Posts filed under ‘International Relief’

FRIDAY FOTO (November 12, 2016)

Veteran’s Day 2016

SD attends Veterans Day wreath laying ceremony

Defense Department photo by Army Sergeant Amber I. Smith.

President Barack Obama lays a wreath during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia Friday, November 11, 2016.

USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7)

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Carla Giglio

The USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) sails past the Statue of Liberty as it enters New York Harbor prior to Veterans Week NYC 2016.

The 1,000 Sailors and more than 100 Marines on board the amphibious assault ship articipated in New York’s Veterans Day parade Friday, November 11. The ship recently returned from the humanitarian assistance mission to Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

 

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November 12, 2016 at 1:07 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO: April 29, 2016

Sapper Haul.

Army engineers compete in 2016 Best Sapper Competition

Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hewitt

No, defense budget cuts haven’t come to this.

These two Army paratroopers are hauling this Humvee as part of the Best Sapper Competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, home of the Army Engineers School.

Sapper is an ancient term for military engineers. In olden days they designed and dug the trenches, built the forts and figured out how to break into castles.

These days, a Sapper is usually a combat engineer who has completed the 28-day Sapper Leader Course, and earned the red Sapper uniform tab. That tab says they are among the best at their complex and dangerous craft, which includes bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, creating field defenses as well as building, road and airfield construction and repair.

To earn the Sapper tab you have to graduate from the Sapper course, but you don’t have to be an engineer, according to the Army.

The paratroopers in this photo, Army 1st Sergeant Jose Casillas and Sergeant 1st Class Tim Shay are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

What’s the difference between a 1st Sergeant and a Sergeant 1st Class? Click here for an explanation.

April 29, 2016 at 12:21 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO: January 22, 2016

SeaBee Slog.

Pacific Deployment 2016

Ensign Frank Sysko, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3, exits a mud-filled trench during a jungle warfare training session at the Marine Corps Jungle Warfare Training Center (JWTC) in Okinawa, Japan.

The JWTC endurance course tests the Seabees will, stamina and the ability to work together as a team. A total of 49 Seabees from NMCB 3 attended the five-day course.

NMCB 3 deploys to several countries in the Pacific area for construction operations and humanitarian assistance projects.

To see more photos of this grueling exercise, click here and here.

January 22, 2016 at 12:39 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SOCOM Leadership Changes; New Gunships Defense; SEALS and Women

Votel & Thomas.

The head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), Army General Joseph Votel is likely to be the next chief of Central Command (CENTCOM), according to the Washington Post. And to replace Votel at SOCOM, the Post says Army Lieutenant General Raymond Thomas is the most likely candidate.

Votel, an Army Ranger and former head of the 75th Ranger Regiment, took over Tampa, Florida-based SOCOM as its 10th commander in 2014 from Admiral William McRaven, a Navy SEAL.

Word of Votel’s planned transfer to CENTCOM, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Army Gen. and U.S> SOCOM commander Joseph Votel. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

Army Gen. and U.S. SOCOM commander Joseph Votel.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

Special Operations Forces include Army Green Berets, Rangers and Special Ops aviators, Navy SEALS and Special Warfare Combatant-craft crews, Air Force Pararescue jumpers and combat air controllers, Marine Corps Corps critical skills operators and special operations combat services specialists.

Thomas, also an Army Ranger, is currently the head of Joint Special Operations Command, the SOCOM unit that oversees terrorist-hunting missions from North Africa to Afghanistan, according to the Post. CENTCOM, based in Tampa, Florida, is responsible for U.S. security interests an area consisting of 20 mostly Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries — Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

*** *** ***

Radio Countermeasures.

U.S. Special Operations Command has ordered radio countermeasures equipment for its AC-130J and MC-130J gunship  variants.

Under a $32 million contract with Northrop Grumman, the company’s Land and Avionics C4ISR division will supply radio frequency countermeasures (RFCM) for the planes, according to the C4ISR&Networks web site.

