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.”

Lists

8 of the top federal agencies ranked by Americans

A survey released earlier this month shows just how approving Americans are of each branch of their federal government.


Between Dec. 18 and 19, 2017, Gallup gathered information from well over a thousand Americans.

Related: 6 of the funniest comedic military sketches ranked

According to that data, these are the eight most-loved federal agencies, as ranked by Americans in 2017. We added a bonus one just for sh*ts and giggles.

8. FEMA — 55%

In 1979, former President Jimmy Carter signed the executive order that created the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a way to help support citizens prepare for, prevent, and recover from disasters.

In 2014, FEMA was at a 47% approval rating and has since climbed the charts.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
FEMA booth in a hardware store in Puerto Rico. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

7. NASA — 56%

2017 was a good year for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as astronaut Peggy Whitson set a record for spaceflight and the Cassini spacecraft completed its groundbreaking mission to Saturn.

In 2014, NASA was at a paltry 50% approval rating. Clearly, they’re doing something right.

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

6. CIA — 57%

In 2014, the Central Intelligence Agency sported an approval rating of 49%, but it’s a complete secret as to why they climbed higher in 2017.

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

5. FBI — 58%

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had a busy year investigating famous political figures and cracking down on fraud and money laundering cases.

In the eyes of the public, the Bureau had a “so-so” year, as their approval rating seems to have plateaued at 58% since 2014.

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

4. DHS — 59%

The Department of Homeland Security’s mission is to provide a secure environment for our nation. They dabble in various areas, including border security and cybersecurity.

It was reportedly an intense year for them in the eyes of the public, as their numbers have climbed a strong 11% since 2014.

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

3. Secret Service — 63%

The brave men and women who consistently stand guard protecting our president increased their approval rating by 20% since three years ago.

That’s impressive.

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

2. CDC — 66%

The Centers for Disease Control work with some of the most dangerous bacteria and germs on earth to provide their clients (the world) with the most efficient ways to maintain public health.

Their 16% approval increase doesn’t come as a surprise as they continue to fight against the spread of illness.

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

Also Read: 6 of the best Marine recruiting commercials ranked

1. USPS — 74%

The U.S. Postal Service earned the highest rating in this survey. They came in with a remarkable 72% rating in 2014, which means they’re still improving on a job well done.

Bravo Zulu to the U.S. Postal Service.

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

Bonus: Department of Veterans Affair

Interestingly, but not surprising to veterans, the VA was ranked very last, coming in at only 38%. However, the percentage is a 9% increase from 2014.

But, the growth just wasn’t good enough.

Articles

Senate to Defense Department: no new camo

 


This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
U.S. Army photo

Lawmakers in the Senate are slamming the brakes on any future plans to develop new camouflage and utility uniforms.

Buried inside the recently-passed Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 is a provision that would prevent the Defense Department from developing or fielding any new camouflage utilities until one year after the secretary of defense formally notifies the House and Senate Armed Services committees of the intent to do so.

Lawmakers and Defense Department officials have long had a sticky relationship over the issue of camouflage and the many patterns the various military services use. In 2009, Congress attempted to slip a provision into the defense budget that would require the services to adopt a common ground combat uniform. In 2013, lawmakers again inserted language requiring a common pattern. Some military brass pushed back, however; then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said the Corps planned to stick to its propriety MarPat camo “like a hobo on a ham sandwich.”

Development of new camouflage patterns can be costly–the Washington Post reported that the Army’s “universal” Army combat uniform camouflage cost $2.63 million to develop–and not all are great successes. The Navy has taken heat for its blue Navy Working Uniform Type 1 pattern, which is worn aboard ships, and which critics have said will only work as camouflage if sailors fall overboard.

A 2012 Government Accountability Office report found the Army stood to spend $4 billion over five years as it selected and fielded its next family of camouflage uniforms.

That process is ongoing; the Army is now fielding its Operational Camouflage Pattern, with plans to require its use for all troops by 2019.

