In 1994, U.S. Army Air Corps WWII veteran and former POW Clarence Robert “Bud” Shepherd opened a small warehouse in Burlington, North Carolina, to assist 501 (c) (3) non-profit organizations, like schools, churches, and daycares.
Shepherd refocused his attention on Post-9/11 combat wounded veterans in 2012 by creating the Veteran Toolbox Program. He provided them with free toolboxes to assist with their transition into civilian life. Although Post-9/11 Purple Heart veterans are priority for the program, all veterans can apply.
“I always wanted to do something for veterans, and I came up with the toolbox program,” said Shepherd. “We talked to some tool companies, and they were interested in getting involved. We talked to Stanley and Black and Decker about what we wanted to do and they came back with one word – absolutely! APEX tools, Wooster paint brushes, and Johnson Johnson are also great supporters.”
U.S. Army Air Corps Veteran Bud Shepherd served as a B-17 tail-gunner in WWII and held as a Prisoner of War.
The REAch Veteran Toolbox Program has shipped more than 8,000 toolboxes to veterans, which contains about 0 worth of tools.
“This is the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done in my lifetime,” said the 94-year-old.
Shepherd works six days a week, gets up at 5 a.m., and leaves work at 6 p.m. most days. But he’s no stranger to hard work.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943, when he was 18 years old. He served in the 8th Air Force in England as a tail-gunner on a B-17. Enemy forces shot down his plane six months before the end of WWII. Shepherd was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp near Berth, Germany.
“Once we got settled down, things went along fairly smooth because there was 9,000 of us, all Air Force people,” Shepherd recalled. “About 7,500 Americans and a few Brits. We were liberated by the Russians and I made my way back home.”
WWII POW Bud Shepherd: Let’s Never Forget Our POWs and MIAs
“We hear from a lot of these guys and their families,” Shepherd said. “Last week we got an e-mail saying ‘You saved my husband’s life. He hasn’t been out of the house in three months but ever since he got his toolbox he’s been out in the garage or the backyard working on something.'”
REAch operates in Graham, North Carolina, but ships the toolboxes across the country.
Tim Shepherd (left) son of Bud Shepherd (right) at the tool room getting 10 boxes ready to ship for the day.
“I go to the VA hospital in Durham, North Carolina, for yearly physicals, but my health is excellent,” he said. “These people down there that I deal with at the VA hospital, they are just good people… In my lifetime, I’ve been blessed, and I enjoy every minute of it.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Look, we all hope that Space Rangers will be elite, Buzz Lightyear-types but with tattoos and lethal weapons instead of stickers and blinking lights. But if they’re going to be Buzzes, they have to learn to fall with style. And in the U.S. military, that means airborne school.
I will not apologize. This entire article exists because this meme stopped me in my tracks.
“But Logan!” You say, interrupting me and randomly guessing my name because you definitely did not read the byline before scrolling to here. “There’s also no gravity on the moon! So what does it matter?”
Well, the moon does have gravity, enough to accelerate a human at 1.62 meters per second squared. If a Space Ranger jumped from a Space C-130 at 800 feet, their parachute would do approximately jack plus sh-t. But the force of gravity would pull them to the moon’s surface at a final speed of 92.22 feet per second. That’s like falling from a 13-story building on Earth.
M551 Sheridan Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System (LAPES)
But we still have to kill the Moon communists! Right?
We’re not suffering those bastards to live. So we have to get the Space Rangers there somehow. So, here’s a radical counter-proposal: Screw jumping out of the plane, we’re going to rocket out of it a bare 60 feet from the surface. And the rockets aren’t pointed at the moon’s surface; they’re pointed at the Space C-130, hereafter known as the Space-130.
So instead of dropping Space Rangers out of a plane with jetpacks to slow them down vertically, we’re going to shoot them out the back of the Space-130 in capsules holding 13 Rangers each. The rockets would fire horizontally to stop the capsule’s forward movement immediately after it separated from the Space-130.
At 60 feet from the ground, the capsule would fall to the surface in less than five seconds and would hit with the same force of it falling from 10 feet on the Earth. Screw parachutes, the Rangers would be safe sitting on a nice pillow. And they would already be massed in squads of 13 to use their space weapons against the moon communists.
But the Space Rangers all still have to complete Airborne School at Fort Benning and conduct five normal jumps anyway. We’ll call it leadership training or something.
Military vehicles in an underground facility at US Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, September 9, 2015. US Defense Department/Glenn Fawcett
A major Marine Corps force redesign is bringing big changes that could soon filter down to a secretive cave complex in Norway that the Corps has used since the Cold War.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said last year that the Corps needed to get rid of “big, heavy things” and build a more mobile force for naval expeditionary warfare in contested areas — namely the Asia-Pacific.
The Corps plans to cut its overall force 7% by 2030, shedding infantry battalions, eliminating helicopter squadrons, and getting rid of all of its tanks.
Marines in California have already said goodbye to their tanks, and more could leave soon, including those in a cave complex in Norway’s Trondheim region, where the Corps has stored weapons and other equipment for decades.
Entrances to the Bjugn Cave Facility in Norway with equipment outside to be taken to Estonia for a military exercise, June 30, 1997. US Defense Department
The Corps’ Force Design 2030 “is a worldwide program aimed to make our force posture around the globe even more strategic and effective. As such, it calls for a divestment of certain capabilities and increases in others,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for Marine Corps forces in Europe and Africa, said in an email.
The Marine Corps Prepositioning Program in Norway “will continue to support US Marine Corps forces for bilateral and multi-lateral exercises” in European and Africa, Rankine-Galloway said.
“We expect that Marine Corps prepositioned equipment will be updated to meet our service’s needs, with excess equipment to be removed and newer equipment to be added to the prepositioned facilities,” Rankine-Galloway added.
Rankine-Galloway didn’t say what equipment that might be, but in the Force Design 2030, Berger said the Corps is “over-invested in” weapons like “heavily armored ground combat systems (tanks) [and] towed cannon artillery” and had “shortfalls” in rocket artillery, air-defense systems, and long-range unmanned aircraft.
Marine Corps leaders say savings from those cuts will pay for high-tech gear needed to counter China, Russia, and others.