Jeff Palombo, Northrop Grumman division vice president and general manager, said N-G’s solution “is designed to detect and defeat not only current radio frequency threats, but also to have the flexibility to protect our warfighters as the threat evolves.” In a Northrop Grumman press release, Palombio said the solution “is built upon our high confidence aircraft protection systems of today, coupled with an open architecture approach that enables our offering to grow to a multi-spectral, multi-function capability for the future.”

*** *** ***

Mabus VS. SEALS

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is urging the Navy’s admirals to press forward with integrating women into the Special Ops Navy SEAL teams, over the concerns of Navy SEAL leaders.

140121-N-KB563-148 CORONADO, Calif. (Jan. 21, 2014) Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDs) students participate in Surf Passage at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Surf Passage is one of many physically demanding evolutions that are a part of the first phase of SEAL training. Navy SEALs are the maritime component of U.S. Special Forces and are trained to conduct a variety of operations from the sea, air and land. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Russell/Released)

Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDs)
students participate in Surf Passage at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st
Class Michael Russell/Released)

As Naval Special Warfare hammers out a plan to start admitting women into their very rugged training, Mabus is urging Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson to forge ahead. Mabus rebutted some of the concerns Navy brass raised about roadblocks to integration, the Navy Times reported.

In the plan it submitted, NSW argued that allowing women to join direct ground combat units would not increase readiness, and could even distract from it, according to the memo obtained by Navy Times.

January 12, 2016 at 1:33 am Leave a comment

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: [UPDATED 11/25/2015] Refugee Crisis; Winning Over Muslim Immigrants; Water Woes Behind Mass Migrations

Food for Thought: Double Trouble.

Food for ThoughtNews that some of the gunmen and suicide bombers in the Friday the 13th Paris attacks were European nationals have politicians and governments on both sides of the Atlantic fretting and fulminating.

They’re worried that terrorists may be hiding among the refugees swarming into Europe — like one of the attackers in Paris who killed 129 people. They also fear that refugees from Muslim countries like Syria and Iraq — even if they’re fleeting terrorism — may become radicalized by anti-Western propaganda and turn into Islamist terrorists themselves.

In the United States, the governors of more than half the states say thousands of Syrian refugees President Barack Obama wants to bring to America are not welcome. Only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States since 2011, but the Obama administration announced in September that 10,000 Syrians will be allowed to enter the country as refugees next year, according to CNN.

Syrian and Iraqi refugees leave a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos. (Photo by Ggia via wikipedia)

Syrian and Iraqi refugees leave a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos.
(Photo by Ggia via wikipedia)

Meanwhile, some countries in Europe, which has been swamped this year by more than 700,000  political and economic refugees from the Middle East and Africa, say they won’t take in any more people. According to Reuters, 1,500 migrants remain trapped in northern Greece unable to cross the border into Macedonia after other countries in the Balkans began limiting their intake to Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis. Meanwhile, Poland cited the Paris attacks as the reason for not taking in 4,500 Syrian refugees as part of a European Union plan to spread the immigration burden, Britain’s Daily Mail reported. Instead, Poland’s new foreign minister suggested turning the refugees into an army to fight and “liberate their country with our help.”

Here at 4GWAR, we don’t have all the answers to these expanding problems, but we offer two pieces of research that could help point the way to a solution.

*** *** ***

Winning Muslims’ Trust.

You know the old saying “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar”? Well, some academic researchers say their work shows harsh rhetoric and cold shoulders can make Muslims feel like they don’t belong in Europe or the United States — and that can lead to radicalization.

“Our research, forthcoming in Behavioral Science and Policy, and in partnership with the World Organization for Resource Development and Education, shows that making Muslims feel this way can fuel support for radical movements. In other words, many Western policies that aim to prevent terrorism may actually be causing it,” say in an article on “The Conversation” website via the Washington Post.

Lyons-Padilla, a research scientist at Stanford University’s Stanford SPARQ and Gelfand, a professor and Distinguished University Scholar Teacher at the University of Maryland, asked hundreds of Muslims in Germany and the United States to tell them about their experiences as religious and cultural minorities — including their feelings of being excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion. “We also asked how they balance their heritage identities with their American or German identities. We wanted to know if these kinds of experiences were related to their feelings toward radical groups and causes.”