The 2017 Senate version of the NDAA must still be reconciled with the House version, which does not include the camouflage provision. That’s expected to happen later this summer.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 reasons ‘The Guardian’ should be in your top ten military films of all time

Apocalypse Now. Full Metal Jacket. Platoon. Top Gun. Black Hawk Down. A Few Good Men. Saving Private Ryan. Kelly’s Heroes. Crimson Tide.

If you ask your circle of friends and family what some of their favorite military films are, you could get literally a hundred different answers. You’d probably have to ask a few more friends and listen to another hundred more before you get someone to organically name 2006’s The Guardian as a movie they’ve even heard of.

Just to get a few FAQ out of the way early on: yes, Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher did a film together. Yes, it is based on the military. Yes, it is about the US Coast Guard. Yes, the USCG is an arm of the US Armed Forces.


As you can imagine, there aren’t very many people who would dare call this a good film, but I ask that you pump the brakes a bit and read why The Guardian should be on your list of favorite military films.

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

The original DHS

(Image from MilitaryHumor.com)

A movie about the Coast Guard?

As stated above, yes, the Coast Guard is a branch of the military… kind of.

They aren’t, technically, a part of the Department of Defense so there is that odd “one of these things is not like the others” vibe going on, but they are our brothers and sisters, regardless. At one point they were Department of Transportation during peacetime and switched over to Department of Defense, falling under the umbrella of the Navy, during wartime.

They currently fall under the Department of Homeland Security, another departmental move that makes many of us lower-level peons scratch our heads.

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

Yes, the USCG got some badasses, too!

(Image from Outsideonline.com)

It features some unheralded badasses

Rescue swimmer seems like the most fitting name for this group of hardened heroes, but they have a much more official title: Aviation Survival Technician. Regardless of all of that, the AST of the US Coast Guard is a certified badass.

It is one of the US military’s most elite careers with about an 80% washout rate. For comparison sake, that’s about the same attrition rate as the Green Beret and Navy SEAL, and higher than the Army Ranger!

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

A bit of split in opinion between the critics and the audience

(Image from Rotten Tomatoes.com)

It’s better than you think

Sure it made less than m in profit (horrible for a major theatrical release). Yes, it is lambasted on movie critiquing platform, Rotten Tomatoes. However, have you seen it?

Give The Guardian a good, genuine, non-biased once over, and you’ll likely find yourself among the 80% of the audience who think this film is rated “fresh.” The film doesn’t tell any groundbreaking story. It is a completely fictionalized account but there are enough moments to draw you in, and that ending is truly special, if not a bit predictable.

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

Uh, yea

(Image from 20th Century Fox’s Dude, Where’s My Car?)

It’s one of the few watchable Ashton Kutcher films

Look, Ashton Kutcher is a great man. He is involved in some of the most selfless causes in modern society. He has been instrumental in raising awareness, if nothing else, to the mainstream.

He also has a pretty decent track record when it comes to television. He was key in That 70’s Show, created and hosted Punk’d, replaced Charlie freakin’ Sheen on Two and a Half Men, and is currently putting out the Netflix Show, The Ranch. His television reputation is intact. Filmwise..not so much.

A bit of a holdover of a foregone era in a way, Kutcher doesn’t seem to have the same magic when selected for movie projects as he does with TV. Of the 20+ movies Kutcher has starred in The Guardian is one of about four films that is actually enjoyable without intoxicants.

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

Yea… he did this doozy too

(Image from Universal Pictures’ Waterworld)

It’s got Costner being Costner

Similar to his co-star, Kevin Costner has a bit of a checkered history when it comes to choosing movie roles. On the one hand you have films like Dances with Wolves and Hatfields McCoys, two productions that yielded major awards and nominations for Costner.

Then you have Waterworld.

Just take this victory and go.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Trump asked the actual war fighters about Afghanistan

Trump had one question when it came to the War in Afghanistan, according to journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book Fear: Trump in the White House: “What the f*ck are we doing there?” And he didn’t just want to know what the generals thought, so he asked the lower ranks.