M1A1 Abrams tanks and other equipment during a modernization of equipment at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, August 13, 2014. US Marine Corps/Master Sgt. Chad McMeen
A changing strategic game
The Marines’ underground storage in Norway’s Trondheim region dates to 1982, when the US and Norway agreed to preposition supplies and equipment in six climate-controlled caves there, allowing the Corps to store equipment closer than the US East Coast and “minimize the time necessary to form for combat.”
Much of the equipment there was withdrawn for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A decade later, the Corps expanded its stocks, reportedly allowing tanks and other heavy vehicles to be stored there for the first time.
Changes to what the Marines store in Norway would come as the Corps alters its troop presence in the country.
US Marine Corps High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle stored at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, February 10, 2020. US Marine Corps/Cpl. Joseph Atiyeh
Hundreds of Marines have been stationed in Norway on six-month rotations since 2017, but Norway’s military said earlier this month that the US would reduce that force.
Rankine-Galloway told several outlets the Corps wasn’t drawing down but rather adopting shorter, “episodic” deployments aligned with exercises — sometimes bringing more troops to the country than are there now — that allow it to balance Arctic warfare training with larger-scale training “as a naval expeditionary force.”
“We expect US Marine Corps forces deployed to the Nordic region to train and be prepared to fight in accordance with the Commandant’s vision for the force and that this transformation will make both US Marine Corps, allied, and partner forces more lethal and capable together,” Rankine-Galloway told Insider.
The Marines’ year-round presence in Norway angered Russia, whose border with Norway is near sensitive sites on the Kola Peninsula belonging to the powerful Northern Fleet, which oversees Russia’s nuclear ballistic-missile subs.
Russian missiles have changed “the strategic game” in the region, according to Thomas Nilsen, editor of Norway-based news outlet The Barents Observer.
“Living on the Norwegian side of the border, we don’t see a scenario of a Russian military invasion trying to capture” northern Norway, Nilsen said at an Atlantic Council event in February.
Weapons like the Kinzhal hypersonic missile could be launched from Russian fighter jets and within minutes strike airbases in those Scandinavian countries, Nilsen said.
Aircraft at those bases, like Norway’s F-35s, are “what Russia is afraid of,” Nilsen added. “Those capabilities on the Scandinavian side that might … disturb their deploying of the ballistic-missile submarines.”
Evan Williams is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey brand, named for the politician, entrepreneur, and distiller who, in 1783, became Kentucky’s First Commercial Distiller. With its origins in the heartland of America, it’s no surprise that the company prides itself on patriotism, including honoring our nation’s military with their American-Made Heroes program.
Learn more about the heritage of Evan Williams Bourbon right here.
Evan Williams American-Made Heroes celebrates our troops by sharing inspiring stories of continued service to their country and community after their military duty. Each year, the program recognizes a select few from thousands of nominations.
This year, the incredible honorees include:
Tyler Crane: A Purple Heart recipient who created a non-profit called Veteran Excursions to the Sea, a program that promotes “healing through reeling.”
Archie Cook: An airman who helps homeless veterans get back on their feet. At his private dental clinic, Archie offers medical discounts to members of the military and provides free and low-cost dental care to struggling veterans through Veterans Empowering Veterans.
Christopher Baity: A prior Military Working Dog Handler and Kennel Master who created Semper K9 Assistance Dogs, turning rescue dogs into service dogs.
Amanda Runyon: A Navy vet who served as a Hospital Corpsman, treating injured warriors suffering from combat injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan. She now supports her local post of Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Michael Stinson: A Chief Hospital Corpsman who retired after 23 years and continues to help his community through a number of initiatives, including service as a Police Officer and charity through the U.S.O. of Wisconsin.
Michael Siegel: A soldier who retired after service in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom. He continues to help the military community as the Director of Columbia College at Fort Leonard Wood.
Previous American-Made Heroes include Adam Popp, an airman in the Explosives Ordnance Disposal program who lost his leg in an IED explosion and now serves as a board member for the EOD Warrior Foundation; and U.S. Marine Patrick Shannon, the recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for Valor who founded his own charity that supports the families of fallen, injured, and deployed service members.
One of this year’s honorees, Christopher Baity, sports his American Hero Edition bottle.
And of course, they are also honored with a celebratory Evan Williams American Hero Edition Bottle. Each limited-edition red, white, and blue bottle features one of the American-Made heroes celebrated by Evan Williams.
Evan Williams shows their commitment to America’s heroes with this program, not only by celebrating their hand-selected heroes, but by acknowledging hundreds more with gift certificates of appreciation. Check out the American-Made Heores program to nominate a deserving veteran who continues to serve their community.
World War II and the Cold War brought out the worst in everyone. So it should be a surprise to no one to find out the Soviet Union developed biological warfare agents almost as soon as the dust from the October Revolution settled.
Despite being a signatory to the Geneva Convention of 1925 – which outlawed chemical and biological weapons – and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, the Soviets had dozens of sites to develop eleven agents for use on any potential enemy.
The Russian Bioweapons program would be the most capable, deadliest program in the world. It was complete with viruses and pathogens that were genetically-altered and antibiotic resistant, with sophisticated delivery systems.
Category A agents are easily weaponized, extremely virulent, hard to fight and contain, and/or have high mortality rates. They have the added bonus of being an agent that would cause a panic among the enemy population.
For most of us post-9/11 veterans, Anthrax was the one that could have been all too real. In the days following 9/11, letters containing Anthrax spores were sent to members of Congress and the media. Subsequently, troops deploying overseas to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq were given a course of Anthrax vaccines.
Anthrax can present in four ways: skin, inhalation, injection, and intestinal. All are caused by the Bacillus anthracis bacteria. Before antibiotics, Anthrax killed hundreds of thousands of people, but now there are only 2,000 or so worldwide cases a year.
The mortality rate is anywhere from 24 to 80 percent, depending on which type you get.
Ah, plague. The biblical weapon. This one makes a little bit of sense. Since the Soviet Union would most likely go to war with Western Europe, the best weapon to use would be something that regularly wiped out more Europeans than the Catholic Church.
Plague works fast, incubating in two to six days, with a sudden headache and chills at the end of the incubation period. Gangrene and buboes (swollen lymph nodes in the armpit and groin) are the best indicator of plague.
