Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day from the former Soviet Union on August 24 with a military parade through central Kiev.
Not only was Defense Secretary James Mattis in attendance, along with eight other foreign defense ministers, but about 230 troops from the US and seven other NATO countries also marched alongside Ukrainian soldiers.
It was the first time US soldiers ever participated in Ukraine’s Independence Day parade.
“We are honored to be here marching alongside other countries showing our support in Ukraine,” 1st Sgt. Clifton Fulkerson said.
As US troops marched down the street, a wave of cheers and applause reportedly went through the crowd of Ukrainians on hand.
But not everyone was thrilled with NATO’s involvement.
“That kind of parade is not a celebration of independence, but rather a show of dependence on the US and NATO,” a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, Vladimir Oleinik, told Russian media outlet Sputnik, which the Russian Embassy in Canada tweeted.
“In the reverse, it would be difficult to imagine Poroshenko coming to celebrate the 4th of July in Washington while Ukrainian troops marched in Washington.”
Two other Russian state owned media outlets, Russia Times and TASS, also uploaded videos headlining NATO’s involvement in the parade.
The Russian Embassy in Washington, DC did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
After the parade, Mattis met with Poroshenko to discuss the possibility of supplying Ukraine with defensive weapons, such as the Javelin.
“Have no doubt the United States also stands with Ukraine in all things,” Mattis told reporters while standing next to Poroshenko after they met. “We support you in the face of threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to international law and the international order writ large.”
“We do not, and we will not, accept Russia’s seizure of the Crimea. And despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe.”
KyivPost photo by Mikhail Palinchak. Defense Secretary James Mattis (left) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
While he acknowledged that the US just recently approved giving Kiev $175 million worth of military equipment, he stopped short of saying whether the US would supply Kiev with $50 million worth of anti-tank missile systems.
“I prefer not to answer that right now,” Mattis said, adding that the proposal is under review.
Supplying Ukraine with anti-tank missiles and other defensive weapons has been a controversial proposition. Former President Obama did not support such a move, arguing that it would provoke Russia. France, Germany, and some analysts have expressed the same concerns.
Many Russian politicians and officials have also spoken out against the plan.
But Mattis appeared to slightly give away his own take. “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you’re an aggressor,” he said at the press conference, “and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor, since it’s their own territory where the fighting is happening.”
” … We are flying near and within the weapons envelope of those that could test our dominance,” Carlisle explained in a statement.
“The lead we have is shrinking as our near peer adversaries, and countries with which they proliferate, have developed, likely stolen, and fielded state-of-the-art systems.”
Carlisle cited numerous factors, such as limited resources, in the stagnating state of combat readiness. According to the Air Force, examples include six consecutive years of cuts that would reduce the number of F-35 combat squadrons by 50% by 2028, the divestment of 3,000 aircraft and 200,000 Airmen since Operation Desert Storm, and a reduction of $24 billion in funding for precision attack weapons — about 45% less weapons capacity.
Furthermore, Carlisle pinpointed outdated equipment, such as the AIM-120 medium-range missile, as a disturbing factor. As the Air Force’s primary air-to-air missile, it originally entered service with the F-15C in 1991. According to the official, in addition to the advancement of AIM-120 counter-measures by other nations, this outdated missile also limits the capabilities of newer aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
“It also carries insufficient range versus newer long range adversary missiles and will soon require recapitalization,” Carlisle explained in a statement. “We are currently delivering 4th Gen weapons from 5th Gen platforms, and even those weapons inventories are being depleted beyond the current campaign requirements.”
Besides the threat of more budget cuts, there’s also another threat emerging from a different front — the modernization of the air forces in other countries. These threats include the development of their own 5th generation fighters, anti-space weapons, and new surface-to-air weapon systems that are claimed to possess the ability to acquire, track, and target the US’ stealth aircraft.
“It now comes as no surprise that our near peer adversaries’ capabilities have been modernized to specifically counter and negate American capabilities,” Carlisle stated. “Many other nations, Russia and China in particular, copy very well — original thought: they’re not as good.”
Though Carlisle maintains that many of these advancements were obtained through dubious means, the results are clear enough to have a reason for alarm.
The general illustrated this claim by showing how similar China’s J-31 stealth fighter was to the US’ F-35. With advanced stealth, supercruise capabilities, and innovative data-link technology, many officials are also growing concerned at how rapidly, and accurately, the Air Force’s imitators are emulating their counterparts.
