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FirstSpear Friday Focus – Gadget Bag

Friday, January 4th, 2019

Gadget bags are now available in the non-stocking non-standard section of the FirstSpear web store.

100% American made with simple carry handle, loop patch for your cell tags on one side and clear window on the other. Approximately 10 x 5 x 4 these are perfect for small electronics or a simple hygiene kit.

First quality goods ready to ship. Available while supplies last.

US Air Force Updates Insignia Guidance for OCP Uniforms

Monday, December 31st, 2018

WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. (AFNS) — Airmen wearing OCP uniforms are authorized to add their former Airmen Battle Uniform subdued patches until the mandatory brown subdued ones go into effect.


Also, according to Air Force Instruction 36-2903, the U.S. flag patch is mandatory and will be subdued using the spice brown color criteria, centered at the top of velcro and worn while in–garrison and deployed.

Current subdued black and green U.S. flags may be worn until June 1, 2020, then spice brown will be the only accepted version. Infra-red U.S. flags are not authorized.

The higher headquarters patch is mandatory and will be subdued using the spice brown color criteria and centered under the U.S. flag patch. The current subdued version of the higher headquarters patch may be worn until the patch color conversion has been completed or until April 1, 2021, whichever is sooner.

A maximum of two patches may be worn.

SMSgt Andrew Biscoe, Air Force News Service

SCUBAPRO Sunday Air Consumption

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

It’s not uncommon for two divers to use different amounts of air, even if they are diving the same dive profile. Different factors will affect how much air you will consume until you learn good diving practices and buoyancy control. If you have been diving for a long time and you still go thru your air faster then the people around you, there are some things you can do to help improve your air consumption. Trying to conserve energy, controlling your breathing, and reducing your drag while diving. Planning your dive is the first step. Plan your dive to be underwater for the shortest amount of time as possible and not coming up and going off and then back on bag. If you are going to cover a lot of distance, turtleback for as long as possible to save as much air as you can.

Reducing Drag

Water provides enough resistance on your body, and it doesn’t help when you have on a bulky BC, that is sticking out like a parachute. Try and tuck away anything that hangs and floats behind you. You want your resting position in the water to be as close to horizontal as possible. This more streamlined profile results in less exertion during the dive Try and use retractors and quick magnetic clips on all gauges and hoses. They allow you to look at your gauges and when you let them go, they go right back into place. Lastly, try and keep a good body position keep your hands in front of or as close to your body as possible, and wear a BCD that fits appropriately. Some BCD has a bungee on them to keep them tighter and then when they need to be inflated; the bungee allows for that. This will significantly reduce your drag in the water and help you improve your air consumption.

Slow Down

This is why you have been taught to swim at a certain pace. Normally for combat swimmers 3 min/ 100yards. If you stay with your pace, this will help maintain your breathing rate. Your movement in the water should be minimal, try not to flail around with your arms or kick furiously. Keep each fin stroke as short as possible, as a broad stroke expends a lot more energy. Your legs use the most O2. The right pair of fins will help with this. The reason they make so many different types of fins is that everyone’s kick is different. Just because they are right for your swim buddy doesn’t mean they will be right for you.    


Be conscious of your breathing underwater. Try not to hold your breath or skip breaths. Sometimes when working and doing different things underwater, it will interrupt your normal rhythm and change your breathing without you noticing. Take slow and complete breaths, exhaling completely before inhaling. Stay warm. Know the water conditions you are going into and choose the right wetsuit thickness. Being cold drains more energy from your body that means you’ll use more air. Lastly, a quality regulator can also help make breathing more comfortable and easy to control. An old trick is to put your tongue on the roof of your mouth. This will help slow you down and lets less air in (that is the theory). If diving closed circuit make sure your mouthpiece fits property if you are moving it around a lot or if it feels like it is being pulled out or fighting to keep it in it will affect your breathing. 

