Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spent more than 40 years in the study and practice of war, but his extensive thoughts and writings on the subject have often been selectively reduced to chesty one-liners.
There’s the admonition to the troops, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
And another, “There’s some a——s in the world that just need to be shot.”
Other examples of bumper-sticker bravado could be cited that tend to drown out the context and Mattis’ consistent underlying message in a career as Marine legend and four-star general — that being prepared for war is the best way to prevent it.
Mattis, in the past week, has been attempting to provide more context in three informal sessions with Pentagon reporters that he acknowledges undertaking at the suggestion of The Associated Press’ senior defense correspondent, Bob Burns.
It’s just him in the middle of a reporters’ huddle. His aides stand aside but within earshot. He is unfailingly polite and direct in his responses to any topic that comes up, with the exception of those that he feels would give a clue to future operations.
Only once has he snapped at a question. Mattis took a question on civilian casualties in Yemen as suggesting that the U.S. didn’t care about the casualties. “Don’t screw with me,” he said.
At the session with reporters Jan. 5, Mattis took questions on Pakistan, Syria, Korea, Iran, Russia, transgender recruits, and the budget and, in the process, made a statement that could be added to his lexicon of one-liners.
“What counts most in war is [the] most difficult to count,” he said in expanding on his thoughts about civil war in Syria in response to a question about whether progress could be gauged by the number of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters killed.
Another reporter interjected that Mattis had recently said in Tel Aviv, “I’ve got better things to do than counting while the fight’s still going on.”
Mattis went on to say, “Yes, we’re not going to get into that sort of thing. You’ll know probably the most challenging part in assessing in combat — to include specifically your question — is that what counts most in war is most difficult to count, to quantify, OK?”
The most difficult thing to quantify is the enemy’s morale, Mattis said, but there are “lagging indicators” that would show that constant pressure is having an effect.
“Morale, eventually, you’ll see a lagging indicator,” he said. “You’ll see that not as many people want to be recruited into a force that’s getting annihilated — witness Syria.”
“You won’t see as many foreigners coming to join witness this. So, you can kind of look at what’s happened in Syria and say, ‘Wait a minute. They’re not putting out squads to go blow off bombs in Brussels anymore.’ They can’t. You know, this sort of thing,” Mattis said.
The problem is that “not always can you quantify where you’re at, at any one moment,” he said, but in the case of ISIS “we’ll fight them” until the threat is eliminated.
Mattis also spoke on tyranny and revolution in commenting on the recent street protests in Iran against the Islamic regime.
“You know, it’s interesting. You know, I enjoy reading history, just because I learn a lot from it. And, if you watch, when people confront tyranny — and this goes back 1,000-2,000 years — people, eventually, they get fed up with it,” he said.
“And whether it be physical tyranny or mental tyranny or spiritual tyranny, they revolt against it,” Mattis said.
“So we may come from different directions,” he said of Iranian and American judgments on the regime in Tehran, “but ultimately, it’s the same kind of tyranny.”
“In their case, it’s about their internal government, what it does to them. In our case, it’s that, plus it’s what that government has done to espouse or support terrorism, destabilizing activities, export of ballistic missiles, disruption of commerce. All these kinds of things,” he said.
Mattis declined to speculate on what may come next, and what the U.S. response would be.
“There’s a reason I have four-stars out in the field,” he said of the combatant commanders.
A distant, flashing image of blue sky, rolling mountains and snowy rivers visited itself upon an injured soldier flying away from a violent firefight on the ground below – just barely beyond view from the naked eye.
This vivid, yet paradoxical scene is what former Green Beret Dillon Behr recalls seeing when looking down in a weary, half-conscious state from a Black Hawk helicopter while being evacuated from a near-death combat encounter in the mountains of Afghanistan.
“I was able to look back in the valley below and see a lot of my teammates still there fighting. It was a beautiful scene from a distance, yet what had just happened down below was basically hell on earth,” Behr explained.
This violence, heroism and near death for Behr is now known as the famous battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan, 2008; the mission on that April day was called “Operation Commando Wrath.”
Behr was part of a 12-man US Special Forces A-team tasked with taking out a high-value enemy target up in the mountains; his unit was joined by another supporting 12-man Green Beret A-team and about 100 Afghan Commandos. Behr was part of the 3rd Special Forces Group, ODA 3336.
While Green Berets are, among other things, experienced with helicopter rope drops and various kinds of airborne attack raids typically employed in assaults of this kind, Behr’s unit was forced to climb the side of a mountain and attack on foot, due to the rugged terrain and relative inexperience of supporting Afghan Commando partners.
Behr recalled the combat scene on the mountain, at an elevation of about 1,000 feet, as dreary with gray rocks, some small trees and not much vegetation. The uneven terrain was accompanied by some snow on the ground and a partially iced-over river. Concrete-like looking mud huts and small villages were scattered in rows and villages along ridges of the mountainside.
Having completed Special Forces training, selection, and preparation, Behr had spent years preparing for the life-and-death combat scenario he knew he was about to encounter.
He was a trained fighter, trainer and teacher working as part of a close-knit group focused on a specific attack mission. Behr was an intelligence and communications specialist, yet like all Green Berets, he was first and foremost a fighter, equipped and ready to respond to fast-evolving combat situations.
“As we started climbing, we encountered insurgents… around 200 enemy combatants. They had the high ground and had us surrounded,” he recalled.
During a subsequent, fast-ensuing firefight, Behr and his fellow Green Berets used what rocks, small trees and ditches they could find to both avert enemy gunfire and launch counterattacks.
“We had intelligence that a high value target was going to be there, someone traditionally hard to track down. We did not know there would be so many fighters and enemy forces there. We happened upon a much larger meeting of enemy combatants than we had expected,” he said.
