The Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class is fighting Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 206 this weekend but that’s only one of a myriad of things that keeps him busy.
Since moving from active duty to the Texas Army National Guard in 2010, Kennedy has become one of the most high-profile veterans with a full resume of entertainment and business accomplishments.
You may recognize Kennedy from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but he’s also made a name for himself on the hugely successful HISTORY TV show “Hunting Hitler.” Kennedy is the host and treks throughout South America poking and prodding in the nooks and crannies of the continent for proof that German WWII criminals fled and potentially lived out their lives in secrecy there.
He also hosted The Triumph Games where wounded warriors compete for $50,000 cash prize on CBS Sports.
Is this going to be a trend? Are we going to see more of Tim Kennedy on our TVs?
“Yes,” Kennedy told WATM. “I like hosting TV shows so I’m going to do it more often. I get a lot out of it and hosting the Triumph Games was really rewarding. I will always train myself year round but I’ll take sabbaticals to host TV shows when I get the chance.”
Kennedy isn’t just on the small screen. He had a big role in the veteran-funded cult classic movie, Range 15 — both in front of and behind the camera.
“Range 15 is a comedic war movie in a post apocalyptic world where military degenerates wake up from a night of debauchery to find the zombie apocalypse has happened and the only thing that can save it is these losers,” he says chuckling.
Range 15 was a collaboration between Ranger Up (which Kennedy co-owns) and Article 15, two veteran-run apparel companies who challenged the Hollywood mold and made a major motion picture funded largely by veterans.
Though competitors, the founders of each company set their differences aside and launched an Indiegogo campaign that raised over $1 million.
They then opened up the roles of zombie extras to veterans and got major Hollywood backing when Danny Trejo and William Shatner made cameo appearances.
“The zombie extras didn’t have all their limbs because many of them were blown off in combat,” Kennedy says. “It was so special to make this movie. Such an amazing experience. Range 15 could not have been a success without the help and support of the veteran community. Period.”
Besides entertainment and apparel, Kennedy also runs a defense tactics company called Sheepdog Response that he formed after running a seminar in Oklahoma. During that first seminar to law enforcement personnel, Kennedy noticed most everyone was good at one thing — either shooting or combatives — but rarely both.
So he launched Sheepdog Response to reshape America.
“We’ve gotten soft and become a nation without fangs,” Kennedy says. “Sheepdogs protect the prey from the wolves and that’s what we’re doing. We’re giving people the skills to be the hardest person to kill.”
Kennedy himself is probably one of the hardest people to kill. Despite all his business and entertainment endeavors, Kennedy is still an Army NCO and deploys as part of a Special Operations Detachment for Africa from the Texas National Guard. His next reenlistment is up in 2017. Will he stay in the National Guard?
“There’s a good chance I’ll reenlist. I have a lot going on, but I still have a heart that bleeds green,” he says. “I don’t know that I can live without being part of the greatest fighting force on the planet.”
On Dec. 10 Kennedy will face Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 206 in Toronto, which is a last minute change. He was previously scheduled to fight former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans at UFC 205 in New York City, but Evans couldn’t get cleared by the athletic commission.
But if anyone is prepared for change, it’s Kennedy.
“It’s a great matchup. He’s a very tough, young kid with a lot of talent, but not the most discipline,” Kennedy says. “He misses weight a lot, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t hit hard and is one hell of a fighter.”
“I have to be the best me to win this fight but I’m definitely ready.”
The 2012 attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya wasn’t the first time such an outpost was stormed by locals. It wasn’t even the first time one was attacked in Benghazi. The Foreign Service of the United States isn’t all handshakes, ribbon cuttings, and talk. The people dedicated to improving relations with other countries while advancing U.S. foreign policy inherently put themselves at risk.
U.S. Diplomatic posts had been attacked with varying tactics and varying success before the infamous assault in Benghazi. Here’s how six others went down:
1. 1900 – Peking (Beijing), China
Anti-foreign, anti-Christian sentiment combined with severe drought in China led to armed violence against foreigners in the country as well as a general uprising against all external forces. The militias were called “Boxers” in English. The Qing Empress Dowager Cixi supported the uprising as the Boxers converged on Beijing in full force, declaring war on all foreign powers. Five hundred diplomats, foreign civilians, and Christians barricaded themselves inside the two-square-mile Foreign Legation Quarter in the Chinese capital. The Boxers laid siege to the diplomatic area as German and U.S. Marine defenders kept them at bay, even under intense artillery fire.
A 20,000-man relief army from eight nations invaded China. Japan, Russia, the British Empire, France, the U.S., Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary. The army marched 100 miles fro Tianjin to the capital in just over two weeks. British, Russian, Japanese, and French troops fought the Chinese Boxers at the city walls, trying to breach the gate. The Americans attempted to scale the walls instead of assaulting a fortified gate. Indian and Sikh troops from the British contingent were the first to break the siege of the Foreign Legation. Fifty-five of the almost 500 besieged were killed.
The U.S. Army in Beijing — then called Peking (U.S. Army Center of Military History)
2. 1927 – Nanking, China
Nationalist revolutionaries captured Nanking from a Chinese warlord in 1927, over a decade after the fall of Imperial China. These revolutionaries consisted of Chinese citizens and some Chinese Communists, but was mostly made op of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA), who would later be a U.S. ally against the Japanese in World War II. When the NRA captured Nanking, enraged Chinese fighters and citizens rioted and looted foreigners homes and attacked the American, British, and Japanese consulates.
The British sent eight warships led by the aptly-named HMS Vindictive while the U.S. Navy sent five destroyers of its own up the Yangtze River to relieve the foreign citizens and evacuate them. Every time the ships steamed into the city, they came under attack.The American and British sailors returned fire with overwhelming force, silencing the Chinese guns each time. Only one British and one American sailor were killed.
3. 1967 -Benghazi, Libya
Two years before Qaddafi’s coup toppled the regime of the Elderly King Idris I, the people of Libya were still fiercely proud of their Arab nationalism. At the onset of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Egyptian propaganda convinced the locals of Benghazi U.S. Navy planes were assisting Israel in their pre-emptive strikes against Egyptian airfields and other military targets. Outraged, thousands of Egyptian migrant workers and local mobs attacked the U.S.Embassy in Benghazi, overwhelming a Libyan military detachment the government dispatched to quell the uprising. The Embassy staff held the mob back with ax handles, rifle butts, and tear gas, even after the building was set on fire.
The British tried numerous times to break through the mob to rescue the battered Americans, who stayed on the roof, trying to destroy classified material throughout the day. Eventually a British armored column managed to break through and extract the Americans. They also helped hundreds of Americans trapped in the area of the city by protecting them inside the British camp. The British moved the Americans to an airfield where they were extracted by the U.S. Air Force cargo planes.