“They’ve watched our success and they know how good we are … They’ll steal technology so they avoid the challenges that we faced,” he explained in the hearing.
In order to address these insufficiencies, Carlisle proposed boosting the Air Force’s air, space, and cyber capabilities — most likely through increased funding — to compete in highly contested environments.
“Although a program is not yet in place, it will be paramount to continue modernizing our fleet, and progress to the next new counter-air aircraft that is more survivable, lethal, has a longer range, and bigger payload in order to maintain a gap with our adversaries,” he concluded.
It’s Friday, so that’s good. But it’s three weeks since the military’s last pay day and we all know you’re staying in the barracks this weekend. While you’re crunching on your fast food and waiting for your video games to load, check out these 13 military memes.
Real guns are super heavy.
It’s guaranteed that this was a profile pic.
Maybe if we just taxi it near the maintenance chief really slowly, he’ll tell us if it’s okay.
Don’t use flashbangs near the uninitiated.
Coast Guard couldn’t make it. They were super busy helping the TSA foil terrorists.
Just salute, better to be laughed at than shark attacked.
But hey, at least they don’t have to wear PT Belts.
Be afraid, be very afraid.
That’s why they have planes.
Notice the National Guard sticker on the cabinet?
Whatever, the Marine is the only one working right now.
The sweet, sweet purr of the warthog
You start off motivated …
Just wait until you leave the retention office and realize you re-upped.
After that, an intense arms race erupted to counter this devastating threat to ships.
The Styx is a primitive missile. According to GlobalSecurity.org, it has a range of up to 54 nautical miles, based on the variant, and travels at 90 percent of the speed of sound, or around 600 miles per hour. It is radar-guided. While primitive, it can carry a 1,000-pound warhead, or roughly the same amount of high-explosives in a Mk 84 2,000-pound bomb.
The Styx is perhaps the most common of the early Russian-style anti-ship missiles out there. Versions have been made in China and North Korea.
The best way to kill the Styx – or any anti-ship missile – is to kill the platform carrying them before the missiles are launched. Second-best is to use missiles to kill the other missiles far away.
But sometimes, you don’t get to choose one of those options. Sometimes, the missile gets too close to use missiles.
That is where the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System comes in. This is essentially a self-contained package containing the targeting system, ammo, and a M61 Gatling gun – the same gun used on legendary warplanes like the F-4 Phantom, F-15 Eagle, F/A-18 Hornet, and F-16 Fighting Falcon.
A version is also used by the Army to shoot down rockets and mortar rounds.
The Phalanx has a top range of just under three and a half miles, but it is really only effective for just under a mile. In essence, it has six seconds to kill the target.
Fortunately, the M61 can spew out a lot of bullets in a very short period of time — up to 75 a second. Killing the missile will protect a ship from the worst of the impact, but the ship will be hurt.
However, fragment damage beats having a huge hole blown into a ship. And a damaged ship can be fixed and return to the front. Ships that are sunk are lost forever. You can see the Phalanx do its thing in the video below.
The announcement that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is fighting brain cancer was stunning. The news was flooded with statements, most of which offered thoughts and prayers for McCain and his family, although many also noted that John McCain was a fighter.
However, this has not been the only time John McCain’s had to fight through a situation.
His lengthy time in captivity during the Vietnam War was notable, not only due to the fact he was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism, but also for his refusal to return home early.
McCain served as a chaplain among the POWs, per his Legion of Merit citation. McCain also cheated death when his plane was shot down on Oct. 26, 1967.
Prior to his Vietnam War service, he survived three mishaps, including a collision with power lines in an A-1 Skyraider. McCain had another close brush with death before his shootdown, when his jet was among those caught up in the massive fire on the carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59).
Despite suffering shrapnel wounds, he volunteered to transfer to the Essex-class carrier USS Oriskany (CV 34).
The cancer Senator McCain is fighting, a brain tumor known as glioblastoma, is a very aggressive form of cancer that was discovered after an operation to remove a blood clot near his eye.
As of this writing, Senator McCain is considering treatment options, but he is also still at work. When President Trump canceled a program to arm some Syrian rebels, McCain issued a statement condemning the decision, proving once again that you can’t keep a hero down.
