Veterans will be able to go online and order their new identification cards next month, Congressman Vern Buchanan announced Oct. 12. Buchanan, whose Veterans Identification Card Act (H.R. 91) was signed into law in 2015, said official ID cards will be available to all veterans free of charge by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
“Every veteran – past, present, and future – will now be able to prove their military service without the added risk of identity theft,” Buchanan said, noting that millions of veterans are currently unable to document their service without carrying around official military records.
“These ID cards will make life a little bit easier for our veterans and serve as a constant reminder that our brave men and women in uniform deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer.”
When ordering online, veterans will need to upload a copy of a valid government issued ID (drivers license/passport), a copy of a recent photograph to be displayed on the card, and will need to provide service-related details. Once ordered, the Veteran ID Card will be printed and mailed directly to the veteran.
Prior to Buchanan’s bill, the VA provided identification cards only to those who served at least 20 years in the Armed Forces or received care from the VA for a service-connected disability. Veterans who did not meet these qualifications had to carry around a paper DD-214 document to prove their military status. This form contains sensitive personal information including social security numbers and service details that put veterans at needless risk for identity theft if they lost or misplaced their documents.
The new identification card will also provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee’s military service.
Buchanan represents more than 88,000 veterans in Sarasota, Manatee, and Hillsborough Counties. He served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and four years on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
As such, US Marines are still in Syria advising and providing fire support to SDF fighters, and sometimes reportedly at times even getting into direct fire fights (they’re also in country to deter Russian and Iranian influence, which the US largely denies or neglects to mention).
The US Air Force released some pretty incredible photos of US Marines training for those missions.
Check them out below:
US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
“We can confirm this picture is of U.S. Marines conducting training on a 120mm mortar system in Syria on or about July 23, 2018,” Operation Inherent Resolve told Business Insider in an email.
The 120mm mortar has a range of up to five miles and a blast radius of 250 feet when it lands on a target. The Marines are using these indirect fire weapons to strike at ISIS positions and vehicles.
US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.
Although OIR wouldn’t reveal where these pictures of US Marine mortarmen were taken, this picture was also taken by the same Air Force photog a few days earlier near Dawr az Zawr.
Dawr az Zawr is in eastern Syria, east of the Euphrates River, which has largely been a deconfliction line between US and Russian troops, and where US forces also killed about 200 Russian mercenaries in February 2018 that encroached into their area attempting to seize an oil field.
US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.
US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.
While ISIS still has a presence in Syria, the civil war in Syria appears to be in its last throes, as Syrian President Bashar Assad has retaken much ground and even recently began issuing death certificates for missing political prisoners taken before and during the civil war.
The final day of work comes upon everyone. Some people take a long lunch with coworkers to hand out gifts and going away mementos. Others choose to quietly go out as they either prepare for retirement or moving on to their next job.
US military pilots take to the skies and soar one last time alongside wingmen from their unit.
Their emotional last day at a unit isn’t just celebrated like a last day at an office. Pilots stick to a tradition that’s as old as the Air Force itself: the final flight, known widely amongst aircrew members as the ‘fini flight.’
The tradition was initially celebrated to accompany milestones in the career of Airmen of all ranks and positions. To find the first documented fini flight, one would have to reach back in history as far as Vietnam, when an aircrew commemorated the completion of 100 missions.
Since then, the way final flights have been celebrated has changed, but the sentiments have remained.
“Traditions such as this are great examples of esprit de corps throughout the Air Force community,” said Steven Frank, 27th Special Operations Wing historian. “It can also help create strong bonds of camaraderie and teamwork among past, current, and future generations of Airmen.”
Today, these final flights are celebrated not for one Airman’s accomplishments but an entire crew’s across the Air Force. They’re used for all ranks and positions to honor their contributions to the unit.
Once the plane lands, it is acknowledged with a formal water salute, where two firetrucks shoot water over the plane creating an arch with plumes of water collapsing down on the plane as it taxis in.
Upon halting the plane, the pilot exits to an immediate barrage of water as their family, friends, and coworkers douse them with fire hoses. Celebratory champagne follows soon after (or whenever their peers decide they had enough water) and thus gives them time to reflect with friends and loved ones on the time they’ve had together at that unit.
Frank says it’s one of the many examples of military cultural institutions that Airmen are proud to participate in.
