What you need to know about 1st SFAB's uniform update - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

The military and veteran community made their voices heard when it was announced in November that the newly established 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade would be wearing olive green berets similar to the rifle green of the Special Forces. To reaffirm what was said when it was proposed, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the Army Times that it is his responsibility, saying,


If anyone’s angry, take their anger out on me, not [the 1st SFAB].

While the 1st SFAB and Special Forces’ missions would overlap on tasks like Foreign Internal Defense and Security Force Assistance, changes have been made to the beret, the flash, and the unit insignia. The beret is now a “muddy brown” in reference to the moniker given to leaders who “get their boots muddy” with their troops.

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update
From one veteran to another, and you’re entitled to your own opinions, but don’t hate the troops that were assigned to the 1st SFAB. Gen. Milley can handle the backlash — the troops were just assigned to the unit. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The flash and unit insignia are in reference to the Military Assistance Command — Vietnam and the Military Assistance Advisory Group, predecessors to the 1st SFAB. One complaint surrounding the brigade’s uniform is the ‘Advisor’ tab. Clarification has been made that it is simply a unit tab and not a skill tab.

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update
Comparison of the 1st SFAB unit insignia with the MAC-V and MAAG-V.

On Feb. 8, 2018, the 1st SFAB held it’s activation ceremony at the National Infantry Museum and the heraldry has been made official. The SFAB’s mission is to stand ready to deploy in support of national security objective and to train, assist, advise, and accompany our allies. Their first deployment is already set for the coming spring to advise Afghan National Security Forces and the unique uniforms are meant to easily distinguish them from other American troops in the eyes of foreign troops.

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This VA hospital could have infected hundreds of vets with deadly diseases

A VA hospital in Wisconsin is under scrutiny for potentially exposing hundreds of veterans to blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV. The infections are being blamed on a dentist at the Tomah VA hospital.


What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update
Tomah VA Medical Center Building 400. (Photo from Tomah VA Flickr)

According to a report by WEAU.com, 592 veterans are in the process of being informed about the potential exposure, brought about by the re-use of equipment from October 2015 to October 2016. A substitute for the dentist’s regular assistant noted the unidentified dentist’s actions and reported him.

The dentist has since been re-assigned to an administrative position. VA regulations require that equipment not be re-used.

“It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations,” Victoria Brahm, the acting director of the medical center, told WEAU.com. “During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure.”

The Tomah VA hospital came under fire in the past for allegedly over-prescribing painkillers. The hospital is providing free medical screenings and will also provide free treatment of any infections. The VA Inspector General has been notified and will be investigating to determine if criminal charges should be filed.

“We have clear evidence that we are moving forward and the people that remain here are very vested and here for the mission of taking care of veterans,” Brahm told WEAU.com. “There are pockets of improvement that need to occur they still need to I’ll be honest, and we are aware of where they are and we are dealing with them as quickly as we can.”

This is not the first VA medical center to have issues. A VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona, used “separate waiting lists” to hide a backlog of cases, leading to at least 200 deaths. A VA center in Chicago reportedly had a cockroach infestation that was so bad, some of the bugs got into food intended for the patients.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why North Korea suddenly stopped its aggression

One of the highest-ever ranked defectors from North Korea said Feb. 14, 2018 that Kim Jong Un is now engaging in diplomacy with South Korea because he fears a US military strike on North Korea.


“Kim Jong Un is afraid that the US will launch a preventative strike, and he is trying to buy time to complete his nuclear and missile programs,” said Ri Jong Ho, Yonhap News Agency reported. Ri, who worked for three decades in the North Korean office responsible for raising funds for Kim, was speaking at a Wilson Center Forum in Washington.

Also read: South Korea’s special ops wants to kill Kim Jong Un with suicide drones

According to Ri, not only are President Donald Trump’s threats of military action having an effect on North Korea, the US’s diplomatic efforts to lock Pyongyang out of international trade have also started to bite.

“Kim Jong Un is struggling under the strongest-yet sanctions and military and diplomatic pressure, so he is trying to improve the situation by putting on a false front,” Ri said.

Ri, who defected in 2014, likely doesn’t know the current thinking in Pyongyang, but may have knowledge of the economic situation before the sanctions. Ri’s statements follow a handful of moves from the Trump administration that appeared to signal that they were on the verge of striking North Korea.

Related: South Koreans are not happy to be Olympic partners with the North

But Ri’s statements also conjured up one of the US’s worst fears in North Korea by suggesting that Kim did not legitimately want to pursue peace with South Korea, but rather that he wanted to use the ruse of diplomacy to buy time while he advances his nuclear program and continues to hold South Korean civilians at risk.