Lastly, try and dive more. As the military gets back into the water, and there are more opportunities to get into the water you will get better at it. Don’t wait until you are diving as part of your work up, try and get into the water as much as you can. Then when you are in the water try and do as much as you can to wear everything you usually would, so you can get used to it and set all your gear up correctly.

Futures Command‘s 2018 Modernization Stories

Saturday, December 29th, 2018

FORT MEADE, Md. — The Army has initiated many changes to help modernize the service, bolster readiness, and increase lethality.

Below is a list of some of the biggest modernization stories that impacted the force in 2018. (Links to the original stories follow this article.)


In July, senior leaders announced that Austin, Texas would be the new home for Army Futures Command.

Selected from about 150 competing locations, Austin offered a growing community of professionals within the science and tech industries. Further, the city hosted academic institutions with thousands of graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Back in October 2017, the Army announced its intent to create a new command to drive the service’s modernization efforts. Army Futures Command was heralded as one of the most significant Army reorganization efforts since 1973.

In August, Army senior leaders converged in Austin to unveil AFC’s new headquarters in the University of Texas System building.

During the assumption of command ceremony, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley unfurled and presented the Army Futures Command flag to Gen. Mike Murray, the newly-appointed AFC commander.

Closing out the year, AFC unveiled its new “golden anvil” shoulder sleeve insignia and distinctive unit insignia, harkening back to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms.


Army leaders recently released “The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028,” which outlines possible solutions to counter and defeat layers of stand-off created by adversaries.

Referred to as MDO Concept 1.5, the new pamphlet published by U.S. Training and Doctrine Command refines the force’s Multi-Domain Battle concept released last year.

The concept asserts that over the years adversaries have studied how the U.S. military operates. Emerging technologies — such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics, machine learning, nanotechnology, and robotics — have also changed the character of war.

The release of TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1 serves as a first step in the force’s doctrinal evolution, officials said.


This fall, the Army began fielding the new Squad Designated Marksman Rifle to the first selected units. A limited-user test of the SDM-R is also underway now at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The rifle is based on the Heckler and Koch G28E-110 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System, or CSASS, and provides infantry, scout, and engineer squads the capability to engage with accurate rifle fire at longer ranges.

Additionally, this year the Army tested a new binocular with a wireless connection to rifle sites. The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular, or ENVG-B, is scheduled for release to selected units sometime in fiscal year 2019.

The new device has both night vision and thermal-sensing capabilities and stereoscopic binocular depth perception, providing Soldiers with an illusion of depth on a flat image.

During testing, Soldiers had a 100 percent improvement in weapons qualifications, along with a 300 percent increase in detection of targets in day and night environments, and a 30 to 50 percent decrease in the time taken to shoot a target.

Soldiers that tested the new ENVG-B considered it to be “a game changer.”


The Army is working to replace its current Flame Resistant Ghillie System, which Soldiers consider to be bulky and somewhat uncomfortable at higher temperatures.

The new Improved Ghillie System will be modular and may be worn over a Soldier’s field uniform. Soldiers should be able to take apart the IGS and use pieces as needed.

The goal is for the IGS to cost less than the current $1,300 FRGS, and still have flame-resistant properties.


The Army is working to develop unique hypersonic weapons, similar to precision technology currently in development by the Air Force and Navy.

Hypersonic weapons move five times faster than the speed of sound and are designed to potentially deliver a precision-guided airstrike anywhere in the world within an hour.

While the Army establishes its hypersonic program office, representatives from the Army and other services will continue to work together to develop the military’s hypersonic weapons capability.

Currently, the joint team is working to create a standard “hypersonic glide body” to provide a means to deploy a hypersonic weapon.


Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper recently approved the new Intellectual Property Management Policy to support the force’s readiness and modernization efforts.

Before the new policy, the Army lacked a coordinated strategy to secure IP rights and fulfill its long-term sustainment goals. Previous examples of the acquisition process have shown that the Army often requests either too little, or too much IP.

