MIGHTY TACTICAL

Apparently this is what it takes to trust a robot

What does it take for a human to trust a robot? That is what Army researchers are uncovering in a new study into how humans and robots work together.

Research into human-agent teaming, or HAT, has examined how the transparency of agents — such as robots, unmanned vehicles or software agents — influences human trust, task performance, workload and perceptions of the agent. Agent transparency refers to its ability to convey to humans its intent, reasoning process and future plans.

New Army-led research finds that human confidence in robots decreases after the robot makes a mistake, even when it is transparent with its reasoning process. The paper, “Agent Transparency and Reliability in Human — Robot Interaction: The Influence on User Confidence and Perceived Reliability,” has been published in the August issue of IEEE-Transactions on Human-Machine Systems.


To date, research has largely focused on HAT with perfectly reliable intelligent agents — meaning the agents do not make mistakes — but this is one of the few studies that has explored how agent transparency interacts with agent reliability. In this latest study, humans witnessed a robot making a mistake, and researchers focused on whether the humans perceived the robot to be less reliable, even when the human was provided insight into the robot’s reasoning process.

ASM experimental interface: The left-side monitor displays the lead soldier’s point of view of the task environment.

(U.S. Army illustration)

“Understanding how the robot’s behavior influences their human teammates is crucial to the development of effective human-robot teams, as well as the design of interfaces and communication methods between team members,” said Dr. Julia Wright, principal investigator for this project and researcher at U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, also known as ARL. “This research contributes to the Army’s Multi-Domain Operations efforts to ensure overmatch in artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities. But it is also interdisciplinary, as its findings will inform the work of psychologists, roboticists, engineers, and system designers who are working toward facilitating better understanding between humans and autonomous agents in the effort to make autonomous teammates rather than simply tools.

This research was a joint effort between ARL and the University of Central Florida Institute for Simulations and Training, and is the third and final study in the Autonomous Squad Member project, sponsored by the Office of Secretary of Defense’s Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative. The ASM is a small ground robot that interacts with and communicates with an infantry squad.

Prior ASM studies investigated how a robot would communicate with a human teammate. Using the situation awareness-based Agent Transparency model as a guide, various visualization methods to convey the agent’s goals, intents, reasoning, constraints, and projected outcomes were explored and tested. An at-a-glance iconographic module was developed based on these early study findings, and then was used in subsequent studies to explore the efficacy of agent transparency in HAT.

Researchers conducted this study in a simulated environment, in which participants observed a human-agent soldier team, which included the ASM, traversing a training course. The participants’ task was to monitor the team and evaluate the robot. The soldier-robot team encountered various events along the course and responded accordingly. While the soldiers always responded correctly to the event, occasionally the robot misunderstood the situation, leading to incorrect actions. The amount of information the robot shared varied between trials. While the robot always explained its actions, the reasons behind its actions and the expected outcome of its actions, in some trials the robot also shared the reasoning behind its decisions, its underlying logic. Participants viewed multiple soldier-robot teams, and their assessments of the robots were compared.

The study found that regardless of the robot’s transparency in explaining its reasoning, the robot’s reliability was the ultimate determining factor in influencing the participants’ projections of the robot’s future reliability, trust in the robot and perceptions of the robot. That is, after participants witnessed an error, they continued to rate the robot’s reliability lower, even when the robot did not make any subsequent errors. While these evaluations slowly improved over time as long as the robot committed no further errors, participants’ confidence in their own assessments of the robot’s reliability remained lowered throughout the remainder of the trials, when compared to participants who never saw an error. Furthermore, participants who witnessed a robot error reported lower trust in the robot, when compared to those who never witnessed a robot error.

Increasing agent transparency was found to improve participants’ trust in the robot, but only when the robot was collecting or filtering information. This could indicate that sharing in-depth information may mitigate some of the effects of unreliable automation for specific tasks, Wright said. Additionally, participants rated the unreliable robot as less animate, likable, intelligent, and safe than the reliable robot.

“Earlier studies suggest that context matters in determining the usefulness of transparency information,” Wright said. “We need to better understand which tasks require more in-depth understanding of the agent’s reasoning, and how to discern what that depth would entail. Future research should explore ways to deliver transparency information based on the tasking requirements.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

8 things R. Lee Ermey taught us about the military

Marine Corps drill instructor and Hollywood actor R. Lee Ermey was robbed of an Oscar for his legendary portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic “Full Metal Jacket” and snubbed by the Academy’s Oscar “memoriam” montage.

But while the Academy may not have thought his contribution worth recognition, we know the Gunny knew a thing or two we should all remember about military service.

Ermey had a long career. As well as his iconic role in “Full Metal Jacket,” where he improvised most of his dialog, and that long run on “Mail Call,” he played iconic roles as the police captain in “Se7en,” the voice of Sarge in the “Toy Story” movies, the mayor in “Mississippi Burning” and a chilling serial rapist in a 2010 episode of “Law & Order: SVU.”

Ermey also had a wicked sense of humor, one that allowed him to play the over-the-top movie director Titus Scroad in the cult TV series “Action” and the lead kidnapper in the “Run Ronnie Run,” the bizarre comedy from “Mr. Show With Bob and David” guys Bob Odenkirk and David Cross.

He left us on April 15, 2018, and he’s now at rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

So what did his TV and movie appearances teach us about service? Here are nine great examples.


1. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

In his “Full Metal Jacket” rants, Gunny Hartman tells his recruits that their Marine Corps training had permanently changed them. They’re no longer mere men: They’ve become Marines.

“Today, you people are no longer maggots. Today, you are Marines. You’re part of a brotherhood. From now on, until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother. Most of you will go to Vietnam. Some of you will not come back. But always remember this: Marines die. That’s what we’re here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever and that means you live forever.”

2. You gotta break someone before you build them up.

Few civilians understand the bonds of trust required for a military unit to function and even fewer can grasp the process that goes into tearing down the idea of the individual so a person can be truly absorbed into the group. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman can help you with that.

