On May 31, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he is open to expanding the use of medical marijuana to treat soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Shulkin said that although federal laws would limit the ability to use marijuana, he said it could be possible to take action in states where medicinal marijuana is legal.
“There may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful and we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that,” Shulkin said during a press conference. “Right now, federal law does not prevent us at VA to look at that as an option for veterans … I believe that everything that could help veterans should be debated by Congress and by medical experts and we will implement that law.”
The head of the VA also said the agency he oversees is in a “critical condition,” likening the veterans’ healthcare provider to a patient in bad health.
Shulkin, a doctor appointed by former President Barack Obama, said patients wait too long for services from VA hospitals and government bureaucracy prevents the agency from firing employees who perform poorly. The VA oversees the care for more than 9 million veterans.
“I’m a doctor and I like to diagnose things, assess them, and treat them,” Shulkin said. “Though we are taking immediate and decisive steps stabilizing the organization … we are still in critical condition and require intensive care.”
“As you know, many of these challenges have been decades in building,” Shulkin added.
In reference to the VA’s inability to fire employees quickly, Shulkin said “our accountability processes are clearly broken.”
In one example, it took the agency more than a month to fire a psychiatrist who was caught watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a veteran.
Shulkin said now is the time to face the VA’s challenges and address them “head on.”
Control of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum is a major asset in military operations.
The Marines have demonstrated their painful “heat ray,” a weapon that blasts intruders with a wave beam that targets the skin and makes victims feel like they’ve stepped in front of a blazing oven — all without killing them.
It doesn’t cause irreversible damage, but will make someone instinctively back off.
Modern weapons systems employ radio, radar, infrared, optical, ultraviolet, electro-optical, and laser technologies.
“The Russians and the Chinese have designed specific electronic warfare platforms to go after all our high-value assets,” said Lieutenant General Herbert Carlisle, the Air Force’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, as reported by Aviation Week.
The US military is developing cyber-capabilities to gain a tactical edge.
Electronic warfare consists of three subdivisions: electronic attack, electronic protection, and electronic warfare support.
According to US military doctrine for electronic warfare planning, electronic attack (EA) involves “the use of electromagnetic energy, directed energy or anti-radiation weapons to attack personnel, facilities, or equipment with the intent of degrading, neutralizing, or destroying enemy combat capability.”
Basically, the aim is to wipe out the enemy without getting too dirty.
The Marine Corps “Heat Ray” raises the temperature on the target’s skin by 130 degrees
But it won’t kill you.
The Active Denial System (ADS) creates an intense heated sensation lasting 1-2 seconds. It’s caused by a radio frequency wave, not radiation or microwave.
“You’re not going to see it, you’re not going to hear it, you’re not going to smell it. You’re going to feel it,” said director of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, Marine Col. Tracy Tafolla, according to Stars and Stripes.
The 95 GHz millimeter wave has a range of up to 1000 meters. The directed-energy beam only penetrates 1/64th of an inch into the skin.
As a nonlethal weapon, it can be used for crowd control or determining hostile intent before engaging with lethal weapons. That way, ADS can buy life-saving time without inflicting lethal injury on its targets.
This hand-held laser system can temporary blind you
As another directed-energy weapon, the Phasr employs a two-wavelength laser system that temporarily blocks an aggressor’s ability to see.
It’s like opening your eyes in the middle of the night to someone shoving a blinding flashlight in your face. The Air Force casually calls this effect “dazzling” or “illuminating.” Whatever you call it, this hand-held device effectively impairs anyone targeted.
The “Death Ray” can detect and destroy missiles with a deadly laser beam
The US has run several test flight experiments on the Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB). So far, they’ve worked out this killer firing sequence:
1. The ALTB uses one of its six infrared sensors to detect the exhaust plume of a boosting missile.
2. A kilowatt-class solid state laser, the Track Illuminator, tracks the missile and determines a precise aim point.
3. The Beacon Illuminator, a second laser, then measures disturbances in the atmosphere, which are corrected by the adaptive optics system to accurately point and focus the High Energy Laser (HEL) at its target.
4. Using a large telescope located in the nose turret, the beam control/fire control system focuses the HEL beam onto a pressurized area of the missile, holding it there until laser energy compromises the missile’s structural integrity causing it to fail.
