The Truman sailed into the Arctic Circle on Oct. 19, 2019, to conduct operations in the Norwegian Sea. After years of operations in warmer climates, leaders had to think carefully about the gear they’d need to survive operations in the frigid conditions.
“We had to open a lot of old books to remind ourselves how to do operations up there,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said this week during the McAleese Defense Programs Conference, an annual program in Washington, D.C.
In one of those books was a tip for the Truman’s crew from a savvy sailor who knew what it would take to combat ice buildup on the flattop.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
“[It said] ‘Hey, when you get out to do this, when you head on out, don’t forget to bring a bunch of baseball bats,'” Richardson said. “‘There’s nothing like bashing ice off struts and masts and bulkheads like a baseball bat, so bring a bunch of Louisville Sluggers.’
“And we did,” the CNO said.
Operating in those conditions is likely to become more common. Rising temperatures are melting ice caps and opening sea lanes that weren’t previously passable, Richardson said.
But it takes a different set of skill sets than today’s generation is used to, he added.
“Getting proficiency in doing flight operations in heavy seas, in cold seas — just operating on deck in that type of environment is a much different stress than doing flight operations on a deck that’s 120 degrees in the Middle East,” Richardson said. “You’ve got to recapture all these skills in heavy seas.”
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor M. DiMartino)
The Truman’s push into the Arctic was part of an unpredictable deployment model it followed last year. For years, the Navy got good at taking troops and gear to the Middle East, hanging out there for as long as possible, and then coming home.
Now, Richardson said, there’s a different set of criteria.
“We’re going to be moving these maneuver elements much more flexibly,” he said. “Perhaps unpredictably around the globe, so we’re not going to be back and forth, back and forth.”
The Truman sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar after leaving Norfolk, Virginia, last spring. The carrier stopped in the Eastern Mediterranean, where it carried out combat missions against the Islamic State group and trained with NATO allies.
A contingent of more than 70 mountain troops from a motorized rifle brigade based in the North Caucasus republic of Karachai-Cherkessia is participating in the Druzhba-2018 exercises, Russia’s Southern Military District said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.
The military exercises are set to run through Nov. 4, 2018.
The Dryuzhba (Friendship) drills have been held annually since 2016. In 2017, more than 200 troops took part in the exercises held in mountainous Karachai-Cherkessia.
The purpose of the war games is to strengthen cooperation between the two countries’ militaries and exchange professional experience, particularly in counterterrorism.
The 2017 Dryuzhba (Friendship) drills.
There are Islamist militants in both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the North Caucasus.
Pakistan and Russia signed a defense cooperation agreement in 2014 that provides for cooperation on promoting international security.
The accord calls for the intensification of counterterrorism efforts and arms control activities as well as strengthening military cooperation and sharing experiences in counterterrorism operations.
Warm ties between Moscow and Pakistan’s regional rival India go back to the Soviet era, but Russia has also sought to improve relations with Pakistan in recent years.
The Marine Corps’ Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is officially ready to deploy and support missions of the naval expeditionary force-in-readiness worldwide.
Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Combat Development and Integration declared the JLTV program — part of the Light Tactical Vehicle portfolio at Program Executive Officer Land Systems — reached initial operational capability, or IOC, on Aug. 2, 2019, nearly a year ahead of schedule.
“Congratulations to the combined JLTV Team for acting with a sense of urgency and reaching IOC early,” said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts. “Changing the speed in which we deliver, combined with coming in under cost and meeting all performance requirements, is a fine example of increasing Marine Corps capabilities at the speed of relevance which enables our Marines to compete and win on the modern battlefield.”
The JLTV, a program led by the Army, will fully replace the Corps’ aging High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle fleet. The JLTV family of vehicles comes in different variants with multiple mission package configurations, all providing protected, sustained, networked mobility that balances payload, performance and protection across the full range of military operations.
A Joint Light Tactical Vehicle displays its overall capabilities during a live demonstration at the School of Infantry West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 27, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Timothy Smithers)
“I’m proud of what our team, in collaboration with the Army, has accomplished. Their commitment to supporting the warfighter delivered an exceptional vehicle, ahead of schedule, that Marines will use to dominate on the battlefield now and well into the future.”
