It’s an inescapable reality that in big institutions, people will sometimes overlook memos and misplace equipment.
But that’s cold comfort to the U.S. Army, which is struggling to select a new handgun while also dealing with the fallout from its last, controversial pistol choice.
That’s right — overlooked memos and misplaced equipment.
In August 2015, the ground combat branch inspected its Beretta M-9 pistols to make sure the guns had key safety fixes. The Army was supposed to have finished upgrading all the guns … more than two decades ago.
“During a training exercise, a soldier was injured when a slide failure resulted in the rear portion of the slide separating from the receiver and struck him in the face,” an official warning explained.
“‘WARNING’: DEATH OR SERIOUS INJURY TO SOLDIERS, OR DAMAGE TO ARMY EQUIPMENT WILL OCCUR IF THE INSTRUCTIONS IN THIS MESSAGE ARE NOT FOLLOWED.”
War Is Boring obtained the startling message via the Freedom of Information Act. Censors inked out the number of guns the Army believed were missing the updates, including a number of weapons in “SWA.”
This is a common Pentagon acronym for the Southwest Asia region, which includes Iraq. The warning applied to all M-9s in the inventory of the Army, its sister branches and Special Operations Command.
The redacted portion of the document suggests the total could be as high as six figures. Since Beretta delivered around 160,000 pistols to the military before adding the modifications at the factory, the Army may simply have ordered troops to check every one of the old weapons still in service.
Issues with the Beretta’s slide are hardly new. The broken parts were a key part of the controversy surrounding the Army’s first decision to buy the Italian-made guns more than three decades ago.
Between 1985 and 1988, the Army and Navy documented no fewer than 14 incidents where the slide failed. In four cases, the shooter suffered an injury.
“What is of particular concern is the safety hazard encountered when failure does occur,” the Government Accountability Office explained in a 1988 report. “Injuries resulting from four slide failures included face lacerations requiring stitches, a broken tooth and a chest bruise.”
The GAO had already forced the Army to hold a new competition after complaints of collusion in the original testing. Ultimately, the Beretta won out again and became the standard handgun across the U.S. armed forces.
With the winner settled for good, the Army issued an order to modify all the existing pistols with a set of safety features. The modification kit included a new slide, a reinforced hammer pin and and a left grip panel.
The Army reportedly concluded that brittle metal in the original slides was the source of the gun’s failures. However, Beretta and its allies implied that the military’s overly-powerful ammunition was actually at the root of the problems.
Whatever the cause, in March 1989 troops began installing the new parts on around 160,000 potentially defective pistols. On June 30, 1993, the Army declared that all the guns complied with the so-called “modification work order,” or MWO.
Or so it apparently thought.
“Recently, a soldier found out the hard way that the MWO hadn’t been applied to all M-9s when a slide broke and hit him in the face,” was how the Army’s P.S. Magazine described the matter on Facebook on Oct. 28, 2015. ” All armorers need to immediately check their M-9s.”
Billed as “the preventive maintenance monthly,” the magazine in question publishes notices and tips on defects, recalls, common problems and other issues for troops. In continuous publication since June 1951, each issue features comic book-style art to help these important message stick.
“Are you kidding me?!” an anthropomorphized pistol asks the shooter in a version of the message in the January 2016 edition. “That MWO was supposed to be done 20 years ago!”
The issue is so old that the order isn’t even available online — and the Army doesn’t have any modification kits on hand. Anyone who finds a problematic gun is supposed to send it back by registered mail to the Defense Logistics Agency. We don’t know what will happen to the guns after they go back to the warehouse.
All of this comes at at time when the Army finds itself embroiled in another controversial attempt to buy new pistols. Eight years ago, the services canceled their previous handgun projects.
Around the same time the slide flew off the old Beretta, the ground combat branch asked pistol-makers to offer up new options. If this program goes according to plan, troops should start getting their new weapons sometime around 2018.
Under the proposal, the Army will buy no fewer than 280,000 guns for itself. Other services would have the option of signing up to get their hands on another 212,000 pistols.
With the previous experience of the Beretta decision, the Army itselfquestioned how realistic this timeline might be when it explained the need to buy Glock pistolsnow for commandos and allied troops in 2015. The contract document pointed out that the service had already spent two years trying to get its latest project off the ground.
“We’re not figuring out the next lunar landing. This is a pistol,” the Army’s chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley told a gathering at New America’s Future of War Conference on March 10. “Two years to test? At $17 million?”
“You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million,” the Army’s top officer added, referring to the Nebraska-based outdoor goods chain, which sells firearms.
But Milley’s obvious frustration notwithstanding, the Army knows full well how complicated the project might turn out to be due to budgets, politics, competing priorities and the sheer size of the American military. Replacing hundreds of thousands of pistols is no easy task.
In February 2015, the Army also formally rejected Beretta’s offer to update the existing pistols. The Italian company’s American branch subsequently decided to sell these M9A3 guns on the commercial market.
It took seven years for the Army to settle on the M-9, more than a decade for everyone to get them and about as long to get important fixes installed — and people are still getting hit in the face by faulty slides.
Snow falls on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 10, 2017. As winter slowly approaches, frost will begin to appear on windshields, and drivers may be cited for ice or snow on car roofs, windows, or hoods, and may even be denied access to the base. Drivers are expected to properly clear all frost and ice from windows and lights before driving, and to exercise responsible driving. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Savannah L. Waters).