There are other symptoms too, but after two weeks, it won’t matter. Because you’ll be dead.
Never hear of Tularemia? Good for you. Tularemia is one of the many reasons you shouldn’t touch dead animals. It’s a nasty bug that can survive for long periods outside of a host.
Tularemia can enter the body through lungs, skin, or eyes. It can present as a skin ulcer, but the most dangerous form is when it’s inhaled. Pneumoic tularemia will quickly spread into the bloodstream, killing 30-60 percent of those infected.
This is deadly neurotoxin, the deadliest substance known. It was used as a biological agent by Japan in WWII and was subsequently produced by almost every biological warfare program – for a good reason. Botulism is easy to produce and presents in 12-36 hours once in the body.
In an aerosol infection (like a bioweapon attack), even detecting botulism could be difficult. Treatment is mainly supportive, there is little that can be done once symptoms start to present. The only known antitoxin even produces anaphylaxis, which means it can only be administered in a hospital setting.
Smallpox is the disease that won the new world for the Europeans, more than guns, horses, or booze. It killed off 90 percent of the indigenous population of the Americas, whose immune systems were unprepared for it.
The Marburg Virus is a hemorrhagic fever, in the same family as the Ebola virus, the deadliest of hemorrhagic viruses. In an unprepared population, the mortality rate can be as high as 90-100 percent. So if you’re unfamiliar with Marburg Virus, imagine someone making Ebola airborne and killing you with it.
Category B agents are also easy to transmit and/or virulent among a population, but is less likely to kill or cause panic. Still, they should be taken seriously. Some, like Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis can have lasting effects.
Glanders can enter the body through the skin and eyes, but also via the nose and lungs. The symptoms are similar to the flu or common cold, but once it’s in the bloodstream, it can be fatal within seven to ten days.
I’m not going to include a photo, because it’s really gross to look at.
The bacteria is at the top of the list for potential bioterrorism agents and was even believed to be intentionally spread to the Russian Army by the Germans in WWI. The Russians allegedly used it in Afghanistan during their ten-year occupation.
This is usually caused by drinking raw milk or imbibing other raw dairy products. If an animal has brucellosis, they’re transmitting it to you. It’s also an inhalation hazard that can affect hunters dressing wild game. Symptoms are flu-like when inhaled and soon inflame the organs, especially the liver and spleen. Symptoms can last anywhere from a matter of weeks to years.
Brucellosis was once called both “Bang’s Disease” and “Malta Fever.” It has been weaponized since the 50s, with a lethality estimate of one to two percent. Just kill me with fire if I have the flu for two years.
Like most of the agents on the list, Q-fever is also spread via inhalation or contacts with infected domestic animals – unless the Russians bombed your town with it. The agent can survive for up to 60 days on some surfaces.
When the American Biological Weapons arsenal was destroyed in the early 1970s, the U.S. had just under 5,100 gallons of Q-fever.
10. Viral Encephalitis
The worst part about this agent is that there is no effective drug treatment for it, and that any treatment is merely supportive – meaning that there is no way to treat the cause of the disease, only to manage the symptoms.
The incubation period is fast, one to six days, and causes flu-like symptoms. It can incapacitate the infected for up to two weeks and cause swelling of the brain. Up to 30 percent of infected persons have permanent neurological conditions, like seizures and paralysis.
11. Staphylococcal Enterotoxin
Staph infections are pretty common but as a biological agent, it’s stable to store and weaponize as an aerosol agent. At low doses, it can incapacitate and it can kill at higher doses. The biggest concern is that a mass infection of a population is extremely difficult to treat effectively.
This agent can infect food and water but is deadliest when inhaled. High doses of inhaled Staph can lead to shock and multi-organ failure. Symptoms of any dosage appear within 1-8 hours.
Category C Agents
Category C consists mostly of potential agents, but the Soviet program didn’t use any of the C category as we know it today. This category includes virulent but untested (for biowarfare) agents like SARS, Rabies, or Yellow Fever.
Confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December 2019, the Honorable Dana Deasy is the Department of Defense chief information officer. With more than 38 years of experience leading and delivering large-scale information technology strategies and projects, Deasey serves as the primary advisor to the Secretary of Defense for matters of information management, information technology and information assurance, as well as non-intelligence space systems, critical satellite communications, navigation and timing programs, spectrum and telecommunications.
The Honorable Dana Deasy, Department of Defense chief information officer, and Lieutenant General Bradford J. “B.J.” Shwedo is the Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) /Cyber, and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, J6, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., discuss the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the DoD’s massive shift to teleworking, as well as, the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment, modernizing the cyber infrastructure, deterrence to cyber-attacks and the implementation of the Telework Readiness Task Force. Video // Andrew Breese and Travis Burcham
Lieutenant General Bradford J. “B.J.” Shwedo is the Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) /Cyber, and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, J6, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. He develops C4 capabilities; conducts analysis and assessments; provides Joint and Combined Force C4 guidance, and evaluates C4 requirements, plans, programs and strategies for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
During this interview with Airman magazine, Deasy and Shwedo discussed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the DoD’s massive shift to teleworking. They also spoke on the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment, modernizing the cyber infrastructure, deterrence to cyber-attacks and the implementation of the Telework Readiness Task Force.
Airman magazine: The COVID – 19 pandemic has driven the DoD to pivot to maximum telework capacity on short notice. What effect has this had on our ability to support the National Defense Strategy?
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I think quite frankly, it’s made us more resilient. The first thing that came to my mind when we first got this tasker, is never let a good crisis go to waste. We always knew we needed to do telework, but in a battle for finite resources, we were never able to fund those. And rapidly, this gave us an opportunity to correct a lot of our shortcomings, so that’s why I feel we’re more resilient. We now have a better comms (communications) situation than we had six months ago.
Dana Deasy: I think if you go back to when we first kicked off the teleworking task force, we had some basic principles we wanted to live by. Principle number one was, ensure we could quickly get as many of our employees, service men and women working from home in a safe way. Two, was ensuring that the technical staff could do their jobs in a safe way. Third, we asked ourselves, is what we are going to build or put in place not only going to get us through the pandemic, but how does this also set us up for a better tomorrow when it comes to supporting NDS (National Defense Strategy)? I think that has actually been a very important principle, because every time we thought through a problem we were trying to solve, we looked at the immediacy. Then we always would stop and say, “Okay, but down the road is this sustainable? Are we building this in a way that will help the war fighter over the long run?”
