OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

In thinking about who to select as the Navy’s next generation of senior leadership, the Nation should be fully engaged, particularly with the increasing potential of war at sea against a peer competitor. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral John M. Richardson, who wrote an article for Proceedings Magazine in June 2016 entitled, “Read, Write, Fight,” understands this. So too does Admiral Scott H. Swift, former Commander, Pacific Fleet, who suggested a way to better prepare for a fight in his March 2018 Proceedings piece, “Fleet Problems Offer Opportunities.” Given the possibility of high-end warfare facing the nation now for the first time since the end of the Cold War, picking the right leaders will be key. The question is: Is the right leadership being picked today? Is there a different, better way to consider who will lead the Navy in war?


Since 1974, every Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) has come to the office with the following credentials: command of a carrier strike group (CSG); command of a fleet, and; an operational, four-star command, either Pacific Fleet (PACFLT), Atlantic Fleet/U.S. Fleet Forces Command (LANTFLT/FFC) or Naval Forces, Europe (NAVEUR). The one exception to this formula is that submariners do not command CSGs: Instead, they command submarine groups at the one-star level.

In the last 44 years, there have been only three anomalies: Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda, the 25th CNO never commanded a fleet. Then, in 1996, Admiral Jay L. Johnson, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) who had been scheduled to command Naval Forces, Europe, instead became the 26th CNO when Admiral Boorda took his own life. The current CNO, Admiral Richardson, is the third anomaly in that he has neither commanded a fleet nor had an operational four-star command.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Richardson.

Not surprisingly, there are considered reasons in this successive, operational flag, command rule: First, the Navy exists to support the operational element of the fleet – the so-called, “pointy end of the stick.” It is believed that the leader of an organization whose mission is to “conduct prompt and sustained combat operations at sea,” should be a person who is closely acquainted with firing shots in anger, from ensign to four stars. Second, perhaps of even greater import, the CNO sits in the “tank,” with the other Joint Chiefs. It is imperative that he or she knows the score out in the various combatant commands, and this requires genuine joint expertise attained at a high level. This sort of experience comes in places such as the forward fleets, and especially to those who command PACFLT, NAVEUR, or FFC.

This is not to say that the formula works perfectly. By the turn of the century, Surface Warfare Officers dominated a majority of significant leadership positions in the Navy, and held the office of the CNO, without pause, between 2000 and 2011. It was also this generation of leaders which presided over the diminution of the entire surface community. Still, this may all say more about either the struggle against increasing budget restrictions or a misplaced spirit of selflessness on the part of these CNOs than it does about a faulty selection approach. Nor is this to say that those who were anomalous did not perform admirably as CNO. That is for others to decide, in time.

Either way, the questions are these: How does an officer arrive at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the first place? What are the implications which arise when there are sustained and dramatic perturbations at the flag-level? And finally, what does (or should) the future hold in preparing the Navy to face a new era of potential conflict at sea?

A process defined

Sustained superior performance is essential, but beyond that, a careful choreography occurs in every community beginning at first command if not before. Selection to flag is seldom, if ever, accidental or unanticipated. This management becomes even more meticulous once flag officers are selected. At that point, there is a determination made as to who will be groomed for the three and four-star levels, and who will serve in other, still important flag positions. To effectively regulate this complex daisy-chain, a detailed, long-term, name-to-job interaction occurs between all of the warfare communities and the Navy’s (and ultimately government’s) top leadership.

There are really only a few, key, operational flag positions available, and they are earmarked for those bound for the top. This is important as the timing and positioning associated with getting the right officers through those wickets is not a matter of chance. Here is one example: In the surface community, presume that eight officers make flag each year. Of these eight, only four will go on to command a CSG. Of those four, only two will deploy. These deployers are those who have been selected for upward movement, and this is easily observed in a historical review of those who rose higher. Likewise, while there are any number of important three-star commands, they are in not all equal regarding carrying an officer to the office of the CNO.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) left,the guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) transit the Atlantic Ocean.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Barnes)

Moreover, it is necessary to mention the one outlier in this job pecking order; Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP). A remarkable number of four-star admirals, some of whom achieved senior operational command, have passed through the CNP’s office, including Admirals Leon A. Edney, Ronald J. Zlatoper, John C. Harvey, Mark E. Ferguson III, and former CNOs Jeremy Boorda and James D. Watkins. Evidently, excelling in this position imparts a unique cachet, though it is neither joint nor operational.

The point here is that delicate timing and positioning are required to marshal those deemed to be most deserving to the top. Though off and on-ramps may be built into the process to allow for surprises and opportunities, the whole process is quite fragile. In recent years, this fragility has been demonstrated through two events; The “Fat Leonard” scandal, and the aftermath of the two warship collisions in Seventh Fleet.

Gutting the operational side in the Pacific

As every sailor knows, there are two sides to any chain-of-command – operational and administrative. The administrative side of the equation is responsible for the manning, training and equipping of units provided to the operational side of the chain. The operational side employs these “all-up rounds” in carrying out the nation’s business at sea.

Following the collisions in Seventh Fleet in the summer of 2017, justice was meted out on behalf of the Navy, through the agency of a Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA), Admiral James F. Caldwell Jr, Chief of Naval Reactors, appointed by the CNO, Admiral Richardson. Ultimately in this effort, the entire operational chain-of-command in the Pacific, from the ships’ officers of the deck, to CIC watch officers, to the command master chiefs, to the executive officers, to the commanding officers, and then up through their destroyer squadron commander, task force commander, fleet commander and all the way to the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, was implicated and then either actually or effectively fired. It was a scorched earth approach never before seen in the Navy, and it appeared to be aimed at not only justice but at sending a message to the American people.

Though the punishment handed out to Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF), Vice Admiral Thomas Rowden may seem to have been appropriate, particularly in view of the fact that he was the responsible administrative agent charged to provide fully ready ships to the operational commanders, the fact is that he was only a small part of the responsible administrative chain-of-command. Actually, CNSF relied on a universe of other administrative commands to carry out its mission effectively. For example, the Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) was responsible for providing schools and personnel (both of which were in demonstrated to be in short supply), and the Office of the CNO was responsible for the provision of funding. U.S. Fleet Forces Command was the “parent” command of CNSF, just as Pacific Fleet was the parent of Seventh Fleet. So, while it may have been desirable, for whatever reason, to create a firewall between the operational commands and those administrative commands responsible for providing the necessary wherewithal to the fleet, it also meant that significant responsibility was evaded by nearly half the chain-of-command, top-to-bottom.

