The US military’s growing reliance on special-operations units from its service branches may be straining those forces to a breaking point.
The US currently has around 200,000 troops deployed abroad. Roughly 8,600 of them — about 4% — are special-forces operators. They are deployed on missions ranging from training and advising to assaults and raids against enemy positions.
As of the beginning of 2017, US operators were deployed to 70% of the worlds countries, according to US Special Operations Command, or SOCOM.
The large number of deployments have officials in the Pentagon and Congress worried that members of the special-forces community may lose their edge on the battlefield.
Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees voiced their concerns at the Special Operations Policy Forum November 15th in Washington, DC.
“I do worry about overuse of SOF,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, referring to special-operations forces. “They are increasingly an organization of choice because SOF is very effective.”
“How many missions can you send them on? How many times can they do this? I think that’s what we don’t know,” added Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.
“The operational tempo is so incredible,” said Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The idea that you would have within six years, multiple deployments, some people every six months to deploy, that in and of itself causes lots of consequences,” he added. “And we haven’t seen a break in those deployments.”
Lawmakers have proposed a number of solutions. Among them are providing operators with more resources to deal with potential physical and mental-health issues; giving the train, advise, assist roles to more conventional units; and trying to delegate some of the diplomatic aspects of special-operations missions to diplomatic professionals, like those in the State Department.
The most obvious fix — increasing the amount of operators in the military — faces two problems. First, the US military is having difficulty bringing in new recruits, and second, simply adding more soldiers into the ranks of elite units may require lowering standards, which that could decrease their lethality.
“We cannot sacrifice quality for quantity,” said Reed. Nonetheless, lawmakers from both parties agree that increasing operator numbers is a good first step.
Some branches of the military are looking for ways to bring in more personnel as well. Last month, the Army announced it would be increasing bonuses for soldiers, and the force is likely to maintain some flexibility in its recruiting standards. (A report earlier this month cited an Army memo saying the force would offer waivers for some mental-health conditions; the Army disputed the report, saying the change was only administrative, and rescinded the memo.)
SOCOM is also reportedly investigating the possibility of using nutritional supplements, and perhaps even performance-enhancing drugs, to push the abilities and endurance of its forces beyond current human limits.
SOCOM leaders have emphasized that their units are still capable of conducting current operations and handling threats around the world. However, the fear of wear and tear is increasing, and most officials seem to agree that it is never to early to address the issue.
Hollywood came to the Pentagon on Oct. 15, 2018, as actor Gerard Butler spoke to Pentagon reporters about his collaboration with the U.S. Navy in making “Hunter-Killer,” a submarine movie due out in October 2018.
The Pentagon press briefing studio was filled to capacity as Butler — who plays the commander of the fictional attack sub USS Arkansas in the movie – answered questions about the experience.
The movie posits an operation aimed at averting war with Russia. Butler said it is a chance to bring the submarine genre into the 21st century. “Hunter-Killer” is a chance to take viewers into submarines and let them see the culture, “and really see how these people think, work, their courage, their intelligence, basically their brilliance,” the actor said.
The plot alternates between the submarine, a special operations team inserted in Russia, and the Pentagon.
The Navy supported the effort even as the service remained “laser-focused” on warfighting in today’s era of great power competition. “But we’re also competing for talent, and in this dynamic economy, it’s more important than ever that we find ways to inspire the next generation of warfighters to consider serving our country in the Navy,” Roegge said.
Actor Gerard Butler and Navy Vice Adm. Fritz Roegge, current president of the National Defense University, speak about the movie “Hunter-Killer” during a Pentagon news conference, Oct. 15, 2018.
(DOD photo by Jim Garamone)
Only a small fraction of young Americans qualify to serve in the military. An even smaller number are aware of the opportunities the services offer. “Although the Navy benefits from technology that gives us the world’s most capable platforms and equipment, it is our people who are truly our greatest strength,” Roegge said. “In the words of another great Scotsman – John Paul Jones – ‘Men mean more than guns in the rating of a ship.’ So we will only remain the world’s greatest Navy by attracting the best talent from across our nation.”