Airman magazine: The Secretary of Defense has defined our current times as “a new normal” that we will have to adapt to for an extended period of time in order to maintain a high degree of readiness. What are we learning about our infrastructure and our ability to communicate, lead during this time?
Dana Deasy: Here again, how we’ve conducted ourselves throughout this has been looking towards the future. People have said, “Will we go back to the way we used to work?” I don’t believe we ever go completely back. I think there is a new norm where we will have certain types of our workforce that will continue to work from home. I don’t think that we should think for a minute that we are out of this crisis and we’re ready to go back to a normal situation.
So, we continue to run our tele-tasking workforce, we continue to meet as if we’re still in the middle of trying to solve this problem. Let’s face it, we are going to have a sustained, new set of assets that we have been building out of COVID here, that are going to be here forever going forward. It’s not like we shut this down, we pack it up and we return it. We are going to keep what we’ve put in place. And so, I think this puts us in a much better position, if that day should come in the future, for whatever the reason might be, where the DOD has to go back to a maximum teleworking situation. We not only have the know-how, but we’ve created the technical assets to make that happen quickly.
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: : I was doing a forum with cadets, midshipmen and industry, and the Superintendent of the Air Force Academy kicked off the whole forum saying, “Now that we’re talking about the new normal and now that we know we can do this, I know every cadet and midshipman will hate what I’m going to say, but we have had the last snow day at the United States Air Force Academy.”
It drives home the point that now we know we can do these things. We’re setting up the infrastructure and it gives you more options and makes you more combat survivable in a myriad of scenarios. There’s no reason to ever want to go back. Quite frankly the landscape, not just within the Department of Defense, but across the world, has changed because of this experience.
Airman magazine: Telework has always been viewed as a benefit to employees, but has quickly become a need for readiness and safety. Can you talk to the nature of telework and how this time may shift the mindset and modernize the capability of the DoD?
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say that the thing that directed us and the rule sets that we had associated with telework, no longer exist. So, the limitations of going into your e-mail, for instance, it’s been blown away. On top of that, we were always talking about giving people meaningful work and there was a cut-off where classified was concerned. Well, we’ve figured that out and we’re spending lots of money to enable that capability.
We’re finding that our folks are doing a great job from home or from the office. When you look at the larger strategies, like joint all domain command and control, and the things that we’re affording for our strategies in the National Defense Strategy, all of these things we’re discussing are further enablers to ensure that happens.
I believe we’re not going to turn back. The rules set has been blown away and we’re finding, as with every technology, better ways of doing business every day.
Dana Deasy: Could you imagine either of us standing up in front of the Air Force or even the whole DoD back in January of this year and saying, “Hey, we’ve got a whole new model how you can equip, train, create readiness, do operational reviews. People will be able to do that from home. People will be able to do that in a highly collaborative way and you will learn that you can do things highly effectively. I think we would really struggle trying to get people convinced.
You know, COVID forced us to revisit what we thought were the traditional ways of doing your various training, readiness, et cetera. I think now that people have actually seen that people can still do the training, they can still have conversations about readiness, they can still do their ops reviews is quite telling.
I think services such as the Air Force are going to challenge themselves and say, “Okay, we’ve been working this way, what can we continue to do versus falling back to all of the old ways of working going forward?”
Airman magazine: Speaking of the old ways, what was the mindset regarding telework when you were young officers coming up?
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I think it was probably clouded by the limitation of technology, quite frankly. You can roll in and maybe get your e-mail but OWA (Outlook Web Access; email) wouldn’t let you get in and then would kick you out, it was incredibly frustrating. You had a lack of capability to do any classified work, rapidly. It (telework) had a bad connotation because there was not a lot of what would be portrayed as productive work.
I think all of the things that we set in motion very quickly, and proved that we can do, have blown away all of those false mindsets and all of the naysayers, quite frankly, were proven wrong.
Dana Deasy: I’d say all of the services probably had a preconceived view that the only way you can truly get readiness done, that you can get operational planning done, is you’ve got to have people face to face sitting in a room.
To General Shwedo’s point, about new tools that are available today, 10 years ago, five years ago, to be able to put 500 people in a video conference where they all would have full motion, not choppiness, fully could hear each other. They could put charts into that presentation. They could mark up things as if they were going to a whiteboard sitting in a command center, is quite telling. I would say that it’s become very clear that the technology is at the right level in capabilities today. But it’s not only the technology, it’s the way that people are getting creative and using that technology. I think is what’s made all of the difference in the world.
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I’ll just finish up. When you look at all of the things that we’re being asked to do in the National Defense Strategy, joint all domain command-and-control in air, land, sea, space, cyber in a globally-integrated form, everything Mr. Deasy just described, is going to be your foundational base.
We are getting stronger on all of these things. Going back to never let a crisis go to waste, for a lot of these things, per Mr. Deasy’s scenario, if we walked in and tried to make a funding line for that, it probably would fall below the cutoff lines. So, this has been fortuitous, and not just enabling the telework, but also forwarding our defense strategies.
Dana Deasy: In the NDS we talk about allies and partnerships. We’ve clearly been able to demonstrate through teleworking that you can have very, very effective meetings. As a matter of fact, you might almost argue that when you’re talking to your allies and partners, that’s typically someone getting on a plane and going to a different time zone, you’ll lose a day going over, you lose a day coming back at minimum. This is a case where people were able to quickly say, “I need to speak to so-and-so,” whether it’s the U.K., Australia or whatever, and make that happen.
I think even in our relationships with our allies and partners, people are going to be stepping back and going, “Why do we really need to do all of this always face to face?”
Airman magazine: The DoD has a culture of innovating as a necessity to adversity, are there any analogies you can relate this crisis to from our history?
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I struggle with that question. I think there was lots of standard planning processes that we attacked this problem with. So, the first thing you do is study your adversary and you have to protect your forces. So, to negate the adversary’s strength, if you want to superimpose COVID on this, the strength was getting us all together, so we’re going to take that away from them and force telework.
