This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot

Take a look at the jerseys for the sports teams of the United States Military Academy at West Point. At first glance, you’d probably assume that their mascot is a golden knight — which is strange, because they’re known as the “Black Knights.” What’s even more strange is that their mascot isn’t a knight at all; it’s a mule.

That’s right. The West Point mascot is the crossbreed between a horse and a donkey — just as it is for the rest of the US Army. It isn’t the best looking animal by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it anywhere close to being the most majestic. But all of the things it represents — strength, wisdom, and stubbornness determination — sum up the Army as a whole.


This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot

And the U.S. Army has been using mules ever since.

(U.S. Army)

Shortly after Army and Navy football teams first met on the gridiron in 1890, both sides went to working coming up with a mascot. The Navy was first to field one. The goat named named El Cid made his first appearance in 1893 at the fourth meeting between the two branches. Navy tried out a few mascots over the years, but eventually decided that the goat was their best choice. Since 1904, they’ve been represented by the cleverly named Bill the Goat.

The Army, however, didn’t waiver between selections. They quickly settled on and stuck with the mule, as the animal has a rich history within the military. In fact, the earliest accounts of mules being recognized for their warfare potential date all the way back to the dawn of recorded history in Egypt. Even George Washington was fond of mules, having been the first to raise them in the colonies. He was the driving force behind their use by the Revolutionary Army.

West Point officially adopted the mule as their mascot in 1899, but the life of an animal mascot was a little different back then. Instead of selecting a single animal to enjoy some pampered time in the spotlight, the Army would simply select a random mule from the stables to proudly march about the field. They continued this practice for roughly forty years.

If the Army was playing a home game, they’d borrow one from a nearby handler. If they were playing an away game, they’d try to find one wherever they ended up — typically, a less-than-successful endeavor. In 1939, the Army decided to finally settle on a single, official mascot. A mule named Mr. Jackson became the first Army mule.

While many mules have since taken on this duty, it’s important to note that at least one mule in the stable must always be named Ranger after the elite infantrymen. This is part of a stipulation put in place by Steven Townes, a graduate of West Point from the class of 1975, former mule rider and Army Ranger. Townes would eventually become the CEO and founder of Ranger Aerospace LLC. after his military career concluded.

As his way of giving back to West Point, the Ranger regiment he served in, and the mules he once cared for, he established an endowment to forever fund, house, and maintain the mules at West Point. For his generosity, he has unofficially been granted the title of “mule donor in perpetuity.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Almost seven years ago, Spc. Dakota Williams lost more than his stepbrother. He lost his hero.

His stepbrother, Spc. Dylan Johnson, had been deployed in Iraq’s Diyala Province just north of Baghdad for less than a month when a bomb detonated next to his vehicle. The explosion killed him.


Inspired by his service to the country, Williams later joined the Army to follow in his footsteps.

On May 24, 2018, he personally honored his stepbrother when he placed an American flag at his headstone in Section 60 of the Arlington National Cemetery during the annual Flags In event.

“He’s not here, but he’s here,” said Williams, 23, of Salina, Oklahoma. “He’s still such an important part of my life.”

All Soldiers, including Williams, in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” participated in some way in 2018’s Flags In. The regiment has conducted the event before every Memorial Day since 1948. It was then when the regiment was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

Over a course of four hours, more than 234,000 small flags were laid in front of headstones across the 624-acre cemetery. Flags were also placed inside the Columbarium as well, where the cremated remains of service members reside. In all, enough flags were placed to account for the more than 400,000 interred or inurned within the cemetery. Regiment Soldiers also placed about 11,500 flags at the nearby Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.

“It’s a great commitment by these Soldiers to do this, to place them at the hundreds of thousands of graves here,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “What it does is it pays respect and homage to those who served before them, going all the way back to the Civil War and signals the importance of their service and that they will never be forgotten for what they did. So that they know, these young Soldiers today, much as I knew when I was in uniform, that should I have to pay that ultimate price, I would not be forgotten either in America’s hearts and minds.”

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

Col. Jason Garkey, the regiment commander, said Flags In is also a time of reflection for the Soldiers who participate.

“For every one of those headstones where we put a flag at, we have the solemn honor to put that flag in for a family member who can’t be here to do it themselves,” he said. “That’s a privilege.”

Each Soldier who took part in the event had the opportunity to place hundreds of flags into the ground, about 1 foot centered in front of every headstone.

When doing so, Garkey encouraged his Soldiers to read the name engraved onto the headstone.

“I tell them that the cemetery is alive,” Garkey said. “If you pay attention, it will tell you things.”