Radar jamming takes out the enemy’s ability to communicate
Radar jamming can disable the enemy’s command and control system ahead of an offensive attack. NGJ will be used on the Boeing EA-18G, the aircraft for airborne electronic attack operations.
Another example of electromagnetic jamming is Counter-RCIEDs (Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device). You can see the Marine Corps’ Chameleon system here.
Military Deception manipulates the enemy’s combat decisions and generally messes with their heads
Troops can mislead enemy decision-makers about their intentions, prompting the enemy to take specific actions or inactions and making it difficult for the enemy to establish an accurate perception of reality.
Using the EM spectrum, they can disrupt communication and intelligence systems to insert deceptive information.
Military Deception (MILDEC) operations apply four basic deception techniques: feints, demonstrations, ruses, and display.
The anti-radiation missile is a smokeless, rocket-propelled missile that destroys radar-equipped defense systems
The AGM-88 HARM (High-speed anti-radiation missile) is used throughout the Air Force for suppressing surface-to-air radar warning systems.
Anti-radiation missiles help neutralize hostile airspace and take out the enemy’s ability to defend itself.
As Air Force officials have noted, “Coalition forces in Operation Desert Storm operated ‘at will’ over Iraq and Kuwait after gaining control of the EM spectrum early in the war.”
Boeing has test-flown a nonlethal missile that fries electronics while minimizing collateral damage (like civilian deaths). You can read about CHAMP here.
Expendables are active decoys that throw enemy missiles off target or seductively lure them away
The AN/ALE-55 fibre-optic decoy is towed behind to protect fighters, bombers, and transport aircraft from radio frequency-related threats, such as an incoming missile’s tracking on the aircraft.
There are three layers of protection though, so the idea is that a target track is eliminated from the start.
If all else fails, the intelligent decoy will lure the missile away to become the target and deny the enemy a hit.
When Army basic training soldier Jennifer Campbell was told to run through smoke on the obstacle course, she leaned into it and went for the awesome photo moment of charging through the thickest plume of smoke.
Unfortunately for her, it wasn’t white smoke; it was o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, a potent form of tear gas used to teach basic trainees to trust their chemical masks and other gear. But Campbell wasn’t wearing chemical gear; she was running full speed and sucking down air on an obstacle course.
So the young soldier got two lungs full of the agitating gas, forcing violent coughs as her drill sergeants got a good laugh and the other trainees scrambled to get their masks on.
But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and Campbell got her own laughs when the winds shifted and the rest of her platoon got hit unprotected, including the drill sergeant who triggered her episode. See how it all went down in the Go90 video embedded at the top.
As tensions between the U.S., North Korea, and South Korea reach a fever pitch, military planners in Seoul are considering turning one of their small Dokdo-class helicopter carriers into an F-35B carrier.
“The military top brass have recently discussed whether they can introduce a small number of F-35B fighters” to new South Korean helicopter carrier ships, a military source told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
South Korea operates a small but capable navy featuring a single 14,000 ton helicopter carrier known as the ROKs Dokdo. Seoul is planning to build an additional two ships of this type, with the next expected to be ready in 2020.
But the F-35’s Marine variant, the F-35B, isn’t a regular plane. It can takeoff almost vertically and also land straight down. With minor adjustments to the already-planned aircraft building — mainly strengthening the runway material to withstand the friction and heat of jet engines landing — South Korea’s small helicopter carriers could become potent F-35B carriers.
South Korea already plans to buy 40 F-35As, the Air Force variant that takes off and lands on runways like a normal plane. The F-35B would be a new addition that would require additional planning and infrastructure.
Should South Korea decide to make the leap into the aircraft-carrier club, they would end up as a potent sea power and with a plane that’s capable of taking down ballistic missile launches. With its advanced sensors and networking ability, the F-35 could provide a massive boost to South Korea’s already impressive naval capabilities.
Additionally, the presence of stealth aircraft in South Korea presents a nightmare scenario for Kim Jong Un, whose country’s rudimentary defenses and radars can’t hope to spot advanced aircraft like the F-35.
