SAN ANTONIO – USAA, the presenting-sponsor of the 121st Army-Navy Game on Dec. 12, is launching the “Army-Navy House” sweepstakes ahead of this year’s game to help fans continue to celebrate the game’s rivalry and traditions despite COVID-19 restrictions.
One of college football’s most revered and storied rivalries will continue as the Army Black Knights take on the Navy Midshipmen at Michie Stadium on the campus at West Point, NY. However, only the Brigade of Midshipmen and Corps of Cadets, the students at each academy, will be allowed in the stands. No outside fans will be able to attend in person.
USAA has planned the Army-Navy House sweepstakes to allow fans to carry on the rivalry from the comfort of their home. Fans can visit www.ArmyNavyHouse.com and upload a photo that shows off their fandom to be entered into the sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to the 2021 Army-Navy Game in New York City. One winner from each fandom will be chosen. Fans can also share their uploaded photos to social media using the hashtag #ArmyNavyHouse.
“There is no other rivalry that matches the passion, tradition and patriotism of the Army-Navy Game,” said USAA Chief Brand Officer Tony Wells, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. “Brothers and sisters in arms all year, this is the one afternoon when they are rivals. While we share fans’ disappointment that we cannot celebrate these future leaders in person, we can still share our support through Army-Navy House and come together virtually as we have learned to do during this pandemic.”
In addition to the two grand prize winners, 1,000 fans from each Academy who upload a photo will be eligible to win a commemorative ticket from this year’s game. Many Army-Navy fans have ticket stubs from games they have attended for the past 10, 20 or 30 years in a row. The commemorative ticket is a chance for fans to keep their streak alive even though they can’t be there in person.
This year’s playing of “America’s Game” marks the first time the Army-Navy Game will be played at a home site since World War II when Annapolis hosted the 1942 game and West Point the 1943 game.
The 121st playing of the Army-Navy Game presented by USAA will air on CBS at 3:00 pm ET on Saturday, Dec. 12. The annual Army-Navy Game is normally the last regular season matchup in college football, and Navy leads the series 61-52-7, having snapped a three-game Army winning streak last year .
Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, Tex., USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 35,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.
As part of the events surrounding Super Bowl 50, the Military Benefit Association sponsored the Wounded Warrior Amputee vs. NFL Alumni Flag Football game. The game was a chance for these veterans to compete against NFL greats while raising awareness about the issues wounded veterans face.
Rocky Bleier, Pittsburgh Steeler great, Vietnam War veteran, and spokesperson for the Military Benefit Association, has been involved with the WWAFT games for the past five years.
The U.S. Army destroyed a flying drone target with a Hellfire missile fired from a truck-mounted launcher designed to protect ground troops from enemy rockets, mortars, artillery fire, cruise missiles and aircraft, service officials explained.
The live-fire test, which took place at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., a Multi-Mission Launcher shot the Hellfire out of one of 15 rotating launch tubes mounted onto a mobile tactical truck.
“The MML is mounted on a medium tactical vehicle. The launcher can rotate 360 degrees and elevate from 0 to 90 degrees. It consists of fifteen tubes, each of which can hold either a single large interceptor or multiple smaller interceptors,” an Army statement said.
With ISIS rocket fire killing a U.S. Marine at a firebase in Iraq recently, this emerging ground-based troop protection is the kind of system which could quickly make and operational difference for forces in combat situations.
The firing represents an adaptation of the Hellfire missile, a 100-pound tank-killing weapons typically fired from aircraft such as Gray Eagle, Predator and Reaper drones and Apache attack helicopters, among others.
The Hellfire was fired as part of a development force protection technology called “Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept (IFPC Inc. 2-I).” The live fire exercise demonstrated the ability to fire a second interceptor type because the Multi-Mission launcher has also fired a ground-launched Stinger anti-aircraft missile and a AIM-9X missile, an air-to-air attack weapon adapted for ground-fire troop protection.
“We are fully integrated with AIM-9X and Longbow (Hellfire). This is a monumental effort by our PEO family,” Col. Terrence Howard, Project Manager, Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office, PEO Missiles and Space told Scout Warrior.
The Multi-Mission launcher works in tandem with radar and fire-control software to identify, track, pinpoint and destroy approaching enemy air threats with an interceptor missile.
