Military News Highlights – Week of March 20, 2016

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Found below are several news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Better than a War on Drugs
Pendulums are made to swing from one side to the other. So it is for the prescribing pendulum for narcotic analgesics in the U.S. today. For decades, until the 1990s, doctors were closed fisted about prescribing pain medications, with little basis for that approach other than an American tendency to puritanical attitudes towards drugs. The result was that far too many people, including those with severe, intractable pain, suffered needlessly.   Read more . . .

Prescription Drugs Targeted by PTSD

Is the Glock Pistol the Next Military Sidearm?
The U.S. Army‘s chief of staff is searching for alternatives to the multi-year Modular Handgun System effort, to include piggy-backing on Army Special Operations Command’s current pistol contract.  Gen. Mark Milley has used recent public appearances to criticize federal acquisition guidelines that all services must follow when choosing and purchasing weapons and equipment.  Read more . . .

The Military is from Mars, Civilians are from Venus
We’ve attended many meetings where it felt like the military personnel were from Mars and the civilians were from Venus: part of the same solar system, but from planets with vastly different landscapes and languages. And we knew many of our friends and colleagues who had also shared this far-too-common experience.   Read more . .  .

LZ Grace:  A Place to Heal
Lynnette Bukowski discusses LZ Grace Warriors Retreat.  Lynnette, and many volunteers, have transformed a 38 acre farm in Virginia Beach into a place for members of the special operations community and first responders to decompress and recharge. Lynnette shares the story of her husband, a Navy SEAL, and discusses some of the unique challenges the she faces in supporting who are accustomed to serving, and often suffering, in silence.   Read more . . .


VA Programs Caregivers May Not Know About
Roughly 5.5 million people serve as caregivers for veteran family members. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a lesser known benefit for these family members. Known as Caregiver Support Services, these benefits aim to help family members who are tasked with the primary care of a disabled veteran. The services available include access to a caregiver support line, support coordinator, peer support for caregivers, adult day health care centers, and home care, among other things.  Read more . . .

A War Correspondent’s Trouble with PTSD
The war was changing me, hardening me. I felt flashes of pure rage when someone ran into me on the basketball court or cut me off on the road. I chose tables at restaurants that were as far from the front doors and windows as possible, in case a bomb went off outside. I would wake up whenever there was a sound in my bedroom and then be unable to fall back asleep. In some of my dreams, loved ones died. In some, I did. I had full-blown PTSD.   Read more . . .

Join SFTT in helping get our Veterans the support they deserve.

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Military News Highlights:

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Despite Gains, Afghan Night Raids Split U.S. and Karzai

Senator Lindsey Graham believes that if night raids end then this would be a “disaster” for  General Petreaus’ strategy – that in effect, he will fail.   The raids, he said, were crucial to the military strategy.   Now wait a minute, night raids run counter to COIN principles, so why all the drama?  Pull out FM 23-4, the COIN bible Petreaus authored and waxes soothingly to elected officials and policymakers, and review its core principles.  To win, you need the support of the populace.  Both the insurgent and the counter-insurgent need the support of the populace to win.  COIN doctrine obviously allows for targeted kinetic operations that are nested to COIN operations, but if you begin to lose support of the population, to the point where their elected leaders condemn a particular targeted kinetic operation (i.e. night raids), then it is time to swallow the truth and adjust accordingly.  Unless, at this point, you really can’t adjust your operational tempo (i.e. over-reliance on CT) because the seeds of COIN and the requisite scrip paid to the death merchant won’t take hold in Afghanistan until after the July 2011 (or for that matter 2014).  Or maybe Petraeus can’t change or adjust night raid tactics, because the truth is, the much heralded COIN strategy is simply a chimera, and he knows it. 

What we do know is that Petreaus will provide metrics of success to the White House during its ongoing policy review, but it will be hard to square the fact that the real successes on the ground these past 10 months have been a result of Counter-Terrorism operations and not the application of Counter-insurgency doctrine.   I can see his first Power Point slide now, an amended opening quote from George Orwell that reads, “No one in Afghanistan sleeps safely at night, because rough men visit violence on them, sometimes as often as 17 times a night . . .”. 

MARSOC to purchase more powerful pistols

More proof that the 9mm Beretta lacks the punch in combat.  Marine Forces Special Operations Command operators will officially be issued .45-caliber semi-automatic pistols and replace the 9mm Beretta because the .45 larger caliber provides more stopping power.  The exact M45 Close Quarter Battle Pistol will be determined by a competition that began in October.  The open question that remains unanswered is when will the entire stock of 9mm Beretta’s issued to all services be replaced with a higher caliber semi-automatic pistol?  Why train troopers to fire two rounds of a lower caliber to defeat a threat when one .45 round is oftentimes sufficient?  SFTT will continue to monitor this development and inform the public, elected officials, and policy makers that troops deserve a side-arm with real stopping power.

