs after retirement

Teamwork

From there, it’s all about strengthening the bond between handler and canine. Just like airmen in an office, team chemistry is a vital component for these working dog teams to accomplish the mission. Between base patrols and deployments, the bond only strengthens each time they put their bulletproof armor on.

“When we do convoys, canines lead,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Paul Little, a 27th SOSFS dog handler. “When we’re downrange, dog teams lead the way. It’s one of the most vital components to any mission they’re involved in.”

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

It’s an honor that Candy, one of the most experienced and decorated military working dogs in the DoD, had one last time before she traded in those heavy vests for a simple collar and leash. After eight years of service, she received an Air Force Commendation Medal and retired to her new home in Colorado with Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Fehringer, one of her former handlers.

From puppy to airman, the career cycle of these canine service members is long and arduous and requires as much sacrifice as the thousands of human airmen they serve and protect.

Articles

US troops may take prominent role in attacking ISIS capital

US military forces seem poised to take a prominent role in the long-awaited battle to take down Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.


Though the Pentagon has long downplayed the role of US ground troops in the fight against the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, recent deployments of many more “boots on the ground” suggest they may be front-and-center in the coming months.

Earlier this week, a convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.

Related: Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

Until this most recent Ranger deployment, the Pentagon had adamantly stuck to the line that its “regional partners” — Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the most part — were bearing the brunt of the battle.

But on Wednesday, another curious deployment seemed to counter that narrative. According to The Washington Post, US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment had left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.

“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.

The unit, part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently finished conducting training exercises in Oman and Djibouti. Its new outpost inside Syria has M777 Howitzers that fire 155mm projectiles, which are likely guarded by additional infantrymen at the site, according to The Post.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Fayetteville Observer last year that most US troops were in Iraq or Kuwait, though “some” were operating inside Syria.

Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.

Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Special Operations Command photo

Though the new directives were lauded by the Pentagon as “adding ‘precision’ to ground operations,” wrote The Institute for the Study of War, “it also underscores that US personnel are increasingly at the frontlines of the operation. Indicators from the new US Administration, including a proposed 10% budget increase for the Department of Defense, suggest that it may expand the level of US involvement in Iraq, beyond the Mosul operation.”

A spokesperson for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit did not respond to a request for comment.

Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, said the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.

Related: ISIS Fighters ordered to flee or blow themselves up

The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.

He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. | DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy

The White House is considering whether to send another 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait to serve as a “reserve force” for the Raqqa offensive, Reuters reported Wednesday. Officials who spoke with Reuters said there were about 6,000 US troops currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, up from the 5,000 that was reported in January.

The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.

A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.

MIGHTY TRENDING

For the first time in history, a US military service is working without pay

As Coast Guard paychecks went undelivered Jan. 15, 2019, as the result of an ongoing partial government shutdown, the service’s top officer urged its members to stay the course.

In a public letter published Jan. 15, 2019 on his social media pages, Adm. Karl Schultz said the day’s missed paycheck, to his knowledge, marked the first time in the history of the nation “that service members in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations.”


The Coast Guard, the only military service to fall under the Department of Homeland Security, is also the only service with payroll affected by the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, 2018. The Coast Guard was able to issue final paychecks for the year, but will be unable to distribute further pay until a budget deal is reached or another appropriation agreement is made.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

Coast Guard Cutter Munro navigates through the Oakland Estuary en route to the cutter’s homeport of Coast Guard Island in Alameda, California.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

In all, some 55,000 Coast Guard active-duty, reserve and civilian members are going without pay; the number includes 42,000 active-duty service members.

Coast Guard civilians have been on furlough or working without pay since the shutdown began.

While some government employees affected by the shutdown have been furloughed, the Coast Guard continues to conduct operations around the world.

“Your senior leadership, including [DHS] Secretary [Kirstjen] Nielsen, remains fully engaged and we will maintain a steady flow of communications to keep you updated on developments,” Schultz said in his letter. “I recognize the anxiety and uncertainty this situation places on you and your family, and we are working closely with service organizations on your behalf.”

Schultz added that Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, the service’s official military relief society, received a million donation from USAA to support those in need. The American Red Cross will help distribute the funds, he said.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon Adams from Coast Guard Station Venice, Louisiana, tows a vessel that was disabled approximately 25 miles south of Venice.