The US built the F-35 to penetrate the most heavily guarded airspaces on earth and to fool the most advanced anti-aircraft systems for decades to come. Built to counter superpowers like China and Russia, the F-35 could handily overpower anything North Korea could throw at it.
So many North Koreans have disappeared from fishing villages along the Hermit Kingdom’s east coast that the villages dotting the coastline are becoming known as “widow’s villages.”
Where do their husbands go?
They end up dead on boats adrift in the Sea of Japan. Their ships and bodies wash ashore on Japan or are picked up by the Japanese Coast Guard. Last year alone, 50 or more North Koreans were found on Japanese beaches.
For years, the phenomenon of these fishing boats full of dead men was a mystery. But now a few anonymous complaints to the United Nations may explain the “Ghost Boats” phenomenon. China has been poaching fish in North Korean waters, according to an investigation by the Irish Times.
In March 2020, two countries reported that 800 Chinese fishing vessels violated the sanctions placed on North Korean fishing waters. The sanctions were intended to prevent the North from selling the rights to fish in those waters. The area is a heavily-contested and poorly watched region of the ocean as it is but Chinese fleets compound the issue by switching off their location transponders.
Two countries provided the UN with satellite imagery that prove China is operating fishing fleets in the areas. External watchdogs estimate the Chinese have depleted the waters of stocks by up to 70 percent for some species.
The flotilla of Chinese fishing boats has also allegedly forced smaller, less well-equipped North Korean fishermen to pursue waters further from their villages, further from shore and further than their victualing can reasonably accommodate the crews of those ships. Once too far from shore, the North Korean peasants’ boats are susceptible to engine failures and storms – but don’t have the supplies to survive being adrift for very long periods.
Once the engines fail, the boats are likely caught up in the Tsushima current that runs up the west coast of the Japanese home islands. These flat-bottomed boats, filled only with fishing supplies and a few jugs of water, are usually found with tattered North Korean flags, and heavily decomposed bodies, if any remains are found at all.
The fishermen chase squid populations and end up with dead engines in the middle of the ocean, where they will probably spend the rest of their days, dying of thirst or exposure.
The Green Berets can bring in engineers, comms specialists, and even weapons specialists. The Navy SEALs bring their own lethal skills, as do Navy EOD personnel. The Air Force, though, has shown it can deploy surgical teams that can operate in remote conditions, combat controllers, pararescuemen, and other specialists.
Perhaps the most interesting of those other specialists are the Special Operations Weathermen. Yeah, that’s right – the Air Force has trained meteorologists who can go in with other special operations personnel. Now, you can understand a unit like a special operations surgical team, but why a weatherman? At first glance, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Believe it or not, weather matters in military operations. Air drops in Sicily in 1943 and during the invasion of Normandy on D-Day were greatly affected by the wind. Today, even with GPS, air-dropping supplies depends on knowing what the wind will be like. While the “little groups of paratroopers” are legendary, the better outcome is to have most of the troops and supplies land together.
These “weather commandos” need to attend eight schools from across the country to earn their gray beret, and spend 61 weeks in training. This involves everything from learning how to forecast the weather and to take the observations to learning small unit tactics to handling both water survival and underwater egress training. These personnel even attend the Airborne School at Fort Benning.
Even after those 61 weeks, when they become Special Operations Weathermen, these “Weather Warriors” will spend a year in further training before they deploy.
They will head out, not only to help predict the wind and rain, but to help bring the pain on the bad guys.
The “Judgment Day” of the Terminator films didn’t come on Aug. 29, 1997. But it almost came on Sept. 26, 1983.
Deep inside the Soviet Union that early September morning, a Soviet military officer was hearing an alarm signaling that the U.S. had launched its intercontinental ballistic missiles at his country. His name was Stanislav Petrov, and he had mere moments to react — and launch a counter-attack of Russian missiles.
“I realized that I had to make some kind of decision, and I was only 50/50,” Petrov told The Associated Press. Petrov, the duty officer whose job was to pass to his superiors reports of enemy missile launches, instead dismissed the signals as false alarms. It was not the correct protocol, but since his going against the rules saved the world from nuclear armageddon, we aren’t too mad about it.
“A minute later the siren went off again. The second missile was launched. Then the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. Computers changed their alerts from ‘launch’ to ‘missile strike’,” he told the BBC. “I had all the data [to suggest there was an ongoing missile attack]. If I had sent my report up the chain of command, nobody would have said a word against it.”
