Posts filed under ‘Skills and Training’
A Green Beret with 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) provides security as members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force travel to their target on Chacachacare Island, located on western-most island off of Trinidad.
The boat assault was part of an exercise that ended February 14 in the Caribbean nation. The month-long Joint Combined Exchange Training session tested skills like marksmanship, equipment maintenance, rappelling, fast-roping, and other tactical maneuvers focusing on drug interdiction in support of Special Operations Command South.
By the Numbers UPDATE
UPDATES with new spending numbers and McRaven testimony
The Defense Department budget request for fiscal year 2015 (October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015) seeks $7.7 billion for U.S. Special Operations Command, including $1.52 billion for procuring weapons, equipment and supplies.
That procurement figure includes $112.2 million for rotary wing upgrades and sustainment, $25.6 million for modifications to CV-22 tiltrotor aircraft, $25.5 million for underwater systems, $144.3 million for ordnance, $81 million for communications equipment and electronics, $63 million for tactical ground vehicles and $38 million for “global video surveillance activities.”
The total defense budget request – capped at $496 billion by a congressional budget deal in December – is actually $495.6 billion. But the Pentagon has yet to specify what it will seek for what is known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO, for short) to pay for the war in Afghanistan and unforseen costs like disaster relief missions after earthquakes and typhoons.
But the Obama administration is seeking an additional $26.4 billion in defense funding from Congress through what it terms the Opportunity, Growth and Security initiative (OGS). The White House claims there will be mandatory spending cuts and tax loophole closings to offset the additional spending. The administration’s budget documents maintain OGS will be “fully paid-for,” but many critics are skeptical.
With that extra money, the Pentagon has laid out what it would be used for, including: $300 million for an increase at SOCOM in training, readiness and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); $100 million for SOCOM recapitalizing command, control, communications, computers and intelligence activities.
Pentagon officials have said repeatedly that they were willing to cut other parts of the military – including weapons programs and the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps – to protect “key capability areas” like special operations and counter terrorism from the budget ax.
Unlike the rest of the military, Special Operations Command won’t be seeing a reduction in its current force of approximately 66,000 in fiscal 2015. In fact, the Pentagon is seeking to add 3,700 personnel. That’s still below the 72,000 end strength planned just a few years ago, but Admiral William McRaven, the SOCOM commander, told the emerging threats panel of the Senate Armed Services Committee this week (March 11) the lower number will mean “we’ll have to prioritize our efforts globally.”
Noting that SOCOM has about 7,000 people deployed in 84 countries now, McRaven said the challenge would be “making sure we can continue to meet priority demands globally,” which he said he could do with 69,700 instead of 72,000.
After a month of drilling and training the green troops who panicked during his retreat at Enotachopco Creek (in what is now the state of Alabama), Major General Andrew Jackson is almost ready to march south against the pro-British Creek Indians known as the Red Sticks.
According to Robert V. Remini’s “Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars,” the tall, gaunt Tennesean became a “hard and determined disciplinarian” who inflicted the harshest punishment on anyone who disobeyed an order a or attempted to desert – which his rough-and-tumble Tennesee Volunteers were wont to do. That hard discipline included the execution by firing squad of a 17-year-old Tennesee recruit who, during an argument with an officer, threatened to shoot anyone who tried to arrest him, according to A.J. Langguth, in his “Union 1812, The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence.”
Jackson forbade the importation of whiskey into camp and ordered his troops to improve the road between his base at Fort Strother and his army’s supply depot at Fort Deposit near the Tennessee River.
On March 14 Jackson took his army out of Fort Strother and headed south 60 miles to the Red Stick stronghold at the Horseshoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River. They included regulars from the 39th U.S. Infantry Regiment and additional Tennesee volunteers.
Jackson left some troops behind to guard Fort Strother. He took with him about 2,000 infantry and 700 cavalry and mounted riflemen. Accompanying Jackson were about 600 Indians – 500 Cherokees and about 100 friendly Creeks.
Eyes in the Sky Needed
The head of U.S. Africa Command said Thursday (March 6) that he is woefully short of intelligence-gathering assets like unmanned aircraft to monitor the vast, troubled stretches of North West Africa.
Gen. David Rodriguez told the Senate Armed Services Committee that only 11 percent of his command’s intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) needs were being met – but that was up from just 7 percent last year.
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the senior Republican on the panel, said he found those numbers “pretty troubling.” He noted that when violence broke out in South Sudan last December, ISR assets had to be pulled away from helping African and U.S. Special Operations troops track down the murderous renegade rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Headed by indicted war criminal Joseph Kony, the LRA has for decades murdered and plundered its way across Central Africa, kidnapping children to be used as soldiers or sex slaves.
There are two unmanned surveillance drones and about 100 U.S. Air Force personnel to operate and maintain them based in Niger to help French and African peacekeepers restore order after a military coup fueled a revolt by nomadic Tuaregs that morphed into a takeover by Islamic extremists. More drones reportedly fly out of the U.S. military’s one African base, Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti to monitor Sudan, Somalia and other flash points around the Horn of Africa.
