New software helps Army roll out training apps faster

By MIKE CASEY
Combined Arms Center

The Army is picking up the pace to make more training mobile applications available for Soldiers’ smart phones and computer tablets.

Recently a team of Soldiers and civilians at Fort Eustis, Virginia, started using software to ensure Army mobile apps meet government security requirements and other standards.

“With this new vetting software, we can expedite getting proponent-approved and cyber-secure mobile apps to the force,” said Lt. Col. Joe Harris, Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager-Mobile (TCM Mobile). “Soldiers are getting accurate, up-to-date training content.”

TCM Mobile has used the software to vet nearly 80 mobile applications for infantry training, gunnery practice, reporting sexual harassment and other topics. Its effort is part of a broader Army campaign to get training and educational materials to Soldiers when and where they need them.

Last year, TCM Mobile started posting mobile applications to the TRADOC Application Gateway hosted by TRADOC Capability Manager, Army Training Information System as well on commercial sites such as iTunes, Google Play and Windows Phone.

To make sure the applications met standards, TCM Mobile relied on a private company or another defense organization.

“The process was expensive and time consuming,” Harris said. “We decided to get our own vetting software from a private company. Now we can do the vetting ourselves. Our goal is have 200 or more mobile applications, vetted, approved and posted by the end of next year.”

TCM Mobile also is certifying units’ applications for wider use in the Army.

“A number of Army organizations developed mobile applications for themselves,” said Matt Maclaughlin, TCM Mobile’s senior mobile instructional design specialist. “By vetting these units’ applications, we’re building a validated, secure, mobile application library to help Soldiers throughout the Army.”

In addition to using the software, TCM Mobile utilizes a human-in-the-loop check to ensure the applications meet standards.

TCM Mobile is part of the Combined Arms Center—Training at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. CAC-T develops training requirements, fields training systems, delivers leader training and sustains training capabilities to support Army institutional and operational training of Soldiers, leaders, and units to successfully execute Unified Land Operations in complex, ambiguous environments.

NCO killed in Afghanistan posthumously promoted, awarded Bronze Star

NCO Journal staff report

Sgt. John Perry, 30, was posthumously promoted to staff sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star after being killed in a suicide bombing in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

Perry, 30, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, who also died in the Veterans Day attack, served with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, which has been deployed to Afghanistan since late summer.

Two military contractors were also killed in the bombing.

“I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of the fallen, and I want to reassure the loved ones of those injured that they are getting the best possible care,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in a news release. “Force protection is always a top priority for us in Afghanistan, and we will investigate this tragedy to determine any steps we can take to improve it. For those who carried out this attack, my message is simple. We will not be deterred in our mission to protect our homeland and help Afghanistan secure its own future.”

PerryIubelt

Sixteen other U.S. service members and one Polish soldier were wounded in the Bagram blast by a suicide bomber with an explosive vest, the Pentagon said. The Taliban claimed responsibility. The attacker struck as people were gathering for a Veterans Day fun run.

Days earlier, six people were killed and more than 100 were wounded at the German Consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, the Associated Press reported.

Perry joined the Army in 2008 and was a test, measurement and diagnostic equipment maintenance support specialist who had been at Bagram about two months, the San Antonio (Texas) Express-News reported. He was on his second deployment to Afghanistan, having served there from August 2010 to July 2011. Iubelt joined the Army last year and was a motor transport operator. He was on his first deployment, arriving in Afghanistan in September.

Perry’s father, Stewart Perry, told California television station Fox 40 that before the bombing, Perry had changed a training location, moving a group of Soldiers away from the larger crowd gathered for the run.

“He made a decision that saved a lot of people’s lives,” Stewart Perry said.

Perry’s father and other members of his family traveled to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, to meet Staff Sgt. Perry’s remains. That trip made headlines after first-class passengers reportedly booed when Stewart Perry and his family were let off a plane early to catch a connecting flight.

Stewart Perry, though, commended the Army and the government for its treatment of his son and his family to Fox 40. Vice President Joe Biden was among the dignitaries who met the family at Dover Air Force Base.

“We really appreciate what Vice President Biden did and his care,” Stewart Perry said. “He stood on that flight line and saluted with his hand across his chest.”

 

SMA visits, talks professional development with Soldiers in Italy

By STAFF SGT. LANCE POUNDS
U.S. Army Africa

The 15th Sergeant Major of the Army visited Soldiers and senior enlisted leaders assigned to U.S. Army Garrison-Italy tenant units to discuss his Army-wide leader development initiatives.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey hosted two town hall meetings during his visit from Nov. 16-18 to Vicenza, Italy. The first was directed toward Soldiers in the ranks of staff sergeant and below; the second was directed toward sergeant first class and above. The intent was to share with them the changes that have been made, how it affects their careers, and the future of the profession.