IFPC Inc 2-I is a joint collaborative effort between the Army’s Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space’s Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office and the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, an Army statement said.
“This is a capability that, when fully matured and fielded, will match and counter a very wide variety of sophisticated airborne threats. MML will greatly help protect our ground troops from harm’s way under the most stressing battlespace operating conditions,” James Lackey, Director of AMRDEC, told Scout Warrior in a statement.
The IFPC Inc 2-I System will use a technology called Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System for its command and control along with a Sentinel radar system to provide 360-degree protection with the ability to engage simultaneous threats arriving from different angles of attack, Army officials said.
“MML (Multi-Mission Launcher) gives me confidence we can do more of these types of efforts when it comes to future prototyping,” Lackey added.
The live-fire demonstration involved Army subject matter experts, industry participants and international partners interested in the systems’ development.
“This is a marked achievement that proves the open systems architecture of the IFPC capability works as designed. We have demonstrated the ability to offer a multiple interceptor solution to defeat multiple threats. True multi-mission capability” Lt. Col. Michael Fitzgerald, IFPC Product Manager.
Weapons development experts are now using telemetry and data collection systems to assess the results of the live fire with a mind to quickly preparing the system for combat use. The weapon should be ready for combat within three to five years.
The US appears to have sailed a warship armed with stealth fighters near a disputed reef in the South China Sea.
Filipino fishermen spotted an “aircraft carrier” launching stealth fighters near the contested Scarborough Shoal, a tiny speck of land in the South China Sea, the local media outlet ABS-CBN reported on April 9, 2019. The video report shows what looks like a US amphibious assault ship, most likely the USS Wasp.
The Wasp “has been training with Philippine Navy ships in Subic Bay and in international waters of the South China Sea … for several days,” a US military spokeswoman told The Japan Times, refusing to confirm the Wasp’s presence near Scarborough Shoal for “force protection and security” reasons.
Screenshot of the warship spotted by Filipino fishermen.
The Marine Corps told Business Insider that they were aware of the video but were unable to confirm when and where it was taken. It is also unclear how close the vessel in the video was to the shoal.
The ship has been conducting flight operations in the area as part of ongoing Balikatan exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, according to US Pacific Fleet.
The US Navy warship ship sailed into Subic Bay last week with a heavy configuration of 10 F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, significantly more than it normally carries. “We have a lot of capability on this ship,” Capt. Jim McGovern, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 11, said of the Wasp, Stars and Stripes reported. The F-35B is a jump jet that has directional engines that allow it take off from and land on short runways.
A US Marine Corps spokesperson told Business Insider that the Wasp has been operating in international waters and Philippine territory during the joint exercises. “Philippine territory” means different things to different countries in the region.
USS Wasp with heavy F-35 configuration in the South China Sea.
China seized Scarborough Shoal, a potential powder keg in the South China Sea, from the Philippines after a tense standoff in 2012. The Philippines took the dispute before an international arbitration tribunal in 2016 and won. Beijing, however, rejected the ruling, as well as the tribunal’s authority.
China has not militarized the shoal as it has the Paracels and Spratlys, the other two corners of what is commonly referred to as the “strategic triangle.”
The US routinely conducts freedom-of-navigation operations, as well as bomber overflights, in the South China Sea as a challenge to Beijing’s sovereignty claims. These operations usually take place in the Paracels and Spratlys.
The last freedom-of-navigation operation near the Scarborough Shoal took place in January 2018, when the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of the shoal. China accused the US of violating its sovereignty and security interests.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The largest non-nuclear weapon in the Air Force‘s arsenal recently got an upgrade from Boeing, Air Force officials told Military.com.
While they couldn’t comment on how many GBU-57 weapons received the upgrade for operational security reasons, “the Enhanced Threat Response IV modification improved the weapon’s performance against hard and deeply buried targets,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said. The announcement was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, the bomb is a bunker buster meant to take out hard, deeper-rooted areas, such as underground lairs. While the MOP weighs in at 33,000 pounds, its warhead is only roughly 5,300 pounds.
Whether or not the MOP is currently deployed was not disclosed.
In October 2017 The Aviationist website posted an account of Northrop Grumman-made B-2s simulating airstrikes across various targets in Missouri. According to the witness, the strikes, simulated in the Ozarks, resembled a practice run in a mountainous terrain such as Afghanistan or North Korea.