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update
(Photo from North Korean State Media)

“Depending on the circumstances, North Korea could hold South Koreans hostage and continue its threatening provocations,” Ri said.

Ri’s thinking seems to agree with US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, who recently assumed command of the US military’s Pacific and Asian theater of operation, PACOM.

Kim is “after reunification under a single communist system, so he is after what his grandfather failed to do and his father failed to do,” Harris said, in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.

Read more: How Kim Jong Un became one of the world’s scariest dictators

But Kim’s end game is irrelevant at the present. There’s evidence that a US-led sanctions campaign has begun to work against the Kim regime, and North Korea could be hurting economically. Moves in Trump’s inner circle seem to heavily suggest he’s considering responding to future North Korean provocations with force.

No president before Trump has coordinated as great an international sanctions regime on North Korea, and none have so seriously offered up use of military force as an option.

In response, Kim has made the unprecedented move of agreeing to meet with a foreign head of state for the first time, and abandoned talk of preconditions beforehand, which some see as a concession.

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The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

Experts have been warning for a while now that Al Qaeda is still very much a presence as a jihadist group, posing perhaps an even bigger long-term threat than ISIS.


And now, Al Qaeda is planning to challenge ISIS in its stronghold — Syria.

American and European officials told The New York Times recently that Al Qaeda has started moving veteran operatives to Syria as the group plans to escalate its fight with ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh), which operated under the Al Qaeda umbrella until the two groups split off and became rivals.

And though ISIS has been grabbing most headlines with its gruesome propaganda machine and bold proclamations about building a “caliphate” that will take over the world, Al Qaeda has been quietly focusing on its strategy to be the last group standing when the dust settles.

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update
Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters carry their weapons on the back of a pickup truck during the release of Lebanese soldiers and policemen in Arsal, eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. | YouTube

Al Qaeda is now “taking an opportunity off of what ISIS did” to make itself a main focus of the West’s fight against terror, Ali Soufan, the CEO of strategic-security firm The Soufan Group, said earlier this month at a national-security conference at Fordham University in New York.

“What ISIS did made so many people in the Muslim world think, ‘Al Qaeda are the good guys. ISIS are the bad guys,'” said Soufan, a former FBI special agent who has investigated high-profile terror cases.

“Even when you hear some people testifying on Capitol Hill that, ‘It’s OK. Let’s support al-Nusra or let’s support Ahrar al-Sham because they probably will fight ISIS’ — well al-Nusra is … an official affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria,” he continued, referencing the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is fighting ISIS for control of territory in Syria.

While ISIS has made a show of its excessive violence — through beheading videos and other propaganda distributed online in several languages — Al Qaeda has been more cautious. The group holds the same brutal ideology to which ISIS subscribes, but it’s been more patient with winning over the Syrian population.

“You can see Al Qaeda taking advantage thinking strategically,” Soufan said. “ISIS is not thinking strategically. ISIS is just doing crazy stuff, a lot of violence, trying to bring a lot of people in.”

And while ISIS has lured thousands to its territory with its violent advertising and declaration of the “caliphate,” or pseudo-state ruled by a strict interpretation of Islamic law, recent reports indicate that fighter defections within the group are increasing and the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS territory has slowed. On top of that, the group has been losing territory without gaining much new land.

“ISIS is becoming like a smoke screen. We’re all looking at ISIS all the time. ‘Oh, look, ISIS, they did a video, or they put out another thing of Dabiq,'” Soufan said, referring to the group’s English-language online propaganda magazine.

He added: “They are technically more advanced than Al Qaeda, but I think Al Qaeda is looking into the long term.”

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update
ISIS fighters in Syria | YouTube

Al Qaeda’s strategy seems to be predicated on waiting for Syrians to slowly come around to the idea of Islamic rule. That lowers the chance of a successful uprising if Jabhat al-Nusra is able to establish Syria as an Islamic “emirate” — land that would be controlled by the group and run under strict Islamic law, similar to ISIS’ so-called caliphate.

Charles Lister, a fellow at the Middle East Institute who has written a book on the insurgency in Syria, said at a recent event in Washington, DC, that Al Qaeda has sought to grow not just acceptance of its rule in Syria, but also support from the general population. He also assessed that Al Qaeda is playing a long game.

“This is an organization that has spent the last five years growing durable, deep roots in Syrian opposition and revolutionary society,” Lister said. “ISIS, on the other hand, has shallow roots. It hasn’t deigned to acquire popular support — it controls populations.”

