Why is it so hard to understand what it's like to be a veteran? - We Are The Mighty
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Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal. 


As soon as he wrapped up his studies in film and literature at Boston University, Henry Hughes followed family tradition and signed up for the Army. For the next five years, he took fire, dodged IEDs and grappled internally with the meaning of military service while on two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. After Hughes returned home and earned another degree from the American Film Institute, he began making movies, including his short film,”Day One,” which tells the story of a female Army interpreter facing a moral quandary during her first day on the job: saving the newborn child of a known enemy. The film was nominated for this year’s Academy Award for best live-action short.

NationSwell spoke to Hughes, a Got Your 6 Storyteller, by phone from Los Angeles about the lingering questions from war and their portrayal on film.

 

What inspired you to serve your country?

For me, it was a long family tradition. We basically had someone in the Army since the [American] Revolution. I wanted to be part of that tradition.

Is there one question that you continually ask yourself about your experience?

It’s probably, “why is it not so simple?” It’s a very complex part of my life, not something that is full of simply good memories or simply bad memories: it’s a mixture of all types of life. So I always wonder why it’s not like anything else. At this point, why can’t it be simpler? Why is it so difficult for everyone to understand it?

I’m guessing that’s why did you decided to make the film “Day One?”

For sure, it’s about those questions. There’s not a reducible answer like the one I just tried to give you. So that’s why I thought I could make a movie about it instead, to kind of show the way it felt. So the movie is not a true-to-life of what exactly happened to me that one day. But the feeling when I’m watching the movie, it’s that sublime space of things that are horrible and beautiful in the same breath.

What’s the most important lesson civilians can take away from art that’s made about war?

I would say that everyone’s wartime experience is subjective. I don’t know if there’s some sort of universal experience.

What’s your favorite movie about war?

For me, it’s “The Thin Red Line.” I think it touches me because there’s no other war movie like it, that accepts the soulfulness of the warrior experience. A lot of movies don’t go that way, they kind of go along the more visceral, more experiential route.

What is the quality you most admire in a comrade?

What I actually admire most is hard to come by in our community: vulnerability. When it’s a vulnerability to look at your military experience, I really love meeting those people.

Who was the most inspirational person you encountered while serving?

I would say my interpreter on my second tour. She’s the one I based the movie on, or it’s inspired by her. She’s an Afghan-American woman, naturalized as an American citizen, but born over there. The deck was stacked against her, and she looked inside herself to find out what she thought was right and wrong. It wasn’t something that someone told her to do. She just had incredible integrity.

If you could change one thing about your service, what would it be?

I wouldn’t want one of my guys to be wounded or for any of my guys to die.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I would probably say chasing down my wife. It was a long shot, and it worked out. In 2010, after my first tour, I flew to New York without knowing she was there. We hadn’t spoken in a long time. We knew each other as children, when we were 13, and I hadn’t seen her in a number of years. I thought I could track her down, and so on Facebook messenger, I basically said, “Hey, I just landed in New York. Let’s hang out. We haven’t seen each other in a decade.” We went on one date and then a few more dates. She started me writing me a lot of letters when I was in Afghanistan again for my second tour, and we decided to be together.

How can the rest of us, as civilians, do more to support veterans?

Just look at them as people first. I feel like there’s a big divide on some level, but a lot of it is imagined. The fact of the matter is that all of those veterans are just people. I would look at them that way first and then look at their experience.

To you, what does it mean these days to be a veteran?

Well, it’s inescapable, I suppose. The definition of being a veteran is you can never not be a veteran one once you are one. And that speaks to, I think, how profound that experience is. There’s no way you can stop being a veteran.

 

Articles

Watch Marines drift their tanks on ice

U.S. Marines training in Norway took their tanks and armored vehicles on a drifting course over solid ice.


Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
GIF: US Marine Forces Europe and Africa Facebook Video

The Marines are taking part in Exercise Cold Response 16 which is a 12-nation NATO exercise. American airmen, sailors, and Marines are learning how to fight in the extreme cold, a muscle the U.S. didn’t flex much while focused on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Exercise Cold Response was scheduled before Russia began its aggressive actions in Ukraine but the skills learned in Norway will be useful if relations don’t improve. The United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, and Latvia are also participating.

Learning to safely drift tanks may seem like a crazy stunt, but it will help U.S. Marine Corps tank crewmen maneuver during a fight in the extreme cold.

