3 reasons 'resilience' is more than an overused buzzword - We Are The Mighty
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3 reasons ‘resilience’ is more than an overused buzzword

(Photo: U.S. Army)


Young veterans often ask me why they should care about resilience. It’s a fair question. At this point, the term is almost meaningless – an overused buzzword. American military culture in particular has packaged “resilience” into an unsexy powerpoint training requirement. It seems like an add-on. An annoyance.

It’s unfortunate, because resilience practices are key to maximizing performance. And when you’re performing optimally, your family, your team, and the other people around you benefit significantly. We’re better off in every area of our lives – personally and professionally – when we practice resilience trait cultivation.

The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.  

I promise not to spend the next few paragraphs trying to convince you to drink green smoothies and sit on a therapist’s couch. There’s a lot more to wellness than that. Instead, we’ll examine some simple tactics you can start using today to build a better life.

1. Social Support: Surround Yourself With Good People

The first and most important step in building resilience is making the hard choice to surround yourself with great people. If you don’t have them around you, you can’t get started. You won’t start or keep growing.

This seems like an obvious step, but it’s a real challenge for some. It was for me.

The truth is, you’ve got a battle ahead and you’re most likely to succeed if you have like-minded people to walk with you as you make some changes. I’m not saying you have to hang out with people who look, think, and talk like you, but you do have to spend time with people who are supportive and interested in their own growth and development.

Take a moment to honestly evaluate the influence of the people in your life. Is their influence negative and destructive or positive? If you don’t have great people around you right now, that’s ok. It means you have plenty of room to grow.

You may need to make some serious life changes to find a more positive tribe. You may also need to put yourself in some uncomfortable situations to meet new people. Perhaps you’ll find your new group volunteering, on a sports team, or as part of a faith community.

If you’re not in a great place right now, or you don’t have many skills when it comes to connecting with other people, you might be feeling shame or a lack of confidence. Do some outreach anyway. Be willing to risk sharing things that feel deeply personal. You’ll be surprised at how supportive people can be when you open up.

Think about this intense challenge in terms of improving yourself for the people you love.

2. Self-Care: Calm Your Body and Mind

Start here by choosing just one or two healthy practices you can incorporate as daily habits, then track how they benefit your life. Don’t worry about trying to change everything at once.

By practicing effective self-care to calm your body and mind, you can become less reactive to external stressors. When you’re less reactive, you’re more capable of engaging in positive social interactions. Better social interactions result in increased social support. Improved social support increases your physical and emotional health. There’s a ripple effect here that’s really exciting.

Self-care can be as simple as cooking at home or going back to the gym. What you’re looking for is something that makes you feel relaxed. You might be working hard, but you’re going to feel your sympathetic nervous system (body and mind) calm down. Some people call it a click. An exhale. A downshift. When you feel it, you’ll know you found your thing.

Think of your sympathetic nervous system like a dashboard: It’s where your perception, speech, and moving about in the world happens. It’s where you live when you’re alert. Our goal through self-care is to pump the brakes and calm down this side of our nervous system.

When our brains shift to rest, our bodies and minds are refreshed and we’re more capable of controlling our emotions, focusing, and engaging in high-level thinking. You can reach this rested state by sleeping, but you don’t have to be sleeping to be in this zone. You may also get there by swimming, snowboarding, gardening, praying, meditating, or hitting flow in some other activity you enjoy. Most of us – particularly those of us with stress injuries – are sadly lacking in this rested state.

As you begin incorporating daily self-care practices into your life, track your progress. Take note of how you feel two weeks in. Do you feel better? More focused? Do you sleep better at night? Are you feeling less pain?

Remember that self-care will differ for every person. For example, if meditation isn’t for you and you keep trying it, it can actually increase your stress. You may not be a meditator – you may be a trail runner. It’s about trial and error. Don’t be surprised if what works for you changes over the years. The most important thing is to maintain your willingness to practice, and understand that it may take time to discover what works best for you.

3. Spirituality: Find Your Meaning

Finally, there’s a clear correlation between physical, mental, and emotional resilience and a sense of meaning in our lives. We all need a connection to someone higher – with God, or a sense of personal purpose. Whether you approach this aspect of resilience from a secular perspective (think Maslow’s hierarchy with transcendance at the top) or with a theological view, give yourself some time to ask questions about the source of purpose and meaning in your life.