At one point during the unfolding 7-hour firefight, Behr was abruptly thrown to the ground by a larger caliber bullet cutting through the side of his pelvis. The bullet blew out the ball and socket of his hip.
“It was like being struck by a car or baseball bat and being electrocuted at the same time,” he said.
This near-fatal strike, unfortunately, was only the beginning of Behr’s effort to stay alive. While fellow A-Team Green Beret intelligence specialist Luis Morales was tending to his injury, a second bullet ripped through Behr’s bicep and continued on to hit Morales in the thigh.
Behr described the painful sensation of feeling a bullet cut through the muscle in his bicep as minor compared to the initial hit to his pelvis… a scenario which can make it seemingly impossible to imaging the magnitude of pain he experienced upon first being shot.
As he fought to stay conscious and his teammates scrambled to stop the bleeding, Behr himself was focused on the survival and safety of his fellow Green Berets under attack.
“I have vivid memories of laying there almost helpless and being concerned about a building across the valley that had direct access to our team. If someone was to shoot from there, we were pretty exposed. I remember directing some people on the team and having them take that out with a large bomb,” he said.
US air support then arrived to destroy attacking insurgents; shrapnel from a bomb mistakenly struck Behr, perforating his intestines.
When confronting what he thought was certain death, Behr thought of his fellow Soldiers and family back home in Illinois.
“There was a point where I thought I was going to leave this world. At one point I thought I was not going to make it, so I said a prayer to myself and felt a calm come over me. Then, all of a sudden, Ron Shurer, the medic on our team, slapped me across the face and said ‘wake up you are not going to die today,'” he said.
The intensity of the firefight, volume of enemy bullets and massive scale of the attacks are still difficult for Behr to recall and describe, the sharpness of certain powerful and violent memories have found a permanent resting place in his mind. Then, at the very moment Behr thought he might have an opportunity to live, the attacks worsened.
Just after telling Behr he would not die, Shurer himself took a bullet in the helmet right above his face. Fortunately, the bullet bounced off his helmet.
“It could have been much worse,” Behr said.
Four Americans were critically injured and MEDEVAC’ed to Landstuhl Army Medical Center and then Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Two Afghan Commandos were killed, including an interpreter.
In total, 11 Silver Stars and one Air Force Cross were awarded for the events of that day.
“The heroic part is what my team did and how they kept it together under heavy enemy gunfire. They risked their lives to get me and the other injured guys on the team off of that mountain. They were dragging and dropping me over the ledges and trying to catch me off of the ledges,” Behr explained.
Life After Near-Death in Combat
Despite this accumulation of combat trauma and near death experience, Behr has made an astounding recovery. Following medical treatment, Behr went on to earn a Masters degree in Security Studies at Georgetown University before starting a non-profit gym for injured Soldiers at Walter Reed.
When asked how he was able to go on after his combat experience, Behr said “I don’t know what else to do. We’re given abilities and skills and it is a shame to waste them. Even after we leave the military, we have a responsibility to become leaders in our communities.”
These days, after working for a period as a cyber security threat intelligence analyst at Discover, Behr now works as a professional liability and cyber liability broker for Risk Placement Services, a Washington D.C.-area firm.
In a manner quite similar to his fellow Green Berets, known as “Quiet Professionals” often reluctant to discuss the perils of combat, Behr does not wish to highlight his war zone activities. He does, however, say the experience has changed him forever.
Behr is now married to a former Red Cross volunteer who helped him recover from his injuries.
“I value relationships more than I ever did previously,” Behr said.
Behr is also involved with the Green Beret Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping Green Berets and their families. You can visit the Green Beret Foundation website here.
Former Marine Sgt. Donald P. Bellisario loves the Marine Corps and cherishes what he learned during his time in service. He has developed and produced some of the greatest tv shows of all time such as Magnum, P.I., JAG, NCIS, Airwolf and Quantum Leap to name a few. He is proud of his military service and wrote many strong and real veteran characters for his shows. The main character of Magnum in Magnum, P.I. was one of the first positive veteran characters in TV up to that point.
He joined the Corps in 1955 and served until 1959. He was raised in a coal mining town which was 20 miles from Pittsburgh. His father owned a tavern, Al’s Place, since his first name was Albert. It was filled with miners that would come off of a shift and all black except where the cap was on. It was a man’s town where women were not allowed in the bar. Bellisario shared, “I only once saw a woman in the bar and she was from out of town. The miners were aware of her presence and took note not to swear in her midst. Swearing in front of a woman at that time was deemed not right.”
His father taught him a strong work ethic and ingrained in him that you don’t take something for nothing, which has stuck with Bellisario all his life. He has one brother that is seven years younger than him that lives in Boston where they are as different as two brothers could be. Honesty was stressed at home. The work ethic was really stressed too, “when you start a job and you finish it.” He started working at a very young age for his father at the tavern including tending bar way underage. He did road construction while growing up and helped build the superhighways around Pittsburgh that were being built at the time. His job was to put burlap sacks over the concrete so it wouldn’t dry out too quick in the sun. He had to come by a week later to pick up the sacks and sweep four lane highways. He also was a brick layer which he believes he inherited from his grandfather who was a stonemason. His grandfather built homes, buildings, wells and sewers.
His mother worked in the bar in the morning. Bellisario’s job was to sweep it up, clean it and prepare the glasses. His father never got in until 5:00 in the morning after closing the bar. He would get up around 4:00 pm and be in the bar until closing at 2:00 am. His father was a generous man where if a person needed money, he would give it to them, knowing that he would likely never get it back. His mother was tight with money. He took after his dad where his brother took after his mom.