(U.S. Coast Guard Photo courtesy of Coast Guard Station Venice)

The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Board is also offering increased interest-free loans to junior employees and junior enlisted service members.

“I am grateful for the outpouring of support across the country, particularly in local communities, for our men and women,” Schultz said. “It is a direct reflection of the American public’s sentiment towards their United States Coast Guard; they recognize the sacrifice that you and your family make in service to your country.”

The Coast Guard, Schultz said, had already many times proven the ability to rise above adversity.

“Stay the course, stand the watch, and serve with pride,” he wrote. “You are not, and will not, be forgotten.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Carrier Theodore Roosevelt ends deployment rocked by COVID-19 and chaos

The carrier Theodore Roosevelt arrived in San Diego on Thursday, but it’s returning without two crew members who died during the deployment and the original commanding officer.


The crew has seen a challenging six-month deployment, fraught with sickness and leadership upheavals since it deployed to the Asia-Pacific region in January. Two other ships with the carrier strike group — the destroyer Russell and guided-missile cruiser Bunker Hill — returned to California on Wednesday, officials with Third Fleet announced.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

Electronics Technician 1st Class Vincent Testagrossa, a sailor assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell, hugs his family following his return to Naval Base San Diego after a six-month deployment, July 8, 2020. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin C. Leitner)

The Roosevelt’s crew lost two sailors during the deployment. Aviation Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer Justin Calderone, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 146, died last week following a medical emergency. In April, Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr. died of complications due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Weeks earlier, the ship’s former commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, was relieved of command over his handling of an emailed warning about the carrier’s growing health crisis as COVID-19 cases began to spread rapidly. Crozier was one of the 1,273 crew members to contract the virus in the Navy’s largest outbreak to date.

Crozier’s relief was followed up with an unplanned visit from then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who flew nearly 8,000 miles from Washington, D.C., to Guam, where the carrier was sidelined for about two months as the crew was evacuated and isolated. Modly, who had fired Crozier, slammed the captain’s decision to send an emailed warning about the coronavirus cases on the Roosevelt, calling him “too naïve or too stupid” to serve as their commanding officer.

The speech was recorded and obtained by media outlets, including Military.com. Modly faced backlash over his speech and the decision to fly across the globe to deliver it. He stepped down April 7, leaving the Navy secretary position suddenly vacant for the second time in six months.

The Roosevelt spent about one-third of its deployment docked in Guam. Much of the crew was moved into hotels and other facilities as the ship was disinfected, but the coronavirus spread rampantly among its personnel, eventually infecting about a quarter of the sailors on the ship.

The crew headed back out to sea in May. About a month later, the Navy’s top leaders revealed the findings of a new investigation into Crozier’s firing, announcing that they would uphold the decision and weigh the planned promotion of a one-star over what they called questionable decisions as COVID-19 cases began to mount.

That was after Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday recommended that Crozier be reinstated as the Roosevelt’s commanding officer. When pressed to address his reversal, Gilday said his initial recommendation was based only on a “narrowly scoped investigation” that examined Crozier’s email warning.

“I was tasked to take a look at those facts against then-Acting Secretary Modly’s justification for relieving him,” Gilday told reporters, “and I did not feel that the … facts supported the justification.”

“It is because of what he didn’t do that I have chosen not to reinstate him,” Gilday said, adding that Crozier was slow to put in place measures to keep the crew safe during the outbreak and released some members who’d been quarantined too quickly.

In June, the Roosevelt saw another crisis when an F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed into the Philippine Sea during a routine training flight. Both the pilot and weapon systems officer safely ejected and were recovered by an MH-60S helicopter.

Hundreds of members of the Roosevelt’s crew opted to participate in a study between the Navy and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looking at how coronavirus affects young people living in close quarters. The study found about a third of participants who’d tested positive for COVID-19 developed antibodies for the illness.

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

Articles

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has one very clear message: The country needs more icebreakers.


Zukunft reiterated that point time and again during an Aug. 24 speech to members of the Alaska policy nonprofit Commonwealth North in Anchorage.

He recalled a conversation he had with then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice when Rice asked him what President Barack Obama should highlight shortly before the president’s extended trip to Alaska in late August 2015.