Just three weeks before, the Russians had shot down a Korean jet liner with 269 passengers on board, including a US Congressman and 60 other Americans, after wrongly suspecting it of being a spy plane. The incident pushed East-West tensions to their highest since the Cuban missile crisis, and prompted Ronald Reagan’s infamous remark that the Soviet Union was an “evil empire”.
So when, at 0015 hours, the bright red warning lights started flashing and a loud klaxon horn began wailing, indicating a missile from West Coast USA, Petrov and his colleagues feared the very, very worst. “I saw, that a missile had been fired, aimed at us,” he recalls. “It was an adrenalin shock. I will never forget it.”
Fortunately, Petrov reported the incident as an equipment malfunction. It turned out he was right, as it was later found the satellite had mistaken the sun’s reflection off high clouds as a launch, according to AP.
He was not hailed as a hero in the Soviet Union. Instead, the government swept the potentially embarrassing incident under the rug and he was reprimanded “for incorrectly filling in a log book,” the UK Express reported.
It’s a story that would make for a great movie. Which is probably why there is now a movie:
It’s possible the next big innovation in Marine Corps classroom or tactical training could come from an airman or a soldier.
Marine Corps Training and Education Command is in the final days of soliciting ideas for an innovation challenge focused on how to improve small-unit training, from policy to curriculum and classroom instruction to the use of tools like simulation and gaming. Any federal employee is eligible to submit ideas, including uniformed members of all service branches, including the Marine Corps, to defense department civilians.
“Sometimes it’s hard for this organization to look inside itself for new ideas,” Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, commanding general of TECOM, told Military.com in an interview. “So one of those ways that you get good ideas is, you go outside the organization.”
To date, TECOM spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said, about 150 submissions have been collected; those eligible to submit ideas have until March 31 to send them in via a dedicated site accessed through DoD credentials. Submissions for the innovation challenge will be reviewed in April, and winners will be notified in May, officials said.
Last year, the Marine Corps has conducted a Corps-wide innovation challenge on autonomous systems and robotics, and another challenge specific to the logistics community.
“The specific focus was on how to create better decision makers,” Lukeman said. “The idea is that the ability to make good decisions quickly with limited information is critical for success on the battlefield, so how do we change our training and education that creates better decision makers for the Marine Corps.”
The Marine Corps is not promising a financial reward for winners of the challenge, or even a guarantee that their ideas will be implemented. But the authors of the best ideas will get a free trip to TECOM at Quantico, Virginia, where their proposals will be workshopped with subject matter experts.
“We just had a discussion the other day about the commandant’s reading list, on books that are out there for Marines to read, and they’ve been out there for a while,” said Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, the senior enlisted adviser for TECOM. “Somebody said, ‘well, they have audiobooks that are out there to do that. I could learn by using an audiobook.’ There are different things that are just provoking thought.”
Even as ideas still roll in, changes are taking place at Quantico that affect Marine Corps training. In a January message to the force, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller called for the Marine Corps to develop a new plan for Marine Corps-wide use of simulation and virtual training environments no later than this June. He also ordered that a plan be developed to build a world-class simulation and gaming center at Quantico to enhance realistic training and better prepare Marines to fight.
With retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, who once told fellow officers that “Powerpoint makes us stupid,” now at the helm of the defense department, Lukeman said TECOM was also working to minimize slide-lecture briefings and presentations.
“This is what we’re trying to get away from, is sit in a classroom and get taught,” he said. “The other thing that we’ve shifted to is, where possible, we want for Marines to get taught by other Marines … We’re going with the method of having a unit leader discussion over having a class.”
The general overseeing fitness for the U.S. Army hopes to see the proposed Army Combat Readiness Test approved next spring and, in time, become the service’s standard physical fitness test of record that all soldiers must pass.
The service is in the middle of the Army Combat Readiness Test, or ACRT, pilot, exposing soldiers to the six-event fitness test designed to better prepare them for the rigors of combat than the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT.
The ACRT was developed, at the request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, to better prepare soldiers for the physical challenges of the service’s Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to survive in combat.