He shared, “I was raised in World War II and we had a large bowl in the bar that would collect letters from people that wrote letters to us from the service.” They also kept the photos on the wall of everybody from the town that went into the service. Quite a few went in and the town lost three in the war. Bellisario said, “All the propaganda that comes out during a war I was inundated and loved it.” He had an uncle in the Corps that served in Guadalcanal and was injured on Tarawa, where he came to the bar in his blues after he came back from being wounded. Bellisario just liked the way he looked in his uniform.
It was interesting how he joined the Corps where he spent a year and a half in college. He always had an interest in flying and becoming a Naval Aviator, so he went with some friends to join the Navy and he saw a Marine recruiter first. The Marine recruiter told them they could be Marine Naval Aviators. He signed up for the Corps for four years and left a couple of days later. He went to Parris Island and was designated an infantryman initially where he still remembers his serial number to this day! He applied for Marine Corps Aviation and passed all the exams. The Marines flew him up to Cherry Point for testing as well. He graduated with his platoon and didn’t leave with them where he was to be assigned to Pensacola. He stayed at PI and was put in charge of the platoon of misfits. He had to form them up and march them to chow.
He was assigned to guard a prisoner and to take him to chow by himself. The prisoner had to eat by himself as well. His head DI GySgt West came through the chow hall and saw Bellisario with the prisoner. The DI liked Bellisario and his sing-song cadence. There was another DI with his platoon in the chow hall where he saw Bellisario and started going after him like he was still a recruit. Bellisario doesn’t know why he did, and he informed the DI to stay away from his prisoner. The DI kept coming where Bellisario pulled his M1911 from the holster and put it to the DI’s head. Bellisario shared that the next day they shipped me out and he figures the Corps had given him enough punishment for wanting to be an aviator.
He then went up to Great Lakes to be trained as an aviation technician. He met his wife up there as she was in the Navy. The Marines cordoned her off from the Navy personnel at the school during the breaks and free time. This opened the opportunity for Bellisario to ask her out. He asked her for a date many times and finally got one. He showed up an hour and a half late for the first date. He shared, “She wanted to know why I was late to a date that I had persisted about for so long. I made up some story about being stuck in Chicago where she forgave me.” The first year of their marriage she got pregnant and was discharged from the Navy. He said, “You could not be in the Navy and pregnant at the same time during that era.” His first duty station was in San Diego after the schoolhouse.
He did two and a half years of living in Mojave California at Marine Corp Base Twentynine Palms in a Quonset hut. He painted the hut dark green and got sidewinder missile boxes, broke them down and made a white picket fence out of them. He put down grass outside of the hut where he said, “you could watch it grow, literally.” Bellisario elaborated, “People wondered why I was putting so much time into where he would have to move it would go to someone else.” He told them, “I am living here now, and am going to make it as comfortable as I can.” He put a new floor down of Masonite for his children that were crawling around. Marines lined up for his Quonset hut when he shipped out.
While at MACS-9 he had to go over to another unit to pick up a part in the supply office. A junior Marine was sitting on the floor cross legged and reading Pravda. He said, “This was in the late 50’s and you didn’t read Pravada.” The young Marine started spouting off to Bellisario about the Russians, and Communism which angered Bellisario. It got to the point that they were going to fight where one of the Marines in the Marine’s unit grabbed Bellisario before he hit him. The Marine that grabbed him told Bellisario told him, “Leave him alone, he is harmless.” Bellisario said, “I will never forget that.”
When President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Bellisario was at Penn State University when he saw a picture of former Marine Private Lee Harvey Oswald on the TV he said, “My God, I know that man.” Bellisario’s wife said, “You don’t know him, you just think you do.” He argued back and believed he did know Oswald. It came to him later that Oswald was the same man that he got in an argument within the Marine Corps in that supply office. He said, “Oswald was totally spouting propaganda, and no one did anything about it.”
He is most proud of his service in the Corps, just being a Marine and he loves the camaraderie of the Marine Corps. Bellisario loves the inclusion of a small group where the Marine Corps is better than the Army. He said,
“I am proud to be a Marine even though I have a love/hate relationship with the Corps. Once I got married, I couldn’t go through flight school in Pensacola. At that time, you couldn’t be married and go to flight school unless you were commissioned. Once I was in college, I had a Naval Aviator show up at my door and ask me if I wanted to go to Pensacola with me.” Bellisario responded with, “What’s the difference between me now and five years ago, see those two little kids crawling on the floor. That is the difference and I can’t go now because I have two little babies. Going to Pensacola as a cadet at the time would have been tough and take a pay cut from where I was working so it wasn’t a good idea.”
He got his pilot’s license himself in single engine planes and helicopters. He flew the helicopter in Magnum, P.I. sometimes for the filming of the show. The Air Officer, former Marine Captain J. David Jones, on Magnum, P.I. was a former Marine Corps helicopter pilot that was stationed in Marine Corps Air Station Tustin at the same time Bellisario was, but they never met. Jones taught Bellisario how to do everything with a helicopter. He said, “We did things that were not in the book.” Jones was a great guy and was patient as an instructor. On the show they flew Hughes 500s and a Bell 206 helicopter.
“Magnum, P.I. is his favorite project he has done in Hollywood. It was his first time creating a show and working with Tom Selleck is great. They got along really well. It was his chance to run the show. The Corps set me up for success where nothing bothered me, I wasn’t afraid to do anything. I took charge when I needed to.” In year two of Magnum, P.I., his federal and state income taxes exceeded his lifetime earnings up to Magnum. He said, “I used to think that a loud voice coming from above would tell me they made a mistake and it wasn’t supposed to be me.”