“If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war. But until that that day, you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not even human fucking beings! You are nothing but unorganized grab-ass-tic pieces of amphibian shit! Because I am hard, you will not like me! But the more you hate me, the more you will learn! I am hard, but I am fair! There is no racial bigotry here. I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops, or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless. And my orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not packed the gear to serve in my beloved corps. Do you maggots understand that?”

Gunny Hartman may have been talking about Pablo Picasso’s 1939 portrait of Dora Maar.

3. Modern art is not good art.

Hidden in Gunny Hartman’s psychological tear down are some important observations about other parts of our world. He’s also an art critic.

“You’re so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece!”

Truthfully, Gunny Hartman’s material is closer to Don Rickles than Steve Martin but Steve’s the one who said, “Comedy is not pretty.”

4. Comedy is not pretty.


He’s a talented insult comic.

“Well I’ve got a joke for you, I’m going to tear you a new a–hole.”

Ask yourself: “Is my toilet clean enough that I could invite the mother of Our Savior to use my bathroom?”

5. A clean toilet is a holy toilet.

He’s concerned that our religious icons have a good bathroom experience.

“I want that head so sanitary and squared away that the Virgin Mary herself would be proud to go in there and take a dump.”

What’s YOUR major malfunction?

6. A great catchphrase works in any situation.

Ask anyone who grew-up in a household where dad always asked “What’s your major malfunction?” Every Single Time they did something he didn’t like.

7. The Heart is the Deadliest Weapon.

He even operates on multiple levels. He may SAY a Marine is the deadliest weapon but listen closely: The threat really comes from a Marine’s cold, cold heart.

“The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle. It is your killer instinct which must be harnessed if you expect to survive in combat. Your rifle is only a tool. It is a hard heart that kills. If your killer instincts are not clean and strong, you will hesitate at the moment of truth. You will not kill. You will become dead Marines. And then you will be in a world of s***. Because Marines are not allowed to die without permission. Do you maggots understand?”

8. Everyone Needs Mail.

Ermey did his part on his long-running History Channel series to educate a generation of Americans who knew nothing about the military. He also reminded everyone that communication is critical for men and women who are serving their country. If you want to remember Ermey, write a letter, send an email or make a phone call in honor of his service.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

This is why the M320 kicks the M203’s ass

The M203 grenade launcher entered service with the U.S. military in 1969 during Vietnam. It replaced the M79 “Blooper” stand-alone launcher, almost always being used as an under-barrel addition to an assault rifle.


U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Jaggers, rifleman, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division (2d MARDIV), loads an M203 grenade launcher during a live-fire range at the Infantry Platoon Battle Course as part of a Deployment for Training (DFT), on Fort Pickett, Va., Dec. 12, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider, 2d MARDIV Combat Camera)

Though it has served faithfully and effectively for over 40 years now and will continue to do so for years to come, the M203 is being phased out of Army service and is being replaced by the new M320 designed and built by Heckler Koch.

For now the Marines are sticking with the 203, though many top infantry advocates in the service want the Corps to replace its current ones with M320s.

The M320 won a competitive bidding process and entered production in 2008 with over 71,000 of the weapons planned for the U.S. Army. Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division were the first to field the weapon operationally.

Spc. Travis Williams, a grenadier with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, looks through the the sights of his M320 grenade launcher March 24, during a training exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

While the M203 was capable of operating independently, in practice it is rarely used in standalone configuration. In fact, the old M79 resurfaced during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a superior option for grenade launcher duties without a rifle.

The break-action blooper (or ‘thumper,’ based on who you ask) was touted as a superior tool for the job when the whole rifle/launcher combo was too heavy or unwieldy, and standalone M203 units were not up to the task or simply unavailable.

The M79 has greater range and better accuracy than the M203. While it has performed admirably since Vietnam, no one has ever claimed that the M203 provided pinpoint accuracy.

The M79 was beloved by troops since Vietnam and still has a following in today’s military. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The M79, introduced in 1961, is even older than the M203. Much more importantly, it’s not capable of being used as an under-barrel launcher on an M4 or M16 rifle. While stand-alone launchers definitely have their place, the need for a grenadier who is also a rifleman is a crucial one in most cases. A new, better, under-barrel 40mm grenade launcher was needed.

The M320 filled that need. Using the same high-low propulsion system of the M79 and M203 to keep recoil low while firing a heavy 40mm projectile, the M320 has the same range as the M203 while increasing accuracy and coming with a number of improvements over the older model.

One of the most noticeable upgrades over the M203 is the M320’s side-loading mechanism. The barrel swings out for loading, rather than the M203’s forward-sliding pump-like barrel. This allows the use of additional, longer, ammunition, particularly non-lethal rounds. With the weapon’s introduction, the Army is able to move forward with the development of new, high-tech rounds that wouldn’t fit in the M203.

(Photo from PEO Soldier)

Another obvious feature of the M320 is the folding foregrip. The grip is intended primarily for use when the weapon is used separate from a rifle, but it can also serve as a forward vertical grip when mounted under a barrel. When not needed, the foregrip can be easily folded back and out of the way.

The sights of the M320 are certainly more advanced than those of the M203, and they benefit from being integral to the launcher itself, being mounted on the side of the unit. The M203’s sights were attached separately and had to be re-zeroed every time.

The M320’s leaf sight simply flips up when needed, and the integrated electronic sighting system allows users to dial in the range as determined by laser and tell if they’re on target. This alone makes the M320 easier to field and more accurate in more conditions more of the time. While operating the M79 was an acquired ability and accuracy with the M203 was more art than skill, the M320’s sight helps to make every operator a capable grenadier.

The M320 has a double-action trigger compared to the M203’s single-action unit and has an ambidextrous safety. This allows the operator more control over his weapon, its firing, and better capability to handle a misfire or simple unloading.