Meanwhile, citing a test and evaluations report, Aviation Week recently reported that three B-2s, each armed with a GBU-57, struck at targets at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in May, 2017.
The MOP outweighs the Air Force’s Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, bomb. However, the air-burst MOAB — first deployed in combat in 2017 — is the most powerful conventional bomb with 18,000 pounds of explosives, equivalent to about 11 tons of TNT.
The 21,600-pound GBU-43 — nicknamed “mother of all bombs” — dropped from an MC-130special operations cargo plane onto a specific location in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan in April 2017. The intention was to take out militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s branch Khorasan, or ISIS-K, amassed in a tunnel complex.
That strike killed at least 94 militants, a U.S. military official said at the time.
A deafening explosion followed the commands as a 155mm artillery round exited the tube of an M777A2 during Operation Swift, Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
Troopers from the Field Artillery Squadron “Steel,” 3rd Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles,” conducted a gun raid to provide supporting fires for Operation Swift — a series of artillery and airstrikes against ISIS targets in the Makhmour Mountains.
Operation Swift was the first artillery raid conducted in support of Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, and demonstrated the Coalition’s capability to provide dynamic fires in support of the Iraqi Security Forces.
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment execute nighttime fire missions with an M777A2 howitzer during a gun raid mission with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“Doing the first artillery raid, having never air assaulted a howitzer in theater, was a great experience,” said 1st Lt. Aaron Palumbo, platoon leader. “It taught us just how light we could personally pack and helped us identify the feasibility of transporting a Howitzer with rotary-wing assets,” said Palumbo.
High explosive charges echoed across Camp Swift night and day as the fire direction center meticulously choreographed the fire missions with airstrikes on multiple ISIS weapons caches and hiding spots throughout the mountains.
“It felt as if we were moving mountains before the mission,” said Palumbo. “Now, we have identified friction points and know how to execute future missions with increased lethality.”
The barrages of artillery fire were intended to destroy resources of ISIS fighters and send a message that no enemy location was safe from the lethality of the entire coalition force.
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment load and elevate an M777A2 howitzer during nighttime fire missions for a gun raid mission with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“It was interesting being part of the first artillery raid, and doing an artillery mission in combat like we would during home station training,” said Spc. Deavon Shafer, ammunition team chief.
During the onset of Operation Swift, Steel troopers both observed coalition aircraft dropping ordnance on known ISIS positions, and reinforced those fires with their own M777A2 howitzer that was air assaulted into position.
The artillery raid was a proof of concept to pass onto future artillery units in theater and a demonstration of the partnership between the ISF and Brave Rifles Troopers in the fight to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS in Iraq.
When not firing, they trained with the 3rd Federal Police Division soldiers at Camp Swift on the unique weapons systems of both units and conducted artillery training with soldiers of the 12th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi FEDPOL Artillery Battalion.
A trooper with the Field Artillery Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, connects a sling leg from an M777A2 howitzer to a CH-47 Chinook before executing a gun raid mission with Ira-qi Security Forces in Iraq, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“The training felt the same as training we do internally — we learned something new,” said Spc. Kevin Mahan, M777A2 gunner.
Operation Swift was the first of its kind in theater and will not be the last.
“Task Force Steel executed the artillery raid in conjunction with fixed wing airstrikes to mass joint fires in the Makhmour Mountains and continue the physical and psychological degradation of ISIS,” said Maj. Simon Welte, squadron executive officer. “Our operational tempo remains high against ISIS and this raid serves as another example to our ISF and Kurdish Security Force partners that we are committed to the lasting defeat of ISIS in Iraq.”
Brave Rifles Troopers are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, working by, with and through the Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition partners to bring about the lasting defeat of ISIS. Brave Rifles Troopers will eventually be replaced by soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne,” 101st Airborne Division, and the Steel Sqdn. has paved the way for future missions.
Bastogne soldiers will continue to provide support to the ISF and deliver massed fires utilizing a variety of firepower to defeat ISIS’s combat power and ideology.
Investigative website Bellingcat has identified the second suspect in the nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain as a military doctor employed by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.
In September 2018, British prosecutors charged two Russians — Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov — with attempted murder for carrying out the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the Novichok nerve toxin in the southern English city in early 2018.