When Trump took office in 2017 and was presented with options on securing high-value targets and changing the course of the war from the Obama-era policies, Trump changed the conversation, telling then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that he wanted to talk to some “enlisted guys” about the war.

Mattis rolled his eyes.

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

The President in the Oval Office with many of his original staff from 2017.

“I want to get some real fighters over here who are not officers,” the President told his advisors, including Mattis, former Gen. H.R. McMaster, White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon, and others. He wanted their “on the ground views” of the war. While the former officers in the room scoffed at the idea of enlisted troops informing the Commander-in-Chief on the then-16-year-long war in Afghanistan, Trump’s controversial Chief of Staff thought of it more idealistically, relating the idea to President Lincoln talking to Union troops during the Civil War.

On July 18, 2017, almost six months to the day after taking office, the President sat down with three soldiers and an airman who spent significant time in Afghanistan and had lunch in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

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

From left, Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald J. Trump, and National Security Advisor Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster talk with service members during a lunch in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, July 18, 2017.

(White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

Trump was joined in the lunch by McMaster, Vice President Mike Pence, Army First Sgt. Michael Wagner, Army Master Sgt. Zachary Bowman, Army Master Sgt. Henry Adames, and Air Force Major Eric Birch. As the lunch began, the President told reporters they were there “to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.”

“We have plenty of ideas from a lot of people,” Trump said, “but I want to hear it from people on the ground.”

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

The President asked them what they thought the U.S. was doing in Afghanistan, where they thought it was going, and what they should do for additional ideas. Afterward, Woodward writes, Trump told Bannon the ground pounders’ views were unanimous – “we’ve got to figure out how to get the f*ck out of there… Totally corrupt… the people are not worth fighting for… NATO does nothing, they’re a hindrance… it’s all bullsh*t.”

So when it came time to discuss new policy at the next National Security Council meeting, Trump interrupted McMaster’s briefing, saying his best information came from the “line soldiers” he met that day.

“I don’t care about you guys,” Trump told Mattis, McMaster, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford and the rest of the NSC in a 25-minute dressing down on everyone who informed Afghanistan war policy. “It’s a disaster … the soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you.”

Articles

Guess which branch of the military a new poll shows Americans like best

All five branches of the U.S. military have earned high marks from American adults, according to a Gallup poll.


More than three in four of Americans surveyed who know something about the branches have overall favorable views of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, according to Gallup. More than half have a strongly favorable opinion.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

In Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions poll released May 26, at least 72 percent of participants expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military in the past eight years.

“This Memorial Day, Americans will once again have the opportunity to honor those who fought and died in service of their country,” Gallup’s Jim Norman said. “It comes at a time when the percentage of Americans who are military veterans continues to shrink, even as the nation moves through the 15th year of the Afghanistan War — the longest war in U.S. history.”

Broken down by branch, Air Force had the highest favorability rating of 81 percent — 57 percent “very favorable” and 24 percent “somewhat favorable” rating. Other branches were Navy and Marines each at 78 percent, Army at 77 percent, and Coast Guard at 76 percent.

Differences exist by political party, race, and age.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
The Air Force had the highest ratings according to the Gallup poll – US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Couillard

The biggest gap is among Republicans and Democrats with about a 30 percentage point difference. The largest is for the Navy with 74 percent favorability rating by Republicans and 39 percent among Democrats.

Republicans, non-Hispanic whites, and those aged 55 have more favorable views of each of the five branches than Democrats, non-whites, or those younger than 35.

Those surveys also were asked to list the most important branch. Air Force was No. 1 (27 percent) followed by the Army (21 percent), Navy and Marines (20 percent each), and 4 percent say the Coast Guard is the most important branch to national defense.

Gallup conducted telephone interviews April 24-May 2 with a random sample of 1,026 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How problems on Navy’s new supercarrier helped it build the next one

Days after the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford sailed out of a “challenging” post-shakedown work period that was extended three months because of maintenance problems, the dry dock holding the second Ford-class carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, was flooded, launching the carrier three months early.