4. 1968 – Saigon, South Vietnam
In 1967, during the Vietnam War, the United States turned over the defense of Saigon to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). By 1968, the U.S. Embassy in the capital at Saigon was defended by four Vietnamese police posts, with two U.S. Army military policemen at the entrance gate, two U.S. Marines in a guard post, with a third Marine on the roof of the embassy. On the night of January 31, 1968, 19 Viet Cong sappers open fire on the MPs at the gate, SP4 Charles L. Daniel and Pvt. 1st Class William E. Sebast, who returned fire and secured the gate. The VC then blew a hole in the perimeter wall. The first two VC fighters through the wall were killed by the Army guards, but Sebast and Daniel were killed by their attackers. The Vietnamese policemen abandoned their posts when the first shots were fired.
Inside, the Marines locked down the Embassy and started shooting into the breached wall. Inside the Embassy, the three Marines, two Vietnamese, and six American civilians jocked up and prepared for the VC assault. Meanwhile, Marines in their barracks five blocks away proceeded to the Embassy asa quick reaction force, but met with heavy resistance from the VC inside. As dawn broke, Military Policemen shot the locks off the gates and drove through it in a jeeps as MPs and Marines stormed the grounds. The 101st Airborne landed by helicopter on the roof and cleared the building.
5. 1979 – Islamabad, Pakistan
The Masjid al-Haram, or Great Mosque of Mecca, the holiest site in the Islamic religion, was itself taken over by Islamic fundamentalists. These terrorists believed their leader was the Mahdi, the redeemer of the Islamic faith, and called on the overthrow of the Saudi regime. Naturally, this caused ripples of outrage throughout the Islamic world. Radio reports varied, but some in Pakistan erroneously suggested the United States was responsible, began climbing the walls and trying to pull them down.
The staff retreated to the secure communication vault as the embassy was burned down around them. They locked themselves in the building until nightfall, when a Marine snuck out the back door. The Marine found the entire Embassy empty and so the 140 people quietly escaped the grounds. A similar event happened at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya at the same time, for the same reason.
6. 1979 – Tehran, Iran
When the Shah of Iran abdicated the throne in 1979, he jetted around the world from place to place, searching for a country who would grant him asylum. Unbeknownst to much of the world, the Shah was also suffering from terminal cancer. In an act of compassion, U.S. President Jimmy Carter allowed the Shah to enter the U.S. for treatment. The people of Iran saw this act as complicity with a brutal regime and worried the U.S. was setting the stage to reinstall the Shah’s dictatorial regime once more, as they had done in 1953.
The Tehran Embassy had been taken over on February 4th and held for three hours before the Foreign Ministry of the new government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini convinced the attacker to give it back within three hours. On November 4th, students at the University of Tehran planned and stormed the embassy again and would hold hostages for 444 days. The Iranian government used the hostages to secure passage of its Constitution and other Khomeini-era reforms, and hold parliamentary elections. A U.S. military attempt to rescue the hostages the next year failed miserably in the deserts of Iran.
After the 1979 Embassy takeover, U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide were subjected to mortars, RPGs, and vehicle-borne improvised explosives. but a U.S. ambassador hadn’t been killed by in the course of duty since armed Islamic extremists in Kabul, Afghanistan killed Ambassador Adolph Dubs in 1979. That all changed in September 2012 when an armed militia stormed a diplomatic compound in Benghazi and killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
(The story of the six government security contractors (also U.S. military veterans) who came to the rescue of the compound where Stevens was killed can be seen in Paramount Pictures’ adaptation of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, in theaters Friday, January 15th.)
There’s something about football that just lends itself to the melodramatic emotions of our youth. It’s the closest socially acceptable approximation to gladiatorial combat young men in our modern civilized world can pursue, and as such, it tends to hold an honored place in our hearts. The gridiron is where we proved our mettle; Where we found that toughness within us we always hoped was there.
And then, just like that, it’s gone. For most of us, football ends right around when real life begins, and you’re left with no choice but to trade in your pads and passion for a steady job and a pile of bills. Although I once had college football aspirations, an injury cost me that opportunity, and I found myself working as a race mechanic alongside a dozen other “coulda beens”–if only we’d made that one last tackle, dodged that one block, or chased the dream while our knees were still strong enough to hack it.
I joined the Marine Corps at 21 years old and with no intention of finding my way back onto the field. I had found my way to rugby after my college football “career” ended, but as I checked in to my first duty station at 29 Palms, California, neither was on my mind. That is, until I noticed the battalion team practicing just a few blocks away from my barracks room.
The next season, I earned myself a starting spot on the battalion team, which led to a spot on the base team, and eventually, to the first of two Marine Corps championships. Those successes, however, were hard earned… as playing ball for the Corps wasn’t quite like it had been back home in the hills of Vermont.
You’re playing against Marines, some of whom are battle-hardened veterans.
As Al Pacino once so eloquently put it, football is a game of inches. For all the strategy, practice, and technique involved, football is one of the few places left that sheer toughness remains a high-value commodity. Sometimes, when everything else is even, it’s the guy that’s willing to hurt that’ll get the job done. Sometimes you have to choose between the game and your safety. Knowing that reaching for that ball thrown across the flats against a zone defense will almost certainly mean taking a helmet to the sternum and choosing to do it anyway isn’t something you’re taught. It’s just who you are.
In most leagues, you’ll be lucky to find a few players willing to throw their bodies into the grinder for a “W.” In the Marine Corps, we already live in the grinder. Infantry units field teams between combat deployments, Marines attend football practices between training rotations in martial arts and on the rifle range. Mental and physical toughness is a prerequisite to success in the Corps, and as such, the playing field is ripe with men willing to hurt in order to achieve their goals.
Service members thrive on competition (and that can really suck).
Playing football in the Marine Corps comes with a level of competitive social pressure that can really only be compared to some high-level college teams. When you’re on a squad with a shot at some trophies, you’re representing more than the team itself, you’re representing your unit. The commanding general may not give a sh*t about your last inspection, but he does about the score of this week’s game. A slew of wins can make you feel like a celebrity, but a bad loss can make you ashamed to show your face at work… or in front of your commanding officer.
Marines, perhaps more than other services, are in a perpetual state of competition. Like Ricky Bobby, if we aren’t first, we’re last… and nobody’s going to let you forget it.
The Corps always comes first.
If you play football for a successful college program, you’re expected to keep up with your grades, but otherwise, the sport is your job. Marine Corps football can be a lot like that–with the obligations of the sport occasionally taking precedence over other duties (like when you go TAD/TDY for away games), but at the end of the day, the Marine Corps is a warfighting institution.