U.S. Army Pfc. Rohan Wright, center, a cavalry scout with a personal security detachment with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, prepares to fire an M320 Grenade Launcher Module (GLM) at the weapons range at Forward Operating Base Thunder in Paktia province, Afghanistan, Oct. 18, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. Moeller/Released)

Despite the M320’s technical advantages over its predecessors, its introduction did not come without some hiccups. All new weapons systems suffer from some teething pains, particularly when introduced during a time of war, and the new grenade launcher was no exception.

While intended to be lighter than the M203, the M320 is actually slightly heavier, weighing in at 3.3 pounds compared to the M203’s 3.0 pounds. While this difference is small, combat troops are already overloaded and every ounce counts.

While the new sight provides significant advantages over the M203’s sight, some troops have complained that it’s a little fragile for hard use in the combat zone. This may be due to the fact that the troops are used to not worrying about an M203 because there was so little to break.

Another complaint is that when used stand-alone with the stock assembly, the buttstock is a little short for many operators.

Finally, the single-point sling attachment of the stand-alone M320 meant that the weapon swung around and was often bouncing in the way, with troops calling for a holster of some sort to use while carrying the launcher unmounted. The Army responded by launching an M320GL Holster Soldier Enhancement Program.

The SEP was a “try-before-you-buy” program that used holsters from three different vendors and issued them to troops for testing and feedback. The holster solution will also address some of the concerns about the fragile sights, since the weapon won’t be bouncing around or getting dragged on the ground when the operator hits the dirt.

A comment found online from a soldier claiming to carry an M320 in Afghanistan says that the launcher is a pain in the ass and swings everywhere, he “wouldn’t trade it for anything else in a firefight.” It’s hard to come up with a better endorsement of the M320 than that.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines now depend on 3D printing for parts in winter warfare

The Marine Corps has, in recent months, started to shift its focus away from operations in the Middle East and begun to emphasize preparing to operate in extreme cold— like that found in northern Europe and northeast Asia.

US forces “haven’t been in the cold-weather business for a while,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in January 2018. “Some of the risks and threats there, there is a possibility we are going to be there.”


That reorientation has placed new demands on Marines operating at northern latitudes in Europe and North America — and put new strains on their equipment.

The Corps has issued requests for information on a new cap and gloves for intense cold, and it plans to spend nearly $13 million on 2,648 sets of NATO’s ski system for scout snipers, reconnaissance Marines, and some infantrymen.

But the transition to new climates hasn’t gone totally smoothly. Marines in northern Norway in 2016 and early 2017 reported a number of problems with their gear. Zippers stuck; seams ripped; backpack frames snapped; and boots repeatedly pulled loose from skis or tore on the metal bindings.

A Marine with Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, straps on his snow shoes during cold-weather training at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California, January 27, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brianna Gaudi)

Now the service is increasingly drawing on new technology to keep Marines equipped in harsh environments.

Marines at the Mountain Warfare Training Center, working with the Marine Corps System Command team focused on additive manufacturing, which is also known as 3D printing, have come up with a method for same-day printing of new snowshoe clips, which keep boots locked into show shoes.

“If a Marine is attacking a position in the snow while in combat, and the clip on their boot breaks, it makes it difficult for the Marine to run forward with a rifle uphill to complete the mission,” Capt. Matthew Friedell, AM project officer in MCSC’s Systems Engineering and Acquisition Logistics, said in a release. “If he or she has a 3D-printed clip in their pocket, they can quickly replace it and continue charging ahead.”

Th teams designed and printed the new clip, made of resin, within three business days of the request, and each clip costs just $0.05, the Marine Corps said in the release. The team has also 3D-printed an insulated cover for radio batteries that would otherwise quickly be depleted in cold weather.

“The capability that a 3D printer brings to us on scene saves the Marine Corps time and money by providing same-day replacements if needed,” said Capt. Jonathan Swafford, AM officer at MWTC. “It makes us faster than our peer adversaries because we can design whatever we need right when we need it, instead of ordering a replacement part and waiting for it to ship.”

US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brian Rubenacker adjusts his snow shoes during Exercise Forest Light at Camp Sendai in Sendai, Japan, February 17, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damion Hatch Jr.)

The Marines aren’t the only ones working on 3D printing. The Navy is using it to make submersibles, and Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart said in mid-2017 that the Air Force was looking at 3D printing to produce replacement parts.

But the Marine Corps has expressed particular interest in the technology.

A September 2016 message gave Marine unit commands broad permission to use 3D printing to build parts for their equipment. The force now relies on it to make products that are too small for the conventional supply chain, like specialized tools, radio components, or items that would otherwise require larger, much more expensive repairs to replace.

In June 2017, Marine Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, the Corps’ lead for additive manufacturing and 3D printing, told Military.com that Marines were the first to deploy the machines to combat zones with conventional forces.

Marotto said several of the desktop-computer-size machines had been deployed with the Marine Corps crisis-response task force in the Middle East.

Sgt. Ethan Maeder, a machinist with the 2nd Maintenance Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, demonstrates how to use a 3D scanner in an X-FAB facility, August 1, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kaitlin Kelly)

The Corps is developing the X-FAB, a self-contained, transportable 3D-printing facility contained within a 20-foot-by-20-foot box, meant to support maintenance, supply, logistics, and engineer units in the field. The service also said it wants to 3D-print mini drones for use by infantry units.

Marine officials have attributed much of the Corps’ progress with 3D printing to its younger personnel, many of whom have taken initiative and found ways to incorporate the new technology.

“My eyes are watering with what our young people can do right now,” Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters said at a conference in March 2018, adding that 69 of the devices had been deployed across the force. “I have an engineering background, but I’m telling you, some of these 21- and 22-year-olds are well ahead of me.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

America’s top spy went to North Korea on a secret mission

President Donald Trump has confirmed that Mike Pompeo, the CIA director who is awaiting confirmation as secretary of state, met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea early April 2018.

Trump said the two men interacted “very smoothly” and formed a “good relationship.”


The talks are the highest-level meetings between US and North Korean officials since Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state, met Kim Jong Il in 2000.