U.S. Marines in the exercise have also trained on surviving a fall through ice and constructing snow shelters.

(h/t Washington Post)

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Memorial Day, surround yourself with ‘Good Friends and Whiskey’

For many Americans, Memorial Day is a three-day weekend that kicks off the summer season with BBQs and parties — and it should be. Gathering with friends and loved ones is a special privilege we are fortunate enough to enjoy.

For many service members, veterans, and Gold Star Families, however, the weekend can carry some sadness. Memorial Day is, after all, a day to remember the fallen men and women who gave their lives in military service.

We all honor those we’ve lost in our own way. For U.S. Marine JP Guhns, it’s through music.



JP Guhns

www.facebook.com

Watch the music video:

JP is no stranger to We Are The Mighty. He first landed on our radar as a finalist in our Mission: Music talent search. He also has four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan under his belt, which significantly impacted his music.

Also Read: It’s time you know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day

“I’ve been a victim to suicide, said the Lord’s Prayer as we carried one of my Marine brothers to aid, been heartbroken by life, and prayed to pay the bills. I’ve fought the hard battles. I’ve cried through the nights of memories. Thank God I had friends and family to bring me through,” he shared on the Facebook launch of Good Friends and Whiskey (see video above).

JP isn’t the only veteran who shares military experiences through the arts — and he’s definitely not the only one who has been impacted by the loss of service members’ lives, home or overseas. This Memorial Day, as you enjoy some downtime and celebrate, maybe also take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of the military, contribute to a veteran non-profit, or support troops like JP by checking out their art and hearing their stories.

JP Guhns | Mission: Music | USAA

www.youtube.com

Get to know U.S. Marine JP Guhns

In 2017, USAA invited five talented military musicians to Nashville to record at the legendary Ocean Way Studios. JP was one of those artists — and he really made the most of the opportunity. His latest song is both a tribute to the people who have been there for him as well as a message to anyone else out there who needs to know that they are not alone.

“To all my brothers and sisters in arms, rejoice the memories of our fallen, and let’s get back to living again.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

These days, Jeff Henson is doing what he believes has been his calling in life. He’s showing people who have attempted or have had thoughts of suicide that there is another way.

The Air Force Veteran (pictured above) is a volunteer at Save A Warrior. The nonprofit provides counseling in mental health, wellness and suicide prevention to Veterans, active-duty military and first responders. More than 1,100 men and women have gone through the program since it began eight years ago.


Many of these people, Henson explains, are missing “their family, their tribe” with whom they once built a friendship and camaraderie in the military or elsewhere. A lot of them not only have PTSD, he says, but PTSD and moral injury, which is essentially a conflict with one’s personal code of morality.

A Veteran may feel guilt, shame or self-condemnation for violating his or her moral beliefs in combat by killing someone, witnessing death or failing to prevent the immoral acts of others.

The will to live

Henson believes moral injury is a form of “complex PTSD” that can also stem from negative circumstances in one’s childhood.

“We introduce a Veteran to a tribe of 12 other Veterans who came to Save A Warrior at the same time as total strangers. They can leave as ‘brothers’ with an understanding that it’s not always what happened down-range that has them stuck in life. We provide hope and magic that is the will to live.”

Henson has been there himself. Diagnosed with PTSD and void of hope, he went through the Save A Warrior program in 2016 while in Veterans’ treatment court in Orange County, California.

Flashbacks from the Gulf War

His court time stemmed from a domestic violence incident in 2013. At the time, he was experiencing many of the classic PTSD symptoms: nightmares, mood swings, anxiety, depression, isolation and flashbacks. When the incident happened, he had flashed back to a moment when he unintentionally witnessed a decapitation in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, during the Gulf War in 1990, and he lost control.

Study links PTSD with criminal justice involvement

Earlier this year, a VA study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that Veterans with PTSD — compared to those without — are six times more likely to experience run-ins with the law.

The researchers say it is unclear what is driving the ties between PTSD and criminal justice involvement. They say the general strain theory may partially explain the results. That theory asserts that the risk of criminal behavior is higher among people who have experienced traumatic events and report negative effects, such as high levels of anger or irritability,

It gave me hope

Meanwhile, as part of getting his life back together, the 59-year-old Henson is pursuing a doctorate in psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

He’s also trying to give back to the organization that gave him so much.