He wanted to make a film while he was making commercials where he shared, “I wanted to make something that lasted longer than 28 seconds.” Bellisario turned 40 and decided it was time to take the leap. He was at a Raoul Walsh retrospective in Dallas where they were screening a famous film. Virginia Mayo was in attendance with fellow Hollywood stars. He was in a group of six guys and was drinking beer. In walks Jack Nicholson and he has a beer with Bellisario and his friends. Bellisario told Nicholson that he wanted to make films. At the time he was living in Dallas, TX where Nicholson said, “If you want to make films you can’t do it from here, you have to come to Hollywood.” Bellisario’s wife at the time heard Nicholson’s discussion and yelled a profane comment at Jack over the crowd. Nicholson responded with surprise and questioned why he was being cursed at. Bellisario’s wife did not want to take the family with four children to the Hollywood “drug culture.”
A year later he went to Hollywood without his wife and family. He said, “I didn’t have anything but the ability to direct commercials, which most were done for free and were Public Service Announcements.” He decided he had to do something where he wrote a screenplay and he had copies of it on his desk in his office. A casting director came into his office and wanted to read it. He let her read it and she gave it to her husband who was a B director at Universal Studios. Her husband wanted Bellisario to shoot some film with him and write something. He also wanted to introduce Bellisario to his agent, which is serendipitous because getting an agent is so hard and to get that first gig you need an agent. Bellisario said the director introduced him to the agent and the agent said, “I liked your script and you are a good writer.” He asked the agent how long it takes to sell a script. The agent said, “You’ll sell a script within a year.” Bellisario had enough money to last six weeks. The agent said the fateful words, “Have you ever thought of writing for television?” Bellisario said no – – “It had never occurred to me to write for television.”
The script was sent to Stephen J. Cannell at Universal where Cannell called him in for a meeting. Bellisario spent about 30 minutes in the waiting room and when he walked in Cannell did a double take because of his age. Cannell said, “I can make this script and will make this script right now without any changes.” Cannell dropped the script on the desk and asked Bellisario if he wanted a job as a story editor. Bellisario asked, “What does a story editor do?” Cannell said, “A story editor turns out scripts.” Bellisario agreed and he got a job as a story editor for Cannell. That started the whole thing for Bellisario’s career. Bellisario is a self-taught writer where most of it comes from writing advertising commercials. He had to write something that entertained the public and sold a product in 28 seconds. Learning to write short and crisply where only what is necessary is carried over to the script. He wrote the screenplay the same way without anything extraneous in it.
Throughout his career Bellisario enjoyed working with all of his leads in the series. He said, “Some were nicer than others, all of them were okay.” Thankfully he didn’t end up with anyone who gave him any problems. Bellisario comments, “Catherine Bell was very nice to work with.” One actor, Jan Michael Vincent, the lead of Airwolf was having alcohol problems on set. Bellisario talked to him one day where he said, “Jan, why are you doing what you are doing? Why don’t you straighten up and work on the show, this is your chance to be a hit again?” Vincent responded with, “Bellisario, I am a drunk, I have always been a drunk and I only want to be a drunk.” Bellisario refers to it as a sad moment for him and for Vincent. Bellisario credits actor and star Ernest Borgnine with keeping Airwolf professional and helping the show get done.
The values Bellisario had when he went into the Marine Corps were strong and he said, “The Corps just reinforced them.” The values were devotion to duty, do a job the whole way through without much delegation, he shared, “Parris Island wasn’t a chore for me where it was something I had prepared my whole life for.” He was made Platoon Guide at boot camp and was the Honor Man for the platoon. He had a great DI, GySgt. West, and when he was kept at PI after graduation, GySgt. West and he would go out fishing together. He shared, “Not too many Marines get invited by their DIs out fishing.”
The best leadership lesson Bellisario shared is to finish the job you start and take charge when needed. You must go above and beyond what you must do, which is what he learned in the Corps. He encourages Marines that work in Hollywood to write more and about their time in the Corps. You need an accurate portrayal where those who have never served in the Corps don’t write the best Marine scripts because they lack the experience.
Bellisario shared, “I am most proud of Quantum Leap in his career and it is the most creative show I have done.” He stated that, “I loved making it and considered it the best show I created where Quantum Leap was a different movie every week.” He said, “It made it challenging and made it interesting.” Bellisario did a two-part episode of Quantum Leap focused on Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy Assassination where it is worth re-watching the episode.
It is a time travel show and when he pitched it to Branden Tartikoff, Tartikoff responded with, “I don’t get it.” Bellisario said, “Branden, your mother would get the show.” Tartikoff replied, “Yeah, but I don’t get it.” Bellisario replied, “Yeah, but your mother gets it Branden.” Tartikoff retorted, “Get out of here and go make it. You’ve got a pilot.” Bellisario always gets a kick out of a Marine Corps sergeant telling the head of a studio what to do.
He does know how to sell and uses his advertising skills even in Hollywood. His children work in the industry where some worked for him on his shows. He held them to a higher standard where his kids worked extremely hard so that no one thought they got the job just because of their father.
Bellisario and his family are grieving the loss of one of his sons, David Bellisario, who recently passed away. David had worked on a lot of his father’s shows where Bellisario is, “Extremely proud of him and the work he did.” Bellisario described him as, “A good man and he was disciplined.”
The sheer magnitude of traumatic brain injury in the military is enough to make anyone’s head hurt. Troops can get TBI from any number of actions. Everything carries a TBI risk, from routine training to combat operations, so it’s no surprise the injury is getting more attention in recent years. The U.S. military has counted the number of TBI cases suffered by its troops since 2000, and the numbers are sadly very big.
More than 383,000 American troops have suffered some form of TBI, either in daily operations or in a theater of combat. What is most startling about the numbers isn’t just how many, it’s how many people in each branch suffered such injuries. Soldiers of the U.S. Army are far more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury.
While the numbers of overall penetrating and severe TBI are thankfully relatively low, mild injuries make up a bulk of the cases, even when the injuries are broken down by branch. And while “moderate” TBI may not seem as dire as the word “moderate” sounds, those with moderate brain injuries can find themselves with reduced mobility, motor function, and unable to speak effectively. A recent video highlighting caretakers of TBI veterans by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation highlights just how hard life can be for a victim of moderate TBI.