“As we look at physical fitness, we now know in order to be physically fit in support of the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — what we know we need to do for combat readiness — we have to be physically fit across five fitness domains,” said Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, who oversees the ARCT as commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training.
Only two of those domains — cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance — are supported by the current APFT, which consist of push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run, Frost said.
“There are three domains of physical fitness that are not addressed by that test but are nonetheless necessary … and those are muscular strength, explosive power, and speed and agility,” he said.
‘We Aren’t Where We Want to Be’
“We have world-class equipment … but do we have world-class soldiers that are world-class athletes at world-class level fitness? The answer is probably not one that we would want, meaning if you look at a lot of indicators from an individual physical readiness fitness standpoint, we aren’t where we want to be,” Frost said.
In 2016, the Army had 43,000 soldiers who were non-deployable, he said, adding that in fiscal terms, that equates to a loss of about $3 billion.
“Another staggering figure,” Frost said, is that about 78,000 soldiers were above a body-mass index of 30 percent.
“Musculoskeletal injuries about 500,000 a year; 10 million limited-duty days per year — that’s nearly $1 billion,” Frost said.
“To put it in fiscal terms is fine, but more importantly it is the lack of readiness due to some sort of physical fitness or readiness aspect — whether it’s injury, whether it’s being overweight or whether it is being non-deployable for a medical reason,” he said.
The ACRT is made up of six events:
This muscular strength test mimics movements required to safely and effectively lift heavy loads from the ground, then jump, bound and tolerate landing. The exercise is a strong predictor of a soldier’s ability to lift and carry a casualty on a litter and to lift and move personnel and equipment.
Standing Power Throw:
Soldiers toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test muscular explosive power that may be needed to lift themselves or a fellow soldier over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.
In this event, soldiers start in the prone position and do a traditional push-up but, when at the down position, they move their arms outward and then back in to do another push-up. It is a test of soldier’s ability to push an opponent away during man-to-man contact, push a vehicle when it is stuck, and push up from cover or off the ground during evade and maneuver.
As they dash 25 meters five times up and down a lane, soldiers will perform sprints, drag a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then hand-carry two 40-pound kettle bell weights. This can simulate pulling a battle buddy out of harm’s way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.
Similar to a pull-up, soldiers lift their legs up and down to touch their knees or thighs to their elbows as many times as they can. This exercise strengthens the core muscles since it doubles the amount of force required compared to a traditional sit-up.
This is the same running event as on the current APFT. In the ACRT, run scores are expected to be a bit slower due to all the other strenuous activity.
Part of the ACRT pilot, which is expected to continue into 2018, is working out how leaders will administer the six-event tests.
“Part of the challenge is if we are going to do six events, there is a scope and scale challenge to this — you can’t take a week to test a battalion,” Frost said. “You have got to be able to move a company through at the same pace you move a company through to do the APFT.”
There is also the challenge of figuring out the correct sequence to the events, he said.
“We have been able to test 50 soldiers in 75 minutes using 10 lanes, so this is doable; it’s executable with the right equipment,” Frost said.
The plan, he said, is to present the data collected so far in the pilot to Milley “in the next couple of months” and hopefully get a decision to move forward.
If approved, program officials will finalize the test protocol and other details before going back to Milley sometime next spring for final approval to start rolling the ACRT out in 2019 so soldiers can start training for it, Frost said.
“There has got to be a transition period,” Frost said. “You have to give them time to ramp up to it.”
Soldier Performance Training Centers
As a simultaneous effort, he said, the Army will launch a pilot program next year to develop “soldier performance training centers,” which feature the right equipment and resources to help soldiers prepare for the ACRT.
The plan is to put these centers in gyms at three installations and staff them with experts such as trainers, physical therapists and nutrition counselors. Eventually, centers would be established all over the Army, Frost said.
The centers will also need equipment for soldiers to train for the ACRT — pull-up bars, sleds for dragging weight, deadlift bars, weights and medicine balls.
A battalion set of this equipment to create 10 test lanes retails for about $12,000, but the Army will likely be able to get equipment for less, Frost said.
“If we buy this at scale, it will be much, much, much less, and a lot of this equipment is already out there so we have to kind of inventory what we have and then figure out what the need is,” he said.