Infantry units, for instance, often had their seasons cut short by field requirements or combat deployments. Players on your team would be pulled from the roster to augment a deploying unit. Last season’s star quarterback may miss this season because he has to travel for training or worse, because he’s been injured or killed since we last took the field. Football is a way of life for most that love the sport, but nothing supersedes the Corps. We’re Marines first, football players second, and if we’re lucky, we eventually get to be old men writing stories about our days with an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on our helmets.
The Pentagon is making a massive push to accelerate the application of artificial intelligence to ships, tanks, aircraft, drones, weapons, and large networks as part of a sweeping strategy to more quickly harness and integrate the latest innovations.
Many forms of AI are already well-underway with US military combat systems, yet new technologies and applications are emerging so quickly that Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has directed the immediate creation of a new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.
“The Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the DoD Chief Information Officer to standup the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center in order to enable teams across DoD to swiftly deliver new AI-enabled capabilities and effectively experiment with new operating concepts in support of DoD’s military missions and business functions.” DoD spokeswoman Heather Babb told Warrior Maven.
Pentagon officials intend for the new effort to connect otherwise disparate AI developments across the services. The key concept, naturally, is to capitalize upon the newest and most efficient kinds of autonomy, automation, and specific ways in which AI can develop for the long term — yet also have an immediate impact upon current military operations.
AI performs a wide range of functions not purely restricted to conventional notions of IT or cyberspace; computer algorithms are increasingly able to almost instantaneously access vast pools of data, compare and organize information and perform automated procedural and analytical functions for human decision-makers in a role of command and control. While AI can of course massively expedite data consolidation, cloud migration and various kinds much-needed cybersecurity functions, it is increasingly being applied more broadly across weapons systems, large platforms and combat networks as well.
Rapid data-base access, organizing information and performing high-volume procedural functions are all decided advantages of AI applications. Algorithms, for example, are increasingly able to scan, view and organize ISR input such as images or video – to identify points of combat relevance of potential interest to a commander.
AI enabled technology can perform these kinds of procedural functions exponentially faster than humans can, massively shortening the crucial decision-making timeframe for combat decision makers. At the same time, many experts, developers, and military leaders recognize that the certain problem-solving faculties and subjective determinations unique to human cognition – are still indispensable to decision making in war.
For this reason, advanced AI relies upon what developers refer to as “human-machine” interface or “easing the cognitive burden” wherein humans function in a command and control capacity while computer automation rapidly performs a range of key procedural functions.
AI & IT
This AI-driven phenomenon is of particular relevance when it comes to data systems, IT as a whole and advances in cybersecurity. For instance, Air Force developers are using advanced computer automation to replicate human behavior online – for the specific purpose of luring and tracking potential intruders. Also, AI can be used to perform real-time analytics on incoming traffic potentially containing malware, viruses or any kind of attempted intrusion. If the source, characteristics or discernable pattern of an attempted intrusion are identified quickly, cyber defenders are better positioned to respond.
When high-volume, redundant tasks are performed through computer automation, humans are freed up to expend energy pursuing a wider range of interpretive or conceptual work.
For example, the Army is working with a private firm called NCI to establish a certification of worthiness for a specific AI-enabled program designed to streamline a number of key tasks.
The NCI-developed program enables account creation, account deletion, background checks and other kind of high-volume data analysis.
“You can log into 10 different websites simultaneously, rather than having a person do that. A machine can go through and gather all the information for a person,” Brad Mascho Chief AI Officer, NCI, told Warrior Maven in an interview. “Humans can focus on higher priority threats.”
At the same time, big data analytics can quickly present new challenges for a variety of key reasons; a larger data flow can make it difficult for servers to “flex” as needed to accommodate rapid jumps in data coming through. Therefore, AI-empowered algorithms such as those engineered by NCI are needed to organize incoming data and identify anomalies or potential intrusions.
There is also a growing need for more real-time monitoring of activity on a message “bus,” because standard analytics methods based on probability and statistical probability often detect intrusions after the fact and are not always reliable or 100-percent accurate, cybersecurity experts and analysts explain.
AI & cyber defense
Algorithms calling upon advanced AI are being used to quickly access vast pools of data to perform real-time analytics designed to detect patterns and anomalies associated with malware.
“Every day, the Defense Department thwarts an estimated 36 million e-mails containing malware, viruses and phishing schemes from hackers, terrorists and foreign adversaries trying to gain unauthorized access to military systems,” Babb told Warrior Maven earlier this year.
Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.
One particular technique, now being developed by CISCO systems, seeks to address a particular irony or cybersecurity paradox; namely, while much DoD network traffic is encrypted for additional safety, encryption can also make it more difficult for cyber defenders to see hidden malware in the traffic.
CISCO is now prototyping new detection methods as part of an effort to introduce their technology to the US military services.
“We have the ability to read and detect malware in encrypted web traffic. Even though the data is encrypted there is still a pattern to malware,” Kelly Jones, Systems Engineer for CISCO Navy programs, told Warrior Maven.
AI & large combat platforms, tanks & fighter jets
Real-time analytics, informed by AI, has already had much success with both Army and Air Force Conditioned-Based Maintenance initiatives. The Army used IBMs Watson computer to perform real-time analytics on sensor information from Stryker vehicles and tactical trucks.
Drawing upon seemingly limitless databases of historical data, Watson was able to analyze information related to potential engine failures and other key vehicular systems. Properly identifying when a given combat-vehicle system might malfunction or need repairs helps both combat and logistical operations. Furthermore, the Army-IBM Stryker “proof of principle” exercise was able to wirelessly transmit sensor data, enabling AI to compare new information gathered against a historical database in seconds.
The Army is also working with IBM to test AI-enabled “autonomy kits” on tactical trucks designed to enable much greater degrees of autonomous navigation.
Advanced computer algorithms, enhanced in some instances through machine learning, enable systems such as Watson to instantly draw upon vast volumes of historical data as a way to expedite analysis of key mechanical indicators. Real-time analytics, drawing upon documented pools of established data through computer automation, can integrate otherwise disconnected sensors and other on-board vehicle systems.
“We identified some of the challenges in how you harmonize sensor data that is delivered from different solutions. Kevin Aven, partner and co-account lead, Army and Marine Corps, IBM Global Business Services, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.
Watson, for example, can take unstructured information from maintenance manuals, reports, safety materials, vehicle history information and other vehicle technologies – and use AI to analyze data and draw informed conclusions of great significance to military operators, Aven explained.
When created, IBM stated that, “more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses,” according to IBM Systems and Technology.