Several elements need to be met before a program can declare IOC of a system, which encompasses more than delivery of the system itself. The program office also had to ensure all the operators were fully trained and maintenance tools and spare parts packages were ready.
“IOC is more than just saying that the schoolhouses and an infantry battalion all have their trucks,” said Eugene Morin, product manager for JLTV at PEO Land Systems. “All of the tools and parts required to support the system need to be in place, the units must have had received sufficient training and each unit commander needs to declare that he is combat-ready.”
For the JLTV, this means the program office had to fully field battle-ready vehicles to the Marine Corps schoolhouses—School of Infantry East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; School of Infantry West at Camp Pendleton, California; The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia; and the Motor Transport Maintenance Instruction Course at Camp Johnson, North Carolina—and to an infantry battalion at II Marine Expeditionary Force. The program office started delivering vehicles to the schoolhouses earlier this year and started delivering vehicles to the infantry battalion July 2019.
A Joint Light Tactical Vehicle displays its overall capabilities during a live demonstration at the School of Infantry West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 27, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Timothy Smithers)
On Aug. 2, 2019, Lt. Col. Neil Berry, the commanding officer for 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, notified Morin and his team of the unit’s combat readiness with the JLTV. On Aug. 5, 2019, The Director, Ground Combat Element Division at CDI notified PM LTV of its IOC achievement. The JLTV is scheduled to start fielding to I MEF and III MEF before the end of September 2019.
According to LTV Program Manager Andrew Rodgers, during the post-acquisition Milestone C rebaseline of the JLTV schedule in January 2016, IOC was projected to occur by June 2020.
Rodgers says that detailed program scheduling, planning and, most importantly, teamwork with stakeholders across the enterprise enabled the program office to deliver the vehicles and reach IOC ahead of schedule.
The Marine Corps’ Joint Light Tactical Vehicles has achieved initial operational capability.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Timothy Smithers)
“It was definitely a team effort, and we built up a really great team,” said Rodgers. “In terms of leadership, our product managers’ — both Gene Morin and his predecessor, Dave Bias — detailed focus and ability to track cost, schedule and performance was key. Neal Justis, our deputy program manager, has significant prior military experience working for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, so having him on board knowing how to work the Pentagon network was a huge force multiplier.”
Rodgers is quick to note that, although the team has reached IOC, this is really only the beginning of the JLTV’s future legacy.
“We are really at the starting line right now. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will see JLTVs in the DOD,” said Rodgers. “We’ll easily still have these assets somewhere in the DOD in the year 2100. Welcome to the start of many generations of JLTVs.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
A common misconception civilians have about the military is that we all have cool call signs, like Hawk-Eye, Maverick, or whatever. The truth is, if you’ve got a nickname, you’re either high enough rank to have earned one, you’re a pilot, you’re called by your unit’s name, or you did something so bad that it’s used to mock you.
If anyone calls you one of these in the military, look up the definition of sarcasm. You don’t want to earn any of these:
7. High Speed
This is the one dude who’s just trying way too hard. Maybe they got antsy when the Battalion Commander gave a speech on the range or they watched old Army recruitment commercials and decided to be “all that they can be.”
The military is based on “one team, one fight.” If you’re going WAAAAAAY above and beyond for extra brownie points, you’re ass-kissing.
This term is reserved for the kid who probably only got their name right on the ASVAB. It’s usually given out when someone does something monumentally stupid, like dry their boots in the communal dryer or actually bring an exhaust sample to the mechanics.
The nickname is more of a play on the phrase, “there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity.” Put down the crayons and read a book.
Slacking off is part of the military, but this person takes things to the next level. They just vanish like they’re freaking Casper.
Most times, there’s no issue if you’re swinging by the gas station for a drink or whatever. The moment you swing by your barracks room to play a few rounds of Call of Duty, well, you might be earning the next nickname, too…
4. Blue Falcon
Whenever anyone is willing to screw over their comrades for the sake of personal interests, they’re a Blue Falcon.
Spend five minutes in the military and you’ll know that this name isn’t a reference to the Hanna-Barbera superhero. It’s a more formal way of saying that this person is a Buddy F*cker.
Just because they sell something cool at the BX/PX/NEx/MCX/cheapo surplus store, doesn’t mean you need to buy it — but chances are this guy bought that crap.