Connecting with young Americans
Movies are a good way to reach young Americans and they are also a good vehicle to expose all Americans to their Navy, Roegge said. All Americans need to understand “they know their Navy: who we are, what we do, and why it matters.”
Butler was immersed in the submarine culture sailing aboard the USS Houston from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Being aboard the submarine was like being in another world, he said. “I felt like I could spend a year just in sonar. But I was shipped from sonar to the bridge, to navigation to the engine room to the torpedo room because I had a very quick-minded sub commander who wanted to show me every working living part of the submarine — even how to compress trash.”
Butler added, “What I really took out of it was the brilliance and the humility of the sailors I worked with. Not that I didn’t have that appreciation before – I certainly did – but having spent time with them to realize how their minds work and how agile and how creative they have to be. And they are constantly being tested to prove themselves to think logically, to think intuitively, and in all different matters.”
And it was real for Butler. “You can do it in a movie, but when you are actually on a sub, you realize the dangers that are there,” he said. “You are a thousand feet underwater and you go, ‘Okay. What are the different ways things can go wrong?’ You have a greater appreciation of what these people do every day unsung and unseen and their courage and valor.”
DOD officials approved the request in December 2014, and the Navy provided access and technical support to the filmmakers.
Officials stressed that support to “Hunter-Killer” or any other movie is done at zero cost to the American taxpayer.
The new National Biodefense Strategy is a living document designed to counter man-made and natural biological threats, National Security Advisor John Bolton said during a September 2018 White House briefing.
“This is critical, we think, for our defense purposes looking at the range of weapons of mass destruction the United States our friends and allies face,” he said.
While nuclear weapons are an existential threat to the United States, chemical and biological weapons also pose dangers to Americans. Bolton noted that biological weapons often are called “poor man’s nukes” and said the biodefense strategy aims at countering that threat.
“What we’ve done is establish a Cabinet-level biodefense steering committee to be chaired by the Department of Health and Human Services,” he said. “This is the approach best suited for carrying out the strategy operationally.” HHS Secretary Alex Azar will chair the committee.
Participating agencies include the departments of Defense, Agriculture and Homeland Security, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and others.
Bolton stressed that this is just one part of the nation’s biodefense strategy and does not encompass what the U.S. offensive response would be to a biological attack. He also said the strategy will evolve as needed. As new techniques or new medical treatments or new threats emerge, he added, the strategy will change.
A nurse takes a patient’s pulse in the influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., near the end of the Spanish Flu epidemic, Nov. 1, 1918. Fresh air was believed to help prevent the spread of the disease, which killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide. Pandemic flus such as this are rare, occurring just three times in the 20th century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(Library of Congress photo)
Azar, who also spoke at the briefing, noted that the strategy has to cover a range of threats, from nation-states to individuals. He noted that the anthrax attack of 2001 was launched by an individual, while the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918 that infected a quarter of all Americans and killed almost 700,000 was natural.
The threats are real and growing, Azar said. The world is growing more urbanized and interconnected, which speeds the spread of infectious threats. He noted the early summer 2018 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Such is the ease of travel between countries now that just in the DRC, more than 100,000 people are being screened at border crossings every day,” he said. “We also face accidental and man-made threats. Today’s rapid technological advances have great potential to improve public health and human health, but they also create the opportunity for new kinds of threats and for more and more actors to make use of biological weapons.”
The strategy looks to promote research into combating pandemics and coordinating response to attacks or outbreaks. It looks to work with allies, the United Nations’ World Health Organization, the Red Cross and others.
Featured image: National Security Advisor John Bolton.
When one pushes their body to its most extreme limit, they find that they are simultaneously pushing their mind and spirit. Few are more familiar with this feeling than Brandon Tucker — a U.S. Army Ranger veteran who climbed his way to becoming a squad leader in the 3rd Ranger Battalion. When he was medically discharged due to inflammatory bowel disease, his sense of purpose and drive was not deterred. He dove headfirst into the fitness and business world by managing Uncommon Athlete in Columbus, Georgia, while also serving as a personal trainer and fitness instructor there.
