After battling night terrors and the pain and anxiety of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for decades, an Air Force veteran found his lifeline at the end of a dog leash.
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager in the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, vividly remembers a few years ago when he would regularly find himself in the depths of fear and despair; reliving troubling images from deployments as a security forces military working dog handler and later as a logistics specialist.
Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said she felt helpless, with no idea how to help him.
“You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them. It’s a terrible feeling watching someone suffer through PTSD,” she said.
Those memories seemed so hopeless at times that Kaono attempted to end his life.
After taking numerous prescription drugs in 2010 in a bid to permanently end his pain, Kaono finally reached out for help and started receiving the support and understanding he needed.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
“I had previously attempted (suicide) but this time I actually sought treatment,” Kaono said.
After being hospitalized for his suicide attempt, the veteran began a treatment program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Los Angeles.
“When I was first diagnosed, group therapy didn’t work for me,” the Hawaii-native said, “so I actually left the group and started volunteering at a (German Shepherd) rescue in California.”
Dogs had always played a part in Kaono’s life from when, as a toddler, his family’s old English sheepdog, Winston, picked him up by the diaper to deliver a wandering Ryan back to his front yard.
“I realized (while volunteering at the rescue) that the interaction with the dogs really made me feel better,” he said.
Not content to just help himself, Kaono worked with the VA hospital to help other veterans interact with the rescue dogs and promoted animal therapy.
“The VA does equestrian therapy where they’ll take veterans to horse ranches and they get to ride horses … same premise, animal therapy works wonders,” he said.
It wasn’t long before Kaono, with a wealth of dog training knowledge from his time as a MWD handler, had veterans asking for help to train dogs so they could have their own service animals.
This support was especially important to Kaono since the average wait time for a VA-trained service dog can exceed two to five years.
“By then, we’ve already lost between 9,000 – 20,000 people due to suicide in a five-year period,” he said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
That’s based on a 2013 Department of Veterans Affairs study that showed roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide every day from 1999-2010.
“That’s just way too many,” he said.
During this time, while helping to train dogs for other veterans, Kaono decided to add his name to the list for a VA-issued service dog.
After a two-year wait, he was notified they were ready to pair him with a dog. During the interview process, however, he was denied an animal because he already had a couple of dogs as pets and service dogs can’t be added to a home unless it is pet free.
“I was disheartened,” he said, but he continued to help train animals for other veterans.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is no mandated certification for a service dog and it allows people to train their own animals. So three years ago, when Kaono moved to San Antonio, his wife encouraged him to work on training his own service dog.
“I thought I’d just take one of the dogs we had at our house and train it to be a service dog,” Kaono said, until Alessa pointed out a Chihuahua probably wasn’t the best choice for his particular needs.
He then decided to work with San Antonio’s Quillan Animal Rescue to find a potential service dog. The rescue suggested a Doberman at first but Kaono wasn’t interested in such a large animal. One of the workers then recommended a mixed breed animal named Romeo that was in need of rehabilitation after being hit by a car. The only drawback was Romeo had already been promised to another family in California after his recovery.
“I said yes because that would give me the opportunity to work with a dog again,” Kaono said.
That was February 2016 and by May, he and Romeo were inseparable, Kaono said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
By June, Romeo had recovered and he was sent to California. Kaono said he was heartbroken.
“I secluded myself. I didn’t want to go to work. I took sick leave … I just didn’t want to be around anybody and make connections with people like I did with him and have them shattered,” he said.
“Romeo was kind of a fluke,” he added, because the California family decided they couldn’t keep him so Romeo returned to San Antonio.
When Romeo arrived back in Texas, Kaono had a trainer from Service Dog Express assess him. The local organization works with veterans to train service animals. Romeo passed the evaluation and was accepted as a service dog in training.
Kaono and the trainer then used techniques from Assistance Dogs International, considered the industry standard for dog training, to ready Romeo. Two months later, Romeo took the organization’s public access test, the minimum requirement for service dog training, and “blew the test away,” Kaono said.
He’s been going to work with the AFIMSC employee every day since passing his assessment on Aug. 1, 2016.
For Kaono, Romeo is much more than a four-legged companion. He’s a lifesaver who is trained in various disability mitigating tasks to help the veteran cope with PTSD.
These include deep pressure therapy where Romeo climbs into Kaono’s lap when he can sense anxiousness, agitation or frustration. He then applies direct pressure to the veteran’s body, considered a grounding technique, to bring focus to him instead of what’s causing the anxiety or agitation.
“Before him, I would have to sit there through it until it essentially went away,” Kaono said. “Now within two minutes I’m back to normal. I’m back to being productive again.”
Romeo also applies blocking techniques when the duo are in a group or crowded space to create a buffer between Kaono and those around him.
“People are cognizant of him being there so they give me the space to actually feel comfortable,” Kaono said.
The service dog also fosters personal interaction, Kaono added.
“I don’t make solid relationships with people,” he explained. “I would prefer to be and work alone. Having Romeo actually forces me to interact with people on a regular basis. He causes people to talk about things that aren’t necessarily work related. He’s a calming factor, not just for me.”
Romeo has completely changed Kaono’s life to allow him to better “live” with PTSD, Alessa said.
“I’m sure many people say this about their dog or service dog but Romeo’s truly a godsend,” she said. “He has changed and impacted our lives in so many ways.
“He’s gotten Ryan out more when it comes to crowds,” Alessa said, and Romeo is Kaono’s “sidekick and stress reliever at work.”
When the duo get home, Alessa added, Romeo “is just like any other dog … he loves to play and loves treats, especially ice cream.”
