To say that Gurkhas are simply soldiers from Nepal would be a massive, massive understatement. If there’s a single reason no one goes to war with Nepal, it is because of the Gurkhas’ reputation. They are elite, fearless warriors who serve in not only the Nepalese Army but also in the British and Indian armies as well, a tradition since the end of the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1816. They are known for their exceptional bravery, ability, and heroism in the face of insurmountable odds. Faithful to their traditions, one Gurkha in Afghanistan, Dipprasad Pun, singlehandedly held his post against more than 30 Taliban fighters.
It was a September evening in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. It was 2010, and Sergeant Dipprasad Pun of the Royal Gurkha Rifles was on duty at a two-story outpost. He heard some noises and found two insurgents attempting to lay an IED in a nearby road. He realized he was surrounded. The night sky filled up with bullets and RPG fire.Taliban fighters sprang into a well-planned assault on Pun’s outpost.
Pun responded by pulling his machine gun off its tripod and handholding it as he returned fire toward the oncoming fighters. He went through every round he had available before tossing 17 grenades at the attackers. When he was out of grenades, he picked up his SA80 service rifle and started using that. He even threw a land mine at the enemy.
As Pun defended his position, one Taliban fighter climbed the side of the tower adjacent to the guard house, hopped on to the roof and rushed him. Pun turned to take the fighter out, but his weapon misfired. Pun grabbed the tripod of his machine gun and tossed it at the Taliban’s face, which knocked the enemy fighter off of the roof of the building.
Pun continued to fight off the assault until reinforcements arrived. When it was all said and done, 30 Taliban lay dead.
He was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
“At that time I wasn’t worried, there wasn’t any choice but to fight. The Taliban were all around the checkpoint, I was alone,” he told the crowd gathered at the ceremony. “I had so many of them around me that I thought I was definitely going to die so I thought I’d kill as many of them as I could before they killed me.”
In all, he fired off 250 machine gun rounds, 180 SA80 rounds, threw six phosphorous grenades and six normal grenades, and one Claymore mine.
Pun comes from a long line of Gurkhas. His father served in the Gurkha Rifles, as did his grandfather, who received the Victoria Cross for an action in the World War II Burma theater.
Russia has ratcheted up military tensions in Syria by announcing it would send the advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria, and the US military had a savage response.
Asked for comment on the announced movement of the missile defense batteries to Syria, Maj. Josh T. Jacques of the US Military’s Central Command, which covers the Middle East, said Russia “should move humanitarian aid into Syria, not more weaponry.”
Another Pentagon official similarly had words for Russia, responding to Russian claims that Soviet-era Syrian defenses blocked 83 missiles from a US-led strike early April 2018.
“This is another example of the Russian disinformation campaign to distract attention from their moral complicity to the Assad regime’s atrocities,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Business Insider, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia stands accused by international observers of bombing humanitarian aid convoys on their way into besieged Syrian towns and stifling efforts to ease suffering in the country while they support Assad and allegedly cover him while he conducts chemical warfare against his own citizens.
Experts tell Business Insider that the S-300 likely could not stop another US strike like the one on April 14, 2018, where 105 missiles hit three suspected chemical weapons sites in the country. Russia claims its defenses can down “any” US missile.
Syria has been mired in a brutal civil war since March 2011. Russia, Syria’s ally, has provided air support and training for Assad’s military since late 2015, during which time it has been linked to several war crimes involving the death of civilians.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The second coming of Deadpool to the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes just a few weeks after the long-awaited, much-anticipated third installment of the Avengers series. And honestly, I’m a lot more excited for the Merc with the Mouth.
Avengers: Infinity War was a long time in the making. An incredible 18 films since 2008 have led to this moment, a tribute to the idea of truly building a complex series of interwoven stories that often collide — just like in comic books. The D.C. Universe should take note: Wonder Woman is awesome, but she’s not going to carry an entire franchise that viewers aren’t truly invested in.
But there’s something to be said for brevity, especially in terms of wit, and that’s something Wade Wilson (and the Deadpool series) has in spades. Audiences new to the character won’t need a week-long primer to understand every character and nuance of Deadpool 2. They probably won’t even need to see the first Deadpool movie (but totally should).
In the new trailer, Deadpool makes digs at DC (of course, that’s easy) but also makes fun of Marvel, calling Josh Brolin’s character Cable by the character Brolin plays in Infinity War, Thanos.
That’s just true to the character. In the recent Deadpool comic series, ‘The Marvel Universe Kills Deadpool,’ he also makes a dig a Marvel’s failed Inhumans series.