Also called “geardo,” they stick out like a sore thumb because they’re rocking so much unauthorized gear because “it looked cool.” They look more like they’re on a civilian airsoft team than in the world’s most elite fighting force.
2. (whatever) Ranger
In the Army, Rangers are some of the biggest badasses. However, if they have a qualifier, such as “Sick Call” Ranger, then you know they ride the hell out of the ability to go to sick call. PX Ranger is the guy who buys everything they can from the PX (especially if it’s unauthorized). PowerPoint Ranger is that high-speed butter bar who spent hours on a slideshow that put everyone to sleep. The list goes on.
No one thinks they’re a fraction of the badassery of actual Rangers.
1. Desert Queen
This one, is uh — to put it politely — the woman who enjoys getting the most attention while deployed. Don’t. Just don’t.
If you’re a woman who gets called this, knock a motherf*cker’s teeth out.
The chief of Naval Operations said today that the collisions in the Pacific that killed 10 sailors aboard the USS Fitzgerald and seven sailors aboard the USS McCain were entirely preventable, and the service is committed to correcting the actions that led to the accidents.
Navy Adm. John Richardson told Pentagon reporters that many aspects combined to cause the accidents, including lack of training, hubris, sleep deprivation, failures in navigation, and failures in leadership.
The guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain sailed when they shouldn’t have, he said, and that decision falls on the commanders, who are responsible for conducting risk assessments.
The demand for ships, or any military capability, is defined by the security environment, Richardson said, adding that the Pacific has been a very demanding environment of late.
The demand of the security environment must match against the resources that can be applied. “When you have a gap between those two, that’s risk,” the admiral said. “It’s all part of that … day-to-day assessment. Every commander has to wake up each day at their command level and say, what has changed in my security environment? What is my new risk posture? And how am I going to accommodate or mitigate that risk?”
At some point, commanders cannot mitigate the risk, and they should say no to the mission, he said, but the present culture is such that commanders will assess the risk to be acceptable when it is not.
Changing that culture is one goal for the chief — he wants commanders to be honest about assessments and the shortfalls they have.
While the changes are in the 7th Fleet area, the Navy is on all the seas. “A review of your Navy today shows that this morning there are 100 ships and 64,000 sailors and Navy civilians who are deployed,” Richardson said.
“This includes three carrier strike groups and their embarked air wings, three amphibious readiness groups, and their embarked Marine expeditionary units, six ballistic missile defense ships on station, 11 attack submarines, five [ballistic missile submarines],” he said. “The vast majority of these ships are conducting their missions, some of them extremely difficult, effectively and professionally, protecting America from attack, promoting our interests and prosperity, and advocating for the rules that govern the vast commons from the seafloor, to space, and in cyberspace.”
The Navy and its sailors are busy, and they have been integral to the wars America has fought since 9/11. “Recent experience has shown that if we’re not careful, we can become overstretched, overextended. And if we take our eye off the fundamentals, we become vulnerable to mistakes at all levels of command,” the admiral said.
To address this, the Navy has taken some immediate actions, including restoring a deliberative scheduling process in the 7th Fleet, conducting comprehensive ready-for-sea assessments for all Japan-based ships, establishing a naval service group in the Western Pacific — an independent body in Yokosuka, Japan that will keep their eye on readiness generation and standards for the Pacific Fleet commander — establishing and using a near-miss program to understand and disseminate lessons learned, and establishing policies for surface ships to routinely and actively transmit on their automatic identification system, Richardson said.
Midterm actions will emphasize training, establishing comprehensive policies on managing fatigue and accelerating some of the electronic navigation systems upgrades, he said.
“Long-term actions include improving individual and team training skills, with an emphasis on basic seamanship, navigation and integrated bridge equipment; evaluating core officer and enlisted curricula with an emphasis on fundamentals [and] navigation skills,” the admiral said.
“I have to say that fundamental to all of this is how we prepare leaders for command,” Richardson said. “We will deeply examine the way that we prepare officers for increasing leadership challenges, culminating in assumption of command with the capability and the confidence to form, train and assess warfighting teams on the bridge, in the combat information center, in engineering and throughout their command.”
To develop Sailors with character and professional competence, who possess integrity, accountability, initiative, and toughness, Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s only boot camp, administers a final exam that is designed to evaluate the proficiency of critical warfighting skills.