Also, you need to remember that the enemy gets a vote, and in this scenario, there were multiple enemies and we anticipated that when we opened up this attack access, when we brought all of these different people into these different forums, we had to make our folks ready for that realm.
What did we do? We did lots of education. Mr. Deasy’s shop and the greater task force put lots of products to increase the knowledge base, because they were going to be fighting in this cyber environment. The next piece is we needed to increase their tools and needed to ensure that we were securely operating. And then the last part is we knew they were coming, so increased vigilance. So, across the board we were attacking it as a battle plan and we were doing the organized train-and-equip things that is standard operation when we have an adverse situation.
Dana Deasy: I guess if I had to pick an analogy, and I have no idea how well this analogy works, but I think aspects of it work. I remember back when President Kennedy said, “We’re going to go to the moon.” We didn’t really know how we were going to get there or how we were going to pull that off, but a lot of new things were invented that were used not only for space missions, but were used for consumers. They were used for defense. And I think by us being forced to rethink our paradigm around how we get things done throughout the DOD, we created things, tools, techniques and technologies that we will find other ways to continue to use throughout the DOD.
Airman magazine: To accommodate the massive shift to telework, the DoD has activated more than 900,000 remote user accounts under the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment (CVR) launched in late March. Can you explain this system and the enhanced collaboration capabilities?
Dana Deasy: You know, it’s interesting, when we knew we were going to have to start putting people at home, everybody was fixated, early on, around e-mail. Everybody thought that was the way that people were going to solve how we were going to communicate.
But what is it about humans? Humans like the visual, they like to hear people’s voices, there’s a stimulus that occurs. We quickly realized it wasn’t about e-mail, it wasn’t about pushing a document from point A to point B, it was about trying to create and mimic if you and I were sitting right in our same office together, or if we were all in a conference room together.
We pivoted to this idea of what people really want is to look and talk to somebody on video. They want to push a button, have a phone call. They want to have chats, they want to move documents back and forth. So, CVR was the culmination of the variety of things that you think about that you do every day, when you’re in the office, that all came together through the concept of delivering a CVR.
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say that they brought together a team very quickly. What was impressive was, we’ve watched kind of lethargic pace of whenever we wanted to bring on a new tool or anything else and the fact that this task force had NSA (National Security Agency), CYBERCOM (Cyber Command), DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency) and all of the services knew we needed tools very quickly.
You rapidly found things that they were already working on being brought forward. What was most important was for all of them to look at it quickly and get approval on a secure solution to implement them fast. Had we not had this crisis, I will tell you, the timelines associated with a lot of these initiatives would probably water your eyes.
Dana Deasy: You know, I’ll end by saying, when we set up CVR, we had no idea what the uptake would be. I remember early days, somebody asked me, “What would be an ambitious goal?” I said, “Boy, if we get up to 100,000 people using this tool, that would be great.”
But, never underestimate the need for humans to want to try to find ways to communicate in styles that work for them. And it clearly became apparent that we were going to blow by that 100,000 and to your point, you know, almost 900,000 accounts later and still growing.
Airman magazine: How has the coronavirus task force and relief legislation for DoD to support IT procurement and increase agency network bandwidth directly impacted the Air Force?
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: If you’re just talking about the Air Force, they got about $47 million. They went from VPN (Virtual Private Network) users of about 9,000 users to 430,000. So, it was very, very quick.
Remember, when I was talking about getting tools on board, they rapidly found secure (classified network access), because that was the main thing we were concerned about; getting secret-level capabilities as fast as we could. So, the ABMS, the Air Battle Management System program, device one, others, they had some things that we rapidly took, experimented and started using those pieces.
Also, for the folks that were able to use that just at the unclassified level, the Bring Your Own Device program, which had been in the process for a long time but rapidly got attention, you’ll find that DISA, Vice Admiral Nancy Norton and her team, did a lot of quick work to acquire products and push them out to the combatant commands and the other places to enable this capability.
Dana Deasy: I’d say the Air Force, not necessarily for teleworking, had been laying a lot of groundwork. If you think about the Joint All Domain, for some time they had been spending a lot of time and effort and money on technology to figure out how to get warfighters to collaborate in a different way, either within the Air Force or across services. I think that mindset and the fact that they were already down that road, when you overlaid COVID on top of that and the need for teleworking, I think they had positioned themselves well to be able to accelerate quickly.
Airman magazine: As we continue to adapt with increased telework, how do we ensure the adoption of cybersecurity strategies are ingrained into our solutions and not an add-on?
Dana Deasy: From the moment we held the first task force and we talked about keeping people safe, embedded in that was the need to keep people safe from in the cyber realm as well.
One of things I was worried about early on, was when people are sitting inside the Pentagon, or wherever they’re sitting around the world, they feel there is this extra layer of protection and when they go home and when they think they have that same layer of protection.
We spent a lot of time in the early days of educating the workforce. “Remember, when you are at home, here’s what’s different versus if you’re sitting inside the Pentagon.”
And I think that early education and coaching really paid dividends in helping to build a more safe, secure environment for us.
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say that the education’s not going to go away. As a matter of fact, I see us continuing because this is a thinking enemy when it comes to this realm.
Also, when we start talking about transitioning from being very narrowly focused on a violent extremist threat to what we’re being directed in a National Defense Strategy, you’ll find that investment, attention and capabilities are herding us in a direction where we’re not going to go back to the way we were doing things.
We, quote, “accepted risks” in this violent extremist fight because the foes we were fighting did not have capability to counter our command-and-control systems, to jam our capabilities. All of these things that we’ve now teased out during this COVID environment are going to be very applicable for the future and the National Defense Strategy.
Airman magazine: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released an interim Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) 3.0 guidance focused on the rapid wide spread transition of telework, can you briefly outline this guidance?
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: This is an initiative from the Department of Homeland Security. I think it’s very helpful. The reasons why I say that is, watching hackers for years and years, like water, they go to the least defended place. So, you’ll see them fish around and they’ll hit hard points, and then go down to the lowest level.
What they produced was kind of a government-wide capability. So, the Pentagon can build their castle walls very high, but if our interaction with the rest of the government’s very low, they’ll go to that place and now they’re in the castle.
So that’s the larger conversation. When we start talking about defense for cyber and the defense for the future of telework, we have to have more of a whole of government (outlook). We have to have more of these collaborative documents and instruction as we go forward.