“And that doesn’t mean every battalion is going to get it,” Frost said. “You may have a brigade set and every battalion is not going to take the ACRT on the same day, so there are a lot of things we can look at.”
But there has to be a transition period before the ACRT can replace the APFT as the test of record, Frost said.
“Whether it is one year or two years, you train on one test — the other test is a test of record; maybe there is a transition period where both of them can be a test of record,” he said. “And eventually, you fade the APFT out — kind of like you did the gray PT uniform — and then the ACRT is the enduring test of record.”
There also has to be time for the Army to figure out the policy, legal and administrative factors involved with instituting a new test of record since there will be punitive and administrative measures that occur for soldiers who are not able to pass it.
“We are going to need feedback from the field, but my gut tells me before it becomes the test of record, it’s probably two years — so one year to train for it. Another year, maybe it could be a test of record maybe as an option with the APFT,” Frost said. “Then at the end of two years, the APFT is faded away, and the ACRT is the only test of record.”
The United States Institute of Peace released a wide-ranging report on the U.S. military’s capabilities and outlook from the National Defense Strategy Commission, a body tasked to assess the U.S. military’s capabilities within the environment it is expected to operate — and the analysis isn’t good.
“America’s ability to defend its allies, its partners, and its own vital interests is increasingly in doubt,” the report says. “If the nation does not act promptly to remedy these circumstances, the consequences will be grave and lasting.“
As American military advantages degrade, the country’s strategic landscape becomes more threatening, the report says. The solution is to rebuild those advantages before the damage caused by their erosion becomes devastating.
More than 900 Sailors and Marines assigned to the amphibious assault ship Pre-Commissioning Unit America march to the ship to take custody of it.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos.)
The USIP is a body independent from government and politics, though it was founded by Congress. It seeks to keep the U.S. at peace by addressing potential conflicts before they explode into violence by offering training, analysis, and outreach to organizations and governments working to prevent those conflicts. Their 2018 report, Assessment and Recommendations of the National Defense Strategy Commission, was commissioned by Congress in 2017.
While the panel praises the efforts and strategies enacted by Defense Secretary James Mattis in January, 2018, it also warns about continuing issues that need to be addressed immediately. The commission’s report is the first step to addressing these issues.
Marine Corps Cpl. Johnathan Riethmann, a mortarman with Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, walks to a staging area in preparation for Exercise Sea Soldier 17 at Senoor Beach, Oman, Feb. 15, 2017.
(Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Robert B. Brown Jr.)
The biggest threats to American interests are authoritarian competitors, like China and Russia, who seek to become regional hegemons to neutralize American power in their areas through military buildup. Less powerful actors, like Iran and North Korea, seek technological advances and asymmetrical tactics to counter U.S. power, while transnational threats, like jihadist groups, will fight American power with more and more capability.
Nowhere are these challenges to American power more apparent than in what the report refers to as “gray-zone aggressions,” areas somewhere between war and peace. Here, adversaries large and small are in competition and conflict with the United States in areas of cyber warfare and diplomacy.
U.S. Army Soldiers wait to be picked up by UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters south of Balad Ruz, Iraq, March 22, 2009. The Soldiers are assigned to the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Walter J. Pels)
Chiefly to blame for the decline in American advantage is the dysfunction in competing American political parties, who have failed to enact “timely appropriations” to U.S. defense. This is particularly true in the case of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which ended the debt-ceiling crisis of that same year. The act required some 7 billion in spending cuts in exchange for a 0 billion increase in the debt ceiling. These cuts hit the Department of Defense particularly hard, affecting the size, modernization, and readiness of the U.S. military.
The report goes on to say that current National Defense Strategy “too often rests on questionable assumptions and weak analysis, and it leaves unanswered critical questions regarding how the United States will meet the challenges of a more dangerous world. We believe that the NDS points the Department of Defense (DOD) and the country in the right direction, but it does not adequately explain how we should get there.”
Senior Airman Mario Fajardo stands guard Jan. 25 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The 355th Security Force Squadron is responsible for the worldwide force protection and security of seven flying squadrons and 4,400 tactical and stored aircraft on Davis-Monthan AFB worth more than 32.3 billion dollars.
