The US has told Turkey that it will take back weapons supplied to the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria after the Islamic State group is defeated, Turkish defense sources said.
The United States has told Turkey that it will take back weapons it supplied to the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria after the Islamic State group is defeated, Turkish defense sources said.
President Donald Trump approved arming fighters from the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units in May – which is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces – drawing strong condemnation from Turkey.
Ankara said on June 22nd that US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised to provide his Turkish counterpart with a monthly list of weapons handed to the YPG, with the first such inventory already sent.
In a letter to Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik, Mattis said that a detailed record of all equipment provided to the YPG was being kept and that all the weapons would be taken back after Islamic State was defeated, according to Turkish defense.
Once the mainly Sunni Arab city is taken, it will be held by Arab forces, the defence sources said he told Isik.
Washington and Ankara are bitterly at odds over US support for the YPG, a Syrian armed faction that acts as the main ground force in the Pentagon’s plan to defeat the Islamic State group but that Turkey deems a front for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Turkey’s concerns about the YPG were significant enough for Ankara to launch its own military operation inside Syria in August 2016, dubbed Euphrates Shield.
The operation had the dual goals of targeting IS and the Kurdish militia, particularly to prevent the YPG from controlling a contiguous strip of territory along the Syria- Turkey border.
The SDF – an Arab-Kurdish alliance formed in 2015 – spent seven months tightening the noose on Raqqa city before finally entering it last week.
An estimated 300,000 civilians were believed to have been living under IS rule in Raqqa, including 80,000 displaced from other parts of Syria.
Thousands have fled in recent months, and the UN humanitarian office estimates about 160,000 people remain in the city.
The trials of Odysseus are really not that different from the struggles of those learning to readjust after wars of today, modern veterans are finding.
A small group of military veterans has been meeting weekly in a classroom at the University of Vermont to discuss The Iliad and The Odyssey for college credit — and to give meaning to their own experiences, equating the close-order discipline of men who fought with spears, swords, and shields to that of men and women who do battle these days with laser-guided munitions.
Homer isn’t just for student veterans. Discussion groups are also being offered at veterans centers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Maine Humanities Council has sponsored sessions for veterans incarcerated at Maine’s Kennebec County jail, as well as for other veterans.
For many in the UVM class, Homer’s 2,800-year-old verses seem all too familiar: the siege of Troy, the difficult quest of Odysseus to return home after 10 years at war, his anguish at watching friends die, and his problems readjusting to civilian life.
Stephanie Wobby, 26, a former Army medic originally from Sacramento, California, is a combat veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and is one of two women in the UVM course; she has been to traditional post-traumatic stress therapy sessions, but said, “this is far more effective for me.”
“It still resonates, coming home from war, even if it was however many years ago,” said Wobby, a junior majoring in chemistry. “It’s the same.”
In a recent class, Dan Wright, 26, an Afghanistan veteran and UVM junior, wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Down with my Demons” while the group discussed The Iliad.
“It was talking about being scared to die and, like, when you are on the field, you don’t think about it,” said Wright, 26, of Halifax, Vermont. He said he was involved in near-daily firefights during a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan in 2012.
Enrollment in the class taught by John Franklin, an associate professor of classics, is limited to veterans; the current class includes veterans from wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There are no papers or tests, and the grade is based entirely on class participation and an understanding of the material.
The people who work with the veterans at UVM felt it was a tragedy when they heard last week that a former Army rifleman expelled from a program to treat veterans with PTSD took three women hostage in California and fatally shot them. With Homer, they are working to avoid the idea of the damaged veteran, said David Carlson, the coordinator of student veterans’ services at UVM and a Marine veteran of Iraq in 2005 and 2006 who sits in on the classes.
“From my end, all it does is make me think the work we do with veterans every day is that much more important,” Carlson said.
Homer-for-veterans is the brainchild of Dartmouth College classics professor Roberta Stewart, who is now hoping for a grant that will allow her to expand the idea nationwide.
an episode from the ancient Greek epic poem the Odyssey. (Artwork by Arnold Böcklin)
Stewart read some blog posts by U.S. service members fighting in Iraq in 2003. She recognized their graphic descriptions of war and the difficulties many faced readjusting to life after combat and reached out to one veteran who appeared to be having a hard time.
“I said to him, ‘Homer can help you. Homer knows,'” Stewart said.
Stewart never heard back from the veteran she told about Homer, but the light bulb stayed on. A decade ago, she wrote to the Department for Veterans Affairs hospital in White River Junction, Vermont, suggesting the idea. Officials were skeptical at first, but she eventually won and started her first group.
Navy Cmdr. Amy Hunt, the operational support officer for the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego, hopes to set up programs for still-serving Navy Seals and overseas support personnel.
“Using Homer, because of the distance involved and also it’s great storytelling, is a way to break into those experiences,” Hunt said.
In its different guises at the locations where classes and discussions have been offered, veterans from World War II to those just home from Afghanistan have seen themselves in the struggles described by Homer.
“It was no different then, the soldiers coming home war from war and dealing with these issues than it is now,” said Norman “Ziggy” Lawrence, of Albion, Maine, a Vietnam-era veteran who now leads some of the discussion with jailed Maine veterans. “It opens that avenue so that they can speak to issues that they are having.”
