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‘Geronimo EKIA’ How the SEALs

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Contents 12




Letter from the Publisher



Procurement and Operations 36

Raining Hell From Above Jerry-rigged Combat Spear delivers the might of an AC-130 gunship at a fraction of the cost By Bruce Rolfsen


Osama bin Laden


Enemy Killed in Action: How our SEALs “got him”

Have Smartphone, Will Travel Will iPads and cellphones be a special operator’s new best friend?

By Philip Ewing

By Rich Tuttle


The Legend of Dick Meadows


Air Force Rescue Guardian Angel isn’t just a job--it’s a calling

From Son Tay to Desert One and beyond, Meadows was there

By Julie Bird

By Tom Breen

54 24

Operation Red Wings

Technology provides an edge when failure is not an option

The story of how heroes are made

By Rich Tuttle

By Tom Breen


Special Forces, Special Tools


SOF Survivability

Fire in Their Hearts

SPEAR sharpens special operators’ protective edge in battle

Osama bin Laden’s death tightens bonds between FDNY firehouse and Navy SEALs

By Julie Bird

By Tom Breen S u m m e r 2 0 11 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D



D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S p r i n g 2 0 1 0

Contents 69




‘12 Procurement preview

On the Homefront 74

Virtual Training It’s not just videogames and laser tag


Air Force SOCOM: Adding planes, personnel

By Tony Mecia

By Lee Ewing


Army SOCOM: Rapid manpower growth By Lee Ewing



Dedication By Gary Willliams

Marine SOCOM: Force-structure increase By Thomas Day


Naval Special Warfare: Upgraded watercraft

Louder than Words

By Michael Fabey


2011 SUMM

on the cover








D LEGEN of ck Maj. Di



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Washington National Guard Sgt. Ryan McDonald is a member of the Northwest Special Operations Parachute Team as well as a combat engineer.



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Rescue Hero

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www.defensestandard.com 2011 SUMMER EDITION

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Joe Gonzalez Bill Clark Martin McAuliffe Cheri Brink Jerry L. Montgomery, Col. USAF (RET) Lee Anne McAuliffe Sammy Rosario

Supporting the Children of Fallen Rescue Heroes

Fritz Casper Joseph C. Bodiford Justin DeJesus Benjamin Peabody

WRITERS: Julie Bird

Lee Ewing

Tony Mecia

Tom Breen

Philip Ewing

Bruce Rolfsen

Thomas Day

Michael Fabey

Rich Tuttle

Dedicated to the Memory of

Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Glen Shields U.S. Navy Seabee, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Medal of Honor Recipient December 30, 1939 - June 9, 1965

THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE FOUNDATION A 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization.

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For more information about this dedication, we ask you to please turn to page 81.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited. The opinions expressed within this publication do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher. Defense Standard LLC assumes no responsibilites for the advertisements or any representations made in this publication. Defense Standard LLC in unable to accept, or hereby expressly disclaims, any liability for the consequences of inaccuracies or omissions of such information occurring during the publishing of such information for publication. Disclaimer: Neither the Department of Defense nor any other United States Government agency has approved, endorsed or authorized this publication in any form. No such inference is suggested, promoted or communicated in any manner.



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Publisher’s Note


here is no better example than the successful raid against Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani compound to show why every penny of funding for Special Operations Forces is worth it. From the Army Night Stalker helicopters slipping in under Pakistani radar to the Navy SEALs methodically making their way through the compound toward their target, the mission was everything we have come to expect from the best of the best. They had contingency plans for problems like the loss of a helicopter, as we would expect. And they succeeded in their mission, as we also expect. Men, we salute you. Indeed, this entire issue salutes Special Operations in all its glory, starting with a recap of the mission that took out bin Laden. There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened that night, but we know the most important thing: Mission accomplished. We also visit with some New York City firefighters with a unique perspective on the mission. Their story goes back to the story of Operation Red Wings, a 2005 mission in Afghanistan led by Lt. Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL, who honored the FDNY by wearing the patch of El Barrio’s Bravest. Nineteen SEALs and Night Stalkers died in the operation and the rescue mission, and Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Murphy had a special relationship with the El Barrio’s Bravest firefighters in Spanish Harlem, who mourned the loss of their brethren in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Since Murphy’s death, that relationship has evolved into a brotherhood between the firehouse crew and SEALs across the nation. So the fact that Navy SEALs eliminated the scourge that was Osama bin Laden just reinforced those bonds. Tom Breen brings us the story of this remarkable friendship. Speaking of remarkable, Breen also writes about the legend of Dick Meadows, a special operator who was there for the raid on the Son Tay prison in North Vietnam, the Desert One hostage rescue attempt in

Iran, the beginning of the U.S. Special Operations Command, and more operations since. We’ll never know everything Dick Meadows did, but we do know he played a key role in making Special Operations what it is today – a force capable of assaulting a fortress hiding the elusive Osama bin Laden. That force knows not only how to plan, but to improvise. Consider the MC-130W Combat Spear, a C-130 variant used by Air Force Special Operations Command to clandestinely infiltrate enemy territory to refuel SOF helicopters or drop SOF troops behind enemy lines. Unable to keep up with the demand for its AC-130 Spectre gunships, AFSOC is modifying a dozen Combat Spears with a gunship package known as Dragon Spear. Bruce Rolfsen describes the transformation. Special Operations troops also are improvising on the battlefield with new apps being developed for smartphones, iPads and other handheld computing devices ideal for small units interacting with locals or needing lots of computing power in a small package. Rich Tuttle explores this brave new world. Finally, a personal note. Earlier this month I was privileged to attend the christening in Bath, Maine, of the guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112). Our team worked hard to produce a publication commemorating the event, which moved me beyond words. As the Navy honors Murphy, we honor the hundreds of thousands of military men and women, past and present, whose sacrifice keeps us free. Godspeed.

David Peabody PUBLISHER

S u m m e r 2 0 11 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D



D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S p r i n g 2 0 11

Enemy Killed In Action: HOW OUR SEALs ‘GOT HIM’ By Philip Ewing


ASHINGTON -- Osama bin Laden spent the last day of his life on Earth in a walled compound custom-built to hide him from it. The compound had no telephone or Internet connections to the local grid. Its balconies were built with seven-foot walls, so the 6-foot, 4-inch bin Laden could take the air without being seen. Its gray exterior walls rose 18 feet and were crowned with barbed wire, to foil onlookers and frustrate anyone attempting to scale them. And yet in the early hours of May 2, local time, death breached the defenses of bin Laden’s miniature fortress. It came, as it often does, as the companion of American special operators, who dropped out of the night sky to repay a 10-year-old debt of blood on behalf of millions of people across the world. The names of the men who settled the score may never be known, but this spring, their story captivated the world’s imagination as few special operations ever have. From initial accounts, senior officials and early reports, it’s possible to piece together a basic picture of the night bin Laden was killed, with the caveat that some aspects of the story may never be told. Work on the assault began months beforehand, after the frogmen of the U.S. Navy’s elite Special Warfare Development Group, known as DevGru, were ordered to draw up plans for storming the compound. These special operators are the elite of the elite Navy units that take the toughest missions on Sea, Air and Land – hence, SEALs – S u m m e r 2 0 11 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D


(LEFT): U.S. service members at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan watch President Barack Obama’s May 2 televised address on the Special Operations mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Stephen Schester

(BELOW): The unit patch for Seal Team Six, which carried out the mission to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

and they represent one of the most secret units in the world. In the Navy special warfare community, everybody knows what DevGru is and what it does, but nobody talks about it. DevGru, along with the Army’s Delta Force and other units, serves under the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C. Using satellite images of bin Laden’s compound and other surveillance data, SEALs practiced their assault for months, top defense and intelligence officials say. There are even reports of full-scale mockups at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and possibly at stateside locations, although Pentagon and White House officials declined to go into that level of detail. “Needless to say, when they hit that compound, they had already trained against it numerous times,” says John Brennan, the Obama administration’s top counterterrorism adviser. The SEALs’ ride to bin Laden’s compound apparently came from another of the U.S. military’s most elite units: The Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the Night Stalkers. A flight of Night Stalker helicopters, carrying a large team of SEAL operators, took off in darkness early May 2 and made i​ts way toward Abbottabad, likely with cover from Air Force warplanes or unmanned aerial vehicles. Two of the helicopters may have been Black Hawks modified for stealth. According to officials and reports, the compound lit up with small-arms fire almost as soon as the SEALs arrived. One 14

