US troops who suffered TBIs in missile attack recommended for Purple Hearts - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US troops who suffered TBIs in missile attack recommended for Purple Hearts

An unspecified number of the more than 100 troops who were treated for traumatic brain injuries suffered in a January missile attack on Al Asad air base in Iraq have been recommended for Purple Hearts, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday.

Officials have previously stated that Purple Heart recommendations have come from unit commanders and the individual military branches for those injured in the Jan. 8 Iranian missile strikes on the air base.


“The Purple Heart submissions remain under review and are being processed in accordance with Defense Department and military service regulations,” Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said in a statement Wednesday. “Upon completion, service members entitled to receive the Purple Heart will be notified by their leadership.”

She gave no timeline for the process, but CNN, citing three defense officials, reported that “final decisions” on awarding possibly dozens of Purple Hearts could be coming soon from Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve and the Defense Department.

At a Feb. 3 news briefing, Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman cited general standards for awarding the Purple Heart — standards that appeared to qualify most of the troops who were treated for TBI after the Iranian missile strikes.

He said Purple Heart eligibility for TBI required a doctor’s diagnosis and confirmation that the injury forced the service member to miss at least two days of duty for treatment.

Some of those injured in the Al Asad attack were evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and to the states for treatment and would appear to qualify for Purple Hearts.

Hoffman said recommendations for Purple Hearts were mainly “a question for the services” with final approval coming from the Defense Department.

“The process is going to play out,” he said. “Fortunately, all the cases to date have been characterized as mild TBI, which is the equivalent of concussions.”

In the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military appeared reluctant to award Purple Hearts for TBI, but awards have been made more regularly as TBI from improvised explosive devices and other blasts became known as the “signature” combat injury of the wars.

In 2011, DoD updated the criteria for awarding the Purple Heart in cases of TBI, stating that the injury had to be caused by enemy action or suffered in action against an enemy, and had to require treatment by a medical officer or certification that it would have required treatment if available.

The Iranian missile strikes on Al Asad were in response to the Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani.

President Donald Trump and Pentagon officials initially said there were no U.S. casualties from the missile strikes on Al Asad, but symptoms of TBI can often take days to appear.

On Jan. 16, U.S. Central Command stated that several of the troops at Al Asad “were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed.”

When asked about the growing number of concussions, Trump told reporters in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22 that, “I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say and I can report that it’s not very serious. I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen.”

The Pentagon has since said that at least 109 troops at Al Asad on the night of the attacks suffered mild TBI.

In the early morning hours immediately after the missile attacks, and after briefing Trump at the White House, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said off-camera at the Pentagon that the launches “were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment, and to kill personnel. That’s my own personnel assessment.”

His initial judgment was that the missiles carried 1,000-2,000 pound warheads.

On April 7, Air Forces Central Command published accounts from more than 20 Airmen at Al Asad testifying to the ferocity of the attacks that lasted an estimated 90 minutes.

Capt. Nate Brown recalled taking cover with others in a bunker.

Then, “the next wave hits. Then the next, and the next. I have no idea if anyone is alive outside this bunker.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Let them walk on the grass: The role of senior NCOs

At the qualification range, a group of Soldiers congregate during the lunch break. Unexpectedly, a Sergeant Major descends upon them In his growling voice he barks about their uniform deficiencies and how the range is not to standard. As quickly as he appears, he vanishes, and for a few minutes, Soldiers awkwardly stare at each other thinking, “what the hell?” The proverbial Sergeant Major storm did little to change the unit, and the Soldiers resume their meal and continue as if it never happened.

The role of the senior noncommissioned officer is not ensuring all Soldiers have eye protection and reflective belts or ensuring the lawns in their footprint are pristine, fixing deficiencies using the “leadership” methodology described above. Young Soldiers across the Army picture master sergeants and sergeants major holding coffee cups, spewing anger, and never actually doing anything. The problem with the senior NCO leadership is this image and the fact that they’ve made this image a reality!


When senior NCOs see a unit’s problem with standards and discipline they think it’s a problem that can be fixed right away with a spot correction, but in reality it is a systemic problem of failing to develop the unit’s NCOs and aspiring leaders. NCOs in a unit not enforcing standards either don’t know the standards or are ignoring them. A senior NCO can go around making all the spot corrections in the world; it will never fix corner cutting, shortcomings of communication, and lack of discipline.

The senior NCO’s job is to establish the standard, outline the expectations, and develop leaders across their formation. This leadership eventually trickles down to the most junior Soldier. However, the current methodology of leadership from the first paragraph and perception of senior NCOs is something leaders must overcome to fulfill their roles.

Here are five ways senior NCOs can enhance the image of our profession and, more importantly, improve their unit.

Get out. Emails can be checked at a later date. The window to engage with Soldiers is limited, while access to a computer usually is not. Running effective meetings frees up space to see Soldiers. Identify quality engagement opportunities that maximize presence across the formation.

Speaking with the leadership and disappearing to another event before engaging the Soldiers who are actually doing the training doesn’t change perceptions. Ensure leaders understand the expectation that battlefield circulation is an opportunity to see training and highlight the great work of leaders and Soldiers in their formation.

Teach. In most cases, the senior NCOs are the most experienced tacticians, with the most deployments, live fires, and combined training center rotations. Offer techniques, tactics and best practices to make the event better. Share this wisdom with not only the NCOICs, but with the most junior Soldiers. Attack the negative images of senior NCOs from both angles; from the top down and the bottom up.