Buried throughout the cemetery are Medal of Honor recipients, young service members who were killed in war, retirees and spouses — all with a story to share.

Garkey, who took part in his sixth Flags In, recalled one time seeing two graves next to each other with the same last name. From the dates on the headstones, he believed they belonged to a father who had served much of his adult life in the military and his son who had died in combat years before him.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

“There’s no worst thing than for a parent to bury their child,” he said. “But they ended up there for eternity.”

When his Soldiers recognize those sacrifices, he said, it helps put things into perspective while they perform their ceremonial duties.

“You realize there are many stories in the cemetery and that brings the cemetery to something more than just a place where we go to work,” the colonel said. “It makes it a living, breathing entity where we honor our fallen.”

For Sgt. Kevin Roman, who serves with Williams in the regiment’s Presidential Salute Battery that is responsible for firing blank howitzer rounds during ceremonies, Flags In gives him the chance to appreciate those who came before him.

“Memorial Day is a day to pay your respects to the [service members] who have made the ultimate sacrifice or who have served honorably,” said Roman, 23, of Bronx, New York. “For some people, it’s just a holiday and the unofficial start of summer.”

Before he participated in his fourth Flags In, he said every time he gets to place flags it is still meaningful to him.

“When you get out there and start reading tombstones, you gain that respect back that you may have lost during those hard days in the cemetery,” he said. “Everything comes flooding into you and you get that sense of proudness and that American spirit.”

Some gravesites are even more significant to other Soldiers in the regiment, whether they belong to a family member or a service member they once served with.

Garkey places a flag at the headstone of retired Lt. Col. Toby Runyon, a Vietnam War veteran and a family friend who died two years ago.

“I’ll take a photo and send it to his spouse just to say that we were thinking of Toby today,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said, the regiment’s sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will stop at the gravesites of former sentinels.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

“Everybody has got their specific places that they go to,” Garkey said. “There’s a healing aspect that goes into it for us. It’s more than just a task, it’s an experience.”

Esper also placed flags at gravesites in the cemetery. A former Soldier himself, he said, he knows comrades in arms who have died in service to their country.

“On a day like this, I think about also my West Point classmates,” Esper said. “I know one for sure who passed away during my war, Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I had another one who was killed when the Twin Towers were felled on 9/11. And another one killed in Afghanistan. And I think about them as well, because they are peers, and like me, I can relate more to their point in life, where they got married or had children, or maybe never had the opportunity to do either. I think about them especially.”

Over Memorial Day weekend, Esper said, he hopes that Soldiers, family members, and Americans across the country will be thinking about those who fought for and died to secure freedom for the United States.

“Hopefully they will all reflect upon the great sacrifices that America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines make in defense of our country and in defense of our liberties,” Esper said. “Particularly those fallen heroes that are here in Arlington National Cemetery.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the light attack aircraft the Saudis might buy

The Textron Scorpion has been competing for the OA-X contract lately, but while the Air Force seems all too willing to ignore what could be a very capable light-attack plane, it could soon find a launch customer. That customer is Saudi Arabia.


This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S in its hangar. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Scorpion, a private venture by Textron, has been pitched as a potential trainer, light attack, or ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) platform. The aircraft, which first flew in 2014, is capable of carrying 9,000 pounds of weapons, flying as high a 45,000 feet, reaching a top speed of 450 knots, and having a maximum range of 2,400 nautical miles, according to MilitaryFactory.com.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
Textron AirLand’s armed Scorpion (Textron AirLand)

The Saudis signed a $110 billion arms deal with the United States earlier. Big-ticket items in the deal included four frigates based on the Littoral Combat Ship, as well as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile systems, and M1A2 Abrams tanks. However, the Scorpion could be an interesting pick for the Saudis.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia sign a Joint Strategic Vision Statement. (Photo from The White House Flickr)

The aircraft is easy to maintain – and its long range could be very useful given the vast distances involved on the Arabian Peninsula. It also comes cheap, allowing the Saudis to buy a lot of airframes. That last item becomes very important in an era where a new F-35 can cost as much as $100 million.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
A Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft sits at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Okula)

The production-ready version of the Scorpion will be at the Dubai Air Show in the United Arab Emirates. That plane will feature a Garmin 3000 avionics suite. You can see a video about the potential Saudi order of this plane below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itIpxdxExFk
Articles

Marines are dropping the hammer on ISIS in Libya

Beginning in early August, the US Marines aboard the USS Wasp have conducted airstrikes against ISIS’ Libyan stronghold of Sirte from the Mediterranean. This has forced the group to retreat to a point where the Marines can now use the big guns: AH-1W SuperCobra attack choppers.