Working with a firm called C3IoT, the Air Force is doing something similar with F-16s. On board avionics and other technologies are monitored and analyzed using AI-enabled computers to discern when repairs or replacement parts are needed.
Applications of AI are also credited with enabling the F-35s “sensor fusion” technology which uses computer algorithms to autonomously gather and organize a wide-range of sensor data for the pilot.
U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
It goes without saying that targeting data is of critical importance when it comes to mechanized ground warfare. With this in mind, Army combat vehicle developers are prototyping AI-enabled sensors intended to combine sensor information essential to identifying targets. If long-range EO/IR or thermal imaging sensors are able to both collect and organize combat data, vehicle crews can attack enemy targets much more quickly.
Some near-term applications, senior officials with the Army Research Laboratory say, include increased air and ground drone autonomy. It is an example of an area where AI is already having a large impact and is anticipated to figure prominently over the long-term as well.
“We know there is going to be unmanned systems for the future, and we want to look at unmanned systems and working with teams of manned systems. This involves AI-enabled machine learning in high priority areas we know are going to be long term as well as near term applications,” Karl Kappra, Chief of the Office of Strategy Management for the Army Research Lab, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview. “We also know we are going to be operating in complex environments, including electromagnetic and cyber areas.”
For instance, Kappra explained that sensor-equipped micro-autonomous drones could be programed with advanced algorithms to send back combat-relevant images or provide attacking forces with key interior dimensions to a target location.
“We are looking at micro-electrical mechanical systems and image-based systems to fly through a building autonomously and show you where walls and threats are inside the buildings,” Kappra said.
Also, Army combat vehicle developers consistently emphasize manned-unmanned teaming with “wing man” drone robots operating in tandem with manned vehicles to carry ammunition, test enemy defenses, identify targets and potentially fire weapons. Some senior Army weapons and technology developers have said that most future combat vehicles will be engineered with some level of autonomous ability or manned-unmanned teaming technology.
Increased computer automation also performs a large function on the Navy’s emerging Ford-Class aircraft carriers. The new carriers use advanced algorithms to perform diagnostics and other on-board maintenance and procedural tasks independently. This, Navy developers say, allows the service to reduce its crew size by as many as 900 sailors per carrier and save up to billion dollars over the life of a ship.
Warfare, ethics & AI
Interestingly, debates about the future of AI, especially when it comes to autonomy, continues to spark significant controversy. Current Pentagon doctrine specifies that there must always be a “human-in-the-loop” when it comes to making decisions about the use of lethal force. However, the technology enabling an autonomous system to track, acquire and destroy a target by itself without needing human intervention – is already here.
In a previous interview with Warrior Maven, an Air Force scientist made the point that the current doctrine is of course related to offensive strikes of any kind, however there may be some instances where weapons are used autonomously in a purely defensive fashion. For instance, AI-enabled interceptors could be programmed to knock out incoming enemy missile attacks – without themselves destroying anything other than an approaching enemy weapon. In this instance, AI could serve an enormously valuable defensive function by performing intercepts exponentially faster than having a human decision maker involved.
Naturally, this kind of technology raises ethical questions, and some have made the point that even though the US military may intend to maintain a certain ethical stance – there is of course substantial concern that potential adversaries will not do the same.
Also, while often heralded as the “future” of warfare and technology, AI does have some limitations. For example, problems presented in combat, less-discernable nuances informing certain decisions, determining causation and the analysis of a range of different interwoven variables – are arguably things best performed by the human mind.
Many things in warfare, naturally, are often a complex byproduct of a range of more subjectively determined factors – impacted by concepts, personalities, individual psychology, historical nuances and larger sociological phenomena. This naturally raises the question as to how much even the most advanced computer programs could account for these and other somewhat less “tangible” factors.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
After much back and forth, it looks like the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un is back on schedule. The details are starting to emerge about the quickly-approaching June 12 conference, including expected talking points, the venue, and the extensive security measures in place.
Each leader is responsible for bringing their own security detail from their own nation, but the overall security is going to be overseen by none other than the world’s most intense fighting force: the Nepalese Gurkhas.
Gurkhas have earned a reputation for being the hardest and most well-trained mercenaries in the world. They’ve formed a strong bond with the United Kingdom’s forces in East Asia and used Hong Kong as a base of operations until 1997. Today, they’re based out of the UK and are still the premier fighting force in East Asia.
(Photo by William B. King)
They maintain a relatively low profile considering their legendary status in law enforcement. Recently, they watched over a security conference between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and other East Asian ministers in Singapore.
They’ll be at it again when President Trump and Kim Jong-un meet for the first time.
Each Gurkha is rigorously trained and outfitted with some of the best armor and weaponry in the world. In addition to this high-tech armory, each Gurkha is armed with their signature khukuri knife. It’s said that this knife must draw blood each time it’s unsheathed.
“They remain very much a substantial and frontline force, and the demands of this kind of event are precisely the sort of special operation that the Gurkhas are trained to handle.”
It is unknown how many Gurkhas will be deployed for the conference but the International Institute for Strategic Studies lists the total number of Gurkhas in the Singapore police at 1,800, divided among six different paramilitary companies.
If your spouse has the flu, you make soup. If your friend breaks an arm, you offer to help with their chores or errands. When a loved one needs surgery, friends and family send Get Well cards and flowers. The same cannot always be said when someone is in emotional pain and takes the important step forward to improve their mental health.
Unfortunately, many people in this country don’t recognize the signs and symptoms or realize that effective mental health treatments are available. One of the challenges driving these false perceptions is the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Additionally, fear of how they may be perceived by their loved ones, friends, or colleagues can keep someone from seeking effective treatment.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it provides us with an important opportunity to continue the national dialogue about mental health and wellness and reduce the negative perceptions associated with seeking treatment.
We Are The Mighty wants to help you play a vital role in connecting the veterans you serve with resources for leading a healthier life. Visit MakeTheConnection.net/Step4ward to discover simple ways to participate in Mental Health Awareness Month and show your support for veterans by sharing the Step Forward materials.
MakeTheConnection.net is a free, confidential resource where veterans, their family members, and friends, can privately explore such topics as health, wellness, and everyday life events and experiences.
The success of our efforts during Mental Health Awareness Month depends on your support. Visit the Mental Health Awareness Month hub on the site to watch personal stories of veterans, find resources, share social media content or find other actions that will help raise awareness and broaden this important conversation.
Make the Connection encourages veterans to seek support and mental health services when needed. If you or a veteran you are working with are in immediate crisis or having thoughts of suicide, trained responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year with confidential support and guidance. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net, or send a text message to 838255.