It is not uncommon to stumble upon live videos while scrolling through Facebook. And for the hundreds of people who follow Army wife Sofia de Falco — who is an adjunct professor of Italian language and literature — it is not uncommon to come across her videos where she is smiling and dancing, uplifting them with a joyful and serene expression on her face. As the hundreds of comments on her posts highlight, Sofia is a source of inspiration and a true beacon of light to many.
But in those videos, Sofia is in a hospital room, wearing a shirt that lightly uncovers the right side of her chest, revealing the central venous catheter that feeds her chemotherapy medicine directly into her bloodstream.
In February 2019, Sofia was diagnosed with lymphoma. “I found a lump in my groin,” Sofia said. “But I didn’t give it much thought because it wasn’t the first time. I always had them removed and nothing suspicious ever came of it.”
During her Christmas vacation in Naples, Italy — where she is originally from — Sofia developed a dry and irritating cough. “I decided to go to a local doctor and see if there was anything he could do.” After the doctor dismissed her because he couldn’t find anything wrong, Sofia made a follow-up appointment with her PCM in Virginia, where she and her family are stationed.
“As I was leaving my PCM’s office,” Sofia said, “I turned around and told him about the lump in my groin, which had grown in size by then.” The doctor had Sofia lie down, checked the lump and told her to see a hematologist and a surgeon. Although he didn’t explicitly verbalize it at the time, the doctor suspected Sofia had lymphoma.
He was right. “Since February 2019, I have been going through countless tests and surgical procedures,” Sofia revealed. After being told the first round of chemotherapy — which she faced in “warrior mode,” she said — had worked and she was clear, in November 2019 Sofia’s positive attitude and bright outlook on life was put to the test again. “The cancer came back,” she said. “And this time, I have to fight even harder.” Sofia will have to undergo a stem cell transplant and several rounds of high-dose chemotherapy.
Yet, she dances. As if those tubes were not attached to her body. As if the machine next to her was not feeding her chemo medicine. As if she didn’t suffer from nausea and migraines. She dances as if she were by the beach in downtown Naples, with a bright sun glittering over the Mediterranean Sea in the background, its warm rays caressing her exposed skin.
“I dance on it,” she said. “Dancing makes me happy, so I know it’s what I’m supposed to do. My body feels so much better after I get up and start dancing, just like one, two, three, four,” she said snapping her fingers as if following the rhythm of an imaginary song.
“Dancing is a way for me to keep away the pain, the sorrow and the negative thoughts,” she admitted. “I believe that it is possible to defeat this beast because I believe in the power of hope.”
And as her hundreds of followers are inspired by her inner strength that shines through her smile, and as the stunned nurses watch her from outside her hospital room while she dances through chemo, she laughs out loud confessing, “You know, I’m actually really bad at dancing!”
Jacqueline Carrizosa is a Navy veteran who successfully leveraged her military experience into an exciting civilian career.
Her grit as a former rescue swimmer and gunner’s mate helped prepare her to become a tough motocross competitor and military advisor in Hollywood.
In this episode of the WATM Spotlight Series, Jackie tells us about her journey from rescue swimming to Hollywood during a photo shoot with photographer and former Marine Cedric Terrell.
When Jackie joined the Navy, she became a rescue swimmer while she was a gunner’s mate, starting with a class of thirty-two and graduating with twenty. She was the only woman in the class.
Being in the Navy gave her plenty of skills she’s carried over into civilian life. She has been a military advisor on several films, the most well-known of which was Battleship. Meanwhile, she now races motocross and is a full automatic machine gun instructor.
Modeling for motocross has been especially exciting; once again a woman in a predominantly male world, she’s expected to be girly while also having fun—and she’s certainly up for the challenge.
Editor’s Note: Carrizosa was recently injured while training for the Vegas to Reno ironman motorcycle race. She broke her back in two places and lost a kidney. Friends with the Veterans Training Fund have established a GoFundMe account to help with her medical bills.
A year after Marines were told to quit feeding an alligator that lived near their barracks, reports of “huge” snakes at a North Carolina base have prompted officials to reiterate their warnings against pets, scaly or otherwise.
A red-tailed boa, a nonvenomous snake commonly kept as a pet, was spotted in a parking lot at Camp Lejeune in June 2019. The sighting followed another report of a 2-foot-long ball python slithering in the lobby of the barracks in the Wallace Creek.