The new policy attempts to kick off a cultural change within the Army and create a proactive approach to IP management and acquisition.


The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center revealed 15 Soldier-vetted technologies this year designed to improve command post capabilities.

For the past three years, CERDEC’s expeditionary Mission Command Science and Technology Objective has worked to improve command post infrastructure.

Overall, the new technologies will make it quicker and easier for Soldiers to both setup and tear down a command post and will help improve command post connectivity, agility, and scalability.


In the future, the Army could employ artificial intelligence to help process and simplify information, augment current or future systems, or enhance an operator or commander’s decision-making process.

Although the employment of artificial intelligence is still in its infancy, AI could aid Soldiers on the battlefield by providing leap-ahead technologies to help the force survive and win, according to Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville.

For example, AI capabilities could control robotic loader and firing mechanisms or provide targeting recognition capabilities to support Soldiers in ground combat. Further, AI could help determine the best time to perform maintenance or replace parts.

Overall, AI is one of the Department of Defense’s top priorities. The development and implementation of AI will be a critical component of other DOD priorities such as hypersonic weapons, and autonomous ground and air unmanned systems.


The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center has been experimenting with neurostimulation at the Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Medford, Massachusetts.

Volunteers in the program have shown an increase in ability or attention span, improved navigation performance, or enhanced motor skills when participating in a series of controlled tasks within a testing environment.

Further, Soldier participating in the program shortly after initial-entry training have shown signs of accelerated learning. This increase in learning has the potential of closing the gap between low and high performers on specific tasks.


Strengthening the Army’s network against increasing cyber threats, all while making it accessible across each level of the Army, has become a crucial point of emphasis for Army leaders.

With network modernization as a top priority, the Army has set initiatives to develop an integrated network to win battles in peer-contested environments and work toward joint coalition interoperability.

Moving forward, the Army plans to scale the integrated network to brigade-sized formations. The service will start fielding formations in 2020.

By Devon L. Suits, Army News Service

FirstSpear Friday Focus – New Base Layer Bottoms

Friday, December 28th, 2018

Meet the all new Base Layer Bottoms from FirstSpear’s Advanced Clothing Materials Line (ACM). Featuring three available styles a Boxer Brief, Calf Length, and Full Length. All three are built with FirstSpear’s ACM BASE-100 a super light wool package providing excellent natural moisture wicking properties. All three feature a front facing fly, gusseted crotch and flat seamed technology.

The full length is a traditional full length inseam finished with a low ankle cuff, the Calf Length is cut just below the knee designed to pick up where your boot sock stops reducing clutter under footwear and increasing comfort. The Boxer brief is finished in a traditional boxer brief length. 100% American Made with American Materials, now shipping on

Step Aside, Annie Oakley, Because This Girl Can Shoot

Thursday, December 27th, 2018

TNVC President and CEO Victor DiCosola with six-time Olympic medalist, Kim Rhode


I am humbled every day by the amazing people I get to spend time with. One in particular is very special to me, and I am honored to be with Kim Rhode, the most decorated US shooter and first female Olympian to medal in six consecutive games, including 3 golds. (Only Italian luger Armin Zoeggeler has done it on the men’s side). And Kim will have the opportunity to make history in the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Japan as the only Olympic athlete to ever capture 7 consecutive Olympic medals. 