The prosecutors said at the time the two were undercover GRU officers.
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Skripals’ attempted murder.
“We have now identified ‘Aleksandr Petrov’ to be in fact Dr. Aleksandr Yevgenyevich Mishkin, a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” the British-based group said in a reportpublished on its website.
Bellingcat, a website that covers intelligence matters, had previously identified Boshirov on Sept. 26, 2018, as being decorated GRU Colonel Anatoly Chepiga.
“While Aleksandr Mishkin’s true persona has an even sparser digital footprint than Anatoly Chepiga’s, Bellingcat has been able to establish certain key facts from his background,” the Oct. 8, 2018 report said.
It said that Mishkin was born in 1979 in the Archangelsk region in Northern European Russia and was trained as a military doctor for the Russian naval armed forces at one of Russia’s elite military medical schools.
A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.
“During his medical studies, Mishkin was recruited by the GRU, and by 2010 had relocated to Moscow, where he received his undercover identity — including a second national ID and travel passport — under the alias Aleksandr Petrov,” the report said.
“Bellingcat’s identification process included multiple open sources, testimony from people familiar with the person, as well as copies of personally identifying documents, including a scanned copy of his passport,” the website said.
British police declined to make any specific comment in relation to Bellingcat’s latest report or the real names of those charged with poisoning the Skripals.
“We are not going to comment on speculation regarding their identities,” London’s police force said in a statement in response to a media query about the report.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the two men shown in British surveillance footage near Skripal’s home in Salisbury and identified by British authorities as Boshirov and Petrov were actually civilians on a tourist trip.
Skripal, a former GRU colonel, was convicted of treason in 2006 by a Russian court after being accused of spying for Britain. He relocated to Britain in a 2010 spy swap.
Putin on Oct. 3, 2018, said that Skripal was a “scumbag” who had betrayed his country.
The Skripals were found unconscious on March 4, 2018, on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury. They were seriously ill but made a full recovery after spending several weeks in a hospital.
British officials said the two were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Putin’s government for the attack.
In June 2018, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.
Britain on Sept. 5, 2018, announced charges against the two Russian men as police issued photographs of the suspects.
The men acknowledged they were in Salisbury at the time but claimed they were there as tourists.
It’s no secret that veterans and coffee go together like peanut butter and jelly. As more and more people separate from active duty to pursue their passions, the number of boutique coffee companies run by prior service folks is only growing.
One of the newest is Ranger Candy Coffee. Ranger Candy is run by a former US Army mortarman who served a total of eight years both on active duty and with the National Guard. The company launched earlier this year with the goal of bringing high-quality coffee to service members, first responders, and outdoorsmen. The HMFIC at Ranger Candy also owns a home remodeling company, giving us hope that the American work ethic isn’t completely dead.
Ranger Candy starts with hand-selected, single-origin Arabica beans that they import from 18 different countries. The beans are then blended, roasted, ground, and shipped by the Ranger Candy crew anywhere in the US or to anybody working overseas with an APO/DPO/FPO. They offer light, medium and dark roasts available in six different grinds from fine to espresso to coarse, with a couple of settings in between. You can purchase quantities from 12 ounces to 12 pounds as well as K-Cups.
We received our own sample of Ranger Candy in a re-sealable 12-ounce bag that kind of reminded us of an MRE pouch. We’re not sure if that was on purpose or if we happen to be feeling nostalgic. Said sample was a standard grind dark roast sourced from Tanzania. We know it came from Tanzania because the label on the bag includes a list of all 18 countries they source from, and they will conveniently “check the box” next to the country of origin for your particular bag of coffee. In fact, you can specify the country of origin when you order. Do you prefer Mexican coffee to Costa Rican? Or Indian? Or Ugandan? You can specify the country of origin when you place your order. If you’re not sure what you prefer, the Ranger Candy website includes tasting and origin notes for each of the countries they source from.
For our Tanzanian sample, tasting notes were chocolate, cherries, and caramel. We caught the chocolate and think maybe we tasted a little bit of cherry on the finish, but couldn’t find the caramel. Your mileage may vary. But we also learned that our coffee was grown at an elevation of 5,900 feet in the Mbeya region.