As a testament to his dedication to fitness, on Oct. 26, 2019, Tucker surpassed the world record for number of pullups in a day. The feat is currently undergoing the verification process with Guinness World Records. Tucker completed 7,715 pullups in the span of 24 hours, beating the previous record of 7,600 by a significant margin.
Coffee or Die recently spoke to Tucker about his achievement.
Tucker served in D Co, 3/75 from 2011 to 2018.
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Tucker.)
“I was so glad to be done — I was having doubts when I had around 5,000 pullups because up to that point, I had only done 4,300 in my training. That took me 14 hours,” Tucker said. “Once I hit 5,000 on game day, I started having all these doubts. It was new ground — I didn’t know if I was going to hit a wall, hit a second wind … I wasn’t sure. My muscles were failing, my hands were blistered … it was painful, man. I had two pairs of gloves on, and I had on these leather cowhide pieces under those. My hands still felt like I had stuck them on a stovetop … But I just had to stay on course.”
Tucker said he repeated a mantra to himself for motivation: “Three pullups every 30 seconds. Three pullups every 30 seconds.” If he felt good, he would try for four every 30 seconds to create a buffer.
“Your body is amazing when you have the mind to work it and push it,” he said.
In training, Tucker would do over 1,000 pull ups a day.
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Tucker.)
Tucker’s road to the pullup bar was not an easy one. Prior to being medically discharged, Tucker’s mother was killed in a car accident. This hit Tucker hard, but she remained a source of inspiration for him after her passing, just as she had been when she was alive.
“My mom saw so much potential in me, and I never really saw it myself. I used her faith in me to literally pull myself upward,” Tucker said. “We’re so quick to be victims of our circumstances. We naturally want to find all these excuses as to why we can’t do something, instead of just saying, ‘You know what? I’m just going to go do this.’ I’ve never trained for something like I trained for these pullups. I’ve never put this amount of discipline into training, recovery, all of that.”
On most training days, Tucker would do 1,000 pullups. He found himself truly understanding the value of recovery and discovered the need to be disciplined in that regard just as he was disciplined in every other area of his training.
During the event, Tucker repeated the mantra “Three pullups every 30 seconds, three pullups every 30 seconds.”
(Photo by Matt McQuire Photo.)
Technically speaking, Tucker’s pullup record is still filed as an “attempt.” He is currently in the verification process with the Guiness Book of World Records, a process that is now past the submission stage and into the verification stage.
This is not a straightforward process; Guinness requires a host of verifications, witnesses, and documentation to qualify. Prior to the day of the event, Tucker’s mind had to be honed and focused on the training portion — he needed help with the logistics of the event itself.
This is where Tucker’s military family stepped in — particularly Mary Kubik, Gold Star sister of fallen Army Ranger Ronald Kubik (KIA April 2010). Not only did she help him find someone to set up the two verification cameras, coordinate the witnesses, and keep log sheets, she also helped him come up with a list of charities they felt were worthy of support.
“This is what I’m passionate about. It’s what I like to do.”
(Photo by Matt McQuire Photo.)
Three days before Tucker attempted to break the world record, he reached out to the previous world record holder, John Orth. Tucker had heard Orth on a podcast, and he had found it incredibly motivating. He wasn’t sure how Orth would take being contacted by the person trying to break his record, but Tucker sent him a message on Instagram anyway.
Not only was Orth receptive, but he was eager to give Tucker encouragement and some practical tips as well. At the time, Tucker was planning on moving forward with a single pair of gloves. Orth immediately told him to have 10 pairs of gloves and make sure they were kept dry.
“Had I not reached out to him, I probably would have failed,” Tucker said. “He’s an awesome guy, he was all about helping me.”