Unfortunately, moderate brain injuries are the second largest number of injuries suffered by U.S. troops. But the real tragedy is how many TBI sufferers are in the U.S. Army.
Of the more than 383,000 troops that have suffered TBI since 2000, a staggering 225,144 of them have been in some component of the Army. Some 15.8 percent of that was National Guard troops, while 7.3 percent were Army Reserve. The rest, 76.9 percent, were active-duty troops. The numbers on what types of TBI mirror the numbers of all branches put together, with mild being the most widespread, followed by moderate, penetrating, and severe cases.
The rest of the branches hover between 52,000 and 54,000, the Marines have slightly more TBI reports, probably by nature of what they do. This data also reflects an update to the definitions of TBI, more information about the injuries, and subsequent reviews of existing Pentagon data.
A former U.S. Army’s Special Forces officer has been arrested in Alexandria, VA, and charged with passing secrets of American military units and personnel to the Russian military intelligence arm (GRU) for over a decade.
Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was recruited by Russian intelligence operatives as he considered himself a “son of Russia,” according to a 17-page indictment that was released after his arrest.
John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security said that,
“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy [sic]. Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”
Debbins is the second person this week charged by the Justice Department for transmitting U.S. secrets to a foreign country. In the other case, a former CIA officer in Hawaii (Alexander Yuk Ching Ma) was arrested and charged with spying for China.
Debbins first agreed to spy for Russia back in 1996 when he was an ROTC cadet. His mother had been born in the former Soviet Union and Debbins told Russian GRU operatives who were trying to recruit him that he considered himself “a son of Russia.” He had told his Russian handlers that he considered the United States “too dominant” in world matters and that it “needed to be cut down to size.”
The GRU gave Debbins the code name “Ikar Lesnikov.”
In 1997 he married a Russian woman, the daughter of a Russian military officer from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota and being assigned to a Chemical Co. in Korea, Debbins returned to Russia. He briefed his handlers on his unit, its mission, and personnel during a subsequent visit to Russia.
He offered to take a polygraph test for his handlers when they asked if he was working for an American intelligence agency. He told them that he wished to leave the military, but they encouraged him to stay. They further urged Debbins to apply for and join the Special Forces. He was told that “he was of no use to the Russian intelligence service as an infantry commander.” Debbins passed Special Forces Selection (SFAS) and the qualification course (SFQC) and was assigned as a captain in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (1-10 SFG).
On another trip to Russia, he briefed his GRU contacts about his SF unit, its personnel, locations, and mission. Debbins had his security clearance suspended and command of his A-Team revoked for an unspecified security violation in 2004 or 2005. He then left the military in 2005 with an honorable discharge, according to the indictment.
In subsequent meetings with his GRU handlers, Debbins disclosed information about his unit’s deployments to Azerbaijan and Georgia that were deemed “SECRET/NOFORN.” Debbins also gave the GRU the names of his former team members knowing that the Russians sought the “information for the purpose of evaluating whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.” He also passed the names of two American counter-intelligence agents who tried to recruit him for an operation.
Once his active duty service was over he began to work for a Ukrainian steel company in Minnesota through his Russian contacts. He remained a member of the Reserves until 2010. During this time his security clearance was reinstated by an Army adjudicator, although he was warned that his family and business connections to Russia might make him “the target of a foreign intelligence service.”
Debbins was a “true believer” and not motivated by monetary gains. In fact, when the Russians (who are notoriously cheap in the intelligence world when it comes to paying agents) offered him id=”listicle-2647079043″,000 he initially declined it stating that he “loved and was committed to Russia.” He only reluctantly accepted the money as “gratitude for his assistance to the Russian intelligence service.” At a 2003 meeting, he was given a bottle of Cognac and a Russian military uniform.
The Justice Department did not divulge how it came to know that Debbins was spying for Russia. His last contact with his handlers was in 2011 when he told them that moved to the D.C. area (Gainesville, VA).
He will be indicted formally on Monday. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.
“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.
The US Navy is having its sailors train on an aircraft carrier weapon system that the service is planning to rip out of its Nimitz-class carriers due to its ineffectiveness.
Sailors continue to train on the Anti-Torpedo Torpedo Defense System (ATTDS), a weapon system that was designed to counter one of the single greatest threats to an aircraft carrier — torpedoes, The War Zone reports, noting that the Navy recently released images of sailors aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower training on the ATTDS for a Board of Inspection and Survey.
The most recent training, which involved firing the weapon system, took place in late July 2019. The material survey for which the crew was preparing requires proficiency with all onboard systems, and that they are functional and properly maintained.
The ATTDS, part of the broader Surface Ship Torpedo Defense (SSTD) system, is installed and operational aboard the Eisenhower, as well as the USS Harry S. Truman, USS George H.W. Bush, USS Nimitz, and USS Theodore Roosevelt. But that doesn’t mean it actually works to intercept incoming torpedoes in time to save the ship.
Sailors stow an anti-torpedo torpedo aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph T. Miller)
The Navy has abandoned its plans to develop the SSTD and is in the process of removing it from the carriers on which it has been installed, the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation said in a report released earlier this year.
The anti-torpedo system was a 0 million project that never really went anywhere.
In principle, the Torpedo Warning System (TWS), a component of the ATTDS, would detect an incoming threat and then send launch information to another piece, the Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo (CAT), an interceptor that would be launched into the water to neutralize the incoming torpedo.
The DOTE report noted that the “TWS demonstrated some capability to detect incoming torpedoes,” but there were also false positives. It added that the “CAT demonstrated some capability to defeat an incoming torpedo” but had “uncertain reliability.”