Ranger Candy coffee runs .99 per 12 ounce bag, regardless of country-of-origin. They also offer a line of mugs and swag to accompany your cup of joe. Check them out at www.rangercandycoffee.com or on your social media of choice.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
After creating massive companies, like PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City, Neuralink, and Open AI, entrepreneur Elon Musk has turned his sights on selling hats and flamethrowers. Yep. It’s an actual flamethrower for civilian use and sale.
Perfect for all of your flamethrowing needs! Whether you’re looking to get of rid that spider in the corner, you’re tired of plowing your driveway in the winter, or you’re just looking to liven up the party, Elon Musk has a flamethrower for you! He even guarantees that it’ll be effective against the zombie horde — or your money back!
When the zombie apocalypse happens, you’ll be glad you bought a flamethrower. Works against hordes of the undead or your money back!
All jokes aside, the flamethrower is part of a tongue-in-cheek promise he made, stating he could sell 50,000 hats to raise awareness for The Boring Company. The name “Boring Company” is a play on words, since the company is actually focused on ‘boring‘ tunnels for trains and his proposed Hyperloop. Their mission statement is to increase the speed of tunneling at a fraction of current cost. Since everyone is talking about his flamethrowers, it’s well on its way to success.
The Boring Company only plans on selling 20,000 flamethrowers, which are set to ship in spring. They are compliant with most local laws, except in Maryland and Warren, MI (and California without a license). Since their flame is under 10ft, it’s not classified as a weapon and isn’t regulated by the ATF.
A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Jan 27, 2018 at 4:53pm PST
If you’re interested in a Boring Company Flamethrower, use your common sense on when and where to use it. Then again, this is being released around the same time we need to tell people that they shouldn’t eat poisonous laundry detergent pods.
In case you’re still thinking this is just a joke from a multi-billionaire on the flamethrower-wanting public, check out this video from Elon Musk’s Instagram account of him playing with one.
In 2017, small American advisory elements here in Northern Iraq were operating at battle tempo as they mentored and assisted Iraqi units in a pitched fight to reclaim the city of Mosul from ISIS control.
That fight was won decisively, with an official Iraqi declaration of victory in Mosul in July 2017. And to further cement the advantage, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared complete victory over ISIS in Iraq on Dec. 9, 2017, just days before a Military.com visit to the country.
Among the Marine advisory units remaining at Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Anbar province, there is the satisfaction that comes with a mission accomplished.
But for some, victory brings its own unease: As the Marines endeavor to work themselves out of a job in Iraq, what lies beyond the current mission remains unclear.
When Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller paid visits to Al Asad, Al Taqaddum and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during a December tour of deployed units, his tone was congratulatory.
“You’re part of history now, because you were in Iraq when ISIS was defeated, tactically,” he said. ” … You have been catastrophically successful. The way this thing has turned in the last year is pretty epic. So, you should be proud of what you’ve done and what you’ve contributed to.”
Neller’s parting words to the Marines amounted to an order to hold down the fort for the duration of the deployment.
“You will not get blown up. You will not get attacked. No one will let anyone come in here who is a bad person and do anything to anybody … Do your job, until the wheels of that airplane leave the ground to take you home,” he said.
While pockets of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and military advisers continue to pay attention to the Syrian border and work to prevent more extremists from entering the country, planners are already discussing how and when to bring home the Marine elements deployed in support of the fight.
These discussions dovetail with those ongoing at the joint level and in diplomatic channels.
The Associated Press reported Feb. 5 2018, citing a senior Iraqi official close to al-Abadi, that an agreement with U.S. leaders stipulated 60 percent of troops in Iraq will come home, while about 4,000 will remain in an advisory capacity amid ongoing efforts to eradicate remaining ISIS elements and restore security.
Decisions regarding individual units can be made and executed rapidly, as was seen in late November 2017, when officials with the joint task force overseeing the fight against ISIS announced that a Marine artillery unit deployed to Syria would be coming home early. A replacement unit, which had already conducted specialized training ahead of a planned deployment, was told to stay put stateside.
In Iraq, the first Marine Corps element to leave will likely be the additional security presence at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, roughly 150 Marines who have been sourced from the Corps’ crisis response task force for the Middle East since 2015. During his tour, Neller told Marines he looked forward to bringing that contingent home soon.
“I think we’re close,” Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, told Military.com during a December interview in Baghdad.
