The 10 most important military stories of 2018 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

With 2019 upon us, a look back at 2018’s most memorable moments might give us some good perspective when facing the new year’s challenges. A lot happened in 2018 in the military-veteran community and each event serves to remind us that the things that affect us most can affect the world around us just as much.

It’s a testament to how important the work of the U.S. military really is.


The 10 most important military stories of 2018

Air Force gets OCPs, Army gets Pinks and Greens

The Air Force finally ditched the ill-conceived Airman Battle Uniform and adopted the Army’s Operational Camouflage Pattern to the resounding joy of airmen everywhere. Just like with the old BDU, the only difference will be the color of the lettering on the velcro patches — the Air Force lettering is brown while the Army sports black.

Read: 5 reasons the OCP is superior to the ABU

The Army also adopted its World War-II throwback jersey to be the official uniform of everyday wear by 2028 to pay homage to the U.S.’ “Greatest Generation.”

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

The Army’s new weapons 

The Army also moved to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M4A1 carbine with weapons that use a more powerful round than the NATO 5.56mm. The service will adopt a 6.8mm round in line with the results of a 2017 small arms ammunition study.

More: Army’s next rifle will fire farther, faster, and with more lethality

This came after the Army sought to find out why some M4 and M4A1 variants were firing unexpectedly. The problem turned out to be a glitch in the weapon’s selector switch, which got caught between the semi- and automatic settings. Some 3,000 weapons failed their inspections.

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

Magnificent.

The U.S. military’s “Sky Penis”

“Stop drawing d*cks everywhere” became the order of the year in the U.S. military after two West Coast Marines drew a phallic object in the sky during aerial maneuvers. After the the initial incident, a rash of attempted copycats followed until a B-52 squadron commander based out of North Dakota was relieved of duty for explicit ground-based drawings.

Read On: The Navy is very sorry about the sky dick

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

The Coast Guard has three active icebreakers.

 The Coast Guard almost gets its wish

The U.S. Coast Guard has been begging for a new icebreaker for years. Tears of joy were heard from Cape May to the Arctic Circle when 0 million was finally earmarked for that purpose. Unfortunately for the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security moved that money to fund the southern border wall in November.

Now: Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

Defense Secretary Mattis’ lethality initiative began Jan. 1, 2018.

The military gets more lethal

In January, Secretary of Defense James Mattis unveiled his new national defense strategy aimed at making the U.S. military more deadly and agile. This means a change in preparation for small, low-level conflicts to great power competition, ending a period of “strategic atrophy.”

More: The Corps finds its most lethal Marines are in their 20s

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to Army medic Ronald Shurer II in October, 2018.

 Medals of Honor 

President Trump awarded five Medals of Honor this year to combat veterans living and dead to those involved in a history of conflicts, from World War II to Afghanistan. Those recognized for valor in 2018 were Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, Army 1st Lt. Murl Conner, Army Medic Ronald Shurer II, Marine Sgt. Maj. John Canley, and U.S. Navy Special Operator Britt Slabinski.

Read on: What to know about the Combat Controller who will get the Medal of Honor

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin was one of three killed in action by an improvised explosive device in Andar, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan in November 2018.

Military members lost in 2018

Thirty servicemembers were killed supporting U.S. military operations worldwide in 2018, from Jan. 1 through Dec. 2, 2018.

Sgt. Jason Mitchell McClary • Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin • Sgt. 1st Class Eric Edmond • Capt. Andrew Ross • Sgt. Leandro Jasso • Maj. Brent Taylor • Sgt. James Slape • Staff Sgt. Diobanjo Sanaugustin • Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard • CWO3 Taylor Galvin • Sgt. 1st Class Reymund R. Transfiguracion • Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz • Staff Sgt. James Grotjan • Cpl. Joseph Maciel • Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Holzemer • Staff Sgt. Alexander Conrad • Staff Sgt. Conrad Robbinson • Spc. Gary Conde • Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar • Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs • Staff Sgt. Carl Enis •Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe • Master Sgt. William Posch •Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso • Capt. Mark Weber • Capt. Christopher Zanetis • Sgt. 1st Class Maitland D. Wilson • Sgt. Christina Schoenecker • Spc. Javion Sullivan • Sgt. 1st Class Mihail Golin

Read: Eighth U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan this year

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Jun. 12, 2018.

All’s quiet on the Korean front

With improved relations between the U.S. and North Korea, President Trump ordered a stop to the joint American-South Korean military exercises on the Korean Peninsula. In Trump’s words, it was “inappropriate” to continue the war games while asking North Korea to disarm itself of its nuclear weapons. Trump’s orders were not met with universal acclaim among retired military leaders.

Related: North and South Korea may officially end the Korean War

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

President Trump signed an order creating the U.S. Space Force in June 2018.