To plug into a community that supports you as you explore this aspect of resilience, consider getting involved with your church, synagogue, or specific faith group, volunteering, giving generously, or taking time to study a faith practice you’ve been curious about.

Editor’s note: Each week WATM will be presenting a new column by Dr. Hendricks Thomas on topics important to the veteran community.

About the Author

Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance, here.

Articles

Female midshipmen will wear pants instead of skirts at graduation this year

(Photo: U.S. Navy/Peter Lawlor)


In keeping with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ recent initiatives aimed at pushing gender integration as far as possible across the entire fleet, the U.S. Naval Academy’s Commandant of Midshipmen announced a few nights ago that this year’s female graduates will wear trousers to the graduation ceremony instead of the traditional skirts.

This decision comes on the heels of Mabus ordering a review of job titles across the Navy with an eye on eliminating those that use the word “man” in them. He has also told the Navy SEALs to prepare to accept female candidates into the rigorous training program.

USNA spokesman Cmdr. John Schofield told The Baltimore Sun that the new dress policy will reinforce the idea of “shipmate before self.”

“The graduation and commissioning ceremony at the US Naval Academy is not about individuals,” he said. “It’s about the academy writ large. It’s about the brigade writ large.”

Mabus introduced his gender-neutral uniform initiative during an address at Annapolis last year.

“Rather than highlighting differences in our ranks, we will incorporate everyone as full participants,” he told the Brigade of Midshipmen. “In the Navy and in the Marine Corps, we are trending towards uniforms that don’t divide us as male or female, but rather unite us as sailors or Marines.”

Female cadets at the Air Force Academy are allowed to choose whether to wear trousers or a skirt to graduation, and the entire Corps of Cadets at West Point has worn trousers to the ceremony for years.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of November 30th

Man, you cut yourself off from the outside world for one extended weekend and you miss everything. Apparently, lettuce is now dangerous and, supposedly, generals carrying “assault” weapons in Afghanistan are dangerous, and some tribe in the Indian Ocean that’s capable of firing a metric f*ckload of arrows into moving airplanes is dangerous, too.

So, if you’ve managed to not die from tainted lettuce or North Sentinelese archers this week, congratulations! You’ve earned yourself some memes.


(Meme via Uniform Humor)

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

(Meme via Shammers United)

(Meme via United Status Marin Crops)

(Meme by CONUS Battle Drills)

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

(Meme via Private News Network)

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

(Meme by Pop Smoke)

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

MIGHTY TRENDING

This soldier was killed supporting freedom in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.


Soldiers of Delta Company, 3d US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), finish folding a flag in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., April 17, 2013. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.

Sgt. First Class Stephen B. Cribben, 33, of Simi Valley, California, died Nov. 4 in Logar Province, Afghanistan as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations. He was assigned to 2d Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Carson, Colorado. The incident is under investigation.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s electric buses kill oil demand as US dependency increases

China’s rapidly growing fleet of electric buses could be the biggest existential threat to oil demand in the future as more and more vehicles shun fossil fuels.

A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggests that China’s electric-bus revolution could kill off oil demand in the future with 6.4 million barrels a day displaced by electric vehicles by 2040.


By the end of 2019, a cumulative 270,000 barrels a day of diesel demand, predominantly from China, will be removed from the market. China’s revolution in electric vehicles has been astonishing and looks set to continue into the future. For example, in the growing mega city of Shenzen, the entire 16,000 strong fleet of buses run on electric engines and taxis will soon follow suit.

Bloomberg estimates that electric buses and cars collectively account for 3% of global oil demand growth since 2011. The market is still small, making up around 0.3% of current consumption, but is set to expand rapidly in the coming years.

Global energy demand is still growing despite the boom in electric vehicles, with the US set to become the world’s largest oil exporter in the coming years.

A number of American cities and universities, such as the University of Utah, have unveiled electric-bus fleets in recent years. And in 2017, 12 major global cities agreed to buy only all-electric buses starting in 2025, according to Electrek.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army fast tracks new howitzer that can out-reach Russia

The Army is fast-tracking an emerging program to engineer a longer-range artillery cannon able to out range enemy ground forces by hitting targets at more than twice the distance of existing artillery.

The service is now prototyping an Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer.

Existing 155m artillery rounds, fired with precision from mobile and self-propelled howitzer platforms, have a maximum range of about 30km; the new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.


“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle brake,” the official explained.

“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.

Marines fire an M777A2 155 mm howitzer.

(United States Marine Corps photo)

As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.