The Kennedy’s builders and crew have gotten a boost from the Ford, according to the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Todd Marzano.

“We are definitely benefiting from being the second aircraft carrier in the class,” Marzano told Business Insider last week. “We’re leveraging their lessons learned, which has helped not only from the construction side but from our sailor training.”


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

Capt. Todd Marzano, the Kennedy’s commanding officer.

(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)

A graduate of Naval Fighter Weapons School, or Top Gun, Marzano has gone to sea aboard Kitty Hawk-, Nimitz-, and Ford-class carriers, serving as a fighter squadron commander as well as executive officer and commanding officer of the carrier itself.

At a ceremony in May, Marzano recalled driving past the Ford as construction began in late 2015 and thinking that “some lucky captain” would get to be its first skipper. In a mast-stepping ceremony after that speech, he put his first set of gold aviator’s wings under the 650-ton island as it was lowered onto the flight deck.

That “signified my commitment as the CO of the ship to ensure … that I’m going make sure that the crew is ready to do their job and operate the ship when we take it out to sea,” Marzano said. “So it meant a lot to me. This is definitely a pinnacle tour in my career.”

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

The Kennedy.

(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)

Marzano assumed command of the Kennedy, designated CVN-79, on October 1, at a ceremony attended by the carrier’s first 43 sailors, who were handpicked for the assignment.

“We officially stood up the command on October 1, and as of today we have just over 150 crew members on board, and that number just continues to grow daily,” Marzano said on Nov. 19, 2019. “The current focus since they’ve shown up is to create a solid foundation, which means getting our programs, our procedures established. We’re also focusing on a lot of training and, most importantly, developing a healthy culture throughout all levels of the command.”

Marzano added that “some of the sailors on the Ford have now been transferred over to our ship, so we can benefit from their knowledge … gained on their tour.”

The Ford-class carriers — the Ford, the Kennedy, the Enterprise, and the unnamed CVN-81 — are or will be equipped with new technology the Navy believes will keep them effective for decades to come. The Ford’s first sailors, with months or even years of hands-on experience with that tech, were creating “basically instructions on how to operate this ship with its systems and its new design,” as one sailor put it.

“Now we’re going to benefit from that, and they can help train our new sailors,” Marzano said.

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

The island of the Kennedy is placed on the flight deck during a mast-stepping ceremony in Newport News, Virginia, on May 29, 2019.

In addition to changing or excluding some features, the Navy and the carrier’s builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries, have made changes to the Kennedy’s build strategy to control costs and stay on schedule.

The Ford was being built as it was being designed, according to Mike Butler, Huntington Ingalls’ program manager for the Kennedy. But the Kennedy had a complete model, saving time.

“Every piece of pipe, every cable, every other piece of equipment was loaded in a three-dimensional product model, and that gave us the ability, for example, [to do] hole cuts, where you have a bulkhead or a deck and you have to cut a hole in it for a pipe to go through or an electrical cable,” Butler told Business Insider on Nov. 29, 2019.

On Nimitz-class carriers, “prior to the product model,” Butler said, “we probably cut 75% of those holes on ship once we ran the pipe and saw where it went through the bulkhead.”

There was “much less” cutting on ship on the Ford because of the product model, Butler said. But on the Kennedy, “with the complete product model, I virtually cut 100% of all of those hole cuts in the ship.”

“While the shop was still fabricating the deck plates and bulkhead panels, they could go in and robotically locate and cut all of those holes in those structural members while it was still in the shop environment, which is a big deal because there are probably close to 100,000 holes that go through decks and bulkheads that have to be cut,” Butler added.

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

The upper bow unit of the Kennedy is fitted to the primary structure of the ship on July 10, 2019.

(US Navy/Huntington Ingalls Industries/Matt Hildreth)

The design and planning documents for the Kennedy were updated as work continued on the Ford. But the biggest change was in how the second Ford-class carrier was actually put together, Butler said.

