U.S. Marines retrieve their fins and weight belts from the bottom of a 13-foot pool during a diver course on Camp Schwab in Japan, Nov. 18, 2014. This training prepares Marines for the Marine Corps Combatant Diver Course. an incredibly demanding program based at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida.
These Marines are assigned to the 3rd Marine Division’s 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.
TECHNOLOGY/SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Paralyzed Special Ops Marine Walks to Medal Ceremony with Robotic Exoskeleton [UPDATE]
Special Marine, Special Machine.
UPDATES with links to two videos of ceremony.
In the November 17 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology, we wrote about U.S. Special Operations Command’s quest for a lightweight, ballistic protective suit equipped with sensors that could monitor the wearer’s vital signs, signal for help if they were injured, add support allowing soldiers to carry heavy loads more easily — and maybe even jump higher or run faster. Regular readers will remember we’ve blogged about the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS) several times since February.
In the latest story (subscription required) we noted that SOCOM says it will share these technology developments with the other armed services and that it could also have applications “for the Homeland Security Department, local first responders and even seriously injured veterans.”
When we wrote that, we thought “that will be a great benefit to wounded warriors and civilian paraplegics when it happens someday in the future.” But the news coming out of a small military ceremony in California last Friday (November 21) indicates someday is here already. Captain Derek Herrera of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) walked to the ceremony at Camp Pendleton to receive the Bronze Star medal with “V” for valor device for heroic leadership under fire in Afghanistan. While his combat award was certainly notable, the really remarkable thing about the event was that Herrera — paralyzed from the chest down since he was struck by a sniper’s bullet in June 2012 — was able to walk up and receive his decoration.
The captain walked with the assistance of a robotic exoskeleton that moves his legs. Known as the “ReWalk,” the technology consists of leg braces, a computer and batteries-equipped backpack, a watch-like controller and crutches. The system, manufactured by Israel-based ReWalk Robotics Ltd., is the first powered exoskeleton approved by the Food and Drug Administration for sale in the United States rehabilitate people suffering paraplegia due to spinal cord injury. And Herrera is one of the first people to acquire the system. The MARSOC Foundation, a charitable fund for MARSOC Marines, raised the money for Herrera to buy the $69,500 device, according to the Associated Press.
While ReWalk is not among the companies SOCOM lists as participants in the TALOS development project, its technology shows that powered exoskeletons are here and like computers and robots have a wide array of potential uses.
Herrera also received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal. The ceremony also marked Herrera’s retirement for medical reasons from the Marines, reported Marine Corps Times, noting that Herrera has remained active despite his injuries: participating in 10 kilometer road races and triathlons, working toward a business degree and renovating his house. The 2006 Naval Academy graduate had vowed that he would retire standing on his own — the same as he did when he joined the Marine Corps.
Click here to see a short Defense Department video report of Herrera using the ReWalk robotic braces at his retirement ceremony.
Click here to see a longer Marine Corps video without narration where you can hear the exoskeleton in action.
A World In Motion.
The British invasion fleet that has been building up in the Caribbean since early fall sets sail from Negril Bay, Jamaica for Louisiana.
The Royal Navy’s Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane commands a small armada of more than 60 warships, ranging from frigates and bomb ships to sloops, gunboats and troop transports. Some 4,000 soldiers, many of them veterans of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe under the Duke of Wellington, form the land force of this invasion. Cochrane, who oversaw the failed attack on Fort McHenry outside Baltimore in September, is the overall commander. The ground troops were to be commanded by Major General Robert Ross, but he was killed at the battle of North Point outside of Baltimore. The new commander, Lieutenant General Sir Edward Pakenham, Wellington’s brother-in-law, is still in Europe and will take weeks to catch up to Cochrane’s fleet.
Meanwhile Major General Andrew Jackson is making his way with an “army” of less than 2,000 regulars and militia from Mobile to New Orleans. Jackson has sent word to President Madison and the governors of Kentucky and Tennessee to send more troops to help him defend New Orleans.
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In the Flemish city of Ghent, where U.S. and British officials are trying to negotiate a peace treaty to end the war, the British change course.
Flush with the news of the routing of U.S. troops at Bladensburg, Maryland and the subsequent burning of most public buildings in Washington in August, the British thought victory was at hand and offered to end hostilities with both sides keeping the territory seized during the war. That would leave the British in control of a big chunk of Maine and most of the Upper Mississippi Valley — as well as a key fort (Mackinac) where lakes Michigan and Superior meet. Since the Americans have abandoned their footholds on Canadian soil opposite Detroit in the West and across from Buffalo, New York in the East, they have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Not surprisingly, they rejected the British offer in October.
But now word has reached London — and Ghent — of the simultaneous British failures to take Plattsburgh — and strategic Lake Champlain — in northern New York and Baltimore, Maryland on the Atlantic Coast. In just two days in September, British arms suffered two strategic setbacks — although the third part of the three-pronged assault on America in late 1814 (through Louisiana) has just begun.
No longer holding the winning hand they thought they had, the British government shifts its treaty demands from “we keep captured territory that we hold now” (the concept know as “utis posseditis”) to “let’s go back to the way things were before the shooting started in June 1812.” It’s a diplomatic/legal concept known as “status quo ante bellum.” The stalled negotiations pick up again with this development.
