Capewell

Archive for the ‘Guest Post’ Category

MARSOC Takes Certification Exercise To The Next Level

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

Marine Forces Special Operations Command recently concluded a series of exercises in the Gulf Coast region aimed at streamlining integration of forces at various command levels. The three-10-day exercises were a collaborative effort between MARSOC, governmental agencies and other stakeholders to evaluate Marine Special Operations units deploying in support of Theater Special Operations Commands and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Forces across the globe.

RAVEN Unit Readiness Exercise serves as the certification exercise for a soon-to-be deploying Marine Special Operations Company. It has evolved into a multilevel venue to integrate the various command structures and capabilities deployed by MARSOC. Each level of command, down to the team, is challenged in planning and executing, and command and controlling activities in urban environments. Through RAVEN, the MARSOC commander ensures operational readiness and capability of Marine Special Operations Forces to conduct special operations missions across a range of military operations and domains. It tests Marine Raiders’ individual and collective abilities to synchronize operations, activities, and actions in the information environment with those in the physical environment to affect decision making and mission planning.

Since its inception in 2012, the unit readiness exercise has become increasingly complex. What was originally done at Fort Irwin, Calif., has expanded to several locations throughout Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Teams were spread across a 100-mile area, with the exercise operations center at the National Guard Base in Gulfport, Miss. The decentralized approach is intended to mimic the challenges in communication, planning and logistics when evaluating considerations for mission execution.

“RAVEN’s scenario design incorporates current and future dynamics the joint force may encounter to present exercise participants challenges across the range of military operations,” according to a former company commander, now the special operations officer in charge of the entirety of training execution. “Within this, participants must account for the implications of tactical actions across operational and strategic levels. The great thing about RAVEN is that it lets a unit execute full spectrum operations in a realistic military training environment without any requirements to support the exercise.”

It is also an opportunity to enhance collaboration and strengthen our operational relationships between members of the SOF community, conventional Marine Corps units and other partners with whom Marine Raiders work closely, ensuring MARSOC provides the nation with an agile, adaptive force to meet the complex demands of the future operating environment.

“RAVEN incorporates lessons learned from academia, the joint force, and redeploying MARSOC units to maintain a realistic and current exercise. The [Exercises, Training and Education Branch] consistently seeks incorporation of experimental and new technology, equipment, and TTPs into the exercise providing exposure to the force, and testing and evaluation feedback under simulated real-world conditions,” said the OIC. “This enables the exercise the ability to immediately implement the Commander’s initiatives while quickly adapting to emerging indicators of the future operating environment.”

The exercise also capitalizes on the opportunity to further streamline the integration of other SOF and conventional forces.

“SOF are inherently reliant on support from joint forces across conventional and SOF formations. Conventional forces gain the exposure and experience of working aside SOF units and the joint force improves interoperability with both SOF and conventional forces. As Marines, [Raiders] are intimately familiar with the task organized Marine Air-Ground Task Force concept. Our understanding of the MAGTF, and both USMC and SOCOM concept allow us to improve institutional and operational cooperation through interdependence, interoperability and integration with conventional forces,” said the former company commander.

For this particular exercise, MARSOF integrated with conventional Marine Corps assets from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 from 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion from 2nd Marine Division and 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion from 1st Marine Division. There was also integration of Air Force Special Operations Command assets from the 73rd and 319th Special Operations Squadrons, and the 178th Attack Squadron; and Army Special Operations Task Force. These units were able to come together and execute missions beginning at the target development phase all the way through mission execution.

“This is the kind of stuff you envision when you join the Marine Corps,” said one of the platoon commanders from 3rd AABN. “You can see the added excitement and engagement from my Marines who are getting the added exposure to infantry skills that may have some carry over for when we have to operate with infantry Marines in the future,” he added. His team of 15 Marines conducted weapons familiarization, close quarters battle drills and planned and executed a raid with the MSOT they were attached to.

For the MAGTF Marines, the training conducted at RAVEN provides exposure to small unit tactics they might not otherwise receive, particularly units like 3rd AABN, whose day-to-day responsibilities are focused on amphibious assault vehicle readiness, basic formations and water ops, and terrain driving.