The final exam is called “Battle Stations-21.” It is a graded evolution held on board USS Trayer, a 210-ft replica of an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile Destroyer, in which recruits must earn the right to be called a “Sailor” and graduate basic training. They spend the night loading stores, getting underway, handling mooring lines, standing watches, responding to incoming attacks, manning general quarters stations, and combating shipboard fires and floods. It is as close to being underway as a recruit can get before reaching their first ship.
Facing sensory overload from compartments full of smoke, blaring alarms, periods of low visibility as well as disorienting flashes, recruits are required to overcome the stress, self-organize and tackle each scenario with little-to-no intervention from instructors. Their Battle Stations-21 grade is comprised of 75% individual proficiency and 25% team proficiency. Failure in either category, or an overall score below 80%, results in training remediation which impacts recruit graduation dates.
Part of the new hands-on learning curriculum, designed by RTC’s senior enlisted instructors to develop tough, more qualified Sailors through realistic training, the Battle Stations-21 grading requirements measure warfighting proficiency during the Sailor development process.
“Battle Stations-21 is the standard for testing the effectiveness of recruit training,” said Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Kevin Barrientos, one of the RTC instructors responsible for running USS Trayer. “Scenarios include ship replenishment, sea and anchor detail, firefighting, damage control, crew casualties and various deck, bridge, engineering and navigation watch stations.”
To prepare for Battle Stations-21, recruits conduct hands-on training that is focused on the critical warfighting skills of watch standing, seamanship, force protection, firefighting and damage control. In the classroom, applied labs and practical trainers, recruits conduct more than 30 hours of seamanship training and more than 40 hours of firefighting and damage control training before reaching their final exam.
Recruits also maintain an around-the-clock watch rotation, simulating various watch stations as they are manned in the Fleet. They also have the opportunity to earn their M9 Service Pistol qualification during small-arms familiarization training.
“Our hands-on learning curriculum enforces repetitive and deliberate practice of each skill,” Barrientos said. “This type of training motivates recruits to rise to the challenge at Battle Stations-21, and prepares them for service in the Fleet.”
Recruits fight all night long to keep USS Trayer operational and battle ready. If they embrace their training, they will pass their final exam, earn their Navy ball cap, and advance to graduation. Trayer is then reset for the next division of recruits who hope to become the Navy’s newest Sailors.
Recruit Training Command is approximately eight weeks long and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. About 40,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.
In spite of criticisms and concerns that Russia’s fifth-generation is actually fifth-generation “in name only,” the Kremlin is pushing ahead with plans for its sixth-generation jet.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Wednesday that Sukhoi has delivered plans for its new sixth-generation fighter, TASS Newsreports.
“I’m referring also to new design concepts briefly presented by the Sukhoi design bureau and by the general designer appointed for all aircraft systems and armaments,” Rogozin told reporters, accordingto TASS.
“They have really come up with the designs for the creation of the sixth-generation fighter.”
And, as TASS reports, Commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces Viktor Bondarev told reporters on Wednesday that the potential sixth-generation jet will be produced in both manned and unmanned versions. Meaning, essentially, that the new jet will be planned to be able to function in some conditions as a drone aircraft.
However, beyond that hint, the Kremlin delivered few other details about its new potential jet. The plans for the new jet comes as Russia is continuing to test its fifth-generation PAK FA fighter. Although, as the National Interest notes, it is not uncommon for militaries to begin testing and designing the next generation of aircraft decades in advance.
Currently, Russia’s PAK FA is expected to enter into service sometime in the next six years. However, the aircraft has been called fifth-generation “in name only” due to a host of complaints affecting the aircraft’s radar cross signature, its avionics, and its engines.
While the prospect of negotiations between North Korea and the US are beginning to look very promising, experts say there is “no way” North Korea trusts the US and would ever sign off on its nuclear weapons program.
Early March 2018, South Korean president’s office, the Blue House, announced that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was willing to abandon his country’s nuclear arms if certain conditions were met. The Blue House also said North Korea would suspend provocations, like nuclear and missile testing, during negotiations.
After meeting with South Korean officials, President Donald Trump seemed optimistic about the North’s proposal, and agreed to meet with Kim by May 2018, with the potential to discuss denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
However, experts remain skeptical of North Korea’s pledges to halt its nuclear weapons development.