This month is Mental Health Month, so we sat down the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Director of Innovation and Collaboration for the VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Dr. Wendy Tenhula. The good doctor was very outgoing in explaining how to spot trouble signs of mental health issues and answering our podcast listeners’ burning questions about the use of recreational drugs to treat PTSD.
The VA healthcare system is the largest in the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the second largest cabinet-level office in the U.S. government — just behind the Pentagon.
Those of us who require the services of the VA healthcare system know that navigating it can be a daunting task. Do you need a psychiatrist or a psychologist? What’s the difference between the two? Which is better for your situation? Do you have to take drugs? Do I even have a choice?
The answer to the last question may surprise you: yes, you do.
But first it’s important to realize if you have a mental health condition. Or perhaps you see problems in a loved one that didn’t exist before their deployment or separation from the military. It’s harder to recognize a mental health condition than it is to recognize a physical condition. Everyone is different and the unique ways in which we internally respond to external problems makes it difficult to categorize ourselves. How do you know when you have a mental health issue and when you’re just having a bad day?
“If it’s getting in the way of your life,” says Dr. Tenhula. “Things like going to school, getting a job, maintaining relationships — then that’s a clue that you may have a mental health condition. It’s not necessarily a bad day.”
If identifying that you have a problem is the first step, where do we go from there?
There are a number of specialized, professional counselors that can help with your specific condition. But where the VA has started truly innovating is through the use of peer specialists — veterans who have had mental health struggles of their own. They know, first-hand, what a returning veteran is going through and they know the system.
Mental health treatments can often take time and some individual sessions can make veterans feel worse than when they came in. Treatment for post-traumatic stress often requires painfully and honestly revisiting traumatic experiences — and that’s hard. The VA’s peer specialists are also there to keep vets from getting discouraged.
(VA photo by Tami Schutter)
There is always more than one treatment option available and veterans have a choice to make — but it takes work, honesty, and a real partnership with your practitioner.
For more about the VA’s renewed push to reach more veterans through Mental Health Month and its Make the Connection campaign, listen to this episode of WATM’s Mandatory Fun podcast. Then, check out the Make the Connection website.
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
An ongoing petition on Change.org is seeking at least 15,000 signatures to convince Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley to name DDG 127, an as-yet unnamed destroyer, after Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary L. Rehm, Jr., who allegedly gave up his own life while attempting to rescue six sailors in a flooding compartment on the USS Fitzgerald.
The Fitzgerald was struck by the ACX Crystal, a Philippine container ship, on June 17. The much larger Crystal impacted the Fitzgerald almost squarely on the sleeping berths, causing massive damage to the area where a number of sailors were resting.
As the water rushed in, the rest of the crew was forced to close the hatches while Rehm was still inside.
DDG 127, the ship which petitioners hope will be named after Rehm, is an Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer like the Fitzgerald. The guided-missile destroyers can fire a variety of missiles against everything from land targets to aircraft to submarines to other ships and even missiles in flight.
The Fitzgerald is named for Lt. William C. Fitzgerald, an officer who began his career as an enlisted sailor before graduating from the Naval Academy. He later gave his life to cover the retreat of civilians and other sailors under attack by the Viet Cong on Aug. 7, 1967. The ship’s motto is “Protect Your People.”
Rehm’s actions, if proven during the Navy’s investigation, surely upheld the ship’s traditions and motto.
The other six sailors who died in the June 17 crash were Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25; Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25; Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23; and Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24.
Duke Robotics, a Florida-based defense contractor, developed the TIKAD sniper drone, and recently sold some to the Israeli military.
They’re also pitching it to the Pentagon.
The drone is capable of being fitted with a sniper rifle, grenade launcher, a machine gun, or a variety of other weapons, Defense One and Popular Mechanics reported.
It was used successfully by the Israelis but it only stayed airborne for about five minutes due to weight problems, Defense One reported. The TIKAD drone, however, has overcome previous weight and recoil issues.
The co-founder of Duke Robotics, Israeli military veteran Lt. Col. Raziel “Razi” Atuar, said the drone — which is flown and shot by an operator at a distance — will save civilian and soldier lives because it is more precise, as opposed to Reaper, Predator or Switchblade drones that fire missiles.
“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in. Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt. The operational challenge, it bothered us,” Atuar told Defense One.
“Big military drones traditionally have to fly thousands of feet overhead to get to targets, but these smaller drones could easily fly down the street to apply violent force,” University of Sheffield Professor Noel Sharkey told the BBC.
“This is my biggest worry since there have been many legal cases of human-rights violations using the large fixed-wing drones, and these could potentially result in many more,” Sharkey said.
Mary Wareham, of Human Rights Watch, also voiced similar concerns.
Sharkey also told the BBC that he worries about the TIKAD drone, which private citizens can purchase from Duke Robotics, being copied by terrorist groups like ISIS.
“It won’t be long before everyone has copies,” Sharkey told Popular Mechanics. “Some of these will be a lot less stable and less precise. We have already seen ISIS employ small commercial drones for strikes with explosives.”
ISIS has been known to use drones for surveillance, guidance and even for dropping bombs.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent decision to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement comes after repeated threats to pull out, but his decision to ditch the pact now could undermine the ability of the US and its partners to counter China’s ambitions in the region.
The VFA, signed in 1998, gives legal status to US troops in the Philippines. Duterte, a longtime critic of ties to the US, gave formal notice of withdrawal to the US this month, triggering a 180-day period before the exit is finalized.
Duterte believes the Philippines should be more militarily independent, a spokesman said, quoting the president as saying, “It’s about time we rely on ourselves.”