“Fini flights are just one example of over a hundred years of Air Force traditions and heritage that honors the sacrifices and victories previous generations of Airmen have made to secure our freedoms,” Frank said. “Every Air Force organization continues to make contributions to the Air Force story and the exploration and awareness of each unit’s past can help encourage a sense of increased pride and respect for every Airman’s career field and organization.”
Whether they’re pilots who’ve tallied thousands of hours in a particular aircraft or crew who man weapons that deliver air power, fini flights are a longstanding tradition that remain one of the most exhilarating ways to recognize the very best amongst the Air Force’s ranks.
Pfc. Rashad Billingsly was shopping Black Friday at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama, when he heard two distinct gunshots over the sound of the crowd.
A few seconds passed, then he heard two or three more.
“At that point, everybody was running and screaming,” Billingsly said. “It was chaotic. And that’s when I crossed [the injured girl’s] path. They were screaming ‘[she’s] hurt, [she’s] hurt,’ so I stopped and told them I could help.”
Hero Medic who helped 12-year-old in shooting speaks out
The 12-year-old girl, running with her sister and grandmother, had been shot in the back, though she hadn’t realized it at the time and only remarked that it “hurt.” Billingsley, however, recognized right away.
“I cleaned off as much of the blood as I could with what I had,” he said, “then a police officer came up and I asked him to grab me a shirt off a rack nearby and I used it to apply pressure and try to slow her bleeding.”
Billingsley said he kept her calm and stable, holding pressure on the wound until paramedics arrived to transport her to the emergency room. He also accompanied her sister and grandmother to the ambulance to shield their view from bodies on the floor nearby.
Billingsley’s parents and unit leadership at the 2025th Transportation Company in Jacksonville, said they were not surprised to hear how he responded in the moment.
“We’re very proud of him,” his mother, Amanda Billingsley, said, “but not surprised. That’s just the type of young man that he is, and we’re thanking God he was at the right place at the right time to help.”
Capt. Jody Harkins, commander of the 2025th Transportation Company, echoed the sentiment.
“When I got the call that he was the one involved in this incident, I was immediately proud to know him and share a unit with him,” he said. “Even from my first impressions of Pfc. Billingsley, he’s just been that kind of guy, but I think that would also be the reaction of most Alabama Guardsmen in that moment.
“That’s what we’re trained for, and that’s what these guys live to do. They’re always volunteering for any missions, they love their country, love their community, love to do their part and they love to serve the people around them. Pfc. Billingsley did a heroic and outstanding thing and, while I certainly can’t take any credit for it, I’m proud to be his commander.”
Billingsley, however, never used the word “proud,” saying, instead, that he is simply “grateful.” “I’m just glad I could help her out,” he said, “glad God put me there in that moment, and glad I had the training I needed, so I could potentially help save this girl’s life.”
When he enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard in March 2017 as an 88M Motor Transport Operator, Billingsly said he had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps as a truck driver. He planned to one day parlay his military training and certifications into a commercial driver’s license and profitable career, but said he never anticipated needing it to save a life near home.
Ultimately, he said, it was his military training that made the difference. He admitted he is not a medic or even Combat Life Saver-certified, but feels the Soldier-level combat casualty care training drilled into him since his first unit of assignment had “fully prepared” him to act quickly and appropriately.
“It was just natural,” he said. “It all clicked in the moment. I didn’t panic, I knew what to do, and I just acted.”
Billingsley said he is trying to stay humble in the midst of media attention and tries not to bring it up, but he is quick to encourage others to get the same training.
“A lot of people my age say, ‘oh, I’m gonna try to do this or that, but I’ll keep the military as a plan B,’ but I always tell them, ‘no, the military really can be plan A,'” said the 18-year-old.
“You get the best training on so many things; it really opens up a lot of opportunities to do good for yourself and maybe someone else, too.”
Billingsley said he has been in constant communication with the young girl he helped, as well as her family, and is happy to see her recovering and he looks forward to life returning to normal for himself and for her.
Harkins said Billingsley is expected to be promoted to the rank of specialist in January 2019, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see Billingsley receive official military recognition for his actions.
He did it. He finally did it. Secretary of the Army Mark Esper has recently signed a memorandum that states the high-visibility belt, better known as the PT belt, isn’t required in the daytime. On top of this, he removed pointless PowerPoint presentations, implemented a fitness test that revolves around a soldier’s combat readiness potential, and has pushed for a return to training focused on military operations as opposed to training for training’s sake.