Dailey first talked about Soldier readiness, the Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley’s number one priority. Dailey said NCO-led, individual and collective training is vital to the responsible drawdown of the force.

Sustain and retain the best

Dailey said the way to sustain and retain the best enlisted Soldiers is through NCO professional development schools. He said changes were being made to ensure noncommissioned officers throughout the Army received the training opportunities for career advancement.

The first professional development school Soldiers attend is called the Basic Leader Course. In this course, junior Soldiers in the ranks of private first class through specialist, sergeant, and in some cases staff sergeant, receive tactical-level leadership training needed to lead small groups of Soldiers.

The next school is the Advanced Leader Course. The curriculum of this course is intended to develop junior leaders, in the ranks of sergeant through staff sergeant, by exposing them to the operational-level leadership training needed to lead squad and platoon sized units. In addition, this course is branch-specific and is intended to develop the skill and proficiency of a Soldier’s military occupational specialty.

The Senior Leader Course, intended for Soldiers in the rank of sergeant first class through master sergeant, provides leadership, technical and tactical skills, knowledge and experience needed to lead platoon- and company-sized units.

Currently, the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy is the only NCO professional development school acknowledged by military and civilian organizations as an accredited academic institution. However, some colleges do recognize and provide lateral credit for successful completion of BLC, ALC and SLC.

Dailey said there are plans to increase the level of accreditation of all professional development schools. He added that in order to develop leaders “we must take opportunities to invest in the person.”

Investing in the person

“Someone saw the potential in me,” Dailey said, during a flashback story of how he was inspired to serve beyond his initial contract.

According to Dailey, in order to maintain the stewardship of the profession leaders must invest in their Soldiers. He said it is for this reason the Army is changing how leaders are evaluated.

On Jan. 1, the Army released a revised version of the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report intended to better assess the performance and future potential of enlisted leaders.

Dailey said the new evaluation will help restore balance to the reporting system. He added that previous reports indicated 80 percent of NCOs were evaluated as, “among the best.” Dailey said that system took away from those who truly earned top marks on their evaluations.

America’s perception

According to Dailey, last month was the first time in 20 years the Army ranked as the number one choice for civilians seeking a career in the military.

Dailey accredited this to ongoing efforts to change the way Americans perceive the Army. He gave an analogy that explained the perception of pride.

“All Marines, even those kicked out of service, if asked, proudly say they are ‘Marines for life,’” Dailey said. “We can train, educate and promote a Soldier through retirement; then pay them for the rest of their life, and we still suck.”

Dailey further explained perception with word-cloud graphics, which depicted words associated with each service. “Educated” was a word associated with both the Air Force and Navy, while “Dangerous” associated to the Marines and Army. The most disheartening word Dailey said was “Average”, which was only associated with the Army.

Other words associated with the Army were “ordinary” and “low skill,” which led Dailey to ask attendees, “Why is it less than other services?”

One attendee stated that while serving as a recruiter, he noticed people’s perception of the services began the moment they enter a recruiter’s office. Dailey agreed, and then added approximately 69 percent of those who join were influenced by current or former service members.

Setting the example

As the most senior enlisted leader of the Army, Dailey understands that every decision he makes will have an effect on those he leads.

“Good, bad, right or wrong, my presence influences people,” Dailey said, and on Nov. 17 Dailey’s influence would have a lasting effect on one Soldier’s career.

During his visit Dailey promoted Spc. James Sheridon, a USARAF command driver and native of Wayne, Mich., to the rank of sergeant.

“It was an honorable experience,” Sheridon said. “Dailey’s willingness to take time to recognize a junior Soldier sets an example for all NCOs to follow.”

“If he can make the time, we can, too,” said the newly promoted sergeant.

U.S. Army’s most senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, promotes a junior enlisted Soldier, Spc. James Sheridan, one of U.S. Army Africa’s command drivers, to the rank of Sergeant, Nov. 17, 2016, in front of the USARAF headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. The promotion to sergeant marks a pivotal role change in a Solider’s career from one who is given tasks to one who gives tasks. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)
U.S. Army’s most senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, promotes a junior enlisted Soldier, Spc. James Sheridan, one of U.S. Army Africa’s command drivers, to the rank of Sergeant, Nov. 17, 2016, in front of the USARAF headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. The promotion to sergeant marks a pivotal role change in a Solider’s career from one who is given tasks to one who gives tasks. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)

Cyber’s impact on military strategy

By STAFF SGT. MATHEW TINSLEY
782nd Military Intelligence Battalion

Within America’s military “cyber” has held status as a powerful buzzword for many years. At all levels of military planning and operations, leaders of units have tried to get a piece of the cyber pie and integrate its concepts into their operations. One of the central questions that has persisted around cyber is how and to what extent will cyber conflict require a reconsideration of strategy. The military exists largely in two broad areas: the strategic level of long-term and large-scale planning, and the tactical level of smaller-scale, short-term operations. Cyber will undoubtedly have an effect on both of these operational domains.