“Since we have had two fairly recent incidents, we felt it was important to educate base personnel and the public on the issues that can be caused when exotic species are either intentionally or unintentionally released into the natural environment,” Emily Gaydos, a wildlife biologist with Camp Lejeune’s land and wildlife resources section said.
The Marine Corps doesn’t track the number of exotic snakes or other animals found on base, Gaydos said. But the pair of reports prompted officials to remind Marines that snakes are not among the domestic animals they’re allowed to have in base housing.
A red-tailed boa.
“Domestic animals do not include wild, exotic animals such as venomous, constrictor-type snakes or other reptiles, raccoons, skunks, ferrets, iguanas, or other ‘domesticated’ wild animals,” a release put out last week states. “No privately-owned animals are allowed in work areas, barracks, or bachelor officer or enlisted quarters.”
There were no reports of snake bites or other injuries after the reptiles were found in the barracks and parking lot, Gaydos said. Neither are poisonous. The snakes were both transferred to local rehabilitation facilities that are “permitted and have the expertise to properly care for the specific species,” she added.
Since neither snake is native to the Camp Lejeune region, officials there warned Marines of the unintended consequences of introducing them into the environment.
A ball python.
“An exotic species may prey on native species, have no predators, outcompete native species for food or other resources, introduce diseases, or interrupt a native species’ life cycle in some way,” the release warns.
In Florida, the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission there is trying to fight the spread of iguanas, which are thriving in the warmer temperatures there. The Washington Post reported that homeowners there are being told to “kill the green iguanas on their own property whenever possible,” as the lizard population booms without any natural predators.
This isn’t the first time North Carolina Marines have been warned about messing up the local ecosystem.
Last year, a nearly 6-foot-long alligator had to be moved after wildlife experts discovered the reptile living near the barracks at Marine Corps Air Station New River was being fed by humans.
Marines tempted to feed the local creatures were given clear guidance: Don’t even think about it.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
On Nov. 21, 2010 while providing security on a rooftop in Afghanistan, then-Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter jumped on a grenade to save his best friend’s life, an action he later received the Medal of Honor for.
“I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me previously when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”
The scene was near Marjah, with Carpenter and his squad — supported by engineers, an interpreter, and Afghan National Army troops — moved south of their main base to establish a small outpost to wrestle control of the area from the Taliban. It was Nov. 19, 2010, and as Carpenter told me, they were guaranteed to take enemy fire.
That “contact” came one day later, when their small patrol base came under blistering attack from small arms, sniper fire, rockets, and grenades. Two Marines were injured and evacuated. “The rest of the day it was sporadic but still constant enemy [AK-47] fire on our post that was on top of the roof,” he said.
While the Marines took sporadic fire while setting up their new base over the next two days, it was on Nov. 21 that Carpenter would distinguish himself with his heroism.
“Enemy forces had maneuvered in close through the use of the walls of the compound across the street to the east,” according to Carpenter’s summary of action. The Taliban threw three grenades into the compound.
One landed in the center of the base, injuring an Afghan soldier. The second harmlessly detonated near the post that was destroyed the previous day. The last landed on the roof, dangerously close to him and his friend, Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio. He didn’t remember actually jumping on the grenade, but multiple eyewitnesses and forensics showed that was exactly what happened.
“The majority of the grenade blast was deflected down rather than up, causing a cone-shaped hole to be blown down through the ceiling of the command operations center,” the summary reads.
Carpenter was severely wounded, with injuries to his face, jaw, and upper and lower extremities. Eufrazio received shrapnel to the head. Both were immediately evacuated and survived. Eufrazio is still recovering from the attack, while Carpenter has bounced back from his devastating wounds in a fashion that’s nothing short of remarkable.
He received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, on Jun. 19, 2014.
“I mean I would grab that [grenade] and kick it right back,” Carpenter told me half-jokingly, when I asked if he had any regrets. “But besides that … I wouldn’t change anything. We’re both alive and we’re here and I’m fully appreciating my second chance.”
Here’s his full citation, courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps:
In 2000, the USS Cole arrived at the port of Aden, Yemen to refuel. The destroyer was part of the the U.S. Navy mission of enforcing sanctions against Iraq. It was only scheduled to stop for four hours. She would not leave Aden under her own power.
On Oct. 12 at 12:15 local time, a rubber dinghy outfitted with a small motor came alongside the Cole and detonated a 400-700 pound shape charge of C4 against the hull of the destroyer, ripping into the engines, mess areas, and living quarters of the ship and tearing a 40-by-60 foot hole in the side. The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded another 39.