The decision is “chiefly the product of Duterte’s deep, decades-long anti-US sentiment,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat and a Southeast Asian security analyst, said in an email to Business Insider.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has “found just about any excuse he can to make threats against the alliance, be it canceling exercises or separating from the United States,” Parameswaran added.
Duterte has spurned the US since he took office and bristled at US criticism of his human-rights record. Both the US and Duterte have high approval ratings among the Philippine public, however, while a large majority there have little or no confidence in China.
“It’s a competition. China’s competing,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, said Thursday at a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Capitol Hill.
“There’s very clear recognition that China is putting pressure and using every tool within its disposal to try to draw those countries” away from cooperation with the US, Sbragia said. “That’s a condition we’re taking head on. That’s very serious for us.”
“I don’t doubt China will relish the deterioration in the US-Philippine alliance,” Parameswaran said. “Beijing has long considered US alliances a relic of the Cold War and a manifestation of US efforts to contain its regional ambitions.”
The US and the Philippines, which the US ruled as a colony during the first half of the 20th century, have a decades-long diplomatic and military relationship.
That relationship and the benefit it offers the Philippine security establishment, as well as US popularity in the Philippines, are among the reasons why Manila may not follow through on withdrawal.
Philippine officials have also hinted that the notice of withdrawal is a starting point for negotiations over the VFA, which some have said are needed “to address matters of sovereignty.” Philippine politicians have also questioned Duterte’s authority to exit the agreement.
But the US shouldn’t assume that Duterte is bluffing or looking for leverage, said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“He has been anti-American his entire adult life and has been consistently saying he wants to sever the alliance and bring the Philippines into a strategic alignment with China,” Poling said in an email.
“That said, six months is a long time in politics. If Duterte walks this back, it won’t be because a plan to renegotiate with Washington plays out,” Poling added, “it’ll be because of internal pressure, possibly in response to whatever natural disaster, Chinese act of aggression, or terrorist act in Mindanao happens between now and then.”
The VFA allows US troops to operate on Philippine territory, including US Navy crews and Marine Corps units.
Ending the agreement would jeopardize the roughly 300 joint exercises the two countries conduct every year, complicating everything from port calls to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits the US to the Philippines’ defense in case of an attack. It would also be harder for the US to provide aid in response to natural disasters.
“It’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said this month.
Many naval activities will be unaffected because they can be carried out without entering Philippine territory, Poling said.
“But large-scale land and air exercises will be impossible, as they were from 1990-1999,” Poling added, referring to a period when Manila’s failure to renew a mutual basing agreement led to the withdrawal of US forces — including the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific.
Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Philippine armed forces chief of staff, has said about half of all joint military engagements would be affected by the end the VFA, Poling noted.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said joint exercises with the US would continue during the 180-day period, including the multinational Balikatan exercise that has taken place in the Philippines every spring for 35 years.
Santos Jr. has downplayed the effects of withdrawal, saying it will make the Philippines “self-reliant” and that Manila would expand bilateral exercises it has with other in the region, including Australia and Japan.
But there are legal and logistical limits on the military activities those countries can undertake with the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific.
The erosion of the US-Philippine military relationship raises the prospect of Beijing making moves like those it made in the South China Sea in the 1990s, when it occupied Mischief Reef — first with small wooden structures and then, a few months before the VFA went into force in 1999, with fort-like structures made of concrete.
In the years since, China has expanded and reinforced its presence in the South China Sea, building military structures on man-made islands there. Mischief Reef is now Beijing’s biggest outpost in the disputed waters.
“Beijing will work to make sure that a US loss is China’s gain” and build on inroads made with Duterte, Parameswaran said.
“These gains may include those that are not in the security realm, such as tightening economic ties or helping Duterte deliver on some of his domestic political goals,” Parameswaran added. “But they will nonetheless be consequential, because the broader objective is to move Duterte’s Philippines closer to China and away from the United States.”
Military history has a few figures who didn’t just win battles or campaigns, but changed the world and the destiny of their nations. From the earliest world conquerors, men who laid waste to the entire known world; to modern tactical geniuses using weapons that previous generations only dreamed of, these are the best military leaders, those who were known, feared and respected by both their people and their opponents.
Some of the best army generals in the world and best international army leaders are known even by people who know little else about military history. Others are less well-known but no less important. And every country in history has their own heroes, leaders who commanded forces in the battles that shaped their destiny. This list is far from comprehensive, and can never be, but attempts to find a cross-section of legendary warrior-kings, great strategists, modern innovators, and legendary blood and guts men and women who personally fought in combat.
Vote up the greatest military leaders below, and vote down the ones who might be overrated. Be sure to add other famous military leaders who aren’t already listed to make the debate even more complete.
The Marine Corps is solving the problem of requiring pull-ups for women by adding a push-ups option for all troops on the physical fitness test, Military.com has learned.
On Friday, the Corps rolled out a series of sweeping changes to the PFT, combat fitness test, and body fat standards — the result of a review of existing policies that began last November. The new fitness standards go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, officials said, and the body composition standards take effect immediately.
New pull-up policy
Perhaps the most significant change is the elimination of the flexed-arm hang as an alternative to pull-ups for women on the PFT. Instead, both men and women will be able to opt for push-ups instead — an exercise that was not previously part of the test. To encourage troops to do the more demanding exercise, the new standards limit the number of points available to those who choose the push-ups option. While women can achieve the maximum 100 points for completing between seven and ten pull-ups, and men can meet their max at between 20 and 23 reps depending on age, the push-ups scoring chart maxes out at just 70 points.