At the MARSOC company level, RAVEN is the last in a series of training evolutions within the 180-day training cycle an MSOC will execute in preparation for deployment. At this point, units are refining and streamlining processes. Considerations for mobility, sustainment, and logistics all require additional planning and coordination, according to a critical skills operator and team chief evaluated during this RAVEN series.

Having first participated in RAVEN as a sergeant, the gunnery sergeant has seen the exercise grow in scale and complexity, providing units the ability to execute the full range of special operations core tasks, special insertion skills, and missions against an opposing force.

“The command has invested quite a bit of time and money into making the training challenging and realistic,” he said. While there are still role players, the scenario is much more developed, requiring in-depth analysis in developing possible targets.”

According to this team chief, another aspect that has improved is the extent of the integration of mentor-evaluators and Exercise Control Group into the training.

“It is an opportunity for the team to cross-pollinate [tactics, techniques and procedures] from units across MARSOC. We all have the same baseline, but it comes to identifying gaps and refining efficiencies, down to things as simple as naming conventions,” he said. “Having been a mentor-evaluator and seeing teams go through the stress of the exercise, it is eye-opening to have that outsider’s perspective. It can be time-consuming, but it spreads the learning across the entirety of the exercise.”

MARSOC conducts the RAVEN series several times a year, alternating locations from the Gulf Coast Region and the Kentucky-Tennessee border two to three times per year, with the next one being conducted in April, 2020.

Story and Photos by Gunnery Sgt. Lynn Kinney , Marine Forces, Special Operations Command

Additional Photos by Photo by Lance Cpl. Elias Pimentel. Marine Forces, Special Operations Command

Air Force Research Labs Enhances Safety of Survival Specialists Through Wearable Health Monitoring Technology

Friday, December 6th, 2019

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio –An Air Force Research Laboratory team recently delivered version 2.0 of the Survival Health Awareness Responders Kit (SHARK) to U.S. Air Force instructors at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA)-Lackland Camp Bullis, a 28,000-acre site in Texas, used to train Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) specialists.

With SHARK, sensors embedded in shirts transmit key metrics including heart rate and estimated core temperature from smartphones to a server. As students undergo physical endurance tests during extended periods of isolation, the system allows instructors to monitor this data in real-time, and issues alerts for heart rate spikes and significant increases in temperature. Since the device identifies the user’s location, medical personnel can quickly respond to those in need of care.

2nd Lt. Matthew Dickinson, a biomechanical engineer within AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing (HPW), says that SHARK 2.0 is user-friendly and more secure. He explains that instructors and students alike are pleased with the streamlined setup process and the new web interface.

The commander of Detachment 3, 66th Training Squadron, Maj. Toby Andrews, said he appreciates that SHARK “gives [instructors] real-time alerts on the health and well-being of students.” The system “truly eases my mind as a commander,” he said since it “allows us to provide preventative care [in cases] that could otherwise lead to serious medical situations.”

Prior to SHARK, instructors checked on trainees at regular intervals to ensure their well-being. In certain cases, they administer ice baths to students with elevated body temperatures, said Tech. Sgt. John Garcia, a SERE instructor. However, since the introduction of this monitoring technology, zero ice baths have been required because the system alerts instructors before students reach what they call “the danger zone.”

To develop version 2.0, the SHARK team enlisted the help of Cedarville University students majoring in computer science. Loren Baum, who now works full-time in 711HPW, improved the code for his senior design project.  He optimized the software, added functionality, enhanced the security measures and streamlined the startup process.

Baum explains that the team moved SHARK from the mobile app arena to the web to make the system useable in a wider variety of scenarios. With the new approach, instructors simply log into a website from any computer to monitor students’ health status instead of launching an application, which requires installation and manual upgrades.

The team simplified the startup process with Quick Response (QR) codes that automatically input students’ information when scanned, Baum said. This measure reduced the total setup time from one hour to five minutes, and makes it easier for students and instructors to begin a new session.

In June 2019, the team traveled to JBSA-Camp Bullis and conducted initial tests with version 2.0. Once the team integrated additional software improvements, SERE instructors officially launched the upgrade in September.

The SHARK team continues to work with other squadron key leaders to address related needs. One such application involves using the included heart rate variability measurement to provide real-time feedback regarding students’ reactions to various training stressors.