About 1,100 structural boxes are built to assemble the carrier, each outfitted with components like wiring. Those boxes are put together into larger sections called super lifts, which are outfitted further. The carrier is then assembled from those super lifts — “sort of like a Lego build,” Butler said.

On the Kennedy, “particularly early in the program, we did a lot more outfitting,” Butler said. “We built larger boxes in our steel fabrication division. We brought those to our final assembly plant. We built larger super lifts than we did on [the Ford] in some areas, and we put more outfitting in a lot of those super lifts, particularly early in the program.

“So we ended up with less lifts into the dock and many cases of larger super lifts that had more outfitting … which drives your cost down as well,” Butler added.

“We’re definitely aggressively seeking the lessons learned and then applying them to the Kennedy, and we’re already seeing benefits of that. Construction progress has gone much more efficiently,” Marzano said. “So both on the construction and the level-of-knowledge side for the sailors, that’s paying off. Being the second in class is definitely easier in that regard for sure.”

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

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer is briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer on Jan. 17, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)

The Ford’s marquee features have been among the most troublesome, particularly the advanced weapons elevators, drawing congressional scrutiny and the ire of former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who excoriated Huntington Ingalls, saying last month that the shipbuilder had “no idea” what it was doing.

Those electromagnetically powered elevators are supposed to carry more ordnance faster — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute over Nimitz-class elevators’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute — from storage magazines deep in the hull. But just four of the Ford’s 11 elevators have been certified and turned over to the crew.

Those new elevators have new electrical and mechanical technology and are “a lot more complex than traditional weapons elevators,” with “a lot tighter tolerances because of that,” Butler said.

Work on the Kennedy’s elevators was delayed to incorporate lessons from the Ford, Butler added.

“A lot of the areas where they’ve had issues that they’ve had to resolve we’ve been able to hold back, get those issues resolved, change the design, change the work documents,” Butler said. “That allows us now to go in and do that work the first time with those lessons learned already.”

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

Sailors review safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator in the Ford’s weapons department on Jan. 16, 2019.

Those pauses didn’t affect work on the hull and parts of the ship exposed to seawater, allowing it to be launched ahead of schedule in October 2019, Butler said.

In addition to being ahead of schedule, the Kennedy was also 5% more complete than the Ford at the time of its launch, according to James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisitions chief.

Like Marzano’s crew, Butler’s team has also benefitted from an influx of personnel from the Ford.

Butler said that “working through all those different technical issues” on the Ford, they had “developed a set of industry experts at the shipyard, and our design, manufacturing, construction, and testing of those elevators.”

“Now that expert team is beginning to migrate to my ship, bringing those people and those lessons learned, working with my team,” Butler added, “so that we’ve got people on the deck plate who’ve been through these elevators, helping us modify our build plan to improve that process.”

Butler declined to comment on Spencer’s criticisms, saying he was “laser-focused” the Kennedy.

“Morale is great. We know we’ve worked through a lot of the first-in-class problems,” Butler added. “We are building this ship cheaper; we’re building the ship faster. And to us that is showing that first-of-class-to-second-of-class improvement is exactly what we thought it would be.”

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

Articles

A search is now underway for a US Navy sailor missing in the South China Sea

The U.S. Navy is searching for a sailor who is missing and may have gone overboard during routine operations in the South China Sea.


The Navy’s Pacific Fleet says that U.S. and Japanese ships and aircraft are looking for the sailor who was on the USS .

A Navy official says the sailor is a male lieutenant. His name is being withheld as the search continues. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the information publicly and spoke anonymously.

Pacific Fleet says the  reported a man overboard around 9 a.m. local time Tuesday. Multiple searches of the destroyer were conducted but the sailor hasn’t been found.

In June, a sailor believed to have fallen overboard from the USS Shiloh in the South China Sea was found hiding aboard the ship.

Articles

US military is planning its long-term presence in Afghanistan

The Pentagon will send a proposal to the White House in early May laying out America’s long-term presence in Afghanistan, senior defense officials said May 4. The plan will likely include a request for more U.S. troops.