The long reach of Fat Leonard

A crisis was created when Admiral Scott H. Swift, then Commander, Pacific Fleet, was implicated in the Seventh Fleet collisions. Admiral Swift had long been expected to become the next Commander, Indo-Pacific Command, and his removal from the field meant that the Navy was in danger of losing control of its most historic and treasured combatant command to the Air Force. The solution hit upon was to send Admiral Phil Davidson, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, to command the U.S. Pacific Command. Not only was Admiral Davidson one of the few viable candidates with sufficient credential and seniority, but he was arriving fresh from completion of the Comprehensive Review (CR) of the collisions, and was unsullied by that disaster. Though that may have been good news regarding saving Pacific Command for the Navy, Admiral Davidson’s last and only tour in the Pacific was a single one as a commander, serving as a staff officer at Pacific Fleet headquarters. Whether a conscious part of the decision or not, his lack of Pacific-experience meant that he was beyond the potential taint of Fat Leonard.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

Admiral Phil Davidson.

Numerically speaking, only a few flag officers have been caught in the Fat Leonard scandal. Nevertheless, there have been many more who were frozen in place while the investigation continued. This “freezing” caused some of these officers to miss their planned wickets, resulting in an extraordinary upset in the carefully mapped-out flag progression. As for the collision aftermath, it is impossible to know the exact impacts of those events on the “daisy-chain.” Certainly, the loss of ADM Swift and the shifting of ADM Davidson are significant.

Regardless, all of this begs the question of who may be the next CNO? Watchers had long considered Admiral Davidson to be a leading candidate for the position, and his shift to INDO/PACOM has stirred debate regarding who might be a viable relief for Admiral Richardson.

Based on the historical template, the next CNO likely will be one of the following:

  • Commander, U.S Pacific Fleet: Admiral John G. Aquilino
  • Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces: Admiral Christopher W. Grady
  • Commander, U.S Naval Forces, Europe: Admiral James G. Foggo III
  • Vice Chief of Naval Operations: Admiral William F. Moran

Each of these officers has all of the historical credentials of operational command and joint experience at the highest level, with the exception of Admiral Moran. However, Admiral Moran merits inclusion in that he would not be the first former Chief of Naval Personnel to become the CNO, though he has not had either fleet nor four-star operational command. Moreover, the current CNO, Admiral Richardson likewise arrived at the job with credentials other than the classic operational command/joint ones which have been common. In other words, a new template may have been set.

Reset the grid for war

If the Nation is moving from a “Profound Peace” into a period of “Great-Power Competition,” then every effort must be bent to ensure that America is fully preparing to meet what may well be an existential challenge. If, as suggested by Captain Dale Rielage, in his May, 2018, USNI General Prize-winning essay, “How We Lost the Great Pacific War,” the United States were to be defeated in a conflict with China – a conflict which would most certainly be primarily a fight at sea – the United States would, for the first time since World War II lose primary control of the sea lines of communication, in the vital Pacific. China would assume dominance of at least Asia and become a prime hegemon all the way to the Arabian Gulf.

In thinking about who the Nation selects for our Navy’s senior leader, it is understood that he or she must be fully and unselfishly engaged in preparing the Fleet for war at sea against peer competitors. What are the characteristics and experiences of peace-time Navy leaders (beyond the aforementioned operational positions)? Are these characteristics the same as those which might be sought leading into a major conflict? History suggests that they are different. One needs only consider the last, great war-at-sea. Many of the Navy’s leaders at the start of World War II were cast aside in favor of those who could bring fire to the enemy. For many of those officers, including Admirals Earnest King, Chester Nimitz, and William Halsey, it is fair to say that they might never have arrived at flag rank based were they measured against today’s standards. To win that war no one cared who was charming or polished or politically astute or properly connected. The question had nothing to do with who had attained a “zero-defects” record. It had everything to do with who could and would defeat the enemy.

More recently, there have been other “reaches” undertaken to identify the right person for the job. In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower reached deep to select Admiral Arleigh Burke as the 15th CNO. At the time of his appointment, Burke was still a rear admiral (two-star). He was promoted two grades and over the heads of many flags of far greater seniority. In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon selected Admiral Elmo Zumwalt as the 19th CNO for very specific reasons and aims, despite his lack of “traditional” credentials.

Today, more than ever, modern war is a “come-as-you-are” affair. There will be no slow, years-long buildup allowed. Economies and modern weapon systems suggest that a real fight will ramp up to criticality almost immediately and that wide-spread, cannot-be-quickly-replaced/repaired damage will be done to the fleets in a matter of months, if not weeks. In other words, what the Navy has, regarding leadership and wherewithal, on day one, is the best that it may have throughout the conflict. The point is this: The right leadership needs to be found and selected, now.

Prove your readiness

Cast a wide net, and seek leaders who are determined to resist the self-interested pressures of outside agencies, prioritizing lethality in the Navy above whatever else may be prized. Who in today’s ranks is best equipped to lead the Navy in waging a high-end war?

An answer may lie in Admiral Swift’s March 2018 piece, “Fleet Problems Offer Opportunities.” Deeper opportunities may be offered to the Navy in this Fleet Problem concept. If, as he suggests in his piece, the new Fleet Problem is designed to do more than check a box, before the deployment of carrier strike groups…if Pacific Fleet is determined to truly test leadership in simulations which approach the real world…if officers will be challenged to do more than just go through the motions…if failure is an option, is this not a chance to really put officers, at a variety of levels, to the real test?

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

Ships from Carrier Strike Group 8 in the Atlantic Ocean.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julia A. Casper)

And this test need not only apply to strike group commanders, and their respective warfare commanders. A variety of officers, all at different places in their careers, can be tested in this crucible. Is there any reason that an upward-bound submariner could not take command of the Maritime Operations Center (MOC) for the duration of the game? Stand up an exercise Joint Forces Maritime Component Commander (JFMCC). Stand up an exercise Joint Forces Command. Is there any reason for an officer under consideration for fleet command could not play fleet commander during the game?

Admiral Swift offers a key point in all of this: “We have to guard against the natural byproduct of this training reality, which is an aversion to the risk of failure that is associated with learning at the leading edge of knowledge. We had to convey to the operational leaders that failure during the Fleet Problem was not just tolerated but expected. Without pushing our operational art to the point of failure, learning would be subdued and subtle, not stark and compelling. High-velocity learning happens at the leading edge of knowledge, not at its core, and certainly not at its trailing edge.”

Learning yes, but also testing. Officers at every level can be regularly assigned to the game, and throughout their careers, to test whether they possess skills beyond administrative? The Navy needs lions for leadership in war. The Navy also needs able administrators. Certainly, there are officers in the ranks who are both.

The Navy regularly pulls officers out of their employment to serve in a wide variety of boards. Is there any reason to think that this proposal would not be infinitely more valuable to the service, both in developing the entire officer corps for real, war-time thinking at the operational and strategic level? Let officers merit their promotion beyond unit-level by demonstrating the skill necessary to fully grasp that which is imperative in fighting a war…and that which is chaff.