Most female Marines will have to complete between 40 and 50 push-ups to earn those 70 points, while most men will have to do between 70 and 80.
“Push-ups become an option on the PFT, but Marines are incentivized toward pull-ups, as these are a better test of functional, dynamic upper body strength and correlate stronger to physically demanding tasks,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in an administrative message to the Corps released Friday. “Push-ups are also a valid exercise and good test; however maximum points can only be earned by executing pull-ups.”
Taken together, Neller said the changes to the PFT were the most significant updates to the program since 1972.
The hybrid pull-up option is the Marines’ solution to a four-year conundrum of how to promote pull-ups for all Marines without making it impossible for women to succeed. In 2012, the Corps announced it was doing away with the female flexed-arm hang in favor of pull-ups, with a minimum of three. Those plans were delayed multiple times, and in 2014, Marine officials admitted that half of women tested in boot camp couldn’t meet the three-pull-up minimum.
Brian McGuire, the deputy force fitness branch head for the standards division of Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told Military.com that push-ups, like pull-ups, could be completed in the field. But, he said, the pull-up is a more functional test and requires individuals to overcome their entire body weight, while push-ups only require them to overcome 75 to 80 percent of their body weight. But even with its limitations, the push-up is superior to the flexed-arm hang, he said.
“The flexed-arm hang, in many studies, has been shown to be an inadequate test of upper body strength,” McGuire said.
The high number of pull-up repetitions required of women in the new scoring standards reveal an optimism about how training will help them improve. Earlier this year, the Marine Corps promoted a training program piloted by Marine Maj. Misty Posey that promised to use strength and repetition pyramids to get female Marines from “zero to twenty-plus.”
The female pull-ups scoring chart maxes at 10 reps for women between the ages of 26 and 30, though most women will have to do at least seven reps to max their score.
Notably, all of the new standards will keep in place a gender-normed scoring system, which scores men and women differently on the same exercises in acknowledgment of different physical ability thresholds. While the Marine Corps introduced gender-neutral minimum standards for entry into an array of ground combat jobs last fall, McGuire said gender-neutral physical fitness standards for the Marine Corps were never ordered or considered.
Marines may also find themselves doing more repetitions than in previous years to max out their score. The new scoring charts divide Marines into eight age groups, all with different maximum standards based on calculated peak ability. For men and women, the charts assume peak fitness between the ages of 21-25, and 26-30. While the previous PFT scoring chart maxed out pull-up repetitions at 20 for all ages, the new male scoring chart maxes at 23 for men between the ages of 21 and 35.
McGuire said the new age groups were added to meet Neller’s guidance to create relevant and challenging standards. Previously, the Marine Corps had only four fitness age groups, and they only dictated minimum allowable standards.
“We had a 27-39 age group, that’s 12 years,” McGuire said. “There’s some performance differences that happen during that time.”
For events requiring repetitions, such as pull-ups, crunches, and the ammunition can lift, McGuire and TECOM officials went to the fleet to gather real data on Marines’ performance thresholds. Between January and March, they tested around 2,000 Marines at bases around the Corps to chart maximum and median repetition levels. As a result, some repetition maximums are increasing significantly. Max reps for the two-minute ammunition can lift portion of the combat fitness test are going up for 91 to 120 for men and from 60 to 75 for women in some age categories.
For other events, such as running on the PFT and maneuver-to-contact on the CFT, TECOM looked at existing data from Marines who were taking the tests, creating scatter charts and graphs to determine the real distribution of times and scoring. As a result, some maximum times were increased and some minimum times shortened.
“By elevating the standard, which was based again on our data collection, this will allow for greater levels of distinction” among Marines taking the tests, McGuire said.
Male and female run times are getting relaxed for some of the new age categories. While run times for men continue to max at 18 minutes for three miles and for women at 21 minutes, the standards now allow more time for men and women over 40.
Younger Marines will have to work harder, though, to achieve their minimum run score. While the previous standards awarded points for a 33-minute run time for men, now male Marines under 30 will have to beat 28 minutes to pass the test.
Similarly, Marines in younger age groups will have to do more crunches — between 105 and 115, depending on age and gender — to max their score on the exercise. Previously, all charts maxed out at 100 crunches.
Under the new program, the Marines’ combat fitness test will continue to feature maneuver-under-fire, the ammunition can lift, and movement-to-contact. But all scores are now age-normed using the new eight age groups.
No body fat limits for PT studs
Beginning in January, Marines who can get close to maxing out their PFT and CFT scores, earning at least 285 points out of a possible 300, are exempt entirely from the hated tradition of body fat testing, Neller said in his message to the Corps. Those who can score at least 250 on the tests also receive a bonus: an extra allowable one percent body fat above existing standards.
However, he added, all Marines must still comply with the service’s professional appearance standards, ensuring troops look good in uniform.
For some, weight standards will become more relaxed, beginning immediately. The new standards increase weight maximums for women by five pounds across the board. A 5’3 female Marine who previously maxed out her weight at 141 pounds can now weigh 146 pounds and stay within regulations.
Neller told Military.com in February that female troops had told him they struggled to get stronger in order to complete pull-ups and work to enter newly opened ground combat jobs while staying within existing height and weight standards.