Now watch this really powerful short Public Service Announcement from the Veterans Crisis Line, titled “I’m Good”:
Infantry soldiers often carry an array of supplies and gear that together can weigh anywhere from 60 to 120 pounds, said Capt. Erika Hanson, the assistant product manager for the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport.
But the SMET vehicle, which the Army expects to field in just under three years, “is designed to take the load off the soldier,” Hanson said. “Our directed requirement is to carry 1,000 pounds of the soldier load.”
That 1,000 pounds is not just for one soldier, of course, but for an entire Infantry squad — typically about nine soldiers.
Late May 2018, during a “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” in the courtyard of the Pentagon, Hanson had with her on display the contenders for the Army’s SMET program: four small vehicles, each designed to follow along behind a squad of infantry soldiers and carry most or all their gear for them, so they can move to where they need to be without being exhausted upon arrival.
“I’m not an infantry soldier,” Hanson said. “But I’ve carried a rucksack — and I can tell you I can move a lot faster without out a rucksack on my back. Not having to carry this load will make the soldier more mobile and more lethal in a deployed environment.”
The four contender vehicles on display at the Pentagon were the MRZR-X system from Polaris Industries Inc., Applied Research Associates Inc. and Neya Systems LLC; the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport from General Dynamics Land Systems; the Hunter Wolf from HDT Global; and the RS2-H1 system from Howe and Howe Technologies. Each was loaded down with gear representative of what they would be expected to carry when one of them is actually fielded to the Army.
(U.S. Army photos)
“Nine ruck sacks, six boxes of MREs and four water cans,” Hanson said. “This is about the equivalent of what a long-range mission for a light Infantry unit would need to carry.”
Hanson said that for actual testing and evaluation purposes, the simulated combat load also includes fuel cans and ammo cans as well, though these items weren’t included in the display at the Pentagon.
These small vehicles, Hanson said, are expected to follow along with a squad of soldiers as they walk to wherever it is they have been directed to go. The requirement for the vehicles is that they be able to travel up to 60 miles over the course of 72 hours, she said.
Three of the vehicles are “pivot steered,” Hanson said, to make it easier for them to maneuver in off-road environments, so that they can follow soldiers even when there isn’t a trail.
One of the contenders for SMET has a steering wheel, with both a driver’s seat and a passenger seat. So if a soldier wanted to drive that vehicle, he could, Hanson said. Still, the Army requirement is that the SMET be able to operate unmanned, and all four vehicles provide that unmanned capability.
All four contenders include a small, simplistic kind of remote control that a soldier can hand-carry to control the vehicle. One of those remotes was just a light-weight hand grip with a tiny thumb-controlled joystick on top. A soldier on patrol could carry the light-weight controller at his side.
More advanced control options are also available for the SMET as well, Hanson said.
“All can be operated with an operator control unit,” she said. “It’s a tele-operation where you have a screen and you can operate the system non-line-of-site via the cameras on the system.”
When soldiers on patrol want the SMET to follow along with them, they can use the very simple controller that puts a low cognitive load on the Soldier. When they want the SMET to operate in locations where they won’t be able to see it, they can use the more advanced controller with the video screen.
Hanson said the Army envisions soldiers might one day use the SMET to do things besides carry a Soldier’s bags.
“It’s for use in operations where some of the payloads are like re-trans and recon payloads in the future,” she said. “In that situation, it would be better for a soldier at a distance to be able to tele-operate the SMET into position.”
(U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez)
The “re-trans” mission, she said, would involve putting radio gear onto the SMET and then using a remote control to put the vehicle out at the farthest edge of where radio communications are able to reach. By doing so, she said, the SMET could then be part of extending that communications range farther onto the battlefield.
One of the vehicles even has an option for a soldier to clip one end of a rope to his belt and the other end to the vehicle — and then the vehicle will just follow him wherever he walks. That’s the tethered “follow-me” option, Hanson said.
In addition to carrying gear for soldiers, the SMET is also expected to provide electric power to soldiers on patrol. She said while the vehicle is moving, for instance, it is required to provide 1 kilowatt of power, and when it’s standing still, it must provide 3 kW.
That power, she said, could be piped into the Army’s “Universal Battery Charger,” which can charge a variety of batteries currently used in soldier products. Vendors of the SMET have each been provided with a UBC so they can figure out how best to incorporate the device into their SMET submissions.
Hanson said the Army hopes that the SMET could include, in some cases, up to five UBCs on board to ensure that no soldier in an Infantry squad is ever without mobile power.
In November 2017, the Army held a “fly-off” at Fort Benning, Georgia, where 10 contenders for the SMET competed with each other. Only the developers of the vehicles were involved in the fly-off.
“From those, we down-selected to these four, based on their performance,” Hanson said.
To make its choice for the down-select, she said the Army looked at things like mobility and durability of the systems.
Now, the Army will do a technology demonstration to down-select to just one vehicle, from the remaining four. To do that, Hanson said, the Army will first provide copies of the competing SMET vehicles to two Army Infantry units, one at Fort Drum, New York, and one at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Additionally, Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will also get a set of the vehicles.
“Over the course of the tech demo, we’ll be getting feedback from the soldiers and the Marines on what systems best fill the need for the infantryman,” she said.
The technology demonstration, she said, will last just one year. And when it’s complete, feedback from soldiers and Marines will be used to down-select to just one system that will then become an Army program of record.
“I think the best part of the program is the innovative approach the team is taking to field them to soldiers before they select the program of record,” Hanson said. “That way, it’s the soldier feedback that drives the requirement, not the other way around.”
Hanson said she expects the program of record to begin in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, after which the Army will go into low-rate initial production on the SMET. By the second or third quarter of FY 2021, she said, the first Army unit can expect to have the new vehicle fielded to them.
Hanson said the Army has set a base price of $100,000 for the SMET.
Two years ago, Air Force veteran Derek Blumke wound up staying in a sketchy neighborhood in Houston while on the road working for his first tech startup that had little money to spend on accommodations. After finding the external side door to his hotel ajar, he got to his room and saw — from the shoddy repairs to the hinges and the door frame — that the door had previously been kicked in “breach-style,” as he put it.
“I was texting my brother letting him know where I was in case he didn’t hear from me the next day,” Blumke said. At the same time, he quickly searched his phone for security apps and found none that fit what he needed. And so TripSafe was born.
“If you have a security system at home, why wouldn’t you have a smaller system that protects you when you’re away from your familiar surroundings?” Blumke asked.
With home security system functionality in mind, he set out to design something that was much more than what he called a “panic button app” on a phone. He wanted something that would cover all the undesirable contingencies surrounding a hotel stay — intrusion, theft, fire, whatever.