GIs testing ‘smart’ weapons that leave nowhere to hide

The XM25 Counter Defilade Targeting Engagement System will certainly compliment Infantry squads and Special Operations units.  If the system works as designed, troopers will have the ability to place an air-burst 25mm round over the threat hiding behind a wall or other cover out to 700 meters.   While being touted as a “smart weapon”, in reality this system will add to the arsenal to apply critical fires where the current inventory of weapons can’t engage.  The program manager states that the XM25 is a “game changer” and that it will “essentially take cover away from the enemy forever”.  But before we place a stamp of approval on the XM25 we still have to take into account: the basic load and weight of the system, maintenance requirements, batteries, spare parts, contractor support issues, training, tactical adjustments, collateral damage, and overall costs – these are issues that SFTT will monitor as the XM25 is fielded and put into active operation across the base force.

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Equipping the Soldier of the Future

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The Army Times had an interesting article on Equipping the soldier of the future.  Found below are key highlights of the article and SFTT’s analysis.

Key Highlights and SFTT Analysis:

  • The Army has been pushing to identify gear soldiers need or want, find the best solutions and field them quickly. The result is state-of-the-art gear going from idea to inventory in less than a year. Some of these projects have made their way into the ranks; others are just around the corner. 
  • SFTT is encouraged that progress is being made to develop and field new and improved equipment to front line troops.  More encouraging is that feedback from the deployed force was used to bring about change.  In many respects, SFTT has maintained the leading edge in keeping specific items of equipment on the front burner (i.e. Body Armor, the Advanced Combat Helmet, the M-4 Carbine, the 9mm Beretta, and Combat Boots) and credit is due for applying pressure on policymakers while informing the public on the critical need to improve and/or replace them.
  • SFTT supports the following common-sense improvements:
    •  Tactical Assault Panel – This panel is another key piece of the new combat load. It enables soldiers to carry more magazines with wider distribution – and mobility equals survivability. Eight single pouches can be configured to carry either 10 M4 magazines or six magazines with other gear such as the Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio, or MBITR; the Defense Advanced GPS Receiver, or DAGR; or M14 magazines. The design also reduces the soldier’s profile.
    • Medium ruck – Countless troops gave the same report: The assault packs are too small for longer missions and the 72-hour ruck is too big. The new ruck provides a midsize solution – with added benefits. Its detachable harness allows paratroopers to access the pack after they are rigged for jumping without compromising pre-jump inspections. The ruck is one of more than a dozen pieces of gear that comprise a new combat load issued to troops in, and headed to, the ‘Stan.
    •  New boots – Soldiers headed into theater also get two pairs of Danner boots. But Army officials are expected to select a new boot any day. Three lighter, stronger boots are being evaluated, and the Army is expected to take delivery early in 2011. The modular boot will be optimal for Afghanistan’s rugged terrain, and will have a sock device that can be pulled over it to keep the soldiers’ feet warm without causing them to sweat.
    • ‘Green ammo’ – A 2006 survey of combat vets found enemy soldiers were shot multiple times but were still able to keep fighting. One in five U.S. soldiers polled recommended a more lethal round. The answer is the M855A1 enhanced performance round, also known as “green ammo.” It provides more stopping power at shorter distances. The older round had to get into a yaw dependency for maximum effect. If it hit the enemy straight, it would punch right through them. The new ammo is not yaw dependent. If it hits the enemy, he is going down. The Army plans to produce more than 200 million rounds in the coming year.
    • SFTT will continue to highlight concerns with the current strategy to improve and replace Body Armor and the M4 Carbine – specifically, the need to replace the “plate carrier” which the Services currently aren’t planning to do, and for the services to issue a “better carbine altogether” versus continued modification to the current M4 Carbine platform.
  • The Army Times’ updates on these two programs include:
    • 2nd-Generation Improved Outer Tactical Vest – The 2nd GEN IOTV uses a plate carrier to allow soldiers to shed up to 15 pounds while keeping vital organs protected from 7.62 caliber, armor-piercing rounds. The IOTV still provides protection from flame and shrapnel. The side plate carrier is adjustable to provide better comfort and protection. The soldier’s quick-release cable is covered to prevent it from being caught during egress. The medic cable is contained in a canal to keep it in a comfortable position. This cable enables a medic access to a wounded area without completely removing a soldier’s body armor.
    • New carbine — Soldiers will soon get either an improved M4 or a new, better carbine altogether. The first part of the Army’s dual strategy is to radically overhaul the M4 to give grunts an improved version of the special operations M4A1. This offers a heavier barrel, automatic fire and ambidextrous controls. The next 12,000 M4s will be A1s. Another 25,000, as well as roughly 65,000 conversion kits, will be purchased. The second path challenges industry to come up with a better carbine. No caliber restriction has been placed on a new design. The Army simply wants the most reliable, accurate, durable, easy-to-use weapon. It will be at least a 500-meter weapon and have a higher incapacitation percentage. This weapon also will be modular and able to carry all the existing attachments soldiers use. The winner will selected by the end of 2011, depending on funding.
    • In regards to improvements being made to the Advanced Combat Helmet, which the Army Times did not mention, SFTT is following the industry as it continues to develop prototypes, and will provide updates as they become available.  For the tech-science reader this article from “Composite World” describes a recent effort to develop a prototype that could meet the survivability standards SFTT advocates for.  One caveat is that this prototype is specifically for the shell and does not address padding and the helmet harness, areas that must be improved to mitigate the concussive effects resulting from blast injuries. 
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What Budget Cuts? Massive Military Trade Show in DC