“Whether women go into ground combat or not, they’re telling me they’re going to do pullups for the fitness test. They’re going to get stronger. You get stronger, normally you gain weight, you get thicker,” Neller said then. ‘[Female Marines are] wanting to know, ‘Hey, Commandant, make up your mind. What are you going to have us do and if we do this, understand that I’ll do it, but it’s going to cause me probably to have a physical change, so don’t penalize me for doing what you’re telling me to do.'”
The decision to ease the female weight requirements was also supported by data from the Marines Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, an experiment that tested the ability of female Marines to succeed in the infantry alongside men.
“Females who were performing better at the integrated tasks were heavier,” McGuire said.
In his message Friday, Neller said Marines would also use more precise measuring devices to measure body fat. While the “rope-and-choke” circumference method of measuring body fat isn’t going away, McGuire said the Marine Corps would start using self-tensioning tape measures designed to yield more accurate measurements.
“It does eliminate some of the error,” he said.
Also taking effect immediately is a new waiver authority governing troops who max out their weight and body fat limits and are assigned to the body composition program, which can stall career progression and promotion. If Marines cannot get within standards after six months in the program, they risk expulsion from the Corps.
Now, Neller said, the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command will have the authority to sign off on a waiver exempting him or her from the BCP on account of satisfactory fitness and military appearance.
While the new weight standards are not retroactive, Marine officials said, troops who are currently assigned to the BCP or in the process of administrative discharge because they can’t meet standards will be re-evaluated immediately in light of the new policy. If they fall in line with the new regulations, they will be removed from the BCP right away.
“We will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure our standards continue to contribute to the effectiveness of our force and enhance our ability to respond when our Nation calls,” Neller said.
Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, the commander of TECOM, said the new physical standards “raised the bar” for Marines’ fitness.
“Marines today are stronger, faster and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate,” he said in a statement. “In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”
The following is a WATM exclusive excerpt from Staff Sergeant Travis Mills’ forthcoming book, As Tough as They Come, which will hit shelves on October 27:
We hiked only about 400 yards to the village. In addition to my weapons’ team, there were other squads along on the patrol, a total of twenty-eight soldiers. My lieutenant, Zachary Lewis, went to the left with the first and second squads, heading to meet with the village elders, while the rest of our men went with me around the village on the outside to offer support in case of an attack. Along with my gun team, I had my platoon sergeant and a medic, Sergeant Daniel Bateson. All looked calm. It seemed like just another day in Afghanistan. Another normal patrol.
We approached an abandoned ANA security post (two portable buildings), and stopped near the buildings to establish a security perimeter. I called for Fessey to bring the minesweeper. It’s a wand that goes up and around his arm, and it looks like a metal detector a guy would use at the beach. If the minesweeper makes a noise, that means something’s in the soil. Typically, we’re always listening to hear a beep. If we hear one, then we mark the spot, go around it, and have the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) guys dig out and dispose of whatever’s under there. Whenever we found an IED, we’d never mess with it ourselves. Mines can be unpredictable, and you want the experts to handle them. Some IEDs aren’t even made of metal, just plastic and glass, which can sometimes fool a minesweeper. But even then, the minesweeper is designed to have ground-penetrating capability. It can usually detect if something’s in the ground and it’s not soil.
“Check this area,” was the only order I gave.
Fessey walked up a path used by villagers and scanned all around the area. He went up and back, and all was clear. No beeps. There was no reason to question anything. Fessey finished his minesweeping duties and went to set up on the far flank.
I called Riot up to me and asked him where he thought we should put up the gun. I knew where it should go, but I wanted to let him decide, making sure he knew his stuff. He motioned to exactly where I thought we should put it, a good spot, and I said, “All right. Go get Neff and bring him up here.” That was it. Riot left to go get Neff, and as he did, I set my backpack down. The backpack touching the dirt was all it took.
Such a simple act of war. My world erupted.
I saw a flash of flame and heard a huge ka-boom. Hot jagged pieces of explosives ripped through me. I cartwheeled backward end over end, hit the ground, and slammed my face hard against the compacted earth. Instantly I felt my left eye starting to swell shut. I smelled burning flesh—my own. I tasted dirt, and I was wet with sweat and moisture like I’d just walked out of a hot shower.
Dirt fell everywhere through the air. It rained down and clung to my eyes, nose, and mouth. I don’t remember rolling over but I must have because I glanced to the side and saw that my right arm was completely gone. I caught a glimpse of my left arm, covered in blood and tattered. The arm trembled as if it had a will of its own. I looked down and saw that my right leg was also gone. The stump looked like a piece of raw meat. The bottom of my left leg was still attached but held on by only a few strands of skin. I saw all this in a flash, an instant.
I felt confusion but no panic. My first thought was of my guys. I flopped my remaining arm toward the microphone clipped to my plate carrier and somehow managed to push the button. “I hit a bomb,” I said. “I need help.”
Two Department of Energy security experts took off to San Antonio in March, 2017. Their mission was to retrieve potentially dangerous nuclear material from a nonprofit research lab. Just to be certain they were getting the goods, they were issued radiation detectors along with a disc of plutonium and a small amount of cesium to calibrate their sensors.
When these two security experts stopped for the night along the 410 beltway, they left the nuclear materials in their rented Ford SUV in a Marriott parking lot that was not in the best neighborhood. The next morning, they were surprised to find the vehicle’s windows smashed in and the nuclear materials gone.