“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week,” Trump tweeted April 18, 2018. “Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”

The meeting was remarkable given that only one year ago North Korean propaganda accused the CIA of plotting to kill Kim.

Pompeo’s trip, which reports out April 17, 2018, said happened over the Easter weekend, an apparent conflict with Trump’s announcement, had been kept quiet as the US and North Korea deliberate on how best to coordinate a planned summer meeting between Trump and Kim.

President Donald Trump
(Photo vy Michael Vadon)

The news of Pompeo’s secret trip comes after South Korea confirmed that its officials were in talks to end the 68-year war on the Korean Peninsula with a peace deal, something to which Trump has given his blessing.

Any peace deal, however, would require Chinese and UN approval as well, since both are signatories to the 1953 armistice that paused, rather than ended, the war between North Korea and South Korea.

Other reports indicate that Trump has a plan to disarm North Korea of nuclear weapons by 2020. Experts, however remain deeply skeptical of Kim’s intentions.

Kim turns over a new leaf?

Though North Korea has touted its missile program as being able to hit the US with nuclear payloads, a capability experts believe the country has or is close to obtaining, Kim has recently opened himself up diplomatically like never before, starting with North Korea’s participation in 2018’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

In recent weeks, Kim left North Korea for the first time since he took power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. He has also opened up his country to South Korean pop bands, which he is thought to love. Kim actually attended a K-pop concert where he was reportedly in good humor and made jokes.

Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping. (Xinhua News)
(Xinhua News)

North Korea strictly controls the media in its country, and citizens caught enjoying South Korean media have been put to death or taken to labor camps.

Do Jong-hwan of South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism told foreign media that K-pop songs being performed in North Korea “could have considerable influence” on the country’s culture, according to NK News.

Experts have told Business Insider that Kim opening his country to the outside media could easily lead to his death, as his government holds power without input from its people and has kept them in meager conditions while South Korea has thrived.

Or is Kim waging a diplomatic offensive?

North Korea has moved toward talks with the US several times before, only to back out — though never under its current leader. Also, no other North Korean leader has met with a sitting US president, as Kim and Trump plan to summer 2018, though that has largely been because US presidents have rejected such meetings or imposed conditions that have not been met.

Kim at a military parade at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Korean People’s Army.
(KCNA photo)

Thae Yong-ho, the highest-ranked North Korean defector, reportedly warned a meeting of the Mulmangcho Foundation organization that Kim was unlikely to deliver in the talks.

According to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, he said: “Kim will act during his summits with Seoul and Washington as if he were determined to dismantle nuclear weapons in stages — first declaring dismantlement followed by incapacitating nuclear weapons and denuclearization.”

In Thae’s view, Kim will extract concessions from the US but never truly rid his country of nuclear weapons, given that Kim wrote possession of such weapons into the country’s constitution in 2011.

Despite the moves toward peace and reconciliation on both sides of the Korean Peninsula, the US and its allies have resolved to maintain what the Trump administration calls a “maximum pressure” strategy against Pyongyang, which calls for harsh sanctions and a buildup of military forces in the region.

Articles

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Celebrated on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day brings America together to remember the 1.1 million men and women who died in service to their country.


As most of us spend our day flipping burgers, wearing pro-American attire and saving money on those amazing furniture deals, it’s important to understand the significance of the historic day.

Related: 5 interesting facts about the Marine Corps birthday

Check out these awesome facts you probably didn’t know about our beloved holiday.

1. Moment of remembrance at 3 pm

On Dec. 28th, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, which asks all Americans to pause on Memorial Day at 3:00 pm local time for a full minute to honor and remember all those who perished protecting our rights and freedoms.

Airmen from the 317th Airlift Group stand at parade rest during a Memorial Day ceremony at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Charles V. Rivezzo/ Released)

2. Wearing red poppies

You may have noticed people wearing red poppy flowers pinned to their clothing on Memorial Day. This idea was influenced by the sight of poppies growing in a battle-scarred field in WWI which prompted the popular poem “In Flanders Fields” written by former Canadian Col. John McCrae.

The American Legion adopted the tradition of wearing the red poppy flowers along with many allied countries to commemorate troops killed in battle.

Honor the dead. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

3. Flag raising procedures

Americans love to proudly display their flags and let them wave high and free. On Memorial Day, there’s a special protocol to properly raise and exhibit the ensign. Here it is.

When the flag is raised at first light, it’s to be hoisted to the top of the pole, then respectfully lowered to the half-staff position until 12:00 pm when it is re-raised to the top of the pole for the remainder of the day. Details matter.

Service members saluting the raised American flag. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Harry Brexel)

4. The origin of the holiday

Originally called “Decoration Day” by Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, in 1868, the day was intended to honor the estimated 620,000 people who died fighting in the Civil war and was celebrated on May 30th.

But it wasn’t until 1971 that Congress shifted the holiday to the last Monday of May to ensure a three-day weekend and renamed it to what we all know today.

Thank you, Congress.

Also Read: The mother of the boy in this iconic photo has a Memorial Day message all Americans should read

 5. The holiday’s birthplace

At least five separate cities claim to be the birthplace of “Decoration Day,” including Macon and Columbus, Georgia. Of course, there’s no real written record or D.N.A test to prove who is truly the mom and dad.

California, you are not the father… or mother. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Articles

This Midshipman was awarded a Medal for Heroism after saving a Boy Scout troop

A U.S. Naval Academy midshipman received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal Jan. 9 in front of the entire Brigade of Midshipmen assembled in Alumni Hall.


Navy Vice Adm. Ted Carter, the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, left, presents the Navy and Marine Corps Medal to Midshipman 3rd Class Jonathan Dennler during a ceremony at Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Md., Jan. 9, 2017. Dennler received the medal for his heroic actions while leading a Boy Scout troop. (Navy photo by Kenneth Aston)

Midshipman 3rd Class Jonathan Dennler, a member of the academy’s 20th Company, received the medal — the highest non­combat decoration awarded for heroism by the Navy — for his heroic actions while leading a Boy Scout troop in July.