U.S. military officials have said they need greater forces to meet the growing training and advising mission in Afghanistan, where local forces are fighting a Taliban insurgency. And there is a new push for NATO members to step up their commitments of troops and other resources to help the country in its struggle for stability.

Theresa Whelan, who is currently working as the Pentagon’s assistant defense secretary for special operations, told senators the new plan likely will go to the White House next week.

This is how the Army ended up with a mule for a mascot
U.S. Soldiers conduct a patrol with Afghan National Army soldiers to check on conditions in a village in the Wardak province of Afghanistan Feb. 17, 2010. (DoD photo by Sgt. Russell Gilchrest, U.S. Army)

“We are actually actively looking at adjustments to the approach in Afghanistan right now,” Whelan told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The interest is to move beyond the stalemate and also to recognize that Afghanistan is a very important partner for the United States in a very tricky region.”

The move comes as the U.S. is in talks with Iraqi leaders over plans to keep an enduring American presence there also. That effort is rooted in the need to continue training Iraqi forces and ensure that Islamic State militants don’t regain a foothold.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and other senior military leaders have repeatedly described the fight in Afghanistan as a stalemate. Officials have said they need more trainers and advisers to increase the capabilities of Afghan forces.

Also read: 600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

But the United States doesn’t want to carry the burden by itself.

A senior NATO official said the U.S. has sent letters to allies asking them to increase their commitments. The official was not authorized to discuss the letters publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Appearing with Whelan, Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, told the Senate panel he has enough forces for the military’s counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, which is targeting Islamic State, al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

Thomas said a critical factor in ongoing discussions about a new Afghanistan strategy is the need for an enduring U.S. presence in the country. The new plan would set the parameters for how that could look.

MIGHTY TRENDING

FBI Chief vows to keep working to discover ex-agent’s fate in Iran

FBI Director Chris Wray says the top U.S. law enforcement agency will never give up on “finding out what happened” to former agent Robert Levinson, who the U.S. government believes died while in Iranian custody.

In an e-mail to FBI staff seen by the Associated Press on March 26, Wray said he had met with the family of Robert Levinson and “we explained that the most credible evidence we have collected over the past 13 years points to the likelihood that Bob died in captivity.”


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

“It pained me to deliver that news, but I believe that we owed Bob’s family a thorough and candid presentation of the information that we’ve collected,” Wray wrote.

Wray did not provide details on the “credible evidence” he said the family had received.

“We’re going to keep working doggedly to determine the circumstances surrounding Bob’s abduction and his time in captivity, to find the answers we all want and that the Levinsons deserve,” Wray said.

Levinson, who was born in March 1948, disappeared when he traveled to the Iranian resort island of Kish in March 2007. He was working for the CIA as a contractor at the time.

The United States has repeatedly called on Iran to help locate Levinson and bring him home, but Iranian officials said they had no information about his fate.

However, when he disappeared, an Iranian government-linked media outlet broadcast a story saying he was “in the hands of Iranian security forces.”

Tehran on March 26 said in a statement that Levinson left Iran “long ago” and that Iranian authorities don’t know where he is, rejecting the claim that he died in Iranian custody.

“Based on credible evidence, [Levinson] left Iran years ago for an unknown destination,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mosavi said in the statement.

He added that officials had done everything possible to find out what happened after Levinson left Iran but had found “no evidence of him being alive.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

If it’s not ethical, they won’t field it: Pentagon release new A.I. guidelines

The Pentagon has vowed that if it cannot use artificial intelligence on the battlefield in an ethical or responsible way, it will simply not field it, a top general said Monday.


Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), made that promise as the Defense Department unveiled new A.I. guidelines, including five main pillars for its principled execution of A.I.: to be responsible, equitable, traceable, reliable and governable.