The next CNO has, in all likelihood already been selected. The process of selection and vetting in long and complex and it is unrealistic to think that ADM Richardson approaches the end of his tenure without a relief already having been selected. The question is, and should be, this: Is the next CNO equipped to lead in war-time?

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

NASA astronauts train with Air Force survival school instructors

Four NASA astronauts trained with U.S. Air Force Survival School instructors in water survival and recovery at the fitness center pool [at Fairchild AFB, Washington].


OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war
Four NASA astronauts sit in with a class of survival school students being briefed on life raft procedures at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Feb. 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

Four NASA astronauts sit in with a class of survival school students being briefed on life raft procedures at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Feb. 10, 2017. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey

The astronauts underwent the training in preparation for anticipated test flights of the new commercially made American rockets, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Dragon.

Also read: This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

“It’s a different space program now,” said astronaut Sunita Williams. “We’re flying in capsules instead of shuttles, and they can land anywhere. You never know when an emergency situation may happen, so we’re grateful to get this training.”

The astronauts were put through the paces of bailing out from a simulated crash landing in water. They learned to deploy and secure a life raft, rescue endangered crew members, avoid hostile forces and experience being hoisted into a rescue vehicle.

“This is the first time we’ve gotten a complete environmental training experience — lots of wind, waves and rain,” said astronaut Doug Hurley. “This is a great way to experience how bad it can get and how important it is to be prepared.”

Trained With Course’s Students

The astronauts opted to join in with more than 20 water survival course students, despite being given the option to train alone.

“They didn’t want to train on their own,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Chas Tacheny, the chief of NASA human space flight support in Houston. “They wanted to train with the group, because some of these people may one day be preforming search and rescue for them.”

Other NASA astronauts visited the survival school last year in an effort to research and test the viability of its training course and facilities. The astronauts liked what they experienced, and NASA has since developed its training partnership with the schoolhouse.

“The [survival, evasion, resistance and escape] instructors are advising us in water recovery,” Behnken said. “These experts are the most experienced I’ve ever seen. They are able to spot holes in our training and fill the gaps.”

NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston has a large water training facility built to simulate weightless conditions during space walks, but it’s not properly equipped to simulate water surface conditions for recovery training.

This training is vital for future mission recovery operations, Behnken said, noting that NASA officials are working with the experts here to replicate the survival school water survival training equipment at the Houston facility.

Impressive Facilities

“I’m impressed by the use of the facilities here,” Williams said. “It’s a small space, but they really manage to simulate all kinds of weather conditions and situations we might experience during a water landing.”

The survival school originally had a separate detachment at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, where it conducted water survival training in open ocean waters. The training was brought to Fairchild in August 2015 in an effort to save time and money by consolidating training at one location.

“It was a good decision for the Air Force to streamline our training efforts by moving all portions of water survival training here,” said Air Force Col. John Groves, the 336th Training Group commander. “However, the fitness center pool was designed for recreational use and isn’t suited to the ever-increasing demands placed on it by our training programs. Bottom line, we owe it to our airmen and mission partners such as NASA, who rely on our unique training capabilities, to have a purpose-built water survival training facility.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Leaked Army photos show they’re building a cannon that shoots over 1,000 miles and ‘Merica couldn’t be more excited

“Leave the Artillerymen alone, they are an obstinate lot.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Imagine shooting artillery from Berlin and hitting Moscow? Shooting from Dubai and hitting Tehran? Shooting from Taiwan and hitting Beijing and Pyongyang with the same barrage?

What was just an impossible thought might be a reality by 2023.


The Army is working on a cannon that can fire over extremely long ranges with precision accuracy. The Strategic Long Range Cannon (SLRC) is on its way to providing the United States military such capabilities. A couple of days ago, it seems as if a prototype for the cannon was inadvertently leaked.

Pictures showed up showing an astoundingly big gun being towed by an eight-wheeled vehicle. Along with the picture was models and illustrations explaining the basic parameters of the superweapon.

It looks as though this will be crewed by eight artillerymen and can be moved by a six-wheeled vehicle if need be. It can be transported by air or sea. Four guns will make up a battery, and the cannon will be able to penetrate enemy defenses from up to 1,000 miles.

When you see the mockup, there is a particular country that seems to be the motivation for developing this weapon.

China.

There is a reference about the cannon’s ability to penetrate A2/AD defenses. What is A2/AD?

It stands for anti-access and area denial. It is a strategy the Chinese are working on that will allow them to block U.S. forces, planes, ships and drones out of a wide area using artillery, radar, defensive systems and air power. The Chinese are using it to keep enemies away from its coast. If they ever decide to invade Taiwan or any other Pacific neighbor, a properly implemented A2/AD defense could keep the U.S. at bay while they carry out operations.

The long-range cannon would be an effective (and potentially inexpensive) way to counteract the Chinese strategy. In theory, the Chinese would be able to intercept planes, drones, and cruise missiles using A2AD, but a barrage of artillery from 1,000 miles away could take out key military targets.

And since the artillery is far away, it would be safe from any counter-battery actions the Chinese would take (unless, of course, they develop a long-range cannon of their own).

Right now, the Army is trying to figure out two things: How to get a projectile to go that far, and how to make it cheap.

As you may remember, the Navy flirted with a long-range gun that could hit targets fired from a ship to land from over 100 miles. The problem was the projectile cost 0,000 EACH. So, the Navy ended up with big guns they can’t shoot.

The Army is determined to find a way around this. It is also determined to look at the past so it can prepare for the future. As many of you know, the history of artillery evolved to the point where the Germans were using whole trains to transport super cannons around Europe. But they hit a limit on how far they could go, and with the advent of nuclear weapons, artillery pieces became smaller and more mobile. Bigger bombs (like nuclear weapons) meant development in bombers, ICBMs, submarines and drones.

But with the Chinese developing A2/AD, these assets are potentially ineffective.

How will the Army get around cost and range issues? The answer is ramjets.

Ramjets are engines that turn air intake into energy. A high-velocity projectile, like an artillery round can use the incoming air to propel it further (in theory)

While the leaked picture is a mockup and might not even be close to the final product, it does look like the Army is investing in revolutionizing warfare by taking what was old and making it new again.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These photos show how the military is rescuing Florence victims

As Hurricane Florence, now weakened to a tropical depression, continues to wreak havoc along the East Coast, where it has claimed at least two dozen lives, more than 10,000 US service members are providing emergency assistance to those in need.

The Department of Defense, as of Sept. 15, 2018, had deployed a total of 13,470 personnel, 5,400 active-duty service members and 7,857 National Guard to support hurricane relief efforts. Additionally, 1,286 military assets, such as rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, high-water vehicles, and swift boats have been dispatched to assist with ongoing response operations.