(U.S. Air Force)
Writers of the report say the U.S. needs substantial improvements in military capability based on relevant, operational warfighting concepts. The United States military must also invest in favorable military balances while diminishing the power exerted by adversaries and regional hegemons and limiting military options available to them. Most importantly, the DoD muse clearly develop plausible strategies to achieve victory against any aggressor in the event of a war, noting that much of current defense policy includes meaningless buzzwords.
There is also a lot the U.S. has never addressed, like how to counter an adversary in a way that falls short of a full-scale war or if the United States limits technological development with potential rivals and keep threatened defense-related industries from seeking agreements with those rivals.
These are just a few of the recommendations the commission makes to rebuild the U.S. military and its advantages at home and abroad. You can read the full report at the United States Institute for Peace site.
When it comes to self-defense, what do SEALs recommend? Well, Jocko Willink – a former Navy SEAL who served alongside Chris Kyle and Michael Monsoor in Task Unit Bruiser, earning the Silver Star and Bronze Star for heroism – has some answers. And they are surprising.
When it comes to self-defense, Willink’s top recommendation isn’t a martial art in the strictest sense. It’s a gun and concealed carry.
“If you are in a situation where you need to protect yourself, that is how you protect yourself,” he said, noting that potential adversaries will have weapons, they will be on drugs or suffer from some psychotic condition. “If you want to protect yourself, that is how you do it.”
Okay, great. That works in the states that have “constitutional carry” or “shall issue” carry laws. But suppose you are in California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, or Delaware which the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action notes are “Rights Restricted – Very Limited Issue” states where obtaining a concealed carry permit is very difficult?
Willink then recommends Brazilian jujitsu, followed by Western boxing, Muay Thai, and wrestling (the type you see in the Olympics, not the WWE – no disrespect to the WWE). Willinck is a proponent of jujitsu in particular – recounting how he used it to beat a fellow SEAL in a sparring match who had 20 years of experience in a different martial art.
He noted that people should not buy into the notion of a “magical instructor” who can help them defeat multiple attackers. He said martial arts like Krav Maga can augment jujitsu and other arts.
He also noted that you have more time than you think. The attack isn’t likely to happen next week – it could be a lot longer, and one can learn a lot by training in a martial art two or three times a week for six months.
Willick notes, though, that martial arts have a purpose beyond self-defense. They can teach discipline and humility. He notes that few who start jujitsu get a black belt – because it takes discipline to go out there on the mat constantly, especially when you are a beginner.
The rumor mill is one of the most amazing things about Army service. Conjecture seems to travel through the Private News Network at speeds rivaling any military vehicle. Unfortunately, the PNN is not the most accurate place to get news and there are certain urban legends that show up time and again. Here are five of the rumors that just won’t die.
1. “These soft new soldiers could get a break in basic by just raising their stress cards.”
It seems like every time the Army graduates a class of basic trainees, the rumor pops up that this class was issued the fabled “stress cards.” These legendary pieces of paper would allow soldiers to take a time out if basic was getting too stressful and challenging, but the cards were never supposed to provide a break.
Snopes researched this myth and found an example of cards referencing stress in Navy recruits, while Stars and Stripes found a card that was issued to new soldiers. Neither card allowed for a time out though. The Navy card listed resources stressed sailors could turn to instead of running away or committing suicide. The Army cards served as a reminder to training cadre that recruit stress was real and should be managed.
For both services, there are reports of recruits trying to get out of training by raising the card, but training cadre were not obliged to provide a time out. A 1997 federal advisory committee recommended the use of the cards end due to the widespread misconception that they could be used to take a break.
2. “The Army was drugging us in basic. That’s why we didn’t want to have sex.”
Soldiers in basic may be surprised to find they can go months without sex and not miss it during training. In whispered conversations over dining facility tables, this is blamed on the Army lacing the food or water with saltpeter or other anti-libido drugs.
Stars and Stripes addressed this rumor and every branch of service provided an enthusiastic denial of the myth. In the article, a spokeswoman for the Kinsey Institute addressed the likely cause of soldiers’ lowered sex drive.
“Most people when they are under stress are not interested in sex,” Jennifer Bass told Stars and Stripes. “There are other things going on that are more important that they have to take care of physically and emotionally, and usually those two have to be working together for sexual response to happen.”