This data would enable instructors to evaluate the effectiveness of interrogation techniques and determine the extent to which they affect individuals, said 1st Lt. David Feibus, a former software team lead, who is now a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

While SHARK is useful in various situations, Air Force instructors currently rely on this tool to offer “strenuous exercises in the safest manner possible,” said Ted Harmer, a 711HPW engineer who also leads a medical readiness personnel recovery training research team. When administering physical tests, instructors must achieve the purpose of the training and minimize negative impacts, whether they be physical or emotional, he explains.

Leadership from AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing originally learned about this need for additional safety measures during a visit to the USAF Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base. School personnel explained that they needed a more proactive solution to monitor students’ health and performance during their rigorous training missions. Due to the ongoing research and development of wearable monitoring technologies in the 711HPW, experts decided the SERE training environment was another place this monitoring technology could improve the safety of SERE students and enhance their training program.

“Going in, we knew we needed a broad range of skillsets,” said Dr. James Christensen, a product line lead within the 711HPW. He explains that to produce an effective system, the team relied on expertise in wearable devices, electronics, software development, communications, human factors and physiology.

“We pulled together capabilities from several different parts of the organization to assemble the sensors, develop the software to pull sensor data together, and then build the communications capability to then send that data and be able to monitor it continuously and remotely.”

Following the initial design and development, the team arranged field tests with end-users. Several team members lived with JBSA-Camp Bullis instructors for one week to test SHARK 1.0 in 2018. Now, a year later, an upgraded system is in the field.

In the meantime, the SHARK team is also working with other groups who are interested in acquiring this technology including firefighters, NASA scientists and U.S. Army Special Forces. Members are currently exploring a version of the system that the Department of Defense Fire Academy can use under fire protection gear to prevent heat injuries.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Randall Moss and U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Davis, loadmasters assigned to the 16th Airlift Squadron, sort through survival equipment during a survival, evasion, resistance, and escape exercise August 21, 2019, in North, South Carolina. SERE specialists assigned to the 437th Operations Support Squadron conducted this exercise in order to identify potential areas of improvement in both SERE training and equipment provided to aircrew in case of a potential isolating event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

FirstSpear Friday Focus – ACM MID 400 Shirt

Friday, December 6th, 2019

Today we are getting another look at FirstSpear’s USA Merino wool packages.

In previous weeks we saw the lightest weight package ACM-BASE 100 which FS uses in a variety of their lighter weight garments like the field shirt and beanie/neckie. Today we will be looking at the next level up, ACM-MID 400. What makes this merino package so unique is that it is a dual layer material, not a blend. Using a super fine polyester on the interior and merino wool layer on the exterior, this material combo does some very incredible things. When the user sweats or gets wet the poly layer will quickly wick away moisture from the body and transfer it to the absorbent wool layer.

Once the moisture permeates into the wool layer it allows the poly to dry very quickly which helps avoid the typical stink you find with other synthetic layers, additionally wool is naturally antimicrobial which makes it incredibly difficult for the garment to produce bacteria that causes odors in all synthetic base layers. Furthermore, once the moisture is absorbed into the wool layer it will keep the user insulated and warm even when wet. These features provide for exceptionally high performance garments using ACM-MID 400. Today we will get a look at one of the more popular garments using this dual layer material, the FirstSpear Mid Shirt.

The Mid Shirt is super tough and ultra soft with a 2/3 length front zipper that allows extra ventilation when you really warm up. The high collar keeps your neck covered and is great for when you are working with a sling.

Like most FS products the Mid Shirt is Berry Compliant (100% American Made with 100% American Materials) and is available in Black, Charcoal, Commando, Manatee Grey, and Sand.

www.first-spear.com/mid-shirt-acm-mid-400

75th Anniversary of Menton Day

Friday, December 6th, 2019

FORT BRAGG, North Carolina – Seventy-five years ago, on December 5, 1944, the combined U.S.-Canadian First Special Service Force (FSSF) paraded one final time at their Villeneuve-Loubet camp, near the town of Menton, in southeastern France.

The FSSF was an elite commando unit activated in July 1942 to attack hydroelectric plants in Nazi-occupied Norway. Consisting of a headquarters, three combat regiments, and a service battalion, the unit prepared for combat with a rigorous program of physical fitness, close combat fighting, airborne, demolition, mountaineering, amphibious, and winter warfare training.

Commanded by U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Robert T. Frederick from July 1942 to June 1944, the FSSF earned the nickname the ‘Devils Brigade’ by the German Army for their aggressive night patrols defending a section of the Anzio beachhead in Italy.