When examining both domains, cyber’s effect on strategy can be examined from a short-term and long-term perspective. The military’s strategic level deals with long-term plans crafted at high levels of leadership. Strategic plans tend to address questions dealing with conducting entire war campaigns. From this perspective, in the short term, new cyber capabilities will require little reconsideration of the basic strategies the military employs. The Department of Defense’s mission is overall national defense, primarily from foreign adversaries. That has not and will not change. Even in the 2015 release of the DOD’s cyber strategy, Defense Secretary Ash Carter compared challenges posed by cyber to old Cold War challenges. The reason for this is that, initially, new technology is viewed from the perspective of what is familiar to the user. The military as a whole simply took cyber and used it to optimize its existing strategies and methods. Cyber has been used in new avenues of foreign intelligence, it gives commanders new ways to view battlefields and it has been integrated into weapons systems. But the base strategies the military employs have yet to really change. The most notable short-term change comes from the military’s job to defend the United States. In the past, attacks on U.S. soil and U.S. infrastructure the military needed to respond to were few and far between, with 9/11 and Pearl Harbor being prominent instances. But with the ever-increasing worldwide connectivity in the digital age, American infrastructure, government and industry are constantly open to attack from foreign entities and governments. The result is that for some military components, actively defending the United States is a full-time job.

Long-term changes, on the other hand, have the possibility of prompting a massive change to military strategy. The world has already seen hints of possible cyber strategy for the future. Between 2011 and 2013, Iran initiated cyber attacks on U.S. infrastructure, including banks, dams and educational institutions. Although the attacks were minimized, they showed the potential for damage to the nation. One bank, Zions Bancoporation, lost more than $400,000 while its website was down for only two hours. If larger institutions or a large number of financial institutions were targeted for long periods of time, the financial damage could be upward of millions or billions of dollars. Iran targeted infrastructure that could cause physical damage as well. The Bowman Avenue Dam in New York was breached by Iran hackers to the point where they could have controlled sluice gates that hold back water. Luckily, the controls had been manually disconnected for maintenance around the same time, which prevented the Iranian hackers from actually having control over the dam. More devastating cyber attacks were seen in 2008 during the Russo-Georgian War. Russian cyber attacks were coordinated with the Russian invasion of Georgia. As the Russians advanced into the country and fighting ramped up, so did the cyber campaign. Given that it was 2008 and Georgia had a relatively basic technology infrastructure, the Russian attacks were mainly designed to cause confusion during their ground campaign. But given the current situation in the Ukraine, the Russo-Georgian War seems to provide warnings when examined in hindsight. The question for the future is how advanced and efficient these techniques can become. Will we see the capability to shut down entire power grids, communication structures, water systems or dams? If so, and if we do not maintain the ability to defend them, the devastation from such cyber attacks could start and end wars before any ground troops are deployed or kinetic weapons are fired. At the very least, cyber capabilities will become more integrated into strategic plans as the world continues to become more reliant on technology and digital communications.

The tactical side of the equation is relatively stable. In the short term, the strategies employed by ground troops in their operations will remain the same, while new cyber-based capabilities are employed to support those operations. One of the most visible integrations we see today is the ability to quickly and accurately locate targets. Especially given the often chaotic state of urban warfare — where a mix of friendly, hostile and neutral elements are all intermixed — the ability to quickly and accurately characterize all three groups is vital. In reality, the military has been integrating these capabilities into ground operations for a while, but incorporating them into the everyday unit on a large scale is the new challenge. In October of 2015, the Army tested these capabilities on a large scale with a cyber validation exercise that occurred at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. The 780th Military Intelligence Brigade provided cyber capability support to the 2-2 Infantry Division and the 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade. Traditional military units were able to provide adequate support and protection to the cyber elements that aided in target identification and verification. This type of cyber support is used in many other instances, such as drone targeting, and has been used not only for identification of high-value targets but has also aided in identifying and tracking hostages. None of these ideas or strategies are really new, but cyber is accomplishing them in new ways and, at times, accomplishes them more accurately, making ground troops’ job easier and safer.