For the uninitiated, plutonium is one of the most valuable substances on Earth. It’s also one of few elements that will undergo nuclear fission, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It’s an extremely deadly and dangerous substance with a half-life of just over 24,000 years. One kilogram of plutonium can explode with the force of 10,000 tons of TNT. Luckily, the Idaho National Laboratory says the amount stolen isn’t enough to make a nuclear bomb — that requires nine pounds of uranium or seven pounds of plutonium.
Something the size and weight of a kettle bell could fill the material need for a nuclear weapon.
Cesium is an element that can be used in highly accurate atomic clocks and dirty bombs. It’s one of the most active elements on Earth and explodes on contact with water.
No one briefed the public, no announcement was made in the San Antonio area, and no one would say exactly how much fissile material was stolen and is currently in the hands of someone who thinks they’re just holding cool pieces of metal while slowly irradiating themselves and those around them.
And the military doesn’t have to do any of that, so they don’t. In fact, it happens so often there’s now an acronym for it: MUF – material unaccounted for. An estimated six tons of fissile material is currently considered MUF.
If there’s an acronym AND a powerpoint about it, you know that sh*t is happening all the time.
The Government Accountability Office doesn’t even have a thorough record of material it loaned to other nuclear nations, what the status of that material is, and if their systems are rigorously inspected. At least 11 of those sites have not been visited by U.S. inspectors since before the September 11, 2001, attacks.
In one instance, 45 pounds of enriched uranium — enough for five nuclear detonations — loaned from the military was listed as safely stored when it was actually gone as of 2009 and had been missing for as long as five years. Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency tracked 270 incidents where dangerous fissile materials were trafficked with the intent of doing harm.
“He seems totally trustworthy to me. Let’s transfer our plutonium immediately.”
The security contracting firm who lost the equipment was given an award, government bonuses, and a renewed contract. Since the Idaho National Lab considered the amount of nuclear material stolen to be of little consequence, they closed the case.
Are you struggling to meet Army weight standards or need to improve your run time to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test or Army Combat Fitness Test? Maybe you just signed up for the Army Ten-Miler and would like to improve your performance.
Did you know there is a world-class team of experts at an Army Wellness Center near you with access to cutting-edge technology just waiting to help? No need to hire a personal trainer, your AWC offers free services and programs to help you meet your fitness goals.
Last year, AWCs served 60,000 clients and achieved a 97 percent client satisfaction rating, according to the Army Public Health Center’s 2018 Health of the Force report. Program evaluations of AWC effectiveness have shown that individuals who participate in at least one follow-up AWC assessment experience improvements in their cardiorespiratory fitness, body fat percentage, body mass index, blood pressure and perceived stress.
Making improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and body mass index are particularly important because increased levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and decreased levels of body mass index are associated with decreased musculoskeletal injury risk.
Megan Amadeo, Army Wellness Center Project Officer, Army Public Health Center, assists U.S. Army Capt. Zachary Schroeder, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, Army Public Health Center, with putting on the new K5 metabolic testing unit May 9, 2019, as part of his training to compete in the Army Ten Miler in October 2019.
(Photo by Graham Snodgrass)
“The types of assessments provided at an AWC are world class,” said Todd Hoover, division chief for Army Wellness Center Operations, Army Public Health Center. “If a client is interested in losing weight, AWCs provide an assessment called indirect calorimetry or simply metabolic testing. The test involves a client breathing into a mask for 15 minutes. After the test we can measure, with an extremely high accuracy, the total number of calories an individual needs to lose, gain or maintain weight. The information provided from this test is often the difference between someone reaching their goals or not.”
There are currently 35 AWCs located at Army installations around the globe offering programs and services to soldiers, family members, retirees and Department of Army civilians, said Hoover. AWCs are known for being innovative in the use of testing technology for health, wellness and physical performance.
Hoover said the best client for an AWC is a soldier who is not meeting APFT/ACFT performance standards. Those with low or high body mass index plus poor run times are the highest risk populations. These individuals are the majority at risk for musculoskeletal injury, which account for more than 69 percent of all cause injuries in the Army.
One of the AWC’s newest pieces of gear is a portable metabolic analyzer called the Cosmed K5. This system measures how well muscles use oxygen during any type of strenuous activity. From this measurement, AWC experts can determine how efficient the body is at using oxygen to produce energy and identify the exact threshold or intensity level an individual should train at to improve performance.
“Essentially the devices provide the most accurate measurement of aerobic performance,” said Hoover. “From the testing, we can precisely advise a soldier or family member the exact training intensity for them. What this means is there is no guessing. This is an exact physiological representation of the individual’s needs for a particular activity. It doesn’t get better than this.”
U.S. Army Capt. Zachary Schroeder, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, Army Public Health Center, runs with the new K5 metabolic testing unit May 9, 2019, as part of his training to compete in the Army Ten-Miler in October 2019.
(Photo by Graham Snodgrass)
AWCs are built on a foundation of scientific evidence, best practice recommendations and standards by leading health organizations to include the American College of Sports Medicine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, said Hoover. As a result, clients of AWCs receive highly individualized health and wellness services to improve overall health-related factors as well as enhanced performance through effective coaching strategies.
An article summarizing the effectiveness of the AWC program was recently submitted to the American Journal of Health Promotion, which recognized their success by selecting the article as a 2018 Editor’s Pick.