The report also said that the anti-torpedo torpedo’s lethality was untested, meaning that the Navy is not even sure the weapon could destroy or deflect an incoming torpedo. The best the service could say is that there’s a possibility it would work.
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Hector Felix, from Atlanta, fastens a bolt on an anti-torpedo torpedo aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph T. Miller)
Despite having plans to remove the SSTD from its carriers, a project that should be completed by 2023, the Navy continues to have sailors train on the system, even as the service reviews training to identify potential detriments to readiness.
“The Navy is planning to remove ATTDS from aircraft carriers incrementally through fiscal year 2023 as the ships cycle through shipyard periods,” Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) spokesperson William Couch told The War Zone.
“The Navy is sustaining the ATTDS systems that are still installed on some vessels, where it is necessary for the sailors to train with the system to maintain their qualifications in preparation for future deployments,” he added.
In other words, it appears that the reason for the continued training is simply that the system is on the ship and won’t be removed until ships have scheduled shipyard time, making the ability to operate it an unavoidable requirement.
INSIDER reached out to NAVSEA for clarity but has yet to receive a response.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump gave a timeline for the upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and appeared to be optimistic for a positive outcome.
“We’ll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June 2018, and I think there’ll be great respect paid by both parties and hopefully we’ll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea,” Trump said on April 9, 2018, according to Reuters.
“They’ve said so. We’ve said so,” Trump continued. “Hopefully, it’ll be a relationship that’s much different than it’s been for many, many years.”
On April 8, 2018, a US official confirmed that North Korea was willing to discuss the subject of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
The CIA has reportedly been in communication with representatives from North Korea, setting up backchannels, according to multiple news reports. Officials from the two countries were reportedly communicating with the intent to establish an appropriate venue for the talks and other details ahead of the summit.
Trump’s statement comes amid North Korean state-sponsored media’s acknowledgement of the bilateral talks.
The two Korean leaders are set to hold their own historic summit on April 27, 2018, the first in 11 years, between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said May 9 that American forces in Afghanistan face “a determined enemy” but are dealing significant blows to the enemy.
Speaking at a news conference in Copenhagen alongside his Danish counterpart, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, Mattis said both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida are losing ground and power in Afghanistan as the government, under President Ashraf Ghani, “wins the affection, the respect and the support” of the people.
“In Afghanistan, the enemy has lost about two-thirds of its strength and this past weekend, President Ghani announced the death of the emir of IS Khorasan — this is the IS group in Nangarhar…” Mattis said. “In our anti-IS campaign, we’re dealing that group one more significant blow with the loss of their leader.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump has asked military advisers “to relook at the entire strategy” in Afghanistan.
News accounts say the prospective plan would give the Pentagon, not the White House, the final say on the number of troops in Afghanistan, while the U.S. military would have greater range in using airstrikes to target Taliban fighters and remove Obama-era policies limiting the movements of military advisers in the country.
Trump will reportedly make a decision on the Afghanistan policy prior to a May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.
The U.S. Army’s new strategy to improve marksmanship will eliminate a shortcut that units use for individual weapon qualification — a long-standing practice that has eroded lethality over the years, infantry officials said.
Army officials at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia are awaiting final approval of the new marksmanship manual that will prepare the Army for a new, and much more challenging, qualification test.
The new course of fire — which forces soldiers to make faster decisions while firing from new positions — will drastically update the current, Cold War-era rifle qualification course. That course required soldiers to engage a series of pop-up targets at ranges out to 300 meters.
The stricter qualification standards will also do away with the practice of using the Alternate Course of Fire, or Alt. C, to satisfy the annual qualification requirement, Sgt. 1st Class John Rowland, marksmanship program director at Benning’s Infantry School, told Military.com.
Alt. C is an Army-approved 25-meter course in which soldiers shoot at targets scaled down in size to represent actual target sizes out to 300 meters. At that short range, however, the trajectory of the 5.56mm bullet is extremely flat and unaffected by wind, making it easier to score hits, experts say.
Pvt. Bobby Daniels of D Company, 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, makes an adjustment to his M-4 rifle during combat familiarization training at Fort Benning.
“It is an approved qualification that largely has been abused, based off of lack of training management and proper planning. And it has come at the cost of lethality,” Rowland said. “That is going to be very impactful for units because they are very used to not being very proactive and not being able to fall back on, ‘well we’ll just do Alt. C.’ And that is no longer going to be the case.”
Army training officials at Benning have been spent the last two years validating the training strategy and course of fire for a new marksmanship qualification standard that is designed to better prepare soldiers for the current operational environment, according to Melody Venable, training and doctrine officer for the Infantry School.
“We have visited various units across the Army, and we have tested and validated parts of it as needed,” Venable said.
Soldiers who have shot the new course “are doing very well at it,” Venable said.
“They appreciate the training that the training strategy provides, and they enjoy the course of fire because it’s more realistic,” she said.
The new qualification course is designed to use the current marksmanship ranges across the Army.
“It’s still 40 targets; it’s still 40 bullets,” Rowland said. “It’s the same targets that people have been shooting at for years.”
But the new course adds the standing position to engage targets on two occasions during the course in addition to the kneeling and prone positions. The course requires soldiers to change magazines on their own and seek cover on their own while they engage multiple targets at the same time, Rowland said. The current course consists mainly of one-at-a-time target exposures.
Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning.
The next milestone in the effort will come when Brig. Gen. David Hodne, commandant of the Infantry School at Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, signs the new manual that will guide the marksmanship effort so it can be published and sent out to the active force, National Guard and Reserve, Venable said.
Once that happens, leaders throughout the Army will have time to provide feedback on any challenges they might face in putting the new qualification strategy into action.
“Units have 12 months from the time of publication to provide the Infantry School and the MCOE with feedback on their issues with implementation of the training strategy or the course of fire,” Venable said, adding the many of the ranges across the Army are likely to require some updating.