While drones and Harrier jump jets launched from the deck of the USS Wasp helicopter carrier had been attacking ISIS targets in Libya for weeks, the use of the SuperCobra represents a change in tactics.

Because helicopters can hover, loiter, and maneuver easily, they are ideal for seeking out hidden targets in urban areas. ISIS has been forced to retreat as Libyan and US forces drive the group into the “densest, most built-up part” of Sirte, a Defense Department official told The Washington Post. The birthplace of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Sirte is an important port city in the divided nation.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
An AH-1W SuperCobra | US Marine Corps photo

But the SuperCobras are vulnerable to rocket fire, and shoulder-fired antiaircraft platforms have become common in North Africa and the Middle East. The choice to use manned helicopters suggests that the Marines are confident they have weakened and chased down ISIS fighters in the city.

The SuperCobra attack choppers are guided by US Special Forces on the ground in Libya along with other allied and Libyan forces aligned with the Government of National Accord, a UN-backed government that has requested US assistance in riding the country of ISIS.

The Libyan parliament, however, recently passed a vote of no confidence on the GNA, further complicating the situation.

Before the US air campaign, ISIS was estimated to have 6,000 fighters in Libya, mainly massed around Sirte.

Sirte’s position in the Mediterranean means it could be a staging point for ISIS looking to mount attacks in Europe. The power vacuum left over from the death of Gaddafi in 2011, as well as internal disagreements in Libya, has caused the country to become a hub of crime and human trafficking.

Though Libya remains divided, the ousting of ISIS can only be a good thing for the country’s stability. A recent statement from US Africom said only a few hundred or so ISIS fighters remained in Libya.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why the US is at disadvantage in a fight against China

The US announced on March 14, 2019, that it would begin testing a whole new class of previously banned missiles in August 2019, but the US’s chief rival, China, has a miles-long head start in that department.

The US’s new class of missiles are designed to destroy targets in intermediate ranges, or between 300 and 3,000 miles. The US has many shorter-range systems and a fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles that can travel almost around the world.

A 1987 treaty with Russia banned these mid-range missiles, but the treaty’s recent demise has now opened an opportunity for the US to counter China’s arsenal of “carrier-killer” missiles.


China, as it seeks to build up a blue-water navy to surpass the US’s, has increasingly touted its fleet of missiles that work within intermediate ranges and can target ships at sea, including US aircraft carriers — one of the US’s foremost weapons.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
(Photo by Michael D. Cole)

China has suggested sinking carriers and threatened to let the missiles fly after the US checked its unilateral claims to ownership of the South China Sea.

Now, unbound by the treaty, the US can in theory counter China’s intermediate-range missiles with missiles of its own. But the reality is that China holds several seemingly insurmountable advantages in this specific missile fight.

Geography weighs against the US

China has a big, mountainous country full of mobile missile launchers it can drive, park, and shoot anywhere.

The US has a network of mainland and island allies it could base missiles with, but that would require an ally’s consent. Simply put, the US hasn’t even explored this option.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot

With the massive bomber and naval presence in Guam, it’s an obvious target.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

“We haven’t engaged any of our allies about forward deployment,” a US defense official told Reuters. “Honestly, we haven’t been thinking about this because we have been scrupulously abiding by the treaty.”

The US could place missiles in Japan, but Japan hates the US military presence there and would face economic punishment from China. The same is true of South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Furthermore, US missiles on a small island would act as a giant target on that patch of land, painting it as the first place China would wipe off the map in a conflict.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot

A floating target?

(US Navy photo)

Guam, for instance, could host US missiles as a US territory, but a few missiles from China, potentially nuclear-tipped, would totally level the tiny island.

While China would simply have to hit a small target-rich island, the US would have to breach China’s airspace and hunt down missile launchers somewhere within hundreds of thousands of square miles. US jets would face a massive People’s Liberation Army air-defense network and air force, and that’s if US jets even get off the ground.

Recent war games held at Rand Corp. suggests the US’s most powerful jets, the F-22 and F-35, probably wouldn’t even make it off the ground in a real fight in which China’s massive rocket force lets loose.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason)

Can’t fix stupid

Ultimately, basing US intermediate-range missiles in the Pacific represents a massive political and military challenge for limited utility.

But fortunately for the US, there’s little need to match China’s intermediate-range forces.

With submarines, the US can have secret, hidden missile launchers all over the Pacific. Importantly, these submarines wouldn’t even have to surface to fire, therefore they would be out of the range of the “carrier killers.”

The US has options to address China’s impressive missile forces, but loading up a Pacific island with new US missiles probably isn’t the smart way to do it.

