Military News

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mattis Salutes U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Graduates

By Lisa Ferdinando, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- The United States needs its Merchant Marine officers to employ discipline, strategic thinking and strong ethics in the often challenging and dangerous maritime transport industry, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said today during his commencement remarks to 187 graduates at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York.

The new Merchant Marine officers will be performing extremely important duties, Mattis said.

“As small as our Merchant Marine may be today, it is absolutely essential. It's in every war plan that I review, I guarantee you,” the secretary said. “Because you're going to be the fourth arm of the defense. You're going to sustain our allies and fuel our ships and ferry our warriors.”

Mattis commended the graduates for their commitment to service, noting the maritime industry can be hazardous and fraught with situations that are uncomfortable, both physically and ethically.

Ready for the Challenge

Mattis called on the new officers to recall their training at the academy at all times, especially when they hit the “rocks and shoals” in life. The graduates, he said, are intellectually ready, physically prepared and spiritually ready for the tests that are coming.

He urged them to “listen to the words that you were given here, and the guidance you were given here, because when destiny taps you on the shoulder you must be ready.”

Mattis said the United States needs its Merchant Marines for commerce as well as when the “storm clouds gather” and the military needs to be ready for the fight.

"You are going to be the skilled and confident mariners and other service leaders that your country needs, and we need every one of you right now -- every one of you counts," he said.

Critical During Times of War, National Emergency

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is a federal service academy. In times of war or national emergency, Merchant Marine ships operate as an auxiliary unit to the Navy, delivering military troops, supplies and equipment overseas for U.S. forces and allies.

Graduates have a service obligation of working five years in the U.S. maritime industry with eight years of service as an officer in any reserve unit of the armed forces; or they can choose to serve five years active duty in any of the nation’s armed forces.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mattis: Naval War College Grads Will Tackle Today’s Security Challenges

By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary James N. Mattis today told this year’s U.S. Naval War College graduates he is confident they’ll carry forward the legacy of the school’s founding officers as they take their intellectual firepower forward to tackle the security challenges of our time.

“[We] are witnessing a world awash in change -- a world beset by the reemergence of great power competition, and we define the categories of challenges as urgency, power and political will,” the secretary said at the school’s Newport, Rhode Island, campus.

“We see urgency epitomized by the North Korea situation, as well as by the threat from violent extremist organizations -- two very different challenges that have our ongoing attention,” Mattis said.

And, while a possible new avenue to peace exists with North Korea, he said, the United States remains vigilant in pursuing denuclearization anywhere in the world.

Half-a-world away, despite the U.S.-led coalition’s significant success against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, extremist organizations continue to sow hatred in the Middle East and murder innocents around the world, from Europe and Africa to South Asia and the Sulu Sea, the secretary said.

Defeating Terrorism

“It is the urgency of this fight that compels us all to act decisively against terrorism, denying terrorists the safe haven they seek and carrying out this counterterrorism campaign, by with and through our allies and partners with over 70 nations united in the defeat-ISIS campaign and 41 nations united under NATO’s flag to defeat terrorism in Afghanistan,” Mattis said.

The United States views Russia as the nation closest to ours in nuclear parity, and it has proven willing to use conventional and irregular power in violation of international norms, the secretary said.

“For the first time since World War II, Russia has been the nation that has redrawn international borders by force of arms in Georgia and Ukraine while pursuing veto authority over neighbors’ diplomatic, economic and security decisions,” Mattis said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to shatter NATO, and he aims to diminish the appeal of the Western democratic model and undermine America’s moral authority, the secretary said.

“[Putin’s] actions are designed not to challenge our arms at this point, but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals,” Mattis said.

Open International Order

There is a potential rivalry with China, as it harbors long-term designs to rewrite the existing global order, Mattis said, adding that after World War II, the U.S. and its allies and partners built the open international order that’s benefited global prosperity.

“It’s unrealistic to believe today that China will not seek to replicate its internal authoritarian model elsewhere as it expands globally,” the secretary said.