The Space Force

The U.S, military got its sixth branch of service in 2018, even if it was in name only. With funding sources as of yet unknown, the President ordered the creation of the Space Force to ensure American dominance of Space in June 2018.

Now Read: 11 things the Space Force must — and can’t — do

 President Trump announces withdrawal from Afghanistan

It came as a shock to the defense community when the President announced he would order a large withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria. The fallout of the decision included the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

More: US begins troop withdrawal from Syria but vows to kill ISIS

MIGHTY TRENDING

US seizes North Korean cargo ship for violating sanctions

The US seized a North Korean ship and sailed it thousands of miles to check whether it has been used to violate international sanctions.

The US alleges that the “Wise Honest,” North Korea’s second-largest cargo ship, was making illicit shipments of coal and heavy machinery — in violation of US and UN sanctions on North Korea.

The Department of Justice announced May 9, 2019, that it had seized the 17,000-ton ship, the first time a North Korean ship has been commandeered over sanctions violations.

The announcement came after North Korea appeared to launch two short-range missiles in a test, adding further tensions to its relations with the US.


The Wise Honest arrived in the port of Pago Pago in the US territory of American Samoa on May 11, 2019, after a three-week journey, The Associated Press reported.

Assistant Attorney General Demers called the “Wise Honest” a “sanctions-busting ship” and said the US would ensure that North Korea complies with the international sanctions.

“This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” Demers said on May 9, 2019.

US seizes massive North Korean cargo vessel for violating sanctions

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“North Korea, and the companies that help it evade US and UN sanctions, should know that we will use all tools at our disposal — including a civil forfeiture action such as this one, or criminal charges — to enforce the sanctions enacted by the U.S. and the global community.”

“We are deeply committed to the role the Justice Department plays in applying maximum pressure to the North Korean regime to cease its belligerence.”

The UN Security Council has banned North Korea from exporting commodities like coal, lead, and iron, in a bid to prevent it from funding its nuclear and weapons programs.

The Department of Justice accused North Korea of “concealing the origin of their ship” and accused Korea Songi Shipping Company, which was using the ship, of violating US law by paying US dollars for improvements and purchases for the ship through oblivious US financial institutions.

“This seizure should serve as a clear signal that we will not allow foreign adversaries to use our financial systems to fund weapons programs which will be used to threaten our nation,” Demers said.

US Coast Guard public affairs officer Amanda Wyrick told the AP that the US would investigate the ship in American Samoa. She did not say where the ship would be brought after the investigation was complete.

The ship was first detained by Indonesia in April 2018, because it was not broadcasting a signal required to give information to other ships and authorities, the Department of Justice said.

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

Articles

This airman just gave her military dog a second chance at life

After nearly a year apart, it was an emotional moment when Air Force Staff Sgt. Amanda Cubbage of the 355th Security Forces Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and the military working dog she worked with in South Korea were reunited here August 8.


The dog, Rick, was flown in from Osan Air Base, South Korea, after a lengthy adoption process.

“It’s [like] getting part of your heart back,” Cubbage said.

Cubbage and Rick served together at Osan for 11 months. On duty, they conducted exercises, and bomb threat and security checks. Off duty, they were each other’s wingman.

The 10 most important military stories of 2018
Photo by Capt. Allie Payne

“Being stationed in Korea unaccompanied, he was my support,” Cubbage said. “He was there for everything I needed. He was there when I was happy, he was there when I was sad. Everything I needed came from him.”

As a military working dog handler, Cubbage has worked with several other dogs. She described parting ways as bittersweet.

“It’s just like having a kid moving off and going to college,” she said. “You still love your kid. It’s just the fact that they’re growing up, they’re going out, and they’re doing other things.”

Rick was different from the other dogs, Cubbage said. He instantly won her over with his headstrong personality.

The 10 most important military stories of 2018
US Air Force Staff Sgt. Amanda Cubbage, 355th Security Forces Squadron member, reunites with her recently retired military working dog, Rick, in Tucson, Ariz., August 8, 2017. Cubbage worked with Rick while she served as a MWD handler at Osan Air Base, South Korea. US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Michael X. Beyer.

Rick’s Retirement

After seven years of service, Rick was retired due to his age. Cubbage found out about the opportunity to adopt him from a fellow handler. “And that’s when I reached out to the American Humane Society,” she said. “They said, ‘Absolutely, we’d love to help out.'”

Military working dogs are allowed to be adopted after retirement due to “Robby’s Law,” which was passed by Congress in 2000. The adoption process can be long and drawn out, involving tedious paperwork, immunizations, and, in Rick’s case, crossing the Pacific Ocean.

“You sit there and you wait and wait, and you just count down the days, count down the time, until you’re reunited with him,” Cubbage said.