It was the deadliest attack against U.S. sailors in 13 years.
At the time, it was assumed that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist group were responsible. The FBI had just charged him with masterminding the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, 12 of which were Americans. But the Cole bombing was never conclusively linked to bin Laden.
Instead, a federal judge ruled in 2007 that the country of Sudan was liable for the bombings. Families of the fallen sailors allege that the attack would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Sudanese government, which they say provided key training bases to al-Qaeda operatives as well as technical and financial support to bin Laden.
In 2010, fifteen of the injured sailors and their spouses sued the Sudanese government for the same reason. Since Sudan did not appear in court to defend itself, the sailors were awarded $317 million in damages. The government in Khartoum says it was never notified of the lawsuit through the proper channels under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the settlement is a violation of international law. The Trump Administration agreed with the FSIA standards.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award in 2015. In June 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. There is no word on when the U.S.’ highest court will hear the arguments.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Keith Reed)
By 2008, all those convicted for the bombing of the Cole either escaped custody in Yemen or were freed outright by Yemen — all except Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack. He was captured in Dubai in 2002 and is being held at Guantanamo Bay, though his involvement is questionable. One CIA agent called him an “idiot” who “couldn’t comprehend a comic book.”
The past few weeks have been rough for the Russian military, as a string of serious accidents have led to dozens of deaths and injuries.
Accidents are certainly not uncommon for the Russian military, which lost its only aircraft carrier last fall when a heavy crane punched a hole in it as the only dry dock suitable for carrying out repairs and maintenance on a ship that size sank due to a power failure, but the last few weeks have certainly been a challenge.
Over the past month and a half, the Russian military has seen a fire claim the lives of sailors aboard a secret nuclear submarine, an explosion at a ammunition depot, and, as of Aug. 8, 2019, an explosion during the testing of a rocket engine at a military test facility.
A deadly fire aboard a top-secret submarine in early July 2019.
Russia’s latest string of bad luck began with a fire aboard a secret deep-diving nuclear-powered submarine and resulted in 14 deaths.
Russian media reports that the submarine was the Losharik, a vessel designed for “intelligence gathering and, probably, the destruction of or tapping into of undersea communications cables,” A.D. Baker, a former naval intelligence officer, previously told INSIDER.
A suspected fire that ultimately triggered an explosion in the battery compartment killed 14 Russian sailors, a number of which were higher-ranking and distinguished officers. While the incident remains classified at the highest levels, a Russian Navy official said the crew’s actions had stopped a “planetary catastrophe,” a possible reference to an accident with the sub’s nuclear reactor.
A huge explosion at an ammo depot at a military base on Aug. 5, 2019.
On Aug. 5, 2019, an ammo depot at a Russian military base in Siberia said to house around 40,000 artillery shells and other weapons suddenly exploded, igniting fires that killed one and injured over a dozen other people.
The explosion created a massive fireball, and led local authorities to evacuate thousands of people from surrounding communities within 20 kilometers of the blast.
Russia has experienced ammunition depot explosions before. For example, an ammunition storage site in Chapaevsk that housed around 13 million shells exploded in 2013, injuring around 30 people.
A deadly explosion of a missile engine at a military test site on Aug. 8, 2019.
On Aug. 8, 2019, a missile engine exploded at a Russian naval base, leaving two dead and eight others injured. Among the dead and wounded were military and civilian personnel.
(Russian Ministry of Defence)
The engine, according to Russian state media, exploded while specialists at the base in the rural village of Nyonoksa, a town in northern Russia, were testing the rocket engine’s “liquid propulsion system.”
The Nyonoksa range is a critical test site for Russian missile systems, everything from intercontinental ballistic missiles to cruise missiles. Thursday’s explosion, the state-run TASS News Agency reported, triggered a spike in radiation in a nearby city.
Authorities insist everything is under control.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In 1945, Sid Shafner, a member of the U.S. Army with the 42nd Infantry Division, liberated Marcel Levy from Dachau Concentration Camp in southern Germany. This month — just over seventy years later — the two met again.
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces sponsored the Denver, Colorado resident and his family on an eight-day trip to Israel and Poland as part of it’s “From Holocaust to Independence” delegation to Poland and Israel. The World War II veteran was honored at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony for his helping to set approximately 30,000 prisoners free. Marcel Levy was one of those who is alive today as a result of the Allied Forces’ heroic and compassionate efforts.