Rodriquez told the Senate panel that the biggest intelligence gap he faced ranged from northern Mali to eastern Libya at the northern end of the continent. The Army general said he needed Joint STARS surveillance aircraft and remotely piloted air vehicles [drones] “to cover that vast range.”
At he start of the hearing, to explore the needs of AFRICOM and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, said ISR assets were “a particular area of focus” for the panel this year since the Pentagon decided to reduce its capacity for round-the-clock unmanned combat air patrols because of budget constraints.
In his written testimony for the hearing, Rodriguez said his command was “making significant progress” in expanding collaboration and information-sharing with African and European partners to reduce threats and increase stability in a region threatened by violent extremist organizations..
While AFRICOM can mitigate immediate threats and crises like violent extremist organizations like al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab in Somalia, long term solutions will hinge on development of “effective and democratic partner nation security institutions and professional [armed] forces that respect civil authority.
He noted that Africa will be “increasingly important to the United States in the future.” It is home to six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies, a population estimated to double by 2050. “Nearly 80 percentr of United Nations peacekjeeping personnel worldwide are deployed in missions to Africa,” Rodriguez said. “Modest investments, in the right places, go a long way in Africa,” he added.
A Study in Concentration
Waiting to embark on an airborne exercise, U.S. Army Capt. Lindsey Ryan sits in full parachute harness familiarizing herself with a training manual. The captain is a paratrooper assigned to the Brigade Support Battalion of the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne). The Sky Soldiers, in conjunction with paratroopers with the Polish 6th Airborne Brigade, conducted the exercise at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany on February 20, 2014.
And if you speak Polish, here is the 6th Airborne Brigade’s Facebook page. Good photos even if you don’t mówi po polsku. BTW, if you’ve seen the World War II film “A Bridge Too Far,” about the massive 1944 Allied parachute drop into the Netherlands, you’ve seen the antecedents of the Polish paratroops and their leader, Major General Stanislaw Sosabowski (played by Gene Hackman in the movie.)
Inside the Osprey
Cobra Gold, the largest and oldest military exercise in Southeast Asia, originally started as a training exercise to strengthen the relationship, mission readiness and interoperability between troops of the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States. This year, the 33rd iteration of Cobra Gold, the United States and Thailand welcomed participants from Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and, for the first time, the People’s Republic of China.
The exercise included an amphibious operations, helicopter assault, disaster site evacuation and training with live ammunition, according to the Pattaya Mail. The U.S. Marines seen here are with 2nd platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
To see what the Osprey tilt rotor aircraft looks like from the outside and other photos of the exercise, click here.
Ride Hike the High Country
Lance Corporal Eleanor Roper hauls a Marine Corps Cold Weather Infantry Kit sled during a field exercise at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California.
Roper is a field radio operator with Ragnarok Company, 2nd Supply Battalion of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group.
The 228 Marines and sailors with Ragnarok Company, 2nd Supply Battalion of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group, conducted cold-weather mobility training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center between January 14 and 28.
It’s all in preparation for the upcoming NATO exercise, Cold Response 2014, next month in Norway. The biennial exercise, hosted by the Norwegian Armed Forces will run from March 10 to 21.Some 16,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen from 16 countries are expected to participate this year, according to the Barents Observer. Last time, participating countries included Belgium, Canada, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Britain and France.
“The main thing is getting used to operating in extreme cold-weather environments and getting the benefits of the opportunity to train in the mountains, train our basic rifleman skills and provide logistics for 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines,” said 1st Lt. Owen Trotman, a platoon commander and assistant operations officer with Ragnarok Company.
For more photos, click here.
BTW, we don’t know the significance of the Marine company’s name, except Ragnarok was Norse mythology’s version of the “Twilight of the Gods.” In short, the end of the world after a tremendous battle. And some believers say the Viking apocalypse will happen this weekend.
It’s Not Over, Yet
The Department of Homeland Security is warning airlines about a possible shoe bombing threat from overseas. The warning was first reported by NBC News.
While there is no specific threat, DHS said Wednesday (February 19) that it was issuing a warning based on “very recent intelligence” considered credible that assailants would try to attack passenger jets using explosives hidden in shoes, according to the Voice of America.
VOA noted it was the second time in three months that the U.S. Government had issued a warning about possible attempts to smuggle explosives on a commercial jetliner.
But USA Today reported that the warning is not related to an earlier alert about threats to planes flying to Russia for the Winter Olympic Games. The warning, which involved possible explosives concealed in toothpaste tubes, led the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ban all liquids and gels from the carry-on luggage of passengers bound for Russia from the United States.
TSA airport screeners have been checking air passengers’ shoes since late 2001 after an attempt by a British man to set off a bomb hidden in his shoe on an American Airlines Boeing 767 flight from Paris to Miami. Richard Reid, a self-proclaimed al Qaeda operative was subdued by passengers and cabin personnel when he failed to ignite the explosives packed into his shoes. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
A former CIA official and CBS security analyst says the latest warning causes him concern. Mike Morell, a former deputy CIA director told CBS This Morning that the fact terrorists appear to be using shoe bombs again is “worrisome” because it suggests “that they may have found a way around the screening that is currently done on shoes.”