Even if the senior NCOs aren’t experienced in their Soldiers’ field, their perspective can help them understand the bigger picture and relevancy of the tasks or training.

Listen. Establish two way communication with Soldiers at events. People like to talk about what they do. Learn about them, their concerns, issues, and complaints. Don’t interrupt, listen and take notes to fall back on and read later.

Ask leaders and Soldiers what help or resources they need. This is something a senior NCO can impact immediately. Helping to fix problems with range control, logistics, line unit and staff relations, and coordination between units is NCO business.

Remember the people you talk with don’t see the world from the same lens as a senior NCO. When responding, do not belittle or be condescending, you will lose the battle for personal respect, damaging the reputation of the senior leadership position.

Make the Correction. Any unsafe acts need to be corrected immediately. However, in most cases, there is another approach than the sergeant major storm. Meet with the leadership before departing. Have a professional conversation with NCOs discussing the issues and why it’s important for everyone to enforce the standard. Enable and empower the NCOs to make the correction. It doesn’t matter if leaders agree or disagree with the standard, it’s the NCO’s job to enforce them.

Finish by highlighting a positive. The first engagement and the last will be the two things people remember. It is easy for anyone to dwell on the negative, but at most training events, there are good things happening. This may be the only time that Soldier sees their senior NCO leadership and that impression will stick for a while.

Follow up. Before visiting the unit again, reflect on the notes taken. Address the issues and concerns, and follow up with unit leadership if they people weren’t at the event. Send an email to leaders to reinforce the message. The next time there is an opportunity to observe the unit, see if things changed.

Military Life

4 of the worst things about being stationed at Camp Pendleton

In 1942, the government purchased some land in beautiful Southern California from a private owner for $4,239,062. The property was soon named in honor of Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton for his outstanding service. Thus, Camp Pendleton was born.

Several years later, Camp Pendleton became the home of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, countless brave service members, and their families.


Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton

Known for its beautiful beaches and sprawling landscape, there are a few drawbacks to getting stationed on the historic grounds…

It’s harsh, but true.

It’s a huge military town outside the gates

Marines and their families typically live just outside the gates and you’ll see them while out on liberty — they’re everywhere. So, good luck dating someone who isn’t attached to the military somehow. You’ll have to drive an hour or so before you leave the true confines of the camp.

The camp encompasses more than 125,000 acres and houses thousands of Marines inside. Now, step outside the camp’s gates, and it still feels like you’ve never left.

If you get stationed in Camp Pendleton and think you’ll somehow be an individual — you won’t.

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Oh, we know that.

Seeing paradise nearby is torture

Occasionally, when you’re out in the field training, you’ll see a beautiful beach and a bunch of civilians out there enjoying themselves. You’ll wish it was you.

But no, you’re stuck mining a post pretending to be deployed in Afghanistan for the next 72 hours.

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You’re all alone.

The infantry is in the middle of nowhere

If you’re stationed in the Division aspect of the camp and you need to head over to main side to the large PX, you’re going to have to get in a car and drive at least 20 to 25 minutes.

Now, if you don’t have a car, then your options are limited. Good luck getting someone to take you all the way over there — it’s mission.

Marines hike supplies up a hill during a training exercise.

Hiking those freaking hills, man

The hills of Camp Pendleton are famous throughout the Corps. 1st. Sgt’s. Hill in San Mateo (62 Area) is one of the most notorious natural obstacles over which Marines will climb to either visit the Sangin Memorial or to get that daily PT.

Compared to flat landscape of Camp Lejeune, the hills of Camp Pendleton can be a huge pain in the ass.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller

As of Monday, Christopher Miller is the new (acting) Secretary of Defense. He is now responsible for the entire US military behemoth. A tough proposition, despite his experience navigating bureaucracy as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.

But Miller has a vast special operations background to assist him in his new position.

When the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11, Miller, who was a major at the time, was commanding a Special Forces company in 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.

Army Special Forces primarily specialize in Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, and Special Reconnaissance. Their ability to partner with a government or guerilla force and train, organize, and lead it to combat is what distinguishes the unit from the rest of America’s special operations forces.

Christopher Miller as a major in Afghanistan (Image found in Eric Blehm’s book “The Only Thing Worth Dying For.”)

A mere few days after the 9/11 attacks, Colonel John Mulholland, the then commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, sent Miller to Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) with instructions to get the unit into the fight. SOCCENT is responsible for all special operations in the Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of operations, which is Central Asia and the Near and Middle East.

At the time, the Pentagon was somewhat at a loss on how to respond to the attacks. The shadow of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan loomed above the planning process. There was no question that the US military could pound to history Al-Qaeda and their Taliban protectors. But a full-blown invasion would be susceptible to the same tactical and strategic woes the Soviets had encountered – fast forward 19 years, and this has become apparent.

So, the unconventional warfare approach gained traction in some planning circles. Why shouldn’t we send Special Forces teams with all the airpower they can handle to partner with friendly forces and defeat the enemy, a small group of planners asked.

Known as the “True Believers,” these men pushed for an unconventional warfare approach to Afghanistan. And they managed to persuade their superiors. The outcome was a sweeping campaign, with Special Forces soldiers, CIA operatives, and Tier 1 operators at the forefront, that defeated Al-Qaeda and drove the Taliban out of power.

Green Berets from the 5th Special Forces Group talking with General Tommy Franks, the commander of CENTCOM, in the early days of the war in Afghanistan (U.S. Army).

In all of this, Miller was key in getting his unit to be a core part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Dagger, which led the fight. (If you wish to learn more about how that campaign was fought from a Special Forces perspective, Eric Blehm’s “The Only Thing Worth Dying For” offers a brilliant account.)