While camping in Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, the troop was caught in a major storm, with wind gusts of up to 80 mph and lightning strikes. Two trees fell on the campsite, killing a scout and an adult volunteer and severely injuring others.

When Dennler couldn’t contact anyone on the radio for help, he canoed more than 1.5 miles at night in 60 mph winds to a ranger station to bring back help and medical supplies.

The Navy and Marine Corps Medal falls in order of precedence just below the Distinguished Flying Cross and above the Bronze Star. It was first bestowed during World War II to Navy Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy. Only about 3,000 sailors and Marines have received the award since. To earn this award, there must be evidence the act of heroism involved very specific life-threatening risk to the awardee.

The award came as a surprise to both Dennler and his classmates, who listened in silence while academy superintendent Navy Vice Adm. Ted Carter read the award citation. His classmates then gave him a rousing standing ovation.

“It was an incredibly humbling and unexpected experience,” Dennler said. “I’m very thankful to everyone who helped to make that happen and for the support of my family and friends.”

The award wasn’t a surprise to his parents, who also attended the award presentation. Dennler’s mother, Monica Dennler, described her son as “persistent and tenacious.”

Navy Vice Adm. Ted Carter, the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, right, speaks to the Brigade of Midshipman about the Navy and Marine Corps Medal awarded to Midshipman 3rd Class Jonathan Dennler during a ceremony at Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Md., Jan. 9, 2017. (Navy photo by Kenneth Aston)

“He knows how to persevere, and has a kind heart,” she said. “He was the only one who knew what to do back in high school when a classmate broke their leg at a basketball game, because he was an Eagle Scout.”

“He is a quiet young man who would not want a big fuss, but rightfully deserves it,” said Chief Petty Officer Nicholas Howell, the senior enlisted leader of 20th Company. “Out of his classmates, he is the one who has the level head to think clearly and decisively act to contain the situation and help bring about the best possible solution.”

Dennler is a political science major and completed two years of college at George Washington University before transferring to the Naval Academy.

“USNA has taught me how to work and think in environments where many things are out of my control, and I think the academy helps to create mindsets that put others first,” he said. “I am incredibly thankful for those lessons.”

An active member of the academy’s Semper Fi Society, he hopes to serve in the Marine Corps after graduating in 2019.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Sky Soldiers’ celebrate their first female Ranger

“This is it. Number one on my list of worst days at Ranger School,” 1st Lt. Anna Hodge thought as it started to rain again during day eight of Mountain Phase patrols. The blisters on her feet, the chaffing on her legs, and the prickly heat stung with the rain. She stuffed more pieces of MRE gum in her mouth, biting down hard to keep her mind off the pain.

“Your complaint has been duly noted and will be answered within 24 to 48 hours,” she mentally responded to the pain, imitating an answering machine. “Now back to counting steps, 1,344, 1,345…

“Our Mountain Phase experienced record-high rainfall, and I felt bad for my platoon mates who had chafed in some pretty uncomfortable places,” says Hodge. “My legs looked like road rash; the blood and pus was sticking to my uniform. Shivering at night was the norm; yes, it was cold, but even more because of the pain.”


But Hodge had one advantage some of her friends didn’t. She decided to go to Ranger School without feeling pressured; the pain described above was something she had chosen, all simply to become a better intelligence officer.

“I wanted to focus on tactical intelligence,” says Hodge. “It is impossible to know where the enemy will move, nor how to advise the commander if you don’t know Infantry tactics.” Military Intelligence is an Operations Support branch. If soldiers don’t understand what they are supporting, mission success is unlikely.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for the Infantry, and I learned so much about Infantry tactics at Ranger School,” says Hodge. “After graduating, that respect grew even more.”

Hodge wanted to attend Ranger School dating back to 2010 when she first joined ROTC. “I loved patrolling, working as part of a squad and the challenge of pushing myself to perform on minimal food and sleep. I remember cleaning weapons one day and someone joked that I should shave my head and go to Ranger School. I thought it was funny, and secretly I really wanted to go. But it wasn’t open to females at the time.”

That all changed in 2015 when, for the first time, a female graduated Ranger School.

1st Lt. Anna Hodge proudly displays her Ranger tab on graduation day.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Joseph Legros)

The following year Hodge attended the Basic Officer Leadership Course for Military Intelligence. She listened to an instructor who recruited Military Intelligence, or MI, officers for the new 75th Regiment MI Battalion. “The hardest part of Ranger School is deciding to go,” the instructor said.

Hodge remembers thinking, “I’ve always been a religious person and when I heard the instructor, it was like God telling me, ‘you better start preparing because you’re going to go.'”

It wasn’t until she went to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, “The Rock,” part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy, that she got her opportunity.

“Slowly I expressed a desire to attend Ranger School and my chain of command believed in me,” explains Hodge. “They encouraged me and other lieutenants to go; they did an excellent job creating a command climate where mistakes and failure are accepted as long as you try. Leaders can have a profound impact on a unit’s culture and I’m so grateful to serve in ‘The Rock.’ The unit is full of great leaders, past and present, serving as examples for the type of leader I strive to be.”

“There are a lot of things that get you through Ranger School, but two of the most important are ‘wanting to attend’ and ‘not quitting,'” says Hodge’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jim Keirsey. “1st Lt. Hodge wanted to go and earned her spot on the order of merit list. Once there, she didn’t quit. Now she is a Ranger qualified ‘Rock’ Paratrooper.”

Hodge trained for Ranger School by herself, facing the difficulty of balancing work and training. Many times she wished she could have trained more, but battalion priorities came first. She was motivated to work out twice a day, doing countless ruck marches. Sometimes she carried a sledge hammer, simulating the weight of machine gun.

“I really thought I would struggle with the physical aspect, so I trained hard prior to school,” Hodge explains. “But instead, it was the Infantry stuff that was difficult for me. Coming from a Military Intelligence background, I didn’t know the tactics very well, nor how the instructors wanted me to conduct patrols.”