Kim’s coach and father, Richard, has helped me immensely honing my skills in International Bunker, along with my personal shooting coach Brian Burrows. They all are the most gracious professionals you can ever meet and hang with. (Instagram @KimRhode)

-Victor DiCosola

TNVC President and CEO


SureFire Field Notes Ep 39 – How to Speed Reload With Larry Vickers

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

Larry Vickers is a retired US Army 1st SFOD- Delta combat veteran with years of experience in the firearms industry as a combat marksmanship instructor and industry consultant. In recent years he has hosted several tactical firearms related TV shows. Currently Larry presents videos on the Vickers Tactical Youtube channel of which Bravo Company is the presenting sponsor. Larry Vickers special operations background is one of the most unique in the industry today; he has been directly or indirectly involved in the some of the most significant special operations missions of the last quarter century. During Operation Just Cause he participated in Operation Acid Gambit – the rescue of Kurt Muse from Modelo Prison in Panama City, Panama. As a tactics and marksmanship instructor on active duty he helped train special operations personnel that later captured Saddam Hussein and eliminated his sons Uday and Qusay Hussein. In addition, he was directly involved in the design and development of the HK416 for Tier One SOF use, which was used by Naval Special Warfare personnel to kill Osama Bin Laden. Larry Vickers has developed various small arms accessories, with the most notable being his signature sling manufactured by Blue Force Gear, Glock accessories by Tangodown, and 1911 specific products by Wilson Combat. In addition he has maintained strong relationships with premium companies within the firearms industry such as Blue Force Gear, BCM, Aimpoint, CCWSafe, Wilson Combat, and Tangodown. He has developed and offered a line of Vickers Tactical Glock pistols sold exclusively thru Lipseys Inc.. He is also author of the Vickers Guide series of firearm books. Larry Vickers travels the country conducting combat marksmanship classes for law abiding civilians, law enforcement and military.

The Baldwin Files – Forgotten SWCS History

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

I sent the following email just before I retired in 2011 to an old friend who had just taken a senior position at the Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS) at Fort Bragg. During the time in question, 2000-01, I was commanding F Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Camp Mackall.  My company was responsible for two phases of the Special Forces Qualification Course or Q Course for short.  What was then called Phase II, focused on Land Navigation and Small Unit Tactics; and Phase IV, focused on Unconventional Warfare (UW), including the culminating Robin Sage Exercise. I am one of the few that had firsthand knowledge of this historical episode – since it was never made public – for reasons that will become obvious.  I thought it was past time to share it with a larger audience and save it for posterity.  I have edited what follows only to spell out contractions and the numerous acronyms for clarity.

Believe it or not, this is a true story.  In 2000 and 2001 (before 9/11) a small group of senior Special Forces Officers at SWCS and some retired leaders – including one former Group Commander – were developing plans to radically “reinvent” or “reboot”  Special Forces (SF) for the new millennia. I am not going to mention names, but you know these men. They were convinced that the classic core SF mission of Unconventional Warfare (UW), aka Guerrilla Warfare, was as obsolete as the horse cavalry.  Moreover, if our Regiment did not significantly change we would risk becoming irrelevant in the 21st Century.  Therefore, they were determined to save SF…even if it meant discarding everything that makes us who we are.

This cabal looked at our history and reached some firm (but fatally flawed) conclusions: First, they determined that if any U.S. President ever considered doing small scale UW again, it would be a covert or clandestine effort conducted by the CIA. If any Department of Defense (DoD) forces were involved, those troops would come from the “black” SOF and not the “white” SF Groups (God, how I hate those terms). Because the Vietnam War had been less than successful at the strategic level, they also believed that our national leaders would never again have the political will to conduct Counterinsurgency or Nation Building.  Of course, they had to willfully disregard the myriad of tactical and operational successes and the breadth of Special Operation Activities that SF accomplished during the conflict in SE Asia.  

They looked at Desert Shield/Storm and concluded that the only mission SF conducted that conventional commanders were comfortable with – and praised – was the Coalition Support Team (CST) mission. The Special Reconnaissance (SR) missions (referred to as Strategic Reconnaissance in older manuals) executed by SF were only marginally successful and not very helpful at the operational level. Although I would argue that was because we were constrained from operating mounted a la the LRDG as 5th Group had detachments well trained to execute.  Instead, we inserted teams on foot in a fashion similar to conventional LRS units. Oddly enough, those “black” units tasked with “Scud Hunting” went in mounted, were more successful, and therefore had a more appropriate SOF operational impact. 