John Mearsheimer, co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago, said there is “no way” North Korea could trust the US enough to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
“North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons,” Mearsheimer said at a lecture hosted by the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies in Seoul on March 20, 2018, according to Yonhap. “The reason is that in international politics, you could never trust anybody because you cannot be certain of what their intentions are.”
Mearsheimer said that “there’s no way North Koreans can trust the U.S.” when it comes to a denuclearization deal. He cited examples of the US’ unsuccessful denuclearization deals in the Middle East, including Muammar Gaddafi who gave up Libya’s chemical weapons and was killed less than a decade later.
“If you were North Koreans, would you trust Donald Trump? Would you trust any American presidents?”
Mearsheimer added that there was no country that “needs nuclear weapons more than North Korea,” in order to protect its leader. While the US has not explicitly stated its intention to pursue a regime change in the North, Trump and his administration have certainly alluded to the possibility.
Mearsheimer added that North Korea was even less likely to give up their weapons in the current climate.
“Give up their nuclear weapons? I don’t think so, especially as security competition heats up in East Asia. You wanna hang on to those weapons.”
The FT reported that the spyware was developed by Israel’s NSO Group, whose Pegasus software is known to have targeted human-rights activists. In a statement to the FT, the firm denied any involvement in the WhatsApp hack.
“This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to deliver spyware that reportedly takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” WhatsApp said in a statement to the FT.
“We have briefed a number of human rights organizations to share the information we can, and to work with them to notify civil society.”
In a statement sent to Business Insider, a spokesman added: “WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices. We are constantly working alongside industry partners to provide the latest security enhancements to help protect our users.”
A notice on Facebook said the issue affected Android phones, iPhones, and Windows phones. An update to resolve the issue was released on May 13, 2019, and users are being urged to update regardless of whether they have had any suspicious call activity.
Citing a source, the FT reported that the US Department of Justice was notified about the hack last week.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When ISIS launched its attack on Mosul in 2014, they were outnumbered by opposition forces by almost 40 to one – yet they took the city. Now a group of scientists working on the frontline in Iraq have analysed what motivates such fighters in research they say could help combat extremists.
While predicting the will to fight has been described by the former US director of national intelligence James Clapper as “imponderable,” researchers say they have begun to unpick what leads members of groups, including ISIS, to be prepared to die, let their family suffer, or even commit torture, finding that the motivation lies in a very different area to traditional ideas of comradeship.
“We found that there were three factors behind whether people were willing to make these costly sacrifices,” said Scott Atran, co-author of the research from the University of Oxford and the research institution Artis International.
Those factors, he said, are the strength of commitment to a group and to sacred values, the willingness to choose those values over family or other kin, and the perceived strength of fighters’ convictions – so-called “spiritual strength” – over that of their foes.
The findings support the idea, put forward by previous research, that the will to fight lies not in rational action but in the idea of the “devoted actor” – individuals who consider themselves strongly connected to a group, fighting for values considered to be non-negotiable, or “sacred.”
Writing in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, Atran and an international team of colleagues describe how they came to their insights by travelling to the frontline in Iraq.
As well as speaking to captured ISIS fighters, the team carried out in-depth interviews with Arab Sunni combatants, as well as Kurdish fighters from the PKK, Peshmerga, and members of the Iraqi army. The frontline approach, the authors note, was crucial to capturing the sacrifices individuals actually make for their values, rather than merely what they claim they might do.
The results revealed that all followed the model of “devoted actors”, but that the level of commitment to making costly sacrifices, such as dying, undertaking suicide attacks, or committing torture varied between groups. With the sample size of fighters small, the team also quizzed more than 6,000 Spanish civilians through online surveys.
The results revealed that the majority of civilians placed their family above a value they considered sacred. However, in a finding that echoed evidence from the frontline, the team discovered that those who placed their sacred value above their group said they were more willing to make dramatic, costly sacrifices such as dying, going to prison or letting their children suffer.
Surveys of the Spanish population also revealed that they made links between spiritual – but not physical – strength and the willingness to make sacrifices.
But the team stress that decisions made by devoted actors on the frontline were not made without emotional turmoil.