At Ranger School, a student can repeat a phase for patrols, peer ratings or an observation report; this is referred to as “recycling.” If a candidate fails the same thing again, they will be dropped from the course. Her first time through, Hodge was dropped during patrols.

“I was devastated. I didn’t know why I worked so hard only to fail,” shares Hodge. “But ironically, I’m really glad I failed Ranger School my first time. Dealing with failure is one of the most important lessons you can learn.”

Being recycled is not uncommon. According to Ft. Benning, 61.2 percent of graduating Rangers were recycled at least once in 2017. This means less than 39 percent made it through without having to start any of the phases over again. No surprise here: Ranger School is tough.

“I definitely thought about heading home after I failed,” says Hodge. “To start again, it would have been colder, and mentally I was spent.” Despite those thoughts, she stayed.

“I wasn’t ready to give up just yet,” says Hodge.

1st Lt. Anna Hodge.

(Photo By Staff Sgt. Alexander C Henninger)

“I was able to sign up for a Master Resiliency Trainer course in between Ranger classes and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Thank goodness for resiliency because my second Ranger Assessment Phase week was one of the hardest of my life. It was so cold and miserable that I wanted to quit every day, but I told myself to just quit tomorrow. Before long I made it through the week.”

“The same work ethic and ‘never quit’ attitude that got her through Ranger School is what makes 1st Lt. Hodge an asset to the unit,” adds Keirsey.

In Hodge’s case, it was also helpful to have other female Ranger graduates to follow. She became the fifteenth female throughout the Armed Services to graduate Ranger School and the first Ranger qualified female Sky Soldier. However, this also proved to be challenging.

“I never wanted to be the first female graduate,” says Hodge. “I knew those who went first would deal with criticism and scrutiny. I am very grateful for the 71 females who attended Ranger School before me, the pioneers who overcame prejudice as they pursued their goals. They helped positively change opinions about female Rangers.”

Hodge shares, “I remember reading negative comments about other female graduates, wondering if I would be judged, too. Would they question whether I truly earned my Ranger tab?”

But the length of ruck marches has not changed, nor does the rain fall only on male candidates. Everyone carries their own weight.

“At Ranger School, everyone is held to the same standard,” asserts Hodge.

During one of the phases, she was assigned to carry the machine gun or the radio, the two heaviest items, on a regular basis. The frequent assignments to carry heavy equipment ultimately made her grateful.

“It showed me and others that I could carry the heaviest items and keep up,” says Hodge.

“I was an equal member of the squad, working together with my classmates to accomplish the mission. I formed friendships that will last a lifetime. I am especially grateful to the friends I made in my platoons, my unit and from Ranger Battalion. They taught me so much about the Army and the Infantry.”

“My husband was also very supportive the whole time. He even helped shave my hair and showed me how to do it myself,” shares Hodge.

When asked if she has any doubts of the results, Hodge responds, “After persevering through school, I know, without a doubt, I earned my Ranger tab. It took patience and determination. I put in the effort. I met the standards.”

She also offers the following advice to anyone thinking of attending Ranger School: “Appreciate the little things. You better learn to love patrols. Volunteer for the small, simple tasks that no one wants to do and make them your hobby, like emplacing claymores and camouflaging them. I loved that.”

She adds, “Don’t let little things get to you. Try to see the good. Yes, there were annoying bugs like mosquitos and spiders, but there were also fireflies which were super cool. Yes, it rained, and everyone’s skin was chafed. But the rain also cooled us down.”

The first Ranger qualified female Sky Soldier concludes, “Whatever your goal, take it one step at a time and continue in patience.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian military formally linked to Malaysia Airlines crash

International investigators have said Russia’s military was involved in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014.

Flight MH17 crashed in a field in war-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, after being hit by a Russian-made Buk missile on a flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia. All 298 people aboard the aircraft were killed.


The MH17 Joint Investigation Team issued an interim report Thursday. At a press conference, the team said the missile came from the Russian military’s 53rd antiaircraft missile brigade, based in Kursk, near Russia’s border with Ukraine.

The team cited distinctive identifying marks on recovered missile fragments that it says ties it directly to the 53rd brigade, which is based close to the Ukrainian border.

“All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces,” Wilbert Paulissen, a senior investigator with the Dutch National Police, told the conference.

The Joint Investigation Team examined the markings on the on the recovered missile fragments.
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

The statement is the closest yet investigators have come to blaming Russia for the attack. The investigators also brought to the conference part of the Buk missile they say caused the crash:

(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

Of the passengers and crew members aboard the Boeing 777 plane, 196 were Dutch and about 40 were Malaysian, with others from Australia, Indonesia, and the UK.

Investigators have not named any suspects and have called on people involved in the attack to come forward for questioning.

The Dutch government announced in 2017, that anyone believed to have brought down the jet would be tried in the Netherlands.

Open-source investigators at Bellingcat came to the same conclusion as the Joint Investigative Team three years ago, but the JIT had different legal requirements and thresholds for evidence and therefore needed more time.

Russia has continually denied involvement in the downing of the jet.

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

MIGHTY FIT

Hump Day: Games I would play in my head while hiking

Humping is a reality for many of us, and I’m not talking about the kind that has a happy ending. In my Marine Corps career, I estimate that I easily hiked 1,000 miles with a full pack — between 50 and 150 lbs. At a minimum speed of 3 miles an hour, that’s over 300 hours of time for the mind to go to dark or funny places.


Maybe slip on some ice…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Will Perkins)

Going internal

On a long hump, the mind so often goes dark. I remember envisioning the sweet relief of rolling an ankle so I could ride in the safety vehicle, even picking out the exact rock I was planning to eat shit on.

“That one….seriously, that one. Okay, fine, the next one… Ah, fine, I don’t wanna cause any serious damage. I’ll just take a header into that ditch and cause a concussion instead.”

On my 23rd birthday, I was on an 8-mile movement to a range for a live fire event. It was the second day in a row we were humping, and the entire epidermis of my right foot was already falling off, from the ball of my foot to the start of my heel, from the previous day’s movements. I had spent the previous weekend in Virginia beach drinking homemade Sangria, and the effects were still very much present.