“At this time, we are not there with a hardcore implementation date. … We don’t know all the second- and third-order effects that the changes are going to produce.”
But one of the clearest differences of the new qualification standards is that Alt. C is no longer a valid qualification, Rowland.
“That is going to be a huge change for the Army,” he said.
Army units can still use Alt. C to extend their annual qualification rating by six months if a deployment or high operational tempo prevents them from going to a range and qualifying with the new course of fire, Venable said.
“In areas where they don’t have range access — let’s just say they are downrange and they are 250 miles to a primary range — units can use Alt. C because they can’t get a range. However, they have to have a general officer approve the use of Alt. C,” Venable said. “They still have to come back and shoot the [new] course of fire to qualify.”
Using Alt. C extends a soldier’s current rating of marksman, sharpshooter or expert, but it cannot change it, Rowland said.
“If you are marksman and you conduct a validation event [with Alt. C] and you get a perfect score — you are still a marksman; you are not expert,” Rowland said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Each year over Veterans Day we witness a wonderful outpouring of love for our veteran community. “Happy Veterans Day,” parades, free meals, “thank yous,” and vet-centric events are par for the course over the holiday and the weekends that proceed and follow it.
But what about the other 51 weeks of the year?
While many of you are veterans yourselves, some of our readers are in a relationship of some kind with a currently serving veteran or a veteran of past conflict. We know how to support the veterans in our own homes.
But I believe we also have a responsibility to support the other veterans around us, and help our civilian neighbors do the same. We can lead by example.
So how do we do that? Here are five ideas.
1. Listen. Over Veterans Day weekend this year I worked with our community and the local Team Red, White Blue chapter to run a Veterans Town Hall. Inspired by an idea in Sebastian Junger’s book “Tribe,” the town hall had a simple goal: give veterans a space to talk about their service, and the community a space to listen. While we did not have a huge turnout — only around 50 people — we were able to light a fire on what I hope will be a long-term movement of saying “happy Veterans Day” by listening. Through the simple act of listening we extended grace and understanding to our veteran neighbors. We can do more of that, and we can do it beyond Veterans Day weekend.
2. “Thank a Vet” in a video. Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has an awesome way to create a keepsake to #ThankaVet. You can upload a customized message and a few photos, and the site will turn them into a tribute video. The videos are something you can create and share year round.
3. Serve all year long. Veterans don’t just exist on Veterans Day. The Veterans Home in my little town’s downtown is there every day of the year. Veterans are homeless in our nearest major city. My veteran neighbor will always need his driveway shoveled after it snows. Not every act of service to our community takes a big effort. But every act matters.
4. Tell your civilian friends. When you get ready to help your community’s veterans, invite your civilian friends to come along. I find that my civilian friends don’t ignore veterans on purpose — they just don’t really know any. We can be the people who can help make that connection.
5. Join a veteran organization. Your local VFW and American Legion both have auxiliary memberships for non-veterans. Team Red, White Blue exists purely to connect veterans with their communities, and getting involved is incredibly easy. Team Rubicon is constantly seeking volunteers for the important work they do with disaster relief. Military spouses often focus their volunteer efforts on the currently serving population — and maybe you just flat out don’t have time to add something else to your plate. But if you do, consider even just showing up for one of these groups’ (or countless others’) events. You won’t be sorry.
There’s nothing wrong with wishing anyone a “happy Veterans Day” or using Veterans Day to shine the spotlight on veterans in our community. But let’s keep the momentum going all year long.
The National Veterans Wheelchair Games are getting a makeover in their 39th year, with a sport that will test brute strength, leadership, skill, and a little brain power.
The team relay, which includes a “grenade toss,” and “shooting,” may feel like a return to basic training, but Troy Colón, who put together the event, said it’s just to add some military flair for the veteran-athletes.
“This is a throwback to their military days and that military camaraderie, but it is a thinking game,” he said. “Think before you act, and you may want to choose finesse over strength.”
The 39th Annual Wheelchair Games — a partnership with VA and the Paralyzed Veterans of America — takes place July 11 to 16, 2019, in Louisville, Kentucky. The Games feature a variety of competition for wheelchair veterans from VAs across the nation, as well as Puerto Rico and a team from Great Britain.
Some events include wheelchair rugby, power soccer, handcycling, and other track and field events.
The new team relay will have a military theme at this year’s Wheelchair Games, like shot put grenades. If the shot put grenade makes it to a bunker, the team gets double points.
Colón, an assistive technology professional from the Louisville VA Medical Center in Kentucky, said the team relay takes a little bit from different parts of the Games.
25 teams — made up of five athletes each — will participate in this year’s relay. Each team must have at least one quadriplegic. Once one athlete completes a station, he or she will have to wheel over to the next station in the relay.
Here’s how the relay is set up:
Powerlifting: This is the first station and any of the five team members can participate. The higher the weight, the more points the team receives, but they only have two minutes.
Shot put grenades: After powerlifting, the team makes their way to the second station. Like in a traditional shot put, the further the distance, the more points. But if the athlete gets this shot put in one of the bunkers, they will get double points for that distance.
Laser tag shooting: Again, speed is a factor. “I’m going to make the shooters race over,” Colón says. “They’re going to be out of breath, they’re going to be shaky. It’s about trigger control and breath control. You might be racking up points by hitting the target, but taking longer and getting points deducted there. What are you willing to risk?”
Sled pool: “This could be the most grueling part if the best decisions aren’t made,” Colón said. Like an adaptive version of a crossfit exercise, one person must pull a certain amount of weights from Point A to Point B. “There’s a smart way to do this,” Colón said. “Team captains should think outside the box.”