“One particular Peshmerga fighter had to make a decision when the Islamic State guys decided to enter his village – he wasn’t in a position to take his family with him and escape and get in front of the ISIS fighters, and so what he did was he left his family behind,” said Richard Davis, co-author of the research from the University of Oxford and Artis International.
While being interviewed, the fighter received a phone call from his wife behind ISIS lines, knowing the penalty if caught would be death. “You could see the man getting emotional, and as he gets off the phone, he begins to lament the decision that he had to go through to leave his family behind, but he indicated that fighting for Kurdistan was more important, and that he hoped that God would save his family,” said Davis. “When you hear things like that and you see a broken man – then you recognise how difficult this was for people.”
The team note that understanding the willingness to fight and die among devoted actors could prove valuable in fostering forces against ISIS, including in exploring ways to elicit deeper commitment to, and willingness to sacrifice for, values such as democracy and liberty.
“Instead of just taking volunteers into an army, we might be able to screen who we put into the army based upon the types of values they commit to, and this would create an entirely different fighting force than the one that melted in Mosul in 2014, ” said Davis, adding that the study could also inform efforts attempting to prevent fighters from joining ISIS.
Stephen Reicher, professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews welcomed the research, adding that it contributed to the understanding of terrorists as “engaged followers”. “The fundamental finding is that those prepared to kill – and die – for a cause are to be understood not in terms of a distinctive personality but in terms of their immersion in a collective cause and their commitment to the ideology of that cause,” he said.
Even the most innocuous data posted to a social media feed can be married up with other publicly available information to provide online criminals the tools they need to exploit members of the military or general public, an Army special agent said.
Special Agent Deric Palmer, program manager for the Digital Personal Protection Program, part of the Major Cybercrime Unit at the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, explained how those who aren’t careful or aren’t paying attention can unwittingly provide scammers and other online criminals all the information they need to exploit them.
Social media accounts, Palmer said, serve as fertile ground for digging up the kinds of information that can be used to impersonate someone, steal identities or break into other online accounts, such as banking or insurance.
A Facebook page, for example, might contain current and past physical addresses where a person has lived, phone numbers, email addresses, names of pets, significant events such as birthdays and anniversaries, hobbies and other interests. Just browsing a Facebook page, Palmer said, he can figure out your favorite music, books, TV shows, political and religious leanings.
All that, he said, serves as “an attack vector” that an unscrupulous person can use to communicate with users further and gain their trust. Additional communications can bring out even more details that might later be used to break into online accounts or exploit users in other ways. Some social media users, Palmer added, even volunteer critical information that could be used to access their online financial accounts that they’d never divulge if they were asked by a stranger.
Some online memes, he noted, pose as games that get users to volunteer information that, coupled with other easily obtainable information, can be used to exploit them. A quick search online reveals a simple graphic meme that purportedly allows users to choose “your new cat name” and then post the results, along with the meme itself, on their own social media feed.
For the “cat name” meme, users would use the last digit of their phone number as a selector for any of nine name prefixes, their zodiac sign to choose from a list of 12 middle names, and their favorite color to choose from a list of eight potential last names.
A user might end up with “Count Sassy Pants” as a silly name for their cat. When they post that on their social media feed, along with the meme image itself, would-be criminals will know their phone number ends in 8, they were born in either August or September, and that their favorite color is yellow. Coupled with data already on their social media feed, and with data that can be obtained from data brokers, the information makes it easier to exploit users, Palmer explained.
Image memes such as this one ask users to construct and share on their social media feeds new, “fun” information that is constructed from their personal information.
Military personnel also are candidates to be impersonated online — malicious users might opt to use imagery of real-world service members available online to exploit other users. The U.S. military is one of the most trusted institutions in the nation, and online criminals, Palmer said, take advantage of that.
“The U.S. military is viewed as a prestigious club … It’s an indicator of prestige,” Palmer said. “It’s instant respect. If I can pretend to be a U.S. general, unwitting people will respect me immediately.”
With that respect, he said, a criminal can exploit other users while pretending to be a member of the U.S. military. Palmer’s advice to service members: don’t post your picture in uniform with the name tape visible. “It immediately makes you a target,” the special agent said.
Palmer offered some tips to avoid being scammed:
Immediate red flag! Be suspicious if you are asked for money or a wire transfer to pay for a purported service member’s transportation, medical bills, communication fees or marriage-processing charges.