“The collaboration between the Department of Defense, FEMA, and state and local partners is absolutely critical to our National Response Framework,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander USNORTHCOM said in a statement, adding, “We remain well informed of the emergency response requirements and are ready to respond when military assistance is requested.”

The following photos show the US military in action, lending a much needed hand to rescue people and even animals affected by the storm.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

U.S. Marines assigned to Combat Logistics Group 8 (CLB-8) drive through the rain to a local fire station in order to aid in evacuating victims of Hurricane Florence to shelter in Jacksonville, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nello Miele)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Williams)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Williams)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Williams)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Hagan)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Hagan)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U. S. Army photo by Spc. Andrea Salgado Rivera)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Trevor Lilburn)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Stephen Kelly)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isaiah Gomez)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damaris Arias)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damaris Arias)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damaris Arias)

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damaris Arias)

US Marines with Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training conduct post hurricane cleanup at the Marine Corps Exchange on Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, Sept. 16, 2018.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Watch: a Marine on Mt Everest, Syrian rebels taking on ISIS, and a badass Gurkha

Here’s a quick look at a few of our favorite stories of the week:


In early April 2016, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charlie Linville departed the U.S. with The Heroes Project founder Tim Medvetz. Their destination was Nepal and their third attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the top of the world. Semper Fi!

The Syrian Democratic Forces coalition launched a new campaign to advance toward the ISIS capital at Raqqa.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYcqrT0nU0I

To say that Gurkhas are simply soldiers from Nepal would be a massive understatement. They are known for their exceptional bravery, ability, and heroism in the face of insurmountable odds. A great example is Dipprasad Pun, who singlehandedly held his post against more than 30 Taliban fighters.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

5 tips from astronauts for thriving in isolation

NASA Astronaut and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anne McClain took to Twitter to share the official training astronauts use for living in confined spaces for long periods of time. Afterall, the International Space Station has been operating for nearly 20 years, giving NASA astronauts and psychologists time to examine human behavior and needs when living and working remotely.

They narrowed the behavior skills down to five general skills called “Expeditionary Behavior,” or “EB” because the military just loves a good acronym.


Built from 1998 to 2001, the International Space Station usually holds crews of between three and six people who will spend about six months there at a time, though mission lengths can vary. During that time, the astronauts perform experiments and spacewalks, maintain the space station, conduct media and education events and test out technology.

Also during this time, they are allocated at least two hours a day for exercise and personal care.

According to NASA, the living and working space in the station is larger than a six-bedroom house (and has six sleeping quarters, two bathrooms, a gym and a 360-degree view bay window). Still, six months in a space bucket with two to five other people can give some perspective to anyone feeling confined.

This is the “GoodEB” that helps astronauts:

4/ Skill 1, Communication: Def: To talk so you are clearly understood. To listen and question to understand. Actively listen, pick up on non-verbal cues. Identify, discuss, then work to resolve conflict.

twitter.com

Communication

“Share info/feelings freely. Talk about intentions before taking action. Use good terminology. Discuss when your or others’ actions were not as expected. Debrief after success or conflict. Listen, then restate message to ensure it’s understood. Admit when you’re wrong,” McClain tweeted.

It’s common for humans to have strong emotional responses and act on them before they fully understand them. Honest communication is critical in a confined space or during heightened stress.

6/ Skill 2, Leadership/Followership: Def: How well a team adapts to new situations. Leader enhances the group’s ability to execute its purpose through positive influence. Follower (aka subordinate leader) actively contributes to leader’s direction. Establish environment of trust.

twitter.com

Leadership/Followership

“Accept responsibility. Adjust style to environment. Assign tasks, set goals. Lead by example. Give direction, info, feedback, coaching + encouragement. Ensure teammates have resources. Talk when something isn’t right. Ask questions. Offer solutions, not just problems,” urged McClain.

For anyone confined with family or roommates, it can be an adjustment to share personal space and limited supplies for a prolonged period of time. Shifting to a team dynamic can bring a new perspective to everyone’s roles within the home. If you weren’t already doing this, now is the time to share the household chores, the cooking, the supply runs, and, for many families, the education responsibilities.

8/ Skill 3, Self-Care: Def: How healthy you are on psychological and physical levels, including hygiene, managing time and personal stuff, getting sleep, and maintaining mood. The ability and willingness to be proactive to stay healthy.

twitter.com

Self-Care

“Realistically assess own strengths and weaknesses, and their influence on the group. Learn from mistakes. Take action to mitigate stress or negativity (don’t pass on to the group). Be social. Seek feedback. Balance work, rest, and personal time. Be organized,” suggested McClain.

There’s a quote I’ve always liked that says, “Please accept responsibility for the energy you are bringing into this space,” and it feels especially relevant now. We must each stay in touch with ourselves so we can identify rising stress and mitigate it with self-care.

Self-care can be anything from calling a friend to a work-out session from YouTube to releasing expectations of perfection and taking the time to enjoy some relaxation with a book or movie.

10/ Skill 4, Team Care: Def: How healthy the group is on psychological, physical, and logistical level. Manage group stress, fatigue, sickness, supplies, resources, workload, etc. Nurture optimal team performance despite challenges.

twitter.com

Team Care

“Demonstrate patience and respect. Encourage others. Monitor team for signs of stress or fatigue. Encourage participation in team activities. Develop positive relationships. Volunteer for the unpleasant tasks. Offer and accept help. Share the credit; take the blame,” said McClain.

I’ll really highlight one of these tips from McClain: Monitor team for signs of stress or fatigue. Teaching ourselves this skill will intrinsically build compassion and problem-solving into relationship skills, not just now, but going forward. It’s about looking out for each other and anticipating the needs of others. This is a critical skill for any member of the team.
12/ Skill 5, Group Living: Def: How people cooperate and become a team to achieve a goal. Identify and manage different opinions, cultures, perceptions, skills, and personalities. Individuals and group demonstrate resiliency in the face of difficulty.

twitter.com

Group Living

“Cooperate rather than compete. Actively cultivate group culture (use each individual’s culture to build the whole). Respect roles, responsibilities, and workload. Take accountability, give praise freely. Work to ensure positive team attitude. Keep calm in conflict,” suggests McClain.

Parents are learning how to homeschool. Partners are sharing household responsibilities like cooking and cleaning. More people are sick and being cared for by their roommates.

All the while, we are each learning how to restrict our movements while maintaining our health and vitality. The key points throughout NASA’s Expeditionary Behaviors are to take care of each other and ourselves by working together.

And just remember, Scott Kelly set the record for most consecutive days in space by an American by living for 340 days during a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station, proving that humans are pretty remarkable when it comes to adapting to our environment!