“Save A Warrior did not save my life, but it gave me hope,” he says. “It’s the difference between `being alive’ and `living.’ It’s also about being of service. I’m one of the shepherds who helps people through the process that I went through.

“When we’re kids, we’re told by our parents not to use four-letter words,” he adds. “I dispute that because hope is a four-letter word. And hope is powerful.”

Click here to read more of Henson’s story.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s how NORAD will be tracking Santa’s Christmas trip this week

A joint command between the U.S. and Canada, NORAD’s primary mission is to detect and respond to threats in and around North American Airspace. But once a year, NORAD uses its sensors to track Santa’s progress. Interested parties can keep track of where he is by checking social media, calling the hotline, checking email, or visiting the special website.


Here’s the tech that makes the Christmas Eve operation possible:

Santa’s departure

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Photo: flickr/Josua

NORAD coordinates with Santa’s elves to get real time intel on Santa’s departure time. This ensures that when Santa’s sleigh enters monitored airspace, NORAD isn’t surprised. The North Warning System is made up of 47 radar stations strung across northern Canada and Alaska that are designed to find and identify objects entering NORAD airspace. The NWS only covers the northern most part of the continent, so the radar operators quickly hand off tracking to teams watching satellite coverage.

Santa’s flight

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Santa, the world’s most experienced pilot, usually flies his sleigh but rode in a jet to festivities with the US Air Force on Dec. 5, 2015. Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st First Class Ashleigh S. Pavelek

After radar operators confirm Santa has entered NORAD airspace, a group of satellites known as the Defense Support Program begin tracking the flight. DSP was launched to detect the infrared signatures emitted by ballistic missiles so the missiles could be intercepted before striking North American cities.

DSP satellites are so sensitive, they can actually see the unique infrared signature of Rudolph’s nose. According to NASA and NORAD, Rudolph’s nose gives off about the same amount of heat as a small missile launch, which explains how the reindeer stay warm in the arctic atmosphere.

Santa’s honor guard

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Painting: Creative Commons Gene W. Ritchhart

Once NORAD began tracking Santa, they realized that jet pilots could be given the unique experience of getting to fly with their hero. Every year, select Canadian and U.S. pilots are granted the chance to escort Santa. Canada launches CF-18 pilots to greet Santa while the U.S. hangs out in F-15s, F-16s, and F-22s.

Santa slows to run with the fighter jets, allowing the pilots to wave to Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph.

Santa Cams

Of course, NORAD doesn’t want just pilots to get a glimpse of the world’s jolliest elf, so they installed a number of high-speed cameras around the world to track Santa’s progress and feed live video to children through the NORAD Santa website. The camera’s provide much of the tracking information for Santa’s journey outside of North America.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
This teddy bear covered down on a phone station during the NORAD tracks Santa mission 2013. Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh

To track Santa this Christmas Eve, check out the website or download the phone app, “NORAD Tracks Santa.” You can also keep tabs through Twitter, Facebook, or by calling volunteers at 1-877-HI-NORAD.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This pilot of a stricken F-16 was saved from ISIS by a quick-thinking tanker crew

An F-16 pilot flying over ISIS-held territory in 2015 suffered a malfunction of his fuel system and would have been forced to bail out if it weren’t for a KC-135 Stratotanker crew that offered to escort the jet home, the Air Force said in a press release.


The KC-135 was tasked with refueling a flight of A-10s supporting ground pounders when an F-16 came for gas and declared an emergency.

“We were in the area of responsibility and were already mated with some A-10 Thunderbolt IIs that were tasked with observing and providing close-air-support for our allies on the ground,” said Capt. Nathanial Beer, 384th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “The lead F-16 came up first and then had a pressure disconnect after about 500 pounds of fuel. We were expecting to offload about 2,500 pounds.”

After the pilot completed his checklist, it became apparent that 80 percent of his fuel supply was trapped in the tanks and couldn’t get to the engine. The pilots would have to bail out over ISIS territory or try to make it back to allied airspace.

500 pounds of fuel is very little in an F-16, so the KC-135 flew home with the fighter and topped off its gas every 15 minutes.

“The first thought I had from reading the note from the deployed location was extreme pride for the crew in how they handled the emergency,” said Lt. Col. Eric Hallberg, 384th Air Refueling Squadron commander.