That spirit inspired a similar attitude in Tucker. “Now that I’ve done it, I’m not worried about someone breaking [the record],” he said. “I want someone to break it.”
Tucker left the military as a Ranger squad leader.
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Tucker.)
When asked what his plans are after the verification process is complete, Tucker said he plans to continue focusing on his health and fitness.
“I am sick,” Tucker said. “I do have this disease that I get treated for every eight weeks. I struggled after I got out [of the Army], but now this thing has lit a fire inside me. I don’t know what’s next, but I want to see what I’m capable of with this body and my mind. If it’s fitness related and I can’t do it, it’s my own fault. I’m surrounded by the coaches, the gyms, the nutrition coaches — I have all the tools.”
He also expressed a desire to continue to see Uncommon Athlete grow and thrive. The “multipurpose fitness training facility,” as their website describes, has operated just outside of Fort Benning, Georgia, since 2011.
“I think we all have a calling,” Tucker said. “We all have that voice that whispers to us. For me, I’ve always had this voice about fitness and competing. My mom would always say it and I’d always tell myself — but I’d be too scared to act on it and really put myself out there.
“Listen to that voice, and just try it. If it doesn’t work, then just move on to the next objective. Don’t get stuck because you don’t know where to go. You know where to go — listen to the voice in your head. Life is all about choices. You can either settle, or you can continue to fight and go for what you want.”
This Is What It’s Like to Run the Darby Queen Obstacle Course
The new Star Wars movies are pretty exciting. It freaked out the entire media landscape in a way unseen since the days before cable TV ensured we all didn’t watch the same episode of Friends on Thursday night. As each trailer brings the new, Jar-Jar free reality of an impending new saga upon us, the inner child of someone who once read the Star Wars Encyclopedia cover to cover bubbles to the surface, realizing some of the tech seen in the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens would have been really useful on some real-world deployments.
Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) is a human scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku (that’s not the desert world of Luke Skywalker’s Tattooine). Jakku is home to thieves and other criminals and someone like Rey must survive by salvaging old parts and reselling them. Having protection from the elements in the harsh, dry, dusty environment (sound familiar?) of Jakku is a real plus.
Rey’s eyepro is stripped from an old Stormtrooper helmet, giving her the same tactical advantage Imperial Stormtroopers had on the battlefield. Though it limits her field of vision, it does help her see in the dark, and through smoke, sand, and glare.
BB-8 “Roller Ball” Droid
As an Astromech droid in the line of R2-d2, the BB-8 droid can deftly work with electronic devices, which would do efficient work with deactivating explosive devices. The new droid comes with a number of improvements on the R2 unit’s original design, including a head which appears to float on a 360-degree base, giving the robot vastly improved maneuverability for the rocky slopes of Afghan terrain.
Luke Skywalker’s Cybernetic Hand
Although in some sci-fi epics, cybernetic hands are more of a problem, in the Star Wars universe, cybernetic limb replacements allow for full range of motion, full use, and full sensitivity. These prosthetic replacements connect mechanical parts directly to the user’s brain via a neural net interface, covered by synthskin, to where no one would know the difference to look at it. This would be an excellent way to care for troops injured in Afghanistan, considering more than 1,000 lost limbs there. Good thing science already figured this one out. Thanks, DARPA.
What military unit wouldn’t want an invisible force field to protect them from harm while they destroyed their enemies. It may not be necessary in Afghanistan, but it sure would be nice to have. It’s much more necessary in the Star Wars Universe, where not having deflector shields looks like this:
Honorable Mention: Rey’s Staff
It may not actually help in combat in Afghanistan, but if you want to see how Rey’s skills with that staff weapon might look onscreen, check out this video of Daisy Ridley’s stunt double, Chloe Bruce, working with one like it:
Close enough for government work, either with the U.S. or the New Republic.
And finally, we want lightsabers. Please, please make it happen, DoD.
Marine Corps System Command today gave defense industry representatives a glimpse of the service’s new equipment wish list that includes lighter, more flexible body armor, more comfortable individual equipment and rifle barrels with built-in suppressors.