Al Qaeda’s emirate might now come sooner rather than later — The Times reported that the Al Qaeda operatives being funneled into Syria have been told to start creating a headquarters in Syria and to lay the groundwork for establishing an emirate. The emirate would be in direct competition with ISIS.

Eric Schmitt wrote in The Times that Al Qaeda establishing an emirate in Syria would mark a “significant shift.” Al Qaeda has so far resisted declaring an emirate — it’s part of the group’s long-term strategy to avoid acting too hastily before leaders feel confident that fighters could hold the territory they seize.

Syrians on the ground seem to have been expecting this for a while.

Ahmad al-Soud, the commander and founder of the Syrian rebel group Division 13, told Business Insider earlier this year that “Nusra’s stated goal throughout all of Syria from when they first started until today is to turn Syria into an Islamic emirate.”

“They don’t want any other armed group in Syria except for them, and they want to turn it into kind of what Afghanistan was under the Taliban,” al-Soud said. “Once they … get rid of all the other groups, [Jabhat al-Nusra] can finally duke it out between them and ISIS for who’s the worst.”

Schmitt notes in The Times that “establishing a more enduring presence in Syria would present the group with an invaluable opportunity” because it would “not only be within closer striking distance of Europe but also benefit from the recruiting and logistical support of fighters from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.”

With the collapse of the ceasefire in Syria, the timing might be good for Al Qaeda to increase its presence there. The ceasefire — between the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebels who oppose his rule — never applied to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, but it allowed the Syrian government and its allies to focus its fire on jihadists rather than moderate rebels.

Additionally, the West seems to have focused mostly on hitting ISIS in Syria — US officials are emphasizing operations to drive ISIS out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq and deprive them of more territory.

The dysfunction in Syria provides the perfect vacuum for Al Qaeda to move in and exploit.

Soufan explained:

Al Qaeda’s position is, “Let’s create a lot of these vacuums where there is no strong government, and let’s operate under a different name.” Bin Laden actually, before he died, in his letters, he was telling Al Qaeda, “Do not use Al Qaeda’s name. I do not want anyone to use Al Qaeda’s name, because the moment you use Al Qaeda’s name, the West and the locals are going to come and they’re going to beat you up.”

Al Qaeda has done this in Syria with Jabhat al-Nusra, which is always referred to as such rather than simply “Al Qaeda.”

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Ecstasy to treat post traumatic stress? The FDA says MDMA research is a go

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update
Molly, the powdered form of MDMA, was a popular street drug in the 80s and 90s. Soon, it could be used to treat PTSD. Photo credit Tanjila Ahmed


The Food and Drug Administration has approved a large-scale clinical trial of MDMA to explore the possibility of using it to treat PTSD according to The New York Times.

MDMA is more commonly referred to as Ecstasy, E, X, or Molly, a street drug that gained popularity between its introduction in the 70s and its subsequent ban in 1985 as a party drug. In 1985, the Drug Enforcement Agency classified Ecstasy as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal in any capacity.

Chemist Alexander Shulgin, a WWII Navy veteran, was the first to notice the “euphoria-inducing traits” and originally intended MDMA to be a drug which might treat anxiety, among other emotional issues.

His dream was cut short during the height of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, and he died in 2014 before that dream became reality.

Charles R. Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine, has spent much of his career focused on PTSD. While not directly involved in the small scale studies leading up to the FDA’s approval of the new study, Marmar is “cautious but hopeful,” according to The New York Times.

“If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use,” Marmar told The New York Times. However, Marmar noted that MDMA is a “feel good drug” and prone to abuse.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a non-profit founded in 1986 to explore the medicinal and societal value of psychedelic drugs and marijuana, funded the six small-scale studies that lead to the approval by the FDA.

According to a report in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, subjects in the small-scale studies had previously been unresponsive to traditional therapy. They participated in psychotherapy sessions; during two to three of those sessions, they were given Ecstasy.

The studies treated a total of 130 PTSD patients, most of whom could no longer be classified as meeting the “criteria for having PTSD.”

According to The New York Times, the researchers involved in the study have applied for “breakthrough therapy status” with the FDA.

If the FDA approves that request, and the studies continue to show similar results, Ecstasy could be a viable treatment for veterans with PTSD by 2021.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA is giving its $1 billion Jupiter mission a critical new lease on life

For the past two years, NASA’s Juno probe has studied planet Jupiter like no spacecraft before it.

