Pentagon sending troops to Syria after clashes between U.S., Russian military

The troops are meant to discourage Russians from crossing into the eastern area where U.S., coalition, and Syrian Democratic Forces operate, say officials.

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is deploying a small number of U.S. troops to Syria after a series of escalating encounters between the U.S. and Russian militaries, according to three U.S. defense officials.

The troops and vehicles will serve as a show of presence to discourage the Russian military from crossing into the eastern security area where U.S., coalition, and Syrian Democratic Forces operate, the officials said.

The additional troops will include six Bradley Fighting Vehicles and fewer than 100 soldiers operating in northeast Syria on a 90-day deployment.

A U.S. official said, “These actions and reinforcements are a clear signal to Russia to adhere to mutual de-confliction processes and for Russia and other parties to avoid unprofessional, unsafe and provocative actions in northeast Syria.”

While U.S. military and Russian forces have come in contact at checkpoints and along highway M4 in Syria throughout 2020, on Aug. 17 U.S. and Syrian Democratic Forces came under small arms fire after passing through a checkpoint near Tal al-Zahab, Syria. The U.S. and SDF had permission from the pro-Syrian regime forces manning the checkpoint, but then began to take fire from unidentified forces nearby. The U.S. and SDF returned fire and did not suffer any casualties. U.S. officials said the small arms fire likely came from Syrian and Russian forces.

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Esper: Air Force, Space Force Leading Charge to New Technologies

New technologies are fundamentally changing the character of war and the two Air Force services are leading that charge, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said at the Air Force Association’s Virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference today.

In this time of COVID-19, Esper addressed the group virtually.

The secretary stated that America’s air, space and cyber warriors “will be at the forefront of tomorrow’s high-end fight.”

That means confronting near-peer competitors China and Russia. That means shifting the focus from defeating violent extremist groups to deterring great power competitors. It means fighting a high-intensity battle that combines all domains of warfare, he said.

“In this era of great power competition, we cannot take for granted the United States’ long-held advantages,” Esper said.

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The Army wants to build a brand new exoskeleton to help soldiers ruck faster and harder

The Army is formally moving ahead with the development and fielding of a powered exoskeleton to help soldiers move faster and carry more while reducing overall fatigue after years of experimentation and testing.

Officials with Army Futures Command are currently in the process of drafting formal requirements for an infantry exoskeleton ahead of a defense industry day sometime in November, said Ted Maciuba, deputy director of the robotic requirements division for Army Futures Command.

Breaking Defense first reported news of the fresh exoskeleton effort.

“For me, it started 50 years ago when I first read Starship Troopers and said, ‘hey wait, we need a powered suit,’” Maciuba told Task & Purpose in a phone interview. “Then, three years ago, [then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark] Milley called out exoskeletons as a modernization priority for soldier lethality, and he was really focused on reducing soldier load.”

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Limiting Arlington burials affects veterans and their families

The Army would like to keep Arlington functioning for the next 150 years, but prospects for adding new property is slim, as the cemetery is hemmed in by highways and other developments.

Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries stated, “Arlington National Cemetery will not be a burial option for those service members who served in the Gulf War and any conflict afterwards.”

The new regulations currently under consideration place drastic restrictions on eligibility. It will only include service people who were killed in action, recipients of awards such as Purple Hearts, Silver Stars or higher, presidents, vice presidents, people killed in combat-related deaths while operating on a unique military activity or veterans who served in combat that went on to serve in the highest levels of government in a significant role that made contributions to the nation’s security.

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Bill Would Clear the Way for Army Legend Alwyn Cashe to Receive Medal of Honor

On Oct. 17, 2005, Cashe, a 35-year-old Army sergeant first class deployed to Iraq, was in a Humvee that ran over an improvised explosive device and burst into flames. The explosion left Cashe drenched in fuel and burning. But he paid little attention to his own pain and risk. He entered the burning vehicle again and again to drag out his teammates still inside, ultimately pulling all six soldiers out of the Humvee.

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Graphic novel series highlights first and only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor

The seventh installment in an illustrated series dedicated to soldiers whose actions earned them the nation’s highest award for military valor is now available online.

The newest issue of “Medal of Honor,” a graphic series produced by the Association of the U.S. Army, spotlights the Civil War heroics of Mary Walker, the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree and the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor.

Born in Oswego, New York, to abolitionist parents, Walker attended Syracuse Medical College prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, when she saw an opportunity to serve as a surgeon in the U.S. Army.

But the arrangement wasn’t a seamless one. In 1861, Walker attempted to join the ranks of U.S. Army surgeons but was denied for being a woman. Like many obstacles she encountered prior to 1861, Walker refused to allow the hiccup to derail her.

Years as an unpaid surgeon’s assistant finally paid off when, at the height of the war, Walker was issued a contract as a credentialed War Department surgeon at the recommendation of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman and Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas.

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Army IDs soldier who died at Fort Jackson, in fourth death at the base in past year

A basic combat training soldier at Fort Jackson was found dead in his barracks Saturday morning, U.S. Army officials said.

On Sunday, the soldier was publicly identified as Pvt. Michael Wise, according to Army officials. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment.

Following the death of the 29-year-old from Wisconsin, officials said they will have a 48-hour training stand down.

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Army leaders share stories of the 9/11 attack at the Pentagon

WASHINGTON — It’s been 19 years since Sept. 11, 2001, when four hijacked passenger jets were turned into makeshift missiles above American soil. But the tragic day is still fresh in the minds of some of the Army’s top leaders who survived the attack at the Pentagon.