In an interview with ABC, Peter Weintraub, president of the organization who sponsored the trip, said the two men met for the first time when Shafner’s convoy was stopped near Marcel Levy who asked that Shafner and his men leave their route and help the prisoners – to which they agreed. The two men became friends.
On May, 10th at an Israeli military base, Levy, 90, who walks with a cane and Shafner, 94, who is in a wheelchair – had a reunion filled with tearful embraces that was captured on camera. Weintraub told ABC that Levy told Shafner, “Everything I have today, all of my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, is due to you, Sid.”
This was the first time the organization reunited a survivor with his or her liberator.
A four-man team of soldiers sits in a nondescript building on Fort Belvoir, Va., each at his own desk, surrounded by three monitors that provide them individual, 3D views of an abandoned city.
On screen, they gather at the corner of a crumbling building to meet another team — represented by avatars — who are actually on the ground in a live-training area, a mock-up of the abandoned city. They’re all training together, in real time, to prepare for battles in dense urban terrain.
That’s the central goal of the Synthetic Training Environment (STE) — immersive, integrated virtual training — presented during a Warriors Corner session at the 2018 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington. The Army has been working toward this kind of fully immersive training experience for decades, and leadership hopes to have it operational as early as 2025.
In May 1993, Army RDA Bulletin dedicated several articles to the concept and execution of distributed interactive simulation (DIS), “a time and space coherent representation of a virtual battlefield environment” that allowed warfighters across the globe to interact with one other as well as computer-generated forces, according to John S. Yuhas, author of the article “Distributed Interactive Simulation.”
Better, faster, stronger
While the name of the program seems to emphasize individual simulation units, its overarching purpose was to bring together thousands of individuals and teams virtually in real time. Central to DIS was the idea of interoperable standards and protocol, allowing each community — “trainer, tester, developer, and acquisitioner” — to use the others’ concepts and products, Maj. David W. Vaden wrote in “Vision for the Next Decade.”
The article explained that “distributed” referred to geographically separated simulations networked together to create a synthetic environment; “interactive” to different simulations linked electronically to act together and upon each other; and “simulation” to three categories — live, virtual and constructive. Live simulations involved real people and equipment; virtual referred to manned simulators; and constructive referred to war games and models, with or without human interaction.
DIS has much in common with STE. Both provide training and mission rehearsal capability to the operational and institutional sides of the Army (i.e., soldiers and civilians). They even share the same training philosophy: to reduce support requirements, increase realism and help deliver capabilities to the warfighter faster.
Users of STE will train with live participants and computer simulations, with some units training remotely. However, STE takes virtual reality training to a new level altogether by incorporating advances in artificial intelligence, big data analysis and three-dimensional terrain representation.
Current training simulations are based on technologies from the 1980s and ’90s that can’t replicate the complex operational environment soldiers will fight in. They operate on closed, restrictive networks, are facilities-based and have high overhead costs for personnel, Maj. Gen.
Maria R. Gervais, commanding general for the U.S. Army Combined Arms Training Center and director of the STE Cross-Functional Team, said in an August 2018 article, “The Synthetic Training Environment Revolutionizes Sustainment Training.”
Those older technologies also can’t support electronic warfare, cyberspace, and megacities, the article explained. For example, soldiers in the 1990s could conduct training using computers and physical simulators — like the ones showcased in Charles Burdick, Jorge Cadiz and Gordon Sayre’s 1993 “Industry Applications of Distributed Interactive Simulation” article in the Army RDA Bulletin-but the training was limited to a single facility and only a few networked groups; the technology wasn’t yet able to support worldwide training with multiple groups of users in real time, like the Army proposes to do with the STE.
Gervais presented a promotional video during “Warriors Corner #13: Synthetic Training Environment Cross-Functional Team Update,” which said the STE will provide intuitive and immersive capabilities to keep pace with the changing operational environment. The STE is a soldier lethality modernization priority of the U.S. Army Futures Command.
“With the STE, commanders will conduct tough, realistic training at home stations, the combat training centers and at deployed locations. The STE will increase readiness through repetition, multi-echelon, multidomain, combined arms maneuver and mission command training. And most importantly, the STE will train soldiers for where they will fight,” said Gen. Robert B. Abrams, then-commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, in the same video. Abrams is now commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea.