We have regular meetings with DHS and others to start securing the cyber landscape.
Airman magazine: Are we seeing increased cyber-attacks during the pandemic and does teleworking pose a greater threat to our security?
Dana Deasy: You know, every day I come to the Pentagon is a great threat day. We continue to use technology and we make it more and more pervasive. Every day you continue to do that, you are increasing the surface base of risk. Obviously, now that you’re taking a million people and you’re putting them at home, you’re increasing that risk.
One of the things that I think NSA and U.S. Cyber Command and JFHQ-DODIN (Joint Force Headquarters – Department of Defense information network) did extremely well, was in the very early days of our task force, we started getting them to give us the intel briefs. They were reporting what the adversaries were doing and there wasn’t a single meeting we had where we didn’t stop and say “OK, if we introduce X and we make that part of what we’re going to now provide for teleworking, what do we understand about an adversary’s intent or an adversary’s knowledge as far as how they can exploit that?”
From very early on, everything we architected, we always pivoted to ensure that we were understanding what was the exposure side, how would we monitor for it and how would we correct for it?
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I will say with – there is something to the yin and yang. With great challenges comes great opportunity. So, what we found was, yes, we were expanding our attack access, but we also knew they were coming.
When you know they’re coming – and that’s not always the case in lower level conflicts – we got to study them, we got to move and it is a constant cycle. It is a spy versus spy. They are a learning enemy and what we’ve got to do is incorporate that.
And then back to the opportunity point, once you defend, now you have greater opportunities to go in the other direction. So as opposed to taking your football and going home, you look at it in the other direction as a great opportunity to start exploiting the cyber landscape.
Airman magazine: How do we build a more modern architecture and what does it look like? What will it look like in 10 years?
Dana Deasy: I think what we’ve done with CVR is an absolute example of a modern architecture. If you say today, “what does modern computing look like?” whether it’s in the defense world, whether it’s in other agencies, the consumer world, it starts with an instantaneous ability to reach out, touch somebody, communicate with them, get information from Point A to Point B.
Then there is the whole idea of how machines will help us think more rapidly, help us take more decisions more rapidly in the future? That will be things like artificial intelligence. If we’re going to have those machines help us think more rapidly, take better decisions, then our quality of data is going to have to change dramatically in terms of how we bring it together. The Joint All Domain discussion is a real perfect example, in that, you’ve got to create that instantaneous ability for war fighters to communicate. They’ve got to have the right data and they’re going to want the assistance of machine learning or artificial intelligence.
All of these elements, we were working already. I think this element of how you get people connected at large scale was just accelerated in COVID, but we were already on that journey towards that modern architecture.
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: When we talk about with Joint All Domain C2 (Command and Control) you’ll find we are looking 10 years out when we’re thinking, but the bottom line is we want to be able to securely talk anywhere on the planet at any level of classification. We want all of the data that Mr. Deasy’s talking about and, quite frankly, we’ve got to have a tablet or something that’s going to give us the ability to manage it.
I anticipate it’ll be managed by a series of apps that you’ll either turn on or turn off to rapidly overcome whatever event you’re in, the bottom-line is we have an on-ramp and it was actually aided by the COVID crisis.
Airman magazine: As the increasing number of cyber actors makes our systems vulnerable, how do we defend the cyber infrastructure? How do you build retaliation credibility in cyber?
Dana Deasy: Well I’ll speak to the defense side of this. You’re going to have to experiment and try new things, especially where you’re dramatically changing and pivoting your workforce – in this case, you know, pre-COVID we were maybe 90, 95,000 people any given day around the DoD world were teleworking and you’re now sitting over a million.
That right there is going to force you to step back and have a really hard, tough conversation about what defense looks like in that world? And I think there is defense around how you monitor. How do you collect the intel to know about our adversary’s intent? How do you educate the end user on their responsibilities of what they need to do differently when working from home?
Throughout this, we always asked ourselves adversary intent; do we have the tools to be able to monitor what’s going on with the adversary and are we feeling confident that our workforce and the men and women that serve this great country know exactly what’s expected of them?
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say the holistic nature of taking on offense and defense and then operating the net is making sure that we’re exploiting our advantages and negating any of their strengths while you go forward.
On the defensive standpoint, you’ll rapidly find that we need to reduce their attack platforms – so cyber hygiene, education, reduce their infrastructure, reduce their tools, their capabilities and you do that from publicly exposing those tools or where you’ve seen us publicly expose their hackers on the defensive side.
On the attack side – on the offensive side – you’ll see opportunities, on-ramps from defense to defense and going back and forth. I love football, but it’s not football, it really is hockey. I like the hockey analogy because it goes a lot faster and it hurts bad if you don’t do it right. The bottom-line is going back and forth along those lines, there’s great opportunities and the whole time you’re trying to ensure that you have access and the capability to communicate where your bad guys do not.
Airman magazine: How critical is cyber to the future of the U.S. deterrent capability? How do we communicate our capabilities in order to deter adversaries?
Dana Deasy: Well first, you’ve got to buy into the premise that future warfare is going to be about who has superior technology. Then you then go to the next premise – then it’s all going to be about who can take out, disable, disrupt, spoof that technology. That becomes completely paramount.
I firmly believe that we’re looking to a future where everything that we are building, has to start with the mindset of technology’s going to be our superiority and how do we protect that, defend that and how do we use that technology, not only the connect side, but the cyber side to put us in advantageous position at all times?
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: We’ve been very clear our strategy is to do Joint All Domain C2 – air, land, sea, space, cyber. Unfortunately, I think some people have been confused. They would probably pick the worst analogy, which is nuclear weapons and superimpose it on cyber and there’s nothing that could be worse, because they’re two completely different worlds.
The capabilities to be able to produce a nuclear weapon or a cyber effect are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The reason why I bring that up is they carry that analogy further and they believe that we will only play this game of responding in kind, like mutually assured destruction with nuclear weapons. That is a false premise and could lead people down a very, very wrong road.
In 2011, we made very clear if you have cyber effects that are on the same level as any other weapon, we may come back at you not with cyber, but with some other kinetic strategy. A lot of people who were banking on this in-kind game plan rapidly destroyed all of their war plans, because they thought they could hit us and they could absorb our cyber blow; both are bad premises.