We all knew the MCU’s X-Force was unlikely to include the lineup found in the original Deadpool comics, whch was Deadpool, Psylocke, Archangel, Fantomex, E.V.A., and freaking Wolverine. Just take look at how much Hugh Jackman costs — ain’t gonna happen. But that’s not important. The X-Force is a super duper f-ing group and though there aren’t as many big names in Deadpool 2, there are many reasons to be pumped to see the second incarnation of the Regenerating Degenerate.
First off, Josh Brolin as Cable? Awesome. Secondly, the time-traveling psychokinetic cyborg has tangled with Deadpool so many times in the comics (Deadpool even killed Cable recently in The Despicable Deadpool), watching the two actually fight onscreen is going to be action-sequence gold.
The goofy, powerless dad who “just saw the ad” is right there with the X-Force when they get into action.
Negasonic Teenage Warhead needs her own movie.
2. The MCU X-Force
Stefan Kapicic’s Colossus was so awesome in Deadpool, It’s great they brought him (and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, of course) back for the sequel. Zazie Beetz and Terry Crews as Domino and Bedlam (respectively) are awesome choices to round out the X-Force.
1. Deadpool isn’t for everyone and doesn’t pretend to be.
He’s called “The Merc With the Mouth” for a reason. Wade Wilson has never been politically correct, polite, entirely ethical, or even likable. And that’s the way it should be.
A Spanish air force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet accidentally fired an air-to-air missile during an a routine training exercise over southeast Estonia on Tuesday afternoon, and authorities have not been able to locate the missile or what is left of it.
The Spanish jet fired the missile — an advanced medium-range air-to-air missile, or AMRAAM, made by US defense firm Raytheon — a little before 4 p.m. local time over the village of Pangodi as it returned from an exercise with another Spanish jet as well as two French Mirage 2000 jets.
The exercise was carried out in an area reserved for such activity about 60 miles from the Russian border. All of the planes are based in Siauliai in northern Lithuania, and the jet that launched the missile was able to return to the base.
An AIM-120 AMRAAM being loaded onto an F-16 fighter jet.
The missile’s last location was about 25 miles north of the Estonian city of Tartu. It was reportedly fired northward, but the trajectory and its final location are not known. The 12-foot-long missile has a range of about 60 miles and carries a roughly 50-pound high-explosive warhead.
The missile has a built-in self-destruct mode for such occasions, but it’s not certain that it was activated, and the weapon may have landed on the ground.
The Estonian Defense Ministry has launched a search for the missile using helicopters, and emergency services in the area have asked residents who happen upon the missile or parts of it not to approach it.
Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas
Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said on Facebook that there were “thank God no human casualties,” and called the incident “extremely regrettable.”
“I am sure that the Estonian defense forces will, in cooperation with our allies, identify all the circumstances of the case and make every effort to make sure that nothing like this happens again,” he added.
Estonia’s defense minister also ordered the suspension of all aerial military exercises in the country’s air space until the incident was resolved.
The Spanish Defense Ministry also opened an investigation.
“A Spanish Eurofighter based in Lithuania accidentally fired a missile without causing any harm,” the ministry said in a statement. “The air-to-air missile has not hit any aircraft. The defence ministry has opened an investigation to clarify the exact cause of the incident.”
NATO’s Baltic air-policing missions were set up in 2004 , after Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania the alliance, to assist the new members with air defense and deter Russian aerial incursions in the area. Spanish jets have done five of the three-month air-policing tours, leading them in 2006 and 2016 and taking part in 2015 and 2017.
The current Spanish deployment is composed of 135 personnel and Eurofighters jets. It began on May 1 and will conclude on August 31.
Jets from NATO countries deployed on air-policing missions have had regular encounters with Russian jets over the Baltics, though there were no reports of Russian aircraft in the area when the missile was fired on Tuesday.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A YouTube video emerged on May 18, 2018, showing a Saudi C-130H flying very low over a soldier’s head in Yemen, The War Zone first reported.
The video appears to show the soldier trying to slap the underside of the C-130H with an article of clothing, but it’s unclear where exactly in Yemen it was shot, and how much of it was planned, The War Zone reported.
C-130s are large transport aircraft, which are vital to Saudi Arabia’s operations in Yemen, The War Zone reported. Part of a $110 arms deal, the US sold Riyadh 20 C-130Js and three KC-130 refuelers in 2017 for $5.8 billion.
Here we are, on quarantine day X-teenth, wondering when the world will once again open. Some states have already announced that certain businesses are open with restrictions, but for the overwhelming majority of the United States, we’re still operating from a distance. Kids are schooling from home, even parts of military training have been put on hold; soldiers are sheltering in place and working remotely.
Industry experts and politicians agree that the pandemic has been unprecedented, most notably by the fact that we don’t know when this thing will blow over.
Take a look at unpleasant events from the past, all of which were over in less time than the COVID-19 pandemic.