No, it’s just your local veteran Airman. Undoubtedly, this Airman can pull off some amazing feats, like going days and days without sleep, surviving endless attempts at Enlisted Performance Report sabotage, and pulling a reflective belt out of seemingly nowhere.
It’s true, every Airman leaves service with a certain set of special abilities. Below are 7 of the top superpowers that every Airman possesses.
Careers across all the branches require us to stretch our body’s limitations. Depending on the circumstance and specific requirements, different aspects of our selves are tested. One of the most common sacrifices, though, is sleep. Airmen quickly learn to operate on minimal sleep.
8 hours per night? Right.
In some cases, you’ll be lucky to get 4.
6. Turbo dieting
Physical fitness is definitely a part of military culture. In this regard, the Air Force is a bit later to the party than some of our older, more steeled brethren.
On any given morning on the posts of our older brothers, you’ll likely find a squad or two doing some type of PT. This is true on Air Force bases, too. Well, kinda.
You’re just as likely to see a squadron doing regular PT as you are to see a cardio room full of crash-dieting Airmen trying to prepare for their Air Force Physical Training test… which is next week.
Fat boy, fat boy, where you been? (Image from Warner Bros.’ Full Metal Jacket).
5. Built Ford tough
We are good and strong, for the most part. At least for a while.
4. “Grin and bear it” champions
There is a common misconception that Airmen are akin to teenagers: quick to talk back and rebel. There are kernels of truth in this, as there are in most myths.
In today’s Air Force, it is much easier to have your career cut off by a simple mistake. It really is a one-mistake Air Force.
You are constantly on edge, so if you value your time in uniform and want it to continue, you might have to eat a bit of humble pie.
Well, actually, a lot of humble pie.
Like, the whole pie.
3. Acronym deciphering specialty
The U.S. Air Force, like the rest of the military, has fallen in unabashed love with acronyms.
Living in this environment turns your mind into an acronym making and breaking beast.
It is totally possible to get an email with the title, “USAF USN TRNG CQB SF Amn in AETC.”
The only constant is change.
Every Airmen, Marine, Sailor, and Soldier know this. It is embedded into us, if not through instruction, then certainly through the swift and immediate changes of course we experience without much notice.
The day before Thanksgiving is a time many people spend with family and friends. This year, Marines and Sailors of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division decided to spend their time giving back to the local community.
Approximately 200 Marines and Sailors with 2nd Recon and their families participated in a charity ruck march Nov. 27, 2019. The Battalion loaded up their packs with non-perishable food donations and hiked approximately six miles from the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Main Gate to the United Way CHEW! House in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
“Without the support of the community we wouldn’t be able to support this program. In Jacksonville, Marines are the biggest part of our community and for them to be able to give back to the community is huge.” Shelly Kiewge, the community impact director for United Way
“We have a lot to be thankful for,” said Sgt. Maj. Joseph Mendez, the 2nd Recon Sergeant Major. “As Marines, we are guaranteed the basic things like housing and food. It’s important that we realize that not everyone in our local community has that opportunity.”
The event was organized by 2nd Recon to build unit camaraderie through physical training, and donate much needed food items to the Onslow County United Way’s Children Healthy Eating on Weekends program.
“It’s always important to help out the local community,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph DeBlaay the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of 2nd Recon training command. “For us, it lets the community know we’re here and easy to approach when needed.”
U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. David Ford the assistant training chief with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division reads off the total donations after a charity ruck march.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Solak)
The CHEW! Program was created to provide bags packed with healthy food for children in need over the weekend who wouldn’t be fed otherwise. The program helps over 700 school-aged children.
The Marines donated over 3,800 pounds of food to the CHEW! program.
“I want my Marines to understand the importance of this. Not that it’s just a battalion mandated event,” said Staff Sgt. DeBlaay. “I want them to see the importance of why we’re doing this to help out the community and help out those in need.”
This is the second year the battalion has organized this event and plans to continue the tradition in years to come.
“When you join the Marine Corps you do it as a means to help people who traditionally can’t help themselves,” said Lt. Col. Geoff Hoey, battalion commander of 2nd Recon. “Whether it’s people in a different country or helping people here at home who don’t have enough money to put food on the table. It’s inherent to what Marines do — we help people in need.”
This article originally appeared on Marines.mil. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Few know mission command better than retired Gen. Carter F. Ham. In the time between his enlistment as an infantryman in 1973 and his retirement as a geographic combatant commander in 2013, Ham experienced the Army from a variety of perspectives, including as the commander of U.S. Army Europe and as the director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As the current president and chief executive officer of the Association of the U.S. Army, Ham continues to make a difference on behalf of the men and women who serve. Here are his insights on mission command as the Army looks to the future.
Q: After having a career that spanned four decades, what does mission command mean to you?
A: When I think of mission command, it is getting the right process by which leaders make decisions to employ their forces from the strategic to tactical levels. It is freedom to act within intent and established parameters, and it’s achieving the right blend of initiative and control.
I’ve thought about this a lot as the Army sometimes has a tendency to rebrand old ideas with new names. The term “mission command” started gaining momentum over “command and control” in the late 2000s, particularly when Gen. Martin Dempsey was at Training and Doctrine Command. A lot of talk within the profession suggested this really wasn’t anything new but, rather, what the Army had always done in terms of mission-type orders and building trust.
General Carter F. Ham.