In response to those competitive challenges of urgency, power and political will, the Defense Department in January released its first National Defense Strategy in more a decade with three lines of effort, Mattis said. They are, he said: building a more lethal military force, strengthening U.S. military alliances and building new partnerships and the reforming and modernizing DoD for greater performance, accountability and affordability to ensure DoD earns the trust of Congress and the American people.

The Future

Mattis said he expects the school’s graduates “to be at the top of your game mentally, physically and spiritually, and to work to maintain that standard throughout the rest of your career.”

The graduates, he added, now have “the credentials to measure up in the crucible of combat, and your character must do the rest.”

The students’ yearlong education at the college has prepared them well to integrate naval, joint and coalition campaigns across all domains of air, land and sea -- and space and cyberspace, Mattis said.

“We are counting on you graduates to live and breathe the ‘fighting admiral’ ethos, regardless of your rank or position, branch of service or nationality,” he said.

“Keep your wits about you, keep your grace under fire, your civility with subordinates; inspiring those you lead with humility and intellectual rigor, and reconciling war’s grim realities with your political leaders’ aspirations,” Mattis said.

Idaho Army Guard Members Get Sniper Training

By Air Force Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur, 124th Fighter Wing

ORCHARD COMBAT TRAINING CENTER, Idaho -- Hidden beneath twigs and weeds, the three snipers’ stomachs are flat on the ground with dirt and grime on their faces.

It’s a 90-degree day. A drip of sweat rolls down into the lead sniper’s eye, stinging and smearing the camouflage paint on his face.

The sniper does not blink amid the stillness.

‘I Have Eyes on the Target’

“I have eyes on the target,” faintly whispers Army Staff Sgt. Matt Koerner, lead sniper section sergeant. “Calling it in.”

The Idaho Army National Guard was recently tasked with forming a small sniper scout platoon, a first for 2nd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team.

“It’s our very first sniper platoon for Idaho, and one of the challenges is finding qualified individuals,” said Army Maj. Jason Gracida, 2-116 battalion commander. “Once we get them through sniper school, they can come back and teach those younger future snipers.”

The job of a sniper requires extensive training, attention to detail and complete discipline with stillness. Snipers risk exposure if they move too quickly.

The platoon, established a year ago, started with two previously qualified instructors. This year’s training coincides with the brigade’s two-week annual training at the Orchard Combat Training Center here. The two qualified snipers have spent the previous year training the new platoon.

“Our instructors have done a fantastic job training the platoon and putting them through the ringer. Those two have worked tirelessly to get them ready for their first lane today,” Gracida said. “This is the first time they have ever actually employed sniper lanes, heading toward a certain area to begin their stalk.”

‘Vegged Up’

Stalking is a stealthy, slow business. The sniper pays attention with an extreme amount of focus for details to remain undercover and hidden. Creeping slowly, inch by inch, can take up to two hours just to move 10 feet. Snipers wear a ghillie suit, which is a uniform sewn together with fabric resembling vegetation to blend in with their surroundings.
Hidden beneath twigs and weeds, a sniper’s stomach is flat on the ground, dirt and grime on his face. All that can be seen in the bundles of cheatgrass is a pair of steady, intense eyes.

“It’s called vegged up. We grab weeds and sticks from the environment, [then] cut them and attach them to the ghillie suit,” Koerner said.

Using high-powered binoculars and rifle scopes to scout the surrounding area, the snipers will locate the high-value target and call the battalion commander to report the target has been found. Then, the sniper will wait for further instruction.

“Today, they will go out and start their lane. It is a 2,000-meter stalk. They will ghillie suit up and basically low crawl through the dirt throughout the evening. By morning, they will have identified their target and call it in to me,” Gracida said.

Slowly reaching up with his hand, Koerner grabs a thick branch of sagebrush and prepares for the final stages of movement. The team is now in a sniper’s hide where they can conduct their reconnaissance. They keep a log of their observations and sketch the terrain, painting a picture of enemy activity, before calling it in to their commander.

“The effective sniper team has to be able to move into an area, remain undetected and report enemy activity. Get in and get out, unseen,” Koerner said.