I spent that entire hump in my own head questioning all of my life decisions.

You know he’s thinking about the next ‘Avengers’ movie.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Careaf L. Henson)

Making it fun

Eventually, I got to the point in my career where I just accepted that I would be walking for the next 8 hours and decided to make it fun. Games I played:

  • Reliving every fight I’ve ever been in and how I would Jason Bourne my way to victory if it happened again.
  • During daylight hikes I would make up fake hand and arm signals and try to confuse people who took things too seriously.
  • I would secretly listen to music on my iPod (I’m old) through a strategically placed earbud. #combathunter
  • My roommate would use hikes as an opportunity to eat as much as he could; it was one of the few times you had enough “free time” to eat a full meal. The trick would be to figure out a way to use the heater packet while hiking. You need to jam it between your pack and back and focus on walking level, so it doesn’t fall out. Beware of the high potential for second-degree burns.

“Hey! What was the name of the fat guy in The Office?”…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessika Braden)

  • At one point, I wrote a new phonetic alphabet with just profanities. You can imagine what replaced Foxtrot. It was enlightening.
  • “A cougar is following you.” That’s just a game where you pretend a cougar is going to rip out your jugular as soon as you stop. The trick to this one is to think one step ahead of the mountain cat.
  • I would replace famous movie characters with my mom and see how the story would play out. It was never as entertaining, but always much more satisfying. If my mom took the place of Frodo in Lord of The Rings the opening scene would have also been the closing scene.
    • Gandalf shows up at night after dinner. Mom says, “What are you doing here? I’m busy, get out.” He counters “Lisa, you need to take the ring to Mordor to destr–” And, in classic Lisa fashion, she cuts him off mid-sentence with “That’s not my problem, now is it? Take it yourself.”
    • Roll credits.

Humping is a profession nearly as old as prostitution…

(Photo from the Thayer Soule Collection (COLL/2266) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division)

The right answer

Once I matured, I realized the right answer is to become externally motivated. I believe the jobs of the Platoon Commander and Platoon Sergeant are easier than the rifleman, because you are concerned with your Marines, rather than yourself. When your focus is pointed outward, time flies.

This lesson applies to every kind of difficult situation. Caring for others is one of the most selfish and least selfish things you can do. When it comes to hiking, if you focus externally, you get to push your own ailments aside until you are alone in your room, crying like a big dumb baby.

Keep moving forward…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson/Released)

In the gym, you are forced to confront your demons directly; there are no troops for you to look out for.

But in actuality, everything you do to make yourself better is also making the lives of those around you better. So, in a way, finishing a workout for your spouse or kids is no different than completing a movement for your unit.

Where are you in your hump day progression? Are you living in a world of regret and grief? Are you writing the next great American novel in your head? Or have you reached the point of hiking enlightenment and started checking on your guys and planning for their success when you reach your objective?

MIGHTY HISTORY

Marines stole the spotlight from the National Guard in the LA Riots

When the Los Angeles Police Department responded to this particular domestic dispute during the 1992 LA riots, they likely didn’t need the backing of the United States Marine Corps – but they had it anyway. Upon approaching the house, one officer was hit by a shotgun blast of birdshot. He called back to the Marines to cover him. Unfortunately, what “cover” meant to the Marines and to the LAPD were two different things.


The officer just wanted the threat of M-16s pointed at the house to keep the shooter from shooting again. The Marines thought the 200 rounds they fired into the house would be enough. They were probably both right. But that’s not how the U.S. Army National Guard would have done it.

Before the Marines were called in, thousands of Guardsmen took to the streets of LA during the 1992 riots.

In the early 1990s, the streets of LA were a dangerous place. Even the LAPD officers who regularly walked their beats admitted to losing the streets to the tens of thousands of gang members who controlled much of the city’s south side. Los Angeles was soon a powder keg of racially and socially fueled frustration that exploded on April 29, 1992. Four LAPD officers were acquitted of using excessive force against Rodney King, a black motorist who was beaten by the officers after evading them on a California freeway.

Their acquittal sparked the 1992 LA Riots, a huge civil disturbance that covered 32-square-miles, from the Hollywood Hills to Long Beach. Eventually, the governor of California would call in more than 10,000 California National Guard troops and 2,000 active troops to quell the riots. That wasn’t enough. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Marine Corps veteran, knew what he needed and asked President Bush to send in the Marines.

I bet they made record time driving from San Diego to LA on the I-5 Freeway. And they didn’t even have carpool lanes back then.

Within 36 hours, state and local agencies, along with thousands of California National Guardsmen had largely restored order. That’s when they were suddenly federalized and augmented with more active duty troops and the United States Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton. According to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Delk, this caused the morale among the soldiers of the California Guard to plummet, after all their work in restoring Los Angeles. Suddenly being told the Marines were coming in to finish the job didn’t look so good.

Local civilians, on the other hand, knew exactly who to thank. According to Gen. Delk, locals cheered at the appearance of the California National Guard in their neighborhoods. Shopkeepers and restaurants refused to take money from the Guardsmen often even delivering food and drinks to the staging areas.

So in the immediate aftermath of the rioting and violence, the media latched on to the idea that calling in the Marines was the solution to restoring law and order, despite the fact that the job was mostly done by the time the Marines arrived. The Guardsmen, for their part, continued to do their jobs despite the lack of national appreciation. By the time the Guard withdrew, the streets were much safer than they were before the riots began. The crime rate dropped by 70 percent and local citizens did not want the troops to leave. In fact, it was more than a month before the last National Guard soldier left Los Angeles.

The good news is that the federalization of the joint task force worked exactly as it was supposed to and no one wearing a uniform of the U.S. military was killed or seriously injured. Most importantly, no U.S. troops killed or wounded any innocent civilians.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy helps search for submarine lost for nearly a week

An Argentinian submarine is missing at sea.