The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.

“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement.

The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.

ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority — long-range precision fires. This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-off range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.

A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago – its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets – such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.

In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet – all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.

An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round.

In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons. The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta – which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.

In early 2018 statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia. The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers, and satellite navigation systems, the report says.

Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.

While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control, and target technology.

“Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.

Multi-domain warfare is also integral to the strategic impetus for the new ERCA weapon; longer range land weapons can naturally better enable air attack options.

Operating within this concept, former Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes launched a new series of tabletop exercises several months ago — designed to to replicate and explore these kinds of future warfare scenarios. The project is oriented toward exploring the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.

In a previous Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”

Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.

Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenets informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China.

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.

Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.

After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions, and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.

In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.

Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.

“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”

Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy submarines now are deploying with new ‘low-yield’ nuclear weapons

US Navy ballistic missile submarines — boomers — are now sailing with ballistic missiles armed with new “low-yield” nuclear weapons, the Department of Defense announced Tuesday.


“The U.S. Navy has fielded the W76-2 low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) warhead,” John Rood, under secretary of defense for policy, said in a statement.

“This supplemental capability strengthens deterrence and provides the United States a prompt, more survivable low-yield strategic weapon,” he said.

Rood, who told the Associated Press that these new weapons lower the risk of nuclear war, added that it “demonstrates to potential adversaries that there is no advantage to limited nuclear employment because the United States can credibly and decisively respond to any threat scenario.”

The fielding of the new low-yield nuclear warheads, which arm submarine-launched Trident II missiles, was first reported by the Federation of American Scientists, which explained that each W76-2 has an explosive yield of about five kilotons, significantly smaller than the 90-kiloton W76-1 or the larger, 455-kiloton W88.

For comparison, the W76-2 has a smaller explosive yield than either of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — which together killed hundreds of thousands of people.

It is unclear exactly when and on which vessels the new “low-yield” nuclear weapons were deployed, but FAS, citing unnamed sources, reports the new weapons may have been deployed aboard the US Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) USS Tennessee, which set out on an Atlantic deployment at the end of last year.

The W76-2 is a product of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.

“DoD and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will develop for deployment a low-yield SLBM warhead to ensure a prompt response option that is able to penetrate adversary defenses,” the review explained.

“This is a comparatively low-cost and near term modification to an existing capability that will help counter any mistaken perception of an exploitable ‘gap’ in U.S. regional deterrence capabilities.”

Production of the new warheads began in January 2019 at the Pantax Plant in Texas.

While the Department of Defense argues in favor of the new weapons, many arms control experts argue that low-yield nuclear weapons lowers the barrier to entry into nuclear-armed conflict, thus increasing the risk of a conflict escalating to a full-scale nuclear war.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

8 of the coolest military technology advances from 2016

While 2016 took a lot from us (Carrie Fisher being one of the most recent losses), it also provided us with glimpses into the future.


So, without further ado, here’s a look at some of the new tech of 2016.

1. Carbon Nanomaterials

This article from April outlines the potential of aircraft made in one structure as opposed to many components that have to be assembled. Lockheed Martin made its mark in aviation with its famous Skunk Works in the 20th Century. The nanomaterials could lead to new developments in a wide range of products, from medical applications to building ships.

2. Russia Gets Its LCS Right

Concept photo of Russian Projekt 20386 littoral combat ship. (Photo from Thai Military and Region blog)

Russia began work on the Derzky-class littoral combat ship this year, as WATM reported in November. While the American versions have been in the news with engineering problems, Russia seems to have taken the time to think about what its navy wanted.

Derzky will not be in service until 2021, according to reports. Perhaps, by then, the American LCS will have the kinks worked out of it.

3. New Round for Snipers?

A sniper from the U.S. team makes adjustments to his rifle during the unknown distance event during the Fuerzas Comando competition July 26. (Department of Defense photo by U.S. Army Master Sgt. Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs)

In November, WATM also noted that snipers were taking an interest in the .300 Norma Magnum round. This round offers an improved ballistic coefficient over the .338 Lapua Magnum round currently used by snipers. The round will be used in the Advanced Sniper Rifle that SOCOM is trying to procure.

4. No More “Feeling the Burn”

The Enhanced Fire Resistant Combat Ensemble is slated to help keep Marines and sailors assigned to the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command from “feeling the burn.”

This past November, WATM reported that these uniforms brought some financial bonuses, too, as they are twice as durable as the ones currently in use.