“I said (to Rice) we are an Arctic nation. We have not made the right investments and we do not have the strategic assets to be an Arctic nation and that translates to icebreakers and that’s almost exactly what President Obama said when he came up here,” Zukunft said.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“Fast forward — it’s Jan. 20, 2017, and I’m sitting next to President Trump and as they’re parading by he says, ‘So, you got everything you need?’ I said, ‘I don’t. The last administration, they made a statement but they didn’t show me the money. I need icebreakers.’ (Trump said) ‘How many?’ ‘Six.’ ‘You got it.’

“You never miss an opportunity,” Zukunft quipped.

It’s well documented in Alaska that the US has “one-and-a-half” operable icebreakers. That is, the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy, which are in the Coast Guard’s fleet. A sister ship to the Polar Star, the Polar Sea remains inactive after an engine failure in 2010.

Zukunft noted Russia’s current fleet of 41 icebreakers to emphasize how far behind he feels the US is in preparing for increased military and commercial activity in the Arctic as sea ice continues to retreat — a message Alaska’s congressional delegation stresses as well.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
USCGC Healy. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“We are the only military service that’s truly focused on what’s happening in the Arctic and what happens in the Arctic does not happen in isolation,” Zukunft said.

He added that Russia is on track to deliver two more cruise missile-equipped icebreakers in 2020.

“I’m not real comfortable with them right on our back step coming through the Bering Strait and operating in this domain when we have nothing to counter it with,” he said.

The Coast Guard’s 2017 budget included a $150 million request to fund a new medium icebreaker, which Zukunft characterized as a “down payment” on the vessel expected to cost about $780 million, according to an Aug. 15 Congressional Research Service report on the progress of adding to the country’s icebreaking fleet.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Photo from United Sates European Command.

For years it was estimated that new heavy icebreakers would cost in the neighborhood of $1 billion each, but those estimates have been revised down as the benefits of lessons learned through construction of the initial vessel and ordering multiple icebreakers from the same shipyard are further examined.

The CRS report now estimates the first heavy icebreaker will cost about $980 million to build, but by the fourth that price tag would go down to about $690 million for an average per-vessel cost of about $790 million. That is on par with the cost for a single new medium icebreaker.

Zukunft said the Coast Guard is working with five shipyards on an accelerated timeline to get the first icebreaker by 2023, but how it will be fully funded is still unclear.

“We have great bipartisan support but who is going to write the check?” he said, adding that aside from Russia and China, the United States’ economy is larger than that of the other 18 nations with icebreakers combined.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, a heavy icebreaker homeported in Seattle. USCG photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener.

The Obama administration first proposed a high-level funding plan for new icebreakers in 2013 that has not been advanced outside of small appropriations.

“Our GDP (gross domestic product) is at least five times that of Russia and we’re telling ourselves we can’t afford it,” Zukunft continued. “Now this is just an issue of political will and not having the strategic forbearance to say this is an investment that we must have.”

He also advocated for the US finally signing onto the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty, which lays out the broad ground rules for what nations control off their coasts and how they interact in international waters.

Not signing onto the Law of the Sea, which was opened in 1982, leaves the US little say as other nations further study and potentially exploit the Arctic waters that are opening, he said.

“We are in the same club as Yemen; we are in the Star Wars bar of misfits of countries that have not ratified the Law of the Sea convention,” Zukunft said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Three years after the first prototype for the Black Hawk aircrew trainer was set up and implemented as a training aid at Fort Bliss, Texas, that technology has been enhanced.

A team from System Simulation, Software and Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation & Missile, also known as AMRDEC, has developed the Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment. Crew chiefs and gunners can train in a realistic setting where they see and hear the same things simultaneously.


Because there was no funding, Joseph P. Creekmore Jr., S3I aviation trainer branch chief and BAT Project director, said BAT team members used borrowed or discarded materials to work on the CAPE during breaks between scheduled projects.

It paid off.

“Design began over a year ago at a somewhat frustratingly slow pace for the BAT Team but, week by week and part by part, the CAPE device took shape and became the device we have today,” Creekmore said.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

Manuel Medina, assimilated integration technician with Systems Simulation and Software Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation Missile, demonstrates the capability Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment.

(Photo by Evelyn Colster)

The singular focus of the Army’s modernization strategy is making sure the warfighter and their units are ready to fight, win, and come home safely. As the head of the BAT Project, Creekmore said he believes the Army needs the CAPE to contribute to and ensure readiness in aircrews.

“Because we are a nation that has been continuously at war since 9/11, all the BAT Projects’ Army aviators have experienced combat overseas,” Creekmore said. “They all went into combat as part of a trained team.