My sense was that it wasn’t quite the same. The cohort of senior Army officers at the time, myself included, grew up mostly in the Cold War era with very clearly defined boundaries, rear areas, adjacent units, and the like. When that era changed and the Army found itself in highly irregular warfare, leaders recognized command and control wasn’t adequate for the new environment.
The command piece was okay, but the control piece was overly regulated given the circumstances in which the Army was anticipated to operate. It was time for a change, and I think mission command was exactly the right focus. With varying degrees at varying levels, and certainly as circumstances change, we must enable leaders to operate with empowered, disciplined initiative and higher degrees of flexibility.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as commander of U.S. Africa Command?
A: Most Americans think of Africa as a single place; it’s not. It is huge; at the very least, Africa is 54 countries with vast geographic differences, linguistic challenges, and economic, cultural, and ethnic diversity. It’s an exceedingly complex area of operations.
When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me he intended to recommend the president nominate me for [commanding general of] the Africa Command, I had two feelings simultaneously. First was pure exhilaration: “Holy smokes, you’re going to be a combatant commander! You get your picture hung on the entryway of the Pentagon!”
But instantaneously, the second feeling hit: “You don’t know anything about Africa.” At the time, it was not a part of the world any of us in the military thought much about.
Carter F. Ham as lieutenant colonel commanding U.S. forces in Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia, speaking to Admiral William Owens in 1995.
I was going from a very Europe-centric career — frankly a very comfortable setting for me because I had relationships with many of the senior leaders — to exceeding discomfort in Africa. It was intellectually stimulating, but I just didn’t have that foundational understanding of the area of operations as I did in Europe.
For me, this was mission command in practice at the upper operational and strategic levels. Despite the dispersed nature of U.S. forces, the requirement to work with host-nation forces, and the diversity of missions — ranging from very precise targeted activities and hostage rescue to maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and veterinary teams helping with herds of animals — there was still an expectation from the Secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the other service chiefs. They were empowering me to make decisions in this vast and complex area of responsibility.
You can’t do that with a highly structured, highly controlling style of leadership. I had to catch myself sometimes, and my senior enlisted leaders would often remind me, “General, they don’t need you to tell them how many times to turn the screwdriver; they need your intent.”
If you can describe your intent, subordinate leaders will accomplish the mission.
Q: How does mission command need to evolve to maximize readiness for the future operational environment?
A: There is recognition that the Army has to refocus after 15-plus years of irregular warfare and counter-insurgency operations. Gen. [Mark] Milley has it right; we have to get back to preparing for combat operations across all domains against a very capable, state-based adversary. It’s a much more complex environment in which to operate.
The first half of my career was highly structured and very clearly focused on a state-based adversary, the Soviet Union. It was a very dangerous, but also very predictable, period. We knew their doctrine and organizational structure; they knew ours. We knew their equipment and capabilities; they knew ours. Our war plans were incredibly detailed: we knew exactly where we were going to fight and exactly where almost every soldier was going to go in the defense of Western Europe. Control was dominant.
That is not the environment in which the Army will operate in the future. We have to develop leaders who can thrive in the ambiguity that is certain to exist in future combat. Leaders must know how to exercise mission command and make proper decisions without linkages to their higher and adjacent units, or when communications are degraded. That, I think, is the great challenge the Army faces today.
Carter F. Ham speaking to reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon in October 2005.
Q: Can you discuss the importance of mission command for sustainment formations?
A: I’m not a logistician, but I learned the importance of sustainers early. When I was a division operations officer, I had some great mentoring from my division commander. The simple message was, “The brigades, they’re going to win the fight; you don’t need to spend time mapping things out for them. Your job is to set the conditions for those brigades to operate, and the biggest piece of that is sustainment.”
In the Cold War, sustainment was a complex operation; it’s tenfold more complex today. There are no longer safe rear areas, secure supply routes, or the ability to move “iron mountains” of supplies to the point of need at a moment’s notice.
In my era, sustainment was mostly a math problem: how do you move stuff from point A to point B? Today’s sustainment challenge is much more of an art than it is a science. How will sustainers make sure that dispersed, often separated, units have what they need to fight and win on the future battlefield?
The science is certainly still there; you still have to make sure fuel, water, chow, and ammunition are at the right place at the right time. But now, more than ever, sustainers have to be inside the heads of maneuver commanders, understanding what they want to achieve. That’s where it becomes more of an art, and I think that’s where mission command enters into the realm for sustainment leaders.
Q: How important is training?
A: I’m old enough to have been in the Army before there were combat training centers, and it’s night and day. I was an opposing force guy at the National Training Center in the mid- to late-1980s, and you could see the Army get better. Repetition matters. Complexity matters. The difficulty created in the training base matters.
We want Army leaders to be more challenged in their training than they will be in combat. That’s tough to achieve these days, particularly given multi-domain operations. How do you create that cyber, electronic warfare, or geographic complexity leaders will have to deal with? The more we invest in the rigors of our training, the better off we will be. That certainly applies to the sustainment force.
There are tremendous opportunities in the Synthetic Training Environment that allow for repetition and increased difficulty without great expense. At some point you still have to put Army units in the dirt to train, but it’s the most expensive way to do so. There’s so much you can do prior to that point so that units enter that phase at a much higher level. For all of our forces, the Synthetic Training Environment will yield a stronger Army that is able to train at levels we can’t imagine today.
General Carter F. Ham being sworn into office as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe by Cairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen on Aug. 28, 2008.
Q: Where does integration with our allies and coalition partners fit into mission command?