So he formed a team to make the product, drawing on the network of veterans he’d acquired while working in the entrepreneurial space. Joining him were former U.S. Army infantryman James McGuirk (Chief Hardware Officer and Co-Founder), former U.S. Navy diver and bomb technician Kathy Borkoski (Chief Operating Officer), and U.S. Marine Corps veterans Brian Alden (Technology Advisor and Co-Founder) and Adam Healy (Chief Technology Officer).
The TripSafe is basically two electronic door-stoppers magnetically attached to a base unit that has a video monitor, motion and sound sensors, and smoke and gas detectors. The user can tailor Smartphone alerts and a 24/7 emergency response. The system easily fits into a computer bag or purse.
“We can’t trust that everything will be fine everywhere we travel,” Blumke said. “And if I have these concerns as a 6-foot-tall former military guy, what does my girlfriend have in those sort of situations?”
After battling night terrors and the pain and anxiety of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for decades, an Air Force veteran found his lifeline at the end of a dog leash.
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager in the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, vividly remembers a few years ago when he would regularly find himself in the depths of fear and despair; reliving troubling images from deployments as a security forces military working dog handler and later as a logistics specialist.
Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said she felt helpless, with no idea how to help him.
“You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them. It’s a terrible feeling watching someone suffer through PTSD,” she said.
Those memories seemed so hopeless at times that Kaono attempted to end his life.
After taking numerous prescription drugs in 2010 in a bid to permanently end his pain, Kaono finally reached out for help and started receiving the support and understanding he needed.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
“I had previously attempted (suicide) but this time I actually sought treatment,” Kaono said.
After being hospitalized for his suicide attempt, the veteran began a treatment program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Los Angeles.
“When I was first diagnosed, group therapy didn’t work for me,” the Hawaii-native said, “so I actually left the group and started volunteering at a (German Shepherd) rescue in California.”
Dogs had always played a part in Kaono’s life from when, as a toddler, his family’s old English sheepdog, Winston, picked him up by the diaper to deliver a wandering Ryan back to his front yard.
“I realized (while volunteering at the rescue) that the interaction with the dogs really made me feel better,” he said.
Not content to just help himself, Kaono worked with the VA hospital to help other veterans interact with the rescue dogs and promoted animal therapy.
“The VA does equestrian therapy where they’ll take veterans to horse ranches and they get to ride horses … same premise, animal therapy works wonders,” he said.
It wasn’t long before Kaono, with a wealth of dog training knowledge from his time as a MWD handler, had veterans asking for help to train dogs so they could have their own service animals.
This support was especially important to Kaono since the average wait time for a VA-trained service dog can exceed two to five years.
“By then, we’ve already lost between 9,000 – 20,000 people due to suicide in a five-year period,” he said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
That’s based on a 2013 Department of Veterans Affairs study that showed roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide every day from 1999-2010.
“That’s just way too many,” he said.
During this time, while helping to train dogs for other veterans, Kaono decided to add his name to the list for a VA-issued service dog.
After a two-year wait, he was notified they were ready to pair him with a dog. During the interview process, however, he was denied an animal because he already had a couple of dogs as pets and service dogs can’t be added to a home unless it is pet free.
“I was disheartened,” he said, but he continued to help train animals for other veterans.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is no mandated certification for a service dog and it allows people to train their own animals. So three years ago, when Kaono moved to San Antonio, his wife encouraged him to work on training his own service dog.
“I thought I’d just take one of the dogs we had at our house and train it to be a service dog,” Kaono said, until Alessa pointed out a Chihuahua probably wasn’t the best choice for his particular needs.
He then decided to work with San Antonio’s Quillan Animal Rescue to find a potential service dog. The rescue suggested a Doberman at first but Kaono wasn’t interested in such a large animal. One of the workers then recommended a mixed breed animal named Romeo that was in need of rehabilitation after being hit by a car. The only drawback was Romeo had already been promised to another family in California after his recovery.
“I said yes because that would give me the opportunity to work with a dog again,” Kaono said.
That was February 2016 and by May, he and Romeo were inseparable, Kaono said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
By June, Romeo had recovered and he was sent to California. Kaono said he was heartbroken.
“I secluded myself. I didn’t want to go to work. I took sick leave … I just didn’t want to be around anybody and make connections with people like I did with him and have them shattered,” he said.
“Romeo was kind of a fluke,” he added, because the California family decided they couldn’t keep him so Romeo returned to San Antonio.
When Romeo arrived back in Texas, Kaono had a trainer from Service Dog Express assess him. The local organization works with veterans to train service animals. Romeo passed the evaluation and was accepted as a service dog in training.
Kaono and the trainer then used techniques from Assistance Dogs International, considered the industry standard for dog training, to ready Romeo. Two months later, Romeo took the organization’s public access test, the minimum requirement for service dog training, and “blew the test away,” Kaono said.
He’s been going to work with the AFIMSC employee every day since passing his assessment on Aug. 1, 2016.
For Kaono, Romeo is much more than a four-legged companion. He’s a lifesaver who is trained in various disability mitigating tasks to help the veteran cope with PTSD.
These include deep pressure therapy where Romeo climbs into Kaono’s lap when he can sense anxiousness, agitation or frustration. He then applies direct pressure to the veteran’s body, considered a grounding technique, to bring focus to him instead of what’s causing the anxiety or agitation.
“Before him, I would have to sit there through it until it essentially went away,” Kaono said. “Now within two minutes I’m back to normal. I’m back to being productive again.”
Romeo also applies blocking techniques when the duo are in a group or crowded space to create a buffer between Kaono and those around him.
“People are cognizant of him being there so they give me the space to actually feel comfortable,” Kaono said.
The service dog also fosters personal interaction, Kaono added.
“I don’t make solid relationships with people,” he explained. “I would prefer to be and work alone. Having Romeo actually forces me to interact with people on a regular basis. He causes people to talk about things that aren’t necessarily work related. He’s a calming factor, not just for me.”
Romeo has completely changed Kaono’s life to allow him to better “live” with PTSD, Alessa said.
“I’m sure many people say this about their dog or service dog but Romeo’s truly a godsend,” she said. “He has changed and impacted our lives in so many ways.
“He’s gotten Ryan out more when it comes to crowds,” Alessa said, and Romeo is Kaono’s “sidekick and stress reliever at work.”
When the duo get home, Alessa added, Romeo “is just like any other dog … he loves to play and loves treats, especially ice cream.”
Hellenic Navy frigate HN Aegean, front, and US Navy guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto in the Mediterranean Sea, July 26, 2020. US Navy/MCS3 Sawyer Haskins
In the last month, Greece and Turkey, two US and NATO allies, have repeatedly come close to a military clash over a piece of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The latest tension ignited after Turkey reserved an area in the Eastern Mediterranean to survey for underwater natural resources. But the area is within the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Greece (though Greece hasn’t formally declared an EEZ due to tensions with Turkey).