Now that he is finally reunited with his companion, Rick will live a quiet life in retirement, filled with rest, relaxation, and plenty of treats.

Articles

Base to troops: don’t chase virtual Pokemon into restricted areas

The 10 most important military stories of 2018
Military.com / Reddit


At least one military base is warning service members against the dangers of wandering into unauthorized areas while chasing Pokemon.

“Since Pokemon Go hit last week there have been reports of serious injuries and accidents of people driving or walking while looking at the app and chasing after the virtual Pokemon,” says the message posted this morning to the Joint Base Lewis McChord official Facebook page. “Do not chase Pokemon into controlled or restricted areas, office buildings, or homes on base.”

The wildly popular iPhone and Android app, “Pokemon Go,” leads players on a real world chase via their phone’s GPS system and camera, through which they can “catch” virtual Pokemon that appear around the player within the app. At least one player has reportedly stumbled on a dead body while playing the game, according to news accounts, while others have been lured into corners and robbed, other sources have reported..

Lewis-McChord officials said the notice was a precaution and that there have been no reports of problems on the base caused by service members, families or employees playing the game.

“We talked about it here this morning with our director of emergency services, and said, as a precaution, let’s just tell people right away ‘do not be using the app to follow Pokemon creatures into restricted areas on base or controlled areas,'” said Joseph Piek, a JBLM spokesman. “We’re not saying don’t play — but we are saying there’s certain areas, don’t chase the Pokemon there, you’ll just have to leave them be.”

Officials with the Defense Department said they have no plans to issue military-wide Pokemon guidance or rules for playing the game within or around the Pentagon.

“Our personnel are well informed on the restrictions regarding restricted areas, regardless of if they’re chasing Pokemon or otherwise,” they said.

JBLM is home to the 2nd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st Special Forces Group as well as the Army’s I Corps and the Air Force’s 62d Airlift Wing.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Sister of missing Fort Hood soldier seeks answers

With each passing hour, Mayra Guillen is consumed by one thought: Will Vanessa be found today?

“I don’t even know what’s keeping me going,” Mayra said. “Sometimes I don’t get hungry. I have my days when I feel like giving up, but then I think about it and I say, ‘What if I’m a step away? What if tomorrow’s the day?”’


Army Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, Mayra’s younger sister, has been missing since April 22 at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. Guillen, 20, was last seen in the parking lot of her squadron headquarters, wearing a black T-shirt and purple “fitness-type” pants. Guillen is of Hispanic descent. She is 5 feet, 2 inches tall, weighs 126 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes.

The Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) is working with other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety. More than 150 people have been interviewed, and ground and air searches have been conducted, the CID said.

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

Along with her barracks room key, ID card and wallet, Guillen’s car keys were discovered the day she disappeared in the armory room where she was working, the CID said.

“We are completely committed to finding Vanessa and aggressively going after every single piece of credible information and every lead in this investigation,” Chris Grey, CID chief of public affairs, said in a news release this week. “We will not stop until we find Vanessa.”

The CID is offering a reward up to ,000 in its search for Guillen, whose case has drawn the attention of, among others, actress Salma Hayek.

“We will maintain our resolve to locate Pfc. Vanessa Guillen and will continue our efforts until she is found,” Col. Ralph Overland, 3rd Calvary Regiment commander at Fort Hood, said in a separate news release.

A team of investigators at Fort Hood will look into allegations that Guillen was being sexually harassed, it was announced Thursday.

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

Searches are ongoing for missing Soldier Pfc. Vanessa Guillén. Troopers from Thunder Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, receive a brief prior to going out on searches recently in the training area at Fort Hood, Texas. (Army courtesy photo.)

Guillen, the second-oldest of six children, was raised in Houston. As a child, she loved playing soccer and running. The medals from her races would hang in her room.

Vanessa and Mayra traded turns doing each other’s hair and makeup. Mayra was not surprised when Vanessa enlisted.

“She knew right away she wasn’t suited to work in an office or something in an environment where you have to sit down, just be still,” Mayra said. “She’s really active, so when she started looking up about joining the Army, she saw a future there. She wanted to represent the country, have some type of honor because you have to honor and respect our soldiers.”

Vanessa was taking online classes and planned to study kinesiology, the science of human movement.

Investigators said they do not believe that Guillen’s disappearance is related to the case of PV2 Gregory Morales, who had not been seen since last Aug. 19. Morales’ remains were found Friday in a field in Killeen. An autopsy is pending.

Anyone with information about Guillen is asked to go online at https://www.cid.army.mil/report-a-crime.html or contact Army CID Special Agents at 254-287-2722 or the Military Police Desk at 254-288-1170.