A: In our guiding documents, including the National Military Strategy and Army vision, we’ve established a recognition that the Army will always operate with allies and partners. The scale will vary from time to time, but we’re always going to do so in some form. As fast as the Army is changing, we have to be careful we don’t leave our allies and partners out of our modernization efforts.
We also have to become increasingly comfortable with the idea of U.S. maneuver forces being sustained by forces of another country and vice versa. This became almost normal for us when our force presence in Iraq and Afghanistan was very high. Now that force levels are significantly lower, junior leaders have less opportunity to interact with our allies and partners. We have to find a way to replicate those kinds of activities in the training base.
Again, I think it is more art than science. Part of the art is making sure each of the partners has responsibility for support, for sustaining, and for direction in a coalition-type operation. That doesn’t happen by accident. Through the exercise of mission command, we want to create leaders who are comfortable in multinational environments.
Q: How are we doing as an Army when it comes to soldier resilience?
A: When I came home from Iraq, I think like many soldiers, I felt incomplete. I felt I had left soldiers behind; I came home and those I had served with were still there. I came to the Pentagon, the five-sided puzzle palace, and my work just didn’t feel very fulfilling. I had this tremendous longing to go back.
As a one-star general at the time, I don’t pretend I was on patrol facing hard combat every day like a squad leader or platoon sergeant. That’s an extraordinary kind of stress I frankly didn’t see on a daily basis. I think for leaders the effect is a little different; it’s a different kind of stress. Particularly for commanders, when you lose soldiers in combat — soldiers who are wounded or killed executing orders you issued — that stays with you.
When I came home, it was my wife who said, “Hey listen, you’ve changed.” That was important. It was recognition that a normal person can’t be exposed to combat and be unchanged. A lot of soldiers go through combat and deal with it very effectively. They’re resilient, they deal with it openly and confront it, and they continue to move forward. But there’s a spectrum, and on the other end are soldiers who have post-traumatic stress or, in more severe cases, traumatic brain injury. I was one of those who needed a little bit of help; mine came from an Army chaplain.
I’ll confess I was outed publicly. It wasn’t me coming forward; it was someone else talking about it. But as a general officer, my sense was [that] many other soldiers were having the same challenges readjusting to a nondeployed environment. If coming forward publicly would encourage one other soldier to get help and to say, “I’m having a tough time,” to his or her spouse, a chaplain, a social worker, a commander, a first sergeant, to somebody — then my speaking out was worthwhile.
I think the Army is once again leading the nation in matters like this. The senior leadership — the Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Sergeant Major of the Army — are coming forward and saying, “Hey, it is strength to step forward and say I need a little bit of help.”
Carter F. Ham listens to a soldier’s comments during a visit to the headquarters of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Reserve.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Mark Bell)
That’s what the Army needs. We need soldiers who can take a blow, whether physical or psychological, recover, and be stronger in continuing their mission.
There’s still a lot of work to be done; we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the stigma is gone. We have to keep it as a frontline Army effort and continue to say, “This can make you stronger; and when you’re stronger, our Army is stronger.” But I’m really proud of our efforts thus far.
Q: You’re one of only a few to rise from private to four-star general. What advice do you have for soldiers today?
A: First, recognize I didn’t go from private to four-star overnight; there were just a few intervening steps along the way. When I was enlisted, I rose to the exalted position of being our battalion command sergeant major’s driver. He was, to me, the model of the noncommissioned officer: mission-focused, hard on soldiers, and always fair. He made me a better soldier. And after all these years, it comes back to one question, “Why do you serve?”
We get so busy sometimes that we forget this. We talk a lot about what we do; we talk less about what we’re for. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to young leaders, both enlisted and officers, I ask them to think about the oath they took. It is the bond that ties us together, the shared commitment each one of us made to serve the nation.
In my mind, it’s what makes the Army such a unique organization. I have lots of experience as a joint officer, and I truly value the other services. We have the best Marine Corps, the best Navy, and the best Air Force. But of all the services, I think the Army is uniquely of the people. We’re the biggest and most diverse. I think it’s worthwhile to sit back and say, “What is this Army for, and why is it that more than one million women and men have raised their right hand and said I’m willing to do this?”
Every now and then, take time to think about it. Don’t get consumed by it, but take pause and remember why you chose to serve this nation. I found when I did, it caused me to reflect as a professional soldier and “re-green” myself. For any Army leader — enlisted, officer, or civilian — it’s a worthy endeavor to remember why.
Arpi Dilanian is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. She holds a bachelor’s degree from American University and a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Matthew Howard is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgetown University.
This article was published in the January-March 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.
A photo released by AFRICOM reportedly shows a Russian MiG-29 Fulcrum jet flying over Libya.
The U.S. military has provided more details about an alleged Russian deployment of fighter jets to Libya, as officials in Russia continued to deny the presence of Russian military aircraft or personnel in the North African country.
The United States says Moscow deployed the jets to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping a local warlord battle Libya’s internationally recognized government.
The alleged deployment could have a big impact on the war pitting the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar and forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognized by the United Nations.
The conflict has drawn in multiple regional actors, with Russia, France, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates backing Haftar’s command.
Turkey, which deployed troops, drones, and Syrian rebel mercenaries to Libya in January, supports the government in Tripoli, alongside Qatar and Italy.
As Libya continues to be subjected to a UN arms embargo, the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) on May 26 said it assessed Russia had recently deployed military jets to Libya via Syria to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside the LNA. It said the jets were repainted in Syria to remove Russian Federation Air Force markings.
In a tweet on May 27, AFRICOM added that MiG-29 and Su-24 fighters bearing Russian Federation Air Force markings departed Russia “over multiple days in May.”