“They all survived combat because they fought as a team. All the BAT Project’s former and retired Army aviators know to their very core that, to fight and win America’s wars, the Army must train as it fights and that includes training as a full aircrew,” Creekmore explained. “So, from Day 1, the BAT Project dreamed and planned for an opportunity to demonstrate an excellent whole-crew trainer that would contribute to the readiness of all U.S. Army Air Warriors.”

CAPE and BAT are linked using an ethernet connection. Creekmore said the nine locations with fielded BAT devices only need a tethered CAPE to provide Army aviation units with a way to train a complete UH-60 aircrew.

Manuel Medina, S3I assimilated integration technician, said he was blown away when he was first introduced to this technology. “Back when I was in, we didn’t even have anything like this… If we had the flight hours and the maintenance money to train, we would.”

According to Jarrod Wright, S3I lead integrator who built the BAT, many aircraft incidents are a result of some type of aircrew miscommunication.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

Manuel Medina, assimilated integration technician with Systems Simulation and Software Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation Missile, demonstrates the capability Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment that is tethered to the Black Hawk Aircrew Trainer.

(Photo by Evelyn Colster)

“What we’re trying to do here is … teach that crew coordination to allow pilots and crew chiefs to train like they would in combat with two devices tethered to each other,” said Wright, who spent more than eight years as a crew chief.

“In combat, no UH-60 breaks ground without its full complement of two rated aviators, a non-rated crew chief/door gunner and a second door gunner,” Creekmore explained. He said this type of equipment and training is necessary to maintain the high performance level and proficiency that exists in our Warfighters.

“This environment allows you, not only to train, but to evaluate potential crew chiefs and door gunners,” Wright posited. “You’re not throwing someone in there and saying, ‘I hope he gets it’.”

Medina, also a former gunner and crew chief, said this technology can benefit the Army in many ways. Not only can maintenance costs, flight hours, fuel, and training dollars be reduced, but the BAT and CAPE systems focus on considerations like spatial orientation or disorientation, response to changes in gravity, and susceptibility to airsickness. These devices mimic conditions crews see in flight and can identify adverse reactions while minimizing inherent risks.

The BAT Project team has high hopes for the CAPE.

“It is my hope that … the Army invests in further development of the CAPE and then fields it as BAT mission equipment so we can get this critical training capability in the hands of UH-60 aircrews throughout the Army,” Creekmore said.

Wright said the potential exists to use this technology to train complete crews in rescue hoisting and cargo sling load — any scenario they might encounter in any type of combat or rescue situation. He even sees the possibility for the BAT and CAPE to be used as preparation for hurricane relief or similar missions.

The Aviation Missile Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Judge denies bail for Air Force vet accused of leaking US secrets

A woman charged with leaking US secrets must remain jailed until her trial, a federal judge ruled Oct. 5, saying her release would pose an “ongoing risk to national security.”


Reality Winner, 25, is a former Air Force linguist who worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency at a facility in Augusta, Georgia, when she was charged in June with copying a classified US report and mailing it to a news organization.

Winner’s defense attorneys asked a judge to reconsider releasing her on bail after her trial date was postponed from October to next March. They argued Winner had no prior criminal history and served admirably in the military. Winner’s mother in Kingsville, Texas, planned to move to Georgia to ensure her daughter obeyed any terms of her bond.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Reality Leigh Winner. Photo from her Facebook.

But US Magistrate Judge Brian K. Epps sided with prosecutors in ruling that keeping Winner jailed is the only way to ensure she doesn’t flee overseas or leak more secret information. The judge referenced prosecutors’ transcript of a Facebook chat in February in which Winner wrote to her sister: “Look, I only say I hate America like 3 times a day.”

“By her own words and actions, (Winner) has painted a disturbing self-portrait of an American with years of national service and access to classified information who hates the United States and desires to damage national security on the same scale as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden,” Epps wrote.

Assange is the founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. Snowden is a former NSA contractor who leaked classified material exposing US government surveillance programs.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
Julian Assange (left) and Edward Snowden. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The judge also said evidence against Winner appears strong, noting she confessed to FBI agents that she leaked a classified document and made similar admissions to relatives in recorded jailhouse phone calls.

Winner has pleaded not guilty.