“It’s something that I still can’t accept,” Mayra said. “I still can’t believe this happened, and I’m having to deal with it. … I still honestly believe that she’s alive and she’s waiting to be found, and by the grace of God, it’s going to happen.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this stunning 360 video from inside an F-16

Piloted by Maj. John “Rain” Waters, an operational F-16 pilot assigned to the 20th Operations Group, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina and the United States Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team commander, the F-16 of the Viper Demo Team performs an aerobatic display whose aim is to demonstrate demonstrate the unique capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, better known as “Viper” in the pilot community.


The F-16 piloted by “Rain” was surely one of the highlights of EAA AirVenture 2018 airshow in Oshkosh, Winsconsin and the video below provides a pretty unique view of the amazing flying display. Indeed, the footage was captured by a VIRB 360, a 360-degree Camera with 5.7K/30fps Resolution and 4K Spherical Stabilization. The action camera captured a stabilized video regardless of camera movement along with accelerometer data to show the g-load sustained by the pilot while flying the display routine.

There is little more to add than these new action cameras will probably bring in-flight filming to a complete new level.

Enjoy.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the 6 Marines lost in crash near Japan

The US Marine Corps has identified the six Marines who were killed when their planes crashed off the coast of Japan early December 2018.

On Dec. 6, 2018, an F/A-18 Hornet collided with a KC-130 aerial refueling tanker, sending both aircraft into the sea. Only one of the two fighter pilots walked away from the crash, and all five of the tanker crew members were lost. The lone survivor was released from the hospital Dec. 13, 2018.

Capt. Jahmar F. Resilard, a 28-year-old F/A-18 pilot, was declared deceased last Dec. 7, 2018, while American and Japanese forces continued to search for the KC-130 crew members, who were officially declared dead Dec. 11, 2018, when military search and rescue efforts concluded.


The five Marines who were killed serving aboard the aerial refueling tanker were Lt. Col. Kevin R. Herrmann, 38, Maj. James M. Brophy, 36, Staff Sgt. Maximo A. Flores, 27, Cpl. Daniel E. Baker, 21, and Cpl. William C. Ross, 21. The oldest member had served in the Marine Corps for 16 years. Three were married, two with children.

The Marines released the following video honoring the dead.


In Memoriam

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“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the names of our fallen Marines,” U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Mitchell T. Maury, the commanding officer for the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 (VMGR-152), said in a statement Dec. 12, 2018. “They were exceptional aviators, Marines, and friends whom will be eternally missed. Our thoughts and prayers remain with their families and loved ones at this extremely difficult time.”

The Corps has suffered a number of deadly aviation mishaps in recent years, including a KC-130T crash in Mississippi last year that killed 15 Marines and a sailor.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How vets kicked out under DADT can upgrade their discharges

On Sept. 20, 2011, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. The policy served as a sort of compromise between people who wanted to continue to ban gay men and women from serving in the military, which had been the case prior to 1993, and those who felt that Americans should be eligible to serve regardless of sexual orientation.

In other words, until Sept. 20, 2011, service members were punished and even discharged with prejudice for being gay or bisexual. Now, it’s time to restore their honor and give them the benefits they deserve. Here’s how:


82-Year-Old Gay Veteran Receives Honorable Discharge

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There are several different types of discharges:

  • Honorable — For service members who meet or exceed the required standards of service. An honorable discharge comes with four major benefit programs, including disability compensation and medical care as well as pension programs and education.
  • General — For service members whose performance is satisfactory but is marked by a considerable departure in duty performance and conduct. A general discharge will also come with the benefit programs available to those honorably discharged.
  • Other Than Honorable — The most severe form of administrative discharge, representing a serious departure from the conduct and performance expected of military members. The majority of veterans’ benefits are not available to individuals who receive an Other Than Honorable discharge.
  • Bad Conduct — A punitive discharge that can only be given out by a court-martial. Virtually all veterans’ benefits are forfeited by a Bad Conduct Discharge.
  • Dishonorable — A punitive discharge handed out by a court-martial for the most reprehensible conduct, including sexual assault and murder.

Downgraded discharges not only result in the loss of benefits, they carry with them shame and stigma, as well.

As reported by The Bay Area Reporter, “Advocates for LGBT veterans estimate that roughly 114,000 U.S. service members were “involuntarily separated” from the military due to their sexual orientation between the end of World War II and the repeal in 2011 of the homophobic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred LGBT people from serving openly in the military. While many of those veterans could likely qualify to correct or upgrade their discharges, just 8% had done so as of 2018, according to a report presented that April at a conference held at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.”

Vets can also receive help from non-profit organizations like Modern Military Association of America, dedicated to advancing fairness and equality for the LGBTQ military and veteran community, or Swords to Ploughshares, which provides assessment and case management, employment and training, housing, and legal assistance to veterans.