If you need any advice on thriving from home, here are a few We Are The Mighty articles that can help:

Articles

Test shows that A-10 can obliterate Iran’s small boat swarms with ease

About 35 local boat captains simulated swarming attack maneuvers in fishing boats rigged with machine guns while fighter jets, attack helicopters, and the A-10 “Warthog” simulated attacks from above in the Choctawatchee Bay, Florida.


The Air Force at Eglin Air Force Base organized the simulation, called Combat Hammer, to address one of the more pressing threats to the US navy — attacks from swarming fast-attack craft.

Also read: The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

In the Persian Gulf, Iran has repeatedly used small, agile attack craft to harass US Navy ships in dangerous encounters that could lead to a broader conflict in a moment’s notice.

US Navy ships have had to go as far as firing warning shots at approaching vessels, but that was before Iranian-backed Houthi militants used a suicide boat laden with explosives to kill two aboard a Saudi Arabian Navy vessel off the coast of Yemen.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war
An A-10 Thunderbolt IIs with the 74th Fighter Squadron from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., flies over the Gulf of Mexico Feb. 7 during Combat Hammer. The 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron’s Combat Hammer is a weapons system evaluation program at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. | US Air Force photo by Ilka Cole

The Navy was already aware of the threat posed to their large, multi-million dollar ships by small, cheap ships — but the January Houthi attack demonstrated the threat was even more acute.

The Air Force’s annual Combat Hammer exercise sought in part to answer the question of how the Navy would deal with a large mass of erratic attack craft — and that involved A-10 Warthogs firing inert 30-millimeter rounds at unmanned ships.

The exercise also included attack helicopters, multi-role fighter jets, and Canadian F-18s dropping simulated guided munitions.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war
Local boat captains and mariners operate fishing boats equipped with makeshift guns and weapons invaded the Choctawatchee Bay area Feb. 6 during the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron exercise, Combat Hammer. The boat swarms helped create a realistic environment to provide exercise participants an opportunity to train like they fight. | US Air Force photo by Ilka Cole

“We evaluate precision guided munitions against realistic targets with realistic enemy defenses,” said Lt. Col. Sean Neitzke, the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron commander in an Air Force statement. “There are plenty of places in the world where low-tech adversaries can mount 50-caliber machine guns and rocket launchers on small boats for use against us. They could also use other types of shoulder launched weapons, all of which could be a threat to American assets.”

Related: A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

The situation described by Neitzke bears eerily similarities to the situation with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.

Patrick Megahan, an expert on Iran’s military with the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, told Business Insider that even without the Air Force, the US Navy has plenty of ways to counter the threat posed by Iranian-style swarm attacks.

“US Army Apache attack helicopters also frequently drill aboard US Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf for countering exactly this threat,” Megahan said of the swarming boats.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war
An MH-60 Seahawk. | US Navy

“This doesn’t include the Navy’s own Hellfire-equipped Seahawk helicopters or the Marine Corps’s very capable attack helicopter squadrons that maintain an almost constant presence in the waters off the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. In fact, two fully-load American attack helicopters would likely wreak havoc on an Iranian small boat swarm.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army garners new award thanks to sustainable energy

A solar power plant with energy-storage capability that went online in 2018 at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, and a biofuel power plant at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, were among projects that helped the Army gain recognition in 2018 with an award from the Federal Energy Management Program.

“This was recognition for a tremendous amount of teamwork,” said Michael McGhee, executive director of the Army Office of Energy Initiatives. His office oversees and facilitates privately-funded, large-scale energy projects on Army land.


OEI has facilitated 7 million in such projects on 17 Army installations over the past five years. Many of the projects allow utility companies to use Army land in exchange for developing electricity projects more affordably. Some of these projects will save the Army money over the long-term, states the Department of Energy award, but more importantly, they also improve energy security and resilience.

Increasing threat

Energy resilience is a top priority for the Army, said Jack Surash, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability.

“Uninterrupted access to energy is essential to sustaining critical Army missions,” Surash testified at a House energy subcommittee hearing Dec. 12, 2018. He went on to say such uninterrupted power is becoming more challenging “as potential vulnerabilities emerge in the nation’s utility-distribution infrastructure.”

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

This 1-megawatt utility battery that stores energy from Redstone Arsenal’s solar array in Alabama is the first of its kind for the Army.

(US Army photo)

Threats to the grid include more sophisticated cyberattacks and more frequent severe storms, earthquakes and tsunamis, McGhee said. In consideration of these threats, current Army policy requires critical mission activities to be provided with a minimum of 14 days of energy, which McGhee emphasized is focused on the mission-critical infrastructure that must anticipate the potential for long-term power outages. He added a couple of Army installations currently also have the ability to keep the whole base operating for more than three or four days if the grid goes down.

One of them is Schofield Barracks with its biofuel plant that became operational in May.

Paradise partnership

The Oahu project exemplifies a partnership with a utility company that helps maximize the value for another party’s investment while also serving the needs of the Army, McGhee said.

Hawaiian Electric needed to build a new power plant. The older ones were typically built along the coastline because most of the people lived there and that’s where the fuel shipments came in.

“Unfortunately, that’s also where the strongest effects of a storm surge would be felt in a tsunami or other extreme-weather event,” McGhee said. So the company was looking to place its new plant on higher ground with more security and less risk.

Behind the secure perimeter of Schofield Barracks was an obvious choice, McGhee said.

The biofuel plant provides power to Oahu during peak-demand periods. It has the capability to be decoupled from the grid in case of a grid emergency, McGhee said, and Schofield Barracks has the first right to power from the plant in such an emergency.

The 50-megawatt power plant can provide 100 percent of the power needed to keep Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield and Field Station Kunia running during a grid power emergency, according to OEI.

Several days of biofuel are stored on site at the plant and 30 days are available on the island, McGhee said. The plant also uses regular fuel oil and could even be operated on liquefied natural gas, providing what he termed as even more resilience.

For emergency power design, a reliable source of fuel and the ability to use more than one type of fuel is the key to long-term sustainability of operations, he said. In the case of severe weather, resupply of fuel for back-up power often becomes a problem, he added, so having the ability to resupply from multiple sources with multiple types of fuel is desired.

“We need something more than just your standard backup of diesel generators, in order to have a more resilient solution,” McGhee said.

Compelling technology

One of the problems with energy resilience from renewable-power sources, such as solar or wind power, has been the lack of ability to store the power for use when the wind stops or the sun goes down.

Until recently, storage options have not been affordable.

“It’s not so much the technology has gotten cheaper as it is that the manufacturing has gotten to be more extensive, lowering the unit cost,” McGhee said of large-scale battery storage units.

“It’s very exciting for us, because we’ve been looking forward to this moment to couple large-scale, utility-size batteries with our existing large-scale, energy-generation projects that we helped develop,” he said.