Authorities have not publicly described the document Winner is charged with leaking, nor have they identified the news organization that received it. But the Justice Department announced Winner’s arrest on the same day The Intercept reported it had obtained a classified National Security Agency report suggesting Russian hackers attacked a US voting software supplier before last year’s presidential election.

The NSA report was dated May 5, the same as the document Winner is charged with leaking.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Google drops out of $10-billion DoD contract competition

Google dropped out of the competition for a crucial Pentagon cloud computing contract valued at over $10 billion, the company confirms with Business Insider.

The news, which was originally reported by Bloomberg, comes on the same day that the search giant announced the shutdown of the Google+ social network, in the wake of reports of a major security lapse. It also comes just months after Google employees protested en masse over the company’s work with the United States military.

This $10 billion cloud contract, called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), will be awarded to one company to build cloud services for the Department of Defense. Google says it will not to compete for the contract because it believes that it would conflict with its corporate principles, and because it believes it may not hold all of the necessary certifications.


“While we are working to support the US government with our cloud in many areas, we are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI Principles and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications,” a Google spokesperson said.

Companies competing for the contract must submit their bids by Oct. 12, 2018. As only one company will be awarded the contract, Amazon is seen as the frontrunner. Several companies, including Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft, were working together to oppose the winner-take-all approach, rather than splitting the contract among multiple vendors. Google, in particular, believes it would be in the Pentagon’s best interest to allow multiple clouds.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

The Pentagon building.

“Had the JEDI contract been open to multiple vendors, we would have submitted a compelling solution for portions of it,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Google Cloud believes that a multi-cloud approach is in the best interest of government agencies, because it allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload.”

In early 2018, controversy emerged within Google over the company’s participation in Project Maven, an effort to build artificial intelligence for the Department of Defense to analyze drone video footage, which could be used to target drone strikes.

In April 2018, more than 4,000 Google employees signed a petition demanding that the company discontinue Project Maven and promise to never “build warfare technology.” Some employees even resigned in protest.

In June 2018, Google said it would not renew the contract once it expired, and that same month, it released a set of principles for its work in AI. According to those principles, Google will not design or deploy AI that can cause harm or injury to people, that can gather information for surveillance that “violates internationally accepted norms,” or that violates international law and human rights principles.

“We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local, and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirements,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently took meetings in Washington to try to rebuild the company’s relationship with the military amid all the employee unrest. The company faces allegations from President Donald Trump and his allies that it biases search results against politically conservative sources.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China is monitoring its military’s brainwaves and emotions

Employees’ brain waves are reportedly being monitored in factories, state-owned enterprises, and the military across China.

The technology works by placing wireless sensors in employees’ caps or hats which, combined with artificial intelligence algorithms, spot incidents of workplace rage, anxiety, or sadness.

Employers use this “emotional surveillance technology” by then tweaking workflows, including employee placement and breaks, to increase productivity and profits.


At State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power in the southeast city of Hangzhou, company profits jumped by $315 million since the technology was introduced in 2014, an official told the South China Morning Post.

Cheng Jingzhou, the official who oversees the company’s program, said “there is no doubt about its effect,” and brain data helps the 40,000-strong firm work to higher standards.

According to the SCMP, more than a dozen businesses and China’s military have used a different programme developed by the government-funded brain surveillance project Neuro Cap, based out of Ningbo University.

“They thought we could read their mind. This caused some discomfort and resistance in the beginning,” Jin Jia, a professor of brain science at Ningbo University told the Post.

“After a while they got used to the device… They wore it all day at work.”

Jin also said that employees’ brainwaves can be enough for managers to send them home.

“When the system issues a warning, the manager asks the worker to take a day off or move to a less critical post. Some jobs require high concentration. There is no room for a mistake.”

Another type of sensor, built by technology company Deayea, is reportedly used in the caps of train drivers on the high-speed rail line between Beijing and Shanghai. The sensor can even trigger an alarm if a driver falls asleep.

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
(Photo by lin zhizhao)

Widespread use of emotion monitoring may mark a new stage in China’s surveillance state, which has largely been focused on facial recognition and increasing internet censorship.

It’s unknown if all employees subjected to the technology are aware they are being monitored, but even if they were China’s privacy laws would be unlikely to help.

The notoriously lax privacy laws, and the country’s large sample population, have helped China leap ahead with its artificial intelligence research.

According to a report by CB Insights, China applied for five times as many AI patents as the US in 2017.

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