The $1 billion mission has peeled back the giant planet’s thick cloud layers, searched for an elusive core, and returned dazzling images of colossal storms and chaotic cloud bands.

But all good things must come to an end, and Juno is no exception.


NASA planned to destroy the tennis-court-size robot by plunging it into Jupiter’s clouds sometime after July 2018. The rationale is similar to the Cassini probe’s recent demise: Jupiter’s icy moon Europa may be habitable to alien life, so carefully and deliberately ending the mission would prevent Juno from accidentally crashing into that moon. This would keep Europa’s ocean — which may have twice as much water as exists on Earth — from getting contaminated by any earthly microbes stuck to Juno.

However, the probe’s fiery end is now pushed back by at least three years to July 2021, according to NASA sources. Scientific work on the mission will continue through September 2022.

The extension is critical to one of Juno’s primary objectives. The probe has been mapping Jupiter as it orbits the gas giant with infrequent close passes called perijoves. Juno builds this map slice-by-slice using a suite of different instruments, including ones that record data about Jupiter’s gravitational field.

But due to lingering trouble with Juno’s propulsion system, by July 2018, the team will have completed only 14 of the 32 perijoves that it needs to finish mapping Jupiter.

Why Juno needs an extension to finish mapping Jupiter

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update
Au00a0diagram of Jupiter’s orbits.
(Scott Bolton / Southwest Research Institute)

Spending too much time in Jupiter’s powerful radiation field can damage sensitive electronics. As a result, Juno orbits the planet on a highly elliptical path that keeps the probe mostly out of harm’s way, yet regularly zooms it over the cloud tops for detailed observations.

When Juno arrived in July 2016, mission managers had the spacecraft orbit Jupiter once every 53.5 days. In October 2016, they planned to fire up the probe’s engines and speed Juno’s orbits to once every 14 days — until the team discovered some sticky valves in the engine’s plumbing. NASA ultimately decided to play it safe and not risk using the engines, delaying Juno’s mapping pace nearly four-fold.

“During a thorough review, we looked at multiple scenarios that would place Juno in a shorter-period orbit, but there was concern that another main engine burn could result in a less-than-desirable orbit,” Rick Nybakken, Juno’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a 2017 press release. “The bottom line is a burn represented a risk to completion of Juno’s science objectives.”

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update
A map of Jupiter made by merging partial Juno and Cassini spacecraft imaging data.
(Björn Jónsson)

One representative told Business Insider that the agency hasn’t “put anything out yet about that” when asked about the extension.

“NASA is close to being able to announce a decision on the possibility of continuing the Juno mission at Jupiter,” another representative said in an emailed statement. (NASA declined to provide additional information.)

Extending Juno’s flight will help the probe finish mapping Jupiter — a project that primarily focuses on the planet’s gravitational field. That data may reveal what is going on deep inside the giant yet mysterious world.

“It is very exciting for us to be able to complete the mission pretty much as it was originally proposed, except with longer orbits,” Frederic Allegrini, a staff scientist at Southwest Research Institute who works on the Juno mission, told Business Insider.

If Juno stays operational and productive over the next few years, NASA might again decide to keep flying the probe around Jupiter beyond July 2021.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Marines take the Humvee’s replacement out for a spin

Multiple units on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton have started to introduce the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to their Marines by teaching them the basic operations of one of the Marine Corps’ newest ground vehicles.

“The JLTV is a lot more capable than the Humvee,” said Mario Marin, the JLTV lead instructor with the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course. “The ability for the driver to actually manipulate the system itself, using what’s called a MUX panel, a multi-plex panel, or the driver smart display. The driver has, at his finger tip, a lot of control of the vehicle. It has a lot of technological advances that the Humvee does not, and that is just your basic JLTV.”


The JLTV is meant to replace the Humvee all across the Department of Defense. The JLTV is equipped with more highly evolved technology compared to the basic equipment of a Humvee.

The JLTV is mechanically reliable, maintainable with on-board diagnostics, all terrain mobile, and equipped to link into current and future tactical data nets.

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

US Marine Lance Cpl. Xavier Puente, a mortarman with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, listens to an instructor during the I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

US Marines familiarize themselves with the inside of a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle during the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

US Marines take notes in a class during the I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

US Marine Pfc. Nailey Riviere, a motor vehicle operator with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, loosens a bolt on the wheel of a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle during the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

US Marines conduct cone skill drills during the I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

US Marines conduct cone skill drills during the I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

US Marines drive Joint Light Tactical Vehicles at White Beach as part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 24, 2019.