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

Articles

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
Residents of San Onofre II housing aboard Camp Pendleton allege that Lincoln Military housing is threatening them with eviction notices if they don’t pay extremely high electric bills that they are contesting. (Photo courtesy of Kristine Schellhaas.)


The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is reportedly looking into allegations that a company which runs military housing at one of California’s largest bases is scamming its residents out of money they don’t owe.

Lincoln Military Housing has reportedly been trying to get military residents to pay hundreds of dollars more than they owe for energy bills, according to statements from families obtained by We Are the Mighty. And if the residents don’t pay up, the Lincoln Military Housing’s San Onofre district office allegedly threatens to have the service members and their families evicted, these families claim.

The exact number of families who have received these eviction notices is unknown, though WATM spoke with multiple military spouses and service members who had been notified by their commands that Lincoln was ordering them out of their homes just before the Christmas holidays.

The residents, all of whom claim they are paid up on rent, all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the housing office in question.

According to one couple who spoke to WATM, an eviction notice was sent to them in early December in response to an article that appeared on the website USMC Life, which is run by military spouse Kristine Schellhaas.

“This program has been hurting our military families since its inception,” Schellhaas told WATM in a statement. “Our families should be able to live on base without the financial burden and threat of eviction from poorly executed billing.”

Schellhaas wrote about the couple on her site in December, calling for the housing office to look into its exorbitant energy bills over the previous two months. Though Schellhaas declined to use their real names, the couple had posted about their frustrations in a Facebook neighborhood group page after being threatened with eviction.

Schellhaas indicated that NCIS was investigating the allegations. When reached for comment, NCIS said it was “unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.”

The residents of the San Onofre II district aboard Camp Pendleton claim that, until roughly two months prior, their bills had been at or below the grace period, meaning they were not billed for utilities.

According to documents obtained by WATM, the residents all saw extreme hikes that had nothing to do with increased power usage.

Lincoln Military Housing declined to respond to multiple requests for comment on these allegations.

Lincoln Military Housing takes part in a program where, if residents manage to conserve energy, they can receive money back from the housing office. If they go over the allotted amount, they pay extra.

The energy bills are managed by a company called Yes Energy Management. The premise behind the company is simple — they are essentially a paid middleman for the middleman. Basically, Lincoln Military Housing — who is contracted by the Department of Defense to manage the housing on some military installations — pays Yes Energy Management to send an electric bill to the base residents.

Rather than having the actual electric company send the bill directly to the residents, both Lincoln Military Housing and Yes Energy Management oversee these bills privately — effectively eliminating any contact between the resident and the electric company.

Each of the homes is fitted with a third party Yes Energy meter that the company uses to determine how much electricity has been used.

The way the system works is that each neighborhood gets their energy usages during a trial period combined and an average is determined by Yes Energy. Those who are above that average get penalized. Those who are below it get rewarded.

Once the residents pay their bills every month, Yes Energy pays the actual energy company, takes its fee from the remainder, and sends what’s left back to Lincoln Military Housing, according to residents.

One of the problems, according to the residents of San Onofre II, is that the neighborhoods they live in weren’t built to have their energy usage measured individually. The residents say that an unnamed employee at their housing office explained that things like Camp Pendleton street lights are wired into their houses, which means that the residents are responsible for paying much more than just their own electric bill.

One resident told We Are the Mighty, “It’s just me and my husband, so when we received the outrageous bills we said something about it and come to find out, our house was hooked up to several street lights.”

Other residents allege that, in addition to paying for the streetlights, empty houses around them drive their monthly usage allotments down. Because there are no residents in those homes, according to neighbors, there is no usage – severely impacting the average usage in that community.

That isn’t a hard thing to imagine, considering Yes Energy has this on its website:

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
Yes Energy Management boasts on their website an ability to recover lost payments due to vacant homes.

Neither of these theories exactly explain why an entire group of residents suddenly saw a significant increase in their bills despite not having changed anything in their homes, residents say.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
Residents of the housing community fear retaliation from the housing office if they talk too much, but they say that not addressing the problem doesn’t fix it, either.

Several residents say they questioned their bills, first going directly to Yes Energy; they claim that Yes Energy told them that the issue was not with them or the energy provider and that they should be speaking with the housing office regarding the way the communities were built.

These same residents allege that they then took their concerns to base housing, where it took months for just a handful of them to receive any type of response. Those that were fortunate enough to get a response also received messages that hinted Yes Energy was to blame for the outrageous bills.

Chelsea Levin, a service coordinator for Lincoln’s San Onofre Housing office, wrote in an email to a resident dated Dec. 7, “I am e-mailing as a follow up regarding the issues you have been having in the home with the Yes Energy account. I wanted to let you know that we are now waiting on the utility company to make the changes.”