On January 13, 2018, a ballistic missile alert went out across televisions, radios, and cellphones in the state of Hawaii. The message went out at 0807 local time and civil defense outdoor warning sirens went off across the islands. However, the alert turned out to be an accident. On December 12, 2020, Ramstein Air Base had a similar alert.
Ramstein Air Base personnel were alerted to a real world inbound missile strike and received an Alarm Red MOPP 4 notification. “Take immediate action!” The alert read. “For further information refer to Airman’s manual.” While the alert certainly put a lot of people in the Kaiserslautern Military Community on edge, the “All Clear” was issued two minutes later. It is unknown what triggered the warning system’s mass alert. However, the alert was later attributed to an exercise.
“Attention Team Ramstein, today, the Ramstein Air Base Command Post was notified via an alert notification system of a real-world missile launch in the European theater. The Command Post followed proper procedure and provided timely and accurate notifications to personnel in the Kaiserslautern Military Community. The missile launch was then assessed to be part of a training exercise and not a threat to the KMC area. The situation is all clear. We’d like to thank our Command Post members for their quick response to ensure our people stay informed so they can take the proper safety precautions.”
Despite the all clear and the message from the Command Post, personnel in the KMC area remain on edge. “That’s not the kind of thing you joke about,” one anonymous service member told WATM. “Hasn’t 2020 been hard enough?” Neither USEUCOM nor Ramstein Air Base have released an official statement regarding the incident.
The erroneous 2018 Hawaii missile alert was corrected 38 minutes after it went out. Following the incident, the FCC and Hawaii House of Representatives conducted investigations into the cause of the event. These resulted in the resignation of the state’s emergency management administrator. Whether or not the alert at Ramstein was a training exercise, the reaction of the KMC community was very real.
The US Army has opened an investigation into allegations that some active-duty soldiers may be involved in the online sharing of nude photos of their colleagues, Business Insider has learned.
The inquiry by the US Army’s computer crime investigative unit comes one day after Business Insider reported that the scandal initially believed to be limited to the Marine Corps actually impacts every branch of service.
The report revealed a public message board where purported male service members from all military branches, including service academies, were allegedly cyber-stalking and sharing nude photos of their female colleagues.
Special agents from US Army’s criminal investigation command “are currently assessing information and photographs on a civilian website that appear to include US Army personnel,” Col. Patrick Seiber, a spokesman for the Army, told Business Insider. “They are currently assisting to determine if a criminal offense has occurred.”
Seiber said there was no evidence at this point suggesting the site was related to the “Marines United” Facebook page. That page, which was reported on by journalist Thomas Brennan, had some 30,000 members that were found to be sharing nude photos of female Marines.
“Army CID is speaking with [the Naval Criminal Investigative Service] and US Air Force Office of Special Investigation to ensure all investigative efforts are fully coordinated,” Seiber said.
According to the Business Insider report, members on a website called AnonIB often posted photos — seemingly stolen from female service members’ Instagram accounts — before asking others if they had nude pictures of the victim.
The site features a dedicated board for military personnel with dozens of threaded conversations among men, many of whom asked for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or where they are stationed.
In a thread dedicated to the US Military Academy at West Point, some users who appeared to be Army cadets shared photos and graduation years of their female classmates.
“What about the basketball locker room pics, I know someone has those,” one user said, apparently referring to photos taken surreptitiously in a women’s locker room. “I always wondered whether those made it out of the academy computer system,” another user responded.
A Pentagon spokesman condemned such behavior as “inconsistent with our values” on Thursday, and Defense Secretary issued a statement Friday calling it “unacceptable and counter to unit cohesion.”
The existence of a site dedicated solely to sharing nude photographs of female service members is another black mark for the Pentagon, which has been criticized in the past for failing to deal with rampant sexual harassment and abuse within the ranks.
Operation Desert Storm kicked off 24 years ago on Jan. 17, 1991.
The Gulf War officially lasted from August 2, 1990 to February 28, 1991. It consisted of two phases; Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Desert Shield was the codename used for the part leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Desert Storm was the combat phase by the coalition forces against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
15,000 Western civilians – including 3,000 Americans – living in Kuwait were rounded up and taken to Baghdad as hostages. In this YouTube screen capture, 5-year-old Briton, Stuart Lockwood refuses Saddam Hussein’s invitation to sit on his knee … Awkward.
700,000 American troops were deployed to the war; that’s more than 2015’s entire population of Nashville, TN.
Desert Storm was the largest military alliance since World War II; 34 nations led by the United States waged war in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
American troops prepared for every scenario since Iraq was known for employing chemical weapons in the past.
Untested in combat, Desert Storm would be the first time the M1 Abrams tank saw action; 1,848 of them were deployed to the war.
The Iraqi Army used T-55, T-62, and T-72 tanks imported from the Soviet Union and Poland.
But they were no match for U.S. forces.
More than 1,000 military aircraft were deployed to the Gulf War.
One of the key players in Desert Storm was the stealthy F-117 Nighthawk.
Coalition forces flew over 100,000 sorties and dropped more than 88,500 tons of bombs.
You can’t hit what you can’t see. Iraq’s anti-aircraft guns were useless against the F-117.