 

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
The crew of the KC-135 poses for a photo in front of their aircraft. Photo: US Air Force courtesy photo

 

“Knowing the risks to their own safety, they put the life of the F-16 pilot first and made what could’ve been an international tragedy, a feel-good news story. I’m sure they think it was not a big deal, however, that’s because they never want the glory or fame.”

The KC-135 crew returned to their planned operation once the F-16 was safely home and were able to complete all of their scheduled missions despite the detour.

Intel

This 92-year-old WWII vet gets to fly her favorite plane again after 70 years

Joy Lofthouse was one of the women who pushed the envelope of what women did in World War II. She was a pilot for the British Air Transport Auxiliary, shuttling fighters between air bases, factories, and maintenance facilities.


Now, 70 years after she last flew a Spitfire, she’s back in the cockpit. Check out the video below:

NOW: Stunning footage shows pilot’s eye view from inside a Blue Angel cockpit

OR: Navy turns seawater into fuel and nobody cares

Articles

Report suggests US has moved nuclear weapons out of Turkey

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
(Photo: Umit Bektas)


Last month’s failed coup in Turkey has sparked substantial unrest, a crackdown on opposition to the Erdogan regime, and a downward spiral in relations with the United States. With the refusal (to date) of the United States to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen and interference with operations at Incirlik Air Base (including a halt in air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), concern centered around an estimated 50 B61 “special stores.” (Official United States policy is to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons on an installation.)

Now, according to reports from Euractiv.com, those bombs have been evacuated from Incirlik and are now in Romania, where components of an American missile defense system for NATO is being deployed. As might be imagined, it isn’t easy to move up to fifty special stores. It’s also understandable that the security is a big deal – some variants of the B61 have yields of 340 kilotons – over 20 times the power of the device used on Hiroshima 71 years ago.

The Euractiv.com report came two days after Ibrahim Karagul, the editor of Yeni Safak, a Turkish newspaper, said that Turkey should seize the nuclear weapons at Incirlik if the United States refused to hand them over in a post on the microblogging site Twitter. Karagul also claimed that the United States was an “internal threat” to Turkey. The tweets came the day after a study by the Stimson Center claimed that the nukes at Incirlik were at risk in the wake of the failed coup.

“From a security point of view, it’s a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America’s nuclear weapons stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey,” Laicie Heeley of the Stimson Center told Agence France Presse‘s Thomas Watkins. The Stimson Center’s study recommended the removal of all United States tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.

“We do not discuss the location of strategic assets. The [Department of Defense] has taken appropriate steps to maintain the safety and security of our personnel, their families, and our facilities, and we will continue to do so,” a DoD statement in response to the study said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US slammed Russia for moving more weapons into Syria

Russia has ratcheted up military tensions in Syria by announcing it would send the advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria, and the US military had a savage response.

Asked for comment on the announced movement of the missile defense batteries to Syria, Maj. Josh T. Jacques of the US Military’s Central Command, which covers the Middle East, said Russia “should move humanitarian aid into Syria, not more weaponry.”


Another Pentagon official similarly had words for Russia, responding to Russian claims that Soviet-era Syrian defenses blocked 83 missiles from a US-led strike early April 2018.

“This is another example of the Russian disinformation campaign to distract attention from their moral complicity to the Assad regime’s atrocities,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Business Insider, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Russia stands accused by international observers of bombing humanitarian aid convoys on their way into besieged Syrian towns and stifling efforts to ease suffering in the country while they support Assad and allegedly cover him while he conducts chemical warfare against his own citizens.

Experts tell Business Insider that the S-300 likely could not stop another US strike like the one on April 14, 2018, where 105 missiles hit three suspected chemical weapons sites in the country. Russia claims its defenses can down “any” US missile.

Syria has been mired in a brutal civil war since March 2011. Russia, Syria’s ally, has provided air support and training for Assad’s military since late 2015, during which time it has been linked to several war crimes involving the death of civilians.

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



MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel’s attack on a Syrian reactor prevented a nuclear ISIS

Israel’s military admitted on March 20, 2018, what intelligence communities around the world had long known — that Israeli airstrikes had taken out a would-be nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007.


In reporting the strike, Israel said it had done so in part to warn its adversaries in the region, like Iran. But surely Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries with spy services already knew the action Israel had taken.