The category 5 hurricane that hit New Orleans back in 2005 was a devastating event. It’s one that had a particular effect on Marine forces in the area. Today, Katrina is being used as one of the biggest comparisons for economic turmoil, albeit still on a lesser scale.
The entire hurricane’s lifespan lasted eight days, while landfall lasted one, August 29of 2005. Hurricane Katrina was a deadly, horrific occurrence, but with an impact that was felt far longer than the disaster itself.
Another comparison of the effects of the pandemic are the months following 9-11. The dastardly terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers caused widespread loss and injury, as well as a trickling economic impact. But that’s not the only unfortunate similarity; New York City has become the epicenter for COVID-19, as were the 9-11 attacks.
The main events of September 2001 took place in less than two hours, while its horrific aftermath lasted far longer.
Another cruel attack that famously took place on U.S. soil is the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the day in 1941, which FDR famously said will live in infamy. Though it led to the United States joining World War II, the actual event, brought on in two waves by the Japanese, lasted a single morning.
The war itself, its heartache and gruesome side effects lasted far longer, including years of involvement by the United States.
San Francisco Earthquake
In 1906, the city of San Francisco was hit by one of the strongest earthquakes in modern history. Its location and magnitude, striking miles of the California coast, was grim for San Francisco in particular. The quake also caused massive fires to start and tear through the city, eventually destroying 80% of the entire town.
The quake itself was short lived, while the fires lasted for three days. Its devastation was felt for years following this single natural event.
The U.S. has seen its fair share of disasters. Together, we band and lift one another up to get through some truly awful times. Don’t forget all we’ve overcome in a time of pandemic and that as a country, we, again, can pull together and thrive.
NATO troops and partner forces converged in Norway in October 2018 for Trident Juncture, the alliance’s largest exercise since the Cold War, taking place in and over the Nordic countries and on the Baltic and Norwegian seas.
Trident Juncture is a regularly scheduled exercise, and 2018’s version was meant to test the alliance’s ability to respond collectively to a threat — in this case an attack on Norway — and the logistical muscles needed to move some 50,000 troops, thousands of vehicles, and dozens of ships and aircraft on short notice.
Trident Juncture also saw the first time a US aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman, sailed above the Arctic Circle since the early 1990s. The Truman strike group was joined by the USS Iwo Jima expeditionary strike group.
German infantrymen board a MV-22B Osprey at Vaernes Air Base in Norway during Trident Juncture 18, Nov. 1, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)
Working in the harsh conditions found in the northern latitudes in autumn was also part of the plan, said US Navy Adm. James Foggo, who commands US naval forces in Europe and Africa and was in charge of Trident Juncture.
“One of the things that we took advantage of was the opportunity to do this in October and November,” Foggo said on the most recent episode of his podcast, “On the Horizon.”
“When I was in the States [prior to the exercise], people asked me, ‘Hey, why’d you do this in October and November? It’s pretty nasty and cold in the high north at that time of year,'” Foggo said. “That’s exactly why. We wanted to stress the force, and we truly did get some lessons learned out of this.”
After nearly two decades operating in the Middle East, focusing on smaller-scale operations like counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, the US military has started to shift its focus back toward operating against sophisticated, heavily armed opponents and in harsh conditions.
US Marines fire an M240B machine gun during a live-fire range as part of exercise Arctic Edge in Alaska, March 1, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)
US Marines have been in Norway conducting such training since early 2017. During exercise Arctic Edge in February and March 2018, more than 1,500 US soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines gathered in Alaska “to train … to fight and win in the Arctic,” the head of Alaskan Command said at the time.
What these troops are learning isn’t necessarily new, but it is needed, according to Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, who took command of the US Navy’s 2nd Fleet in August 2018.
“I think most of what we are gathering from lessons in [Trident Juncture], I think we kind of knew, because we’re getting back into a geographic space in a time of year, and we haven’t been operating that way for a long, long time,” Lewis said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Nov. 28, 2018.
“We’ve been operating in the Persian Gulf, where it’s like a lake, and it’s really hot, whereas now we’re operating up off the coast of Norway, where it’s blowing a gale, the decks are moving around, the ships are getting beat up, and the people are getting beat up,” Lewis added.
“We’re not used to being out on the flight deck for long periods of time where it’s really cold,” said Lewis, a career pilot.
An aviation ordnanceman moves ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 23, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
Second Fleet was reactivated in May 2018, seven years after being shut down as part of a cost-saving and restructuring effort. Now back in action, the fleet will oversee ships and aircraft in the western and northern Atlantic Ocean.
Soviet and NATO forces were active in those areas during the Cold War, especially the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap, which was a chokepoint for ships traveling between the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic.
As Lewis noted, returning to the high north didn’t go off without a hitch. Even before the live portion of the exercise began, four US soldiers were injured when their vehicles collided and one slid off a road in Norway.