Here’s the aftermath of a coalition attack along a road in the Euphrates River Valley…
Iran’s malignant influence is the most significant threat to Middle East security, according to the top U.S. general in the region.
The Middle East remains a highly unstable region, ripe for continued conflict, Army Gen. Joseph Votel warned the Senate Committee on Armed Services Thursday. Of the multitude of challenges in the region, Iran is the primary concern in the long term, according to the general.
“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” said Votel. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”
He added that Iran’s support of the Assad regime in Syria and exploitation of Shia Muslim population centers are parts of its “malign influence.”
Votel’s assessment comes after a significant increase in Iranian provocation in the Middle East over the last several months. Iranian naval vessels harass U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf using boat swarm tactics and the regime in Tehran continues its fiery rhetoric against the U.S. and its allies.
Iran has also continued to support various proxy groups across the Middle East, including the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, which is actively engaged against the U.S. and Saudi-supported government. The Popular Mobilization Units, a conglomerate of mostly Shia militia units backed by Iran, continue to play a major role in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, allowing Iran to continue to entrench itself in the Iraqi government.
“Since Iran cannot strike the U.S. homeland conventionally the way the United States can strike the Iranian homeland with near impunity, Tehran seeks ways to balance the deterrence equation by threatening U.S. interests worldwide through proxy terrorism and asymmetric operations,” said J. Matthew McCinnis, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who specializes in Iranian strategy, while testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in December.
McInnis added that Iran will likely continue to use proxy groups as a means of deterrence against the U.S., meaning Votel and the U.S. military will likely continue to face an Iranian threat for some time to come.
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That said, the Brits will find that the U.S. Marines will do things a bit differently than Her Majesty’s lads. Here are a few things the Brits will need to do to make life “Oorah!” for American Leathernecks.
1. Schedule regular beer runs
The Brits may need to borrow a Supply-class replenishment ship just to have enough beer on hand for the Marines. You see, no thanks to Josephus Daniels the U.S. Navy doesn’t allow alcohol on board its vessels.
Royal Navy ships, on the other hand, are “wet,” and with the heat on carrier decks, Marines will get thirsty. The Brits will need sufficient supplies of Coors Lite to keep the Marines happy.
Oh, yeah, and when it comes to the harder stuff – figure that it might not hurt to have extras on stock. But they can leave the brandy and sherry ashore.
2. Ditch the tea and pile up the energy drinks
Earl Gray is not what most Marines will drink around 5:00pm. Forget even offering it.
Energy drinks on the other hand, are popular amongst all American service members. To fully understand how popular they are, keep in mind that according to a 2016 DOD release, Monster was the most popular cold beverage sold in the exchanges. In 2009, one exchange store reported selling 1,000 cans a week, according to an Army release.
Come to think of it… you may need a second replenishment ship for all the Monster that will be consumed. We’re sure Military Sealift Command will give a discount for leasing two Supply-class ships.
3. Stock coffee … and lots of it
While we’re talking about pick-me-ups, it may not be a bad idea to remember that the Marines will also drink coffee — and lots of it.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs from “NCIS” is not an aberration. The grouchiness if he doesn’t have his coffee – that’s not an aberration, either.
And the Marines have to have it.
That photo above was taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Trust me, if Leathernecks had their coffee during Iwo Jima — and did what they did there — you don’t want to see what Marines do without their coffee.
That might take a third Supply-class replenishment ship, by the way. MSC has to have a discount for leasing three, wethinks.
4. Add a rifle range
The Marines’ motto is, “Every Marine a Rifleman.” Even the jet jockeys.
So, you’re gonna need a range so the Marines can qualify on the M16A4 rifle and the M9 pistol. That means you’ll need a good backstop, plenty of ammo, and plenty of spare magazines for both (luckily the British L85 rifle uses the same magazines as the M16).
5. Brush up on what real football is
Also, depending on the time of year, you will be in football season.
No, we’re not talking the game with the black-and-white round ball. That’s soccer.
We’re talking real football. Eleven on a team, yes, but beyond that, the Brits will need to know the intricacies of the 46 defense, what “Cover 2” means, and just who Tom Brady, DeMarcus Ware, and Ezekiel Elliot are — among others.
Also, don’t even think of mentioning Manchester United in the same breath as the Chicago Bears. Just don’t.
Nuclear weapons are the ultimate weapons of war and therefore the ultimate weapons to prevent and avoid war.
This two-axis struggle is captured in competing treaties for setting global nuclear norms and policy directions. This also reflects the mantra of realism — amended to include the importance of good governance in the modern world — that international politics consists of the struggle for ascendancy of competing normative architectures. Military muscle, economic weight, and geopolitical clout stand arrayed against values, principles, and norms.
For almost half a century, the normative anchor of the global nuclear order has been the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). On July 7, 2017 122 states voted to adopt a new Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty (or ban treaty). This new treaty was opened for signature in the UN General Assembly on Sept. 20 and so far four countries have ratified and another 49 have signed. The ban treaty will come into effect 90 days after ratification by 50 states.
As John Carlson, among others, has argued, the ban treaty has its technical flaws and even its advocates concede it will have no operational impact as all nuclear weapon possessing states have stayed away. Yet this treaty inspired by humanitarian principles is historic on five counts.