I think when you have the synergistic nature of air, land, sea, space and cyber and not separate them out, then it’s just another tool in your toolbox. You’re not going to put a round peg in a square hole, you are going to use the precise weapon in the precise scenario, for the precise solution.
Airman magazine: Is there anything else you would like to add about or discussions today that we have not asked?
Dana Deasy: I think that the Department of Defense, or maybe just the government in general, sometimes can get a bad rap about its inflexibility; that it doesn’t have agility. It doesn’t know how to think out of the box and doesn’t know how to innovate and it doesn’t have speed.
I mean, you do not take Department of Defense and move it to a million plus people working from home with like capabilities that there were in the office, and collaborating as if they were still sitting in the office, unless you can do that quickly with agility and with real innovation. I think this just demonstrated that we have incredibly talented people and, when set free, to have to do something in a completely tight, compressed time frame, great, great results will come.
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I’ll just end it with one of the key strengths for the United States. We have friends.
You know, our adversaries have clients. When we watched during COVID they threatened them. Taking large swathes of their property because they weren’t paying their bills or even the manipulation of their free press.
The compare and contrast model; we start defending forward in cyber is we start sharing information, we learn in both directions, that is our strength, our partnerships, with all of our friends around the world. When you think about a realm of warfare where it is a manipulation of code or tactics, techniques and procedures that can rapidly get into our attack access in the United States, one of the quickest counters is ensuring that you have friends with whom you share intel. Then you push the defense further from your borders and it rapidly provides you an information advantage for yourself and all of your partners.
Airman magazine: I always like to end with asking how proud are you of the men and women that you are working with and is there anything that you would like to say directly to them?
Dana Deasy: From the moment we kicked off the task force, it looked like an insurmountable task. You know, somebody said “Well you can’t get a million plus people working from home?” There were so many challenges. No one ever walked into any of the meetings and had an attitude of “I’m not sure we could do that.” The Department of Defense is at its best when its back’s up against the wall and it truly has to deliver on something that appears to be insurmountable. And I think this was a great example of everybody coming together across services, civilians, contractors, our industry partners and doing truly extraordinary things.
Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would just say I’m truly humbled. Mr. Deasy hit it right on the head. I love telling a story, especially to our younger airmen, when I’m traveling around, they always have an app for me and it’s always wonderful. One Airman showed me (an app) and I was wowing over this piece and he goes “Sir, do you want to know what I call it?” I go “sure, what do you call it?” And he goes, “Stonewall.” And I’m like “cool, how did you come up with Stonewall?” And he goes, “because that’s the reception it’s going to get from my boss when I show it to him.”
I buried my head in the sand and I was like, “god dang it” cause generally the very high (ranking) and the very low (ranking) get it, it’s these curmudgeons in between. To Mr. Deasy’s point, what I have found is this has been a learning opportunity where curmudgeons are getting smaller and smaller. We’ve forced them into an uncomfortable space and they’re excelling.
Every day, I am nothing but impressed and very proud to be on this team, because these guys are very adaptable and that is probably why I feel very good about a future fight. I know we’ll outthink them, we’ll outproduce them and we’ll make whatever changes we have to make sure that we have victory at the end.
If you’re headed overseas to fight against Islamic State and Al Qaeda, then one company may have a cutting-edge rifle for you – at the cost of zero dollars.
Pflugerville, Texas-based TrackingPoint is offering 10 free M600 Service Rifles or M800 Designated Marksman Rifles to any U.S. organization that can legally bring them to the Middle East for the fight against terrorism.
“It’s hard to sit back and watch what is happening over there. We want to do our part,” explained the company’s CEOJohn McHale, in a press release. “Ten guns doesn’t sound like a lot but the dramatic leap in lethality is a great force multiplier. Those ten guns will feel like two hundred to the enemy.”
“We firmly believe that the M600 SR and M800 DMR will save countless lives and enable our soldiers to dominate enemy combatants including terrorists,” he added.
Precision Guided Rifles are designed to help overcome factors that can impact precision for shooters like recoil, direction and speed of wind, inclination, and temperature. They also work to help counteract common human errors like miscalculating range.
The M600 SR
TrackingPoint designed the M600 SR Squad Level Precision Guided NATO 5.56 Service Rifle to replace the M4A1.
The full length is 36.25 inches including the 16-inch barrel. The M600 weighs 12 pounds and has an operating time of two-and-a-half hours.
Whether you are an inexperienced or accomplished shooter, the rifle has an 87 percent first shot success rate out to 600 yards – a percentage 40 times higher than the first shot kill rate for an average warfighter, according to the company.
The rifle is also designed to eliminate targets moving as fast as 15 mph.
The M800 DMR
TrackingPoint describes this rifle as the “nuclear bomb of small arms.”
The M800 Designated Marksman Rifle Squad-Level Precision guided 7.62 was designed to replace the M110 and M14.
This rifle weighs a bit more at 14 and-a-half pounds. The full length is 39 inches with the 18-inch barrel. The M800 also has an operating time of two and-a-half hours before needing to switch out the dual lithium-ion batteries.
With the very first shot, the success rate on this rifle is 89 percent at out to 800 yards- based on the company’s evaluation.
Extrapolating from the Army’s 1999 White Feather study, TrackingPoint says this 89 percent success rate is about 33 times the success rate of first shots as kill shots by professional snipers.
The M800 DMR can hit targets moving as fast as 20 mph.
Both rifles incorporate the company’s “RapidLok Target Acquisition.” As a warfighter pulls the trigger, the target is automatically acquired and tracked. The range is also calculated and measured for velocity. Accuracy is enhanced because all this work is accomplished by the time the trigger squeeze is completely.
Both rifles also feature tech that enables accurate off-hand shots. The image is stabilized to the sort of image you would get with a supported gun rest.
Each rifle comes with a case that includes a charger, bi-pod, 20 round mag, bore guide and link pin. It also comes ready with two batteries.
The M600 SR retails for $9995, while the M800 DMR will be available for $15,995. If you’re an interested civilian, TrackingPoint says the weapons are available to “select non-military U.S. individuals.”
On Dec. 5, the company will begin shipping the free rifles to the chosen qualified U.S, citizens who can bring the guns into the fight against terrorism legally.