(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

US Marines drive a Joint Light Tactical Vehicles through the water at White Beach as part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 24, 2019.

(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

A US Marine parks a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle at White Beach as part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, October 24, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

“This license is better than any other license that I’ve had,” said Cpl. Devonte Jacobs, a motor vehicle operator with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. “This vehicle is capable of doing a lot more than any other vehicle, and it will help Marines become better.”

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

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Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Learning to snowshoe, ski and stay warm in the cold might sound like a fun hobby.


But for Soldiers at the Cold Weather Leaders Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center here, learning these things can mean the difference between a failed or successful mission and it could also be the difference between life and death.

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update
Students pull the ahkio during a night movement during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Tanner, an instructor at the NWTC, was deployed twice to Afghanistan, once from 2007 to 2009 and another time from 2014 to 2015.

During one of those tours, he said, he recalls being over 9,000 feet in the mountainous terrain of the eastern part of the country during a heavy snowfall, with snow drifts up to 12 feet tall.

“The snow stopped us dead in our tracks,” he said. “We were trying to remove snow from equipment with our e-tools.”

During a Black Hawk resupply mission, the helicopter had no place to land so it hovered above the snow while the crew chief jumped out, post-holing himself in the snow shoulder high. Post-holing is a term for sinking into the snow waist or chest high when not wearing skis or snowshoes. The crew chief had to grab the struts of the helicopter to be pulled out, Tanner recalled.

No one had skis or snowshoes and “we couldn’t do our jobs.”

Tanner and the other instructors at NWTC say they are professionally and personally invested in ensuring those kinds of situations never happen to Soldiers again.

Sgt. Sarah Valentine, a medic and an instructor, said most Soldiers that come to the school don’t know how to snowshoe, ski or survive in the cold. Instruction begins with baby steps.

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update
Students cross-country ski during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

First, they learn how to wear their cold weather clothing, she said. Then they learn to walk with snowshoes. A little later they learn to walk on snowshoes carrying a rucksack, and finally, they learn to tow an ahkio, or sled, carrying 200 pounds of tents, heaters, fuel, food and other items.

Next, they advance to skis, learning how to walk uphill, how to turn and stop going downhill, and then how to carry a rifle and rucksack going cross-country.

Staff Sgt. Jason Huffman, a student, said that besides enduring the cold, pulling the ahkio was the most challenging aspect of the school.

For that portion of the training, four of about 10 Soldiers are harnessed to the sled like sled dogs. Huffman said going on level terrain is easy, but most of the terrain near the school isn’t level and it is challenging to pull the ahkio uphill, especially from a dead stop.

Going downhill, the challenge is holding the ahkio back so it doesn’t get away, he said. When the students get tired, they are replaced by other students in the squad, who in turn rotate back out once they’re tired.

Spc. Tamyva Graffree, a student from Newton, Mississippi, said pulling the ahkio uphill was the most challenging part of the course. Of going downhill, she said it would have been nice to pile on and ride it down.

Staff Sgt. Manuel Beza, an instructor and medic here, said the students are not allowed to ride the ahkio downhill. “It will definitely go fast. But if they did that, it would be a bad day. The ahkio has no brakes and no way to steer.”

Beza said he sympathizes with the students’ pain. While the ahkio can be handled almost effortlessly over level terrain, going even 500 feet uphill can tire Soldiers out.

But when roads are nonexistent and vehicles break down from the cold, ahkios give the Soldiers the option to move out with their gear, he said.

Once students demonstrate competence on snowshoes, they are given a set of “White Rocket” skis, which can be used in both downhill as well as cross-country skiing.

The difference between a dedicated downhill or Nordic ski and the White Rocket ski is that the heel in the White Rocket isn’t locked into the ski binding so the foot can move similar to walking, said Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor.

A Soldier can learn to use snowshoes in two hours, but about 40 hours is allotted for ski training at the school.

Because training time is limited, Soldiers learn just the basics, Bruner said. For instance, they learn to stop and turn going downhill using a wedge movement instead of a more advanced technique like turning or stopping with skis parallel.

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update
Students cross-country ski during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

A wedge consists of bringing the toes of the skis together and the heels of the skis out and carving into the snow on the inner edges of the skis by rotating the ankles inboard.

Skipping the fancy art of parallel skiing cuts down on injuries as well, he said, because there’s less chance of them crossing.

Going uphill involves side-stepping or walking up in herringbone fashion, which is the opposite of the wedge, with toes of the skis outboard, heels in.