They looked at other operations and contingencies (Panama, Somalia) and decided that the SF contribution to combat operations was, to their way of thinking, marginal. Instead, they liked what had been done with SF ODAs in Haiti and in Northern Iraq after Desert Storm. SF had received much praise from conventional Army leaders for effectively working with indigenous people in largely permissive environments for humanitarian purposes. The cabal concluded that utilizing ODAs as “super” CAT-As instead of “cowboy” warriors was non-threatening to Conventional Force commanders and therefore a “safe” mission to retain. 

Based in part on the restraints placed on our adviser effort in El Salvador as well as constrained partner operations in Bosnia and Kosovo there was also a strong perception that Force Protection priorities (Risk Aversion) would preclude future SF advisory efforts from ever accompanying our counterparts on actual combat operations during Foreign Internal Defense (FID) activities.  Therefore, there was no need to prepare ODAs to conduct direct combat as an integral component of FID. Small scale and short duration Direct Action (DA) “surgical operations” would be the purview of those aforementioned “black” SOF units. Likewise, rapidly maturing technologies like drones and advanced reconnaissance satellites meant that SR as we had known it was also no longer a necessary or relevant skill set for SF soldiers.

No UW, no DA, no SR and no “combat” FID. So what would SF soldiers and ODAs be trained, equipped and organized to do in support of National Strategic objectives?  The cabal’s verdict…Peacetime FID.  In fact, they went so far as to declare that there should be “no such thing” as an SF unilateral mission. The “by, with and through” methodology was actually meant to purposely constrain and limit SF utility so that we could not be “mis-utilized” in some direct role.  We would in effect “opt out” of being a Full Spectrum Special Operations Force. Clandestine and covert would not be in our vocabulary, and there would be no need for classified or advanced skills and no compartmented SF operations…ever. Infiltration techniques like HALO and SCUBA would only be applicable to the training of others and never for ODA independent insertions and extractions.

We would still call ourselves “SF,” but in my opinion, we would have only been “Short Bus” Special.  I mentioned to one of the “true believers” of this radical concept that by confining ourselves to such a narrow mission set we would effectively self-select SF to be a Combat Support Function rather than a Combat Function. He seemed to take my not-at-all-subtle criticism in stride and told me that the train had already left the station and I had better get on board.

This far reaching but poorly conceived initiative scared the living daylights out of me.  I do not know how far it would have gotten. At the time, the schemers were keeping it “on the down low” because I am sure there would have been an extreme backlash from the force once this proposed transformation was out in the open. However, in the late Fall of 2000, there was a “Grey Beard” Conference held at Camp MacKall and most of the retired SF Generals were in attendance.  I was not privy to the conference sessions but was told afterwards by my Battalion Commander (you know who that was) that the proposal was discussed and at least some of the Gray Beards were “OK with it.” Whether that is true or not, after the conference the cabal continued their preparations to implement the training shift “on order.”

This was not all just theoretical discussion on their part. By the early Summer of 2001, initial steps were actively taken to phase out and eventually eliminate Robin Sage as a UW exercise in Pineland.  Instead, SWCS was preparing to shift to “FID Lane” training to be conducted entirely on the Fort Bragg reservation. The student ODAs would link up with their Host Nation (HN) counterparts (formerly known as Gs) and teach conventional small unit tactics and individual skills in a “secure HN area.”  The culminating event would be the ODA advising and assisting their counterparts through an actual Fort Bragg live fire maneuver range. Imagine that. The most complicated task we would demand in the Q Course of our SF soldiers and teams is that they can safely conduct a live fire range under peacetime rules. And, to add insult to injury, in combat we would relegate them to act as glorified liaison teams (CSTs) or surrogate CAT-As at best.