After the aircraft landed at the Russian military base of Hmeimim in western Syria, the MiG-29s “are repainted and emerge with no national markings.”
AFRICOM wrote in a separate tweet that the jets were flown by “Russian military personnel” and were escorted to Libya by “Russian fighters” based in Syria.
The planes first landed near Tobruk in eastern Libya to refuel, it said, adding: “At least 14 newly unmarked Russian aircraft are then delivered to Al Jufra Air Base” in central Libya, an LNA stronghold.
Meanwhile, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied that new jets had arrived, calling it “media rumors and lies,” according to Reuters.
Viktor Bondarev, the chairman of the Federation Council’s committee on defense and security, dismissed the U.S. claims as “stupidity.”
“If the warplanes are in Libya, they are Soviet, not Russian,” Bondarev said.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, said Russia had not sent military personnel to Libya and the Russian upper house of parliament has not received a request to approve such a dispatch.
Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin, has been helping Haftar’s forces. A UN report earlier this month estimated the number of Russian mercenaries at between 800 and 1,200.
The Bondarev and Dzhabarov comments are the latest denials from Moscow that the Russian state is responsible for any deployments.
But U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM, said on May 26: “For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth-generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way.”
Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed popular uprising ousted and killed the country’s longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, in 2011.
Haftar, who controls the eastern part of the country, is seeking to capture the capital, Tripoli, from GNA forces.
But his LNA lost a string of western towns and a key air base in the past two months after Turkey stepped up military support for his rivals.
“The United States and the rest of the international coalition stand ready to support Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga fighters and the people of Iraq in the difficult fight ahead,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a separate statement. “We are confident our Iraqi partners will prevail against our common enemy and free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from ISIL’s hatred and brutality.”
According the the BBC which has a reporter embedded with Kurdish Peshmerga troops, the invasion kicked off in the early morning hours Oct. 17 with sporadic skirmishes along the roads to the east of the city. Iraqi forces pushed north from the so-called “Q-West” air base recently captured from ISIS and where U.S. forces have been helping the Iraqis establish a logistics base for operations to take Mosul.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, OIR commander, said the operation to regain control of Mosul will likely continue for weeks and possibly longer. But it comes after more than two years of Islamic State oppression in Mosul, “during which they committed horrible atrocities [and] brutalized the people” after declaring the city to be one of their twin capitals, the general said in the statement.
The coalition can’t predict how long it will take for the ISF to retake the city, Townsend said, “but we know they will succeed — just as they did in Beiji, in Ramadi, in Fallujah and, more recently in Qayyarah and Sharqat.”
The OIR coalition will provide “air support, artillery, intelligence, advisors and forward air controllers,” Townsend said in the statement, adding that the supporting forces “will continue to use precision to accurately attack the enemy and to minimize any impact on innocent civilians.”
During the past two years of ISIL control in Mosul, OIR efforts have expanded to include a coalition of more than 60 countries, which have combined to conduct tens of thousands of precision strikes to support Iraqi operations, and trained and equipped more than 54,000 Iraqi forces, the general said.
“But to be clear, the thousands of ground combat forces who will liberate Mosul are all Iraqis,” Townsend said in the statement.
Carter, in his statement, called it a “decisive moment” in the campaign. Townsend said it’s not just a fight for the future of Iraq, but also “to ensure the security of all of our nations.”
Justin Bronk, an air-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, said the Dark Sword “represents a very different design philosophy” than US unmanned combat jet plans.
Bronk examined the photos available of the Dark Sword and concluded it appeared optimized for fast, supersonic flight as opposed to maximized stealth.
“The Chinese have gone with something that has a longer body, so it’s stable in pitch. It’s got these vertical, F-22 style vertical stabilizers,” which suggest it’s “geared towards supersonic performance and fighter-style capability.”
(Lockheed Martin photo)
Though the US once led in designing drones, it was caught off guard by militarized off-the-shelf drones used in combat in the Middle East. Now, once again, the US appears caught off guard by China moving on the idea of an unmanned fighter jet — an idea the US had and abandoned.
The US is now pushing to get a drone aboard aircraft carriers, but downgraded that mission from a possible fighter to a simple aerial tanker with no requirement for stealth or survivability in what Bronk called a “strong vote from the US Navy that it doesn’t want to go down the combat” drone road.
But a cliché saying in military circles rings true here: The enemy gets a vote.
A nightmare for the US
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dylan McCord)
China, situated in the Pacific and surrounded to its east by US allies, has tons of airspace to defend. For that reason, a fast fighter makes sense for Beijing.
“Something like this could transit to areas very fast, and, if produced in large numbers without having to train pilots, could at the very least soak up missiles from US fighters, and at the very best be an effective fighter by itself,” said Bronk. “If you can produce lots of them, quantity has a quality all its own.”
In this scenario, US forces are fighting against supersonic, fearlessly unmanned fighter jets that can theoretically maneuver as well or better than manned jets because they do not have pilots onboard.
US left behind or China bluffing
(Lockheed Martin image)
Perhaps somewhere in a windowless room, US engineers are drawing up plans for a secret combat drone to level the playing field. Bronk suggested the US might feel so comfortable in its drone production that it could whip up a large number of unmanned fighters like this within a relatively short time.
Another possibility raised by Bronk was that China’s Dark Sword was more bark than bite. Because China tightly controls its media, “We only see leaked what the Chinese want us to see,” Bronk said.
“It may be they’re putting money into things that can look good around capabilities that might not ever materialize,” he said. But that would be “odd” because there’s such a clear case for China to pursue this technology that could really stick it to the US military, Bronk said.