To assist with uphill climbing, Soldiers apply special wax to the bottom of their skis.

Sgt. Dustin Danielson, a student, explained that the wax goes on just the middle third of the ski where the person’s weight is. He made hatch marks with the wax on his skis and then took a piece of cork to spread it evenly all around.

After skiing just a few kilometers, the wax tends to come off and more has to be applied, he said.

Sgt. Jessica Bartolotta, a student, said they were not given wax on the first day. On the second day of training, students were allowed to wax their skis. The point, she said, was to illustrate just how important the wax is in providing friction to grip the snow going uphill. She said the wax had no noticeable effect on slowing the skis going downhill.

Another thing the instructor did early on during the first day of ski training was to observe how well the Soldiers were skiing and to break them up into three groups of skill levels so the slow learners wouldn’t hold back the more natural skiers, she said.

Bartolotta said skiing was her favorite part of the course and she plans to take it up as a hobby.

Sgt. Chris Miller, a student from Little Rock, Arkansas, said this was his first time skiing and he fell a lot. “I’m a big guy and it’s hard to keep my balance.”

Miller measured his progress by the number of falls. The first day he said he fell 12 times and just once after three days. He said he’s still trying to perfect the art of stopping using the wedge.

Sgt. Shamere Randolph, another student, said he fell a bunch of times as well, but prefers skis to snowshoes because it’s much faster to get from point A to point B.

Sgt. Bruno Freitas, a student, said that his skis were difficult to use on the last day of training when the temperature rose and the snow turned to slush. In below freezing conditions, the skis work much better than they do in slush, he said.

About four years ago, the Army decided to do away with ski training at the NWTC, said Steven Decker, a training specialist. He said he’s not sure why the decision was made, but said he’s glad that skiing was reintroduced this year.

Canadians and Japanese go everywhere on skis, he said. They find it very relevant to mobility. In fact, “when the Japanese attend the course here, they can ski circles around us.”

The downside to skiing, he said, is that it takes a while to learn. For an entire platoon or company to move out on skis, it might take an entire winter and a lot of training time dedicated to making that happen.

But he and the other instructors all agreed that learning to ski is worth the time and effort.

Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor, said snowshoes are “loud, slow and clunky” to use compared to skis and that skis provide better floatation over the snow. “Skis are a million times better once you get the technique down.”

Staff Sgt. Jack Stacy, an instructor, said when he first arrived at NWTC, he went out into the terrain in a vehicle that broke down. He didn’t have skis or snowshoes with him and ended up having to walk back to headquarters, “post-holing” it back all the way.

“It was the most miserable time I’ve ever had here,” Stacy said. “I’ve always made sure my skis or snowshoes are handy ever since.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA prevents a Yemeni cholera outbreak from space

For the first time ever, measurements from NASA Earth-observing research satellites are being used to help combat a potential outbreak of life-threatening cholera. Humanitarian teams in Yemen are targeting areas identified by a NASA-supported project that precisely forecasts high-risk regions based on environmental conditions observed from space.

“By joining up international expertise with those working on the ground, we have for the very first time used these sophisticated predictions to help save lives and prevent needless suffering for thousands of Yemenis,” said Charlotte Watts, chief scientist with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.


Cholera is a disease caused by consuming food or water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae. The disease affects millions of people every year, resulting in severe diarrhea and even death. It remains a major threat to global health, especially in developing countries, such as Yemen, where access to clean water is limited.

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Starting this spring, the British government and international aid groups in Yemen began using these new cholera forecasts to target their work in reducing cholera risk. That work includes promoting good hygiene to prevent the spread of the water-borne disease and distributing hygiene and cholera treatment kits. The results to date suggest the forecast model has the potential to fundamentally change how the international community addresses cholera.

The research on forecasting cholera outbreaks funded by NASA’s Applied Sciences Program is being led by hydrologist and civil engineer Antar Jutla at West Virginia University, Morgantown, along with Rita Colwell and Anwar Huq, microbiologists from the University of Maryland, College Park.

The NASA forecast tool divides the entire country of Yemen into regions about the size of a typical U.S. county, and predicts the risk of cholera outbreaks in each region. To calculate the likelihood of an outbreak, the science team runs a computer model that combines satellite observations of environmental conditions that affect the cholera bacteria with information on sanitation and clean water infrastructure.

The forecast tool analyzes a variety of NASA satellite observations, including precipitation data from the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, air and ocean temperatures from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, as well as measurements of phytoplankton concentrations in nearby coastal ocean areas.