Also read: For first time in 70 years, Saudi Arabia may grant Israel access to airspace

It’s unlikely Iran or Syria needed a current reminder that Israel would fight in the skies over Syria to protect its interests after a massive Israeli air offensive downed an Iranian drone and reportedly took out half of Syria’s air defenses in February 2018.

But one element of Israel’s 2007 strike on a nuclear reactor near Deir Ezzor that bears repeating and reexamination is the fact that the terror group ISIS held control of that area for three full years.

If Syria had nukes, then ISIS might have, too

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Two ISIS recruits operate their weapons, a RPG (right) and a PKM (left). (ISIS photo)

“Look at nukes as an insurance policy — at the end of the day, if you’ve got a nuke, it’s an umbrella for all of the other activity that could potentially spark conflict with your enemies,” Jonathan Schanzer, a Syria expert and the senior vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “If your enemies want to respond to you, they’re going to feel inhibited.”

This may have been Syria’s calculus in 2007 when it set about a clandestine nuclear weapons program, reportedly with the help of embedded North Koreans.

Related: ISIS reappeared in Syria to fight Asad troops in the capital

But in 2011, a popular, pro-democratic uprising in Syria sparked what would become a civil war that has dragged on to this day. During the conflict, Syrian President Bashar Assad has lost control of the majority of his country, with some parts under the control of rebel forces, some parts under the control of Kurdish forces, and from 2014 to 2017, much of the country under ISIS’ control.

ISIS held Deir Ezzor and the surrounding regions for three solid years, during which time they looted and pillaged whatever resources were available and ready for sale, including oil from the country’s rich oilfields.

If Israel had not taken out the reactor in 2007, it’s entirely possible ISIS could have taken custody of it. With access to radioactive materials, it’s possible ISIS could have cooked up a dirty bomb for use in terrorism, or even detonated a full-on nuclear device.

It’s reasonable to expect that a nuclear-capable ISIS would have more leverage, and could possibly force concessions from its opponents or prompt other nuclear states to strike first.

Instability makes Middle Eastern nuclear programs extra dangerous

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
A woman protests the Iranian government’s policy requiring all women to wear headscarves. (Photo by My Stealthy Freedom/Facebook)

“The Middle East is unstable,” Schanzer said. “One never knows when the next popular uprising or the next moment of intense instability might hit.”

Even states like Iran, where the current government has been in power since 1979, could fall prey to a popular uprising that could collapse the regime “overnight,” according to Schanzer.

More: 6 most stubborn world conflicts happening right now

“Imagine if in Syria today we were trying to track loose nukes,” Schanzer said. “Imagine if a country like Yemen had nuclear weapons.”

While nuclear weapons may deter state actors from invading a country or pushing it too far, they do not protect against domestic upheaval, like the 2011 Syrian uprising that became overrun with Islamist hardliners like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s a look at Facebook’s latest battle against online trolls

Facebook is waging a constant war against online trolls looking to interfere with foreign politics, and the social media giant just gave us an inside look at the latest battle.

On Oct. 21, 2019, Facebook announced it identified and removed four separate networks of interconnected accounts engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” In other words, these were four separate groups posting misleading content on Facebook under fake accounts, groups or pages on Facebook.


Facebook said three of the networks originated in Iran, while the fourth was based in Russia. These networks included about 200 accounts and pages that shared divisive memes and content meant to influence people in the United States, Latin America, and parts of North Africa.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said the four networks were discovered as a part of the company’s efforts to police organized campaigns launched by fake accounts. Collectively, the banned accounts had more than 250,000 followers and their posts could’ve reached many more people.

“We detected this activity as part of our ongoing review of suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of US elections,” Gleicher wrote in a blog post. “We’ve shared information with our industry partners, policy makers and law enforcement and will continue working with others to find and remove this behavior.”

Facebook said most of the fake accounts it finds originate from Russia, Iran, and China, and they post about politics in various parts of the world. According to Facebook, much of the “inauthentic behavior” was designed to spark a response from people on both sides of major political issues, though some repurposed articles from Iran’s state media. Most posts were responses to high-profile political figures or other media sources.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Facebook showed this example posted by a fake group claiming to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

(Facebook)

“The people behind this operation often posted on both sides of political issues including topics like US elections, environmental issues, racial tensions, LGBTQ issues, political candidates, confederate ideas, conservatism and liberalism,” Gleicher said of the Russia-based accounts. “They also maintained accounts presenting themselves as local in some swing states, and posed as either conservatives or progressives.”