Because you can’t pre-interview a potential terrorist, they measured two indicators of support for radicalism.

“We asked people how willing they would be to sacrifice themselves for an important cause. We also measured the extent to which participants held a radical interpretation of Islam. (For example, they asked whether it’s acceptable to engage in violent jihad.) “Finally, we asked people to read a description of a hypothetical radical group and tell us how much they liked the group and how much they would want to support it.” This hypothetical group consisted of Muslims in the United States or Germany upset about how they were treated by society and would stop at nothing to protect Islam.

“Overall, support for these indicators of extremism was very low, which is a reminder that the vast majority of Muslims do not hold radical views,” the researchers wrote. But the responses of some interviewees  showed they felt marginalized and identified with neither the culture of their heritage nor the culture of their adopted country — in effect they were “culturally homeless.”

“The more people’s sense of self worth was threatened, the more they expressed support for radicalism,” the researchers said. “Our findings are consistent with a theory in psychology that terrorists are looking for a way to find meaning in their lives.” Extremists know and exploit these vulnerabilities, targeting Muslims whose sense of significance is low or threatened, they wrote.

The researchers add: “For people who already feel culturally homeless, discrimination by the adopted society can make matters worse. In our data, people who said they had been excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion experienced a threat to their self-esteem. The negative effects of discrimination were the most damaging for people who already felt culturally homeless.”

The research results suggest that cultivating anti-immigrant or anti-Islamic sentiment is deeply counterproductive. “Anti-immigrant discourse is likely to fuel support for extremism, rather than squelch it,” the authors said. To read the full article, click here.

*** *** ***

Water Woes.

Beyond conflict, there is another contributing factor to the waves of refugee flooding Europe: water scarcity, according to a world renowned environment and development research organization.

Water Stress in Syria and Middle East. (World Research Institute map)

Water Stress in Syria and Middle East.
(World Resources Institute map)

“A well-documented path can connect water scarcity to food insecurity, social instability and potentially violent conflict,’ say researchers at the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank.”As climate change amplifies scarcity worries, more secure water supplies could help the lives of millions in conflict zones,” say WRI’s , and

They say drought and water shortages in Syria are likely to have contributed to the unrest that stoked the country’s civil war — now in its fourth year. Dwindling water resources and chronic mismanagement forced 1.5 million people — primarily farmers and herders — to lose their livelihoods and leave their land. The farmers then moved to urban areas, magnifying Syria’s general destabilization.

The unstable conditions are likely to deteriorate in coming decades. Syria is projected to be among the 11 most water-stressed countries in the world by 2040. And it’s not alone in the region. Fourteen of the 33 likely most water-stressed countries in 2040 are in the Middle East. Water stress is an underlying conflict multiplier that will not go away, the trio of researchers say.

Food prices and other food-supply disruptions are caused by a complex series of factors, including the global food trade and government subsidies. But local water stress can make the situation worse over the long term, the WRI researchers says. Part of the reason Middle Eastern countries had to import so much food is that water is relatively inaccessible compared to other food-growing regions, they added.

To read the entire article, including possible solutions to water stress, click here.

 

November 25, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

DEFENSE/PEACEKEEPING: Big Week Coming

Two Big Conferences.

Calendar14GWAR was lying low last week after a busy conference season — Air & Space — Modern Day Marine — Military Reporters and Editors and one of the biggest, the Association of the U.S. Army.

But this week, we want to call your attention to two important conferences running almost simultaneously in the Washington D.C. area.

UNMANNED SYSTEMS DEFENSE

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) — the trade group of robotic and autonomous systems makers, researchers, developers and users — holds their annual meeting with the military, technology experts and the defense industry. Presentations and panel discussions will review the Pentagon’s programs for drones and robots that fly in the sky, roll or walk across the ground or swim in or under the sea. In fact, the gathering used to be called the program review but now it’s called Unmanned Systems Defense.

It runs for three days, starting Tuesday (October 27) at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Arlington (Pentagon City), Virginia. Each day is dedicated to a different battlespace: maritime, air and ground. Speakers will include program managers and officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — along with several congressmen and officials from Special Operations Command and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

For more information, click here.