Miller went on to participate in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And, as the commander of 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Miller was responsible for all Special Forces operations in central Iraq in 2006 and 2007. All in all, he was responsible for 18 Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs) and three Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravos (ODBs).

Now, after almost two decades, Miller is still advocating for the unconventional warfare approach, remaining a true believer.

Interestingly, Miller’s appointment as the Secretary of Defense means that both the top civilian military leader and the top military leader, General Mark Miller, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are Special Forces qualified, both having served in the 5th Special Forces Group.

On a side note, like in General James Mattis’s case, the administration will have to obtain Congress’ approval in order for Miller to become a permanent Secretary of Defense. By law, no person who has served in active duty as a commissioned officer can be appointed as the secretary of defense within seven years of his separation from the service. Miller retired in 2014, so he is a year away from meeting the constitutional (non-waivered) requirements for the permanent position. With a new administration coming in, however, that might not be necessary.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy approves its first metal 3D-printed part for ship use

Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) approved the first metal part created by additive manufacturing (AM) for shipboard installation, the command announced Oct. 11, 2018.

A prototype drain strainer orifice (DSO) assembly will be installed on USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in fiscal year 2019 for a one-year test and evaluation trial. The DSO assembly is a steam system component that permits drainage/removal of water from a steam line while in use.

Huntington Ingalls Industries — Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS) builds Navy aircraft carriers and proposed installing the prototype on an aircraft carrier for test and evaluation.


“This install marks a significant advancement in the Navy’s ability to make parts on demand and combine NAVSEA’s strategic goal of on-time delivery of ships and submarines while maintaining a culture of affordability,” said Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, NAVSEA chief engineer and deputy commander for ship design, integration, and naval engineering. “By targeting CVN-75 [USS Harry S. Truman], this allows us to get test results faster, so — if successful — we can identify additional uses of additive manufacturing for the fleet.”

The test articles passed functional and environmental testing, which included material, welding, shock, vibration, hydrostatic, and operational steam, and will continue to be evaluated while installed within a low temperature and low pressure saturated steam system. After the test and evaluation period, the prototype assembly will be removed for analysis and inspection.

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman transits the Gulf of Oman.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor M. DiMartino)

While the Navy has been using additive manufacturing technology for several years, the use of it for metal parts for naval systems is a newer concept and this prototype assembly design, production, and first article testing used traditional mechanical testing to identify requirements and acceptance criteria. Final requirements are still under review.

“Specifications will establish a path for NAVSEA and industry to follow when designing, manufacturing and installing AM components shipboard and will streamline the approval process,” said Dr. Justin Rettaliata, technical warrant holder for additive manufacturing. “NAVSEA has several efforts underway to develop specifications and standards for more commonly used additive manufacturing processes.”

Naval Sea Systems Command is the largest of the Navy’s five systems commands. NAVSEA engineers, builds, buys and maintains the Navy’s ships, submarines and combat systems to meet the fleet’s current and future operational requirements.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy launches safety review after 2 recruits die at Boot Camp

An 18-year-old woman died during Navy boot camp this month — about two months after another female recruit’s death, prompting a review of training and safety procedures.

Seaman Recruit Kelsey Nobles went into cardiac arrest April 23, 2019, after completing a fitness test at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois. She was transported to the nearby Lake Forest Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The cause of death remains under investigation, said Lt. Joseph Pfaff, a spokesman for Recruit Training Command. Navy Times first reported Nobles’ death April 25, 2019.


A similar investigation into the February death of Seaman Recruit Kierra Evans, who collapsed during the run portion of the Navy’s Physical Fitness Assessment, is ongoing, he said.

Recruits begin the 1.5-mile run portion of their initial physical fitness assessment at Recruit Training Command, April 10, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Susan Krawczyk)

“Recruit Training Command reviewed the training, safety, medical processes, and overall procedures regarding the implementation of the Physical Fitness Assessment and found no discrepancies in its execution,” Pfaff said. “However, there is a much more in-depth investigation going on and, if information is discovered during the course of the investigation revealing deficiencies in our processes and procedures that could improve safety in training, it would be acted on.”

Nobles, who was from Alabama, was in her sixth week of training.

Her father, Harold Nobles, told WKRG News Channel 5 in Alabama that he has questions for the Navy about his daughter’s death. For now, though, he said the family is focusing on getting her home and grieving first.

Both the Navy and Recruit Training Command take the welfare of recruits and sailors very seriously, Pfaff said.

“We are investigating the cause of this tragic loss,” he said. “… Our thoughts are with Seaman Recruit Nobles’ family and friends during this tragic time.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Iron Man’s ‘Endgame’ death could have looked a lot more grisly

If you were taken aback by Tony Stark’s face during his final moments in “Avengers: Endgame,” it could have looked a lot more grisly.

“We gave the filmmakers a full range [of looks] to choose from and one of those was where the energy from the stones had acted right up into his face and popped one of his eyeballs out and it was hanging out on his cheek,” Weta digital VFX supervisor Matt Aitken told Insider of one of the most gruesome designs they did for Iron Man’s death.

“They didn’t go for that one,” Aitken chuckled.


The “Endgame” visual effects team, consisting of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Marvel, and Weta Digital, put together a full range of looks for Marvel Studios and directors Anthony and Joe Russo to look over.

The team needed to strike the perfect balance between a look that was believable enough that Tony could die, but that wasn’t too scary for kids and families to watch together.