“We will not field an algorithm until we are convinced it meets our level of performance and our standard, and if we don’t believe it can be used in a safe and ethical manner, we won’t field it,” Shanahan told reporters during a briefing. Algorithms often offer the calculation or data processing instruction for an A.I. system. The guidelines will govern A.I. in both combat and non-combat functions that aid U.S. military use.

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The general, who has held various intelligence posts, including overseeing the algorithmic warfare cross-functional team for Google’s Project Maven, said the new effort is indicative of the U.S.’s intent to stand apart from Russia and China. Both of those countries are testing their uses of A.I. technology for military purposes, but raise “serious concerns about human rights, ethics, and international norms.”

For example, China has been building several digital artificial intelligence cities in a military-civilian partnership as it looks to understand how A.I. will be propagated and become a global leader in technology. The cities track human movement through artificial facial recognition software, watching citizens’ every move as they go about their day.

While Shanahan stressed the U.S. should be aggressive in its pursuits to harness accurate data to stay ahead, he said it will not go down the same path of Russia and China as they neglect the principles that dictate how humans should use A.I.

Instead, the steps put in place by the Pentagon can hold someone accountable for a bad action, he said.

“What I worry about with both countries is they move so fast that they’re not adhering to what we would say are mandatory principles of A.I. adoption and integration,” he said.

The recommendations came after 15 months of consultation with commercial, academic and government A.I. experts as well as the Defense Innovation Board (DIB) and the JAIC. The DIB, which is chaired by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, made the recommendations last October, according to a statement. The JAIC will be the “focal point” in coordinating implementation of the principles for the department, the statement said.

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Dana Deasy, the Pentagon’s Chief Information Officer, said the guidelines will become a blueprint for other agencies, such as the intelligence community, that will be able to use it “as they roll out their appropriate adoption of A.I. ethics.” Shanahan added the guidelines are a “good scene setter” for also collaborating alongside the robust tech sector, especially Silicon Valley.

Within the broader Pentagon A.I. executive committee, a specific subgroup of people will be responsible for formulating how the guidelines get put in place, Deasy said. Part of that, he said, depends on the technology itself.

“They’re broad principles for a reason,” Shanahan added. “Tech adapts, tech evolves; the last thing we wanted to do was put handcuffs on the department to say what you could and could not do. So the principles now have to be translated into implementation guidance,” he said.

That guidance is currently under development. A 2012 military doctrine already requires a “human in the loop” to control automated weapons, but does not delineate how broader uses for A.I. fits within the decision authority.

The Monday announcement comes roughly one year after DoD unveiled its artificial intelligence strategy in concert with the White House executive order that created the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.

“We firmly believe that the nation that masters A.I. first will prevail on the battlefield for many years,” Shanahan said, reiterating previous U.S. officials positions on the leap in technology.

Similarly in 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised event that, “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine Corps faces tough fight to protect desert tortoise

Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow is an installation focused on refurbishing gear, not training troops for war. Nonetheless, it’s now the site of a pitched and bloody ongoing battle between species, officials say.

The environmental division at the California base is bringing the Marine Corps brand of ingenuity to bear in its fight to protect the desert tortoise, a federally listed endangered species native to the Mojave Desert, from the raven, a natural predator protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

While ravens historically haven’t found much appeal in the region, that changed with the construction of Interstates 15 and 40, which were both built around the 1950s and intersect in Barstow.


“Here in the Mojave Desert, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noticed that as the desert tortoises were declining — less and less juvenile tortoises were being observed during surveys — there is a direct correlation to an increase in raven population,” Cody Leslie, the logistics base’s natural resource specialist, said in a released statement. “When I say ‘direct correlation,’ I mean that, as the tortoises are decreasing in population, the ravens have increased by as much as 1,500 percent. That’s a huge increase.”

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The desert tortoise, which is listed as vulnerable, can live to be 100. When it was added to the federal register of endangered species in 1990, there were an estimated 100,000 tortoises. But, according to a study published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, an assessment of populations at six recovery units in 2014 estimated a population of under 86,000.

It’s been years since Leslie has encountered a juvenile or hatchling tortoise, according to a base news release.