D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S u m m e r 2 0 11

of the helos “settled with power” because of an air vortex, officials say, and it may have touched one of the compound walls. Whatever the cause, one of the U.S. helos came down hard, although none of its passengers or crew was hurt. SEALs fast-roped from the other helicopter and immediately got to work. They spent 40 minutes on the ground. ​The SEALs began with a small, one-story outbuilding that housed two of bin Laden’s trusted couriers, men whom American officials believe built and owned the hideaway compound. Both of them were killed. The SEALs then moved to a larger, three-story building — the main structure inside the compound, where bin Laden lived with his family. Bin Laden was killed in his bedroom, toward the end of the operation, American officials say. He was shot more than once, although accounts differ about exactly how many times and where. “Geronimo EKIA,” the SEAL team reported, according to news accounts. Geronimo, code name for bin Laden; EKIA, enemy killed in action. The SEALs bundled up his body and loaded it aboard one of the helicopters. They also took a trove of documents, computer hard drives and other intelligence about the workings of al Qaeda, says a senior intelligence official. The booty included a video of bin Laden watching himself on video. Although all of this was playing out less than 40 miles away

PHOTO: Getty Images

President Obama as he delivered the news of bin Laden’s death to the nation May 1 from the White House.

from the capital of Pakistan, local military and intelligence officials hadn’t been told about any of it. In fact, the American helicopters apparently lit up the local air-defense radars, and the Pakistani air force scrambled fighter jets to chase the intruders. New York Rep. Peter King, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said May 3 the SEALs flew back to Afghanistan “not knowing whether they’d be intercepted by Pakistani jets.” But they made it out, and immediately SEAL operators and CIA officers went to work verifying the body they had recovered belonged to the world’s most wanted man. It was 6-foot-4, like bin Laden, and what remained of its face matched photographs of him. At the same time, the American operators took a sample of the body’s DNA, for comparison with bin Laden’s relatives, and officials in Washington later said it made for a near-perfect match. All that remained was how to dispose of it. Islamic practice dictates that a body be buried within 24 hours of death, which didn’t give the State Department much time to find a country willing to accept it. That, plus an unacknowledged desire by American commanders to avoid creating a landmark for Islamic extremists, led officials to conclude bin Laden should be buried at sea. The body was flown to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, under way in the North Arabian Sea. It was washed, placed in a white sheet, and then placed in a w ​ eighted bag. It

was then taken topside, where a military officer read prepared remarks that were translated by an Arabic speaker, says a senior defense official. “After the words were complete,” he says, “the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased body eased into the sea.” Al Qaeda later confirmed that bin Laden was killed in the raid.​ The mission stakes were enormous, observers noted. “These missions only go one of two ways. They’re either successful or they’re not,” says Joe Ruffini, a retired Army colonel and founder of JPR and Associates, a management consulting firm in Colorado Springs, Colo., specializing in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. “It’s kind of like bases loaded, two outs, it’s a full count, you’re the pitcher, your team is up by one run, you’re going to throw that one pitch and you’re only going to walk off the mound either a hero or a bum. There’s no in-between.” The strike against bin Laden was “like something out of a movie,” he adds. “They go in, they get what they want, they come out and there’s no casualties. It hardly ever happens.” The mission was “a remarkable display of professionalism by so-called Tier 1 Special Operations units,” retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey said in a Seattle television interview. “They came a long way on this raid with a small number of people that launched out of Afghanistan, and S u m m e r 2 0 11 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D


thankfully they accomplished their mission.” Building the intelligence to launch such a mission takes time, retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and of Joint Special Operations Command, said in a speech reported by the Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs. “Think of what would have happened if the mission had not been successful, and all of the second-guessing that would have happened.” ​​The mission itself came down to basics – human intelligence and hard work, says David Staffell, CEO of Aptus Technologies in Round Rock, Texas, and a former Green Beret. “For 30 years we’ve been practicing this over and over and over and over, so that when the opportunity came, the capability was there. And it is a testament to the hard work and discipline of our nation’s finest.” No other country has the capabilities of U.S. Special Forces, Staffell adds. “The president was right. It’s not because of wealth, but because of who we are,” he says. “We’ve been handed down, generation after generation, that heritage from the Son Tay raiders (in Vietnam) to those who dared in Iran, and all the way to my generation here of modern warriors. That’s our heritage.” J   –Rich Tuttle contributed to this report from Colorado Springs. 16

D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S u m m e r 2 0 11

PHOTOS: Pete Souza

(LEFT): President Obama visits Fort Campbell, Ky., on May 6 to privately thank Navy SEALs and the post’s Army Night Stalkers for their role in the mission, and to speak to soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division. Vice President Joe Biden stands at left.

President Obama talks with his national security team at the end of one of a series of May 1 meetings in the White House Situation Room leading up to the raid in Pakistan. CIA Director Leon Panetta stands near the middle of the table, visible to the president’s left. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is on Obama’s immediate right. Gen. James Cartright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is seen on the screen.

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The Legend

Dick Meadows: of


D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S u m m e r 2 0 11

Hard to Believe, but True By Tom Breen


nlisting with the Army as a teenager out of West Virginia’s hardscrabble hills, Dick Meadows embraced action and results, not titles and protocol, forging a reputation as a Special Operations icon during a career spanning more than four decades. He has been gone a while now, this committed man of the military, a Green Beret who exemplified over and again the tenacity of Special Operations and military people as a whole, always bouncing back to do it better the next time around. Knock him down, and there he was again, from Korea to the drug wars in Central America, 45 years of service, a veritable walking history of U.S. Special Ops who teamed up with Col. Charlie Beckwith to shape the Delta Force at Fort Bragg in the late 1970s, leading ultimately to the Army Special Forces structure that operates today. Surviving one mission after another, he finally was taken down by leukemia in the summer of 1995. “He was the true quiet man, carrying a big stick,” says his son, Mark, of Tampa, himself a retired Army lieutenant colonel who commanded a cavalry squadron in the 10th Mountain Division and deployed to Iraq in the mid-2000s. “Dad was my hero, my mentor, the same hero everyone else saw, someone who could bring a large group to silence, without saying a word. He had that sort of presence. It was amazing to see people watch him as he walked into a room.” Now, 16 years after Dick Meadows’ death, and 64 years after he joined the military, Meadow’s contributions and commitment to Special Operations reverberate following the flawlessly executed raid in Pakistan in which a team of SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden, and as U.S. special-ops troops continue to fight virtually daily in Afghanistan, as well as participate in a range of worldwide covert missions most of us know nothing about, and may never know anything about. This summer of 2011 also is a time during which a concrete manifestation of the special-ops legacy, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Michael Murphy, leaves Bath Iron Works in Maine for the Navy’s fleet. Every time a crew member pounds the deck of the Navy’s new destroyer, the image of its Medal of Honor namesake, standing in the barren treacherousness of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, dying to protect his men, will burst to life. It is that way, too, every time a troop passes by the lifelike statue of Meadows at U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C. Paid for by former presidential candidate Ross Perot, who called Meadows a “real-life James Bond” during a dedication ceremony several years back, the 8-foot-tall, 900-pound statue chiseled by Lawrence Ludtke of Houston shows Meadows as he was: dignified, unassuming and fearsome, never pompous, vain, or mean-spirited -- an “exact likeness of Dick,” said one retired sergeant major at the time. (OPPOSITE): Meadows as a captain in the 1960s after receiving his battlefield commission from Gen. William Westmoreland. (RIGHT): The gung-ho West Virginia boy lied about his age to enlist in the Army in 1947 at age 15.

Maj. Richard J. (Dick) Meadows BORN: June 16, 1932, in Beckley, W. Va.

also was attached to the British Special Air Service

DIED: July 19, 1995, of leukemia in Crestview, Fla.

special operations unit.