This was one of many designs made for Tony’s death scene.

(Marvel Studios)

“With any development item, you want to be able to give the filmmakers a full gamut, from sort of a light touch all the way to horror, and this will never be in it,” said Marvel VFX producer Jen Underdahl. “But by doing that exercise and by letting them see sort of every stage, they can kind of pinpoint and circle the drain on where they think the look is going to settle.”

“We did go several rounds on that guy from grisly to not so grisly to more light of a touch, back to OK this is the spot where we think the audience is not going to get too freaked out, but also really understand that Tony has reached the point of no return,” Underdahl added.

The film helped lay out viewer’s expectations for Tony’s impending death by physically showing the damage the stones did to two other larger, powerful characters. The idea was that, hopefully, by the time Tony snapped and used the gauntlet viewers would be able to see the consequences of him wielding the stones.

“We had seeded in the film this notion of Thanos having damage. There are consequences to him snapping and pursuing this ideology. You see the damage in his face and what that did to him, and he’s built for this,” said Underdahl. “Then [you] see the consequences to Smart Hulk, who was made of gamma radiation and the damage that it did there.”

If this is what the stones did to Hulk, then you had to know it wasn’t going to go well for Tony.

(Marvel Studios, composite by Kirsten Acuna)

“You knew somewhere in the math that Tony himself, even though he’s got this suit and it’s going to fight for him, ultimately what’s going to result would be something he couldn’t recover from,” she added.

Atkins, Underdahl, and Marvel visual effects supervisor Swen Gillberg said they pushed the design past where they wanted to go so that they ultimately fell somewhere right in the middle of two extremes.

Another one of those extreme looks involved a nod to one of Batman’s most famous villains.

“We did do a Two-Face version where you got inside and you saw the sinews and you saw them in the teeth and that,” said Underdahl of another one of the more grisly Tony Stark designs.

In “The Dark Knight,” the Batman villain, Harvey Dent, is severely burned after half of his face is lit on fire.

For reference, here’s how Dent/Two-Face looks. I think it’s safe to say no one would have wanted to see this version of Tony.

(Warner Bros.)

“It takes you away from this really powerful moment,” said Underdahl of why that wouldn’t have been the right move for that moment. “You don’t want to be focusing on that or grossed out.”

“When he’s collapsing against the tree stump, you’ve got to know that he’s in a really bad predicament, that he has made this terrible sacrifice,” Atkins added. “But then you also didn’t want it to distract from his performance. And it’s a really subtle performance that he has in those intimate moments with Spidey and then with Pepper. So yeah we definitely worked quite hard on achieving that one, but we got there.”

“Avengers: Endgame” is one of 10 films on the shortlist for the visual effects category at the 92nd Academy Awards. The five final Oscar nominees will be announced Monday morning.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Argentina releases first photos of sub lost 1 year ago

A little over a year after losing contact with the submarine ARA San Juan, Argentina’s navy said the wreckage of the sub had been found at the bottom of the southern Atlantic Ocean, where it sank with all 44 of its crew members.

The navy said early Nov. 17, 2018, that a “positive identification” had been made by a remote-operated submersible deployed by Ocean Infinity, a US firm commissioned by the Argentine government that began searching on Sept. 7, 2018.


On Nov. 18, 2018, Argentina’s navy released the first images of the sub on the seafloor under 2,975 feet of water nearly 400 miles east of the city of Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina’s Patagonia region.

The forward section of the ARA San Juan’s hull, with torpedo tubes visible.

(Argentina navy / Twitter)

One of the first images posted by the Argentina navy showed the forward section of the sub’s hull, made with special 33 mm steel, with torpedo tubes visible. The 82-foot-long and 23-foot-wide section was found in a single piece, though the water pressure appeared to have deformed and compressed it.

“It is the habitable sector where the batteries and all the systems and equipment that the submarine has are found,” the navy said.

Before the sub’s last contact on Nov. 15, 2017, the captain reported that water had entered through a snorkel and caused one of the batteries to short circuit, though he said it had been contained.

The propeller from the ARA San Juan, discovered in the South Atlantic.

(Argentina navy / Twitter)

The mast of the submarine ARA San Juan.

(Argentina navy / Twitter)

‘A series of investigations to find the whole truth’

The sub was returning to its base at Mar de Plata on Argentina’s northeast coast when contact was lost. The German-built sub was commissioned in the mid-1980s and underwent a retrofit between 2008 and 2014.

There still is no information about the 44 crew members who were aboard the sub when it sank. Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who decreed three days of morning, said there would be “a series of investigations to find the whole truth.”

Argentine officials have said the sub could have imploded hours after its final contact, when the pressure in the water overcame the hull’s ability to resist.

The wreckage of the sub appeared to be scattered over a 262-foot-by-328-foot area — a sign it “could have imploded very close to the bottom,” Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said.

Argentina lacks ‘modern technology’ to recover the sub.

The sub was found near where the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization, an international monitoring agency, said on Nov. 15, 2017, that two of its hydroacoustic stations “detected an unusual signal” near the sub’s last known position.

Argentina’s navy said the signal, which sounded like an explosion, could have been caused by a “concentration of hydrogen” triggered by the battery problem reported by the captain.

On Nov. 17, 2018, hours after the discovery was confirmed, Defense Minister Oscar Aguad said Argentina lacks “modern technology” capable of “verifying the seabed” in order to recover the ARA San Juan.

‘If they sent him off, I want them to bring him back to me.’

Visibility in the water where the sub was found is very low, due to salinity and turbulence.