While pulling the extra Marine Corps element out of Baghdad would signal improved confidence in the local security situation, Gideons pointed out that the embassy could be reinforced again within hours if conditions change.
“It’s not like if we pull the Marines out of there, we’re leaving the embassy, and State Department personnel, alone and unafraid,” he said. “That’s an hour-and-a-half flight from [an undisclosed task force hub in the Middle East] to here.”
Decisions about how and when to redeploy contingents of several hundred Marines at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad will likely be made in spring 2018. In addition to security elements at each base sourced from the crisis response force, the Marines maintain smaller colonel-led advisory elements in each location: Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, and Task Force Lion at Al Asad.
For the Marine Corps, the smallest and most junior in rank of the services, the cost of providing these senior advisory units is not insignificant.
“You all came from units, and nobody came to your unit and replaced you when you left,” Neller told the troops at Al Taqaddum. “I’m sure they’d love to get you back. I’m anxious to get you back too. But I also don’t want to do something that would be so risky that it would cause you to risk all the success you’ve gained.”
In an interview with Military.com, Neller pointed to the Iraqi parliamentary elections as a possible decision-forcing point. Whether or not al-Abadi is re-elected, Iraqi leadership will then be best positioned to express what support they would like from the United States going forward.
“You’ve got two colonels … at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad, people slated to come in to replace both of them, what are they going to do?” Neller said. “So this happened pretty fast; so we’ll give everyone some time to figure it out.”
While Neller said the two elements represented a very senior capability for what has rapidly become a sustainment mission, he also expressed concern that a hasty decision based on ISIS’ apparent defeat could lead to instability.
“Right now, we’re sitting, kind of adjusting and let the situation kind of settle,” he said. “Because it’s not settled; It’s settling … the [ISIS] caliphate is technically gone, but there’s still other things moving.”
A new focus
For the Marines’ crisis response task force in the Middle East, which operates across a half-dozen countries, the turn the fight against ISIS has taken could mean an opportunity to focus majority efforts on non-combat operations for the first time in the unit’s history.
Created in late 2014 in the wake of the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the unit was designed to be a multi-purpose 911 force custom-built for the region.
The unit wasn’t built specifically for the fight against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. But it was tasked with supporting Operation Inherent Resolve immediately. For its entire existence, the anti-ISIS fight has been the unit’s central focus.
Gideons, the task force commander, said roughly 500 Marines from the task force continued to operate in Iraq and Syria in support of efforts to defeat ISIS as of late December.
“But we still have a responsibility, day in and day out, to be a theater-wide crisis response force,” he said. “So I think it’s this juncture of, ‘OK, we’ve got a lot of capability in the [task force], let’s support OIR.’ But OIR is drawing down, do we want to keep that there … or take those things that we pushed into Iraq and Syria, make [the unit] kind of whole again and ready to respond across the region?”
There’s no lack of regional hot spots to vie for the unit’s time. Regions that may present missions for the task force, Gideons suggested, include Afghanistan, where U.S. troops advise local forces battling ISIS and the Taliban; Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have attempted missile attacks on American ships; and the adjacent Bab el Mandeb strait, a key transit choke point between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
“It’s an interesting crossroads,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of capability.”
Whether the unit will stay the same size in the transition process remains to be seen.
Neller told Marines forward-deployed to Norway that he’d like to “pull back” from the Middle East slightly in favor of concentrating more manpower and resources on Russia and Europe.
The Marines’ 2,300-strong crisis response force, equipped with half a squadron each of MV-22 Ospreys and C-130 Hercules aircraft, is designed to be scalable, able to grow or shrink based on regional combatant commanders’ requirements.
But Gideons said he didn’t anticipate any change to the size of the unit in the near future.
“Just at my level, I think we’re probably about right; there’s an element of right-size,” he said.
As senior leaders negotiate the way forward, Marines on the ground continue to ponder the implications of what they’ve accomplished.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Johnny Mendez, operations chief for Task Force Lion at Al Asad, is still marveling at how quickly and decisively the Iraqi troops he helped advise moved to defeat ISIS and reclaim their country.
Compared with what he observed during a deployment to Anbar province a decade ago in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mendez said he’d seen a transformation in the soldiers’ attitude, drive and determination to win.