Madness. This is absolute madness. What’s next? Is walking on grass going to be okay? What about weekly PMCSs where soldiers kick the tires and say they’re good? Will the Army acknowledge that a leader’s evaluation report should also be created with input from randomly-selected direct subordinates to discourage asskissery and brown-nosing, providing an accurate reflection of that leader’s ability? These are indeed dark times, according to the people who say the Old Army died a few years after they ETSed.
Sarcasm aside, the Good-Idea Fairy has finally been questioned and wearing reflective belts during the daytime has been ruled officially useless.
(Department of Defense photo by Bill Orndorff)
Secretary Esper’s first official statement, issued back in November, 2017, emphasized his goals of promoting readiness, modernization, and reforming the way the Army conducts itself. This reevaluation of the effectiveness of the reflective belt is just one of the many items on the docket.
The Army is also using common sense in how it conducts inventories. As opposed to performing 100% inventories that require countless hours in the motor pool realigning conex boxes, now, if boxes are secure and there’s no evidence of tampering, it’s automatically accounted for, allowing the troops to focus efforts elsewhere.
Don’t be that idiot who thinks the PT belt is gone for good. You still want to be seen by cars before sunrise.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Timothy Lenzo)
Logically speaking, this makes absolute sense. The PT belt was implemented in the mid-’90s as a knee-jerk reaction to a horrific accident that killed several airmen. Several factors led to this horrible accident, including the driver driving on a designated route for PT, a lack of a traffic light at an intersection, and a lack of street lights in the area. But instead of focusing on the issues that actually led to the deaths of several airmen, reflective belts were implemented across the board.
Reflective belts will still be required in the morning, before the sun comes up, or in low-visibility conditions, like fog. A shiny thing that costs .50 at the PX can save lives, but little things, like ground-guiding a vehicle around the motor pool, don’t require a belt. Also, if soldiers are exercising on an enclosed track in the afternoon, a PT belt is not going to make a difference. Also, this entire memorandum leaves the discretion up to the commanders themselves.
The only thing that’s changing is that young soldiers won’t be getting an ass-chewing for something completely arbitrary.
Although Hollyanne Milley is probably best known for being the spouse of the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, she’s so much more. On Veterans Day, she saved a veteran’s life. And, it probably wasn’t the first time.
Milley is a nurse with over 30 years of experience. She spent almost 20 years as a critical care nurse and has been a cardiac nurse for 15 years. Milley has maintained her career throughout her husband’s journey to becoming the top leader for the United States Armed Forces. Milley was attending a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery when she witnessed a veteran collapse behind her. Without hesitation, she quickly jumped in to assist.
Upon reaching him, Milley found the veteran unresponsive. She reportedly directed bystanders to call 911 and as she turned back to him, he’d stopped breathing. Milley began CPR, completing two cycles of chest compressions – which led to him finally taking a breath. She then turned him on his side and kept him calm while they waited for EMS. He was eventually taken away to receive medical care at a nearby hospital.
Although the veteran requested anonymity, he was reportedly very thankful for her immediate aid and encouraged other bystanders to learn CPR.
Milley voiced to multiple media outlets that it was a team effort, with others also running to aid the veteran in need. A VA physician and the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman were among those who assisted. Milley encouraged the public to learn CPR so that they too could assist those in their community in the event of an emergency.
In a previous interview with Military Spouse Magazine, Milley shared that, “[My husband] has always supported my desire to have and maintain a career…I see spouse employment as a vital element of military retention. Military spouses are highly educated, resourceful and resilient.”
Thanks to her dedication to her nursing career despite numerous moves and license transfers, Milly was able to save the life of this veteran. She has maintained her nursing career even through her husband’s most recent role as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For those who’ve never been before, the gym can be an intimidating place. The weights are heavy, some of the isolation machines are complicated, and the other people look jacked. While everyone around you goes about their workout, you feel a little lost and you start feeling like you made a mistake just by showing up.
We call this, “gymtimidation.”
On the surface, the gym can seem like an unwelcoming place, even if the person at the first desk was so nice to you. And if you’re not in the best shape, standing next to some ripped guy or gal can make you feel insecure.
As with any new environment, it takes a little time to adapt to the gym. Fortunately, we’ve got a few tips that’ll help you feel a little more comfortable as you hit the weights.