The Redstone Arsenal project was OEI’s first foray into large-scale utility batteries, McGhee said, but added several more “are in the works” and could be part of projects in the coming year.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Jordan Gillis stands in the center of those who helped the Army earn recognition with a 2018 Federal Energy and Water Management Award, including to his left, Michael McGhee, director, Office of Energy Initiatives. Jack Surash, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability, is to the right of Gillis.

(US Army photo)

“It’s happening very quickly,” he said, “Companies are better understanding the technology, but they’re also better understanding the value proposition.” More developers are now actively seeking partners for battery-storage projects, he said.

“That technology at an affordable price enables so many other technologies and so many design options that weren’t available before.

“Large-scale affordable battery storage … provides the most compelling new option paths available that are intriguing to improving resilience on Army installations,” he added.

The 1-megawatt battery that became operational on Redstone in February can provide power for 2 megawatt hours, McGhee said, and added that future battery projects are likely to be much larger

Additional components must be added to the Redstone project to enable long-term backup power, he said. But planning is underway for a potential microgrid that could provide sustainable power at the arsenal for a long-term emergency.

Way forward

Large-scale batteries are being evaluated to possibly be added to existing projects at other installations, McGhee said.

For instance, 30-megawatt alternating-current solar photovoltaic power plants have been operating for a couple of years now on Forts Gordon, Benning and Stewart in Georgia.

Fort Rucker and Anniston Army Depot in Alabama have 10-megawatt solar projects that are part of microgrids providing energy to the installations.

Fort Detrick, Maryland, has a 15-megawatt solar project with 59,994 panels that have been providing electricity to the post since 2016.

Fort Hood, Texas has both a 15-megawatt solar array on-post and a 50-megawatt wind turbine farm off-post that have been providing electricity to Fort Hood since 2017. All of these projects could potentially benefit from large-scale battery storage, according to McGhee.

“The batteries we are looking at have a relatively small footprint and require little maintenance,” he said, adding, “they’re a very low-touch kind of technology that has tremendous benefit.”

2019 trends?

Natural Gas may be a trend for the coming year, McGhee said. The cost of natural gas has come down, he explained, making it more economical to build smaller utility electrical plants fueled by gas.

A utility company in Lawton, Oklahoma, is looking at investing in a natural gas plant along with a solar array on Fort Sill, he said. His office is working with the utility on a design and they are beginning environmental reviews. If approved, the project would utilize an “enhanced-use lease authority” where the utility company would be allowed to use the land for siting the natural gas and solar plants in return for providing a backup power capability to the installation.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

This biofuel power plant at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, became operational in May 2018 and in the case of an emergency can provide all the electricity needed to operate the installation.

(Courtesy photo)

Most of the OEI projects have used either the enhanced-use lease authority or power purchase agreements to provide energy sustainability, but McGhee said he looking at other options to enhance microgrids. Controls that enable energy from plants to be more efficiently applied to installation facilities could merit direct Army funding he said.

Energy Savings Performance Contracts are another option. ESPCs involve privately-financed design and installation of equipment that provides energy savings over time and those savings then enable the government to pay back the private investment.

Utility Energy ServiceContracts, or UESCs, can also provide services to improve installation power equipment reliability, or McGhee said with more creative thinking, create microgrids.

“We’re weaving together a collection of authorities that very often are not considered in concert,” McGhee said. OEI helps garrisons that that may not have the experience or resources to be working with all the different types of authorities.

“Our office tries to bring a more integrated solution,” he said.

Teamwork for readiness

OEI actually received the FEMP Federal Energy and Water Management Award on Oct. 23 from the Department of Energy. McGhee said he accepted the award on behalf of the many commands and garrisons that helped coordinate the 11 projects above. The Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters and Districts and Centers of Expertise, Installation Management Command, Mission and Installation Contracting Command and Army Materiel Command, along with the Defense Logistics Agency, were among organizations that McGhee said deserve credit for the team award.

The award states the projects generate a total of 350 megawatts of distributed energy that help stabilize and reduce the Army’s costs while improving its security, resilience and reliability.

“Supporting Army readiness is the No. 1 priority,” McGhee said. “Our systems are being designed to improve the Army’s installation readiness.

“In addition we are helping to modernize the Army’s energy infrastructure, adding new technologies, and adding new protections that help us be ready for the needs of tomorrow, to include things like cyber intrusion.”

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

Articles

11 celebrities you didn’t know were passionate about supporting America’s veterans

Many celebrities use their influence to bring awareness to issues they are passionate about. Something as simple as a social media post or attending an event can bring support and attention for an organization. For the military veteran community, celebrities such as Gary Sinise and Bob Hope have used their influence so much that it becomes part of their lifestyle.


But there are many other superstars who have gone above and beyond in supporting troops, although most people have no idea. Here are 11 superstars you probably didn’t know were passionate about supporting veterans.

1. Kathy Griffin

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war
Kathy Griffin, Michael McDonald and Karri Turner perform an improv skit for soldiers and airmen in Tikrit, Iraq, March 17, 2006.

The multi Emmy award winning actress and comedian has been a long time supporter of the troops performing on USO tours, hosting VH1 Divas Salute the Troops,  and offering veterans free backstage tickets to her shows. She has been awarded recognition for her commitment in supporting the troops.

2. Jared Allen

Jared Allen is a five-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and current player for the Chicago Bears. He was so inspired by his interaction with troops on a USO tour that he created the non-profit Homes for Wounded Warriors which builds and remodels homes for wounded warriors.

3. Judd Apatow

The award winning comedy writer/producer has many well known credits including “Anchorman,” “Pineapple Express,” “Bridesmaids,” and HBO’s “Girls.” What many don’t know is his passion in supporting troops by performing stand up comedy to raise money for wounded warriors, sending gifts to troops, and hiring veterans to work on his productions.

4. Adam Sandler

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

Whether he’s making videos of messages in support of the troops  or hosting wounded warriors at his production company Happy Madison, Adam is known as a long-time supporter of the troops and veterans.

5. Snoop Dogg

One of hip-hop’s most iconic figures, Snoop should also be known for being a huge troop supporter. He visits wounded warriors at the hospital, has played with the Wounded Warrior Amputee football team, and performs for the troops. Watch this video of him expressing his support.

6. Vince McMahon

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war
Photo: Wikimedia

Owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, Vince partnered his entertainment powerhouse with the Armed Forces Entertainment to organize an annual Tribute to the Troops since 2003. Prior to the show each year, he has WWE wrestlers and employees visit military bases and hospitals.

7. KISS

The legendary rock band has given an incredible amount of support to the troops. In every community where the band opens a Rock Brews restaurant, it donates money to a local veterans organization. Not only have they performed many times for the troops but they have been hiring veterans to work on their tours. Further, the band has roots in World War II that link two of its members together.