Be suspicious if the person with whom you are corresponding wants you to mail anything to a foreign country.
Be aware that military members at any duty location or in a combat zone have access to mail, cyber cafes, Skype and other means of communicating with their families, and they have access to medical and dental treatment.
The military will ensure that family members are notified should a service member is injured.
Insist on a “proof of life.” The scammers will not video chat with you, because they know you will catch them in their lie.
Trust your instincts! If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The special agent also provided eight points for better security online, and to make users less likely to be victimized by online criminals:
Permanently close old, unused accounts.
Enable two-factor authentication on any platform that allows it.
Use strong passwords, and use different passwords for every account.
On social media, accept friend requests selectively.
Configure the strongest privacy settings for each social media account.
Think before you post.
Limit use of third-part applications on social media applications, read the license agreement, and be sure exactly what those applications want to be able to access.
Change answers to security questions, and use false answers so that online criminals can’t use information they gather online to gain access to your accounts.
First published in the mid-1980s, “The Hunt for Red October” by Tom Clancy quickly rose from obscurity to national bestseller lists, with even then-President Ronald Reagan calling it “my kind of yarn.”
In 1990, the book was made into a blockbuster movie starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin.
The hit novel tells the tale of a next-generation Soviet ballistic missile submarine — the eponymous Red October — going rogue with both the United States and the Soviet Union racing against time to find the missing sub.
While the Soviet Union, to the best of our knowledge, never had a submarine and its crew attempt to defect to the West during the Cold War, it did have two very similar incidents — both of which served as the inspiration for this famous book.
In 1961, a young Soviet Navy captain by the name of Jonas Pleskys steered his vessel, a barge turned into a submarine tender, away from a charted course to Estonia in a successful attempt to defect to Sweden.
This Lithuanian-born naval officer, a graduate of the Leningrad Naval Academy, was thoroughly dissatisfied with life in the USSR, finding it corrupt and cruel.
According to Marion Boyle’s book, “Search for Freedom: The Man from Red October,” Pleskys planned his defection in advance, reaching port and protective custody in Gotland, Sweden, before the Soviet Navy was able to stop him.
In absence, the Soviet military sentenced the captain to death, though they would never have the opportunity to carry out the execution.
The CIA later hid Pleskys in South America before moving him to the US, where he lived out the rest of his years.
Years later, in the mid-1970s, a second (and considerably more embarrassing) incident involving a Soviet Navy vessel — a brand new Krivak class frigate named “Storozhevoy” — proved to be the second event that would factor into the making of “The Hunt for Red October.”
The ship’s political officer, Valery Sablin, seized control of the ship while it was berthed in a Soviet naval port, imprisoning the captain and many of the ship’s officers in compartments belowdecks. Quickly sailing the frigate out of port, Sablin aimed the ship’s bow towards Northern Europe.
With visions of Pleskys’ earlier defection flashing through their minds, Soviet brass deployed half of their Baltic Fleet immediately upon learning of their newest warship going missing and Sablin’s intentions.
Over 60 maritime patrol and attack aircraft were deployed to find and stop the Storozhevoy… and if it came to it, sink the frigate with its entire crew aboard.
According to former Storozhevoy officer Boris Gindin in his co-written autobiography, “Mutiny,” the frigate was never meant to fall into American hands. Sablin was loyal to the Soviet Union to the very end — he just wasn’t a fan of the corruption of the Soviet government, and saw their actions as a major departure from Leninism and “true communism.”
Instead, the disillusioned political officer wanted to sail the frigate to Leningrad (now known as Saint Petersburg), where he would moor the Storozhevoy alongside an old museum ship, the cruiser Aurora, and would then broadcast a message to the Soviet people with the hopes of revealing the government’s corruption, and with sparking a second communist revolution to retake the country.
As it turns out, the Soviet military wasn’t having any of that, and within a matter of hours, the Storozhevoy was found and hailed. Now less than 50 miles from Swedish territorial waters (though that wasn’t the ship’s destination), the frigate continued to sail on without heeding calls to stop.
The order was given to sink the ship.
Attack aircraft began strafing the ship with their cannons, obliterating the bridge of the Storozhevoy while pockmarking the rest of the gray warship with bullet holes. Bombs were dropped near the rogue ship, and soon, it became evident that the ship’s steering and propulsion was damaged to the point that the vessel could not go any further – it was dead in the water.