While ravens are known to go after juvenile tortoises, whose shells stay soft for up to the first decade of the animal’s life, conservationists were troubled to discover that the birds will even attack adult reptiles, flipping them and pecking at vulnerable shell access points. A recent experiment by the Superior-Cronese Critical Habitat Unit using dummy tortoises found 43 percent of the dummies were attacked by ravens, according to the release.

“It’s pretty gruesome,” Leslie said in a statement.

Since officials can’t kill the protected ravens, they’ve had to get creative. And like the larger Marine Corps, they’ve found drones to be a force multiplier. The Barstow environmental division has undertaken an effort it calls “Egg Oiling,” according to the release. They send drones out to coat eggs found in raven nests with a silica-based oil, which essentially smothers the young inside the shell, keeping out oxygen needed for development.

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Hatching baby desert tortoise.

(Photo by K. Kristina Drake)

“The ravens continue to sit on the eggs for the entire breeding season and do not continue to rebreed,” the release states.

In addition to the drone-aided egg oiling, conservationists are asking base employees and other residents to make sure their trash is disposed of in closed containers and that no food, including pet food, is left accessible to the birds.

Leslie also asked locals to report raven nests and bird activity to the Environmental Division and not to leave any water sources out in the open.

The desert tortoise, which also faces non-raven threats such as viral herpes and Upper Respiratory Tract Disease, has long presented a training challenge for Marines, who also occupy tortoise territory at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in the Mojave. Marine officials have relocated gear and altered training plans in order to avoid disturbing the creatures.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet the first female 3-star general in the US military

The U.S. military has always been fertile soil for firsts throughout our nation’s history, and the promotion of Carol A. Mutter to become the nation’s first female lieutenant general serves as a perfect case in point for Women’s History Month.

Women have served in the military from the earliest years of our representative republic.

Deborah Sampson (Gannett) served covertly when she disguised herself as a man under the assumed name of Robert Shurtleff, to join the Continental Army and fight in the Revolutionary War in 1782. Sampson went so far as to cut a musket ball out of her own thigh to prevent a battlefield surgeon from discovering her true gender. She was honorably discharged as a private in 1793.


Women gained the opportunity to serve openly in World War I when Congress opened the military to women in 1914. However, it took more than two centuries between the time Sampson first shouldered a musket to the time when women served as general (flag rank) officers in the American military. Mutter achieved one-star brigadier general rank in 1991.

Three years later Mutter became the first woman in the history of America’s military to achieve two-star major general rank in 1994, and two years after that in 1996 she became the first woman to become a three-star lieutenant general in any American military branch.

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Lieutenant General Carol A. Mutter, Marine Corps, was the first woman in the U.S. military to achieve the rank of three star general.

Born in 1945 in Greeley, Colorado, Mutter graduated in 1967 from officer candidate school at the University of Northern Colorado as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

Mutter had a number of firsts during her 32-year career in the Corps:

  • First woman to qualify as Command Center Crew Commander/Space Director at U.S. Space Command.
  • First woman of flag rank (general officer rank) to command a major deployable tactical command.
  • First woman Marine major general, and senior woman in all the services at that time.
  • First woman nominated by a U.S. president (Bill Clinton) for three-star rank.
  • First female lieutenant general in the U.S. Armed Forces.

During a 2014 interview for the documentary Unsung Heroes: The Story of America’s Female Patriots, Mutter explains why she joined the Marine Corps during the early years of the Vietnam War.

“Because they’re the best, there’s no doubt about that,” she said. ” … when I joined, (the Corps) was only one percent female and there were no women in the deployed forces at all. So, as long as the women were back in the rear doing the jobs that the men didn’t want to do, there was not much of a problem.”

The general has been recognized as a trailblazer by several different organizations. Among them is the National Women’s Hall of Fame which inducted the general in 2017.

Mutter retired from the Corps in 1999 and lives with her husband at their home in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.

Information for this article is drawn from several different sources including:

This article originally appeared on United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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