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The Washington Post reports on a 

Key Highlights:

  • Walk around the trade show floor and you’ll find the usual big-name defense contractors at their booths. BAE had outfitted an MRAP (mine-resistance, ambush protected vehicle) into an ambulance. Not far away, SAIC showed off a software system that can use “avatars” to train soldiers on the customs of foreign cultures.  Passersby marveled at the heavy doors and wheels of three gigantic armored trucks and vehicles brought in by Oshkosh Defense of Wisconsin. Others tried on boots, made with nylon and Gore-Tex lining, that can withstand extreme heat and cold. W.L. Gore & Associates, the company that makes the boot, had brought in a simulation box for interested customers.
  • “It’ll give you the feeling of going through the desert and then up into the snow all in two minutes,” said Mary Hopkins, an associate with the Elkton, MD-based firm, explained to a man as he tried on the boots and stood in the simulation box.  Unlike during past shows, when there was always a sense of excitement about the business opportunities made possible by the government, a feeling of anxiety prevails over this year’s event. The Pentagon is pushing to in-source more of the work that has been typically done by contractors in recent years. There’s worry about what will happen as the Pentagon’s top brass pushes defense companies to produce weapons systems more efficiently, within budget and on time.

SFTT Analysis:

 

SFTT meticulously reviewed every vendor listed in the AUSA brochure to confirm SFTT’s B.E.S.T. Campaign items – Body Armor, Advanced Combat Helmet, Rifle, Sidearm, and Boots – suffice to say that only Body Armor (Point Blank, Inc) and Sidearm (Beretta) are represented; zero on the Advanced Combat Helmet or the Rifle; and a marginal vendor peddling boots.  Enough said.

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Basic Five B.E.S.T Campaign to Support the Troops

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Ever since its inception, Soldiers for the Truth (“SFTT”) has been focused on insuring that our frontline troops have the best possible equipment to accomplish their mission and come home alive safely and in one piece.  Our campaigns have been based on providing our troops with the “Best Equipment to Support the Troops,”  often referred to as our “B.E.S.T.” Campaign strategy.   While much of our recent investigative reporting has been focused on body armor, SFTT will soon be extending its investigative reporting to cover the BASIC FIVE combat equipment items necessary to properly equip our brave heroes serving in harm’s way:  Body Armor, Helmets, Rifles, Sidearms and Combat Boots. 

 

BODY ARMOR TO WARD OFF LIFE-THREATENING INJURY

When it comes to saving lives, the Military’s standard-issue body armor has been independently tested and shown to be significantly inferior to body armor worn by knowledgeable high-ranking officers, top civilian officials, their body guards, contractors in Iraq, Special Forces with discriminatory funds and others with the luxury of choice.

 

HELMETS

Standard-issue helmets which ignore current human factors engineering and are far from optimally effective in preventing traumatic brain injuries, the Iraq war’s signature injury. 

 

RIFLES THAT AREN’T JAMMERS

The CAR-4 standard-issue rifle is a modified version of the M-16, which our troops have complained about since Vietnam. Forty-five years later, impractical maintenance requirements still contribute to all-too-common jamming, a fatal flaw on the battlefield.

 

MILITARY SIDEARMS THAT SHOOT STRAIGHT

The standard-issue 9 millimeter pistol has reliability and trust problems. The bottom line: it has too often failed to stop a determined opponent.

 

COMBAT BOOTS THAT FIT THE MISSION

The standard-issue combat boot—designed to be all-purpose—is a footwear failure. When America commits to “boots on the ground,” the troops should have mission, climate and terrain-specific gear that can go the distance.

Like our ongoing investigation into body armor, it is clear that our frontline troops have deficient combat equipment and our military leadership has done little – if anything – to properly equip them for their hazardous mission.  Over the coming weeks and months we will provide you with some of our preliminary findings and I am convinced that you too will share our outrage at how our troops are presently outfitted for combat.

 I still vividly recall David’s and my outrage over Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s cynical and uncaring response to Army Spc. Thomas Wilson plea for better equipment:  “You go to war with the Army you have – not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”    We were outraged for the rest of Hack’s life and I still am!!!!

Paraphrasing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “Troops go to war with the military leadership they have – not the leadership they deserve!” It is sad to say that almost 6 years later, our military leadership hasn’t yet to take the necessary steps to provide our frontline troops with the equipment they deserve. Shame on you Secretary Rumsfeld and shame on our military leaders who continue to sidestep the safety of our troops.

Eilhys England

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