Col. Michael Manning, who oversees weapons and equipment programs for MCSC, told industry that Marine equipment is still not integrated as much as it could be.
It used to be that the Marine Corps selected weapons, accessories and equipment and just expected Marines to carry it, Manning told an audience at Modern Day Marine 2017.
“We said ‘you know what, if it adds 10 more pounds, so be it. Get over it,'” Manning said. “It’s time for all of you to help me stop getting over it. Ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain.
“When you can throw it on top of an already 70- ton tank, then that is one thing. When you throw it on top of a 200 pound marine, it’s completely another.”
The U.S. Military has come a long way in the development of individual body armor in the past 20 years, Manning said.
“We have come a long way in the past five years, when it comes to technologies that can defeat multiple rounds,” he said.
But ceramic rifle plates have not changed that much, Manning said.
“We have dropped ounces off of everything we carry, but we haven’t dropped weight on ceramic plates,” Manning said. “There are other technologies out there. Maybe we don’t have to defeat threat whatever multiple times. Maybe it’s only a one or two hit in this caliber.”
Ceramic plates are also too rigid, Manning said.
“Our current plates — you can’t shape them; you can’t mold them to the individual Marine and we all know that,” Manning said. “Let’s get to the next step. Let’s figure out how to mold them.”
The Marine Corps also wants better knee and elbow pads, Manning said.
“The issue is not that we don’t have them out there; the issue is Marines won’t wear it if it’s not comfortable or it falls off or it’s a pain to get over top of everything they are already wearing,” Manning said.
“They fall off, they slide around, so we tear ourselves apart.”
Marines are also working on a Squad Common Optic.
“In the last 10 years we have done a lot of technology improvements, but what we haven’t done is merge all of those improvements into singular optics,” Manning said.
“So now we have infantry squads that are carrying multiple optics. We need to merge thermal, we need to merge I-squared, we need to merge all those technologies together” without adding extra weight.
The current technology for individual weapon suppressors also needs improving, Manning said, explaining that Marines need built-in suppressors.
“Get rid of the suppressor on the end of the barrel … so now when we have a 14.5 inch barrel or a 16 inch barrel, you just added four or five inches and I am right back to 20 inches,” Manning said.
“There are a couple out there now that integrate with the weapons themselves, that is really where we want to go.”
Russia test-fired its advanced RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile Feb. 6, 2019, the Russian defense ministry said, amid rising tensions between Washington and Moscow.
The road-mobile, solid-fuel ICBM, which was “armed with multiple warheads,” was launched from the Plesetsk state testing spaceport, according to Russian state-run media outlet TASS. “The launch aimed to confirm the advanced missile system’s capabilities and flight characteristics,” the ministry said.
The Yars missile went into service in 2010. It can be either mobile or silo-based, and it is upgraded version of the Topol-M missiles. With a range of nearly 7,000 miles, the Yars was designed to beat enemy missile defenses.
The Yars has the ability to alter its trajectory during flight, and this maneuverability makes it more difficult to intercept. It can also deploy active and passive decoys — countermeasures that make it more formidable.
And then there are the multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, which allow the multiple warheads on board to travel a different path than the ICBM was traveling initially.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
“This coupled with the fact that the Yars only takes 7 minutes to launch poses serious threats to the missile defense system used by the US to protect its homeland and its allies,” according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. “The RS-24 is a vital part of Moscow’s effort to increase the survivability its nuclear forces and to counter missile defense systems being deployed by the United States.”
The latest test comes just a few weeks after the release of the Trump administration’s Missile Defense Review, a document highly criticized by Moscow, and just days after the collapse of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — the last line of defense preventing a major nuclear arms race — from which the US withdrew over alleged Russian violations of the Cold War-era nuclear-arms agreement.
As he ripped up the INF Treaty, President Donald Trump warned the US will “move forward with developing our own military response” to Russian moves. Russian President Vladimir Putin then stressed that Russia “will respond quid pro quo.”