“The staff academic and credentialing requirements surpass industry standards,” said Hoover. “This means that each AWC health educator has completed advanced education plus achieved national board certification in related fields for delivering health promotion programs.”
AWC health educators also undergo more than 320 hours of intensive core competency training prior to seeing their first client, said Hoover. Basic health coaching requires an additional 80 hours of training.
The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.
In December of 2017, The New York Times published a stunning front-page exposé about the Pentagon’s mysterious UFO program, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). Featuring an interview with a former military intelligence official and Special Agent In-Charge, Luis Elizondo, who confirmed the existence of the hidden government program, the controversial story was the focus of worldwide attention.
Previously run by Elizondo, AATIP was created to research and investigate Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) including numerous videos of reported encounters, three of which were released to a shocked public in 2017. Elizondo resigned after expressing to the government that these UAPs could pose a major threat to our national security, and not enough was being done to deal with them or address our potential vulnerabilities.
Now, as a part of HISTORY’s groundbreaking new six-part, one-hour limited series “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation,” Elizondo is speaking out for the first time with Tom DeLonge, co-founder and President of To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science, and Chris Mellon, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Intelligence, to expose a series of startling encounters and embark on fascinating new investigations that will urge the public to ask questions and look for answers. From A+E Originals, DeLonge serves as executive producer.
In collaboration with We Are The Mighty and HISTORY, I had the opportunity to sit down with this warrior for an interview.
Series premieres Friday, May 31, at 10/9c on HISTORY.
Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation | Premieres Friday May 31st 10/9c | HISTORY
Luis Elizondo – Director of Global Security & Special Programs
Luis Elizondo is a career intelligence officer whose experience includes working with the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, the National Counterintelligence Executive, and the Director of National Intelligence. As a former Special Agent In-Charge, Elizondo conducted and supervised highly sensitive espionage and terrorism investigations around the world. As an intelligence Case Officer, he ran clandestine source operations throughout Latin America and the Middle East.
Most recently, Elizondo managed the security for certain sensitive portfolios for the U.S. Government as the Director for the National Programs Special Management Staff. For nearly the last decade, Elizondo also ran a sensitive aerospace threat identification program focusing on unidentified aerial technologies. Elizondo’s academic background includes Microbiology, Immunology, and Parasitology, with research experience in tropical diseases.
Elizondo is also an inventor who holds several patents.
What was it like operating under high levels of secrecy regarding AATIP?
I think in my position as a career intelligence officer in the department of defense, I am used to working discreetly on programs of a national security nature. I think the very role of intelligence tends to be secretive, obviously for the purposes of Operational Security (OPSEC), you don’t want to inadvertently compromise your activities or efforts and have those fall into the hands of a foreign adversary. You know, it was just another day at the office.
UFO spotted by US fighter jet pilots, new footage reveals – BBC News
Well, what I think AATIP was successful in identifying signatures and performance characteristics that go beyond the typical profile of adversarial type technologies. I know from that perspective AATIP was very helpful because you’re looking at performance characteristics including; extreme acceleration, hypersonic velocities, low observability, multi-median or trans-median travel and, frankly, positive hits without any type of propulsion or flight surfaces or wings.
Put that into context of what you’re observing electro-optically on radar and what’s being reported by the military eyewitnesses. I think you have to pause for a minute and scratch your head thinking ‘you’re not looking at a conventional technology.’
What kind of repercussions are there with providing the public with this type of information?
Well, I can’t answer on behalf of the government. Obviously, there are some individuals that remained in the department that may not appreciate what I did or how I did it. At the end of the day, if the information is unclassified and is of potential national security concern, I think the public has a right to know. Keep in mind that at no point in time were [any] sources or methods compromised, vocational data or any other type of data, [that] we try to keep out of the hands of foreign adversaries.
Keep in mind, had the system worked [from] the beginning I wouldn’t have had to resign. I resigned out of a sense of loyalty and duty to the department of defense. I tried to work within the system to inform my boss, General Mattis at the time. This is the man who was the secretary of defense, and my experience with him in combat was he was a man who wants more information, not less. We didn’t have the ability to report certain information or aspects of AATIP up the chain of command to the boss — that was a problem.
Sometimes if you want to fix something, you have to go outside of the system to fix it. That’s my perspective anyway.
Let’s not forget that secretary Mattis did almost the exact same thing almost a year later, he had to resign for reasons that he thought were important to him.
UFO spotted by US fighter jet pilots, new footage reveals – BBC News
Project Blue Book insisted that UFOs were not a threat to national security, however, decades later your findings tell otherwise. What is responsible for this shift?
Do I think they’re a threat? They could be if they wanted to be.
Let me give you a very succinct analogy: Let’s say at night you go to lock your front door, you don’t expect any problems, but you lock it anyways just to be extra safe. You lock your windows, and you turn on your alarm system, and you go to bed. You do this every morning, and let’s say one morning after you wake up, you’re walking downstairs, and you find muddy footprints in your living room.
Nothing has been taken, no one is hurt, but despite you locking the front doors, the windows, and turning on the alarm system — there are muddy footprints in your living room. The question is: is that a threat?
Well, I don’t know, but it could be if it wanted to be.
For that reason, it’s imperative from a national security perspective that we better understand what it is we’re seeing.
My job at AATIP was very simple: [identify] what it is and how it works, not to determine who is behind the wheel or where they’re from or what their intentions are. What I’m saying is that other people who are smarter than me should figure out those answers.