The email is in response to a phone call placed to the housing office in September, according to the resident who provided the original email.

So where does that leave the residents?

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
Residents who lived both off base and aboard other military installations know that this isn’t how the program is supposed to work, nor does it work this way elsewhere. But they love their community, so they’re at an impasse.

Right where they were, for now.

The resident who originally spoke with Schellhaas alleges that they were served an eviction notice the day after Schellhaas’s post went live. According to that resident and the resident’s active duty spouse, the housing office contacted the service member’s command to deliver the notice.

In a Facebook post, the resident said that Lincoln cited the resident’s use of salty language in a phone call with the office as the reason they were being evicted.

The resident claimed that the office gave that reason directly to the service member’s command.

“They’re saying I was verbally abusive,” the resident wrote.

When We Are the Mighty reached out to the couple, the resident responded, “I feel as if the housing office saw the article that was posted in USMCLife and that is what caused them to call this morning as well as tell us we were being evicted.”

Other residents who spoke with us cited a fear of retaliation after it became public information that the original residents in Schellhaas’s story were being evicted. One resident wrote: “If you wouldn’t mind, could you please not mention our names or resident IDs? He’s a Marine.”

And another resident wrote to us regarding her husband’s concern about her speaking with us, “He’s terrified we will get evicted. I kept trying to reassure him, but the longer I was looking [at our bill] the more he started to freak out. … He says he’d rather get screwed than be homeless.”

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
Residents are legitimately afraid of retaliation from the housing office for speaking to We Are the Mighty.

Recently, Schellhaas was tasked with updating Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford’s wife Ellyn on “hot-button” issues facing the military community.

In preparation for that meeting, she collected energy data from 17 base homes and four off base homes. What she found was that base residents were charged nearly 45 percent more for comparable energy usage off base. An entire breakdown of her findings can be reviewed here.

Schellhaas issued this statement to We Are the Mighty in regards to the entire energy program:

“I believe there hasn’t been enough due diligence in its implementation and no one authority has demonstrated that the organizations can be made accountable for their actions,” she said. “Privatized housing blames Yes Energy and vice-versa, meanwhile our families are suffering.”

Articles

Marines look to ease strain on special operators in Middle East

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Spencer Knudson and Sgt. Mark Herd survey the landscape during a Combined Anti-Armor Team patrol at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Oct. 23, 2015. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Owen Kimbrel


The commander of Marine units across the Middle East sees opportunities for the Corps to take on more missions in the region that would typically be tasks for special operations forces.

In a recent interview with Military.com, Lt. Gen. William Beydler, commander of Marine Corps Central Command, said there were multiple traditional special operations mission sets that competent Marines could take on, freeing up the forces for more specialized undertakings.

“I’m not for a moment suggesting that Marine capabilities and SOF capabilities are the same, that’s not my point, but I do think, and I think that SOF would agree, that some of the missions they’re executing now could be executed by well-trained and disciplined general purpose forces like U.S. Marines,” Beydler said.

Marines maintain a constant presence in the Middle East between Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, a roughly 2,300-man unit that operates across six Middle Eastern countries with an emphasis on supporting the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

They also operate consistently in the region off amphibious ships attached to Marine Expeditionary Units, or MEUs, that routinely provide presence in the Persian Gulf.

Beydler, who assumed the command in October 2015, said these Marines could take on quick-response force operations, security missions, maritime and land raids, and ship visit-board-search-seizure operations, all of which Marines train to do as part of the MEU pre-deployment workup.

“There’s a range of things Marines are especially well trained to do — they can offer up capabilities that might free SOF forces to do other things,” Beydler said. “We’re not trying to encroach on what they do, but we think that we can be better utilized at times and free them up to do even more than SOF does right now.”

Beydler said the Marine Corps was already stepping into some of these roles, though he demurred from specifics.

In one instance that may illustrate this utilization of conventional troops, Reuters reported in May that “a very small number” of U.S. forces were deployed into Yemen to provide intelligence support in response to a United Arab Emirates request for aid in the country’s fight against Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

While the Defense Department did not identify the service to which these troops belonged, officials told Reuters that the amphibious assault ship Boxer — part of the deployed 13th MEU — had been positioned off the coast of Yemen to provide medical facilities as needed.

In a January fragmentary order, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller emphasized his desire to see Marines operate more closely with SOF troops and develop a deeply collaborative working relationship.

To this end, six-man special operations forces liaison elements, or SOFLEs, began to deploy with MEUs in 2015 to improve communication between Marines and SOF forces downrange and coordinate efforts. Beydler said professional rapport had increased as a result of these small liaison teams.