Rock climbing: The final leg of the relay will add the “shock and awe,” Colón said. The last person on the team will be staged and ready to go, but can’t climb until the person on the sled pull makes it up the hill to the final station.
The team with the highest overall points — not necessarily the fastest time — will win the relay.
“People are intimidated by what they can and can’t do, but just like the military, if everybody could do everything, everybody would have a patch. For the relay, it’s easier if you read the rules, and intelligently think about it. Think about the best place for all your team members,” Colón said.
“The team captain needs to read my rules very, very carefully because I purposely wrote the rules to trick people,” he added. “It’s one of those things like the military, where you’re only as good as your intel. You have to be adaptive when you are doing missions. You can’t always go by the textbook.”
However it’s played, Reese Levasseur, a Marine Corps veteran from the Palo Alto VA Medical Center, said he’s ready.
“The funny thing is, I’ve been practicing the sled pull for training at our local adaptive gym, so I’m ready for this,” he said. “It’s going to be a great experience, and being a Marine, we’re just super competitive in nature.”
But if super competitive doesn’t equal best score, he’s OK with that, too.
“Hopefully I’m not the one who screws it up too bad,” he laughed. “I’m laid back, but we’re all about enjoying ourselves out there. We hope to be top dogs, but it’s more about being together and doing things in a chair instead of sitting on a couch at home.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Real grenades are puffs of smoke with a bit of high-moving metal. Why not give troops mobile fireballs that instill fear and awe in the hearts of all that see them? Why not arm our troops with something akin to Super Mario’s fire flower?
First, we should take a look at what, exactly is going on with a real grenade versus a movie grenade.
The grenades you’re probably thinking of when you hear the term “grenade” are likely fragmentation grenades, consisting of strong explosives wrapped up in a metal casing. When the explosives go off, either the case or a special wrapping is torn into lots of small bits of metal or ceramic. Those bits fly outwards at high speed, and the people they hit die.
The U.S. military uses the M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenade. 6.5 ounces of high explosive destroys a 2.5-inch diameter steel casing and sends the bits of steel out up to 230 meters. Deaths are commonly caused up to 5 meters away from the grenade.
U.S. Army soldiers throw live grenades during training in Alaska.
That’s because grenades are made to maximize the efficiency of their components. See, explosive power is determined by a number of factors. Time, pressure, and temperature all play a role. Maximum boom comes from maximizing the temperature and pressure increase in as little time as possible.
That’s actually a big part of why M67s have a steel casing. The user pulls the pin and throws the grenade, starting the chemical timer. When the explosion initiates, it’s contained for a fraction of a second inside that steel casing. The strength of the steel allows more of the explosive to burn — and for the temperature and pressure to rise further — before it bursts through the steel.
As the pressure breaks out, it picks up all the little bits of steel from the casing that was containing it, and it carries those pieces into the flesh and bones of its enemies.
Movie grenades, meanwhile, are either created digitally from scratch, cobbled together digitally from a few different fires and explosions, or created in the physical world with pyrotechnics. If engineers wanted to create movie-like grenades, they would need to do it the third way, obviously, with real materials.
The explosion is easy enough. The 6.5 ounces in a typical M67 would work just fine. Enough for a little boom, not so much that it would kill the thrower.
But to get that movie-like fire, you need a new material. To get fire, you need unburnt explosives or fuel to be carried on the pressure wave, mixing with the air, picking up the heat from the initial explosion, and then burning in flight.
And that’s where the problems lie for weapon designers. If they wanted to give infantrymen the chance to spit fire like a dragon, they would need to wrap something like the M67 in a new fuel that would burn after the initial explosion.
Makers of movie magic use liquid fuels, like gasoline, diesel, or oil, to get their effects (depending on what colors and amount of smoke they want). Alcohols, flammable gels, etc. all work great as well, but it takes quite a bit of fuel to get a relatively small fireball. The M1 flamethrower used half a gallon of fuel per second.
But liquid fuels are unwieldy, and even a quart of gasoline per grenade would add some serious weight to a soldier’s load.
So, yeah, there’s little chance of getting that sweet movie fireball onto a MOLLE vest. But there is another way. Instead of using liquids, you could use solid fuels, especially reactive metals and similar elements, such as aluminum, magnesium, or sodium.
The military went with phosphorous for incendiary weapons. It burns extremely hot and can melt its way through most metals. Still, the AN-M14 TH3 Incendiary Hand Grenade doesn’t exactly create a fireball and doesn’t even have a blast. Along with thermite, thermate, and similar munitions, it burns relatively slowly.
But if you combine the two grenades, the blast power of something like the M67 and the burning metals of something like the AN-M14 TH3, and you can create actual fireballs. That’s how thermobaric weapons work.
U.S. Marines train with the SMAW, a weapon that can fire thermobaric warheads.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brian J. Slaght)
In thermobaric weapons, an initial blast distributes a cloud of small pieces of highly reactive metal or fuel. Then, a moment later, a secondary charge ignites the cloud. The fire races out from the center, consuming the oxygen from the air and the fuel mixed in with it, creating a huge fireball.
If the weapon was sent into a cave, a building, or some other enclosed space, this turns the secondary fire into a large explosion of its own. In other words, shoot these things into a room on the first floor of a building, and that room itself becomes a bomb, leveling the larger building.
But throwing one of these things would be risky. Remember, creating the big fireball can turn an entire enclosed space into a massive bomb. And if you throw one in the open, you run the risk of the still-burning fuel landing on your skin. If that’s something like phosphorous, magnesium, or aluminum, that metal has to be carved out of your flesh with a knife. It doesn’t stop burning.
So, troops should leave the flashy grenades to the movies. It’s better to get the quick, lethal pop of a fragmentation grenade than to carry the additional weight for a liquid-fueled fireball or a world-ending thermobaric weapon. Movie grenades aren’t impossible, but they aren’t worth the trouble.