Despite its effectiveness, a manpower crisis in the Canadian Army led to the unit’s inactivation. Having become a ‘band of brothers’ during combat operations in Kiska, Italy, and Southern France, the FSSF soldiers assembled at 1400 hours for a somber farewell. The order announcing the Canadian’s departure was read, followed by remarks from the commander, Col. Edwin A. Walker, the roll of the fallen, prayers, and a playing of taps. After the FSSF colors were sheathed, the order was given: “All Canadians fall out!” The 620 Canadian soldiers paraded, and received a salute from the Americans.

A Canadian sergeant from the 2nd Regiment remarked years later, that “It was the saddest day of my life, I think…Canadians were falling out that I thought were Americans and Americans were standing still who I thought were Canadians…There was no nationality in that bloody unit.”

The next day the Canadians boarded trucks taking them to ships bound for Italy. The FSSF Canadian veterans were reassigned to their parent unit, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, or sent home based on overseas time served. Most American veterans volunteered for an airborne division, or were assigned to the 474th Infantry Regiment (Separate).

Commemoration of Menton Day on December 5, began thirty-five years ago when Army Special Forces honored its lineal connection to the FSSF. Over the years, various headquarters and units have observed Menton Day. Since September 11, 2001, some unit activities have grown to a week. Now, the 1st Special Forces Group, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, has a memorial wreath laying, physical fitness competition, range day, a U.S.-Canadian parachute jump, and formal ball with a noted guest speaker.

Since 2006, Canadian Army Special Operations Forces (CANSOF) in their distinctive uniforms, tan berets, and badges incorporating a FSSF V-42 fighting knife, are seen at Menton ceremonies in the U.S. These ceremonies keep soldiers of both nations connected to their history and serve as a reminder of a tremendous legacy. The 1st Special Forces Regiment and all U.S. Army SF groups trace their official lineage to the FSSF.

-USASOC-

By Robert Seals, USASOC History Office

2nd SFS Switches to M18

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

More than 30 years ago, the M9 Beretta entered service into the military, but on November 30, the 2nd Security Forces Squadron will arm up with the M9 for the final time.

Instead, they will begin carrying the M18 Modular Handgun System, a shorter, more compact weapon. The change is expected to enable defenders to complete their jobs more efficiently and effectively, according to the 2nd SFS Combat Arms team.

“It is an easier system to operate,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Johnson, 2nd SFS Combat Arms assistant non-commissioned officer in charge. “This is because it is a striker-fired weapon which means the trigger squeeze is the same each time.”

“The M9 requires a stronger trigger squeeze at first and then gets lighter as it shoots. The M18 uses a consistent amount of pressure, taking away the anticipation and added strength needed from the M9, allowing the shooter to not have to think about the trigger squeeze every time, granting more accuracy,” Johnson added.

Among other aspects like customizable pistol grips, the M18 is known for its durability and simplified operating system.

“Four of us instructors attended the Sig Armorer course at the Sig Sauer Academy to learn more about the breakdown and maintenance portion of the weapon as well as some of the new ways they build the system,” said Senior Airman Matthew Lazo, 2nd SFS Combat Arms instructor. “There are fewer pieces that we are going to have to fix as often and the system also comes to where you are just changing out one whole part versus having to change a million different ones.”

The deadline for the switch was set for July of 2020, a year from when the team received the weapon systems on base. The team made a goal to break that deadline by seven months. Together they had to find a way to get more than 280 personnel qualified on top of their 300 personnel monthly firing schedule.

“It took us about a week, but we laid it out by figuring out how long it takes us to run everyone through the course, and we came out with the plan,” Lazo explained. “Not only getting everyone in once but two or three separate times.”

The qualifications aren’t as simple as members showing up to fire. There is a specific 90-round handgun course of fire qualification process that includes not only a hands-on portion but also a classroom instruction.

Before the qualification process began, the firing range on base was shut down for updates to the safety features, causing the team to have to find another range to train.

“At the range on base, we have 21 points, which means we can have 21 people fire at a time,” Johnson explained. “At the off-base range, there were time restrictions, and we could have as many as 16 points at once to as little as eight depending on the time.”