“A part of this is again developing professional relationships, developing professional respect and having SOF appreciate that which Marines can do,” he said.

Currently, he said, the Marine Corps is considering creating SOFLEs for the Marines’ land-based Middle East task force. While there is no timeline to test out the creation of new liaison elements, Beydler said the unit informally looks for opportunities to coordinate with special ops in this fashion.

“I think that we’ve valued the SOFLEs at the MEU level,” he said. “We’ll continue to work with SOF to see if we can’t have more of these liaisons, more of those touch points.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US pressure fails to fracture Armenia, Iran relationship

Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says he made clear to U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton that Armenia will pursue its national interests and maintain “special relations” with its neighbor Iran.

Addressing the Armenian parliament on Nov. 1, 2018, Pashinian said he told Bolton when he visited Yerevan in October 2018 that Armenia is a landlocked nation that does not have diplomatic relations with either neighboring Turkey or Azerbaijan, so it must retain “special relations” with its other two neighbors — Iran and Georgia — which he said are Armenia’s only “gateways” to the outside world.


“I reaffirm the position that we should have special relations with Iran and Georgia that would be as far outside geopolitical influences as possible. This position was very clearly formulated also during my meeting with Mr. Bolton, and I think that the position of Armenia was clear, comprehensible, and even acceptable to representatives of the U.S. delegation,” the Armenian leader said.

Bolton visited the Caucasus nations of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan in October 2018 in part to push for compliance with the sanctions that the United States is reimposing on Iran’s oil and financial sectors on November 5 after withdrawing from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in April 2018.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot

U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Oct. 25, 2018, Bolton said he told Pashinian that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will enforce sanctions against Iran “very vigorously.” For that reason, he said, the Armenian-Iranian border is “going to be a significant issue.”

“Obviously, we don’t want to cause damage to our friends in the process,” Bolton added.

Pashinian told the parliament that his response to Bolton was: “We respect any country’s statement and respect the national interests of any country, but the Republic of Armenia has its own national and state interests, which do not always coincide with the interests and ideas of other countries, any other country.

“Let no one doubt that we are fully building our activities on the basis of Armenia’s national interest – be it in our relations with the United States, Iran, Russia, all countries.”

Pashinian made his remarks in response to a lawmaker’s question about what effect the U.S. sanctions on Iran would have on Armenia.

Days after his talks with Pashinian and other foreign leaders, Bolton conceded that the White House is unlikely to achieve its stated goal of reducing Iran’s oil exports to “zero” under the sanctions.

“We understand, obviously, [that] a number of countries — some immediately surrounding Iran, some of which I just visited last week, others that have been purchasing oil [from Iran] — may not be able to go all the way to zero immediately. So, we want to achieve maximum pressure [on Iran], but we don’t want to harm friends and allies either, and we are working our way through that,” Bolton told the Alexander Hamilton Society in Washington on Oct. 31, 2018.

A hard-liner who has pushed for the toughest possible sanctions on Iran, Bolton’s remarks suggested for the first time that the White House may be preparing to grant waivers from the sanctions to some countries like India, Turkey, and South Korea that have requested them.

Still, Bolton insisted that the sanctions already are having a powerful effect on Iran’s economy, in particular helping to cause a collapse in Iran’s currency, the rial, in 2018.

“Already, you see reduction in purchases in countries like China that you would not have expected — countries that are still in the nuclear deal [with Iran]. We have also seen Chinese financial institutions withdrawing from engaging in transactions with Iran. European businesses are fleeing the Iranian market. Most of the big ones are already out,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Even the Warthog is giving pilots hypoxia

The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II has been a legend in providing close-air support. However, even legends have bad moments, and the A-10 has now succumbed to one of the problems plaguing other United States military aircraft: It’s giving pilots hypoxia.


This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
Joint terminal attack controllers wave at an A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft during a show of force on the Nevada Test and Training Range July 19, 2017. The A-10 has excellent maneuverability at low airspeeds and altitudes and is a highly accurate weapons delivery platform. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)

According to a report by Aviation Week and Space Technology, the hypoxia incidents, which the Department of Defense labeled as “physiological episodes,” took place last year. There were two cases among A-10s assigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where the 355th Fighter Wing is based.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly in a wingtip formation after refueling from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Feb. 15, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

In both cases, backup oxygen systems kicked in and allowed the pilots to return safely to base. One plane was equipped with an onboard oxygen generation system (OBOGS), which replaced an older liquid oxygen (LOX) system. The other plane still had the older system installed.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
A-10 Thunderbolt IIs break over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex and one aircraft drops a flare during live-fire training April 24. The A-10s are from the 355th Fighter Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Members from the 355th FS are tasked to provide mission-ready A-10s, as well as search and rescue capability in Alaska and deployed sites worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Robert Wieland)

An investigation determined that the Warthog with the LOX system had issues with the oxygen regulator and cabin pressure systems. The problems were repaired. However, 28 OBOGS-equipped A-10s were grounded while investigators tried to determine the cause of the incident.