The rumor sometimes manifests as the Army drugging deployed soldiers, but the real cause of the dampened libido overseas is probably the physical and emotional stress of combat.
3. “Really, my granddad’s uncle had an M-16 with Mattel right on the grips.”
The story goes that the first shipments of M-16s to U.S. troops in Vietnam had handgrips stamped with the Mattel logo, since Mattel had been subcontracted to make the parts in the first few runs of the new rifles.
While a great story, it’s not true. Snopes thinks the rumor started due to a joke among service members. The M-16 was plagued with problems when it first debuted with U.S. troops. Since it was made of plastic and did not function well as a weapon, troops joked that it was a toy using the tagline of the largest toy manufacturer of the time, “You Can Tell It’s Mattel… It’s Swell!” Mattel also manufactured a toy version of the weapon, likely adding to the myth.
The rifle was originally created by Armalite, and it had been producing the M-16 for export for over three years before the U.S. placed an order in 1962. Armalite had supplied an order to the Federation of Malaysia in late 1959, followed by orders for testing in India and fielding by the South Vietnamese. Manufacturing of the design was licensed out in 1962 to Colt who made the weapons finally delivered to U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1965. Colt, Armalite, and yes, even Mattel, have all denied involvement the toymaker had any part in manufacturing parts for the M-16.
4. “Hollywood doesn’t get our uniforms right because it would be against the law.”
Military movies are filled with annoying inaccuracies, something WATM has been happy to point out on multiple occasions. The rumor when it comes to uniform errors is that federal law prohibits civilians from wearing military uniforms, so Hollywood changes aspects of the uniform to get around the law.
Since actors are allowed to wear the uniform while performing, Hollywood could legally portray the uniform properly just as easily as they display it incorrectly. Typically, movies gets the uniforms wrong because the crew doesn’t know better or doesn’t care. At the end of the day, it’s a costume designer outfitting the actors, not military technical advisors.
5. “Starbucks doesn’t support the troops!”
Many companies have been accused of not supporting the troops for various reasons, but Starbucks seems to be the one who gets criticized the most due to a myth that they openly voiced a lack of support to the Marines. The origin of the Starbucks myth is actually well established. A Marine Corps sergeant heard that some of his peers had requested free Starbucks coffee and been turned down.
The sergeant blasted out an email requesting true patriots boycott Starbucks. Starbucks addressed the accusations, saying that the corporation doesn’t provide free coffee to any organization besides non-profit charities, and the policy wasn’t meant as a comment on military service members. Starbucks employees receive free coffee from the company, and Starbucks allowed its employees to donate this coffee to troops deployed. The company itself just didn’t directly donate any beans.
The originator of the email later apologized, but the myth that Starbucks once voiced opposition to war veterans persists. Starbucks has made a few large overtures to the military community to prove its loyalty. They’ve sent care packages to troops, introduced programs to hire more veterans, and used profits from stores in military areas to fund local veteran charities. In 2014, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced a $30 million donation to support research into PTSD and brain trauma.
Midget submarines have arguably had a longer combat career than their bigger cousins. The Turtle, a one-man midget sub, was used in an effort to attack British ships off New York during the Revolutionary War.
The hand-powered midget submarine CSS Hunley successfully sank the sloop USS Housatonic in 1864. Larger coastal and fleet submarines didn’t really achieve a lot of success until World War I.
But the midgets still stuck around.
Nearly all the major powers used them in World War II. The British, Germans, and Japanese all had varying degrees of success with them.
The British X-boats managed to damage the German battleship Tirpitz. Japanese submarines had their high-water mark on May 29, 1942, when they damaged a British battleship and sank a merchant ship at Diego Suarez in Madagascar.
But Germany’s Seehund — or “Seal” — was probably the most successful. Built in 1944, the Seehund displaced 17 tons, carried two torpedoes, and had a crew of two. The vessel could go four knots underwater, and seven knots on the surface.
U-Boat.net notes that 137 of these midget subs were commissioned, which sank eight vessels and damaged three more in four months of operation.
Below is a video showing how a replica of one of these mini-submarines was made for a museum display. Take a look and see what went into making that replica — and what that display will teach future generations about what life on one of these vessels was like.