5. The Speeder Bike becomes a reality

(Photo from Malloy Aerospace)

When the Army began testing the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, comparisons to the speeder bikes used in Return of the Jedi were quick in coming.

This October, WATM noted it was also being eyed for use in combat re-supply missions. While the Marines have used an unmanned K-Max, this is much smaller and could help resupply a platoon in a firefight.

6. A Bird of Prey that hunts subs

This April, WATM reported on the ACTUV, which could make life very difficult for enemy subs. ACTUV, which stands for Antisubmarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel, displaces about 140 tons and is 132 feet long.

Equipped with sensors and a datalink, this is a robotic scout that can track submarines or other targets, and it has a sustained speed of 27 knots.

7. Russia’s Killer Robot

Screen capture from video of a FSB raid on the leader of ISIS’s Russian affiliate.

On Dec. 3, Russian FSB troops carried out a raid that took out the top dog of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s Dagestan chapter.

Earlier this month, WATM took a closer look at the gear displayed in a video that was released. The star attraction was a little robot packing what appeared to be a PKM machine gun and two RPG-22s. Now, isn’t this robot cooler than BB-8?

8. Bigger guns on Stryker and JLTV

The first prototype Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle outfitted with a 30mm cannon was delivered Thursday to the Army. (Photo Credit: courtesy of Program Executive OfficeGround Combat Systems)

Since relations between the Russians and Americans seem to be heading south, two vehicles are getting bigger guns. In October, the Stryker got a 30mm turret, and became the XM1296 Dragoon. But this September, WATM reported that the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle got a bigger gun in the form of a modified M230. Now, these vehicles can take out BMPs.

So, those are some of the big tech stories out there for 2016. Which military tech story from 2016 is your favorite?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Georgia is ready to commit to be a NATO ally

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has told RFE/RL that his country can “commit to joining [NATO] today,” saying that his country has “fulfilled basically every requirement” needed to become a member of the alliance.

Speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12, 2018, where the leaders had a first-ever meeting at the level of heads of government with Georgia, Margvelashvili said his country was “ready” to join and added, “We are standing here [ready] to become NATO members so the question [if we can join the alliance] is to [be answered by] the NATO member countries.”


The leaders of the 29-member alliance adopted a declaration at the end of the summit stating, “we reiterate the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest [NATO] summit that Georgia will become a member of the alliance.”

The declaration added, “we recognize the significant progress on reforms which Georgia has made and must continue to make, which are helping Georgia, an aspirant country, progress in its preparations towards membership.”

However, there was no mention of when Georgia can join NATO or when the alliance will offer Tbilisi a Membership Action Plan (MAP).

2018 NATO summit in Brussels.

A MAP is a multistage process of political dialogue and military reform to bring a country in line with NATO standards and to eventual membership. The process can take several years.

Like at previous summits, some European countries were hesitant to open the door to Georgia now, prompting Margvelashvili to note, “we have to reach that consensus because this is not only a security organization but it is a democratic organization and you need the support of each country.

“So we have to convince them that NATO, Europe and the United States will be safer and better when Georgia becomes a NATO member.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian power in Europe is more dangerous than ever

The former top U.S. Army commander in Europe said Russian battlefield tactics in eastern Ukraine show sophisticated integration of drones, electronic warfare, and mortar and artillery, posing major challenges for Ukrainian forces.


Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges also said on Jan. 24 that U.S. and European allies should do more to publicize Russia’s capabilities on the ground in eastern Ukraine, including the region historically known as the Donbas.

Hodges, who retired as commander of the U.S. Army’s European forces last year, made the comments in Washington, at the Helsinki Commission, a U.S. government agency charged with monitoring human rights in Europe and elsewhere.

Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, shares a toast after receiving an award from the Hungarian Defense Force. (Image from DoD)

The United States and its NATO allies have helped train and supply the Ukrainian armed forces since the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine in April 2014. About 250 U.S. soldiers are helping in the training, Hodges said, plus Canadians and other NATO allies.

‘Diplomatic solution’

In all, more than 10,000 people have been killed and more than 1 million displaced in the conflict pitting Ukrainian forces against Russia-backed separatists.

Russia has repeatedly denied its forces have been involved, or that it has supplied weaponry or equipment, assertions that independent observers and journalists have largely debunked.

Hodges said the recent U.S. decision to supply Ukraine with more sophisticated weaponry, including Javelin anti-tank weapons, was important for persuading the Russians to negotiate an end to the conflict.