Today, simulations in the integrated training environment do not provide the realism, interoperability, affordability and availability necessary for the breadth of training that the Army envisions for the future. The STE will be able to do all that — it will be flexible, affordable and available at the point of need.
“This video helps us get to shared understanding, and also awareness of what we’re trying to achieve with the synthetic training environment,” Gervais said during the AUSA presentation. “But it also allows us to understand the challenges that we’re going to face as we try to deliver this.”
“We don’t have the right training capability to set the exercises up,” said Mike Enloe, chief engineer for the STE Cross-Functional Team, during the presentation. “What I mean by that is that it takes more time to set up the systems that are disparate to talk to each other, to get the terrains together, than it does to actually have the exercise go.”
The Synthetic Training Environment will assess Soldiers in enhancing decision-making skills through an immersive environment.
(US Army photo)
The Army’s One World Terrain, a 3D database launched in 2013 that collects, processes, stores and executes global terrain simulations, has been the “Achilles’ heel” of STE from the start, Enloe said. The Army lacks well-formed 3D terrain data and therefore the ability to run different echelons of training to respond to the threat. The database is still being developed as part of the STE, and what the Army needs most “right now from industry is content … we need a lot of 3D content and rapid ways to get them built,” Enloe said. That means the capability to process terrain on 3D engines so that it can move across platforms, he said, and steering clear of proprietary technologies. The STE is based on modules that can be changed to keep up with emerging technologies.
The Army also needs the ability to write the code to develop the artificial intelligence that will meet STE’s needs — that can, to some extent, learn and challenge the weaknesses of participants, he said.
Retired Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, 32nd vice chief of staff of the Army, emphasized during the presentation that the Army needs to move away from the materiel development of the STE and focus on training as a service. “I believe that a training environment should have two critical aspects to it,” he said: It should be a maneuver trainer, and it should be a gunnery trainer.
Changing the culture
Brig. Gen. Michael E. Sloane, program executive officer for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), said the leadership philosophy of STE’s development is about fostering culture change and getting soldiers capabilities faster. “We have to be proactive; the [cross-functional teams] have to work together with the PEOs, and we’re doing that,” he said. “Collectively, we’re going to deliver real value to the soldier, I think, in doing this under the cross-functional teams and the leadership of the Army Futures Command.”
Many organizations are involved with STE’s development. The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center-Training and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command capability managers are working requirements and represent users. PEO STRI is the materiel developer. The U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence is responsible for the infantry, armor and combined arms requirement. And finally, the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)) serves as the approval authority for long-range investing and requirements.
With the Futures Command and ASA(ALT) collaborating throughout the development of STE, Sloane believes the Army will be able to reduce and streamline acquisition documentation, leverage rapid prototyping, deliver capabilities and get it all right the first time.
Soldiers prepare to operate training technologies during the STE User Assessment in Orlando, Fla., in March 2018.
(Photo by Bob Potter)
Gervais reminded the AUSA audience in October that she had spoken about STE at the annual meeting two years ago, explaining that the Army intends to use the commercial gaming industry to accelerate the development of STE. “I did not believe that it couldn’t be delivered until 2030. I absolutely refused to believe that,” she said. In 2017, the chief of staff designated STE as one of the eight cross-functional teams for Army modernization, aligning it with soldier lethality.
Since then, STE has made quite a bit of progress, Gervais said. The initial capability document for the Army collective training environment, which lays the foundation for STE, was approved in 2018. The Army increased its industry engagement to accelerate the development of STE, according to Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley’s direction, which led to the awarding of seven other transaction authority agreements for One World Terrain, followed by a user assessment in March 2018. In June, Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper and Milley codified STE in their vision statement. “We’re postured to execute quickly,” Gervais said.
In the meantime, she said, there has been a focused effort to increase lethality with a squad marksmanship trainer in the field to allow close combat soldiers to train immediately. The Army also developed a squad immersive virtual trainer. “We believe we can deliver that [squad immersive trainer] much quicker than the 2025 timeframe,” she said.
STE is focused on establishing common data, standards and terrain to maximize interoperability, ease of integration and cost savings, Gervais said. With the right team effort and coordination, she believes STE can be delivered quickly. Perhaps in a few short years, STE can achieve the lofty goal that DIS had for itself, according to Yuhas: Revolutionize the training and acquisition process for new weapon systems.