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The predicted cholera risk based on analysis and satellite data in Yemen, June 2017. Blue color indicates low risk of cholera while red color indicates high risk of cholera.

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The actual number of cholera cases in June 2017. The red area represent reported cholera cases.

In 2017, the model achieved 92 percent accuracy in predicting the regions where cholera was most likely to occur and spread in Yemen that year, even identifying inland areas that are not usually susceptible to the disease but suffered outbreaks. The Yemen cholera outbreak was the world’s worst in 2017, with more than 1.1 million suspected cases and more than 2,300 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

“The model has done an excellent job in Yemen detecting triggers of cholera outbreaks,” said Jutla, “but there is still a lot of work we need to do to have this forecast model give accurate predictions everywhere.”

International humanitarian organizations took notice. This January, Fergus McBean, a humanitarian adviser with the U.K.’s Department for International Development, read an article about the NASA-funded team’s 2017 results and contacted them with an ambitious challenge: to create and implement a cholera forecasting system for Yemen, in only four months.

“It was a race against the start of rainy season,” McBean said.

The U.S. researchers began working with U.K. Aid, the U.K. Met Office, and UNICEF on the innovative approach to using the model to inform cholera risk reduction in Yemen.

In March, one month ahead of the rainy season, the U.K. international development office began using the model’s forecasts. Early results show the science team’s model predictions, coupled with Met Office weather forecasts, are helping UNICEF and other aid groups target their response to where support is needed most.

“This ground-breaking initiative is a testament to the importance of interdisciplinary and multi-agency efforts to improve disease preparedness and response,” said John Haynes, program manager for health and air quality applications in NASA’s Earth Science Division, at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

McBean believes in this new approach. “We are confident acting on the model’s predictions this year. We know that acting early is a more effective way of operating and is likely to result in a much better outcome for people.”

Colwell, who compared the 2017 Yemen results to passing the first stage of a three-stage drug trial and discovering the drug is saving the lives of a particular type of patient, said that the science team’s next step is to create global risk maps for cholera. In the same way meteorologists issue severe storms warnings, these risk maps and forecasts would allow people to prepare for and prevent outbreaks.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to understand and explore our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. Earth observations and information made possible by NASA form the foundation for critical environmental planning and decisions by people all over the world. The agency makes its Earth observations freely and openly available to those seeking solutions to important global issues.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/earth

Featured image: The United Nations Children’s Fund, with support from U.K. Aid, distributes clean water and information about cholera to prevent outbreaks of the disease in Yemen. Humanitarian teams in Yemen are targeting areas identified by a NASA-supported project that precisely forecasts high-risk regions based on environmental conditions observed from space.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

Articles

8 of the coolest military technology advances from 2016

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


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

1. Carbon Nanomaterials

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

2. Russia Gets Its LCS Right

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

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

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

3. New Round for Snipers?

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

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

4. No More “Feeling the Burn”

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

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

5. The Speeder Bike becomes a reality

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(Photo from Malloy Aerospace)

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

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

6. A Bird of Prey that hunts subs

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

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

7. Russia’s Killer Robot

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

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

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

8. Bigger guns on Stryker and JLTV

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

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

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain is no longer a ‘tier one’ military power

Theresa May asked Britain’s defence secretary to justify the UK’s role as a “tier one” military power, causing dismay in the Ministry of Defence. Underlying the statement is a realisation that the UK can no longer economically compete with top powers, defence experts told Business Insider.

“It’s a reflection of our economic status — times are tough,” said Tim Ripley, a defence analyst, adding: “It’s all about money… if you don’t have money you can’t spend it.”

The Prime Minister questioned defence secretary Gavin Williamson on whether money for the military should be reallocated to areas like cyber, and if Britain needed to maintain a Navy, Army, Air Force and nuclear deterrent all at once.


Ripley called it a retreat from “grand ambitions.”


“No matter how we dress it up, this new fangled cyber stuff is just an excuse for running away from funding hard power,” Ripley said. “If you don’t pony up the money and the hard power you don’t get a seat at the top table. No matter how flash your cyber warfare is, people take notice of ships, tanks and planes.”

There is a strong correlation between military power and economic status. The major powers including the US, China and Russia all demonstrate their strength through military posturing, and countries that don’t have enough resources for defence often pool with others.

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Portrait of British Prime Minister Theresa May

Dr Jan Honig, a senior lecturer in war studies at King’s College London, said that shared defence can be disrupted in times of nationalism, and called it “highly ironic” that Brexit could mean the UK can longer fund its military.