Most of the time, finishing an intense workout is all about finding the proper motivation. Having a little support at the gym goes a long way. Nobody is going to motivate you like a good friend that’s also looking for results. Plus, working out with a few friends helps drown out some of the outside distractions that can make you uncomfortable.
Wear comfy clothes
Going to the gym doesn’t need to be a fashion statement, even if some people do dress up in expensive workout clothes for whatever reason. If you want to spend a pretty dime on the clothes you’re going to sweat in, that’s fine by us. Those who buy buy into the pricey trends tend to do so because it makes them feel better when they enter the weight room.
You don’t have to wear the newest Air Jordans or a Lululemon shirt, but if it’s comfortable and makes you feel more confident, then go for it.
It’s safe to say that most people have a general sense of what constitutes a solid workout. Push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups are some of the fundamentals and, if those are exercises you know, that’s fine. But the internet is full of free workout plans.
As long as you have a working smartphone, you can connect to the world wide web, even while you’re in the gym, and find tons of step-by-step workout routines.
It’s that freakin’ simple.
Listen to good music
The majority of gym-goers listen to music to help amp themselves up and get through their strenuous workouts. Listening to a good jam is the perfect way to tune out the world around you and focus on lifting all the weights you can. Before you know it, that “gymtimidation” you once felt will filter its way out of your mind.
At any given time, there are likely dozens of people working out in the same gym alongside you. The majority of all gym patrons have the same goal: to become healthier people. As long as you try to get in shape while you’re there, you’re just like everybody else.
Go during slow hours
Being uncomfortable in crowds can limit you in life. When it comes to getting a good workout, however, even those who are extremely comfortable in the gym like to show up during the slow hours.
Who the hell wants to wait on workout equipment anyways? Certainly not us.
You see all those toned people working out on the treadmills and in the weight room? Guess what: Those people decided that they were going to get in shape one day, just like you’re doing now. This might sound cheesy, but everyone starts on day one.
Building and toning muscle takes time, just like confidence. Remember, fitness is a process and a journey.
As part of the “all options on the table” approach to North Korea often pushed by President Donald Trump and his cabinet, the U.S. has been training the first operational Marine Corps F-35 squadron to fight through nuclear war if needed.
In mid-November, U.S. Marine Corps pilots and support crew donned Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear to train for war fighting under the strain of chemical, biological, or radiological hazards.
The Marines wore MOPP gear level four, the highest grade of protective gear available to the U.S. military, while executing a “hot refueling,” or a fast-paced exercise where the pilot keeps the F-35’s engines on while it takes on more gas, so it can take off in a moment’s notice.
Hot refueling, as well as hot reloading, where F-35s take in more ordnance while the engines stay on, both represent tactics devised specifically with fighting in the Pacific in mind.
In the event of war with North Korea, Pyongyang’s opening salvo would likely include nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon attacks via ballistic missiles on U.S. bases in Japan. Although the U.S. maintains missile defenses, it’s not safe to assume the bases would make it out unscathed.
For that reason, the Marines’ F-35B, which can take off and land vertically, needs flexibility to improvise, land on makeshift runways, and turn around to keep fighting in minimal time.
Training in MOPP gear assures that the pilots and crew won’t be caught off guard when the atmosphere becomes hazardous with chemical, radioactive, or biological agents.
“It’s important to practice in MOPP gear because the Marines do”t get many opportunities to wear this on a daily basis, so in the instance where they do have to wear MOPP gear in a real-life scenario, it’s not going to be a shock or surprise to them of how they are going to operate,” Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Martin Aldrete, a maintenance controller with VMFA-121, said in a statement.
The military’s best planes and pilots are all training to take out North Korea
Alpert said that instead of sending 60 to 75 servicemembers into the air above North Korea aboard F-16s, F-15s, logistics, and surveillance planes, U.S. Air Force planners managed to work out a mission where just four pilots in two F-22 Raptors and two F-35s take out North Korea’s main nuclear infrastructure and leave unscathed.
When Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby first interviewed to be Army Futures Command’s enlisted leader, he had no idea what to expect.
The command was still in its nascent stages with no headquarters building and he could only find a brief description of its vision to modernize the Army.
Instead, Crosby was focused on the battlefield, observing his troops defeat ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. The prospect of the new job seemed like a 180-degree departure from his post overseeing Operation Inherent Resolve’s Combined Joint Task Force.
He then reflected on the coalition troops he had lost during his tour. Then of the soldiers who never returned home from his other deployments, including back-to-back tours to Iraq from 2005 to 2008.