Other security experts have said that al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups are still fixated on bombing aircraft. In addition to the Reid attempt, bombs were found secreted in air cargo in Europe and the Middle East in 2010; in a passenger’s underwear on a flight bound for Detroit in 2009. And in 2006, British officials broke up an alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airliners with liquid components to be smuggled on board the aircrfaft and combined into an explosive while the plane was in the air. That led TSA to ban all liquids and gels from passengers’ carry-on luggage and then loosen the ban to allow containers carry up to 3 ounces of liquids.
What Do Special Operators Want?
The big money defense budgets of the past decade have come to an end. And thanks to additional across-the-board cuts imposed by Congress, each of the armed services is being asked to find even more programs, platforms and procedures to cut.
So what do Special Operations Forces (SOF) – who depend in part on the other services’ capabilities – need to do their job in this austere funding environment?
Well the No. 3 commissioned officer at U.S. Special Operations Command cited some technology needs in a question-and-answer session at last week’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association in Washington.
There’s always a need for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) technologies – especially for sensors that can see through foliage in places like Africa and South America, Air Force Lieutenant General Bradley Heithold, SOCOM’s vice commander, told industry representatives.
“Our focus is on high definition. That’s a game changer for us,” Heithold said, adding that “We’re in the business of man hunting – whether to kill someone or capture them – so the fidelity that we get from our sensors is very important.”
He said SOCOM was in the process of modifying its fixed wing and unmanned aircraft with updated signals intelligence capabilities. “I don’t think we have a gap there, but it’s a game you’ve got to be in all the time. You can’t fall behind,” Heithold said.
Major General Mark Clark, commander of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), said the command was “absolutely” looking at a Joint High Speed Vessel, for a MARSOC maritime platform — as long as it could accommodate MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft or helicopters; operate in the littoral environment and include SOF equipment modules “so you can put them on or take them off.”
Modularity for SOCOM aircraft was also important, said Richard Holcomb, civilian deputy to the commanding general of Army Special Operations Command. Modular ISR, strike and air drop packages for Special Ops aviation assets “are clearly the way of our vision [going] forward,” he said. Army experts are also exploring how to arm the Osprey tiltrotor. Another area needing future study is non-lethal capabilities like directed energy, Heithold said.
Undersea mobility is another crucial technology, Heithold added. While progress is being made with the Advanced Seal Delivery System, a mini undersea vessel to transport Navy SEALS from a submerged submarine to shore, he urged industry to come forward with any technology that might help. SOF’s stealthy capability, “our true magic,” Heithold called it, “is going to be our ability to infiltrate and ex-filtrate from the sea – under the sea.”
And, as we posted last week, Heithold said the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS) is the top acquisition priority. SOCOM commander, Admiral William McRaven, “is way focused on that,” said Heithold, noting that McRaven very much wants to protect “the first person through the door” during a raid or night action.
UPDATES: To restore photos, links, tags; also fixes name of Talos suit to Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit.
The head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) says Afghanistan continues to be the most important operational region for his people even as Western forces begin a scheduled troop drawdown after more than a dozen years of war.
“Afghanistan is, and will remain, my Number One war fighting priority,” Admiral William McRaven told a defense industry symposium in Washington Tuesday (February 10).
U.S. and coalition allies are slated to end their combat role in Afghanistan by year’s end and troubled negotiations between Washington and the Afghan government over how many – if any – U.S. troops remain in country are still up in the air.
But no matter how many special ops troops remain in Afghanistan, “our future military-to-military engagement with the Afghans will remain vital in the region,” McRaven told the opening session of the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA).
McRaven stressed that Spec Ops’ role will be largely one of training and advising Afghan National Security Forces, which took the lead for security across the country in June.
On other issues, McRaven said he is very bullish on the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS) project to create a ballistic protective suit for special operators, which has been likened to the metal suit of comic book superhero, Iron Man. “If we do TALOS right, it will provide a huge comparative advantage over our enemies and give our warriors the protection they need,” McRaven said. He envisions an “X-Prize” type competition to engage industry in developing a protective combat suit. He’d like to offer as much as a $10 million prize to the competition winner and is working with Pentagon leadership to get the authority for spending that much.
Already 56 corporations, 16 government agencies, 13 universities and 10 national labs are involved in the product. McRaven said three prototype suits without a power system will be delivered to SOCOM in June to begin testing. The goal is to develop a deployable combat suit in August 2018, he said. The SOCOM commander acknowledged that providing such a high technology suit with an independent power source is “the biggest stumbling block to having an independent suit that a person can wear.”
He said SOCOM is planning a “Monster Garage-type” event in the future to attract “local garage tinkerers” and have them collaborate with professional engineers, designers and craftsmen to build components for TALOS and “potentially even a complete suit.”
McRaven said solving the problems of powering the suit “will have greater applications across the SOF (Special Operations Forces) enterprise.”
To see a video of an industry demonstration day in Tampa, Florida last August, click here.