Turkey disputes Greek sovereignty and has deployed the research vessel Oruç Reis to the region with a fleet of warships to guard it. Greece has responded by sending its fleet.
The survey ship Oruc Reis sailing with Turkish warships. Turkish Ministry of Defense
Despite the Turkish claims, and according to international law, the area of sea in question and the seabed under it belong to Greece because of the small island of Kastellorizo.
Although the island is about 2 miles from Turkey, it is inhabited and part of Greece. Thus, according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Kastellorizo has the same rights as any other part of Greece.
Kastellorizo, Greece’s easternmost island, is just 2 miles from mainland Turkey. Google Maps
The two fleets have been circling one another as tensions simmer, threatening to explode with the slightest accident, such as one a few days ago when Turkish frigate Kemal Reis tried to overtake Greek frigate Limnos.
Due to poor seamanship, however, the Turkish vessel did not calculate its path correctly and was rammed by the Greek warship. Although the damage was not life-threatening, the Turkish ship had to go into port for immediate repairs.
The Turkish frigate Kemal Reis after colliding with Greek frigate Limnos. Hellenic Ministry of Defense
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has calculated that this is the opportune time to act. Indeed, the international stars seem to be aligned in his country’s favor.
First, the US is heading toward a heated presidential election, which has historically distracted American attention from foreign affairs.
Second, Erdogan has a close relationship with the White House and has used it to reassure its ally.
Third, Ankara is shrewdly using Germany’s current presidency of the EU Council, which rotates between EU members every six months.
Germany and Turkey share a lucrative trade partnership. According to the World Bank, in 2018, Germany exported almost .5 billion worth of goods to Turkey and imported just over billion, making Berlin third in both imports and exports among Ankara’s trading partners. There is also a significant ethnic Turkish population in Germany that influences German politicians’ decision-making.
Despite its relatively weak global voice, Berlin is a leader in Europe, mostly because of its powerful economy, and has assumed the role of an umpire in this dispute.
The Greek position is to abide by international law, which is on its side, and meet every Turkish provocation with determination and force. Meanwhile, Greek diplomacy has managed to isolate Turkey, with a host of nations — including Egypt, Cyprus, and Israel — condemning Turkey’s actions. The US and France have conducted military drills with Greece in the area as a show of solidarity. (The US and Turkey have also conducted recent exercises.)
Crucially, Greece’s chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Constantine Floros, has said that a Greek response to a Turkish attack would not be confined to a particular area, likely making Turkish officials think twice before acting.
The Turkish position is to force Greece to the negotiating table — something, interestingly, that Greece also wants and has looked for since Turkey unilaterally stopped diplomatic discussions on the issue in 2016.
Ankara understands that its position in terms of international law is weak and its allies in the region few. Thus it believes that threatening war would make Greece more amenable to an agreement that gives Turkey a slice of the natural resources pie.
Turkey does not recognize the International Court of Justice or UNCLOS, both of which would be key in settling the dispute.
Implications for the US
The implications for the US and for NATO of a conflict between two members of the alliance are hard to judge. There has never been an incident where two NATO allies came to blows.
US-Turkish relations have been steadily deteriorating in recent years. Turkey’s purchase the advanced Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system prompted the US to refuse delivery of the F-35 fighter jet. The Turkish invasion of northern Syria and targeting of the Kurds, a longtime US partner and a leader in the fight against ISIS, led to sanctions against senior Turkish officials and to tariffs on Turkish steel.
Moreover, the recent revelation that Ankara has been providing Turkish citizenship and passports to Hamas operatives is bound to further upset US-Turkish relations. The US declared Hamas a terrorist organization in 1997. The passports offer great freedom of travel to Hamas terrorists, aiding their malign activities.
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill during an exercise with Turkish navy frigates TCG Barbaros and Burgazada in the Mediterranean Sea, August 2020. US Naval Forces Europe-Africa
The US does not want to push Turkey toward Russia or Iran, and successive US administrations have recognized the country’s value to US interests in the region, both in its general location and in the assets based there, like the nuclear missiles in Incirlik Air Base.
Yet if Turkey needs to be pushed to change its behavior — as its actions suggest it would be — then the US will have to rethink the geopolitical balance in the region.
Erdogan understands and takes advantage of his country’s strategic importance to the US, leveraging it to pursue an increasingly pugnacious foreign policy that often directly conflicts with the US’s.
If it comes to blows, the US and EU will call for an immediate end to the hostilities but probably do little more than that. It’s likely, then, that Greece and Turkey will sort it out between themselves, with the lasting geopolitical implications only becoming clear once the smoke has cleared.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (National Service with the 575th Marine Battalion Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.
In August 2015, on a high-speed train in France, three American friends, two of them off-duty members of the US military, thwarted a terrorist attack after a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons tried to open fire in the train. Four people were injured, but there were no fatalities.
The three Americans instantly became heroes and wrote a book about their ordeal, which has now inspired a movie directed by Clint Eastwood.
This all sounds like standard protocol for an incredible act of bravery like this, but it gets more interesting: Eastwood cast the three real-life friends who stopped the attack to be the leads in the movie.
“The 15:17 to Paris,” which is also the title of the book about the attack, is Eastwood’s latest based-on-a-true story movie (American Sniper, Sully), and in telling this one he has Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, Specialist Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler reenacting their heroics (Stone sustained injuries while taking down the gunman).
The trailer was released Dec. 13 and looks beyond the acts on that August day, showing how the friends got to that moment in their lives through flashbacks of their childhood and Stone and Skarlatos’ military service.
Watch the trailer below. It’s quite inspiring. Warner Bros. will release the movie on Feb. 9.
Russia, China, and other nations that have launched cyber attacks against the United States do not fear retribution and see no reason to change their behavior, the nominee to head the U.S. Cyber Command said.
Army Lieutenant General Paul Nakasone told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 1, 2018, that cyber threats against the country have grown significantly, and the United States must impose costs on online “adversaries” to make them stop.
“They don’t fear us,” said Nakasone, 54. “It is not good.”
“I think that our adversaries have not seen our response in sufficient detail to change the behavior,” he said. “They don’t think much will happen.”
His comments echoed statements by the current cyber commander, Admiral Mike Rogers, in testimony before the same committee on Feb. 27, 2018.
“I believe that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there’s little price to pay and that therefore, ‘I can continue this activity’,” Rogers said.
“Clearly, what we have done hasn’t been enough” to deter Russia, he said. “They have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior.”