Long-term changes are dependent on the type of technological changes that occur in the future. The drone program has become one of the most visible — and for some, the most concerning — use of modern technology in military operations. Currently, the drones are just planes with no physical cockpit, and the actual act of targeting and firing upon targets is controlled by humans. But many are already talking about the possibility of letting drones be fully controlled by computers. These drones would draw on intelligence sources, verify targets, make decisions about risk and decide whether to fire, all without a human’s direct input. These weapons are actually pretty easy to make and have been made already. The questions about implementing these into normal everyday operations come down more to ethics than capability. Should computers be deciding who dies? Are computer databases of laws and treaties good enough for a computer to cross-reference and then decide if international law can be breached? Who is accountable if the computer makes a mistake? At this point, the consensus is that this is a terrible idea. An open letter was presented at the opening of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in 2015 warning of the dangers of weapons under the control of artificial intelligence. This letter was endorsed by the likes of Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, and more than 40 robotics researchers from around the world.  Even the DOD decided to address this topic years ago with DOD Directive 3000.09, which stipulates that all weapons systems must be designed to have “appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force.” From this, it seems that in the future, cyber will not replace or eliminate the need for human ground troops. How extensively cyber gets integrated with tactical operations has yet to be seen.

Cyber, like all new forms of technology, has affected all aspects of our lives, and the military is not immune from its influence. Computer technology has been integrated into the lives of everyone from the commander in chief all the way down to the enlisted Soldier on a patrol. How far this integration goes in the future is really up to the imagination of technology inventors and innovators. For now, cyber seeks to make the lives of Soldiers easier, more efficient and safer.

U.S. Army Pvt. Christian Garcia, a radar operator (foreground), and Spc. James Craig (background), a Field Artillery surveyor, both from the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, weave cords through the camouflage net in order to keep their radar and area of operation concealed during Saber Strike 16 at Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 19, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)
U.S. Army Pvt. Christian Garcia, a radar operator (foreground), and Spc. James Craig (background), a Field Artillery surveyor, both from the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, weave cords through the camouflage net in order to keep their radar and area of operation concealed during Saber Strike 16 at Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 19, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)

Ex-Minnesota Guardsman loses controversial decision in latest UFC bout

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Timothy Johnson sought to climb higher in the UFC rankings Saturday. The trek began with a lofty challenge.

The former sergeant in the Minnesota Army National Guard faced a mismatch in his heavyweight bout against Alexander Volkov as part of the main card of “UFC Fight Night 99 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Johnson was taking on a fighter four inches taller and with more than a two-inch reach advantage in the 6-foot-7 Russian.

But Johnson, an NCO of the 134th Brigade Support Battalion until last month, has not only faced stiff challenges before, he has conquered them. He appeared to do that again Saturday, dropping Volkov with a sizzling uppercut in the opening round and keeping the lanky kickboxer at bay for most of the bout. When the fight went to the judges, one of them scored all three rounds for Johnson. But the other two saw it differently, giving Volkov scores of 29-28 and a controversial split-decision win.

Only winners of the night’s bouts attended the post-fight news conference. While there, Volkov heaped plenty of praise on his opponent.

“It was a great fight with a great opponent and he did a lot in the fight. Basically, I feel a split decision was a good decision because he did a lot too. But I won,” Volkov said.

It was Volkov’s UFC debut, but he entered the octagon with much ballyhoo, having been the heavyweight champion of the Bellator fighting organization some years ago. His lengthy frame and kickboxing expertise was expected to be a big advantage over the burly American and former collegiate wrestling star. Early on, that notion seemed to come to fruition as Volkov tagged Johnson in the opening minute with long combinations and pinned him against the fence. But just as Volkov seemed poised to end the fight, Johnson uncorked a big uppercut that crumpled the Russian. Johnson worked Volkov into the mat and the fence for the remainder of the round, seemingly winning it despite his bad start

Johnson opened the second round with a looping combination and the fighters moved into the clinch. Both fighters traded positions several times with neither really taking control. When they weren’t in the clinch, Volkov showed more offense, but Johnson was the one landing the better blows.

The third round saw Johnson slow down tremendously as Volkov opened with punches before moving into the clinch. He controlled the action the entire round though he never landed a takedown. In the end, it was enough to sway two judges.

The fight was Johnson’s final contracted fight with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He stepped away from the National Guard to focus solely on fighting. The loss doesn’t offer much clarity on his future with the world’s premier fighting organization considering the controversial decision. But he did enter the match ranked No. 15 among a stacked heavyweight division and owning a win over Shamil Abdurakhimov, who will headline a UFC card next month. But Johnson has always displayed a willingness to fight through adversity, whether on the mat, in the field or in the cage. He credits his time as an NCO with developing that fortitude.

“You learn to be Gumby, to be flexible,” Johnson told the NCO Journal in a previous interview. “(Being an NCO) it’s taught me to get in there, it’s taught me to have the mentality of just going and getting the work done.”