“You can’t really do it by yourself even if you spent a lot more on defence which is not going to happen in this country with this measly economic growth and the uncertainty about international trade details,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s comments, which were first reported by the Financial Times, come in the context of her recent pledge of a fresh £20 billion for the National Health Service (NHS) and debate about where the money will come from.

“You do want to ensure that government policy has support from the people, so to say we’re going to pour a lot of money into defense just in case something happens … is a far more difficult thing to sell than funding the NHS and social care, welfare that is an immediate issue,” said Honig, adding that populations are also more switched on to the horrors of war.

But Julian Lewis, Chair of the UK’s defence committee told Business Insider that he’s now concerned about whether May will be able to properly fund the military after the NHS pledge.

“I am not won over … by this jargon of calling it a ‘tier one’ military power… What I’m much more concerned about is whether Theresa May will be able to give defence the money it needs,” he said, citing a “whole” of over £4.2 billion in the defence budget.

May’s comments will not lead to definitive action to pair down the military, but are a clear sign of the direction of travel said Ripley.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

WhatsApp message claiming the Queen died spread by confused Navy staffer

The viral WhatsApp message that claimed Queen Elizabeth II had died was started by a Royal Navy staff member who confused a practice drill for the real thing.

The false news spread across social media last Sunday, garnering thousands of tweets and Facebook posts, and spawning several hashtags.

The cause of the false alarm was a misunderstanding by someone at Royal Navy Air Station Yeovilton, Portsmouth News reported.


Naval personnel were practicing “Operation London Bridge” — the codename for the procedure for when the Queen dies — when one person thought it was happening for real and passed the message onto those outside the base, the paper said.

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The WhatsApp message that spread across social media on Sunday announcing the Queen’s death.

(Twitter/tylerslullaby)

The sourcing attached to the initial viral WhatsApp message was “from a guards reg WhatsApp group,” referring to a regiment in the British Army’s Guards Division.

“Queens passed away this morning, heart attack, being announced 930 Am tomorrow, channel dash 0800 tomorrow in full numbers 1s,” it said, referring to the Navy’s ceremonial uniform by its colloquial name of “number 1s.”

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson debunked the news, speaking to British media on Monday, calling it “business as usual.”

The Queen welcomed NATO leaders at a reception at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday night, looking sanguine and very much alive.

Queen Elizabeth hosts NATO world leaders at Buckingham Palace

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Citing the Royal Navy, the Portsmouth News, said the incident was a “genuine mistake” and that “no malice” was intended.

The Royal Navy later said in a formal statement: “We can confirm an internal exercise took place at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in line with established contingency plans for recall of personnel.”

“These exercises are conducted on a regular basis and no significance should be drawn from the timing of the exercise.”

“While the exercise was conducted properly, we regret any misunderstanding this may have caused.”

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

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DARPA tested an awesome plan to find dirty bombs

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency held a massive scavenger hunt in the nation’s capitol to collect data on how to find dirty nuclear bombs planted by terrorists.


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Photo: YouTube/DARPA

Participants in the scavenger hunt, mostly ROTC cadets and midshipmen from the nearby Naval Academy, were playing a game to find a geneticist who was “mysteriously abducted.” But they carried cell-phone sized sensors that sniffed out radioactive material as they moved around the city for hours, allowing DARPA to test the ability of the sensors to search for a covert nuke.

The sensors, part of DARPA’s SIGMA program, are low-cost gamma and neutron radiation sniffers that are networked with smartphones so they can relay information to a central point.

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Photo: YouTube/DARPA

Before this scavenger hunt, DARPA had only tested up to 100 sensors at a time. But the network of sensors is supposed to provide coverage of entire cities or regions, allowing law enforcement to search for and find stolen or smuggled nuclear material before it can be used in a weapon.

In a real attack, police would need to scan vast areas using hundreds or more sensors. So, the Nov. 10 test featured 1,000 sensors feeding their information into the program’s software.

The scavenger hunt scenario was developed to keep the cadets and midshipmen engaged as they carried the devices around Washington, D.C., for hours. Even larger tests are planned for 2017 and DARPA partners hope to push the final version of SIGMA to local, state, and federal police in 2018.

Dirty bombs are conventional explosives with nuclear material mixed in or layered on top of the main charge. The nuclear material does not significantly add to the total blast force of the weapon, but it is spread over a large area to frighten residents and to force a costly and time-consuming cleanup process.

Dirty bombs are easier to make than standard nuclear devices, and the government has worked to prevent a dirty bomb terrorist attack for years.

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