5. It is the first treaty to ban the possession, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.
This completes the legally binding prohibition of all three classes of weapons of mass destruction, after biological and chemical weapons were banned by universal conventions in 1972 and 1993 respectively. Like the NPT, the ban treaty is legally binding only on signatories. Unlike the new treaty, which applies equally to all signatories, the NPT granted temporary exemptions for the continued possession of nuclear weapons by the five nuclear weapon states that already had them in 1968, but banned proliferation to anyone else.
4. The ban treaty’s adoption marks the first divergence between the UN and the NPT that hitherto have had a mutually reinforcing relationship.
The NPT has its origins in several resolutions adopted in the General Assembly. Instances of non-compliance with binding NPT obligations require enforcement measures by the UN Security Council. But while almost two-thirds of NPT parties voted to adopt the ban, a strong one-third minority, including the five permanent members of the Security Council (P5) — who coincidentally are the five nuclear weapons states — rejected the new treaty.
3. This is the first occasion in which states on the periphery of the international system have adopted a humanitarian law treaty aimed at imposing global normative standards on the major powers.
The major principles of international, humanitarian and human rights laws have their origins in the great powers of the European international order that was progressively internationalised. Ban treaty supporters include the overwhelming majority of states from the global South and some from the global North (Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland). The treaty’s opponents include all nine nuclear weapons possessing states (the five nuclear weapons states, plus India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan), all NATO allies, and Australia, Japan and South Korea. Thus for the first time in history, the major powers and most Western countries find themselves the objects of an international humanitarian treaty authored by the rest who have framed the challenge, set the agenda and taken control of the narrative.
2. This is the first time that the like-minded liberal internationalist states find themselves in the dissident minority in opposing a cause championed by the Nobel Peace Committee.
Between 1901 and 1945, three-quarters of the prizes were awarded to those who promoted interstate peace and disarmament. Since 1945 social and political causes have attracted the prize as well and in the last decade a majority of laureates have been activists and advocates for human development and social justice. The Nobel Peace Prize has increasingly functioned as the social conscience of liberal internationalism.
The disconnect between an internationalized social conscience and a national interest-centric security policy is especially acute for Norway, host of the first humanitarian consequences conference in 2013 and part of the negotiation that led to the ban treaty. While other Nobel prizes are determined by the Swedish Academy, the Peace Prize is awarded by a Norwegian committee. On December 10 Norway faced visual embarrassment when the glittering Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo recognized a treaty it opposed and honored a non-government organisation — the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) — to which it cut funding after the election of a conservative government in October 2013.
1. This is the first occasion in the UN system when the General Assembly, where all 193 Member States have one vote, has asserted itself against the permanent five.
Previously the Assembly has occasionally acted in the face of a deadlock in the 15-member Security Council.
The ban treaty embodies the collective moral revulsion of the international community. Because the nuclear-armed states boycotted the ban conference and refuse to sign the treaty, it will have no immediate operational effect. But because it is a UN treaty adopted by a duly constituted multilateral conference, it will have normative force. (My recently published article in The Washington Quarterly that highlights the normative force of the ban treaty can be found here.)
The ban treaty will reshape how the world community thinks about and acts in relation to nuclear weapons as well as those who possess the bomb. It strengthens the norms of non-proliferation and those against nuclear testing, reaffirms the disarmament norm, rejects the nuclear deterrence norm, and articulates a new universal norm against possession.
Critics allege that another landmark agreement in history was the war-renouncing Kellogg–Briand Pact of 1928 that proved utterly ineffectual. True, but there is one critical difference. That pact was entirely voluntary, whereas the ban treaty is legally binding — that is the whole point of the treaty. Once in force, it will become the new institutional reality, part of the legal architecture for disarmament.
Few know mission command better than retired Gen. Carter F. Ham. In the time between his enlistment as an infantryman in 1973 and his retirement as a geographic combatant commander in 2013, Ham experienced the Army from a variety of perspectives, including as the commander of U.S. Army Europe and as the director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As the current president and chief executive officer of the Association of the U.S. Army, Ham continues to make a difference on behalf of the men and women who serve. Here are his insights on mission command as the Army looks to the future.
Q: After having a career that spanned four decades, what does mission command mean to you?
A: When I think of mission command, it is getting the right process by which leaders make decisions to employ their forces from the strategic to tactical levels. It is freedom to act within intent and established parameters, and it’s achieving the right blend of initiative and control.
I’ve thought about this a lot as the Army sometimes has a tendency to rebrand old ideas with new names. The term “mission command” started gaining momentum over “command and control” in the late 2000s, particularly when Gen. Martin Dempsey was at Training and Doctrine Command. A lot of talk within the profession suggested this really wasn’t anything new but, rather, what the Army had always done in terms of mission-type orders and building trust.
General Carter F. Ham.
My sense was that it wasn’t quite the same. The cohort of senior Army officers at the time, myself included, grew up mostly in the Cold War era with very clearly defined boundaries, rear areas, adjacent units, and the like. When that era changed and the Army found itself in highly irregular warfare, leaders recognized command and control wasn’t adequate for the new environment.
The command piece was okay, but the control piece was overly regulated given the circumstances in which the Army was anticipated to operate. It was time for a change, and I think mission command was exactly the right focus. With varying degrees at varying levels, and certainly as circumstances change, we must enable leaders to operate with empowered, disciplined initiative and higher degrees of flexibility.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as commander of U.S. Africa Command?