With the 2020 US presidential election on the horizon, Facebook has been vocal about its efforts to combat political trolls. The social media platform has been widely criticized for allowing misinformation to spread across the platform, and an investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office found that dozens of Russian agents were involved in a coordinated campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking to the press during a conference call on Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook’s pre-emptive detection of these fake accounts should serve as encouragement that the company is making strides on security.

Zuckerberg said the company now has 35,000 employees focused on security, and says the company is now spending more on security than its made in revenue during 2012, the same year Facebook went public.

“There’s still a long way to go before election day, and we have a big responsibility to secure our platform and stay ahead of the sophisticated new threats to the integrity of elections here and around the world. Personally this is one of my top priorities for the company.” Zuckerberg said. “Elections have changed significantly, and Facebook has changed too. We are confident that we are more prepared heading into 2020 to fight interference and protect the integrity of our elections.”

In addition to tightened security behind the scenes, Facebook will also roll out new features designed to help people verify questionable sources online. Facebook will introduce a new tag that shows when an ad or post has been fact-checked by a third party, and news sources that are run by a local government will be labeled as such. Additionally, people creating a group or page will have their real name and location listed with Facebook for verification, to prevent foreign entities from posing as local people.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Facebook said the creator of this post was based in Russia.

(Facebook)

Facebook continues to face harsh criticism from Democratic presidential candidates for allowing misinformation on the platform and in paid advertisements, specifically. Last week, Zuckerberg defended the company’s stance to allow some types of misinformation, so long as it doesn’t lead to violence or other immediate harm. During a speech at Georgetown University, Zuckerberg said the policy was rooted in his belief in freedom of expression.

With social media becoming one of the primary venues for political discussion in recent years, the incentive to dominate the conversation or weaponize political feelings to create conflict is greater than ever. Facebook and other social media platforms will have to deal with constant attempts to disrupt natural discourage, and separate what’s authentic from what’s not.

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

Articles

Iraqi security forces step up aggression against ISIS

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?


The Iraqi Security Forces are now much less likely to quit fighting and becoming much more aggressive and consistent in their ongoing combat against ISIS, Pentagon and U.S. Coalition officials said.

Responding to questions about numerous reports citing large desertions of Iraqi troops not wanting to fight, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that circumstance has been rapidly shifting for the better.

Many observers said large numbers of Iraqi soldiers simply refused to fight or put up any kind of defense when ISIS first seized territory in Iraq; that equation has now changed, U.S. officials say.

Warren said recent victories in Ramadi and villages near Makhmour have emboldened and empowered Iraq forces to fight, despite reports that many were still laying down their weapons and taking off from the battlefield.

“Small units confidence and morale is growing and strengthening. The training, advising and equipping that we have done is having an effect,” Warren told reporters.

Citing that the U.S. has trained 20,000 Iraqis over last 20 months to elevate their performance levels and instructed them how to better conduct operations in Tikrit and Ramadi, Warren added that Iraqi force have favorable responded to recent combat success.

“They have tasted victory and they want to taste more of it,” he said.

As evidence of increased Iraqi combat aggression, Warren pointed to a specific M1 Abrams tank crew in Hit, Iraq, which has earned the knickname “beast” for its ceaseless activities against ISIS. The one tank has been systematically and aggressively attacking enemy defenses, maneuvering and blasting enemy IEDs, Warren explained.

Hit is a city along the Euphrates river where U.S. Coalition forces continue to make substantial gains against ISIS, Warren said.

There are still some problems with Iraqi soldiers quitting, particularly in areas around Makhmour, Warren explained.

“Iraqi senior leaders have noticed this (Iraqi soldier quitting) and have fired some commanders. They have been replaced with more aggressive commanders,” he added. “Broadly speaking across the board we are seeing their level come up. As this Army drives closer to Mosul the fighting will only get harder.”

Warren added that Iraqi and U.S. Coalition combat tactics involved combined arms maneuvers on the ground along with air attacks and efforts to dismantle ISIS’ finance operations, cyber abilities and overall command and control.