Veterans are being encouraged to upgrade their discharges to finally receive the benefits they deserve. Veterans can start by reading some of the literature shared by Swords to Ploughshares about what to expect from the process. They can reach out to a non-profit to ask for help and advocacy, or they can go directly to the Veterans Affairs website and apply for a Discharge Update.

Articles

Pentagon report clears coalition of wrongdoing in strike that killed Syrian soldiers

No misconduct was involved in the decision by personnel in the American-lead Combined Air Operations Center to carry out an air strike that killed a number of Syrian-government aligned forces on Sept. 17.


That is the central finding of an investigation by Air Force Brig. Gen. Richard Coe.

The 10 most important military stories of 2018
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon flies over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve April 5, 2016. The President has authorized U.S. Central Command to work with partner nations to conduct targeted airstrikes of Iraq and Syria as part of the comprehensive strategy to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/Released)

“In my opinion, these were a number of people all doing their best to do a good job,” Coe said of the personnel on duty when the incident happened, according to an official report released Nov. 29.

The strike took place near Dayr Az Zawr. A release from Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve for that day noted the incident, stating that one strike “believed to have engaged an ISIL fighting position, may have mistakenly struck a Syrian military unit and destroyed Syrian military vehicles.”

While “friendly fire” is nothing new — in the War on Terror, coalition forces had over three dozen such incidents — the question is always the same: How did such a mistake happen?

Well, that’s been asked over the years after other incidents, like when Stonewall Jackson was shot by Confederate soldiers on a picket line, or when Allied ships off Sicily opened fire on C-47 transports carrying elements of the 82nd Airborne Division in 1943, downing 23 transports.

The report reveals a few of the causes. First, the Syrian forces were not exactly in uniform when they were first detected by an unmanned aerial vehicle. Yet they were packing a lot of firepower, and were near tunnels and other fighting positions.

The 10 most important military stories of 2018
Aircrews perform a preflight check on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes of for a mission. (Photo from DoD)

This lead planners to believe they’d spotted an ISIS unit out in the open. It was a classic case of mistaken identity, compounded by a misunderstanding (the United States personnel used the wrong reference point when informing the Syrian allied Russians of the strike).

And it was made worse by some good old-fashioned Russian paranoia.

According to the report, when the Russians called on a de-confliction hotline, they waited 27 minutes for their normal point of contact to arrive before passing on the news that Syrian forces were being hit. During that time, 15 of the 37 attack sorties were carried out.

Coe’s report not only recommended that in the future both sides not only pass critical information immediately, but also that the entire Flight Safety Memorandum of Understanding that helps keep Syrian and Russian targets from being struck by coalition air power be reviewed and updated.

Top CENTCOM commander Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigian has ordered Coe’s recommendations be implemented, saying, “In this instance, we did not rise to the high standard we hold ourselves to, and we must do better than this each and every time.”

While the changes recommended will hopefully lessen the chance of friendly fire incidents in the future, friendly fire will still always be a risk on a complex battlefield.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian hackers almost caused massive blackouts in 2017

Hackers working for Russia claimed “hundreds of victims” in 2017 in a major, long-running campaign that enabled them to gain control over some U.S. electric utilities, where they could have caused blackouts, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

Citing officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Journal reported on July 23, 2018 that the Russian hacking campaign has likely continued in 2018 and involves a state-sponsored group known as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear.


The hackers broke into supposedly secure networks owned by utilities with relative ease by first penetrating the networks of vendors who had trusted relationships with the power companies, the Journal reported.

“They got to the point where they could have thrown switches” and disrupted power flows, Jonathan Homer, a department analyst, told the Journal.

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

‘Hundreds’ of victims

The department has been warning utility executives with security clearances about the Russian threat to critical infrastructure since 2014.

But on July 23, 2018, the department gave out detailed information about the intrusions publicly for the first time at an unclassified briefing for the industry. It did not provide the names of alleged victims, but said there were “hundreds.”

It also said some companies still may not know they were compromised, because the attacks used credentials of actual employees to get inside utility networks, potentially making the intrusions more difficult to detect.

“They’ve been intruding into our networks and are positioning themselves for a limited or widespread attack,” Michael Carpenter, former deputy assistant secretary of defense, who is now a senior director at the Penn Biden Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Journal. “They are waging a covert war on the West.”

Russia has denied targeting critical infrastructure.

Homer told the Journal that the long-running cyberattack, which surfaced in the spring of 2016 and continued throughout 2017, exploited relationships that utilities have with vendors who have special access to update software, run diagnostics on equipment, and perform other services that are needed to keep millions of pieces of gear in working order.

He said the attackers began by using conventional tools — spear phishing e-mails and watering-hole attacks, which trick victims into entering their passwords on malware-infected websites — to compromise the corporate networks of suppliers, many of whom were small companies without big budgets for cybersecurity.

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

Automated attacks?