The last month of deployment can either drag slowly on or fly by, depending on how you keep your mind busy. If you’re looking for an escape from the drudgery, keep yourself distracted. And there’s no better way to keep your mind off the present quite like imaging all of the food you’ll eat when you arrive stateside. America is the melting pot of all the world’s cultures, which also means we have the very best of the world’s cuisine.
I can guarantee you, based on personal experience, that the question of, “what’re you going to eat first?” will come up. If you’re looking to start the discussion off with a delectable imaginary dining experience, fantasize about the spots on this list:
Pinch Kitchen — Miami
Restaurants overseas never perfectly nail the taste of American cuisine — and I do not mean fast food (admittedly, foreign countries can’t get that right, either). If you’re lucky enough to be stationed in Florida, or you’re planning on using some of your post-deployment leave days down south, make sure to stop by Pinch Kitchen in Miami, Florida.
They take American classics and add a dash of this and that to really bring out the taste in the classic meals we love. Now, before people start saying that hamburgers and hotdogs are not American because they originated from Germany, I’ll say this: Just like we did to the moon, we put our flag on them and now they belong to us.
Two executive chefs, John Gallo and Rene Reyes, put every effort into ensuring the food is perfect, the ambiance is unpretentious, and the place is filled with all of our favorite beers.
This is a piece of art that you’re encouraged to eat. What a concept.
Delmonico Steakhouse — Las Vegas
If Vegas is in your future, do not miss Delmonico Steakhouse. The genius in the kitchen is Emeril John Lagassé III who, as you might know, had his own show on the Food Network. This restaurant is more upscale, and I’d strongly recommend taking someone you’re more serious with than that stripper you just met thirty minutes ago.
Regardless, the filet mignon and other steaks here are so good you’ll wish you were exclusively carnivorous. Treat yourself to a quality meal because you’ve earned it. Vegas has buffets and deals around every corner, and there are plenty of comfort foods for after you have stumbled out of the casino (and almost married that stripper I told you not to take to the Steakhouse while successfully evading capture from the police and being black-out drunk). So, take some time to enjoy a meal that isn’t self-served, warrior.
It’s a family restaurant… I swear!
(Twin Peaks, Front Burner Restaurants, LP.)
Twin Peaks is a sports bar that started in Texas, but now has franchises all over the U.S. and is the primary competitor of Hooters. They serve beer at 29 degrees and have a made-from-scratch menu that includes American favorites, like burgers and nachos. It’s themed like a hunting lodge and goes to great lengths to put forth a degree of manliness, like offering “man-size” 22oz beers.
It’s a wholesome family restaurant with friendly waitresses that will make sure your table receives the attention a patron deserves. The themed events are fun and, sometimes, they have bikini car washes. The best part is that new franchises are opening every year so you won’t have to travel far if you’re lucky.
Worth every penny.
Sushi Iki — Los Angeles
Sushi Iki is in Los Angeles County, not the city itself. It’s in what the locals call “The Valley,” a barren wasteland of broken dreams. Just kidding — the Valley’s fine. It’s just really far from Hollywood, Santa Monica, or anything LA you’ve seen on television. However, don’t let the distance from your hotel deter you from this place; the sushi is legendary.
The variety of fish and shellfish served here can’t be found in just any sushi restaurant, and some are prepared so fresh that they were alive when you walked in the door. This is an expensive restaurant, but if you find yourself in L.A. this is one of those places you should not miss. Expect to pay around 0 per person for the full experience and for something modest.
You quit coffee, tea and chocolate! You put up black out curtains and got rid of all the screens in your bedroom. You even tried counting sheep. But still you find yourself lying awake, unable to sleep. Sleep Hygiene tips help many people. But they don’t work all the time and they don’t work for everybody — especially if you have been experiencing sleep problems for a long time.
Sleepless nights are not uncommon, but if they persist for weeks at a time and impact your life, it could be that insomnia, nightmares or other sleep problems are affecting your well-being. Insomnia after returning from deployment is one aspect of military service that relates to sleep problems. Training to be alert through the night, working extended shifts and upsetting memories from combat zones can all affect sleep, even after separating from service. This means that if you are a veteran, you are more likely to have trouble sleeping than civilians.
Treatment is key to improving both your physical and mental health
Sleep problems often occur with PTSD, depression, anxiety and chronic pain, and can lead to trouble concentrating, challenging emotions, and a feeling of hopelessness that could worsen thoughts of suicide. So, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor early, when you first notice changes in your sleep that impact your functioning. Proven treatments for insomnia are more effective than sleep medications in the long-term without the side effects.
“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, CBT-I, targets behaviors and thoughts that perpetuate sleep problems, and is a treatment that has demonstrated longer-term effects than sleep medications”, says Dr. Sarra Nazem, a VA psychologist and researcher. “Imagery Rehearsal Therapy, IRT, is a treatment that involves re-scripting nightmares which can lead to decreases in nightmare severity and frequency.”
Take the Sleep Check-up to understand your own sleep. And remember, sleeping better means feeling better in all ways.
If you or a veteran you know is in crisis call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.
North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”
Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.
North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.
According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.
Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.
Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater
Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.
“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.
An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.
(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)
Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.
“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.
Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.
“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.
“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”
‘A natural at military strategy’
While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.
NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.
According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”
He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”
But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.
“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.
“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.
Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.
“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”
Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.
“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”
In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”
NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.
In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“Kim Jong Un, he really has been very open and I think very honorable from everything we’re seeing,” Trump told reporters amid a White House visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, adding that the North Koreans wanted such a meeting “as soon as possible.”
Trump has signaled an eagerness to meet and conduct diplomacy with Kim, despite spending much of 2017 threatening to annihilate North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear provocations.
Since the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and sweeping rounds of US-led sanctions after North Korean nuclear and missile tests, Kim has also apparently opened up to diplomacy.
Kim unexpectedly went to Beijing in March 2018, to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April 2018.
Trump said of Kim in January 2016: “You’ve got to give him credit. How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden… he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss.”
“Say what you want, but that is not easy, especially at that age,” Trump said.
Trump is set to become the first sitting US president to meet face-to-face with a North Korean leader. Meanwhile, Kim has appeared to make a set of stunning concessions and cave to US demands of denuclearization already.