While no root cause was found, some corrosion was located among system’s pipes. New procedures, including making sure that the water separator is drained, allowed the OBOGS-equipped A-10s to return to operational duties after a week. During that week, A-10s with the LOX system held the line. Since the implementation of the new procedures, no hypoxia incidents have occurred among the A-10s at Davis-Monthan.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
A USAF F-35A departs from Luke AFB in Arizona (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

Other planes where pilots have reported hypoxia issues in recent years include the F-22 Raptor, the F/A-18, the T-45 Goshawk, the T-6 Texan, and the F-35 Lightning. Last year, Cobham developed a system to help warn pilots when a hypoxia incident is taking place.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Major advances occurring in traumatic brain injury care for veterans

New developments in traumatic brain injury prevention, diagnosis and treatment are certain to improve patient health among Soldiers, as well as improve Army readiness, said Tracie Lattimore, director of the Army’s Traumatic Brain Injury program within the Office of the Army Surgeon General.


Lattimore said that new tests for assessing TBI are available this year. One such test allows providers to determine if a patient’s eyes are tracking properly, and helps patients indicate if they are experiencing double vision or an increase of other symptoms. The test can determine whether or not “oculomotor dysfunction” is present, Lattimore said.

Oculomotor dysfunction, which involves the eye’s inability to locate and fixate on objects in the field of vision, occurs in 40 to 60 percent of TBI cases, Lattimore said.

Also of benefit to providers and their patients are two new FDA-approved devices, including one called “BrainScope” and another called “InfraScan,” Lattimore said.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
Capt. Robert Jacoby, right, and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Raymond Bedard, from Expeditionary Resuscitative Surgical System 19, prepare medical supplies aboard Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Cardigan Bay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin J. Steinberg/Released)

BrainScope measures and analyzes the brain’s electrical activity to aid in the evaluation of patients who are being considered for a head CT scan (to detect bleeding in a closed head injury). The BrainScope device is portable and rugged, and can be used in a variety of militarily-relevant scenarios. Lattimore said she is hopeful the devices can be distributed more broadly in the near future.

InfraScan uses near-infrared spectroscopy to detect potential brain bleeds, and is also meant for use in patients who are being considered for a head CT scan.

PREVENTION

Lattimore said a study of concussions among college athletes, including some at military academies, is gathering interesting data on TBI prevention.

The study, which is still producing information, indicates that someone who experienced TBI often had one or more sub-concussive hits in the hours or days leading up to the hit that resulted in concussion, Lattimore said. This indicates that those smaller hits had a cumulative effect.

The study is an effort between the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Department of Defense Grand Alliance.

Another interesting finding from the study was that in 2002, concussed players were returned to play after a few days, and then experienced a more severe concussion just 5.2 days after the first concussion, Lattimore said.

Now, the NCAA keeps players out of the game until they are symptom-free — on average, 12 to 14 days after the first concussion.

Also Read: Helmets just got new technology to protect your brains

With this increased recovery time after concussion, the average athlete did not experience a second concussion until 72 days after the first, and it was much less severe than the second concussion experienced by athletes in the 2002 study.

“This study validates the DOD’s hallmark policy for concussion management in deployed settings, which beginning in 2010 removed Soldiers who sustained a concussion from duty until symptom-free,” Lattimore said.

Lattimore said the study demonstrates that if a Soldier is removed from training or the war fight for an adequate recovery time, it results in an optimized capability when he or she is returned, while likely reducing the frequency and severity of additional injuries.

“That message needs to be communicated, not just to medical personnel, but to every Army leader,” Lattimore said.

TREATMENT

The standard concussion treatment, from 2008 to 2016, had been informally called “cocooning,” Lattimore said. The treatment required patients to not exert themselves physically or mentally, to not watch TV, to not exercise, and to get plenty of sleep until they recovered.

Medical professionals now understand that cocooning is the wrong approach, Lattimore said.

After reviewing literature and patient experiences over the last four-to-five years, it was found that the only activities that must be limited are those that exacerbate symptoms, she said.

The DOD started moving in this direction with the release of the progressive return to activity guideline for concussed patients, Lattimore said. However, the evidence has grown even stronger for this model since its release.