Once inside the vendor networks, they pivoted to their real focus: the utilities, officials told the Journal. They said it was a relatively easy process, in many cases, for the intruders to steal credentials from vendors and gain direct access to utility networks.

Then they began stealing confidential information. For example, the hackers vacuumed up information showing how utility networks were configured, what equipment was in use and how it was controlled.

The hackers also familiarized themselves with how the facilities were supposed to work, because attackers “have to learn how to take the normal and make it abnormal” to cause disruptions, Homer told the Journal.

The department said it plans three more industry briefings and hopes to determine whether there are any new network infections, and whether the hackers have figured out ways to defeat security enhancements like multifactor authentication.

In addition, the department is looking for evidence that the Russian hackers are automating their attacks, which investigators worry could presage a large increase in hacking efforts.

It isn’t yet clear whether the hackers used their access to prepare for some future, devastating blow to the U.S. electric grid, investigators told the Journal.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Iranian sailors in a close encounter with a US carrier

A central tenet of Iran’s Persian Gulf naval defenses is the use of speedboats — lots and lots of speedboats. The tactic is so widespread that retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, in command of the fictional Iranian navy, used explosives-laden speedboats to take on the U.S. Navy in a massive war game in 2002. He won that war game and managed to sink an entire carrier battle group.

In ten minutes.

Related: That time a Marine general led a fictional Iran against the US military – and won

One of those Iranian speedboats — run by the very real Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps — recently encountered the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf, and filmed the entire episode.


The crew of the IRGC naval vessel filmed the massive American aircraft carrier as it traversed the Strait of Hormuz. The whole of the video was aired on Iranian state television.

The waterway is the passage for nearly a third of all the world’s oil shipping and the United States maintains a naval presence there as a means of keeping the way open for use by everyone. Meanwhile, the Islamic republic has recently been the target of economic sanctions from the Trump Administration.

Warning the Nimitz-class carrier to “keep well clear” of Iranian Revolutionary Guards boats via radio, the speedboats foolishly approached the American vessel – all the while reminding the ship to “refrain from the threat or use of force in any manner.”

The video also shows Iranian sailors taking high-resolution photos of the ship with a very, very long lens as American helicopters hover overhead. Sailors can be seen walking on the flight deck next to American fighter and intelligence aircraft. With a fleet of other speedboats in tow, the video shows the reality of serving in the Persian Gulf, as two ideological adversaries share the same body of water during a tense international standoff.

Iran had a similar encounter with the Theodore Roosevelt in the past, using a drone to shadow the carrier in 2017 and came close to threatening the lives of American F-18 pilots. The most egregious encounter came when Iran captured 10 American sailors in 2016 that they said drifted into Iranian territorial waters.

The 10 most important military stories of 2018

Photos of that capture were also broadcast on state television.

The video aired on Iranian state television as part of a documentary about the situation in the Persian Gulf. It’s thought by many to be a show of strength in the face of tough American sanctions as the Trump Administration slashes at Iranian oil exports.

Articles

American Sniper widow Taya Kyle outshoots NRA champion

The 10 most important military stories of 2018
Taya Kyle (Photo: TrackingPoint)


Can a rifle turn a novice into a world-class sharpshooter? Yes, based on the shootout scoreboard at a major fundraising event for the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation Saturday.

A sharpshooting showdown pitted a young American woman against the reigning NRA global champion … the novice crushed her opponent at the inaugural American Sniper Shootout Saturday in Mason, Texas.

The victorious novice shooter was Taya Kyle. Founder of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, she is the wife of U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, known as “the most lethal sniper in US military history,” author of autobiography “American Sniper,” and the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s movie “American Sniper.”

TrackingPoint says that its Precision-Guided Firearms can transform inexperienced shooters into world-class marksmen. To prove this claim, the company put $1 million on the table in an ultimate shootout. If the NRA champion Bruce Piatt could outshoot novice shooter Kyle then he would take home the hefty prize.

But Kyle defeated the champion, with the proceeds from the event going to the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation – here’s how she did it.

The rifles?

Piatt competed with the current military rifles M4A1, M110, and M2010.

Taya Kyle opted for TrackingPoint’s new M600, M800 and XS1 firearms. TrackingPoint touts advanced technology to enhance the accuracy of first-round shots at any distance.

Kyle explained why she chose to be armed with TrackingPoint at the shootout. “The technology of the gun was developed based on conversations with Chris [Kyle] about what factors a marksman has to consider on with every shot,” she told FoxNews.com, via email. “The end result is technology that I know would have saved lives of friends we have lost and will save life and/or limb of those who put it all on the line for the 99% of us they choose to give their life for.”