So while the US may have some secret answer to the Dark Sword hidden away, and the Dark Sword itself may just be a shadow, the concept shows the Chinese have given serious thought when it comes to unseating the US as the most powerful air force in the world.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade deployed in March 2018 to Afghanistan to carry out the inaugural mission for the newly-created SFAB concept. The brigade returned in November 2018, and leaders say their experience there has proven successful what the Army hoped to accomplish with the new kind of training unit.
Army Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson, 1st SFAB commander, spoke May 8, 2019, at the Pentagon as part of an Army Current Operations Engagement Tour. He said the Army’s concept for the new unit — one earmarked exclusively for advise and assist missions — was spot on.
During their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, Jackson said the 800-person brigade ran 58 advisory teams and partnered with more than 30 Afghan battalions, 15 brigades, multiple regional training centers, a corps headquarters and a capital division headquarters.
“That’s nearly half of the Afghan National Army,” he said. “I believe we could only accomplish our mission and reach these milestones and validate the effectiveness of an SFAB because the Army got it right — the Army issued us the right equipment, and provided us the right training to be successful. But most importantly, we selected the people for this mission . . . the key to our success is the talented, adaptable, and experienced volunteers who served in this brigade.”
Jackson outlined two key lessons learned from the unit’s time in Afghanistan. First, they learned their ability to affect change within those they advise and assist was greater than they thought.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, interacts with Afghan Command Sgt. Maj. Abdul Rahman Rangakhil, left, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Kandak, 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps, during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“As our Afghan partners began to understand the value of 1st SFAB advisors, they asked us for more,” Jackson said. “So our teams partnered with more and more Afghan units as the deployment progressed.”
Another lesson, he said, was that persistent presence with partners pays off.
“Units with persistent partners made more progress in planning and conducting offensive operations and in integrating organic Afghan enablers like field artillery and the Afghan air force than unpersistent partnered units,” Jackson said.
Those lessons and others were passed to the follow-on unit, the 2nd SFAB, as well as to the Security Force Assistance Command.
Another observation: the Afghan military is doing just fine. They’re in charge of their own operations. And while U.S. presence can provide guidance when needed — and it is asked for — the Afghans were proving successful at doing their own security missions without U.S. soldiers running alongside them. It turns out that just having an SFAB advise and assist presence has emboldened Afghan security to success.
“We saw enormous offensive maneuver generated, and not just at the brigade level,” said Army Lt. Col. Brain Ducote, commander of the 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB. “They weren’t overdependent. They were able to execute offensive operations themselves. It was a huge confidence builder when we were sometimes just present. Even if we didn’t support them, just us being there gave them the confidence to execute on independent offensive operations.”
Confidence is contagious
Ducote said that the confidence moved from brigade level down to battalion, or “kandak” level. Commanders there also began running their own offensive operations, he said.
“They believe in themselves,” the lieutenant colonel said. “The Afghan army has tremendous freedom of maneuver and access to areas where they want to go. If they put their mind to it and they say we’re going to move to this area to clear it . . . they are good at it. And they can do it. Would they, given the choice, want advisors with them? Absolutely. Why not? But let there be no mistake: the Afghans are in the lead, and the Afghans can do this.”
Advisors with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron and their 3rd Infantry Division security element exit UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Ducote said Afghan success is evident by their expansion of the footprint they protect, such as in Kunar and Kapisa provinces, for instance.
“[There are] all sorts of provinces where they expanded their footprint and influence,” he said. “And the people absolutely support their security forces.”
Also a critical takeaway from Afghanistan and an indicator of the value of the SFAB mission there is the authenticity of relationships between SFAB advisors and Afghans.
Building real relationships
During their nine months in theater, the 1st SFAB lost two soldiers to insider threats. Army Capt. Gerard T. Spinney, team leader for 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB, said that what happened after the attacks revealed the strength and sincerity of the relationship between Afghan leadership and SFAB leadership.
Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel was working for Spinney in Tarin Kowt District, Afghanistan. He was killed there by an Afghan soldier in July 2018 — a “green on blue” threat.
“His sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Spinney said. “But we still had to continue advising afterward. That day, my partner, a kandak commander . . . wanted to come see me.”
Spinney said the Afghan soldier who had killed Maciel didn’t belong to this commander — but that commander still wanted to meet with him.
Afghan soldiers listen to a map reading class taught by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, Sept. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“He was very adamant coming to see me,” Spinney said. “He was angry. He was embarrassed. He was determined to rid [his own] unit of anything like this. And it was sincere. During the deployment he lost many soldiers. I had to sit with him and almost echo the same sympathies. I think the relationship got stronger.”
“You have to be there with them, good times and bad times, successes and failures,” the captain said. “That’s how you build trust, that’s how you show you care. He was there for us that day. Our relationship survived. And I’d say from that point on he wanted to make us feel safer. From that point on we saw differences in security . . . they took care of us because they wanted us there.”
Jackson said that insider threat might have derailed the 1st SFAB mission. In fact, he said, he suspects that was the intent of the enemy that carried out those threats. But it didn’t happen that way, he said.
“It didn’t derail the mission,” Jackson said. “Despite a brief pause maybe, as we reassessed what happened and what we needed to do both on the Afghan side and the American side, in the end our relationship was stronger.”
The SFAB concept was first proposed by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley. And since then, Jackson said, the Army has put a lot of effort into ensuring the success of the SFAB mission. That includes, among other things, training, people and gear.