“Ten years ago, we were doing operations; we were doing full support,” he said. “Now, it’s nice to see, from the backseat, that they’re actually taking pride in what they’re doing. It’s different.”
The change had less to do, he said, with the Marines’ assistance than it did with an elemental struggle, driven by ISIS’ wanton destruction and disregard for human life and dignity.
“Honestly, it was just the fight between good and evil,” Mendez said. “I think it was the local population and the local people were done seeing so much bad being done. They took pride in, this is their country. I couldn’t put my finger on it [before], but that was it.”
Col. Damian Spooner, the commanding officer of Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, said he had observed a similar change.
During a Military.com visit to the base, Spooner said it had been more than a year since it had come under enemy fire, another indicator of how Iraqi troops, rather than Marines, were prosecuting the fight.
“Ten years ago, when we were here, I would have given anything to have the Iraqis doing the fighting, instead of Marines dying every day over here,” Spooner said. “And now, here we are, and the Iraqis are going out. I think what’s important about that is, they have earned this. They have liberated Iraq, they have defeated Daesh, and it gives me hope for the country that there’s something there that they have earned, and they’re not going to give it up easily. I think that’s very important.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Carreon, current operations officer for the crisis response task force, cautioned that the fight isn’t over, and that ISIS, denied control of major cities, would move underground and mount an insurgency campaign.
But even in the current lull following a declaration of victory, Carreon said emotions are mixed among deployed Marines.
“I think Marines want to kill bad guys, right?” he said. “So if you take that out of the equation, I don’t know how that makes us feel. Probably not happy.”
Most of the news about combat trauma and PTS(D) is bad. Those of us who slogged through nasty deployments are often seen as ticking time bombs. Civilians tend to throw out a “Thank you for your service!” before scurrying away.
Mattis knows that the public emphasizes the negative experiences. Many people are tempted to think of combat vets as broken or suffering. What they ignore, he says, is that we come back stronger than when we left. We are challenged by war, forced to grow and adapt, and return as a more kick-ass version of ourselves.
Combat vets are survivors. The mindset and skills we pick up in war are incredibly valuable no matter what we choose to do after taking off the uniform.
Badass skill #1: We are better able to multitask, especially in chaotic environments.
This is a no-brainer. It’s the foundation of every infantryman’s “shoot, move, communicate” skillset. Where else are you expected to maintain awareness of your environment while simultaneously communicating with other units and assets in an area?
Badass skill #2: We have higher tolerances for stress.
There are a lot of people who think they lead stressful lives. Traffic, emails, complaining kids; all these things can seem like stress until you deploy for 7 to 12 months at a time. We may get annoyed by life, sure, but who doesn’t? The difference is that combat vets function better when things get really nasty, not collapse under the strain.
Badass skill #3: We aren’t intimidated by difficult work.
It’s hard to find something more challenging than combat. There is the grueling months of the work-up, the separation from friends and family, and then the slow and steady grind of the actual deployment. Many of us repeat this cycle again, and again, and again. After that you can be pretty confident that life isn’t going to throw anything at you that you can’t handle.
Badass skill #4: We can adapt to new tools and technologies.
Despite what a lot of people think about military technology, we get to use some pretty cool stuff. More than that, the gear is constantly changing, sometimes even during deployment. We have to be adaptable – willing to learn on the fly. Quick on-the-job training is incredibly valuable for many jobs.
William Treseder served in the Marines between 2001 and 2011. He now writes regularly on military topics, and has been featured in TIME, Foreign Policy, and Boston Review.
The Marine Corps’ new CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter is on track to surpass the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter in unit cost, a lawmaker said this month.
The still-in-development King Stallion is designed to replace the Marines’ CH-53E Super Stallion choppers, which are reaching the end of their service lives. But while Super Stallions cost about $24 million apiece, or $41 million in current dollars, the Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin King Stallion began with a per-unit price tag of about $95 million — and there are indications it could rise further.
Citing a 2016 Selected Acquisition Report from the Government Accountability Office, Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., said the CH-53K estimated unit cost had increased about 14 percent from the baseline estimate. Information provided directly from the Marine Corps to House lawmakers this year, she said, indicated that the choppers were now expected to cost 22 percent more than the baseline estimate, or $122 million per copy.