An Army Green Beret has his parachute harness inspected by a jumpmaster before conducting a night jump on Eglin Air Base, Florida on November 4, 2014.
As we’ve said in recent weeks, it isn’t often we get to see Special Operations Forces training up close and personal. And you can click here to see all the photos of this training scenario. There are other, more informative photos on the Defense Department website, but we’ve decided to focus this week on the photo above. It’s subject matter isn’t all that unusual: men in work clothes performing a task in the dying light of sunset. But it captures the light between sunset and dusk. It reminds us of paintings by the Dutch masters or Frederic Remington that sought to convey what the light was like at that time.
But these men are going to jump out of a large helicopter at night, in Alaska, in winter. Tough stuff.
The Green Berets are assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group, Airborne, and jumped from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter with combat equipment to maintain proficiency in airborne operations.
Nigeria: More Violence.
Dozens of people have been killed in an attack by suspected Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria. Gunmen rampaged through the village of Azaya Kura in the Mafa area in Borno state, killing at least 45 people, according to the BBC.
The village is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Maiduguri, capital of Borno state. Boko Haram has taken control of a series of towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria in recent weeks.
Authorities have struggled to defeat the militant Islamist group, which has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009. In May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in the northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, vowing to crush the Islamist insurgency.
New York-based Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram has killed more than 2,000 civilians just this year.
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The Nigerian Air Force wants to acquire more fighter jets to battle the Boko Haram Islamist militant group.
But Nigerian officials are concerned that their attempt to buy new combat aircraft from Textron and AirLand Enterprises may be blocked because of the West African nation’s human rights record, according to the Wall Street Journal.
A senior Nigerian air force officer expressed concern a deal could be blocked on human rights grounds after an earlier effort to acquire combat helicopters was blocked over the issue. The Nigeria air force currently relies on a fleet of older jets, including Chinese-made F-7 planes and European Alpha Jets.
Textron, the largest maker of business aircraft, and AirLand have been marketing the Scorpion military jet as a low-cost option for many nations that can’t afford more traditional and expensive designs.
A Race to New Orleans.
Major General Andrew Jackson, back from capturing Pensacola in Spanish Florida, receives a letter in Mobile (now Alabama/ back then, West Florida) from Washington advising him not to do what he has just done. Whoopsie. President James Madison and Secretary of War James Monroe (who is also serving as Secretary of State) are worried that such a rash act could lead to war with neutral Spain. [Click on he map above to enlarge image.]
Luckily, it doesn’t come to that. Anyway Jackson’s network of spies throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea inform him that British troops are setting sail from Jamaica directly to New Orleans. It doesn’t make sense, Jackson believes. To his way of thinking, Mobile would be the perfect port and jumping off place for an overland march on New Orleans. But feeling he can’t take chances with the security of the Lower Mississippi Valley, he marches out heading west on November 22. But he leaves about 2,000 troops behind in Mobile — in case the spies are wrong, or lying.
Jackson only has about 2,000 men with him, regulars, volunteers from Tennessee and some Indians — mostly Cherokees and some Creeks. About 2,000 fresh British troops have been sent from Britain to rendezvous with the army-navy task force that burned Washington and failed to take Baltimore. The British will number between 4,000 and 6,000 before they reach Louisiana.
Madison has promised to send more troops — from Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia, plus friendly Indians — to defend New Orleans, a city of 25,000 along a bend of the river about 120 miles above the mouth of the Mississippi.
Jackson doesn’t know if the reinforcements will arrive in time and how willing the natives of New Orleans, a predominantly French-speaking city, are to shed their blood for the United States of America, which purchased Louisiana from Napoleonic France in 1803 — just 11 years earlier.
Then here are the pirates — robbers, smugglers and slave traders — based in the bayous south and west of the city in a freebooting place called Barataria and ruled by Jean Lafitte and his brothers, Alexandre and Pierre.
Your 4GWAR editor’s story on U.S. Special Operations Command’s quest to develop a light weight armored suit that will help commandos and other assault troops run faster, longer and carry heavy loads without excessive fatigue is in the latest issue (November 17) of Aviation Week & Space Technology’s Defense Technology International edition:
It will not enable users to fly like “Iron Man” does in the movies, but planners of a ballistic protective suit for special operations want it to do almost everything else the superhero’s iconic outfit does.
The Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS) will provide ballistic protection with lightweight armor, along with sensors to monitor a wearer’s vital signs. Some developers believe it could also supply emergency oxygen and control bleeding if the operator is wounded.
To read more of this story, visit AVIATION WEEK (subscription required). Below is another view of one of the technologies being studied by USSOCOM for the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS).
Last month’s Defense Technology International edition is on line, you can see it here. That issue includes two stories by your 4GWAR editor on the U.S. Army’s efforts to shift to a regionally aligned force and SOCOM’s search for more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability using very small drones.
Other topics in the October 13 issue range from Saab’s new M4 recoilless rifle; how Russia’s adventurism in Ukraine is driving another neighbor, Poland, to start buying more defense hardware like helicopters and missiles; air and ground robotics developments by British, U.S. and Israeli companies; and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s work on protecting ground vehicles from attack.