8. Katy Perry

The award-winning singer has performed several times for troops, including a show during fleet week, on VH1 Divas Salute the Troops, and on USO tours. She also portrayed herself as a new Marine enlistee in her music video “Part of Me.” The video shot on Camp Pendleton and involved 80 Marines.

9. Fergie

In addition to performing for the troops, the Grammy award-winning singer organized a fundraiser supporting a military charity, and invited many of her celebrity friends.

10. Barry Zito

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war
strikeoutsfortroops.org

The Cy Young award-winning pitcher founded the non-profit Strikeouts for Troops in 2005, which provides financial support to wounded warriors. He also flies out a group of veterans to watch spring training every year.

11. J.J. Abrams

Many know the director/producer for his work on blockbuster films like the “Mission Impossible” franchise, “Star Trek,” and the upcoming “Star Wars.” Behind the camera, he has also joined efforts with Hollywood in depicting more stories that portray the sacrifices and service of veterans. He has flown overseas to screen his films for troops and partnered his production company Bad Robot with the non-profit The Mission Continues to support post 9/11 veterans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 tips to prevent bringing home germs from work

Everyday germs are a concern when thinking about your service member bringing their gear home on a normal day. But now, in a time of pandemic, it’s important to help keep germs from work out of your home. With military members still working as essential personnel, sometimes in close contact with others, smart steps can help keep dangerous particles from entering your home.

From the moment your service member steps into the door — and even their moves before entering — you can set up a system that helps keep your home as safe as possible and free from germs that could cause COVID-19.

Here are 5 tips to prevent bringing home germs from work:


OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

1. Handwashing and sanitizing

Have your service member sanitize their hands as they’re leaving work, when getting in the car, and again before walking in the door. It’s important to repeat this step often as they continue to touch new surfaces that are full of germs (door handles!). Stock up on small bottles of hand sanitizer that they can keep in their vehicle or in a pocket for frequent access.

2. Spray or wipe down common surfaces

Lysol or bleach wipe door knobs, remotes, sink faucets, etc. Do this multiple times a day, but especially once your service member comes home for a break or at the end of their workday.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

3. Shoes at the door

Leave those boots on the porch! There are so many germs that can gather and hide on shoes, but when dealing with the coronavirus, this is an especially important step.

4. Uniform too?

If your service member is in close contact with others throughout the day, consider having them strip before entering your home. Leave clothes in the garage or (if they can do so without offending the neighbors) at the back door. The clothes can be bagged up and thrown in the wash to offer peace of mind.

5. Bags stay out

Finally, consider personal belongings that are taken to work each day. Cups, keys and cell phone, work bags — whenever possible, keep these items at work or in the vehicle. If they have to come inside, wipe them down or spray them.

With a plan and diligence, you can help keep your home free of the coronavirus. What are your most important steps?

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines wonder what to do next in the Middle East

In 2017, small American advisory elements here in Northern Iraq were operating at battle tempo as they mentored and assisted Iraqi units in a pitched fight to reclaim the city of Mosul from ISIS control.


That fight was won decisively, with an official Iraqi declaration of victory in Mosul in July 2017. And to further cement the advantage, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared complete victory over ISIS in Iraq on Dec. 9, 2017, just days before a Military.com visit to the country.

Among the Marine advisory units remaining at Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Anbar province, there is the satisfaction that comes with a mission accomplished.

But for some, victory brings its own unease: As the Marines endeavor to work themselves out of a job in Iraq, what lies beyond the current mission remains unclear.

When Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller paid visits to Al Asad, Al Taqaddum and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during a December tour of deployed units, his tone was congratulatory.

“You’re part of history now, because you were in Iraq when ISIS was defeated, tactically,” he said. ” … You have been catastrophically successful. The way this thing has turned in the last year is pretty epic. So, you should be proud of what you’ve done and what you’ve contributed to.”

Neller’s parting words to the Marines amounted to an order to hold down the fort for the duration of the deployment.

“You will not get blown up. You will not get attacked. No one will let anyone come in here who is a bad person and do anything to anybody … Do your job, until the wheels of that airplane leave the ground to take you home,” he said.

Drawing down

While pockets of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and military advisers continue to pay attention to the Syrian border and work to prevent more extremists from entering the country, planners are already discussing how and when to bring home the Marine elements deployed in support of the fight.

These discussions dovetail with those ongoing at the joint level and in diplomatic channels.

The Associated Press reported Feb. 5 2018, citing a senior Iraqi official close to al-Abadi, that an agreement with U.S. leaders stipulated 60 percent of troops in Iraq will come home, while about 4,000 will remain in an advisory capacity amid ongoing efforts to eradicate remaining ISIS elements and restore security.

Also read: Why some Marines in combat zones don’t get Combat Action Ribbons

Decisions regarding individual units can be made and executed rapidly, as was seen in late November 2017, when officials with the joint task force overseeing the fight against ISIS announced that a Marine artillery unit deployed to Syria would be coming home early. A replacement unit, which had already conducted specialized training ahead of a planned deployment, was told to stay put stateside.

In Iraq, the first Marine Corps element to leave will likely be the additional security presence at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, roughly 150 Marines who have been sourced from the Corps’ crisis response task force for the Middle East since 2015. During his tour, Neller told Marines he looked forward to bringing that contingent home soon.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war
James Mattis, then a Marine general, speaks to Marines in Iraq. (USMC photo)

“I think we’re close,” Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, told Military.com during a December interview in Baghdad.

While pulling the extra Marine Corps element out of Baghdad would signal improved confidence in the local security situation, Gideons pointed out that the embassy could be reinforced again within hours if conditions change.

“It’s not like if we pull the Marines out of there, we’re leaving the embassy, and State Department personnel, alone and unafraid,” he said. “That’s an hour-and-a-half flight from [an undisclosed task force hub in the Middle East] to here.”

Decisions about how and when to redeploy contingents of several hundred Marines at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad will likely be made in spring 2018. In addition to security elements at each base sourced from the crisis response force, the Marines maintain smaller colonel-led advisory elements in each location: Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, and Task Force Lion at Al Asad.

Related: How the Marines ripped through the Iraqis in Operation Desert Storm

For the Marine Corps, the smallest and most junior in rank of the services, the cost of providing these senior advisory units is not insignificant.

“You all came from units, and nobody came to your unit and replaced you when you left,” Neller told the troops at Al Taqaddum. “I’m sure they’d love to get you back. I’m anxious to get you back too. But I also don’t want to do something that would be so risky that it would cause you to risk all the success you’ve gained.”

Decision-forcing point

In an interview with Military.com, Neller pointed to the Iraqi parliamentary elections as a possible decision-forcing point. Whether or not al-Abadi is re-elected, Iraqi leadership will then be best positioned to express what support they would like from the United States going forward.

“You’ve got two colonels … at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad, people slated to come in to replace both of them, what are they going to do?” Neller said. “So this happened pretty fast; so we’ll give everyone some time to figure it out.”