The rifles incorporate a range of innovations like the company’s “RapidLok Target Acquisition.” As a warfighter pulls the trigger, the target is automatically acquired and tracked. The range is also calculated and measured for velocity.  Accuracy is enhanced because all this work is accomplished by the time the trigger is completely squeezed.

The showdown?

Kyle faced off against Piatt in a series of battlefield-simulated challenges.

The competitors had to take shots consistent with those warfighters must take in battle. It meant grappling with realistic challenges like shooting at targets placed at unknown distances as well as moving targets.

To win, both competitors also had to shoot in a range of positions, including prone and off-hand shots. They also had to tackle blind shots when the shooter takes shots while completely hidden without a direct line of sight to the target. The competitors also emulated Chris Kyle’s famous long-distance ‘Sadr city shot,’ which was featured in the film American Sniper.

And Kyle emerged the victor – by a lot. She made ALL of her shots from prone, kneeling, sitting and from cover…as in every single one – 100 percent.

How did the NRA champ fare? Piatt made 58.4 percent of the shots.

The challenges

There were 29 targets with a total of 10,140 points available.

Kyle scored a perfect 10,140. Piatt scored 3,040 points, making 58.4 percent of his shots. The scoring was weighted based on degree of difficulty.

In the challenges where the shooters took on targets without a direct line of sight while concealed from ‘enemy fire’ – Kyle made 100 percent of the blind shots while Piatt did not make a single one.

For practical application in war, this means the TrackingPoint technology has potential to allow American warfighters to stay concealed while still accurately taking on targets. The ability to stay concealed and still shoot accurately could help reduce the risk to warfighters.

Kyle explained further why the tech was developed. “Our first responders and military members regularly face situations most of us cannot imagine,” she told FoxNews.com via email. “They need every advantage for precision and efficiency to protect and serve while minimizing collateral damage and risk to themselves.”

Armed with TrackingPoint tech, Kyle was also able to make moving target and canted shots that Piatt did not.

The event

The day-long American Sniper Shootout was open to the public and also featured music from country singer Easton Corbin, Grammy winner Asleep At the Wheel.

The proceeds from the event benefit the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation. Kyle explained her inspiration for the event as “being able to simultaneously showcase the technology and raise money for CKFF to fulfill its mission … this event was an opportunity to take care of our warriors and their families on many different levels.”

For more information about participating next time, the event and the foundation visit www.chriskylefrogfoundation.org.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Green Berets stemmed the communist tide in El Salvador

The era of the 1980s through the mid-1990s was a great time to be a member of the U.S Army’s 7th Special Forces Group, 7th SFG(A). The unit had barely escaped the ax during the post-Vietnam drawdown. It had also survived the malaise of the Carter years, when Special Operations, and specifically Special Forces, was a four-letter word. (Being an SF officer in those days was the kiss of death for an officer’s career.)

Yet, during that time, a danger was looming: Latin America was close to being lost to communism.


Background

Latin America was a hot spot. Marxists had taken over in Nicaragua. They were looking, like the Cubans, to export their vision of communism to the rest of the hemisphere. El Salvador and Guatemala were embroiled in bloody civil wars, Honduras was going through a “latent and incipient” insurgency, which no one but the Group believed existed. Active civil wars were ongoing with insurgents in Colombia (FARC), Peru (Shining Path/Sendero Luminoso), and to a lesser extent in Bolivia. Compounding the problem, all three countries had issues with narco-terrorists that further destabilized the governments. Other countries, such as Argentina and Paraguay, seemed to have military coups far too frequently.

But all of that began to change in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was elected President. Reagan was not going to stand for that. Hence, there were plenty of places for the Green Berets of 7th SFG to practice their training, or as my first team sergeant said, “Do Green Beret shit.”

El Salvador was the first area where the President drew a line in the sand. The Salvadorian government was weak and ineffective. The military was backward, characterized by little professionalism, and was committing numerous human rights abuses. In 1980, the country was on the brink of falling. The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), an umbrella organization formed in 1980 out of five separate Marxist-Leninist groups, had the government on the precipice.

In 1981, the Salvadorian Army numbered around 11,000. It was a poorly led, poorly equipped, and badly trained army. It was basically a static, defensive force. The FMLN was close to winning the war: Its forces operated freely in much of the country and owned the night.

Slow Beginnings and Limits on Troop Support

The U.S.’s first priority was to give the Salvadorian army updated vehicles and equipment; then improve the forces’ quality through training and better tactics. By 1990, the size of the Salvadorian military had quadrupled to more than 45,000. By the mid-1980s, the training of the troops had progressed to where the army was capable of conducting offensive operations. It, therefore, moved into previously FMLN-held areas and maintained a firm hold on the population centers. While doing so, it whittled the FMLN down to size, from a high of about 13,000 in 1980 to about 7,000 in 1990.