The depth, distance from the coast, and nature of the seabed would also make any recovery effort logistically challenging and expensive, likely requiring Argentina to commission another navy or private firm to carry out that work — complicating the Macri government’s economic austerity measures.

The navy’s statement that it was unable to recover the sub angered families of the crew, who demanded the government recover those lost.

“We do know they can get it out because Ocean Infinity told us they can, that they have equipment,” Luis Antonio Niz, father of crew member Luis Niz, told the Associated Press. “If they sent him off, I want them to bring him back to me.”

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

Articles

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

In 2002, the U.S. military tapped Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper to lead the red opposing forces of the most expensive, expansive military exercise in history. He was put in command of an inferior Middle Eastern-inspired military force. His mission was to go against the full might of the American armed forces. In the first two days, he sank an entire carrier battle group.


The exercise was called Millennium Challenge 2002. It was designed by the Joint Forces Command over the course of two years. It had 13,500 participants, numerous live and simulated training sites, and was supposed to pit an Iran-like Middle Eastern country against the U.S. military, which would be fielding advanced technology it didn’t plan to implement until five years later.

The war game would begin with a forced-entry exercise that included the 82nd Airborne and the 1st Marine Division.

When the Blue Forces issued a surrender ultimatum, Van Riper, commanding the Red Forces, turned them down. Since the Bush Doctrine of the period included preemptive strikes against perceived enemies, Van Riper knew the Blue Forces would be cominfor him. And they did.

But the three-star general didn’t spend 41 years in the Marine Corps by being timid. As soon as the Navy was beyond the point of no return, he hit them and hit them hard. Missiles from land-based units, civilian boats, and low-flying planes tore through the fleet as explosive-ladened speedboats decimated the Navy using suicide tactics. His code to initiate the attack was a coded message sent from the minarets of mosques at the call to prayer.

In less than ten minutes, the whole thing was over and Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper was victorious.

How did 19 ships and some 20,000 U.S. troops end up at the bottom of the Persian Gulf? It started with the OPFOR leadership. Van Riper was the epitome of the salty Marine Corps general officer. He was a 41-year veteran, both enlisted and commissioned, serving everywhere from Vietnam to Desert Storm. Van Riper attended the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, The College of Naval Command and Staff, Army War College, and the Army’s Airborne and Ranger Schools.

In fact, the three-star general had been retired for some five years by the time he led the Red Forces of Millennium Challenge. He was an old-school Marine capable of some old-school tactics and has insisted that technology cannot replace human intuition and study of the basic nature of war, which he called a “terrible, uncertain, chaotic, bloody business.”

When Van Riper told the story of Millennium Challenge to journalist Malcolm Gladwell, he said the Blue Forces were stuck in their own mode of thinking. Their vastly superior technology included advanced intelligence matrices and an Operational Net Assessment that told them where the OPFOR vulnerabilities were and what Van Riper was most likely to do next out of a range of possible scenarios. They relied heavily on that. When the Blue took out Red’s microwave towers and fiber optics, they expected his forces to use satellite and cell phones that could be monitored.

Not a chance. Van Riper instead used motorcycle couriers, messages hidden in prayers, and even coded lighting systems on his airfields — tactics employed during World War II.

“I struck first,” he said in ” Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” written by Gladwell in 2005. “We did all the calculations on how many cruise missiles their ships could handle, so we simply launched more than that.”

In fact, Van Riper hated the kind of analytical decision making the Blue Forces were doing. He believed it took far too long. His resistance plan included ways of getting his people to make good decisions using rapid cognition and analog but reliable communications.

The other commanders involved called foul, complaining that a real OPFOR would never use the tactics Van Riper used — except Van Riper’s flotilla used boats and explosives like those used against the USS Cole in 2000.

“And I said ‘nobody would have thought that anyone would fly an airliner into the World Trade Center,'” Van Riper said in reply. “But nobody [in the exercise] seemed interested.”

In the end, the Blue Forces were all respawned and Van Riper was prevented from making moves to counter the Blue Forces’ landing. He had no radar and wasn’t allowed to shoot down incoming aircraft he would have otherwise accurately targeted. The rest of the exercise was scripted to let the Blue Force land and win. Van Riper walked out when he realized his commands were being ignored by the exercise planners. The fix was in.

The three-star wrote a 21-page critique of the exercise that was immediately classified. Van Riper spoke out against the rigged game anyway.

“Nothing was learned from this,” he told the Guardian in 2002. “A culture not willing to think hard and test itself does not augur well for the future.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis shared the thinking behind the new National Defense Strategy during a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington on Oct. 30, 2018.

The strategy, released in January 2018, sees Russia and China as the greatest threats with Iran and North Korea as regional threats. Violent extremism rounds out the threat matrix.

The strategy is based on a return to great power competition among the United States, Russia and China.


Power, urgency, will

Mattis told Stephen Hadley, the moderator of the event and former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, that in setting up the strategy, officials looked at threats from three different angles: Power, urgency and will.

“In terms of raw power right now, I look at Russia and the nuclear arsenal they have,” he said. “I look at their activities over the last 10 years from Georgia and Crimea to the Donetsk Basin to Syria and I can go on and on and on. In terms of just power, I think it is Russia that we have to look at and address.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

There are two threats that are most urgent right now: North Korea and the continuing fight against violent extremism. North Korea’s nuclear and missile program — in clear violation of United Nations sanctions — remains a problem, and the current fight against violent extremists from the Islamic State to al-Qaida to Boko Haram to other transnational terror groups must be fought.