Positioned across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, the Pentagon is the nerve center for all things national defense. It’s also one of the world’s largest office buildings, made up of roughly 23,000 military and civilian employees, including the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The five-sided structure is often seen as a universal symbol of America’s strength and security, which made it a target that September morning.

As the sun rose over the nation’s capital that day, the gridlocked morning traffic crept along the Beltway. Underground, train riders like Brig. Gen. Mark S. Bennett and Maj. Gen. Paul A. Chamberlain, who were younger officers at the time, crowded into railcars to beat the slow-moving jam.

All and all “it was just a morning like any other,” Bennett recalled.

They were young officers navigating the city in 2001, but today Bennett is at the helm of the U.S. Army Financial Command, and Chamberlain is the director of the Army budget.

By the time the Metro train dropped them off, the Soldiers weren’t the first to arrive at the Pentagon. Employees were already buzzing through each ring and corridor of the building.

Pentagon staffers were already immersed in numerous morning routines; briefings were planned, PowerPoints were being finalized, coffee was brewing, and some, like Chamberlain, found time to squeeze in a morning run.

“The sky was crystal clear blue that early fall morning,” Chamberlain said, looking back. “I went for a run, came back, and took a shower.” That’s when he first heard the news at the Pentagon Athletic Center. “Over the radio speakers in the shower, I heard a plane [may have] hit the World Trade Center in New York — which was very odd.”

The news quickly spread around the building. Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander, deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army, Financial Management and Comptroller, was then a 41-year-old lieutenant colonel on a mission from Fort Rucker, Alabama that morning.

The Pentagon has three times the floor space of the Empire State Building, and can be daunting to navigate for newcomers, like Horlander. The Colorado native was in an unfamiliar place during his work trip to the Defense Department epicenter.

When Horlander and his coworkers walked into the building, the security guards knew they were out-of-towners, he said, during a recent interview. “I said [to the guard] we’re trying to locate a conference room. He gave us assistance and said when you get there to turn on the television — an airplane just hit one of the Twin Towers.”

After that, everything changed. Newscasts started reporting the incident at the World Trade Center in New York City. The news anchor on the confirmed “smoke was billowing out of one of the towers,” Chamberlain said. “I thought, wow, it must have been a significant plane that hit it.”

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DOD Officials Describe Modernization Priorities That Will Benefit Warfighters

Defense Department officials spoke about the DOD’s modernization strategy, including the development and procurement of high priority systems — such as artificial intelligence, directed energy, small satellites, hypersonics, a 5G network and unmanned aerial systems — which could potentially offer game-changing results on the battlefield.

Dr. Mark J. Lewis, the acting deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and Michael Brown, the director of the Defense Innovation Unit, spoke today at the Defense News Conference.

Lewis noted that Congress has been very supportive with the direction of the DOD’s research and engineering work.

One of the important reasons for this support on the Hill, Lewis said, is that the DOD has demonstrated that it has adopted an approach to “accepting risk intelligently.” That means supporting research and engineering efforts that either result in success or in some measure of success, such that even if an experiment fails, some learning about the physics and process results in enlightenment for the successful creation of a future capability.

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Service Members, Civilians Bound By DOD Rules During Election Campaigns

It’s election season again, when federal, state and local political campaigns kick into high gear. Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper’s latest ethics video lays out the importance of political activity rules that Defense Department civilian employees and service members must follow.

In the 2020 DOD Public Affairs Guidance for Political Campaigns and Elections memorandum of Feb. 11, DOD spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman summarized the rules that apply to all DOD personnel regarding involvement in political events.

“The Department of Defense has a longstanding and well-defined policy regarding political campaigns and elections to avoid the perception of DOD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of any political candidate, campaign or cause,” Hoffman wrote.

“The department encourages and actively supports its personnel in their civic obligation to vote, but makes clear members of the armed forces on active duty should not engage in partisan political activities,” his memo read.

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New landmine detection method to reduce false alarm rates

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Landmines pose a serious threat in conflict areas, yet modern detection systems struggle to discriminate between explosives and clutter. A project funded by the Army developed a new method for landmine identification that will greatly reduce false alarm rates.

Fewer false alarms will significantly reduce the cost of humanitarian landmine clearance operations and provide greater road mobility by avoiding unnecessary route detours. With this new technology, landmines can be detected without digging.

Vadum, Inc., North Carolina State University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, collaborated to develop what’s known as the Vibration-ENhanced Underground Sensing system, or VENUS.

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DOD Sites Selected for Phase III COVID-19 Vaccine Trials: Five Medical Treatment Facilities in National Capital Region, San Antonio, and San Diego to Participate

As part of the Operation Warp Speed (OWS) goal to deliver safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics by January 2021, five DoD locations have been identified to participate in the Phase III trial evaluating the vaccine candidate AZD1222 under development by AstraZeneca.

“The Department of Defense continues to play a key role in the development of a potential COVID-19 vaccine,” said Honorable Tom McCaffery, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. “Now that vaccines have passed the first phases of testing for safety, dosing and response, we are ready to move into the next phase where volunteers are needed to join large clinical studies. We are excited to have several sites identified to support the next steps in the vaccine development process.”   

The DoD sites selected are:

  • Naval Medical Center San Diego (Site Code: NMSD)
  • Joint Base San Antonio Brooke Army Medical Center (Site Code: BAMC)
  • Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center (San Antonio) (Site Code: WHASC)
  • Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (Bethesda, MD) (Site Code: WRMC) and
  • Fort Belvoir Community Hospital (Fort Belvoir, VA) (Site Code FBCH)

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