The FMLN resorted to kidnappings and assassinations. Town mayors were a frequent target: in 1989 alone 214 of 262 were threatened with assassinations. Twelve were assassinated and 90 resigned.

The FMLN launched a desperate country-wide offensive in November 1989 in a final attempt to take over by encouraging the citizens to rise up. It failed and lost over 2,000 guerrillas.

Beginning in 1983, following the recommendations of Green Beret trainers, the Salvadorian armed forces adopted better COIN tactics to deny the FMLN from gaining popular support. For example, the Salvadorians started attacking the insurgents’ sanctuaries, movement routes, and supplies. They started to deploy smaller, air-mobile units. And they used small units to patrol more frequently at night when most guerrilla activities occurred. But we have jumped ahead…

When it came to the trainers, the U.S. was in a vastly different place politically than it is today. We had just pulled out of Vietnam. Thus, the U.S. was not going to tolerate another long-drawn-out conflict with massive amounts of troops involved. Beginning in 1981, the first U.S. trainers in El Salvador were an A-Team of 12 Green Berets. They were “permitted” to only carry sidearms for protection.

Congress decided to cap the number of trainers at just 55. Two Americans would be assigned to each Salvadorian brigade. There were very strict rules for the training advisors. A-Teams and other conventional troops would be brought in for just the ridiculously short time span of two weeks. During that time, they had to conduct whatever training could be accomplished before they would be forced to leave.

But the SF community found ways around the Congressional limitations. It started bringing Salvadorian battalions to the United States to be trained by members of the 7th SFG. The first one to be brought to the U.S. was the Atlacatl Battalion. It was brought to Ft. Bragg, NC. The Atlacatl Battalion was a quick reaction, counter-insurgency unit. More battalions were later brought to the U.S.

But a better alternative awaited just over the border with El Salvador’s traditional enemy, Honduras.

The U.S. set up a Regional Training Center in Trujillo, Honduras. Salvadorian units could rotate through there for training. Later the training Honduran troops were trained as well.

The cost was high for a “peacetime” effort. During the war in El Salvador, 22 U.S. troops died defending the country. One SF advisor, Greg Fronius, is the subject of an earlier article.

In another engagement, a “not in combat” SF A-Team, ODA-7 from 3/7th SFG, defended a Salvadorian barracks. The battle was the subject of an excellent piece by Dr. Charles H. Briscoe.

Congress and the Pentagon, in an effort to snow the American public from what exactly the advisors in El Salvador were dealing with, refused to admit that the troops were in a combat situation, even though, combat pay had been authorized in 1981. Thus, Fronius was denied a combat decoration. He was instead given a Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) which is a peacetime award.

Human Rights Record

The Salvadorian Army had a terrible human rights record dating back to 1980. One of the things that the trainers accomplished was to incorporate human rights training in all levels of the military.

This also meant that at times, at peril to the advisors themselves, they’d report abuses by the military to the MILGP in San Salvador. Greg Walker, who was one of the 55 advisors on the ground there detailed one such incident.

“I was the Special Forces advisor who reported being shown a guerrilla’s skull (at the unit’s base in El Salvador) that had been turned into a desk lamp. My report was delivered to the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador at the time through the proper chain of command.

The vast majority of SF advisors serving in El Salvador did likewise as this was part of the mission statement. For example, there was a senior Special Forces advisor at El Mozote the day/night of the massacre (and only one). He attempted multiple times to dissuade Colonel Domingo Monterosa to spare the victims. When Monterosa ignored him, the advisor departed by foot and made his way, alone, back to San Salvador. There he made a full report to embassy officials of what the unit and Monterosa were doing in El Mozote.”

The subject was a very touchy one. Yet the Green Berets made their reputation known even amongst the FMLN. In Walker’s book, titled “At the Hurricane’s Eye” he recounts when the FMLN asked for the U.S. SF to remain during the initial peace process to ensure that everyone was protected.

“At the conclusion of the war as brokered under a UN peace agreement, it was the guerrillas of the FMLN that requested US “Green Berets” remain with Salvadorian military units during the early stages of the accord. This because the guerrillas had learned of our commitment to human rights, and the sometimes dangerous reporting we made to the US embassy regarding thugs like Monterosa.”

Walker was one of several SF soldiers who led the fight for the men who did their time in El Salvador to finally be recognized for what were essentially combat tours. Everyone who rotated through there is now eligible for an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal while many are authorized CIBs and combat awards. The men of ODA-7 were finally recognized 14 years later. They were awarded CIBs, four Bronze Stars with “V” device, and an ARCOM with “V” device.

The 7th SFG’s record in El Salvador was one of great success. El Salvador was on the brink of falling. And through the combined military and political efforts of many Americans, it was saved. This one was an example of how a small group of dedicated SF soldiers can turn the tide in a brutal civil war.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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