A: Most Americans think of Africa as a single place; it’s not. It is huge; at the very least, Africa is 54 countries with vast geographic differences, linguistic challenges, and economic, cultural, and ethnic diversity. It’s an exceedingly complex area of operations.
When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me he intended to recommend the president nominate me for [commanding general of] the Africa Command, I had two feelings simultaneously. First was pure exhilaration: “Holy smokes, you’re going to be a combatant commander! You get your picture hung on the entryway of the Pentagon!”
But instantaneously, the second feeling hit: “You don’t know anything about Africa.” At the time, it was not a part of the world any of us in the military thought much about.
Carter F. Ham as lieutenant colonel commanding U.S. forces in Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia, speaking to Admiral William Owens in 1995.
I was going from a very Europe-centric career — frankly a very comfortable setting for me because I had relationships with many of the senior leaders — to exceeding discomfort in Africa. It was intellectually stimulating, but I just didn’t have that foundational understanding of the area of operations as I did in Europe.
For me, this was mission command in practice at the upper operational and strategic levels. Despite the dispersed nature of U.S. forces, the requirement to work with host-nation forces, and the diversity of missions — ranging from very precise targeted activities and hostage rescue to maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and veterinary teams helping with herds of animals — there was still an expectation from the Secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the other service chiefs. They were empowering me to make decisions in this vast and complex area of responsibility.
You can’t do that with a highly structured, highly controlling style of leadership. I had to catch myself sometimes, and my senior enlisted leaders would often remind me, “General, they don’t need you to tell them how many times to turn the screwdriver; they need your intent.”
If you can describe your intent, subordinate leaders will accomplish the mission.
Q: How does mission command need to evolve to maximize readiness for the future operational environment?
A: There is recognition that the Army has to refocus after 15-plus years of irregular warfare and counter-insurgency operations. Gen. [Mark] Milley has it right; we have to get back to preparing for combat operations across all domains against a very capable, state-based adversary. It’s a much more complex environment in which to operate.
The first half of my career was highly structured and very clearly focused on a state-based adversary, the Soviet Union. It was a very dangerous, but also very predictable, period. We knew their doctrine and organizational structure; they knew ours. We knew their equipment and capabilities; they knew ours. Our war plans were incredibly detailed: we knew exactly where we were going to fight and exactly where almost every soldier was going to go in the defense of Western Europe. Control was dominant.
That is not the environment in which the Army will operate in the future. We have to develop leaders who can thrive in the ambiguity that is certain to exist in future combat. Leaders must know how to exercise mission command and make proper decisions without linkages to their higher and adjacent units, or when communications are degraded. That, I think, is the great challenge the Army faces today.
Carter F. Ham speaking to reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon in October 2005.
Q: Can you discuss the importance of mission command for sustainment formations?
A: I’m not a logistician, but I learned the importance of sustainers early. When I was a division operations officer, I had some great mentoring from my division commander. The simple message was, “The brigades, they’re going to win the fight; you don’t need to spend time mapping things out for them. Your job is to set the conditions for those brigades to operate, and the biggest piece of that is sustainment.”
In the Cold War, sustainment was a complex operation; it’s tenfold more complex today. There are no longer safe rear areas, secure supply routes, or the ability to move “iron mountains” of supplies to the point of need at a moment’s notice.
In my era, sustainment was mostly a math problem: how do you move stuff from point A to point B? Today’s sustainment challenge is much more of an art than it is a science. How will sustainers make sure that dispersed, often separated, units have what they need to fight and win on the future battlefield?
The science is certainly still there; you still have to make sure fuel, water, chow, and ammunition are at the right place at the right time. But now, more than ever, sustainers have to be inside the heads of maneuver commanders, understanding what they want to achieve. That’s where it becomes more of an art, and I think that’s where mission command enters into the realm for sustainment leaders.
Q: How important is training?
A: I’m old enough to have been in the Army before there were combat training centers, and it’s night and day. I was an opposing force guy at the National Training Center in the mid- to late-1980s, and you could see the Army get better. Repetition matters. Complexity matters. The difficulty created in the training base matters.
We want Army leaders to be more challenged in their training than they will be in combat. That’s tough to achieve these days, particularly given multi-domain operations. How do you create that cyber, electronic warfare, or geographic complexity leaders will have to deal with? The more we invest in the rigors of our training, the better off we will be. That certainly applies to the sustainment force.
There are tremendous opportunities in the Synthetic Training Environment that allow for repetition and increased difficulty without great expense. At some point you still have to put Army units in the dirt to train, but it’s the most expensive way to do so. There’s so much you can do prior to that point so that units enter that phase at a much higher level. For all of our forces, the Synthetic Training Environment will yield a stronger Army that is able to train at levels we can’t imagine today.
General Carter F. Ham being sworn into office as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe by Cairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen on Aug. 28, 2008.
Q: Where does integration with our allies and coalition partners fit into mission command?
A: In our guiding documents, including the National Military Strategy and Army vision, we’ve established a recognition that the Army will always operate with allies and partners. The scale will vary from time to time, but we’re always going to do so in some form. As fast as the Army is changing, we have to be careful we don’t leave our allies and partners out of our modernization efforts.