Ducote said the equipment provided to 1st SFAB was critical to its success in Afghanistan.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, teaches a map reading class to Afghan soldiers Sept. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“These teams are operating at distance, in austere environments,” Ducote said. “In some cases without electricity. We need the right equipment to be able to extend the trust that we give to them, and the trust that we extend to them. We want that to be manifested through the right equipment — communications specifically.”
He said the gear that proved essential to SFAB success included medical, communications and vehicles — and all were adequately provided for by the Army.
“The Army got it right what they gave us,” Ducote said. “We were able to do that mission, at distance.”
Back home now for six months, Jackson said the brigade is back to repairing equipment, replacing teammates and conducting individual and small-unit training to prepare for its next mission. He said their goal is to provide the Army a unit ready for the next deployment, though orders for that next mission have not yet come down.
The advise and assist mission is one the Army has done for years, but it’s something the Army had previously done in an ad hoc fashion. Brigade combat teams, for instance, had in the past been tasked to send some of their own overseas as part of security transition teams or security force assistance teams to conduct training missions with foreign militaries. Sometimes, however, the manner in which these teams were created may not have consistently facilitated the highest quality of preparation.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, flies in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on his way to Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
The SFAB units, on the other hand, are exclusively designated to conduct advise and assist missions overseas. And they are extensively trained to conduct those missions before they go. Additionally, the new SFABs mean regular BCTs will no longer need to conduct advise and assist missions.
The Army plans to have one National Guard and five active-duty SFABs. The 1st SFAB stood up at Fort Benning, Georgia, in early 2018. The 2nd SFAB is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but is now deployed to Afghanistan. The 3rd SFAB, based at Fort Hood, Texas, is now gearing up for its own first deployment. The 4th SFAB, based at Fort Carson, Colorado, is standing up, as is the 54th SFAB, a National Guard unit that will be spread across six states. The 5th SFAB, to be based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, is still being planned.
“As subsequent SFABs come online, it creates a huge capacity for the rest of the combatant commands in the world,” Jackson said. “I would be confident to say that there are assessments ongoing to see where else you could apply SFABs besides Afghanistan.”
The Marine Corps is now arming its Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with a range of weapons to enable its assault support and escort missions in increasingly high-threat combat environments.
Rockets, guns, and missiles are among the weapons now under consideration, as the Corps examines requirements for an “all-quadrant” weapons application versus other possible configurations such as purely “forward firing” weapons.
“The current requirement is for an allquadrant weapons system. We are re-examining that requirement—we may find that initially, forward firing weapons could bridge the escort gap until we get a new rotary wing or tiltotor attack platform, with comparable range and speed to the Osprey,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation, told Warrior Maven in a statement.
Some weapons, possibly including Hydra 2.75inch folding fin laser guided rockets or .50-cal and 7.62mm guns, have been fired as a proof of concept, Burns said.
“Further testing would have to be done to ensure we could properly integrate them,” she added.
All weapons under consideration have already been fired in combat by some type of aircraft, however additional testing and assessment of the weapons and their supporting systems are necessary to take the integration to the next step.
“We want to arm the MV-22B because there is a gap in escort capability. With the right weapons and associated systems, armed MV-22Bs will be able to escort other Ospreys performing the traditional personnel transport role,” Burns added.
The Hydra 2.75inch rockets, called the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS), have been fired in combat on a range of Army and Marine Corps helicopters; they offer an alternative to a larger Hellfire missiles when smaller, fast-moving targets need to be attacked with less potential damage to a surrounding area.
Over the years, the weapon has been fired from AH-64 Apaches, Navy Fire Scout Drones, Marine Corps UH-1Ys, A-10s, MH-60s Navy helicopters and Air Force F-16s, among others.
Bell-Boeing designed a special pylon on the side of the aircraft to ensure common weapons carriage. The Corps is now considering questions such as the needed stand-off distance and level of lethality.
Adding weapons to the Osprey would naturally allow the aircraft to better defend itself should it come under attack from small arms fire, missiles or surface rockets while conducting transport missions; in addition, precision fire will enable the Osprey to support amphibious operations with suppressive or offensive fire as Marines approach enemy territory.
Furthermore, weapons will better facilitate an Osprey-centric tactic known as “Mounted Vertical Maneuver” wherein the tiltrotor uses its airplane speeds and helicopter hover and maneuver technology to transport weapons such as mobile mortars and light vehicles, supplies, and Marines behind enemy lines for a range of combat missions — to include surprise attacks.
Also, while arming the Osprey is primarily oriented toward supporting escort and maneuver operations, there are without question a few combat engagements the aircraft could easily find itself in while conducting these missions.
For example, an armed Osprey would be better positioned to prevent or stop swarming small boat attack wherein enemy surface vessels attacked the aircraft. An Osprey with weapons could also thwart enemy ground attacks from RPGs, MANPADS or small arms fire.
Finally, given the fast pace of Marine Corps and Navy amphibious operations strategy evolution, armed Ospreys could support amphibious assaults by transporting Marines to combat across wider swaths of combat areas.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
There’s definitely something different about growing up a military brat. There are obvious things like always being the new kid, living all over the world and missing huge chunks of time with your service member parent. Life was a bit harder for you, harder to you perhaps. But with hard things come some major perks in the adult world.
Here are 4 reasons military brats make better adults:
1. You’re a master infiltrator
Do you know what most people are awful at? What creates that dry lump in throats of even the top business professionals? Walking into a room not knowing a soul and having to work that room of strangers. Life taught you not just to work the room, but how to infiltrate foreign camps and dominate the space. Military kids know how to read groups and people like a cheap deck of cards.