Sailors and Marines aboard the dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall observe an underway replenishment with the fleet-replenishment oiler USNS John Lethall, Oct. 6, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Colbey Livingston)
The amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall and amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, both of which were taking US Marines to the exercise, also had to return to Iceland days before the official start because of rough seas, which damaged the Gunston Hall and injured some of its sailors.
Gunston Hall underwent repairs in Iceland and departed on Nov. 5, 2018.
Discussing the effects of rough weather on the exercise, Foggo said NATO forces would “look for operational risk management first,” and a spokeswoman for the Truman strike group told Business Insider that the group took steps to prepare for “colder temperatures, higher winds, and unpredictable seas.”
US personnel will need more preparation in order to operate effectively in that part of the world, Lewis said.
“Our kids, they adapt really quickly, but not without repeat efforts,” he said. “I think most of it’s been … those kind of lessons, and I think overall we did pretty well, but we can do better.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If there’s one thing that ruins anything targeted toward the military, it’s messing up the uniform. It may seem like a small detail to people who were never in the military, but that’s kinda the whole f*cking point – details. Everything starts with paying attention to details. This is how veterans know who served and who’s out there just getting a half-price dinner at Chili’s.
So look, if you’re targeting the military-veteran community for anything, be it a new TV show or movie, a 3M lawsuit, or a reverse mortgage or whatever, we know immediately how much effort you’re putting into caring about actual veterans. Some of these are so bad, they popped my collar.
Nothing says “AMERICA” like a death grip on the flag.
You can tell he’s really in the Army because he wears two Army tapes instead of his name. Promote ahead of peers.
Do not leave unsupervised.
Stop laughing you insensitive bastards.
That’s my reaction too.
That hat tho.
Call the cops.
Is that his family in the background or just some family? As for this poorly positioned hat, that is not what is meant by “cover.”
No hat, no salute zone, bruh.
Most bedrooms are.
You had two chances.
They had two different opportunities to use camo and they couldn’t come up with even one the U.S. actually uses.
Made you look.
… At my shirtless chest.
This is real.
Lieutenant Congdon is clearly a Hulkamaniac.
Nothing say ARMY like a boonie hat.
Especially when ARMY is emblazoned across the front of it.
Maybe not use a 12-year-old model.
Is he 12 or 60? I can’t tell. Nice boots.
Time for PT?
Clearly, the answer is no.
I never took off my uniform, either.
“Just hanging out in my ACUs in my living room with my family, as all military members do.”
Stealing valor for a lifetime.
Why do stolen valor veterans always want to add an extra American flag patch?
Just use any medals, no one will notice.
That 50-year-old is wearing a 20-year-old winter uniform and i’m pretty sure Boris on the end there is sporting American, Soviet, and Russian medals.
Mommy’s a liar, Billy.
Where would you even get BDUs with an arm sleeve pocket?? Mommy’s been lying for a long ass time.
The 2:20 minute video, released on August 1 for China’s Army Day, emotionally underscores the sacrifices made by service members of the PLA while showing off some of the country’s latest weaponry.
At one point in the propaganda video, the narrator says “peace behind me, war in front of me,” which The National Interest said could be interpreted to mean war is “inevitable.”
The National Interest, which provided a translation of the narration, also pointed out that no female soldiers were depicted in the video — just mothers and wives sending their husbands or sons off.
Check out the video:
The high-quality video also likely instilled a lot of pride, something which Eric Wertheim, a naval expert with the US Naval Institute, recently told Business Insider is at least in part China’s reason for building a fleet of new aircraft carriers that may soon be on par with the US’ Nimitz-class carriers.
But China’s grand ambitions for a world-class military likely goes beyond pride and domestic politics, as Beijing continues to set its sights on the East and South China Seas, Taiwan, market access overseas, and more.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A weapons sergeant with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) who heroically fought up a mountain through a barrage of enemy fire to help rescue his detachment members will receive the Medal of Honor.
The White House announced today that Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams went above and beyond the call of duty during an operation on April 6, 2008. Williams — a sergeant at the time of the operation — was assigned to Special Operations Task Force-33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Williams will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 30, 2019. A “Hall of Heroes” induction ceremony at the Pentagon is slated for Oct. 31, 2019.
In April 2008, Williams joined 14 other Special Forces operators and roughly 100 Afghan commandos on a mission to take out or apprehend high-value enemy targets that were operating out of a mountain-top village within Shok Valley.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams with other team members assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), wait on a hill top for the helicopter exfiltration in eastern Afghanistan, late spring 2007.
(Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Shortly after the joint force dropped into the area and organized into elements, the lead command and control team started their treacherous hike up a near-vertical mountainside toward the objective.