FAMILY: Wife Pam, son Mark (a retired Army

COMBAT: Served in Korea and Vietnam and led

lieutenant colonel) and daughter Michele.

or participated in scores of Special Operations

MILITARY SERVICE: Joined at age 15, becoming

missions, including the 1970 Ivory Coast operation

one of the nation’s youngest master sergeants by

to free American POWs near Hanoi.

age 19, and receiving a battlefield commission

AWARDS: Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver


Stars, Bronze Star with V Device, Air Medal, Legion








of Merit, Combat Infantryman Badge, Master

ASSIGNMENTS: Served with the Green Berets out

Parachutists Badge, Ranger Tab, Scuba Badge

of Fort Bragg, N.C., and in Vietnam was assigned

and the President’s Citizens Medal.

to the prestigious Military Assistance Command --

MEMORIALS: A statue has been erected in his

Studies and Observation Group. At one point, he

honor at Fort Bragg. Source: U.S. Army

​ Meadows’ accomplishments are staggering. ​As former President Clinton noted in a Presidential Citizens Medal award given to Meadows shortly before his death in 1995, “His exceptional Special Forces and civilian career included operations behind enemy lines in Vietnam for which he received a rare battlefield commission, leadership in a daring rescue attempt of POWs at Son Tay Prison near Hanoi, infiltration in Tehran for the Desert One hostage rescue mission in 1980, and a key role in establishing Delta F ​ orce.” In short, Dick Meadows was a living personification of the Special Ops mission in which risk a​ nd danger are simply part of the job description. Meadows received the “rare battlefield commission” noted by Clinton from Gen. William Westmoreland, thencommander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, in 1966 for his daring in uncovering North Vietnamese intelligence. In the Son Tay raid, Meadows trained and led a rescue force into the infamous prison near Hanoi, only to find it cleared out when they arrived. Yet even as a failed mission, Son Tay improved conditions for American POWs; Hanoi treated them better in anticipation of more possible raids. It also served as a how-to model for the Israeli rescue mission at the 1972 Olympics. As for the 1980 hostage rescue attempt in Iran, known as Eagle Claw, Meadows posed as an Irish businessman to funnel information to U.S. rescuers, escaping before the raid 20

D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S u m m e r 2 0 11

became public. And with Delta Force, which restructured Army Special Forces, Meadows and Beckwith streamlined an already effective and powerful force. Through it all, away from the fierceness and high risk of the operations themselves, Meadows remained “genuine and unassuming, the boy next door with a CAR-15. ... No matter his rank -- master sergeant, captain, major -- all of us in Special Forces knew him as Dick Meadows, a man who didn’t need a rank to be who he was: Meadows was Meadows,” writes a Meadows friend and admirer, the author John L. Plaster, a retired Army Special Forces major. As was typical of him, Meadows being Meadows, he worked until the very end in 1995, working in an anti-drug operation in Panama, fit and looking decades younger, but suffering from extreme exhaustion. The week before he died, Meadows told Plaster about his leukemia without a trace of self-sympathy or regret. This was Dick Meadows; he did not regret anything. When Plaster asked him how long he had. Meadows said a week, and the warrior for the ages was gone six days later. “Dad fought like hell [against the disease],” Mark says. “He was trying to make it to the Son Tay reunion that weekend; he died the night before.” ​ rowing up in a family where food was a luxury, Meadows, a moonshiner’s son, spent part of his youth living in a dirt-floor shack, often passed from one family


some still do. What is known provides the stuff for movies, as Perot said at the Fort Bragg statue dedication ceremony. “He really did these things you see movie stars doing.” ​Or, as Meadows’ friend Plaster writes, “ Meadows turned into the famed Studies and Observation Group’s (SOG) most prolific prisoner snatcher, bringing back 13 NVA [North Vietnamese Army] from Laos,” an SOG record. “He once arrayed Recon Team Iowa beside a trail when instead of the desired one man, five NVA strolled up and stopped right there for lunch. Meadows stepped out and announced, ‘Good morning, gentleman. You are now POWs.’ Despite his warning, ‘No, No, No,” three went for their AKs. ... Meadows shot them faster than you read this.” Quiet, but deadly when he had to be, that was Dick Meadows. As the Vietnam War continued through the 1960s and into the 1970s, the Meadows legend swept through the services, not just the Army, as he worked a slew of operations, and gained even more momentum after his retirement in 1977 when he posed as an Irish businessman in Eagle Claw, rounding up drug smugglers in Central America, and protecting plantation owners from terrorists in Peru for a decade. It’s a cliché, perhaps, that can take the man out of Special Operations but never Special Operations out of the man. With Meadows, it’s true. Meadows first attracted public attention outside the military

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Meadows Family and USSOCOM

member to another. The Army gave him a way out. At age 15 in 1947, he signed up, taking a liberty or two with his age, later heading to combat in Korea. Even with nothing more than a ninth-grade education, Meadows had an innate intelligence that attracted Army superiors and colleagues alike, savvy and sophisticated far beyond his years, earning him promotion to master sergeant by age 19, one of the youngest in Army history. In 1953, as the Korean war was ending, Meadows joined the Army Special Forces as ​a paratrooper. It was then the work of preparing himself for the future began in earnest: honing weapons’ and survival skills, expanding his language skills, and developing personal and social traits that would serve him well in covert operations later on. “Dick was the ultimate soldier,” retired Army Gen. Wayne A. Downing, who knew him well, once said. As the 1960s dawned, Meadows’ reputation grew rapidly, first with his promotion to master sergeant and later with his temporary attachment to the British SAS (Special Air Service) Special Forces unit, which influenced him greatly later in his efforts to restructure the Army’s Special Forces. He also met his wife Pam, the daughter of an SAS sergeant major. It was his service in Vietnam that solidified his reputation as a soldier of extraordinary merit ​and bearing. Had his activities been made public, the Medal of Honor surely would have come his way, but most of his operations remained classified for years;

Dick Meadows and son Mark, now a retired Army lieutenant colonel.

Meadows in a formal studio shot in Army regalia, taken in the 1950s when he was a master sergeant.

Meadows is memorialized with a statue at Fort Bragg, the home of Army Special Operations. S u m m e r 2 0 11 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D


Meadows biography includes account of aborted 1980 Iran hostage rescue A book chronicling the life of Special Operations legend Dick Meadows is due out in September. Published by The University Press of Kentucky and written by a former member of the SAS (British Special Air Service) who knew Meadows well, the book is the first to be published about Meadows. The author, Alan “Spike” Hoe, has authored and co-authored several other books. His friendship with Meadows goes back to the 1960s when Meadows served for a time with the SAS. “My dad wanted to make sure any book about him was totally truthful, and this book is truthful,” Meadows’ son Mark said recently from his home in Tampa. Mark said his father b ​ efore his death in 1995 turned down requests from many authors, including Tom Clancy and Ken Follett, to tell his story. “My dad wanted the author to be someone who really knew him and his story, and Alan was that person.” The book is expected to focus on virtually every major operation involving Meadows, including the failed Iran hostage-rescue attempt in 1980. “For the first time, the entire story of the Iran attempt will be told,” Mark said. “And every word will be true.” ​   --Tom Breen

in 1980 when Newsweek magazine published a cover story labeled, “The Iran Rescue Mission: the Untold Story,” with a picture of Meadows next to a smaller headline that read, “The Pentagon’s Man in Tehran.” By then, about three years after his retirement from the Army, many of his colleagues and superiors were determined to get his story told: He simply had done too much for the country to remain anonymous forever. Said then-Army Col. Elliot “Bud” Snyder, ground force commander during the Son Tay raid, in an interview with Newsweek for the 1980 piece, “If he hadn’t done so many things that are classified, he’d have been the most decorated soldier in the Army.” ​ ne of his most ardent supporters was Perot, the businessman, politician and nonstop backer of the military and Special Operations who by many accounts phoned President Clinton asking him to honor Meadows with the prestigious President’s Medal. Perot first encountered Meadows after meeting with the Son Tay raiders in a session arranged by Pentagon brass. At Fort Bragg, Perot personally spent $160,000 for the statue now located



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was gentle when away from the action. His son Mark, now a defense contractor, knew as early as fifth grade he would follow ​his father’s lead into the military. Yet his father never pushed the warrior life upon him, Mark says. “He never pressured me. He just said, ‘Whatever you do, do it well.’ But I knew the military was for me.” Nowadays the younger Meadows, his mom, Pam, and sister, Michele, could not be prouder of a man who dug his way out of deep poverty in the West Virginian countryside to rise to e​ xtraordinary heights in the Army’s Special Forces.  In the end, few of us can imagine living the way Dick Meadows did, dodging one bullet after the other, sometimes facing death almost daily, a warrior’s warrior born on a summer day, dying on a summer day, and now standing tall at Fort Bragg, gone in body but larger than life, a guy who did us all proud, a warrior to the core. J

Businessman and former presidential candidate Ross Perot admired Meadows, and financed the statue erected in his honor at Fort Bragg.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Meadows Family and USSOCOM

on the Meadows Memorial Parade Field at the Army’s Special Operations headquarters. ​Nearby are two other statutes dedicated to Army Special Forces, the Special Warfare Memorial Statue, called the “Green Beret” or “Bronze Bruce,” and the Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons statue at the Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Plaza, where Special Forces troops don their Green Berets for the first time. It was Simons -- a company commander with the 6th Ranger Battalion in the Pacific during World War II who returned to service in Vietnam as the head of the 8th Special Forces Group -- who headed up the Son Tay raid with Meadows. Now, they stand together forever at Bragg, inspiration for younger warriors who may fight in another time, but with the same values. While Meadows proved to be relentless, his demeanor

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tHE sTORY of How



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The men of Operation Red Wings.