“The Marine Corps intends to buy 200 of these aircraft, so that cost growth multiplied times 200 is a heck of a lot of money,” Tsongas said during a March 10 hearing before a House Armed Services subcommittee. “And even if there is no additional cost growth, it seems worth pointing out that $122 million per aircraft in 2006 dollars exceeds the current cost of an F-35A aircraft for the Air Force by a significant margin.”
The most recent lot of Lockheed Martin F-35As cost $94.6 million apiece, down from over $100 million in previous buys. The Marine Corps’ F-35B and the Navy’s F-35C, modified for ship take-off and landing, remain slightly over $120 million apiece.
Previously the Marines’ Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey held the distinction of being the priciest rotorcraft in the air, at some $72 million apiece. The Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel, a planned replacement for the Marine One presidential transport fleet, did at one point reach a $400 million unit cost amid massive overruns, but the aircraft never entered full-rate production, and the program was officially canceled in 2009.
But the Marines’ head of Programs and Resources said the service is prepared to shoulder the cost of their cutting-edge chopper.
Speaking before the committee March 10, Lt. Gen. Gary Thomas noted that the Marine Corps expected the unit cost to drop to below $89 million when the aircraft enters full-rate production, sometime between 2019 and 2022. As the F-35A unit cost is expected to drop as low as $85 million in the same time-frame, the two programs will remain close in that regard.
“That’s still very expensive; we’re working very hard with the program office and the vendor to keep the cost down and to drive value for the taxpayer,” Thomas said. “In terms of, can we afford it, we do have a plan without our topline that would account for purchases of the new aircraft we desire.”
A spokeswoman for Lockheed Martin, Erin Cox, said in a statement provided to Military.com that the King Stallion program was now on track and meeting goals.
“The CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter, as previously known and reported, overcame developmental issues as are common with new, highly complex programs and is now completely on track and scheduled for Milestone C review leading to initial low rate production,” she said. “The program is performing extremely well.”
Tsongas pointed out that the Marine Corps is now spending three times as much on aviation modernization as it is on modernization of ground vehicles, despite being at its core a ground force. Thomas called the spending plan balanced, noting that the service had active plans to modernize its vehicles, but the realities of aviation costs and the urgency to replace aging platforms required more outlay on aircraft.
The first CH-53K aircraft are expected to reach initial operational capability in 2019. They are designed to carry an external load of 27,000 pounds, more than three times the capacity of the CH-53E Super Stallion, and feature a wider cabin to carry troops and gear.
Russia’s Federal Security Service reportedly suspects that plans for two of Russia’s new, game-changing hypersonic missiles have been leaked to Western spies.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense on July 19, 2018, released new footage of two of its most revolutionary weapons systems: a hypersonic
Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” nuclear-capable, anti-surface missile and the Avangard, a maneuverable ballistic missile reentry vehicle specifically made to outfox the US missile defenses arrayed around Europe.
The Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, now suspects these systems, each of which cope with the challenges of flight at about 10 times the speed of sound, have been leaked to the West.
“It was established that the leak came from TsNIIMash employees,” a source close to the FSB investigation told Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, as the BBC noted. TsNIIMash is a Russian state-owned defense and space company.
“A lot of heads will roll, and for sure this case won’t end just with a few dismissals,” the source said.
A Boeing X-51 hypersonic cruise missile at Edwards Air Force Base in California in 2010.
China and Russia frequently test their weapons and have even fielded a few systems ahead of the US, but their focus is nuclear, while the US seeks a more technically difficult goal.
With nuclear weapons, like the kind Russia and China want on their hypersonics, accuracy doesn’t matter. But the US wants hypersonics for precision-strike missiles, meaning it has the added challenge of trying to train a missile raging at mach 10 to hit within a few feet of a target.
Given that nuclear weapons represent the highest level of conflict imaginable, believed in most cases to be a world-ending scenario, the US’s vision for precision-guided hypersonic conventional weapons that no missile defenses can block would seem to have more applications. The US’s proposed hypersonics could target specific people and buildings, making them useful for strikes like the recent ones in Syria.
But if Russia’s hypersonic know-how has somehow slipped into Western hands, as the FSB has reportedly indicated, then its comparative advantage could be even weaker.
Featured image: A MiG-31 firing a hypersonic Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” nuclear-capable, anti-surface missile.
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