It did not take long for the adversary to respond. A barrage of heavy sniper and machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on the team’s location.
In the ensuing chaos, the lead element was pinned down at a higher elevation and isolated from the larger military force. Further, they had sustained injuries and were requesting support.
In response, Williams organized a counter-assault team and led them across a waist-deep, ice-cold fast-moving river, and fought their way up the terraced mountain to the besieged lead element’s location.
Joined by his team sergeant, Williams positioned his Afghan commando force to provide a violent base of suppressive fire, preventing the enemy force from overrunning the team’s position. In turn, the actions of Williams and his team allowed the first command and control element to consolidate and move the casualties down the mountain.
As Williams worked to defend the force’s position, an enemy sniper took aim and injured his team sergeant. With disregard for his safety, Williams maneuvered through an onslaught of heavy machine-gun fire to render aid.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.
(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Once his team sergeant was secure, the joint team egressed off the mountainside. Williams descended with his team sergeant off a near-vertical 60-foot cliff to a casualty collection point and continued to provide first aid.
With more injured soldiers coming down the mountainside, Williams ascended through a hail of small arms fire to help with their evacuation, and also repair his operational detachment commander’s radio.
As Williams returned to the base of the mountain with three wounded soldiers, enemy forces maneuvered to their position in an attempt to overrun the casualty collection point. Williams and the Afghan commandos quickly responded with a counter-attack and courageously fought back the attacking force.
As the medical evacuation helicopter arrived, Williams exposed himself to insurgent fire again to help transport casualties. Once the injured were secure, Williams continued to direct Commando fires and suppress numerous enemy positions. The team’s actions enabled the evacuation of the wounded and dead without further casualties.
The entire Shok Valley operation lasted for more than six hours. During that time, Williams and the joint force fought back against about 200 adversaries, all while they were subjected to a series of friendly, danger-close air strikes.
Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the Medal of Honor for this operation. The president presented Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony Oct. 1, 2018.
Retired Marine infantry officer Joe L’Etoile remembers when training money for his unit was so short “every man got four blanks; then we made butta-butta-bang noises” and “threw dirt clods for grenades.”
Now, L’Etoile is director of the Defense Department’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force and leading an effort to manage $2.5 billion worth of DoD investments into weapons, unmanned systems, body armor, training, and promising new technology for a group that has typically ranked the lowest on the U.S. military’s priority list: the grunts.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Orrin G. Farmer)
But the task force’s mission isn’t just about funding high-tech new equipment for Army, Marine, and special operations close-combat forces. It is also digging into deeply entrenched policies and making changes to improve unit cohesion, leadership, and even the methods used for selecting individuals who serve in close-combat formations.
Launched in February, the new joint task force is a top priority of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine Corps infantry officer himself. With this level of potent support, L’Etoile is able to navigate through the bureaucratic strongholds of the Pentagon that traditionally favor large weapons programs, such as Air Force fighters and Navy ships.
“This is a mechanism that resides at the OSD level, so it’s fairly quick; we are fairly nimble,” L’Etoile told Military.com on July 25. “And because this is the secretary’s priority … the bureaucracies respond well because the message is the secretary’s.”
Before he’s done, L’Etoile said, the task force will “reinvent the way the squad is perceived within the department.”
“I would like to see the squad viewed as a weapons platform and treated as such that its constituent parts matter,” he said. “We would never put an aircraft onto the flight line that didn’t have all of its parts, but a [Marine] squad that only has 10 out of 13? Yeah. Deploy it. Put it into combat. We need to take a look at what that costs us. And fundamentally, I believe down at my molecular level, we can do better.”
United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jess Lewis)
Improving the Squad
Mattis’ Feb. 8 memo to the service secretaries, Joint Chiefs of Staff and all combatant commands announcing the task force sent a shockwave through the force, stating “personnel policies, advances in training methods, and equipment have not kept pace with changes in available technology, human factors, science, and talent management best practices.”
To L’Etoile, the task force is not out to fix what he describes as the U.S. military’s “phenomenal” infantry and direct-action forces.
“Our charter is really just to take it to the next level,” he said. “In terms of priorities, the material solution is not my number-one concern.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)
For starters, the task force is looking at ways to identify Marines and soldiers who possess the characteristics and qualities that will make an infantry squad more efficient in the deadly art of close combat.
The concept is murky, but “we are investing in some leading-edge science to get at the question of what are the attributes to be successful in close combat and how do you screen for those attributes?” L’Etoile said. “How do you incentivize individuals with those attributes to come on board to the close-combat team, to stick their hand in the air for an infantry MOS?”
Col. Joey Polanco, the Army service lead at the task force, said it is evaluating several screening programs, some that rely on “big data and analytics to see if this individual would be a better fit for, say, infantry or close-combat formations.”