He decided he wanted to help change how future soldiers would fight, hopefully keeping them safer and more lethal.
“It’s something bigger than myself,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m fired up about this. This is a bold move by the Army.”
Embedded with industry, academia
Inside a high-rise office building in the heart of Texas, the command’s headquarters bustled on a weekday in late June.
Unlike other Army units, the office space felt more like that, an office, rather than a typical military workplace.
The command had a low profile in its upper-floor nest inside the University of Texas System building, overlooking downtown and the domed state capitol.
Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, right, assigned to Army Futures Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, conducts a live demonstration of new Army equipment at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, April 11, 2019.
(Photo by Luke J. Allen)
Among the rows of cubicles, soldiers wore no uniforms as they worked alongside federal employees and contractors. Many soldiers went by their first name in the office, often frequented by innovators, entrepreneurs and academic partners.
The lowest-ranked soldier was a sergeant and up the chain were senior executive service civilians and a four-star general.
A few blocks down 7th Street, another group of soldiers and federal employees from the command were embedded in an incubator hub to get even closer to innovators.
The Army Applications Laboratory occupies a corner on the eighth floor of Capital Factory, which dubs itself the center of gravity for startups in Texas. The lab shares space with other defense agencies and officials call it a “concierge service” to help small companies navigate Defense Department acquisition rules and regulations.
“They’re nested and tied in with industry,” Crosby said.
The command also provides research funding to over 300 colleges and universities, he added
Those efforts include an Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh that activated earlier this year.
In May, the University of Texas System also announced it had committed at least million to support its efforts with the command, according to a news release.
More recently, the command agreed to a partnership with Vanderbilt University in Nashville. As part of it, soldiers with 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team would work with engineers to inspire new technology.
Soldiers up the road at Fort Hood may also soon be able to do the same at UT and Texas AM University.
“That is what we’re looking to replicate with other divisions in the Army,” Crosby said. “It will take some time.”
In on the groundfloor
Since October 2017 when the Army announced its intent to create the command to be the focal point of modernization efforts, it wasted no time laying its foundation.
It now manages eight cross-functional teams at military sites across the country, allowing soldiers to team with acquisition and science and technology experts at the beginning of projects.
The teams tackle six priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality — all of which have since been allocated billion over the next five years.
The next step was to place its headquarters in an innovative city, where it could tap into industry and academic talent to develop new technologies that give soldiers an edge against near-peer threats.
Gen. John Murray, left, commander of Army Futures Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, the command’s senior enlisted leader, participate in a command synchronization session at the University of Texas at Austin, April 26, 2019.
(Photo by Luke J. Allen)
After an exhaustive search of over 150 cities, the Army chose Austin. The move marked the start of the Army’s largest reorganization effort since 1973, when both the Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command were established.
The location away from a military post was intentional. Rather than surrounded by a security fence, the command is surrounded by corporate America.
“We’re part of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, startups, academia,” Crosby said. “We’re in that flow of where ideas are presented.”
As it nears full operational capability this summer, Futures Command has already borne fruit since it activated August 2018.
Its collaborative efforts have cut the time it takes project requirements to be approved from five or seven years to just three months or less.
Once prototypes are developed, soldiers are also more involved in testing the equipment before it begins rolling off an assembly line.
By doing this, the Army hopes to learn from past projects that failed to meet soldier expectations.
The Main Battle Tank-70 project in the 1960s, for instance, went well over budget before it was finally canceled. New efforts then led to the M1 Abrams tank.
Until the Army got the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, it spent significant funding on the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle in the 1960s, which never entered service.
“So we’re trying to avoid that,” Crosby said. “We’re trying to let soldiers touch it. Those soldier touchpoints are a big success story.”
Futures Command is not a traditional military command. Its headquarters personnel, which will eventually number about 100 soldiers and 400 civilians, are encouraged to think differently.
A new type of culture has spread across the command, pushing many soldiers and federal employees out of their comfort zone to learn how to work in a more corporate environment.
“The culture we really look to embrace is to have some elasticity; be able to stretch,” Crosby said. “Don’t get in the box, don’t even use a box — get rid of the box.”
Crosby and other leaders will often elicit ideas from younger personnel, who may think of another approach to remedy a problem.
“I’m not going to somebody who has been in the uniform for 20 to 30 years, because they’re pretty much locked on their ideas,” he said. “They don’t want to change.”