However, the Baltic Fleet had already closed in, and began firing warning shots from their deck guns. In a matter of minutes, Soviet naval commandos boarded the vessel and arrested the 200-strong crew of the Storozhevoy, regardless of who was and wasn’t involved in the mutiny.
As it turns out, during the ship’s escape from port, a number of its officers and crew, previously imprisoned for resisting the mutiny, had escaped captivity and overpowered Sablin and his bridge crew.
In true Soviet style, the incident was hushed up quickly, with Sablin facing a firing squad for treason against the Soviet Union. The Storozhevoy was quietly repaired in dockyard, repainted and sent back out to the fleet. By the end of the 1990s, the frigate was pulled from service and sold overseas to the wreckers.
In the early 1980s, a 37 year-old insurance salesman by the name of Tom Clancy Jr. came across the Storozhevoy’s tale in the US Naval Academy’s archives while doing research for his first novel.
Later making contact with Jonas Pleskys, and inspired by his and the Storozhevoy’s short-lived adventure, Clancy penned “The Hunt for Red October” soon afterwards, with the novel hitting bookshelves in 1984, a resounding success.
Pilot training is constantly changing to ensure students have an environment where they not only learn to fly, but to adapt and quickly out-think their enemies.
With senior leadership making innovation a priority, the Air Force has changed how airmen are trained and how they become proficient at their jobs. This in turn has changed the way the Air Force develops pilots and what pilot training currently looks like.
For instance, pilot training currently consists of three phases starting with the academic and simulator phase. After the academic phase, student pilots are sent to train in the T-6A Texan II, the primary training aircraft.
Once the students complete the second phase, they are selected for either the airlift/tanker track in the T-1A Jayhawk, or the fighter/bomber track in the T-38C Talon.
“When I went through pilot training in the late 1960s, we started off flying the Cessna T-41 Mescalero for six weeks, the T-37 Tweet for five months and finished training in the T-38 Talon for a total of 52 weeks of training,” said Jim Faulkner, Vance Air Force Base, a graduate of pilot training, class of 1968.
U.S. Air Force Cessna T-41 Mescalero.
Although students in the 1960s and students today reach the same goal, there have been adjustments made over the course of time to focus pilots on mastering the specific style of aircraft they will fly once training has finished.
In addition to changes in the training aircraft, there have been technological advancements to improve the way students operate an aircraft.
“We had simulators, but the concepts that they covered were limited and did not give us any visual aids to look at while training,” said Jim Mayhall, pilot training graduate, class of 1967.
In the same way that older generations used simulators to gather a feel of the aircraft and location of instruments, current students use simulators to familiarize themselves with flying maneuvers and concepts before they reach the cockpit. The changes in technology have the potential to give students more realistic training for what they will experience in the cockpit.
“Being able to gain exposure to 360-degree videos of the local area, patterns and virtual-reality videos saves money and time,” said 1st Lt. Jason Mavrogeorge, 8th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot.
2nd Lt. Kenneth Gill, a student pilot assigned to the 71st Student Squadron, and Capt. Peter Shufeldt, an instructor pilot assigned to the 33rd Flying Training Squadron, start up the T-6 Texan II before take-off, May 2, 2019, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The T-6 Texan II is the first aircraft the student pilots learn to fly before moving on to other aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Zoe T. Perkins)
“Students should have seen the arrivals, departures and instrument approaches before their first flight,” Mavrogeorge said. “Giving the students more flying experience gives them confidence and allows me to enhance their flying skills as an instructor.”
Similar to the technological changes made within pilot training, there have been changes in monitoring the safety of pilots while flying.
The safety standards did not require pilots to wear a G-suit in the T-37 Tweet. When the T-37 was replaced with the more maneuverable T-6A Texan II, pilots were required to wear a G-suit during flight to prevent the possibility of losing consciousness.
All the great changes and advancements in pilot training are possible thanks to those who laid the groundwork and figured out what to avoid.
“The only thing that remains constant in the Air Force pilot training program is that we will continue to produce great Air Force aviators and future leaders,” Mayhall said.
Vance trains more than 350 pilots a year, totaling over 34,000 since pilot training began in 1941.