By Tom Breen

he gravestone has settled into God’s good earth, out there on the Atlantic coast, peaceful and pristine, far removed from wartime. The stone at the Calverton National Cemetery honors Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy, the first SEAL since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor. Murphy’s memorial rests near the small Long Island town of Patchogue where he grew up, on the outskirts of New York City, and several thousand miles from the Afghan mountains where he died three years ago this summer in an operation to apprehend a high-ranking enemy militant. In his Long Island town, Murphy still is remembered as the funloving kid who played ice hockey, read everything in sight as a Penn State college student including War and Peace, and chose the SEALs over law school. Now, Murphy, as he rests at Calverton, also is known as the hero of Hindu Kush. The night of June 28, 2005, was clear when guerrillas, probably from the Taliban, fired on Murphy’s team in Afghanistan’s treacherous Hindu Kush mountain range, a subset of the Himalayans, near the Pakistan border. The guerrillas, 50 or more of them, killed Murphy and his SEAL team members, Matt Axelson and Danny Dietz. A fourth SEAL with them, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, survived. As the three lay dying, and Luttrell unconscious, an MH-47 Chinook lightly armored helicopter tried to rescue them, but was shot down by the same guerrillas. Eight other SEALs, and eight Army Night Stalkers, died. More SEALs died on that day than in any other Naval Special Warfare operation in history.      Murphy made international headlines, posthumously being awarded the Medal of Honor. The other three on Murphy’s team received the second-highest honor, the Navy Cross. Their story has been told countless times, including in Luttrell’s book, Lone Survivor. On May 7, the Navy christened the USS Michael Murphy at a ceremony at Bath Iron Works in Maine. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer is expected to be accepted by the Navy later this year. Part of Luttrell’s account tells of how Murphy exposed himself to fire, heading for an open area away from jagged cliffs so he could radio for help: “(Murphy) walked to open ground. He walked until he was more S u m m e r 2 0 11 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D


Iridium salutes the courage of the brave heroes of Operation Red Wings and especially LT. Michael P. Murphy, US Navy SEAL, who knowingly and without hesitation sacrificed his life to help save his fellow soldiers. We wish a safe passage to the crew of the USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112), christened on May 7, 2011 in honor of LT. Michael P. Murphy. To all the men and women serving in the armed forces, Iridium extends its gratitude and respect.

Iridium delivers reliable, near real-time, mission-critical, global communications services and creates vital lifelines for all military branches of the U.S. Department of Defense. Iridium strives to ensure that these lines of communication are never broken.



PHOTO: U.S. Navy; GRAPHIC: Samantha Gibbons

or less in the center, gunfire all around him, and he sat on a small rock and began punching the numbers to HQ. ... I could hear him talking. ‘My men are taking heavy fire -- we’re getting picked apart. My guys are dying out here -- we need help.’ ... And right then Mikey took a bullet straight in the back. I saw the blood spurt from his chest. He slumped forward, dropping his phone and his rifle. But then he braced himself, grabbed them [phone and rifle] ... sat upright again, and once more put the phone to his ear.” Dying, Murphy said on the phone, ‘Roger that, Sir, thank you,’ and continued to ​engage the enemy.” Murphy’s “objective was clear: to make one last valiant (effort) to save his .... teammates.” Luttrell survived after being knocked unconscious, and was found later by friendly villagers.     Murphy’s actions -- phone and rifle in hand, blood spurting -- now are engraved in SEAL lore, a lasting metaphor for the valor and loyalty to one another that defines Special Operations. Indeed, out there along the jagged cliffs of the Hindu Kush, Murphy and his team took on a mythic veneer.  If it were another time in American history, during World War I or II, their valor would be locked into the American psyche, right up there with Audie Murphy from World War II, connected to Michael by spirit if not blood, and Alvin York from World War I. Yet military heroes in our current world seem to fade, recognized for a short while and then cast aside, if not forgotten. Perhaps, however, as times passes, the Saga of Red Wings will occupy its proper place in military lore.  The story of Murphy’s uncompromising bravery, as told by Luttrell, and the valor of the other SEALs and the Army Night Stalkers, is overpowering in its simplicity, yet ferocious in its retelling. It is about four men on a reconnaissance mission, doing what they were asked to do, three of them on the ground dying, and about another 16 warriors in a helicopter, rushing into help, only to be shot down and killed. Only Luttrell lived to tell the tale.    peration Red Wings’ goal on that 28th day of June in 2005 was to slay a Taliban leader in his mid-30s, Ahmad Shah, who had possible ties to Osama Bin Laden. Murphy and the other members of his SEAL team left their base in Northern Afghanistan in the still of the night, heading for the border with Pakistan to carry out the mission. The Navy today says Shah, the target of their mission, led a guerrilla group called the Mountain Tigers, which existed in a shadowy world of death and intrigue in and around the border. (For the record, Special Operations spokesmen are unsure of the precise origin of the “Red

(TOP): Lt. Michael Murphy’s SEAL team in Afghanistan: From left to right, Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, Calif; Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, N.H.; Quartermaster 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nev.; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, N.Y. With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wings. (BOTTOM): A map of Afghanistan showcasing the Hindu Kush mountains where the men of Operation Red Wings fought their last battle.

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PHOTO: Courtesy of the Murphy Family

Wings” name, although some speculate it was tied to a sports team.) After penetrating behind enemy lines, approximately 10,000 feet up in the Hindu Kush, the four SEALs found their cover blown after meeting up with two adults and a boy, either shepherds or local villagers. In Lone Survivor, Luttrell tells of how he, Murphy, Axelson, and Dietz debated whether to kill the three before ultimately deciding to release them. About an hour after the outsiders departed, an enemy force of 50 to 100 men attacked the four-member SEAL team from three sides. The four, all wounded, leapt down the mountain’s sides, jumping as much as 30 feet, the Navy said later. Less than an hour into the battle, Murphy raced into the open, aware he could not make his distress call from the terrain where they had sought cover, and soon took the bullet in the back. Despite his wounds, Murphy was able to get help from the Special Operations Quick Reaction Force at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Force Base, which dispatched the MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying the eight SEALs and eight Army N ​ ight Stalkers prepared to extract Murphy and the others from the fight that dragged through the hills and cliffs of the Hindu Kush. ​Military spokesmen later said the MH-47, designed to swoop in and leave quickly during rescue efforts, had been accompanied by heavily armored Army attack helicopters. The military said the “heavy weight” of the attack helicopters slowed the formation, prompting the MH-47 to race ahead, putting itself at risk in order to attempt to carry away Murphy and the others.   fter the deaths of Murphy, Dietz, Axelson and the 16 men aboard the MH-47, Luttrell struggled to survive on his own. As many as 35 guerrillas, probably Taliban members, also died, according to subsequent military reports. Sent sprawling over a ridge after being knocked unconscious by a rocket-propelled grenade, Luttrell had a bullet wound in one leg, shrapnel burrowing into both legs, and was suffering from dehydration, he recalled later in Lone Survivor. Still, he managed to crawl away from the carnage, evading enemy guerrillas and walking several miles before friendly villagers took him in, protected him from Taliban enemy forces, and eventually transported a note to a Marine outpost, resulting in Luttrell’s rescue on July 2, 2005. If not for Luttrell’s book, written with Patrick Robinson, the story of the events that day in the Hindu Kush might not have reached the public with such force. Luttrell also fully addresses the moral dilemma the SEAL team faced that day: Release the outsiders, or kill them? Luttrell never will know if the outsiders ran to the Taliban, but the firefight started a short time later. As for Luttrell, he soon learned about humanity at its best, when villagers including a man identifying himself as a doctor risked their own lives to save him. “There was something about him,” Luttrell writes of the villager describing himself as a doctor. “By now, I’d seen a whole lot of Taliban warriors, and he looked nothing like any of them. There was no arrogance, no hatred in his eyes.”  