“An enemy that is shattered and scattered has significantly reduced ability to mass combat power. We believe that by shattering them, fragmenting them and dismantling them, we move ourselves closer to the ultimate goal,” he said.

Although there has been widespread reporting quoting senior U.S. military officials saying there will likely be more U.S. combat outposts in Iraq, Warren emphasized that the U.S. Coalition strategy is grounded in the priority of having Iraqi forces make gains on the ground.

“The Iraqis are the only ones who can defeat ISIS in a way that is a lasting defeat,” Warren proclaimed. “Our intent here is to deliver them a lasting defeat. We believe that by degrading them in phase one and then dismantling them in phase two – we will be set up for phase three which is to defeat them.”

The U.S. Coalition’s recent killing of several ISIS senior leaders has had a substantial negative impact upon ISIS, Warren said.

“Any organization that has lost three of its most senior leaders in a span of 30 days – is going to suffer for it; the organization then turns in on itself. We’ve seen an increase in a number of executions (ISIS killing members of its own group). It creates confusion, paranoia and ultimately weakens the enemy,” Warren said.

Warren expressed confidence in the ultimate defeat of ISIS, in part due to the resolve of a 66-nation coalition that, he said, “understands that this is an enemy that needs to be defeated.”

Articles

Air Force tests bolt-on aircraft laser weapon

Air Force scientists are working to arm the B-52 with defensive laser weapons able to incinerate attacking air-to-air or air-to-ground missile attack.


Offensive and defensive laser weapons for Air Force fighter jets and large cargo aircraft have been in development for several years now. However, the Air Force Research Lab has recently embarked upon a special five-year effort, called the SHIELD program, aimed at creating sufficient on-board power, optics and high-energy lasers able to defend large platforms such as a B-52 bomber, C-130 aircraft or fighter jet.

“You can take out the target if you put the laser on the attacking weapon for a long enough period of time,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.

Possibly using an externally-mounted POD with sufficient transportable electrical power, the AFRL is already working on experimental demonstrator weapons able to bolt-on to an aircraft, Zacharias added.

Given that an external POD would add shapes to the fuselage which would make an aircraft likely to be vulnerable to enemy air defense radar systems, the bolt-on defensive laser would not be expected to work on a stealthy platform, he explained.

However, a heavily armed B-52, as a large 1960s-era target, would perhaps best benefit from an ability to defend itself from the air; such a technology would indeed be relevant and potentially useful to the Air Force, as the service is now immersed in a series of high-tech upgrades for the B-52 so that it can continue to serve for decades to come.

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Defending a B-52 could becoming increasing important in years to come if some kind of reconfigured B-52 is used as the Pentagon’s emerging Arsenal Plane or “flying bomb truck.”

Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion, and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.

Defensive laser weapons could also be used to jam an attacking missile as well, developers explained.

“You may not want to destroy the incoming missile but rather throw the laser off course – spoof it,” Zacharias said.

Also, synchronizing laser weapons with optics technology from a telescope could increase the precision needed to track and destroy fast moving enemy attacks, he said.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman J.T. Armstrong

Another method of increasing laser fire power is to bind fiber optic cables together to, for example, turn a 1 Kilowatt laser into a 10-Kilowatt weapon.

“Much of the issue with fiber optic lasers is stability and an effort to make lasers larger,” he explained.

Targeting for the laser could also seek to connect phased array radars and lasers on the same wavelength to further synchronize the weapon.

Laser Weapons for Fighter Jets

Aircraft-launched laser weapons from fighter jets could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.

Low cost is another key advantage of laser weapons, as they can prevent the need for high-cost missiles in many combat scenarios.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.

Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, has taken place in the last few years at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The first airborne tests are slated to take place by 2021, service officials said.

Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.

Air Force Special Operations Command is working with both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.

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Another advantage of lasers is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapon system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts said.

Overall, officials throughout the Department of Defense are optimistic about beam weapons and, more generally, directed-energy technologies.

Laser weapons could be used for ballistic missile defense as well. Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said during the 2017 fiscal year budget discussion that “Laser technology maturation is critical for us.”

And the U.S. Navy also has several developmental programs underway to arm their destroyers and cruisers will possess these systems to help ships fend off drones and missiles.

Man-in-the-Loop

As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a laser-drone weapon will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.

While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacharias explained.

“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.

Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.

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