We also have to become increasingly comfortable with the idea of U.S. maneuver forces being sustained by forces of another country and vice versa. This became almost normal for us when our force presence in Iraq and Afghanistan was very high. Now that force levels are significantly lower, junior leaders have less opportunity to interact with our allies and partners. We have to find a way to replicate those kinds of activities in the training base.
Again, I think it is more art than science. Part of the art is making sure each of the partners has responsibility for support, for sustaining, and for direction in a coalition-type operation. That doesn’t happen by accident. Through the exercise of mission command, we want to create leaders who are comfortable in multinational environments.
Q: How are we doing as an Army when it comes to soldier resilience?
A: When I came home from Iraq, I think like many soldiers, I felt incomplete. I felt I had left soldiers behind; I came home and those I had served with were still there. I came to the Pentagon, the five-sided puzzle palace, and my work just didn’t feel very fulfilling. I had this tremendous longing to go back.
As a one-star general at the time, I don’t pretend I was on patrol facing hard combat every day like a squad leader or platoon sergeant. That’s an extraordinary kind of stress I frankly didn’t see on a daily basis. I think for leaders the effect is a little different; it’s a different kind of stress. Particularly for commanders, when you lose soldiers in combat — soldiers who are wounded or killed executing orders you issued — that stays with you.
When I came home, it was my wife who said, “Hey listen, you’ve changed.” That was important. It was recognition that a normal person can’t be exposed to combat and be unchanged. A lot of soldiers go through combat and deal with it very effectively. They’re resilient, they deal with it openly and confront it, and they continue to move forward. But there’s a spectrum, and on the other end are soldiers who have post-traumatic stress or, in more severe cases, traumatic brain injury. I was one of those who needed a little bit of help; mine came from an Army chaplain.
I’ll confess I was outed publicly. It wasn’t me coming forward; it was someone else talking about it. But as a general officer, my sense was [that] many other soldiers were having the same challenges readjusting to a nondeployed environment. If coming forward publicly would encourage one other soldier to get help and to say, “I’m having a tough time,” to his or her spouse, a chaplain, a social worker, a commander, a first sergeant, to somebody — then my speaking out was worthwhile.
I think the Army is once again leading the nation in matters like this. The senior leadership — the Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Sergeant Major of the Army — are coming forward and saying, “Hey, it is strength to step forward and say I need a little bit of help.”
Carter F. Ham listens to a soldier’s comments during a visit to the headquarters of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Reserve.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Mark Bell)
That’s what the Army needs. We need soldiers who can take a blow, whether physical or psychological, recover, and be stronger in continuing their mission.
There’s still a lot of work to be done; we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the stigma is gone. We have to keep it as a frontline Army effort and continue to say, “This can make you stronger; and when you’re stronger, our Army is stronger.” But I’m really proud of our efforts thus far.
Q: You’re one of only a few to rise from private to four-star general. What advice do you have for soldiers today?
A: First, recognize I didn’t go from private to four-star overnight; there were just a few intervening steps along the way. When I was enlisted, I rose to the exalted position of being our battalion command sergeant major’s driver. He was, to me, the model of the noncommissioned officer: mission-focused, hard on soldiers, and always fair. He made me a better soldier. And after all these years, it comes back to one question, “Why do you serve?”
We get so busy sometimes that we forget this. We talk a lot about what we do; we talk less about what we’re for. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to young leaders, both enlisted and officers, I ask them to think about the oath they took. It is the bond that ties us together, the shared commitment each one of us made to serve the nation.
In my mind, it’s what makes the Army such a unique organization. I have lots of experience as a joint officer, and I truly value the other services. We have the best Marine Corps, the best Navy, and the best Air Force. But of all the services, I think the Army is uniquely of the people. We’re the biggest and most diverse. I think it’s worthwhile to sit back and say, “What is this Army for, and why is it that more than one million women and men have raised their right hand and said I’m willing to do this?”
Every now and then, take time to think about it. Don’t get consumed by it, but take pause and remember why you chose to serve this nation. I found when I did, it caused me to reflect as a professional soldier and “re-green” myself. For any Army leader — enlisted, officer, or civilian — it’s a worthy endeavor to remember why.
Arpi Dilanian is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. She holds a bachelor’s degree from American University and a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Matthew Howard is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgetown University.
This article was published in the January-March 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.
A new Russian laser weapon designed to instantly obliterate targets entered military service December 2018, the Russian defense ministry revealed.
Russia’s Peresvet laser system, named after the medieval warrior monk Alexander Peresvet, entered experimental combat duty on Dec. 1, 2018, the Russian defense ministry’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper reported Dec. 5, 2018.
The military began taking possession of the first shipments in 2017 as part of Russia’s ongoing military modernization program, according to The Moscow Times, and there is speculation the lasers could shoot down incoming missiles and airplanes.
Watch Russia unveil Peresvet laser system:
Заступление на опытно-боевое дежурство новейших лазерных комплексов «Пересвет»
Russian President Vladimir Putin first announced the existence of this new laser weapon in March 2018 during his State of the Nation address, during which he briefly introduced the “Combat Laser Complex.”
“We have achieved significant progress in laser weapons,” he boasted, “It is not just a concept or a plan any more. It is not even in the early production stages. Since last year, our troops have been armed with laser weapons.”
“We are one step ahead our rivals,” Putin added without providing any evidence.
Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov offered a bit more information in an interview with Russian state media outlet TASS, explaining that the device could destroy targets “within fractions of a second.”
“We can talk a lot about laser weapons and movies were made about them a long time ago and fantastic books have been written, and everyone knows about this,” he introduced. “But, the fact that these systems have started entering service is indeed a today’s reality.”
The Russian defense ministry posted a video of the weapon in July 2018, before it had officially entered service.
Not much is publicly known about the Peresvet combat laser system, as Sputnik, a Russian media outlet controlled by the government, noted. What exactly it does has been the subject of much speculation.
“It is expected to be an air-defense system that can track and shoot down hostile aircraft and missiles,” Sputnik explained, adding, “Some suggest it will be tasked with ‘blinding’ sophisticated enemy systems, making them inoperable.”
Other countries, like the US and China, are also developing directed energy platforms.
China unveiled the LW-30, a vehicle-based laser weapon built to quickly eliminate a variety of aerial targets, at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai in November 2018.
Experts speculated that the weapon designed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) could be deployed to the South China Sea.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A merchant vessel burns after being torpedoed by the U-71 off Cape Hatteras, NC in March 1942.
Imagine the following scenario: A bloody war rages overseas as a fanatical, totalitarian ideology conquers entire countries. The U.S. government announces it will send military forces abroad to stem the tide of the aggression. Despite increasingly dire news headlines, however, life in America proceeds uneventfully.
After all, America is thousands of miles from the battlefields and surely far beyond the enemy’s immediate reach.
That sense of security abruptly ends only weeks later when the enemy suddenly launches a fearsome assault against the U.S. homeland itself. Thousands die as American cities witness explosions and raging infernos. Worse yet, the U.S. military seems powerless to stop the assault.
If that story sounds far-fetched, it shouldn’t. It isn’t the plot of Call of Duty– the scenario described above actually happened during World War II. December 1941 saw the U.S. finally join the war against Germany, Japan, and Italy. Many Americans understandably assumed that geography insulated them from any direct threat.
However, while U.S. leaders in Washington debated how to deploy their forces overseas, Adolf Hitler made the first move. In January 1942, Hitler’s forces began a massive naval offensive against the U.S. east coast.
The German navy, or Kriegsmarine, lacked a formidable surface fleet. What the Kriegsmarine did possess, however, was a technologically and tactically sophisticated submarine force: the infamous unterseeboots, or “U-boats.”
The U-boats had proven deadly in World War I, to include a limited number of attacks near the U.S. east coast, but the scale of the U-boat offensive against America in 1942 was without precedent. Only weeks after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, war had come to the American homeland.
Rendition of the U-995
(oil painting by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau)
Cargo ships and even U.S. Navy warships began going down in flames. Many vessels were torpedoed within sight of coastal cities. Coastal residents saw the ships burning off the Jersey Shore and the Outer Banks. Debris and bodies washed ashore for months as the U-boats struck from New England to Texas.
U-boat commanders returning to port in occupied Europe reported that U.S. waters offered more targets than the U-boats had the means to attack. The easy hunting lead German crews to dub 1942 die glückliche zeit: “the happy time.”
(Alamy Stock Photos)
Compounding the fear and destruction was America’s apparent inability to stop it. A combination of factors limited the U.S. military’s ability to stop the U-boats. These included a shortage of warships suited to anti-submarine operations, a lack of convoy procedures, and a reluctance to implement nighttime blackouts of coastal cities to deny U-boat commanders the benefit of ship silhouettes to target.
While U.S. leaders debated how to stem the onslaught, the Kriegsmarine dispatched more waves of U-boats to North America. Hundreds of ships were sunk, and thousands died as desperately needed war material was sent to the bottom of the Atlantic.
The U-123, one of the German subs that prowled the American coast in 1942.
(German Federal Archives)
Fortunately, 1942 would prove to be the apex of Hitler’s U-boat assault against America. The Allies began implementing convoys, and more American air and naval assets were allocated to anti-submarine duties.
These changes eventually led the Kriegsmarine to shift its priorities away from American coasts towards the mid-Atlantic. U-boats would continue to strike in American waters until the end of the war, but the scope and effectiveness of their operations steadily decreased. U-boat losses mounted too as the hunters eventually became the prey.
The U-boat fleet, considered one of the most prestigious assignments for a German serviceman, ultimately suffered the German military’s highest casualties: 3 out of 4 U-boat crewmen did not survive the war.
The crew of the U-550 abandons ship after being crippled by a U.S. Coast Guard attack off Massachusetts in April 1944.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
U.S. waters today are littered with the wrecks of U-boats and their victims. Many of these wrecks have become popular sites amongst scuba divers. This chapter of World War II, however, has mostly disappeared from American public memory.
This is to our discredit, as the memory of Hitler’s naval assault against America bears several important lessons for a post-9/11 world. These lessons include the naiveté of assuming that large oceans can be counted on to deter foreign aggression and a sobering reminder of what a small but motivated and capable force can inflict on a much larger power.
The thousands of men lost during this forgotten campaign is a testament to the human cost of global conflict and its ramifications for national security in the 21st century.
North Korea has reportedly miniaturized a nuclear warhead, giving their intercontinental ballistic missiles the ability to deliver a nuclear payload for the first time. The rogue regime has also been moving anti-ship cruise missiles to at least one patrol boat.