PHOTO: U.S. Navy


(TOP): A 4-foot diameter granite marker stands at Serenity Plaza in the Lt. Michael Murphy Memorial Park in Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y. Murphy’s mother, Maureen, placed the basket with the New York Yankees hat at the marker. (ABOVE): Murphy peers over his shoulder during a mountaintop mission in Afghanistan.

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One of the world’s deadliest snipers chronicles his journey from basic training to elite Navy SEAL Team Six warrior– and his experience at the ferocious battle of Mogadishu

“Wasdin is a true warrior and real hero. SEAL Team Six is a must read.”

—Gunnery SGt. Jack couGhlin, uSMc, and bestselling author of Shooter



PHOTO: U.S. Army

ith the six-year anniversary of the American deaths in the Hindu Kush upon us, and the awarding of another Medal of Honor to another SEAL (for bravery in Iraq in 2006), the missions and makeup of the elite Navy unit are starting to attract more interest among the American public. For recruiters trying to beef up elite SEAL units, this is good news.     Established by President Kennedy in 1963, the SEALs (for Sea, Air and Land) describe themselves as “a small, elite maritime military force” conducting unconventional warfare, and carrying out “the types of clandestine, small-unit, high-impact missions that large forces with high-profile platforms (such as ships, tanks, jets and submarines) cannot.”  SEALs also “conduct essential on-the-ground Special Reconnaissance of critical targets for imminent strikes by larger conventional forces.” When you read a description such as that, of what SEALs do, it sounds so sterile, ​so matter of fact. It does not talk about the firefight in the Hindu Kush, about Murphy standing in the open seeking help for his men, after a bullet hits him, and of the 16 SEALs and Night Stalkers aboard the MH-47 who broke from their formation to sacrifice themselves to retrieve the embattled SEALs on the ground. It also does not talk about the tears still being shed at the resting places of Murphy (Section 67, Grave 3710, Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island) and the others, or about bravery and loyalty that in many ways is incomprehensible.       So, the men of Red Wings, we salute you. J

Fellow soldiers at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., erected a memorial to the eight fallen Army Night Stalkers killed trying to rescue the SEAL team.

In MEMORY of the men of RED WINGS SEALs ON THE GROUND Lt. Michael P. Murphy, 29, Patchogue, N.Y. Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, 29, Cupertino, Calif. Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny P. Dietz, Littleton, Colo.

ARMY NIGHT STALKERS ABOARD THE HELICOPTER Staff Sgt. Shamus O. Goare, 29, Danville, Ohio Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, 35, Clarks Grove, Minn. Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby, 21, Pompano Beach, Fla. Sgt. 1st Class Marcus V. Muralles, 33, Shelbyville, Ind. Master Sgt. James W. Ponder III, 36, Franklin, Tenn. Maj. Stephen C. Reich, 34, Washington Depot, Conn.

SEALs ABOARD THE HELICOPTER Chief Fire Controlman Jacques J. Fontan, 36, New Orleans, La. Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Daniel R. Healy, 36, Exeter, N.H. Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen, 33, San Diego, Calif. Electronics Technician 1st Class Jeffery A. Lucas, 33, Corbett, Ore. Lt. Michael M. McGreevy Jr., 30, Portville, N.Y.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell, 31, Stafford, Va.

Machinist Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, 22, Boulder City, Nev.

Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach, 40, Jacksonville, Fla.

Quartermaster 2nd Class James Suh, 28, Deerfield Beach, Fla. Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jeffrey S. Taylor, 30, Midway, Va. S u m m e r 2 0 11 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D



In Their Hearts:

The Men Who Inspired Michael Murphy, and the SEALs Who Inspire Them


Lt. Michael Murphy wore the FDNY’s El Barrio’s Bravest patch on his uniform in Afghanistan, as did the other members of his SEAL team.

rom the teeming streets of New York to the unforgiving mountain ranges of Afghanistan, a single firehouse and many Navy SEALs have forged lasting ties rooted in the heroism of Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Medal of Honor recipient sacrificing his life to save his men in the summer of 2005, and who recently had a Navy destroyer named in his honor. Now, with an elite SEAL team killing Osama bin Laden, the ties between the Navy elite fighting unit and the firehouse in Spanish Harlem (El Barrio) are stronger than ever. “The SEALs are our go-to guys. Every American is praising them right now; we’re so proud of them,” says Al Hagan, a New York fire-union official and formerly a captain at the firehouse on Third Avenue, the home of Engine Company 53/Ladder Company 43, known as El Barrio’s Bravest. It is here that a plaque honors Murphy’s memory, and where Murphy’s family and a range of military people, especially SEALs, often visit. The firehouse/SEAL ties now take on even more meaning with the elimination of bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks that claimed 3,000 lives, including those of 343 New York firefighters. To Nate Evans, a firefighter stationed there, the flawless, surgically precise elimination of bin Laden by a SEAL team “brings closure in a way, although the job is far from done.” The mission would gladden Murphy, adds one of his closest friends, former firefighter Owen O’Callaghan. “The SEALs’ participation in the mission [is] very fitting,” O’Callaghan says. The killing of the terrorist long was a goal of Murphy. The story of the firehouse and the SEALs begins with a summer friendship between Murphy and O’Callaghan, now a Suffolk County, N.Y., police officer. The two met as lifeguards in the mid-1990s along the beaches of suburban Long Island, bonding immediately, working together and partying together. Both Irish-Americans, gregarious by nature, they remained friends as their lives progressed, Murphy as a Navy SEAL and O’Callaghan as a city public servant. S u m m e r 2 0 11 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D

PHOTO: Courtesy of Murphy Family

By Tom Breen


PHOTO: Courtesy of El Barrio’s Bravest

When terrorists attacked New York in 2001, the two became even closer. The sacrifice of scores of New York firemen dying in and after the attack, including O’Callaghan’s uncle, Daniel, touched Murphy in myriad ways, laying the groundwork for the ties between a SEAL who would fall in Afghanistan, ultimately because of what bin Laden set into motion that day, and the roughly 60 men of E53/L43.

Murphy honored the FDNY’s sacrifice in 9/11 by wearing the El Barrio’s Bravest patch, and El Barrio’s Bravest honor the Navy SEAL’s memory in return. Those worlds intersected again when a SEAL team killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden just a week before the USS Michael Murphy was christened.

Because of 9/11, the Fire Department of New York’s (FDNY) primary patch, along with specific firehouse patches, ended up national and international symbols, illustrative of the daily sacrifices made by firefighters along the streets of New York, but an even broader symbol for all the men and women asked to protect us during wars, civil emergencies, and from the fires and crime that threaten each of us at any moment. “We’re on the front lines every day,” says Hagan, who is spending much of his time these days fighting a budgetary proposal by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to close 20 firehouses. It is “treasonous to do that,” Hagan says, because “another attack could come at any time.” It was four years after 9/11 that Murphy, gearing up for combat with his SEAL teammates, asked O’Callaghan to give him a “few” of the “El Barrio’s Bravest” house patches to distribute to his men. “How many do you want?” O’Callaghan wondered. “Twenty-five would be good,” Murphy said. O’Callaghan shot back, “Twenty-five, are you serious?” “Yes, twenty-five.” That’s how an FDNY firehouse patch found its way to Afghanistan, a visible reminder of why U.S. troops are fighting abroad, O’Callaghan says. With these patches, the stories of Michael Murphy and El Barrio’s Bravest began to intertwine. Now SEALs, many from Murphy’s SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One (SDVT-1), find their way to the firehouse, staying overnight occasionally, sharing meals and long conversations, and relishing the firefighters’ company. Many of the 34