A young staff sergeant once told the sergeant major the command could save thousands if they just removed the printers from the office.
The move, which is still being mulled over, would force people to rely more on technology while also saving money in paper, ink and electricity.
While it may annoy some, Crosby likens the idea to when a GPS device reroutes a driver because of traffic on a road. The driver may be upset at first, not knowing where the device is pointing, but the new route ends up being quicker.
Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, center, deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command and commander of Futures and Concepts Center, talks with Josh Baer, founder of Capital Factory, during a South by Southwest Startup Crawl on March 8, 2019, in Austin, Texas.
(Photo by Anthony Small)
“You have to reprogram what you think,” he said. “I’m not used to this road, why are they taking me here? Then you come to find out, it’s not a bad route.”
For Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Robinson, his role as a human resources specialist is vastly different from his previous job as a mailroom supervisor at 4th Infantry Division.
As the headquarters’ youngest soldier, Robinson, 31, often handles the administrative actions of organizations that continue to realign under the budding command.
Among them are the Army Capabilities Integration Center that transitioned over to be the command’s Futures and Concepts Center. The Research, Development and Engineering Command then realigned to be its Combat Capabilities Development Command.
Research elements at the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command have also realigned to the Army’s new major command.
“The processes and actions are already in place,” Robinson said of his old position, “but here you’re trying to recreate and change pretty much everything.”
Since he started in November 2018, he said he now has a wider view of the Army. Being immersed in a corporate setting, he added, may also help him in a career after the military.
“The job itself and working with different organizations opens up a [broader perspective],” he said, “and helps you not just generalize but operationalize a different train of thought.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, left, Army Futures Command’s senior enlisted leader, participates in the command’s activation ceremony in Austin, Texas, Aug. 24, 2018, along with Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army; Army Secretary Mark Esper; and its commander, Gen. John Murray.
(Photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)
While chaotic at times, Julia McDonald, a federal employee who handles technology and futures analysis for the commander’s action group, has grabbed ahold of the whirlwind ride.
“It moves fast around here,” she said of when quick decisions are made and need to be implemented at a moment’s notice. “Fifteen minutes seems like an hour or two.”
Building up a major command is not without its growing pains. Even its commander, Gen. John Murray, has referred to his command as a “startup trying to manage a merger.”
“Everybody is just trying to stand up their staff sections and understand that this is your lane and this is my lane,” McDonald said. “And how do we all work together now that we’re in the same command?”
The current challenges could pay off once the seeds planted today grow into new capabilities that help soldiers.
For Crosby, that’s a personal mission. In his last deployment, nearly 20 coalition members, including U.S. soldiers, died in combat or in accidents and many more were wounded as they fought against ISIS.
“We have to get it right, and I know we will,” he said. “Everybody is depending on us.”
The Trump administration has been seeking closer ties with India and trying to further isolate Iran, but the desire to do the former may be complicated by efforts to do the latter.
The US’s latest move to increase pressure on Iran has been to ask some of the country’s biggest oil customers to cut their purchases of Tehran’s crude — including India, one of the largest importers of Iranian oil.
“Sanctions are coming (on Iran), and we’re going forward on that, and with India and the US building strong relationships we hoped that they would lessen their dependence on Iran,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told reporters after a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 27, 2018.
“Prime Minister Modi very much understands where we are with Iran. He didn’t question it. He didn’t criticize it,” Haley said. “He understood it, and he also understands that (India’s) relationship with the US is strong and important and needs to stay that way.”
(U.S. Mission Photo by Eric Bridiers)
The request comes after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, signed by the US, Iran, and five other major world powers in 2015.
Trump said the US would reimpose the sanctions on Iran that were suspended under that deal, and while India has said it adheres to UN sanctions rather than unilateral US sanctions, the oil ministry in New Delhi has reportedly asked refiners to prepare for a “drastic reduction or zero” imports of Iranian oil starting in November 2018.
But Haley also said the US would not try to quash India’s deal with Iran to develop the port at Chabahar, Iran’s only oceanic port and a vital point of access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
“We know the port has to happen and the US is going to work with India to do that,” Haley said. “We know that [India’s] being a great partner with us in Afghanistan and really trying to assist the US and trying to do more. The port’s vital in trying to do that.”
“We realize we’re threading a needle when we do that,” Haley said of the effort to balance between isolating Iran and developing Chabahar.
