Military News

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.

Fort Bragg Air Assault School Teaches Soldiers, Civilians the Ropes


By Army 1st Lt. Chantel Baul, 372nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Every year, the U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition tests soldiers’ physical endurance, mental agility and tactical proficiency in a host of essential skills. Rappelling is one of those skills.

This year’s competition here began June 10 and ends today. Competitors first received instruction from the skilled cadre at the Deglopper Air Assault School.

The competitors ascended the 34-foot tower to complete a traditional, walled rappel and an open-air rappel. After a few hours with the instructors the soldiers were trained and ready for the next mission: rappelling from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter hovering 60 feet above ground.

Rapelling Training

Named for Army Pfc. Charles Deglopper, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient, the air assault school’s training expertise involves all things rappelling, including fast-roping and infiltration and exfiltration operations.

“We support Fort Bragg in pretty much all rotary-wing operations,” explained Army Capt. Daniel Oberrender, the commander of the air assault school. Part of the 18th Airborne Corps, the Deglopper Air Assault School trains installation and nonlocal units for upcoming missions that require special skills. For example, the school trained soldiers from several units for humanitarian missions throughout the nation and Puerto Rico during last year’s hurricane season.

“We have a lot of units that go on a deployment that may not have been participating in rotary operations or sling-load operations. So, they’ll give us a call and we’ll send instructors out to their training site,” Oberrender said.

Highly Trained Instructors

The air assault school has 22 highly trained instructors, the captain said.

“We average about 90 days to get an instructor qualified,” Oberrender said.

He credits his team of top-notch noncommissioned officer instructors for the school’s success. “The talent is in those instructors. We let them flourish; let them train the soldiers,” Oberrender said. “They’re amazing at what they do. I’m so blessed to have an opportunity to be here with them.”

The school recently hosted a special community engagement event in advance of the NASCAR Coca Cola 600 race in Charlotte, North Carolina. Fox and Friends news personality Heather Childers and top driver Austin Dillon visited the school for some training on the tower. And the school instructors teamed up with soldiers from Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division to kick off the Coca Cola 600 on May 27 with an exciting fast rope/rappelling demonstration.

The air assault school welcomes civilian organizations, especially those with military affiliations, to take on the rappelling tower. The instructors are happy to provide training to the public as a team-building exercise.

“We like to reach out to the community. Come out here and hang out with us a little while. We’ll make sure that you’re safe and have a good time,” Oberrender said.