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men of E53/L43 served in the military, some in combat, and some still are in the reserve forces. In addition to sharing long and winding conversations and steak dinners with SEALs and other military folk stopping to visit (“We pay for our own steaks, not the city,” Evans makes clear, loudly and with a laugh), El Barrio’s Bravest have forged an intense friendship with Murphy’s family -- father Dan, mother Maureen, and Michael’s younger brother John, 25. For instance, when Michael received the Medal of Honor posthumously in October 2007, a trio of representatives from E53/ L43 attended the White House ceremony. While in Washington for the Medal of Honor ceremonies, firefighters presented a plaque to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One. Later, Murphy’s SEAL team traveled to the New York firehouse to present the plaque that now hangs there. “It was a very emotional moment for everyone involved,” O’Callaghan says. “The [firehouse] was a place where we all could let our guards down together. The SEALs could break their stoic mold and reflect, while the firemen offered their thanks and sincere appreciation.” The plaque from the SEALs features Michael’s photograph, the “El Barrio’s Bravest” patch he wore at the end, his SEAL trident, and a marker that reads: “To the men of Engine Co 53, Ladder Co 43 from SDVT-1 in memory of our fallen teammate and brother LT Michael P Murphy. Murph wore this patch on every operation including the one in which he fell.” With the killing of bin Laden, Dan Murphy says his son would “exhibit a sense of pride that his [SEAL] community participated in the death of a scourge of the earth who brought so much sorrow to so many people.” His son also would point proudly to the El Barrio’s Bravest firehouse patch, Murphy says. To show their solidarity with Murphy, about 20 of El Barrio’s Bravest attended the early May christening at Bath Iron Works in Maine of the USS Michael Murphy. “Murph honored us, and we’re going to continue to honor him,” Evans says of a man he never met, but now feels he knows like a brother. For O’Callaghan, Murphy’s close lifeguarding pal, the christening is yet another moment to remember a guy who treated Afghanistan the way the men of E53-L43 treat a burning building, or a crumbling tower: You do what you have to do. In that three-story home inside a walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the SEALs did what they had to do. And now, with the addition of the firehouse patch to the mast box of the USS Michael Murphy -- an honor the family bestowed on the firehouse -- the flames of freedom between El Barrio’s Bravest and a SEAL legend burn brightly. The New York firemen and the SEALs, they are one. J

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l l e h g n i n i Ra from above Jerry-rigged Combat Spear delivers the might of a gunship at a fraction of the cost


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The idea emerging from AFSOC and U.S. Special Operations Command was to add another mission to the MC-130Ws – the gunship role. Instead of creating a gunship from scratch, why not develop a package – designated Dragon Spear -- of pallet-mounted control consoles, electronics, and a gun that could be rolled on and off? The permanent alterations to the MC-130W, such as cutting away panels for the gun and adding a sensor turret to the fuselage, would not interfere with the plane’s tanker and infiltration missions. he “urgent requirement” came on April 22, 2009, says James Geurts, SOCOM’s deputy director of research and acquisition and a retired Air Force acquisition officer. Geurts was handed leadership of the program and made commander of Joint Task Force – Dragon, the first joint acquisition task force at SOCOM. The task force set up shop at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to take advantage of the Air Armament Center’s facilities and test ranges and to be near AFSOC’s headquarters 10 miles away at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and SOCOM’s home at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., 400 miles to the southeast. Geurts’ deputy at the task force, Air Force Maj. Bill Blauser, saw the advantage of having all the players close together. “The decision chain,” he says, “was me walking down the hall or up the stairs.” The task force was unique because it brought together engineers and craftsmen, many from ​Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia, acquisition staff, and operational aircrew members


PHOTOS: Airman 1st Class Maynelinne De La Cruz


ith fights in Iraq and Afghanistan and training demands back home, Air Force Special Operations Command’s AC-130 gunships and crews were spread thin and on a steady deployment cycle. Gunship crews often spent as much time deployed as they did at home. The demand for the gunships with their 40 mm and 105 mm cannons and reconnaissance capabilities continued to grow. A solution, the special ops community agreed, was more gunships. But there wasn’t time to create a new gunship model from scratch, starting with Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Hercules and customizing it with a permanent suite of sensor and fire-control consoles, guncontrol computers hardwired into the navigation system, plus guns, precision-guided bombs and missiles. After all, the last gunship, the AC-130U Spooky, took more than five years to develop and approve for operations in the 1990s at a cost of about $190 million each. There had to be quicker and less-expensive solution. The solution was sitting on the ramp at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico – the MC-130W Combat Spear. In 2006, AFSOC took delivery of 12 MC-130Ws. The planes started as cargo-hauling C-130H Hercules. With upgrades of refueling pods to service helicopters and navigation gear for lowlevel flights to infiltrate and resupply troops, the C-130Hs became MC-130Ws. The idea behind the upgrades was that the Combat Spear would pick up some of the workload of AFSOC’s aging MC130E/H Combat Talons.

By Bruce Rolfsen

A Dragon Spear-equipped MC-130W lands at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. The 73rd Special Operations Squadron at Cannon will operate the gunship-modified aircraft.


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independent system.” If the pilots and others sitting in the cockpit need to see the same images as the crewmembers sitting downstairs at the consoles, the link is accomplished by mounting portable display screens in the cockpit and stringing cables to connect them to the console feeds, Geurts says. he Dragon Spear program ran in parallel with the Marine Corps’ effort to equip some of its KC-130Js with an attack package and the two efforts share information, but the programs have taken different approaches. While Dragon Spear’s sensors and weapons are housed within the fuselage, the Marines chose to place their sensors and munitions on wing-mounted p​ ods. Also, the Marines aim to fire their 30 mm gun through the left-rear troop door instead of cutting a portal for the barrel. Because of the tight Dragon Spear development and delivery schedule, a capability was supposed to be ready for fielding every three months to the 73rd Special Operations Squadron. Even if there were problems with the gun, for example, the 73rd could still practice and deploy with the reconnaissance package. As Dragon Spear continued development, airmen from the 73rd and from Cannon’s schoolhouse unit, the 551st Special Operations Squadron, figured out who should operate the Dragon Spearequipped Combat Spear and started training airmen for their new roles. Meanwhile, the MC-130Ws continued meeting real-world requirements, including earthquake relief flights to Haiti in January 2010. Among the manning decisions, Masaitis says, was to qualify all of the squadron’s aircrew members on Dragon Spear and keep the crew the same, at seven – two pilots, two combat systems officers, two loadmasters and a flight engineer. By early January 2010, the 73rd had received its first operational Dragon Spear-equipped MC-130W and a simulator for ground training. While the gunship package is named Dragon Spear, the aircraft remains a Combat Spear. The traditional MC-130W mission emphasized stealth and lowlevel flying, while the gunship mission required the plane to linger over a target at high altitudes. “Being different than our previous mission,” Masaitis says, “crews were hesitant at first.” To make the transition, some old skills not immediately needed were set aside. “Crews have stopped flying low-level and the unit no longer


PHOTO: Airman 1st Class Maynelinne De La Cruz

and maintainers from Cannon, Geurts says. Typically, operators would not become deeply involved until a project was well into the development and test phase. Additionally, to cut the bureaucracy and speed development, most of the task force members were Defense Department civilians or uniformed military members. “I didn’t have to wait to award a big contract,” Geurts says. Among the airmen involved was Lt. Col. Robert Masaitis, director of operations for the Combat Spears of the 73rd Special Operations Squadron at Cannon. “As the program rapidly progressed, this core group ensured strong continuity for both operations and maintenance,” Masaitis says. “It also provided huge benefits as we started operational flying because we were then able to reach back and discuss with the engineers and developers any problems that we were seeing.” The first MC-130W arrived at Eglin on May 17, 2009. “Within three weeks we had the equipment integrated on that aircraft and we were doing live munitions tests,” Geurts says. The Dragon Spear’s teeth included Northrop Grumman’s Viper Strike and Raytheon’s Griffin munitions, both small, guided weapons launched from tubes mounted inside the plane. Geurts declines to say how many of the weapons an MC-130W can carry or go into detail about how the munitions are mounted onboard. The Air Force first test-launched a Viper Strike from a C-130 in 2005. Development of the 30 mm gun and targeting software has proven more difficult. The gun is attached to a pallet that can be rolled to the front of the MC-130W’s cargo bay. The gun barrel points through a portal cut into the fuselage just behind the left-front crew door. While the gun has been fired successfully, the task force continues to refine the software used to aim the gun and compensate for such factors as the MC-130W’s speed and the wind between the plane and target, Air Force officials say. To give the MC-130W crew a view of what is happening on the ground, the Dragon Spear program replaced the MC-130W’s nosemounted navigation sensor pod with a targeting pod and mounted a new pod with a low-level light camera under the plane. The pictures are fed to a pallet-mounted control and communications console in the cargo bay, Geurts says. The data is not fed into the MC130W’s permanent navigation and flight control systems because that would require meshing the software of Dragon Spear and the MC130W. “We purposely stayed away from integrating the package directly into flight software,” Geurts says. “We built a platform-