Polanco, an infantry officer who has served in the 82nd Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions, said the task force is also looking at ways to incentivize these individuals to “want to continue to stay infantry.”
L’Etoile said the task force is committed to changing policy to help fix a “wicked problem” in the Marine Corps of relying too heavily on corporals instead of sergeants to lead infantry squads.
“In the Marine Corps, there are plenty of squads that are being led by corporals instead of sergeants, and there are plenty of squads being led by lance corporals instead of corporals,” he said. “I led infantry units in combat. There is a difference when a squad is led by a lance corporal — no matter how stout his heart and back — and a sergeant leading them.”
Every Marine must be ready to take on leadership roles, but filling key leader jobs with junior enlisted personnel instead of sergeants degrades unit cohesion, L’Etoile said.
“When four guys are best buddies and they went to boot camp together and they go drinking beer together on the weekends … and then one day the squad leader rotates and it’s ‘Hey Johnson, you are now the squad leader,’ the human dynamics of that person becoming an effective leader with folks that were his peers is difficult to overcome,” he said.
It’s equally important to stabilize the squad’s leadership so that “the squad leader doesn’t show up three months before a deployment but is there in enough time to get that cohesion with his unit, his fire team leaders and his squad members,” L’Etoile said. “Having the appropriate grade, age-experience level and training is really, really important.”
The Army is compiling data to see if that issue is a persistent problem in its squads.
“When we get the data back, we will have a better idea of how do we increase the cohesion of an Army squad, and I think what you are going to find is, it needs its own solution, if there in fact is a problem,” L’Etoile said.
(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan)
No Budget, But Deep Pockets
Just weeks after the first U.S. combat forces went into Afghanistan in late 2001, the Army, Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command began modernizing and upgrading individual and squad weapons and gear.
Since then, equipment officials have labored to field lighter body armor, more efficient load-bearing gear and new weapons to make infantry and special operations forces more lethal.
But the reality is, there is only so much money budgeted toward individual kit and weapons when other service priorities, such as armored vehicles and rotary-wing aircraft, need modernizing as well.
The task force has the freedom to look at where the DoD is “investing its research dollars and render an opinion on whether those dollars are being well spent,” L’Etoile said. “I have no money; I don’t want money. I don’t want to spend the next two years managing a budget. That takes a lot of time and energy.”
“But I am very interested in where money goes. So, for instance, if there is a particular close-combat capability that I believe represents a substantive increase in survivability, lethality — you name it — for a close-combat formation, and I see that is not being funded at a meaningful level, step one is to ask why,” he continued. “Let’s get informed on the issue … and then if it makes sense, go advocate for additional funding for that capability.”
The task force currently has reprogramming or new funding requests worth up to .5 billion for high-tech equipment and training efforts that L’Etoile would not describe in detail.
“I have a number of things that are teed up … it’s premature for me to say,” he said. “In broad categories, we have active requests for additional funding in sensing; think robots and [unmanned aerial systems]. We have requests for additional funding of munitions for training and additional tactical capabilities [and] additional funding for training adversaries, so you get a sparring partner as well as a heavy bag.”
The task force is requesting additional money for advanced night-vision equipment and synthetic-training technologies. L’Etoile also confirmed that it helped fund the Army’s 0 million effort to train and equip the majority of its active brigade combat teams to fight in large, subterranean complexeslike those that exist in North Korea.
“We can go to the department and say, ‘This is of such importance that I think the department should shine a light on it and invest in it,’ ” he said.
Endorsing Futuristic Kit
One example of this is the task force’s interest in an Army program to equip its infantry units with a heads-up display designed to provide soldiers with a digital weapon-sight reticle, as well as tactical data about the immediate battlefield environment.
“The big thing is the Heads-Up Display 3.0. I would tell you that is one of the biggest things we are pushing,” Polanco said. “It’s focused primarily on helping us improve lethality, situational awareness, as well as our mobility.”
The Army is currently working on HUD 1.0, which involves a thermal weapon sight mounted on the soldier’s weapon that can wirelessly transmit the sight reticle into the new dual-tubed Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III B.
The system can also display waypoints and share information with other soldiers in the field, Army officials said.
The HUD 3.0 will draw on the synthetic training environment — one of the Army’s key priorities for modernizing training — and allow soldiers to train and rehearse in a virtual training environment, as well as take into combat.
The service has already had soldiers test the HUD 1.0 version and provide feedback.
“If you look at the increased lethality just by taking that thermal reticle off of the weapon and putting it up into their eye, the testing has been off the chart,” Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, said at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium earlier this year.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. John Tran)
The Army tried for years in the 1990s to accomplish this with its Land Warrior program, but it could be done only by running bulky cables from the weapon sight to the helmet-mounted display eyepiece. Soldiers found it too awkward and a snag hazard, so the effort was eventually shelved.