After 24 to 48 hours of rest, Lattimore said, patients should be encouraged to be active, as long as the specific activity does not put them at risk for another head injury or provoke their symptoms.

“This is an enormous paradigm shift from the ‘cocoon care’ model,” she said.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Cary Chase lifts a set of dumbbells during a workout in the gym aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard while underway in the Pacific Ocean, Aug. 27, 2017. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jonah Baase

With oculomotor dysfunction, it’s now understood that rest will not resolve symptoms. Instead, effective treatment for oculomotor dysfunction often involves practicing muscle memory under the guidance of a physical or occupational therapist, Lattimore said.

If the patient fails the pen test, for instance, he or she might respond to another sensory input, such as an acoustic clicker attached to the end of a pen.

Many of the advances in TBI prevention, diagnosis and treatment, Lattimore said, are so new that the Army is just now finishing up the process of evaluating how best to incorporate them into assessment protocols.

Many Army medical personnel are not yet aware of the developments, she said. However by the end of this year, she said that updated tools and training will be available to push the information out across the Army.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Autumn in memes: Here’s what the military thinks about fall

Ahhhh! Fall is officially here — even for you stationed in the South, still sweating away the Autumn months. Even if in theory, it’s a time for longer sleeves and cooler weather, and a season where we’re hopeful for regularly scheduled football games. So breathe it in, that crisp fall air, and take a look at some of our favorite fall-centric memes that the military has to offer.


This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot

(Memegenerator)

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot

(Memegenerator)

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot

(MyMilitarySavings)

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot


MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army and Navy just tested an advanced new air-to-ground missile

The Navy successfully completed its first Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) flight test on the AH-1Z helicopter on Dec.5 at Patuxent River.


During the flight, aircrew aboard the AH-1Z navigated the missile through various operational modes and exercised its active seeker to search and/or acquire targets, demonstrating its compatibility with the aircraft.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
An AH-1Z helicopter. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

“Initial results from the flight indicate the missile performed as planned,” said Liam Cosgrove, JAGM flight test lead. “We will continue to conduct a series of tests to prepare for live fire testing of the JAGM off the AH-1Z scheduled for early this year.”

JAGM, a joint program with the Army, is a precision-guided munition for use against high-value stationary, moving, and relocatable land and maritime targets. It utilizes a multi-mode seeker to provide targeting day or night in adverse weather, battlefield obscured conditions and against a variety of countermeasures.

Related: What you need to know about the banned missile the US is developing

“This missile will provide increased lethality and better targeting capabilities, beyond the Hellfire’s laser point designating capability that the AH-1Z currently has in theater today,” said Capt. Mitch Commerford, Direct and Time Sensitive Strike (PMA-242) program manager.

JAGM is managed by the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. It will initially be employed on the AH-64 Apache and Marine Corps’ AH-1Z helicopters and is compatible with any aircraft that can carry Hellfire missiles. The Army will complete a 48 shot test matrix by May 2018 on AH-64 Apache aircraft in support of Milestone C.

Articles

Navy tests unmanned ‘swarmboats’ to patrol ports

Securing a port can be the type of job that hits the three Ds: dull, dirty, and dangerous.


Often, those charged with that security operate using rigid-hull inflatable boats or other small craft – often in proximity to huge vessels like Nimitz-class carriers or large amphibious assault ships.

One wrong move, and Sailors or Coast Guardsmen can end up injured – or worse.

However, the Navy may be able to reduce the risk to life and limb, thanks to a project by the Office of Naval Research called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or “CARACaS.”

With CARACaS, a number of RHIBs or small craft can be monitored remotely, thus removing the need to put personnel at risk.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
An unmanned rigid-hull inflatable boat operates autonomously during an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored demonstration of swarmboat technology held at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. During the demonstration four boats, using an ONR-sponsored system called CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command Sensing), operated autonomously during various scenarios designed to identify, trail or track a target of interest. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

According to a U.S. Navy release, these “unmanned swarming boats” or USBs, recently carried out a demonstration in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where they were able to collaborate to determine which one would approach a vessel, classify it, and then track or trail the vessel.

The USBs also provided status updates to personnel who monitored their activity.

“This technology allows unmanned Navy ships to overwhelm an adversary,” Cdr. Luis Molina of the Office of Naval Research said. “Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge.”

A 2014 demonstration primarily focused on escorting high-value ships in and out of a harbor, but this year, Molina noted that this year, the focus was on defending the approach to a harbor.

The biggest advantage of CARACaS? You don’t need to build new craft – it is a kit that can be installed on existing RHIBs and small boats.

Check out this video of CARACaS-equipped USBs:

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