ISOA SUMMIT

The companies and organizations that supply goods, servcies and technology to peacekeepers, relief groups, advisers and other non-governmental organizations are also meeting in the Washington area this week. The International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) is holding its 10th summit at the National Press Club starting Wednesday (October 28).

ISOA says it represents companies and organizations “whose work lays the foundation for long term stability and growth in the world’s most unstable places. We serve the implementing community, providing member services focused on contracting, partnerships, regulatory and legal developments, research initiatives, policy movement, and whatever else our members deem important.”

We last wrote about ISOA in 2013, when some ISOA members expressed interest in possible using drones to obtain intelligence about possible danger in remote locations, finding refugees who have fled violence or food shortages and where the greatest need for food is in vast regions with few roads.

Among the speakers ISOA members will hear from at the two-day event: the former head of U.S. Africa Command, General Carter Ham (ret.); Ambassador Brett McGurk, the deputy special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS and the Islamic State); the former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), rerired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Program Support), Gary Motsek.

October 25, 2015 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: S. Korean Team Wins DARPA Robotic Challenge [UPDATE]

Why can’t a Robot be more like a Man?

South Korea's Team Kaist robot DRC-Hubo uses a tool to cut a hole in a wall during the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, June 5-6, 2015, in Pomona, Calif.  (DARPA photo)

South Korea’s Team KAIST robot, DRC-Hubo, uses a tool to cut a hole in a wall during the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, June 5-6, 2015, in Pomona, Calif.
(DARPA photo)

Updates with photos and more details.

A robotics team from South Korea has taken the top prize in a $3.5 million challenge conducted by the Defense Department’s think-outside-the-box research unit.

Team KAIST of Daejon, Republic of Korea, and its robot DRC-Hubo, took first place in the two-day competition that ended Saturday (June 6), as well as the top prize of $2 million.  Two American teams, from Florida and Pennsylvania took second and third place. More than 10,000 spectators turned out for the challenge at the former Los Angeles County Fairgrounds — now known as the Fairplex — in Pomona, California.

Sponsored by the Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the DARPA Robotics Challenge brought 23 teams from six countries together for a two-day competition of robot systems capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters. The idea, first promoted by DARPA in 2012, was a response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster the previous year following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Small, tracked robots were able to enter damaged nuclear facilities to monitor radioactivity and provide video of areas too dangerous for humans to enter. But those robots lacked the ability to shut down equipment, get around debris or climb stairs to upper levels in the facility.

Carnegie Mellon University's CHIMP robot (DARPA photo)

Carnegie Mellon University’s CHIMP robot opens a door.
(DARPA photo)

Your 4GWAR editor first wrote about the challenge for Unmanned Systems magazine in November 2012.

According to DARPA program manager and DRC organizer Gill Pratt, the challenge was designed to be extremely difficult. Participating teams had a very short time period to collaborate and develop the hardware, software, sensors, and human-machine control interfaces to enable their robots to complete a series of disaster response-related challenge tasks selected by DARPA. The tasks for each robot included: driving a vehicle alone for 100 meters; walking through rubble; tripping electrical circuit breakers; using a tool to cut a hole in a wall; turning valves and climbing stairs.

There were a dozen teams from the United States and 11 more from Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and China (Hong Kong).

South Korea's Team KAIST after winning the DARPA Robotics Challenge. DARPA photo)

South Korea’s Team KAIST claims their $2 Million prize after winning the DARPA Robotics Challenge.
(DARPA photo)

The winner, Team KAIST, is from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Their robot was called Hubo for humanoid robot. Coming in second, and winning a $1 million prize was Team IHMC Robotics of Pensacola, Florida. IHMC stands for the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition. Their robot was called Running Man. In third place, and earning a $500,000 prize was a team from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh — Team Tartan Rescue. Their robot was called CHIMP for CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform.

All the competitors had to drive Polaris Industries’ limited edition DARPA Polaris Ranger XP900 and GEM electric vehicles for the the robot driving part of the DRC Finals.

Click on the photos to enlarge the image. To see more photos of the competition, click here.

To see videos of the DRC, including when Team KAIST won, click here.

June 11, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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