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign by hacking internal Democratic party e-mails and waging an online disinformation campaign on social-media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Intelligence chiefs recently warned that Russia is using the same tactics to try to influence the midterm congressional elections in November 2018.
China, Iran, and other nations have also been accused of staging cyber attacks on U.S. facilities and government targets, although they have not been accused like Russia of attempting to interfere in the U.S. political system.
Several senators asked Nakasone what the United States should do to combat nations that infiltrate government networks, steal data from contractors, or try to influence American elections.
“We seem to be the, you know, cyber punching bag of the world,” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “Should we start cranking up the costs of the cyberattacks on our nation?”
Nakasone, who currently leads U.S. Army Cyber Command and is expected to win confirmation in the Senate, was cautious when asked what to do.
He said he would provide a series of options to U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, including alternatives that would involve actions other than retaliatory cyber attacks.
The Army’s decision to change its marksmanship training and make the test more realistic has a lot going for it. If signed into policy, it will hopefully make soldiers more lethal. But there’s a basic piece of physics that a lot of soldiers, especially support soldiers who often fire at paper, don’t think about when firing, that will become more important if the Army really does get rid of “paper” qualifications: gravity and bullet rise/drop.
And this isn’t a purely academic problem. Not understanding the role of gravity on rifle marksmanship will make it more likely that shooters fire over the tops of targets in the middle of the range while qualifying. We’re going to start below with the quick guidance troops can use at the range. After that, we’ll go into the theory behind it:
Rifle ranges are fun! If you know what you’re doing.
(U.S. Army Spc. Garrett Bradley)
The general guidance
Hello shooters! If you’re a perfect shooter, who has no issue hitting targets, keep doing what you’re doing, don’t read this. In fact, a shooter perfectly applying the four fundamentals of marksmanship, meaning their point of aim is always center mass at the time they fire, will never miss a basic rifle marksmanship target regardless of whether or not they understand bullet drop. So, feel free to go watch cat videos. Congrats!
If you are missing, especially missing when firing at the mid-range targets, then start aiming at the targets’ “belly buttons” when they’re between 100 and 250 meters away. Only do this at ranges from 100 to 250 meters. Do not, repeat, do not aim low at 300-meter targets.
I originally got this advice from an artillery observer turned military journalist at Fort Bragg who qualified expert all the time, and it really does help a lot of shooters. If you want to know why it works, keep on reading.
An Army table from FM 3-22.9 illustrating the rise and then drop of M885 ball ammunition fired from M4s and M16s.
The theory behind it
Right now, soldiers can take one of two tests when qualifying on their rifles. They can fire at pop-up targets on a large range or at a paper target with small silhouettes just 25 meters away. The paper target ranges are much easier for commanders and staff to organize, but are nowhere near as realistic.
For shooters firing at paper targets 25 meters away, their point of aim and point of impact should be exactly the same. Point of aim is the exact spot that the shooter has lined up their sights. Point of impact is where the round actually impacts.
An M4 perfectly zeroed for 300 meters, as is standard, should have a perfect match between point of aim and point of impact at both 300 meters and 25 meters. So, when a shooter is firing at a paper target 25 meters away, the rounds should hit where the shooter is aiming. But bullets don’t fly flat, and shooters used to paper who get sent to a pop-up range under the new marksmanship program will have to learn to deal with bullet drop.
Properly zeroing your rifle is super important.
(U.S. Army Pfc. Arcadia Jackson)
First, a quick primer on the ballistics of an M4 and M16. The rounds are small but are fired at extremely high speeds, over 3,000 fps. But they aren’t actually fired exactly level with the weapon sights, because the barrel isn’t exactly level with the sights. Instead, the barrel is tilted ever so slightly upward, meaning the bullet is fired slightly up into the sky when a shooter is aiming at something directly in front of them.
This is by design, because gravity begins affecting a bullet the moment it leaves the barrel (up until that point, it is supported by the barrel or magazine.) Basically, the designers wanted to help riflemen shoot quickly and accurately in combat, so they tilted the barrel to compensate for gravity. The barrel points up because gravity pulls down.
And the designers set the weapon up so these effects would largely cancel each other out at the ranges that soldiers operate at most often. This worked out to about 300 meters, the same ranges the Army currently tests soldiers on their ability to shoot.
Basically, the barrel’s tilt causes the round to “rise” for the first 175 to 200 meters of flight when it runs out of upward momentum. Then, gravity overcomes the momentum, and it starts to fall.
An E-type silhouette is 40 inches tall. If a shooter aimed at the exact center of the target, that would be the red dot. An M4’s rate of bullet climb with M885 ball ammunition would create a point of impact at the blue dot, 6 inches above point of aim. M16s have an even more pronounced bullet rise.
(Francis Filch original, CC BY-SA 4.0, Red dots by Logan Nye)
So, when an M4 is properly zeroed to 300 meters, then the point of aim and point of impact should be exactly level at 300 meters. But remember, it’s an arc. And the opposite side of the arc, and the bullet is falling to level with the sights at 300 meters. The opposite side of the arc, the spot where the bullet has climbed to the point of aim, is at 25 meters.
So, when firing on an Alt C target at 25 meters, a shooter would never notice the problem because the point of aim and point of impact would match.
But when firing on a pop-up range with targets between 50 and 300 meters, some people will accidentally shoot over the target’s shoulders or even the target’s head. That’s because an M4 round has climbed as much as 6 inches at 200 meters and is only just beginning to fall. (An M16 round climbs even higher, about 9 inches, but those weapons are less common now.) That can put the round’s point of impact at the neck of the target, a much thinner bit of flesh to hit.
So if a shooter has a tendency to aim just a little high when under the time pressure of the range, that high point of aim combines with the climb of the point of impact to result in a shot over the head. If the shooter aims just a little left or right, they’ll miss the neck and hit air.
The easy way to compensate for this is to imagine a belly button on the targets between 100 and 250 meters. That way, the 4-6 inches that the point of impact is above the point of aim will result in rounds hitting center of the chest. If the shooter aims a little high, they are still hitting chest or neck. Left and right is just more abdominal or chest area.
Obviously, if the shooter is aiming in the dirt, they could still hit abdominal but might even bury the round if they’re really low.
But, remember, this only applies to targets between 100 and 250 meters where the rise of the round from the tilted barrel has significantly changed the point of impact. Shooters should just aim center mass at the 50 and 300-meter targets.
And, if all of this is too complicated, don’t worry too much about it. Perfectly shot rounds, with all four fundamentals of marksmanship perfectly applied, will always hit the target anyway. That’s because the Army uses E-type silhouettes at all the distances where this matters, and E-type silhouettes are 40 inches tall. If the point of aim is center mass, then the round’s climb of 6 inches will still put the point of impact in the black.