The ARA San Juan, with 44 crew members on board, disappeared on Nov. 15, about 270 miles off the southern tip of South America.

NASA has been trying to help find the 216-foot sub from the sky. And now the U.S. Navy is sending support to locate and rescue the ship from the sea.

The U.S. Southern Command said Nov. 19 it’s sending a Submarine Rescue Chamber, designed during WWII, which can reach a submarine submerged up to 850 feet, and bring up to six people at a time back to the surface. A Pressurized Rescue Module, which can rescue up to 16 people at a time, and a Remotely Operated Vehicle are also on their way.

Personnel assigned to the Portuguese navy submarine SKS Tridente climb down to their submarine after mating with the U.S. Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System’s Pressurized Rescue Module, Falcon, during the NATO exercise Bold Monarch 2011. Bold Monarch is the world’s largest submarine rescue exercise with participants and observers from more than 25 countries. The 12-day exercise supports interoperability between submarine rescue units. (Image DVIDS)

On Nov. 18, the missing crewmembers tried to make seven satellite calls, Argentine defense minister Oscar Aguad said. But stormy weather in the southern Atlantic likely blocked the calls from going through.

Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said the crew should have enough food and water aboard, in order to wait out the choppy seas and 20-foot waves until they are found, according to Reuters.

The working theory is that an electrical outage knocked out the ship’s communications. Submarines are supposed to surface if that happens.

Also Read: Microsoft’s co-founder just helped find this long-lost Navy cruiser

The families of the crewmembers are anxiously awaiting news of the missing submarine.

“Yesterday’s news was something of a respite for us, to know that there is life,” Claudio Rodriguez, whose brother is on the San Juan, told local TV channel A24 Sunday morning.

Articles

US Navy SEALs are training with Ukrainian special operations forces

Across southern Ukraine, US special operations forces trained with Ukrainian special operators and conventional US and Ukrainian naval forces during Sea Breeze 2017, July 10-21.


An annual fixture in the Black Sea region since 1997, Sea Breeze is a US and Ukrainian co-hosted multinational maritime exercise.

This year, Ukraine invited US special operations forces to participate, and US Special Operations Command Europe’s Naval Special Warfare Command operators were eager to sign up for the mission.

This is the first time that special operations forces have operated at Sea Breeze, said US Navy Capt. Michael Villegas, the exercise’s director. “[Their] capabilities are extremely valued by the Ukrainians and extremely valuable to the US.”

A U.S Naval Special Warfare Operator observes a Ukrainian SOF Operator during a weapons range in Ochakiv, Ukraine during exercise Sea Breeze 17, July 18, 2017. Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea and is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security within the region. (U.S. military photo)

Naval Special Warfare Command operators were completely integrated into the various air, land, and sea missions that required their unique warfighting skill set. Exercise Sea Breeze is a perfect fit for special operations forces to train and exercise their capabilities, the exercise’s lead special operations forces planner said. “With the support of the [Air Force’s] 352nd Special Operations Wing, we saw a prime opportunity to support [special operations] mission-essential training with our Ukrainian allies,” he said.

He added that naval special warfare units bring a host of unique capabilities into the exercise scenario, such as rigid-hull inflatable boats; visit, board, search, and seizure expertise; and the strongest direct action capabilities available. However, Villegas noted, capability is only one piece of the puzzle when training alongside a partner nation with shared objectives to assure, deter, and defend in an increasingly complex environment.

“In the spirit of Sea Breeze, we come not to impose what we know or how we operate,” he said. “Here, we come to exchange ideas, train towards interoperability and learn to operate side by side should a conflict arise that would require that.”

Achieving interoperability with partner nations and interservice partners is a common objective at exercises like Sea Breeze. But here, the US special operations forces capitalized on it. “Interoperability is our ability to conduct combined planning, problem solving, and mission execution efficiently to achieve a mutually-defined end state,” Villegas said.

Ukrainian SOF prepare to board a U.S. CV-22 Osprey during exercise Sea Breeze 17. Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Lopez

Achieving this end state, he added, hinged on US-Ukrainian integration at the tactical level within the special operations platoons, and at the special operations maritime task group level.

“We have combined with our Ukrainian colleagues to integrate their experience and capabilities within our key positions,” he said. “Starting in the command team and further within our operations, communications, logistics, and intelligence departments, we were fully partnered.”

Down at the platoon level, operators fast-roped from hovering US Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft assigned to US Special Operations Command Europe, conducted personnel recovery training and boarded vessels at sea.

“Whether it was on the range, in the field, or on the water, these men were a pleasure to work with,” said a US special operations forces platoon commander. “The Ukrainians’ attitudes made this exercise a great opportunity to exchange training and create a strong relationship.”

US Navy Special Warfare Operators train at a small-arms range with Ukrainian SOF at Ochakiv, Ukraine, July 13, 2017 at exercise Sea Breeze 17. Photo by Spc. Jeffery Lopez.

As with any exercise of this size and scope, there were challenges to overcome to make the exercise a success while identifying tactical and technical gaps in partner capabilities. “The first major obstacle we had, but were prepared for, was the language barrier,” the platoon commander said. “Another was that our mission sets differed slightly from our counterparts’.” To remedy this, he said, he found ways to incorporate the skill sets of each unit in ways to accomplish the mission while building relationships to forge a stronger partnership. As the operators returned from a long day, mutual trust emerged through combined hard work, long hours, and mutual respect for each unit’s professionalism.

“You always want to work with a partner force who is motivated, wants to train, and wants to get better, and the Ukrainian [special operations forces] are all of these,” the platoon commander said.

On the pier here, overlooking the Black Sea, Villegas expressed the Navy’s gratitude to Ukraine for inviting US special operations forces to participate in this year’s exercise.

“[Special operations] participation at Sea Breeze is so important for Ukraine and the US Navy and all the other units participating,” he said. “Our hosts have been incredibly friendly, committed, and dedicated. Their hard work has ensured Sea Breeze 17 was a success, and we are truly very thankful for that.”