Of course, 9/11 occurred and their plan and their premise became moot. All have since retired and/or faded into well-earned obscurity. That is a very good thing as far as I am concerned. I do not fault these gentlemen for not having precognition and foreseeing GWOT. I do fault them for cherry picking historical examples that supported their thesis and ignoring the rest. I fault them for being so timid that they would retreat from SF heritage – not under pressure from the Army or DoD – but out of fear. I fault them for not understanding that our success in FID is directly related to the fact that we are – first, foremost, and always – combat soldiers and combat units with a long history of skill and valor to prove it. But most of all, I fault them for not understanding what makes us Special Forces. It is not a beret, a tab, or a title.  It is in fact the UW Mission.

UW is not just one more thing on our “to do” list alongside other potential tasks/missions of equal importance and priority. UW is the foundational mission that shapes our individual troopers and our teams. Training for it in the Q Course and the Groups teaches our people to operate effectively in any complex, uncertain and ambiguous situation or any challenging environment. It teaches them to be able to act alone or as part of a team sometimes without much in the way of outside support. It reinforces the individual and collective traits of self-reliance, adaptability and determination. UW teaches our operators that when all else fails they can always rely on their wits, their training and their teammates. No other mission set does that. UW makes us good at FID and just about anything else we might be asked to do. The opposite is not true.

So, what is my point?  This is ancient history. It did not happen. Crisis averted.  But wait, as we draw down from the larger scale conflicts in Iraq and eventually Afghanistan we will again rightly reassess ourselves and look at ways we need to change to meet emerging threats and missions. I have already seen or heard public and private comments by well-meaning but sadly uninformed individuals (some wearing long tabs) that we (SF) “lost our way” to a certain extent over the last decade plus.  The argument goes that we became too enamored with DA missions and we have to “get back to our roots” as an “Indirect” force rather than a “Direct” force. 

First, you and I both know that their premise is false. SF conducted almost all of our combat activities “by, with, through and alongside” our indigenous counterparts. Either we partnered with existing forces like the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan or the Peshmurga in Northern Iraq – or we created surrogate forces where none existed. Ultimately building successful high-end HN Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Yet, U.S. SF teams also rightly retained the option and capability to conduct unilateral operations when appropriate.  It would be just as wrong for us to back away from our DA skills now, as it would have been in 2000-2001. Clearly, our DA skills remain a vital enabler that directly supports the UW and FID missions as well as enhances our ability to provide our own measure of credible force protection or independent offensive action under any circumstances.

Some people still worry that we are the only SOF unit that does not fit into a well-defined niche. The rest generally specialize in narrower mission sets and they are very good at what they do. The concern is that we (SF) are trying to be “jacks of all (SOF) trades”…and therefore appear to outsiders as perhaps “unfocused” and “masters of none.” I would argue that there is great goodness in having a highly skilled force that is not a one trick pony. I think the incredible range of activities that SF soldiers and teams are successfully conducting around the world every day proves that. Moreover, in my opinion, we do have a clear focus because we spend our careers mastering the UW Mission and the UW Environment. In short, with UW as our foundational and defining task I believe we are on very firm footing.  And I do not see us going the way of the horse cavalry anytime soon.

I am not trying to set myself up as the arbitrator of what SF should and should not be in the future. However, I have been around long enough and seen enough to know a little about what we are and what we are not. We are not Combat Support and we are not second string to the “black” side. We are unapologetic men of action and can justly call ourselves the best of the best. I am very pleased with where the Regiment is now and I have even greater expectations for the future. The schoolhouse is where we define ourselves. It is where we shape not only our entry-level operators but our senior leaders as well. Based on what I have just told you, I would just caution that not everyone who has a Special Forces Tab necessarily “gets it.”  Of course, you already knew that. On a personal level, I can tell you that I am very thankful that you are where you are right now. Moreover, I envy you the opportunity to directly shape that bright future.

De Oppresso Liber.


LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (Ret) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments. SSD is blessed to have him as both reader and contributor.