To me, a threat is a threat, until I know something isn’t a threat, in the Department of Defense, we have to assume it is a threat. The primary function of the Department of Defense is to fight and win wars, we’re not police officers, we don’t go to places to protect and serve. I hate to say it but our job is to kill as many bad guys as possible, so from that perspective, if this was not potentially a threat it would be something someone else should look at — There are different agencies out there such as Health and Human Services, DHS, FAA, and State Department.
This is something that is flying in our skies with impunity. It has the ability to fly over our combat air space and control overall combat theaters, potentially over all of our cities and there is not much we can do about it.
I have to assume it’s a threat.
Keeping in mind that if a Russian or Chinese aircraft entered out airspace the first thing we’d do is scramble F-22s and go intercept it and it would be front page on CNN. [These things, however,] because they don’t have tail numbers, insignia on their wings or tails — they don’t even have wings or tails [at all], it’s crickets. This is occurring, and no one wants to have a conversation about it. That, to me is a greater threat than the threat itself because we can’t allow ourselves [to talk about it] despite the mounting evidence that is there.
Is there anything the public can do to put pressure on our leaders to have a more appropriate response?
First of all, in defense of the Department of Defense, people like to blame DoD “oh, these guys said it was weather balloons or swamp gas” but the reason why there is a stigma is because we made it an issue and made it taboo as American citizens and therefore the Department of Defense is simply responding to the stigma we placed on it. The DoD, for many years, wanted to look at this but the social stigma and taboo, put a lot of pressure on the DoD not to report these things. It’s a shame because of a laundry list of secondary, tertiary issues that ensue if you ignore a potential problem.
I think DoD, in defense of our national security apparatus, nobody wanted to own this portfolio because it was fraught with so much stigma. million of taxpayer dollars were used to support this and it’s problematic because how do you, as a DoD official, go to your boss and say “there’s something in our skies, we don’t know what it is, we don’t know how it works, and by the way, there is not a damned thing we can do about it.” That’s not a conversation that’s easy to have.
Now imagine having that conversation with a man named “Mad Dog Mattis.”
You want to have answers.
In this particular case, we didn’t have enough data. We need more data.
The only way you’re going to get more data is by letting the Department of Defense and Congress know that the American people support this endeavor. The reason they’re not going to respond to it is if they’re [only] getting calls from their constituents saying “what are you doing wasting my taxpayer money?”
I think that once the American people decide this is an issue that should be a priority, then I think the national security apparatus would respond accordingly.
Do you have any advice for service members that may witness strange events? How would you advise them to come forward?
I would advise them [by] letting them know that there are efforts underway in looking at this and they should report this. The Navy and the Air Force are changing their policies to be able to report this information to a cognoscente authority without the fear of repercussions.
What could the readers of We Are The Mighty expect from your work in the future?
That’s it, the truth.
By the way, there are areas which are classified, and I can’t talk about, but I only say that to you off caveat. I don’t like to speculate, I prefer to just keep it to the facts. As a former special agent, for me, it’s always just about the facts. Let’s collect as much data as we can and let the American people decide what this information means to them.
Series premieres Friday, May 31, at 10/9c on HISTORY.
With most veteran service organizations, the only way to get in the door is to show your military cred — if you didn’t serve, they don’t serve.
And that’s great for some. But for groups like Team Red, White Blue, the whole point is to bring veterans and the civilian community together.
If you didn’t serve, we’re here to serve, they say.
And that proved a crucial difference for Mark Benson, a former Army fire direction specialist who left the military in 2004 after serving a tour during the invasion of Iraq. It was that civilian-to-military connection that attracted Benson to Team RWB, and it’s a distinction that he believes helps former service members survive in the civilian world.
“Team RWB’s mission is also to help folks rejoin the civilian world. If you’re not engaged with civilians then how are you ever going to connect with the civilian world?” Benson said. “If you’re just hanging out with a bunch of veterans, then you just kind of have your own little microcosm.”
Living in the Los Angeles area is like living in a military veteran desert, he said, it’s hard to find folks who get what doing a combat deployment means. But through his work as a community liaison with Team RWB, Benson found that even those who didn’t serve have a lot of support to offer.
“Some of these non-veterans did experience things in their life where they had a hard time and they kind of can relate to a certain extent,” Benson said. “A lot of the people that are in the leadership in the LA chapter aren’t veterans, but they do have a story. And I think that’s important.”
Benson has been a community liaison for Team RWB for almost a year and helped run with the “stars and stripes” in this year’s cross-country Old Glory Relay. It was Benson’s first run and served as a poignant reminder of the service he and others gave of themselves and provided an outlet to show a new generation the meaning of patriotism and selflessness.
During a stretch of the relay, Benson and his team of runners passed by an elementary school where the kids were lined up outside reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Later in the run, the Old Glory Relay team paid their respects with the flag at a veterans memorial cemetery.
“It was kind of cool to start out with the young future leaders of the world and then go pay our respects to those who gave their lives to help those young leaders live their lives in peace,” Benson said.
With just over a year being part of Team Red, White Blue, Benson sees his involvement deepening and the influence of his organization growing. Particularly in a non-military town like Los Angeles, it’s groups like Team RWB that bring veterans and their community together and help narrow that military-civilian divide.
“LA is probably one of those areas that has a larger civilian-military divide,” Benson said. “But it seems like in our area at least, there’s definitely a lot more understanding.”