“In terms of will, clearly it is China,” he said.

China is different than Russia. “Russia wants security around its periphery by causing insecurity among other nations,” he said. “They want a veto authority over the economic, the diplomatic and the security decisions of the nations around them.

“China seems to want some sort of tribute states around them,” he continued. “We are looking for how do we work with China. I think 15 years from now we will be remembered most for how … we set the conditions for a positive relationship with China.”

Cooperation

The United States is looking for ways to cooperate with China and that has been beneficial to both countries, Mattis said. He pointed to China’s vote against the North Korean nuclear program in the United Nations Security Council as an example. The United States will also confront China when it must as he pointed to the United States continuing freedom of navigation operations in international waters and airspace.

“I have met with my counterpart in Beijing and in Singapore 10 days ago, and he will be here 10 days from now to continue that dialogue as we sort it out,” Mattis said.

Also part of the strategy are U.S. strengths, and foremost among them is the country’s network of alliances and friends around the world. This network requires constant tending, the secretary said. He noted that just in the last month he has attended NATO meetings, consulted with Central and South American allies and journeyed to Manama, Bahrain, to meet with Middle Eastern allies and friends.

All of these were part and parcel of forming the National Defense Strategy.

South Asia Strategy

The secretary also spoke about the South Asia Strategy announced in August 2017 and how that is proceeding. Officials continue to follow the strategy and it is making progress, but it is slow. It entails far more than just the military and far more than just the United States, he said.

The strategy is a regional approach to the problem. It also reinforced the commitment to the area and realigned those reinforcements with Afghan forces. This was needed because the Afghans had an Army that wasn’t ready to have the training wheels taken off the bike, Mattis said. “Only the Afghan special forces had mentors from NATO nations with them,” he said. “And every time they went against the enemy, the Taliban, they won.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

But the rest of the Afghan forces were spread out around the country with no mentorship and no air support. The strategy changed that. The air support is crucial in giving Afghan forces the high ground in the mountainous country, “and that changes the tactical situation,” the secretary said.

Afghan forces are carrying the burden. They took more than 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September 2018, the secretary said, and they stayed in the field fighting. “And the Taliban has been prevented from doing what they said they were going to do, which was to take and hold district and provincial centers, also disrupt an election that they were unable to disrupt,” he said.

But the most important aspect of the strategy is reconciliation. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agreed to serve as a special envoy in Afghanistan specifically aimed at reconciliation between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. “He is hard at work on this, on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation effort,” Mattis said. “So this is the approach we’re trying to sustain right now. It is working from our perspective, but what is heartbreakingly difficult to accept is the progress and violence can be going on at the same time.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

Remains of fighter pilot hero return home after 10 years

This week, nearly 10 years after he was killed in combat operations in Iraq, U.S. forces brought home the remains of F-16 pilot Maj. Troy Gilbert, who died saving the lives of U.S. service members and coalition allies.


On Nov. 27, 2006, Gilbert and his wingman were flying back to base when they got the call that an AH-6 Little Bird helicopter had been shot down.  Enemy insurgents had the crew, along with the coalition forces called in to support, outnumbered and pinned down.

With little fuel left, the two F-16 pilots changed course and headed to the hotly contested warzone just outside of Taji, Iraq. Due to fuel limitations, the pilots were forced to take turns refueling and providing air support to the troops under fire. By the time Gilbert was able to make his first approach, the calls for support had grown more urgent. Insurgents attacked with truck-mounted heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire and mortars.

Maj. Troy Gilbert stands beside Gen. Robin Rand, the Air Force Global Strike Command commander, in front of the F-16 Fighting Falcon he was flying Nov. 27, 2006, when he was killed 30 miles southwest of Balad Air Base, Iraq. | Photo courtesy of Gilbert family

Gilbert, a friendly Texas Tech graduate dubbed “Trojan” by his fellow aviators, acted quickly and aggressively. To avoid causing civilian casualties by dropping the bombs he carried under his wings, he opted for low-altitude strafing passes using his 20-milimeter Gatling gun. Gilbert made his first pass, destroying one truck and dispersing the others which were almost upon the friendly forces 20 miles northwest of Baghdad. Keeping his eye on the enemy targets moving at high speed, he conducted a second pass from an even lower altitude.

He continued firing on the enemy forces during a dynamic and difficult flight profile, impacting the ground at high speed on the second pass.  Reports say the crash killed him instantly. However, Al Qaeda insurgents took Gilbert’s body before U.S. forces were able to get to the scene, leading to 10 long years of a family waiting for their husband, father, son and brother to come home.

He was survived by his wife Ginger Gilbert Ravella, sons Boston and Greyson, and daughters Isabella, Aspen and Annalise.

In a letter to Gilbert’s wife from the Army element commander whose troops the F-16 pilot was supporting that day, the commander wrote that Gilbert saved his unit from “almost certain disaster” as insurgents prepared to attack their position with mortars.

“With no ability to protect ourselves on the desert floor, we most certainly would have sustained heavy casualties,” he wrote. “Troy, however, stopped that from happening. His amazing display of bravery and tenacity immediately broke up the enemy formation and caused them to flee in panic. My men and I will never forget the ultimate sacrifice your husband made for me and my men on Nov. 27th, and we will always be in his debt.”

“Major Gilbert’s motivation to succeed saved the lives of the helicopter crew and other coalition ground forces,” then-president of the accident investigation board and current Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in his safety report.Goldfein saluted as Gilbert’s remains were solemnly carried from the C-17 that brought him home this week.