The moves come amidst heightened tensions in the region and despite a unanimous UN Security Council vote imposing further sanctions.
According to a FoxNews.com report, the development of the warhead and further threats from the regime of Kim Jong Un prompted President Trump to state that the North Korean leader “best not make anymore threats to the United States.” The President went on to state that threats would “be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
North Korea is believed to have as many as 60 nuclear weapons, and has conducted a string of tests despite sanctions being imposed. One recent test involved an ICBM that could hit targets in half the United States. The regime also has a history of holding Americans hostage.
The war of words between Trump and Kim comes as another report by FoxNews.com indicated that two “Stormpetal” missiles were being loaded on to a “Wonsan-class patrol boat.”
Oddly, the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World does not list any “Wonsan-class” vessel in North Korean service, nor does GlobalSecurity.org. The only Wonsan-class vessel listed in service is a South Korean minelayer.
North Korea is credited by GlobalSecurity.org with a surface-effect ship about the size of most missile boats called the Nongo class, as well as a variant of the Osa-class missile boats called the Soju class.
The Nongo-class can hold from as many as eight anti-ship missiles. Osas generally held four SS-N-2 anti-ship missiles, according to Combat Fleets of the World.
The Stormpetal is also not a known missile system to either source. GlobalSecurity.org, does note that many indigenous North Korean missile designs are ballistic missiles or artillery rockets. The North Koreans have also designed an indigenous version of the SS-N-2 Styx known as the KN-01, and a version of the SA-10 Grumble known as the KN-06.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has been credited with major medical advancements since its research office was created in 1925 — the cardiac pacemaker, shingles vaccine and the first successful liver transplant topping its list of accomplishments.
Now, a group of lawmakers wants VA researchers to turn their attention to marijuana.
Lawmakers on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs — led by the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress — are calling on the VA to initiate research into the efficacy of medical cannabis. In a letter Thursday to VA Secretary David Shulkin, the lawmakers cited the country’s opioid crisis and the growing demand from veterans and major veterans service organizations that want cannabis available as a treatment option for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
VA research into medical marijuana, the lawmakers wrote, is “integral to the advancement of health care for veterans and the nation.”
“There’s the possibility research can help inform not just veterans’ care, but everyone’s care,” said Griffin Anderson, press secretary for Democrats on the committee.
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., is the ranking Democrat on the committee and a retired command sergeant major with the Minnesota ArmyNational Guard. He’s one of nine Democrats and an Independent who signed the letter Thursday. The others are: Reps. Mark Takano, D-Calif.; Julia Brownley, D-Calif.; Ann Kuster, D-N.H.; Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas; Kathleen Rice, D-NY; J. Luis Correa, D-Calif.; Kilili Sablan, I-Northern Mariana Islands; Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., and Scott Peters, D-Calif.
The letter marks the first instance that the leadership of veterans’ affairs committee in the House or Senate has urged a VA secretary to conduct research on medical marijuana, Anderson said. Only recently, medical marijuana was thought of as a “fringe issue” by staff of committee Democrats.
The timing of the letter was based on Shulkin’s comments regarding medical marijuana in May, followed by months of advocacy from groups such as the American Legion. During a “State of the VA” address at the White House, Shulkin — who is also a practicing physician — acknowledged there was some evidence marijuana could be effective as a medical treatment and said he was open to learning more about it.
“The secretary expressed interest to look into this. I think he was speaking from a personal standpoint, but it was on a public stage,” said Megan Bland, a staff member for committee Democrats. “When you look at that, and take the veterans’ suicide rates, the opioid crisis and the complexity of post-traumatic stress disorder, it just makes so much sense that if there’s a solution, we should explore it.”
Since May, the American Legion has strongly advocated for more research into medical marijuana. At its national convention in August, the organization adopted a resolution urging the VA to allow doctors to discuss and recommend medical marijuana in states where it’s legal. That’s in addition to a resolution that the group passed the previous year asking for marijuana to be removed from the list of Schedule I drugs, which include with heroin, LSD, ecstasy and others designated as having no medical use.
The Legion has been supportive of research in Phoenix, Ariz., that is the first federally approved study of marijuana’s effects on veterans with PTSD.
Louis Celli, a leader within the Legion, said the organization is trying to prove to lawmakers that medical marijuana is a politically safe topic.
Celli described the letter that lawmakers sent Thursday as “the beginning of the snowball.” He noted it carried weight being led by Walz, whom Celli called a “major player in the veteran community.”
“The U.S. government has to address this issue… they can’t turn a blind eye and pretend it’s not coming to critical mass,” Celli said. “If veteran research could lead the way for a national, medical shift in the efficacy of cannabis and start that dialogue, that’s good for America.”
Staff for Democrats on the House committee found no regulatory barriers that would prevent the VA from immediately researching medical marijuana. Bland said the VA already possesses a Schedule I license, which is required by the Drug Enforcement Administration to study marijuana.
Lawmakers asked Shulkin to respond to their letter by Nov. 14, with either a commitment to develop research into medical marijuana or a detailed reason for why the VA can’t.
“Everything we looked at suggests the VA can pursue this tomorrow,” Bland said. “And if they can’t, we want them to tell us why they can’t, with the idea that hopefully we’d be able to help them overcome those barriers in the next year.”