Chabahar is strategically important for India. The port allows Indian goods to reach Afghanistan without going through Pakistan. The port also gives Afghanistan more direct access to India, opening a path for trade that could help stabilize the war-torn country and diminish the appeal of the illicit drug trade. Both India and Afghanistan have had contentious relations with Pakistan, which currently allows overland trade between the two countries to cross its territory.
Rail and road routes would allow Indian goods to travel from Chabahar further north to Central Asian markets.
The port-development project was officially launched in 2016 but has faced numerous delays. Iran agreed to lease operational control to India for 18 months in February 2018, and India hopes to have the port fully operational by 2019, but there has been little major traffic there aside from wheat donated by India. The first shipments of dried fruit from Afghanistan to India are expected in July 2018.
In the weeks since Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, more uncertainty has piled up for the port and the countries hoping to do business there.
Haley said the impact of Iran-related sanctions on Indian companies would be discussed when the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers met in Washington. That meeting was scheduled for July 2018 but has been delayed, likely until later in the year.
US officials have said the US is unlikely to grant waivers for foreign companies doing business with Iran, complicating matters for Indian firms. And in the wake of Trump’s decision to exit the nuclear deal in May, contracts to build facilities at Chabahar were delayed as bankers sought more details from Washington.
Afghan workers and businesses hoping to do work at and through the port were also left hanging. Afghan government officials have asked for the port to exempt from looming anti-Iran sanctions.
“President Trump’s decision has brought us back to the drawing board and we will have to renegotiate terms and conditions on using Chabahar,” a senior Indian diplomat told Reuters in late May 2018. “It is a route that can change the way India-Iran-Afghanistan do business, but for now everything is in a state of uncertainty.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon is throwing $700 million at a rapidly progressing program to combat the threat of commercial drone use by the Islamic State, The New York Times reports.
The program has commissioned U.S. defense contractors to begin attempting to find solutions to the drone threat, including using lasers to shoot them out of the sky. The technology is in its infancy and has yet to yield any significant results. ISIS has pioneered the use of relatively cheap commercial drones as airborne improvised explosive devices, for surveillance, and propaganda purposes.
The Pentagon program comes as it increases the number of U.S. troops in Syria to assist training for the Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIS. The Pentagon reportedly worries that its bases could be vulnerable to ISIS drone attacks, and it sees the broader trend in warfare.
The terrorist group used some commercial drones to drop cheap IED’s on the Iraq Security Forces during the Battle for Mosul. ISIS announced the formation of a new drone warfare unit in January, whose sole purpose is to inflict “a new source of horror for the apostates.” The terrorist group said the new unit killed nearly 40 Iraqi soldiers in just one week.
The threat may not just be limited to the battlefield. Georgetown terrorism expert Dr. Bruce Hoffman recently warned that drone “swarms” could become a facet of western terrorist attacks. Hoffman outlined one such scenario, telling readers, “picture Paris on November 13, 2015 [the night when people were slaughtered at a rock concert and in sidewalk cafés] with drone attacks superimposed on top of it. Authorities would have been completely overwhelmed. This elevates our greatest fear, which is simultaneous urban attacks—now with swarming on top of them.”
The United States Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force are teaming up for some practice. The targets: North Korean ballistic missiles.
According to a release by the United States Navy, Resilient Shield 2018 started on Feb. 16 and will continue until the 23rd of the month. The exercise will involve two Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers, USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS Benfold (DDG 65), and USS Stethem (DDG 63), the Kongo-class guided missile destroyer JS Kongo (DDG 173), and the Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116).
That is a potent force – six of these vessels are equipped with the Aegis system, centered around the AN/SPY-1 radar, and all six of those are capable of using the RIM-161 Standard SM-3 surface-to-air missile. All seven ships have the Mk 41 vertical-launch system, which can carry that missile. According to Designation-Systems.net, this missile has a range of over 270 nautical miles and can travel at 6,000 miles per hour, or just under Mach 8. In a number of tests, the SM-3, depending on the version, has proven very capable of taking out inbound ballistic targets.
The SM-3 is not the only system deployed in the region to counter North Korean ballistic missiles. The United States, Japan, and South Korea all use the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile, which was initially designed to provide area air defense against enemy aircraft, but which proved capable of taking out ballistic missiles in Operation Desert Storm. The United States also deployed the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which has a range of over 125 miles and can go more than eight times the speed of sound, according to Designation-Systems.net.