Also on hand was Gen. Robin Rand, Air Force Global Strike Command commander. Rand regarded Gilbert as a friend, first meeting him when he was an F-16 pilot at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, and eventually crossing paths again when Gilbert became his executive officer at Luke. The relationship continued when Gilbert served under Rand’s command in the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base, Iraq in 2006.

“Troy fought like a tiger in battle that day,” Rand said. “No doubt, his actions on Nov. 27, 2006 illustrate greatness, but those actions that day aren’t what made him great. What made him great was his commitment to adhere in every facet of his life to our three treasured core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.”

Rand recalled how Gilbert spent much of his off-duty time at Balad volunteering in the base hospital or supporting the unit chapel. He said base medics were so overcome by Gilbert’s death that they came to see him, asking if they could name a wing of the hospital after him, and enlisted groups petitioned to have the Balad Air Base chapel annex renamed “Troy’s Place.”

Following the accident, U.S. forces recovered DNA which provided enough information to positively identify Gilbert. His funeral, with full military honors, followed Dec. 11, 2006 at Arlington National Cemetery. In September 2012, some additional, but very limited, remains were recovered and interred during a second service Dec. 11, 2013.

Then, on Aug. 28, an Iraqi tribal leader approached a U.S. military advisor near al Taqaddam, Iraq, and produced what he claimed to be evidence of the remains of a U.S. military pilot who had crashed in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Iraqi said he was a representative of his tribe, which had the remains and the flight gear the pilot was wearing when he went down.

The tribal leader turned over the evidence to the U.S. advisor who immediately provided it to U.S. experts for testing at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. AFMES confirmed the evidence Sept. 7 through DNA testing.

With this verification, U.S. military advisors in Iraq reengaged the tribal leader who subsequently turned over the remains, including a U.S. flight suit, flight jacket and parachute harness.

An Air Force carry team carries the remains of Maj. Troy Gilbert Oct. 3, 2016, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. | U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Aaron J. Jenne

Gilbert’s remains, promptly prepared for return to the U.S. for testing, arrived Oct. 3 at Dover AFB. Airmen at Dover conducted a dignified transfer upon arrival at the base, which was attended by Gilbert’s family, base officials and senior Air Force leaders, to include the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, Goldfein, Rand, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody.

AFMES confirmed Oct. 4 through dental examination and DNA testing that all remains received were those of Maj. Gilbert. His lost remains had been recovered and fully repatriated.

“First and foremost I want say God is forever faithful,” Gilbert Ravella said. “He was good whether this recovery ever happened or not. But we praise Him, in His infinite mercies, for granting us this miracle after almost 10 years of waiting, hoping and praying.

“Second, I want to thank not only the brave Special Operations Forces that ultimately found Troy’s body but also each and every single Airman, Soldier, Sailor and Marine who searched or supported the recovery mission during these last 10 years,” she said. “As each of them put on the uniform and gave their best efforts, not fully knowing if they made a difference, I can assure them that they laid the stepping stones which led to this final victory. Justice was served.

James also praised the unwavering commitment of those who endeavored to bring the fallen fighter pilot back to U.S. soil.

“We are grateful to all those within the U.S. military, the U.S. government and beyond who never gave up and worked so hard to help return this American hero home to his final resting place,” James said. “As an Air Force, we are absolutely committed to leaving no Airman behind and to honoring the memory of warriors like Maj. Gilbert who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.”

Goldfein echoed James’ sentiments saying Gilbert represented the best ideals of America’s Airmen.

“As an Air Force officer, husband and father, Troy Gilbert truly represented what being an Airman is all about,” Goldfein said. “He was committed to serving his country, his team and his family in everything he did. On the day he died, he characteristically put service before self when he answered the short-notice call to support coalition ground forces who had come under attack. He put his own safety aside and saved many lives that day.”

Now, finally, a decade later, Gilbert has returned to the country he so valiantly served. At the request of his family, his remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in the coming months along with the remains originally recovered in 2006 and 2012.

“The memory of my five children watching their father’s flag-draped transfer case being unloaded from the cargo hold and carried by his brothers-in-arms back to American soil renews my hope for all mankind,” said Gilbert Ravella. “Attending the dignified transfer at Dover Monday night was the closest we have been to Troy in 10 years. That was bittersweet.

“However, the memory of his sacrificial selflessness, his passionate love for Jesus Christ, his devotion to his family and to his beloved country echoed in their footsteps long after the transport vehicle drove him away,” she said.  “From the bottom of my heart I want everyone to know how grateful the kids and I have been for your years of prayers. There is no doubt they reached the very ears of God.”

“As our military promised, no one was left behind on the field of battle,” Gilbert Ravella said. “Troy is home.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Whistle-blower Snowden seeks extension Of Russian residence permit, says lawyer

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who was granted asylum in Russia, is preparing to apply for the extension of his Russian residence permit which expires in April, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told Russian media on February 7.


Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013 after he revealed details of secret surveillance programs by U.S. intelligence agencies.

“At Edward’s request, I am drawing up documents for the Russian Interior Ministry migration service to extend his residence permit,” Kucherena said.

Snowden was charged under the U.S. Espionage Act for leaking 1.5 million secret documents from the NSA on government surveillance, prompting public debate about the legality of some of the agency’s programs, on privacy concerns, and about the United States snooping on its neighbors.

If convicted, Snowden faces up to 30 years in prison.

In September, Snowden called on French President Emmanuel Macron to grant him asylum. The French presidency did not comment.

Snowden had unsuccessfully applied for asylum in France in 2013 and several other countries.