The Combat Arms team didn’t let that set them back as they continued to adapt and overcome all the hurdles thrown their way. They are still going to be able to meet their early deadline.

Dec. 1, 2019, will mark the beginning of a new era of weapon systems within the 2nd SFS as the black M9 is replaced by the coyote-tan M18.

Story by Senior Airman Tessa Corrick, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Brigantes Presents – Fallkniven X-series Survival Knives

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

The Fallkniven X Series F1 is, arguably the world most functional and high performing survival knife, considered to be one of the best in the world.

The X-series knives are strong, sharp, safe, comfortable and also really stylish, especially the all-black versions. The basis of the X-knife’s strength lies in the laminated cobalt steel in combination with the well thought out construction in which break zones have been eliminated. Together with the hand shaped convex edge, the X-knife is a concept that beats everything else in the world in terms of safety, comfort and hard use.

To that they have added a cleverly constructed sheath in a special plastic that locks the knife, smart as simple. This month, a stainless steel clip will also become available, it allows you to easily hook the knife on and off from your waistband, adding to its versatility and ease of use.

For more information contact international@brigantes.com

For UK Sales contact warrior@brigantes.com

822nd Base Defense Squadron K9 Teams Train Fast-Rope Insertions

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Members of the 822nd Base Defense Squadron fly in a HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 41st Rescue Squadron to conduct fast-rope training with their military working dogs (MWD) Nov. 20, 2019 at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Fast-roping allows the MWD teams to quickly access a rugged location where an aircraft is not able to land and start conducting base defense as soon as they are needed.

By 1st Lt. Faith Brodkorb, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing Public Affairs

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Thanksgiving

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

Thanksgiving is a time when many people take the time to gather with family and friends to feast, give thanks and celebrate from the comfort of their own homes.

But during wartime, however, the Thanksgiving holiday is slightly different. During WW1 AND WW2 on the home front, people were encouraged to cut back on food items such as sugar, meat, fats, and wheat so food could be sent to troops fighting overseas. Many newspapers across the country printed alternative recipe ideas that cut back on food items, especially sugar.

American families were asked to grow their own gardens and use homegrown food in their Thanksgiving meals instead of buying food from the local food market.

The menu at Camp Wadsworth in 1918 included celery, pickles, olives, roast turkey with dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, salted wafers with cheese, bread and butter, pumpkin pie, fruit cake, ice cream, and coffee.

 

My first military Thanksgiving was in 1987 at NTC Great Lakes. A couple of years later, I would be in my second combat zone during the first gulf war, it would eventually be called Operation Desert Storm, but I first got there it didn’t have a name. I was stationed in Saudi Arabia on the border of Kuwait. Our meals normally constated of two MREs a day. But on Thanksgiving, we got our two MREs and a meal of hamburger meat that was made into spaghetti. We were some of the first troops on the ground and had nothing but two MREs a day since the day we arrived in late August. About two days before Thanksgiving, we had a Mess Specialist 1st class (MS1) assigned to our camp, his first role was to go around with our corpsman and make sure all the water we were getting was good for us to drink. We had bottled water until the commandant of the Marine Corps decided he didn’t want his Marines drinking Gucci water. It didn’t matter that we were not Marines because we got our supplies from them. So, we had to get out water from the fire hydrants and store it in water buffalos where it was heavily chlorinated. Once a week we would take turns going to the port of Al Jubail to get supplies and you could sometimes get a hot meal there.

 

Back to Thanksgiving. It was the first real hot meal we had had in about three months. It was one of the best spaghetti dinners I have ever eaten. I take that back – it’s one of the best meals I have ever had, period. It was a simple spaghetti meal with bread and bug juice (a Kool-Aid like drink), but I genuinely feel that the MS1 put all his heart into it. There was no apple pie, no football, no family — nothing you would think of as Thanksgiving. We were living in tents, abandoned buildings, and also Mil-van’s in about 110F heat. Over my 26 years in the military, Thanksgiving would genuinely get a hell of a lot better. Some of the ones I had while I was in Iraq, had just about anything you could want — from steak, lobster, turkey and ice cream. But still one of my favorite Thanksgivings of all time was in that tent during the first Gulf War/Operation Desert Shield/ Storm. Thanks to all support people who try every day to make places like Iraq, Afghanistan and other holes you might end up in, just a little bit better with food and other contributions that make being far away a little closer to home.