Jumping off the deep end into the unforgiving social circles of middle and high school as the newbie pays off in spades as an adult. Trial and error networking in the formative years. Getting it wrong as a kid a time or two saves major face when Tom from the office is profusely sweating from anxiety while you’ve got a drink in hand pulling out stories from your diverse life deck like a boss.
2. You’ve got contacts
Growing up in the same little town with the same group of friends is as American as apple pie. It’s what’s glorified in the sitcoms, and what you think you’re missing out on. But you’ve been wrong. Life today is international. Staying put is a thing of the past. Lucky for you, you have two generations of contacts all working in different states or even countries around the world to tap into for a reference or internship. If your family ETS’d in Kansas, but NYC is more your speed, the likelihood you already know someone there is far greater than Susan, whose territory ends at the cornfield. Be nice, grow your network and wait for those big doors to open.
3. You’ve got perspective
What’s the biggest value add potential employers are looking for in addition to a degree? Perspective. And you, you globetrotting, hardship enduring military brat have it in spades. You have actual firsthand knowledge of economies, well-planned cities or progressivism that works because you lived it.
Living it and just reading about it are two very different things. It may have sucked moving time and time again as a kid, but with the right spin, you can become ten times more valuable than a local ever could be.
4. You’re just a better human
There are two kinds of people. The people that peak in high school, and the ones who unapologetically kick ass as an adult. Not sticking around a place long enough to establish your pre-real-world social hierarchy is painful, only until you realize that all your strife and struggle can and will make you a better adult.
You’ll be the one making the point of saying hello to the new guy in the office. You’ll be the one to see “different” as potential versus problematic. You will view the world through a much better, much bigger lens than your peers. You will be nicer overall because you endured a heck of a lot more things as a kid that has prepared you to face the hardships of life head-on.
No doubt growing up as a child in the military is quite the experience. There is, however, a tremendous amount of hope that all of those experiences can and will make military children the best damn adults around. Here’s to you military child.
In August 2008, 17-year old Kirstie Ennis enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in Pensacola, Florida. After training, she served as a door gunner and airframes mechanic on the CH-53 helicopter.
As a Marine Corps “brat,” choosing to enlist was not a question for her; she had been committed to serving and protecting her country since childhood. However, her plan to serve for 20 years was cut down to six after suffering traumatic injuries during her second deployment to Afghanistan.
On June 23, 2012, while performing combat resupplies to Forward Operating Base Now Zad, the helicopter Kirstie served on as an aerial gunner made a crash landing in the Helmand Province. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, full thickness facial trauma, bilateral shoulder damage, cervical and lumbar spine injuries, and severe left leg wounds. After approximately 40 surgeries over the course of three years, Kirstie’s left leg was amputated below the knee. One month later, she underwent an amputation above the knee. Even though she was forced into medical retirement from the Marine Corps in 2014, she still found a way to serve to prove to herself and the world that circumstances do not control us.
Although Kirstie does not have a background in sports, her competitive spirit led her to consider extreme sports as a way to raise money for others going through difficult situations like hers, and to inspire the world.
Even while lying in a hospital bed post-operation, snowboarding was one of the first sports Kirstie considered. She competed for three years, winning a USA Snowboard and Freeski Association national title.
In the future, Kirstie hopes to compete in the X Games, and — via her partnership with Burton Snowboards — create a program to take adaptive athletes on skiing and snowboarding trips.
When she’s not snowboarding, Kirstie also enjoys mountaineering, and is determined to climb the highest peak on each continent, a feat known as the “Seven Summits.”
In 2017, she climbed the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, and also Mount Kilimanjaro. There, she left behind the dog tags of her friend Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013. This endeavor also made her the first female above-the-knee amputee to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Since then she has taken on several other challenging preparation hikes to train for the Seven Summits.
Kirstie Ennis Goes From Survivor To Competitive Athlete In The 2017 Body Issue | ESPN
As if that wasn’t enough, Kirstie started a non-profit organization to raise money for organizations that strive to improve lives through education. She also sits on multiple charity boards. She even learned how to create her own prosthetics for climbing, and then used these skills to create a climbing foot for another retired Army veteran who will use it to climb Mount Rainier.
From physical battles in combat to personal battles after her accident, Kirstie serves as a constant reminder to never hold back, to always live life to the fullest.
Thank you for your service, Sgt. Kirstie Ennis.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The US military wants a missile that can carry explosive-packed drones to a target hundreds of miles away, according to a contract solicitation from the Pentagon.
Earlier this month, the DoD announced it was soliciting proposals for this new missile system, which would be fired by the Army’s existing MGM-140 Tactical Missile System or the M-270 Multiple Launch Rocket System. But unlike traditional armaments, the Army wants this missile packed with unmanned quad-copters that will be released, fly to their target, land, and blow themselves up.
“The ultimate goal is to produce a missile deployable, long range [unmanned aerial system] swarm that can deliver small [explosively formed penetrators] to a variety of targets,” the solicitation reads. “This will serve as a smart augmentation to the standard missile warhead.”
The payload seems to be meant for hard targets, which the Army says could potentially mean tanks, large guns, fuel storage barrels, and vehicle roofs. The contract doesn’t mention exactly how many drones should be packed inside a missile.
Still, it could potentially mean hundreds of drones being deployed to a target, if a test of a “drone swarm” made public earlier this month is any guide. During that test, three F/A-18 Super Hornets spit out more than 100 tiny Perdix drones, which then linked up with each other to collectively make decisions and fly in formation.