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trains for helicopter air-refueling missions,” the squadron operations officer says. The squadron instead emphasizes refining intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and the strike mission, along with high-altitude-low-opening/ high altitude-high-opening parachute drops, self-contained approaches, and infiltration and exfiltration of personnel and cargo. The first Combat Spear-as-a-gunship combat deployment came in November. The experiences over Iraq and Afghanistan erased any hesitation airmen had about the new mission. “Being overhead in combat and having ground teams ask us to extend our time overhead so there wouldn’t be a gap in their air coverage has helped put it all in perspective,” Masaitis says. It takes about four months of training for airmen to be Crew members prepare to fly an MC-130W to Haiti in January 2010 to provide qualified on Dragon Spear. About 90 percent of the 73rd’s humanitarian relief after the devastating earthquake. aircrew members had qualified on the Dragon Spear mission as of mid-April, squadron commander Lt. Col. Kevin “Copa” Cabanas says. PRIMARY FUNCTION: Infiltration, exfiltration and resupThe new gunship continues to be a work in progress. L-3 ply of Special Operations forces; in-flight refueling of Communications won the contract to modify the MC-130Ws to fly Special Operations vertical lift assets; when modified, as a with Dragon Spear; the work should be completed by the end of 2011, gunship with intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities. Geurts says. The cost per plane for the Dragon Spear conversion and gear is about $20 million. CONTRACTOR: Lockheed Beyond the MC-130W, AFSOC and SOCOM want to use the “plug POWER PLANT: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines and play” concept of Dragon Spear as a starting point for the planned THRUST: 4,910 shaft horsepower each engine gunship version of the C-130J, Guerts said. The Air Force announced last year that it intended to buy 16 CWINGSPAN: 132 feet, 7 inches 130Js through 2015 and adapt them for the gunship mission. The new LENGTH: 98 feet, 9 inches planes would join the fleet of 17 AC-130Us and a​ llow AFSOC to retire HEIGHT: 38 feet, 6 inches its eight Vietnam War-vintage AC-130H Spectres. J WEIGHT: 75,745 pounds MAXIMUM TAKEOFF WEIGHT: 155,000 pounds

PHOTOS: Airman 1st Class Maynelinne De La Cruz

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Airmen work on a Dragon Spear-equipped MC-130W at Cannon Air Force Base. The plane’s unique gunship package includes a sensor turret mounted just forward of the left rear landing gear and the portal for a 30 mm gun to the rear of the left-side crew door.


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CEILING: 33,000 feet

CREW: pilot, copilot, two navigators, flight engineer and two loadmasters


INVENTORY: Active force, 12 (planned) Source: Air Force


D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S u m m e r 2 0 11

HAVE SMARTPHONE, WiLL TRAVEL Will iPads and cellphones with specialized apps become the special operator’s new best friend?

Col. Eric Smith, commanding officer of Marine Corps Regimental Combat Team 8, talks to Afghan village elders during a patrol near Forward Operating Base Delaram II in March. Emerging cellphone technologies can ease the task of officers in such engagements. 42

D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S u m m e r 2 0 11

palms of Special Operations Forces (SOF) and other troops and expose them to less risk. To be sure, there are problems to overcome. Cellphone signals can give away a sender’s position. Data security, information security and operational security are “interrelated issues that have to be worked through,” Davis says.

PHOTO: U.S. Marine Corps


hen U.S. Navy SEAL Team 10 was taking deadly fire from scores of Taliban fighters in the mountains of northeastern Afghanistan in June 2005, Lt. Michael Murphy made a desperate call for help on his cellphone. But he had to move out into the open to do it, away from cliff walls that would interfere with the signal. He got through, but it cost him his life. Only one of the four team members survived. Commercial cellphone technology has improved since then, but for security reasons military officials are reluctant to say how it might have helped SEAL Team 10 in its now well-publicized mission to capture or kill a Taliban leader. In general, the successful transmission of a cellphone signal “would be directly dependent on the topology,” says Tony Davis, program executive officer for command, control, communications and computers at U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. “We operate oftentimes in hilly or mountainous terrain and coverage there, even with our line-of-sight radios, is difficult.” But, he says, “There are ways to architecturally extend that coverage using additional antennas or taller antennas or air vehicles” to act as relay platforms. “So there’s just a lot of technology that we’re looking at, and the services are looking at, to try to solve those kinds of technical problems.” It’s part of a broader military effort to use handheld computing devices, from smartphones to iPads, to put more information in the

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“The evolution of technology going to the battlefield is amazingly fast,” says David Staffel, co-founder and CEO. “There are new capabilities coming out all the time, and they’re being pushed to the edge as quickly as possible.” At Aptus, he says, “We build the stuff we wish we had had when we were in combat.” Like the app called Threat Action Program, or TAP. Enormous stores of data from the battlefield and elsewhere are constantly being created from a variety of sources. But TAP uses automated pre-processing and artificial intelligence to pick out only what’s relevant to a user who needs to make a battlefield decision. “Let’s say you have a patrol that’s going into a village to speak with a village elder about issues that the village is facing, and to see how the Americans might be able to assist them,” Staffel says. “In the course of this conversation, one of the elders mentions a certain personality or name, saying that that person’s in the area.” The patrol leader can put this name into his mobile device, “like texting friends back home.” TAP digests the name, compares it with threat names, and correlates it with other information coming in at the same time from elsewhere in the battlespace, as well as with legacy data already in repositories, Staffel says -- and “this name pops up as a threat actor.” This, he says, is “a potentially life-saving piece of information that, left to a previous process, wouldn’t have been discovered until possibly weeks later.” He says TAP would have helped him in several instances. When he was in Afghanistan a couple of years ago, he says, he and other Green Berets would talk with local people and “find out later that they were telling our sister units different stories. So if I had had TAP, you would have seen a correlation in these stories and these people instantly, real time, and it would have saved us a lot of pain.” TAP also would have helped him in situations concerning money. It sometimes became apparent that the same people would ask different U.S. military units for money for certain projects, without saying they had asked before. With TAP, Staffel says, “we would have seen that immediately, as opposed to a month down the road.” The fact that things like TAP weren’t available just two years ago shows how fast the technology is moving, he says. TAP is being evaluated by the military, Staffel says, but he declines to give details.

Marines from 2nd Intelligence Battalion, Camp Lejeune, N.C., use cellphone technologies to track people and vehicles during Green Devil demonstrations at Empire Challenge 2010 at Fort Huachuca, Calif. Green Devil merges information from various sensors to quickly give U.S. or coalition warfighters just the information they need.

Cellphones and other hand-held devices are not yet being procured in large numbers by SOCOM, Davis says. “We’re really in kind of the device-agnostic phase right now. We’re doing a lot of market research and looking at what’s available and strategizing about how we might use it, but we haven’t really narrowed it down into any kind of technology.” The idea, however, is ultimately to see special operators make widespread use of the latest hand-held technology, Davis says. “That definitely would be the target. And part of the beauty of the smart device kind of form factor is it’s really tailorable to your audience, depending on what kind of applications you write on it.” Possible applications include “things that we do traditionally on other kinds of devices, like friendly-force tracking, or consolidating intelligence or sensor data, providing access to video feeds” from unmanned aerial systems and other platforms -- “a lot of situational awareness, but some of the command-and-control stuff that you do with radios.” Hand-held capabilities “really have come along over the last year or so, and I think we’re on the brink of being able to deliver some really great capabilities” to SOF, Davis says.


ptus Technologies of Round Rock, Texas, with its executive team of former Green Beret officers, is dedicated to fielding software applications that would make life easier for special operators and other troops in combat. 44

D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S u m m e r 2 0 11


he Office of Naval Research and Marine Corps Systems Command have been jointly developing a similar system called Green Devil. It merges information from various sensors and uses data analysis tools to quickly parse out just the information needed by U.S. or coalition warfighters. “When we’re out in the field or at the tactical edge, we can receive actionable intelligence” from Green Devil through hand-held devices