“Whatever we want to project up into that reticle — that tube — it’s pretty easy,” Donahue said. “It’s just a matter of how you get it and how much data. We don’t want too much information in there either … we’ve got to figure that out.”
The initial prototypes of the HUD 3.0 are scheduled to be ready in 18 months, he added.
“It is really a state-of-the art capability that allows you to train as you fight from a synthetic training environment standpoint to a live environment,” Polanco said, adding that the task force has submitted a request to the DoD to find funding for the HUD 3.0.
“One of the things we have been able to do as a task force is we have endorsed and advocated strongly for this capability. … It’s going forward as a separate item that we are looking for funding on,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest challenge before the task force is how to ensure all these efforts to make the squad more lethal will not be undone when Mattis is no longer in office.
“We ask ourselves every time we step up to the plate to take on one of these challenges, how do we make it enduring?” L’Etoile said.
“How do we ensure that the progress we make is not unwound when the priorities shift? So it’s important when you take these things on that you are mindful that there ought to be an accompanying policy because … they can’t just get unwound overnight,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Ask any military historian: Tactical aggression is a game changer. Throughout history, forces who were more aggressive in combat saw a lot more success compared their predecessors. Ulysses S. Grant’s determination to take the war to the Confederates led to a win for the Union in the Civil War. When Maj. Gen. Lloyd Fredenhall was soundly beaten by the aggressive Nazi Afrika Corps in Tunisia, he was replaced by the famously aggressive George S. Patton, who saw resounding success. The U.S. strategy of building an overwhelming force to push Iraq out of Kuwait led to a decisive victory in a mere 40 days during the Gulf War.
In a game of strategy like NFL football, the same kind of aggression pays off.
For anyone who saw the Bengals-Chiefs game on Oct. 21, 2018, watching Cincinnati opt to take a field goal in the 3rd quarter while down by 30-plus points was a real head-scratcher. Why not risk the turnover when you’re running out of the time it takes to score the four touchdowns you need?
That call — still a bad one — is one made over and over by conservative coaches, even in situations not quite as extreme as the one Cincinnati faced that Sunday night. If a team is facing a 4th down with 4 yards to go on their opponent’s 40 yard line, there’s a good chance they’ll still opt to punt the ball away.
Well, maybe the Bengals always should. Anyway…
Kicking the ball, either for a punt or a field goal, is the safe choice. Whenever a team opts for the kick, fans and sportscasters alike praise the coach for making that decision. Economists and statisticians, on the other hand, lose their minds.
Why? Because there’s no real reason for a coach to be so conservative. Brian Burke, a former Naval aviator who used to fly the F-18C, is a nationally recognized expert on advanced sports analytics. Burke is currently an analyst for ESPN. In 2014, he published a study on Advanced Football Analytics that took a look at 4th-down decision making.
The longitudinal study assumes that coaches want to maximize the number of points they score while minimizing the number of points the other team scores. Then, it took thousands of real NFL plays on 4th down to calculate the potential value of each situation. Every down versus yardage situation has an “expected point” value and a value attached to the result of previous play, which affects the value of that play.
For example, the expected points value of a touchdown is actually 6.3 points because the opponent gets the ball back on the next play, whose value is .07. If you understand the value of the situation a team is in on 4th down, then you can find the statistically-driven decision the coach should make on that down.
If you don’t understand the math, don’t worry about it. People who do understand math created a handy graphic for the New York Times, based on Burke’s calculation. So we can look at the Bengals horrible performance in Kansas City a different way.
The horrible ball handling that led to the turnover aside, the Bengals tried for a fake punt on 4 and 9 from their own 37-yard-line with almost the entire second quarter remaining. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis tried a play that worked against the Chicago Bears in a preseason matchup. No matter how the ball was handled, the Times‘ 4th Down Bot says they should have punted it away.
Later in the game, with 6:20 left in the 3rd quarter and the Bengals down 28-7, Lewis opted to kick the field goal from the Kansas City 15-yard-line. Bengals fans everywhere were livid, given the score. While the the bot created by Burke’s formula and the New York Times doesn’t account for what to do in a blowout situation, Lewis made the mathematically correct call.
Too bad math isn’t enough to make Bengals fans hate Marvin Lewis any less.
Looking at the 2018 season, let’s see if there’s a correlation between game-winning success and 4th down aggression.
As of week 7, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a staggering 4-4 when comes to first downs on 4th down — but their record is still a measly 3-3. That doesn’t correlate, but the teams with the next-highest percentages in 4th down conversions are the Saints (at 87.5 percent) and the Chiefs (at 80 percent). New Orleans and Kansas City are first in their respective divisions. Five of the ten most successfully aggressive teams on 4th down also lead in total yardage, points per game, and total points this season.