While Neller said the two elements represented a very senior capability for what has rapidly become a sustainment mission, he also expressed concern that a hasty decision based on ISIS’ apparent defeat could lead to instability.

“Right now, we’re sitting, kind of adjusting and let the situation kind of settle,” he said. “Because it’s not settled; It’s settling … the [ISIS] caliphate is technically gone, but there’s still other things moving.”

A new focus

For the Marines’ crisis response task force in the Middle East, which operates across a half-dozen countries, the turn the fight against ISIS has taken could mean an opportunity to focus majority efforts on non-combat operations for the first time in the unit’s history.

Created in late 2014 in the wake of the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the unit was designed to be a multi-purpose 911 force custom-built for the region.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war
(image via Marines)

The unit wasn’t built specifically for the fight against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. But it was tasked with supporting Operation Inherent Resolve immediately. For its entire existence, the anti-ISIS fight has been the unit’s central focus.

Gideons, the task force commander, said roughly 500 Marines from the task force continued to operate in Iraq and Syria in support of efforts to defeat ISIS as of late December.

“But we still have a responsibility, day in and day out, to be a theater-wide crisis response force,” he said. “So I think it’s this juncture of, ‘OK, we’ve got a lot of capability in the [task force], let’s support OIR.’ But OIR is drawing down, do we want to keep that there … or take those things that we pushed into Iraq and Syria, make [the unit] kind of whole again and ready to respond across the region?”

There’s no lack of regional hot spots to vie for the unit’s time. Regions that may present missions for the task force, Gideons suggested, include Afghanistan, where U.S. troops advise local forces battling ISIS and the Taliban; Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have attempted missile attacks on American ships; and the adjacent Bab el Mandeb strait, a key transit choke point between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.

“It’s an interesting crossroads,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of capability.”

Whether the unit will stay the same size in the transition process remains to be seen.

Read more: “Severe Clear” is the Iraqi War through the eyes of frontline Marines

Neller told Marines forward-deployed to Norway that he’d like to “pull back” from the Middle East slightly in favor of concentrating more manpower and resources on Russia and Europe.

The Marines’ 2,300-strong crisis response force, equipped with half a squadron each of MV-22 Ospreys and C-130 Hercules aircraft, is designed to be scalable, able to grow or shrink based on regional combatant commanders’ requirements.

But Gideons said he didn’t anticipate any change to the size of the unit in the near future.

“Just at my level, I think we’re probably about right; there’s an element of right-size,” he said.

Tasting victory

As senior leaders negotiate the way forward, Marines on the ground continue to ponder the implications of what they’ve accomplished.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Johnny Mendez, operations chief for Task Force Lion at Al Asad, is still marveling at how quickly and decisively the Iraqi troops he helped advise moved to defeat ISIS and reclaim their country.

Compared with what he observed during a deployment to Anbar province a decade ago in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mendez said he’d seen a transformation in the soldiers’ attitude, drive and determination to win.

“Ten years ago, we were doing operations; we were doing full support,” he said. “Now, it’s nice to see, from the backseat, that they’re actually taking pride in what they’re doing. It’s different.”

Related: These photos show Marines fighting ISIS from their new base in Iraq

The change had less to do, he said, with the Marines’ assistance than it did with an elemental struggle, driven by ISIS’ wanton destruction and disregard for human life and dignity.

“Honestly, it was just the fight between good and evil,” Mendez said. “I think it was the local population and the local people were done seeing so much bad being done. They took pride in, this is their country. I couldn’t put my finger on it [before], but that was it.”

Col. Damian Spooner, the commanding officer of Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, said he had observed a similar change.

During a Military.com visit to the base, Spooner said it had been more than a year since it had come under enemy fire, another indicator of how Iraqi troops, rather than Marines, were prosecuting the fight.

“Ten years ago, when we were here, I would have given anything to have the Iraqis doing the fighting, instead of Marines dying every day over here,” Spooner said. “And now, here we are, and the Iraqis are going out. I think what’s important about that is, they have earned this. They have liberated Iraq, they have defeated Daesh, and it gives me hope for the country that there’s something there that they have earned, and they’re not going to give it up easily. I think that’s very important.”

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Carreon, current operations officer for the crisis response task force, cautioned that the fight isn’t over, and that ISIS, denied control of major cities, would move underground and mount an insurgency campaign.

But even in the current lull following a declaration of victory, Carreon said emotions are mixed among deployed Marines.

“I think Marines want to kill bad guys, right?” he said. “So if you take that out of the equation, I don’t know how that makes us feel. Probably not happy.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

A UFC superstar choked out a US troop in a USO show

UFC superstar Paige VanZant appears to have choked out a US soldier on May 2, 2018 — but it was all in good fun.

VanZant, 24, was showing a crowd of soldiers at a USO event how to perform a rear naked chokehold before the soldier passed out and went limp, a new video from TMZ shows.


When VanZant let go, the soldier collapsed and was caught and dragged backwards by Max Holloway, another UFC fighter, as the crowd erupted in cheers.

Although dazed, the soldier then stood up and smiled. Hopefully he didn’t lose too many brain cells.

It’s unclear where the video was shot, but VanZant and Holloway were visiting bases in Spain, Afghanistan, Iraq, and South Korea this week as part of a USO tour. Watch the video below:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why no one uses water-cooled machine guns anymore

It was a common sight in World War I – the image of a machine gun spewing bullets from a barrel protruding from what looks like a giant canister. That canister is a healthy indication that the barrel of the machine gun in question is being cooled by water in the canister and that the water will soon be as hot as the barrel.


For the troops who wanted to continue using the machine guns to keep wave after wave of enemy troops in their own trenches and not coming into yours and sweeping you all out with shotguns, this was going to become very important, very fast.

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

“The Kaiser says this will not be a problem!” The Kaiser was wrong.

Water-cooled machine guns, as it turned out, required water to cool them. And the more you used them, the more they needed that water changed out. This may not have been terribly difficult during World War I, when movement along the front was restricted to just crossing no man’s land into the next series of trenches a hundred yards away. Unfortunately for everyone’s infantrymen, the water-cooled MG lived well past the Great War. So, the infantry were stuck hauling water for the guns, well into the Korean War.

But eventually, the guns were replaced with the less efficient but more manageable air-cooled guns. The problem with those was the barrels did not disburse heat quite as well as water-cooled weapons. So if a gunner isn’t shooting in bursts to prevent overheating, there is a chance the barrel could melt or become deformed during use. The solution? Interchangeable barrels. Watch U.S. troops do it:

That video is sixteen seconds long. So as efficient as water cooling those barrels really is, asking machine gunners to carry the weapon, its ammo, and tanks of water on a journey to Mordor is just not as effective as swapping out the actual problem: the barrel.