The Russian defense ministry has called for the development of a new land-based cruise missile, a variant of the sea-launched Kalibr missiles, and hypersonic missiles. There are also reports that Russia is again testing its much-hyped Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, although Moscow apparently has yet to achieve success with this new system.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Bad news, folks. If the U.S. had to muscle its way into regions choked with ice to deal with a recalcitrant foe, it’d have hard time.
The fact of the matter is that the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker capability has dwindled big time, and the Navy has no icebreakers in its fleet.
At this time, the Coast Guard has one heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star (WAGB 10) and one medium icebreaker, the Healy (WAGB 20) in service. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea (WAGB 11), has been inoperable since 2010 after five of its diesel engines failed.
As a result, the United States has a very big problem. The Polar Star is down at the South Pole, resupplying the McMurdo Research Station. That means that the Healy is the only icebreaker available for operations in the Arctic.
The Polar Sea? Right now, it is being cannibalized to keep the Polar Star operable, according to a report from USNI News.
According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” the Polar Sea was commissioned in 1976, while the Polar Star was commissioned in 1977. USNI noted that plans do not include beginning construction of new icebreakers until 2020, with them entering service in 2024 at the earliest.
If you’ve followed ship programs like the Littoral Combat Ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, or the Gerald R. Ford, that date could be a best-case scenario. The Polar Sea’s operational life is expected to last until 2022, two years prior to the earliest date the new icebreakers would enter service.
Russia, on the other hand, has 41 icebreakers. In addition to maintaining a large fleet of icebreakers, Russia has been trying to winterize modern interceptors like the MiG-31 Foxhound and strike aircraft like the Su-34 Fullback, and its new icebreaker construction push includes nuclear-powered icebreakers.
So apparently there are talks within the Senate to give each troop who deployed under the Global War on Terrorism $2,500 as part of the AFGHAN Service Act, which would also negotiate the end of the conflict.
On one hand, sure. I’d love the money. Bills suck ass and cash is king. On the other hand, well, let’s look at the lettering of the bill. It’s a one-time payment, and it’d be sent out to every troop who’s deployed anywhere under the Global War on Terrorism. I can only imagine the impending sh*tstorm that’d come when everyone got that check in the mail.
Deploying one time to Kuwait would get you the money, deploying multiple times to Afghanistan still only gets you one check and the older vets who served before 9/11 get nothing. See where I’m going here? The veteran community will turn into the freakin’ Thunderdome. But then again… that is a rent payment…
Anyways, enjoy some memes before the ensuing sh*tstorm!
China, Russia, Malaysia, and other nations are failing to curb sanctioned financial dealings and trade conducted by North Korea in their countries, according to a U.N. report.
A U.N. panel of experts on North Korea said these nations and others are failing to stop the Kim Jong Un regime’s efforts to fund its nuclear and missile programs, according to a report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. CNN received key sections of the report.
Their draft report was distributed to a U.N. committee overseeing North Korea sanctions compliance. It then goes to the Security Council.
In violation of U.N. sanctions, North Korean exported roughly $200 million in coal and other commodities in 2017, the panel said. Much of the regime’s coal and fuel shipments passed through Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, or Russian ports.
More than 30 representatives of North Korean financial institutions are operating in foreign nations, including Russia and China, the investigators said.
North Korea “is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system,” the document stated.
Several dozen times over the past decade, the report said, North Korean weapons have been shipped to Syria to develop a chemical-weapons program.
Syria told the panel no North Korea technical companies are operating in the country, and the only North Koreans there are involved in sports.
A member country also reported that Myanmar is buying a ballistic-missile system and conventional weapons from North Korea, including rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles, according to the report.
Chinese, Russian, Malaysian, and Burmese embassies in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment by The Wall Street Journal.
Last year, the U.N. Security Council passed stronger sanctions against North Korea after several weapons tests, including nuclear ones.
Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston announced a historic new temporary promotion policy for soldiers. The policy is designed to expand on the Army’s ongoing commitment to supporting its soldiers.
“Today I am pleased to announce a new promotion policy that helps us to continue to put people first,” Grinston shared on a press call. Beginning with the January 2021 promotion month, soldiers unable to complete the Army’s required Professional Military Education courses to qualify for advancement to sergeant, all the way through sergeant major, due to pregnancy, deployment or those enrolled in a non-resident sergeant major course will be temporarily advanced to the next rank.
Through research, the Army recognizes that the requirements for advancement to higher rank negatively impacts women in particular. Grinston shared that female soldiers would routinely speak to him about the struggle and difficulty of determining when to start a family in order to not negatively impact their career. Female soldiers are unable to complete the physical training portion of leadership school required due to pregnancy or being postpartum, often putting them behind their male counterparts in career advancement.
Deployed soldiers were also falling behind their peers in advancement opportunities. Grinston explained that Army units overseas were declining to send soldiers to the required PME courses due to operational needs within combat zones. Around 300 soldiers requested exceptions in 2019 in order to advance to the next rank. Although the number may seem small, Grinston shared that it would be much higher if the Army ever had to significantly increase their numbers to meet combat needs.
When developing the policy, leadership wanted to ensure that those attending either sergeant major course could advance on time, regardless of how they took it. It was discovered that those attending the nonresident sergeant major course tended to finish their course later, missing the deadline for meeting requirements for promotion on time. This left qualified soldiers waiting a year to advance to the next rank despite completing the required schooling. The new policy avoids that.
Command Sergeant Major Kenyatta Gaskins was also on the call with members of the press and addressed questions on whether soldiers being temporarily promoted were actually ready to advance. “Those soldiers have already demonstrated that they have the potential to perform at the next higher level. They have been recommended for promotion by their commanders,” he explained. “I don’t believe we are blindly promoting individuals. These are well deserved promotions of soldiers who’ve demonstrated the ability to perform at the next higher level.”
The temporary promotion policy applies not only to active duty Army but also those in the Army Reserves and Army National Guard. As long as soldiers are otherwise qualified and meet the conditions outlined, they will be advanced beginning January 1, 2020.
Those temporarily advanced to the next rank will have a set amount of time to complete their PME courses or they will revert back to their previous rank. Should they be reverted back due to not completing PME, they will not be required to pay back the received increase in pay due to temporary advancement. Active soldiers returning from deployment will have one year to complete their PME course and active female soldiers will have two years from the end of their postpartum profile. Those in the Army Reserves or Army National Guard will have three years.
The temporary promotion is allowable only once in a soldier’s career.
“I believe none of these scenarios – starting a family, deploying to a combat zone or selection to the nonresident sergeant major course should be a reason a soldier’s career should be delayed,” Grinston explained. “These temporary promotions support the Army’s ‘people first’ strategy.”
Nadja Y. West became the Army’s first black surgeon general in 2016, and she was later promoted to lieutenant general, the first female U.S. Military Academy graduate as well as the first African-American woman to hold that rank.
West was also the first Army officer to hold a leadership role at the National Naval Medical Center, a top-tier center in Bethesda, Maryland where she served as a deputy commander.
“I was once an orphan with an uncertain future,” West said of her promotion in a piece from theGrio. “And I am incredibly honored and humbled to lead such a distinguished team of dedicated professionals who are entrusted with the care of our nation’s sons and daughters, veterans, and family members.”
According to her biography, West deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Later, she was part of a medical mission with the 5th Special Forces Group. She has held command at two Army medical centers as well as Europe Regional Medical Command. Most recently, she was the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon.
As the Army’s surgeon general, West will advise the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff on all Army health care matters, according to a press release from the Office of the Surgeon General. West will also oversee Medical Command and its 48 hospitals which serve 4 million active duty service members, retirees, and their family members.
West graduated from West Point with a degree in engineering. She later earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the George Washington University School of Medicine.