“Everything is okay with him. He is working. His wife is with him,” Kucherena said.

Asked if Snowden plans to apply for Russian citizenship, Kucherena said, “I haven’t discussed this matter with him so far.”

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

The 10 best at-home dumbbell exercises for building muscle

Lots of work and busy family schedules can be a major hindrance to getting yourself to the gym. Don’t fight it. Cancel your gym membership and buy a set of dumbbells. Bam! Your home is now all the gym you need. Really. Dumbbells are staples in all gyms for a reason. They’re versatile as hell and can build muscle fast, if you know how to use them. All you need is 30 minutes, two-to-three days a week.

Like any strength workout, you are best off performing this routine with at least one day between sessions to allow your muscles a chance to recover. Once you get the hang of the basic moves, try the advanced variation to work your body a little harder. In all cases, you want to focus on form above all else, since the correct body position maximizes the load on your muscles. In other words, you’ll get stronger and fitter doing fewer reps and simpler moves with the right form than you will doing complicated sequences incorrectly.


To get started, grab two medium-weight dumbbells, find yourself some clear floor in your living room, basement, or garage, and get ready to pump iron for the next 30 minutes. Note: Most exercises require two or three sets. You can rest as long as you need between sets, but ideally you’ll aim for around 30 seconds.

(Photo by Sergio Pedemonte)

1. The dumbbell move: Standing overhead press

How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your knees soft, bend elbows and lift weights to your chest, then straighten elbows and push weights skyward until your arms are straight, palms facing forward. This is your start position. Bend elbows out to the sides and lower weights to shoulder height. Straighten arms and raise weights to the ceiling again. 8 reps, 3 sets.

Make it harder: Instead of lifting weights straight up, diagonalize to a spot just forward of your head, forcing your body to engage your core and pecs for stabilization.

2. The dumbbell move: Lunges

How to: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand tall. Take a large step forward with your right leg, landing with a bent right knee. Lower yourself toward to floor until your right leg forms a right angle, knee over toe, and your left knee hovers above the ground. Push off your right foot and return to standing. Repeat on left side for one full rep. 10 reps, 2 sets.

Make it harder: Take these moves up two flights of stairs, stepping every-other-stair to maintain proper form.

3. The dumbbell move: Curls

How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward, arms straight by your side. Keeping elbows stationary at your side, bend arms and curl forearms in front of you until weights touch your chest. Release. 10 reps, 3 sets.

(Photo by Danielle Cerullo)

Make it harder: Perform curls while standing on one leg, the other leg bent in a right angle, knee flexed in front of you. Alternate legs with sets.

4. The dumbbell move: Lying chest press

How to: Lie on the floor, knees and elbows bent, dumbbell in each hand, and hands at your chest. Press dumbbells up into the air until arms are straight and weights are above your head. Bend elbows and release. 8 reps, 3 sets.

Make it harder: Straighten your legs as you lie on the floor. Lift your heels three inches off the ground. Keep them there as you perform the exercise.

5. The dumbbell move: Squats

How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bend knees and elbows as if you are about to sit down into a low chair. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are over your toes. Straighten back to standing. 10 reps, two sets.

Make it harder: When you reach the lowest point of the squat, push through your heels and jump vertically in the air. Land with soft knees and lower back into a squat again.

6. The dumbbell move: Dumbbell flye

How to: Lie on your back on the floor or on a bench. Lift dumbbells directly above your chest, arms straight, palms facing each other. Inhale and open arms wide out to the sides. Exhale and squeeze your chest muscles as you lift weights back up over your chest. 8 reps, 3 sets.

(Photo by Alora Griffiths)

Make it harder: Do one arm at a time. This challenges your body’s stability and engages your core and glute muscles for balance.

7. The dumbbell move: Reverse flye

How to: Standing with a dumbbell in each hand, feet hip-width apart, hinge forward at the waist so your chest faces the floor. Lower dumbbells to the floor below you, arms straight. Keeping your back flat, raise dumbbells out to the sides. Lower. 8 reps, 3 sets.

Make it harder: Perform a squat every time you raise your arms.

8. The dumbbell move: Corkscrew

How to: Interlace fingers around both dumbbells so you are holding them together with both hands. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Rotate your body to the right, swinging your arms to your right side. Shift weight to the left, twisting your body and raising dumbbells above your left shoulder, arms straight. Twist back to the right, lowering dumbbells down to your right hip. Perform 10 corkscrews to the left, then switch sides and perform 10 twists to the right.

Make it harder: As you twist to the left, raise your right leg off the floor so that your weight is entirely supported by your left side. Do the same as you twist to the right.

9. The dumbbell move: Row kickback

How to: Standing with a dumbbell in each hand, feet hip-width apart, hinge forward at the waist so your chest faces the floor. Keeping elbows tucked close to your sides, bend arms so weights come to your chest, then straighten them until weights are behind you. 10 reps, 2 sets.

(Photo by Alora Griffiths)

Make it harder: Once arms are fully extended behind you, lift weights an extra 2-3 inches higher (using your full arm) to engage your deltoids. Release.

10. The dumbbell move: Pushup row

How to: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, get into a modified pushup position (resting on your knees, body at an incline, arms straight). Keeping your torso stable, bend your right elbow out to the side and raise the dumbbell to your chest. Return to start. Bend left elbow and raise the left dumbbell to your chest. Return to start. This completes one rep. 8 reps, 2 sets.

Make it harder: Perform move in full pushup position (legs straight, balancing on toes).

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.