“There has to be a diplomatic solution to this,” he said. “Russia has to, at some point, agree to stop supporting the separatists or pull out to allow the re-establishment” of Ukrainian control of its border with Russia.

Also Read: Finland once snuck inside the Soviet air force to bomb Russia

Electronic warfare capability

In eastern Ukraine, Hodges said, there are about 35,000-40,000 Russia-backed fighters, and around 4,000-5,000 are actual Russian military officers or commanders.

He said many of the tanks and vehicles operated by both Ukrainian and Russia-backed forces are now covered with reactive armor, a specialized type of plating designed to protect against rocket-propelled grenades and weapons other than small arms.

He also said Russia-backed commanders have honed tactics that include using drones, artillery, and electronic warfare. That’s allowed Russians forces, for example, to eliminate Ukrainian mortars and artillery units. He said one Ukrainian unit that was using a U.S.-supplied radar was taken out by Russian rocket fire with surprising speed.

Quadcopter drones are readily available to both military and civilian buyers and may play a large role in future conflicts. (USAF photo by Kenji Thuloweit)

“The [Russian] electronic warfare capability; again that’s something we never had to worry with that in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Ukrainians live in this environment,” he said. “So you cannot speak on a radio or any device that’s not secure because it’s going to be jammed or intercepted or worse, it’s going to be found and then it’s going to be hit.”

“Certainly we have the capability to show everybody what Russia is specifically doing in the Donbas, that would be helpful to keep pressure on Russia, to live up to what they’ve said they’re going to do,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy on deadly collisions: We have to be better

The chief of Naval Operations said today that the collisions in the Pacific that killed 10 sailors aboard the USS Fitzgerald and seven sailors aboard the USS McCain were entirely preventable, and the service is committed to correcting the actions that led to the accidents.


Navy Adm. John Richardson told Pentagon reporters that many aspects combined to cause the accidents, including lack of training, hubris, sleep deprivation, failures in navigation, and failures in leadership.

The guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain sailed when they shouldn’t have, he said, and that decision falls on the commanders, who are responsible for conducting risk assessments.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities Yokosuka to continue repairs and assess damage sustained from its June 17 collision with a merchant vessel. This view shows damage above the waterline to the outside skin of the ship. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christian Senyk/Released)

The demand for ships, or any military capability, is defined by the security environment, Richardson said, adding that the Pacific has been a very demanding environment of late.

The demand of the security environment must match against the resources that can be applied. “When you have a gap between those two, that’s risk,” the admiral said. “It’s all part of that … day-to-day assessment. Every commander has to wake up each day at their command level and say, what has changed in my security environment? What is my new risk posture? And how am I going to accommodate or mitigate that risk?”

Cultural Change

At some point, commanders cannot mitigate the risk, and they should say no to the mission, he said, but the present culture is such that commanders will assess the risk to be acceptable when it is not.

Changing that culture is one goal for the chief — he wants commanders to be honest about assessments and the shortfalls they have.

While the changes are in the 7th Fleet area, the Navy is on all the seas. “A review of your Navy today shows that this morning there are 100 ships and 64,000 sailors and Navy civilians who are deployed,” Richardson said.

“This includes three carrier strike groups and their embarked air wings, three amphibious readiness groups, and their embarked Marine expeditionary units, six ballistic missile defense ships on station, 11 attack submarines, five [ballistic missile submarines],” he said. “The vast majority of these ships are conducting their missions, some of them extremely difficult, effectively and professionally, protecting America from attack, promoting our interests and prosperity, and advocating for the rules that govern the vast commons from the seafloor, to space, and in cyberspace.”

Read More: Bad training and fatigue to blame for Navy deaths

The Navy and its sailors are busy, and they have been integral to the wars America has fought since 9/11. “Recent experience has shown that if we’re not careful, we can become overstretched, overextended. And if we take our eye off the fundamentals, we become vulnerable to mistakes at all levels of command,” the admiral said.

To address this, the Navy has taken some immediate actions, including restoring a deliberative scheduling process in the 7th Fleet, conducting comprehensive ready-for-sea assessments for all Japan-based ships, establishing a naval service group in the Western Pacific — an independent body in Yokosuka, Japan that will keep their eye on readiness generation and standards for the Pacific Fleet commander — establishing and using a near-miss program to understand and disseminate lessons learned, and establishing policies for surface ships to routinely and actively transmit on their automatic identification system, Richardson said.

The guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain sits on heavy lift transport MV Treasure in Changi, Singapore, Oct. 6, 2017. The USS McCain will be transported to Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, for repairs following a collision with a merchant vessel on Aug. 21. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Fulton

Midterm actions will emphasize training, establishing comprehensive policies on managing fatigue and accelerating some of the electronic navigation systems upgrades, he said.

“Long-term actions include improving individual and team training skills, with an emphasis on basic seamanship, navigation and integrated bridge equipment; evaluating core officer and enlisted curricula with an emphasis on fundamentals [and] navigation skills,” the admiral said.

“I have to say that fundamental to all of this is how we prepare leaders for command,” Richardson said. “We will deeply examine the way that we prepare officers for increasing leadership challenges, culminating in assumption of command with the capability and the confidence to form, train and assess warfighting teams on the bridge, in the combat information center, in engineering and throughout their command.”

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Gen. Stanley McChrystal explains what most people get wrong about Navy SEALs

Most people think of Navy SEALs as superheroes who work together like a real-life Avengers team.


Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson

The SEALs are undeniably remarkable, but for a different reason, says retired four-star Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his book “Team of Teams,” co-written with Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell. McChrystal led the US war in Afghanistan before stepping down in 2010.

“Americans enjoy the exciting, cinematic vision of a squad of muscle-bound Goliath boasting Olympian speed, strength, and precision; a group whose collective success is the inevitable consequence of the individual strengths of its members and the masterful planning of a visionary commander,” McChrystal writes, before adding that this is the wrong lens to view them in.

What makes Navy SEALs remarkable, he says, and what their grueling training is meant to ingrain in them, is their intense, selfless teamwork that allows them to process any challenge with near telepathy.

He uses the example of when SEALs rescued captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in 2009, as dramatized in the 2013 film “Captain Phillips.”

To the public, McChrystal writes, that three SEAL snipers picked off three pirates holding Phillips hostage at night and at sea from a distance of 75 yards is what was truly impressive; the thing is, those shots within the scope of military history may have been difficult but were not “particularly dazzling.” What was worthy of attention, he says, was that each of the snipers fired simultaneously at their targets, each recognizing the exact moment when they had their shot.

“Such oneness is not inevitable, nor is it a fortunate coincidence,” McChrystal writes. “The SEALs forge it methodically and deliberately.”

Nearly every SEAL candidate is physically capable of handling all training challenges. Only the best learn how to work as an intimate team. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle-Lymas

Nearly every SEAL candidate is physically capable of handling all training challenges. Only the best learn how to work as an intimate team.

This unity is built into the brutal six-month training program BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training), which primarily tests drive and teamwork rather than physical fitness like most people think.

The Navy reports that of the “160-some students in each entering class, around 90 will drop before the course ends, most in the first few weeks.” Only about 10% drop out because they’re physically unable to progress. Those who succeed do so because they have the required mental toughness and dedication to teamwork.

Charles Ruiz, who serves as the officer in charge of the first phase of BUD/S, tells McChrystal that his primary job is “taking the idea of individual performance out of the lexicon on day one.”

On day one candidates are split into “boat teams” of five to eight people who will work together for the next six months. These teams learn to work together through non-verbal communication in exercises like simulating explosive detonations in pairs miles out at sea at night, with one candidate holding a watch and the other a compass.

No candidate can do anything without a “swim buddy,” meaning that no one can travel by himself, even if it’s just to the dining hall. Anyone caught without a swim buddy usually gets the punitive order to “get sandy”: run into cold water and then rapidly cover himself in sand on the shore.

As McChrystal notes, the result of this training is a collection of super teams, not super soldiers.

Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau

This is because situations SEALs find themselves in are not conducive to a traditional hierarchy. There would simply not be enough time to get things done with a rigid chain of command in a situation like a SEAL deciding to enter a storeroom of a target house that wasn’t in the floor plan his team studied, McChrystal says.

He writes that he learned to take this same approach to management as the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command in the early 2000s, since Al Qaeda’s organization was far too complex and adaptable to be fought with a traditional hierarchy.

It’s also this SEAL approach to team building that he teaches through his corporate consulting firm, the McChrystal Group.

“SEAL teams offer a particularly dramatic example of how adaptability can be built through trust and a shared sense of purpose, but the same phenomenon can be seen facilitating performance in domains far from the surf torture of BUD/S,” McChrystal writes.

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