One caveat: the least successful on 4th down conversions are also the least successful teams so far this year. So… know your own limitations.
Members of the military who have long been barred by law from collecting damages from the federal government for injuries off the battlefield will finally be able to do so after Congress stepped in to amend the law.
The legislation represents progress for injured service members – but still limits who among them may press for damages.
Up until the end of World War II, the U.S. government enjoyed “sovereign immunity,” a vestige of British rule when “the king could do no wrong” and the government could not be sued.
But in 1946, faced with the prospect of World War II veterans returning from the front only to be hit and killed in an accident on base, Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act. Congress felt that it was only fair to allow people to recover damages for personal injury from the government when the government was negligent or irresponsible about caring for people’s safety.
There were exceptions. Certainly Congress could not allow a soldier – or his family – to sue the government if, due to the orders of a superior officer, he were wounded or killed in battle. So the Federal Tort Claims Act prohibited suits by soldiers or sailors injured due to wartime combatant activities.
But later rulings limited servicemembers’ rights even more, in ways not suggested by the language of the act.
The first of these was a case filed by the surviving family members of a soldier. Lt. Rudolph Feres was a decorated World War II veteran who had parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. He survived that battle and others through the end of the war only to return to the U.S. and die in a barracks fire caused, according to his wife, by the explosion of a boiler known to be faulty.
Feres’ widow also claimed that no fire guard had been posted on the fateful night. Joined to the case were two soldiers who claimed malpractice by army surgeons.
The court decided that the existing benefits scheme for military deaths and injuries was ample and denied the claims. To the further chagrin of the Feres family, the controversial ruling took on the name the “Feres Doctrine.”
Cases sustaining Feres expressed the concern that allowing civilian courts to intervene in cases of this type would interfere with military discipline. Thus, the court declared that soldiers could not sue the government for damages for negligently caused injuries “incident to service,” even if they did not involve combat.
All of these rulings meant that anyone who had the misfortune of getting hurt while on active duty, even if it wasn’t in combat, could never sue for damages – while if the same person had gotten hurt on the job as a civilian, they would have had that right.
This disfavored treatment for servicemen was underscored in the aftermath of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, during which families of civilian crew members were able to file lawsuits against the government, but the family of the pilot who was a Navy captain on active duty could not.
The Feres Doctrine were therefore seen by many as unfair. Others, like the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, criticized Feres because of its departure from the plain language of the Federal Tort Claims Act, which limits the exclusion to wartime “combatant activities.” Still others believe that Feres fails to hold the military accountable for the kind of mistakes for which others are required to pay damages.
The Feres Doctrine nevertheless has continued to hold sway, with the Supreme Court refusing to reconsider the doctrine as recently as May 2019. Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent from the court’s denial of certiorari in that case, Daniel v. United States, paraphrased Justice Scalia in stating that “Feres was wrongly decided and heartily deserves the widespread, almost universal criticism it has received.”
In 1950, speaking for the Supreme Court in the Feres case, Justice Robert Jackson admitted, “If we misinterpret the Act, at least Congress possesses a ready remedy.” That “ready remedy” finally came almost seventy years later, due to the persistence of a soldier suffering from terminal cancer.
Green Beret goes to Congress
Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal is a former Green Beret and wounded Iraq veteran whose military health providers missed a 3-centimeter mass in one of his lungs on a CT scan.
After military physicians repeatedly attributed his health problems to asthma or pneumonia, Sgt. Stayskal learned from a civilian pulmonologist that he actually had stage 4 lung cancer. Sgt. Stayskal continues to receive treatment for his cancer, although he says it is deemed incurable.
But Sgt. Stayskal was barred by Feres from pursuing a malpractice case in court.
So Stayskal enlisted the support of California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat, who introduced a bill to allow current and former service personnel to bring medical malpractice claims against government health providers.
A compromise version of the bill was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020. Adding the bill into a “must-pass” piece of defense legislation assured its passage. It was passed by both houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. President Trump signed the measure into law on Dec. 20, 2019.
Cup only half-full
The new law does not cover everyone. A lawsuit like the original Feres case, by the survivors of someone who perished in a barracks fire, would still not be allowed. That’s because the legislation only allows claims by those who allege to have been victims of medical malpractice by military health care providers.
And claims cannot be brought in federal court, as is normally the case under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Rather, they must be pursued through a Defense Department administrative procedure under regulations that the Department of Defense is required to draft.
Research suggests that most claimants don’t care whether their cases are decided through a court, an administrative procedure or even mediation. Rather, they care about having a respectful hearing in which a third party has carefully considered their views, concerns and evidence.
Those who worked to pass this legislation will likely scrutinize the Defense Department’s regulations and procedures to see whether such a forum has been provided.