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PHOTO: U.S. Army

like the Motorola Droid, reporters were told by Navy Lt. Victor Cruz Interoperability Demonstration at last year’s Empire Challenge demonstration at Fort Huachuca, (CWID) in June. Finland’s Ariz. Elektrobit Corp. developed He described a scenario to illustrate how Green Devil would the TerreStar handset using work: components and technologies “We’re on a patrol and we’re conducting an economy-of-force from several companies, including Hughes Networks and Infinion, operation and going into a village, and I need to talk to the tribal according to Jani Lyrintzis, vice president and general manager of leader to let him know our intent.” A quick “cultural hookup” would Wireless Solutions at EB. allow Cruz to identify the key figures in that village. “I can quickly Another technology, TactiCell, is in limited use by special identify who that tribal leader is and I can negotiate with him to allow operators. It consists of hand-helds, a network with satellite links, us to have safe passage in the region. That will save us from possible IED attack, it’ll clearly represent our intentions in that area because I’m dealing with the tribal leader, and he knows why we’re there.” In addition, Cruz said, “If it’s a known good area and we see some graffiti or signs that are contrary to that, like propaganda from the Taliban in Afghanistan and al Qaeda in Iraq, we can quickly go through our data base and find significant signs and things, and we can match that up. If it’s not consistent with the local data we have, I can take a picture of it and then I can update it. And then, based on that, we may get redirected to conduct another operation or further surveillance in that area.” He said he could have used Green Devil in 2008 when he was in Iraq’s al Anbar Province. “The way we did it back then was we had playbooks with us, so everything was hand-written. We were briefed on the area of operations where we going to work, but nothing was available on a hand-held device.” U.S. Army soldiers from Combined Joint Special Operations Task ForceNewer smartphone capabilities and possibly Afghanistan conduct a “key leadership engagement” meeting in Khowst, other things like wearable computers, “would allow Afghanistan, in 2009. Patrols can use new cellphone technology to quickly us to meet a couple of our key requirements that we identify potentially hostile actors. are pursuing over the next couple of years,” says SOCOM’s Davis. One is to cut down on the number of items special operators must carry, which today includes a couple of and services such streaming video, Web browsing and email through radios and a Rover video receiver. cellular apps. Western DataCom, which developed TactiCell, is “The idea is, with a smartphone and the processor power you now working on a system to protect Android and Windows mobile have there, you can compress some of those and provide video and operating systems from attack by malware. The company has data and a bunch of other things,” like an applications library unique submitted several proposals to the SOF community, says Phil Ardire, to Special Operations Forces, “and do it in a form factor that would president of the Westlake, Ohio, company. “They’re standing in line lighten their load out in the field” -- a constant issue for special for that one.” operators on foot, particularly in steep terrain. The Army, Navy and Air Force also are working on apps that could be leveraged by the SOF community. The Army’s CommunicationserreStar Networks’ Genus Smartphone weighs only 4.6 Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center ounces, says Dennis Matheson, chief technology officer (CERDEC) at Fort Monmouth, N.J., for instance, has been working of the Reston, Va., company. Genus is a combination cellular and on an app for the dismounted soldier called C2MINCS -- Command satellite phone – saving even more weight -- but it has no external and Control Mobile Intelligent Net-Centric Software. antenna, another feature that might appeal to special operators. Users It boosts situational awareness by using GPS to plot the user’s “can walk around and people wouldn’t necessarily know they’re position on a map. The information can then be sent to others, speaking on a satellite phone,” Matheson says. “It blends in.” so friendly parties know where they are in relation to each other, Genus isn’t used by the military, but it is slated to be shown says Tyler Barton of the Battle Command Technical Branch of to potential military users at the annual Coalition Warrior CERDEC’s Command and Control Division. J



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“Guardian Angel” isn’t just a job — it’s a calling

key U.S. personnel and flying everyone to Bagram for medical treatment. But the mission was far from over. The helicopters and the Guardian Angel rescue teams returned to the avalanche site, where the airmen made their way down the steep mountainside to buses buried in the show. A seven-man Air Force team dug furiously, at first with their hands, to ​By Julie Bird uncover trapped passengers, even digging tunnels inside the hen key U.S. personnel were trapped along snow-filled vehicle. They called for a Chinook to drop more with hundreds of locals in February 2010 after  life-saving equipment nearby and cut through the metal bus an avalanche let loose 11,500 feet above sea frame to extricate victims, one by one, put them into sleeping level on Afghanistan’s Salang Pass, burying cars and sending bags covered in heating blankets, and carried them through vehicles in a 2,000-foot plunge, the first calls for help went deep, unstable snow to the waiting helicopters. Other rescue to the Air Force’s 33rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at forces gathered patients at a nearby tunnel for triage and Bagram Airfield. Temperatures were below zero, with winds evacuation. whipping at 30 to 40 knots. More avalanches threatened In all the rescuers helped 282 Afghans off the mountain, the high mountain pass in insurgent trafficking territory. directly saved 15 lives and helped 49 people in near-critical Helicopter accessibility was questionable. condition before turning the mission over to the Afghan At Bagram, paramedics on two Air Force “Guardian army and police. Angel” rescue teams loaded up with snowshoes, ropes Not just another day on the job, exactly. But neither was it and water for what was likely to be an arduous hike to all that unusual for today’s Air Force Rescue forces. reach survivors. They gathered extrication equipment and   hypothermia kits, as well as cold-weather mass casualty Air Force Rescue forces can parachute, equipment packages. Buffeted by high winds, Army CH-47 helicopter, fast-rope, swim, dive, boat or hike Chinooks flew the rescue specialists into the site, followed in to rescue isolated personnel – basically, by a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter carrying an officer whatever it takes. managing the mission. Somehow the Chinooks were able to land on the highway, scooping up 90 people including the



D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S u m m e r 2 0 11

PHOTO: Sgt. Stephen Decatur


PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz


he Air Force takes rescue seriously. It is the only service in which rescue is a career, not a job or an assignment. The rescue community also classifies its personnel as a “weapon system” like its HH-60 rescue helicopter and the HC-130 Combat King, an extended-range C-130 variant that can refuel rescue helicopters as well as drop supplies, deploy pararescuemen by parachute, and provide onscene mission command and control. HC-130s also can be used as flying ambulances. Classifying the roughly 1,000-person rescue force as the ​ “Guardian Angel” weapon system enables Air Force Rescue to plan, modernize and procure equipment just like it does for aircraft, says Maj. Glen Frazier, personnel recovery section chief for Air Combat Command’s Flight Operations and Training Branch. “It helps the Air Force because it puts it into something the corporate Air Force structure understands.” Guardian Angel includes pararescuemen, commonly known as PJs; Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) specialists; and combat rescue officers who plan and oversee missions. Combat rescue officer has only been a career field for about 10 years. Until recently the core Air Force rescue mission was recovering shot-down pilots, Frazier says. Today’s mission is to report, locate, support, recover and reintegrate “isolated personnel,” or IPs -- soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, coalition partners, defense contractors or civilians -- in wartime, peacetime and times of crisis, stateside and overseas. “We’ve transitioned from a service-centric combat search and rescue to personnel recovery in support of Air Force assets and joint-force assets,” he says. “It was sort of a one-trick pony, and the battlefield has evolved beyond that.” The rescue mission “has not gotten just deeper and more 50

D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S u m m e r 2 0 11

An HH-60G Pave Hawk hovers over pararescuemen and Brig. Gen. Jack L. Briggs, the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, during a training mission at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, providing a glimpse of what the 33rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron brings to the fight and the capabilities it provides to combat commanders.

robust, but broader,” to include aeromedical evacuation, or medevac, says Maj. David Casson, HC-130 functional manager for Air Combat Command (ACC). Pararescuemen -- the paramedics who parachute, fast-rope, boat, swim, dive, climb and otherwise make their way to those needing help -- also increasingly conduct confined-space rescues, such as digging out victims of structures collapsed by terrorist bombings and earthquakes, says Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Negrone, ACC’s pararescue functional manager. “Haiti is a perfect example,” he says. Special Operations PJs from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., deployed quickly to Port-au-Prince after the January 2010 earthquake, coordinating with major civilian agencies to rescue victims trapped in rubble.   ir Force Rescue also performs “Deadliest Catch”-type missions to rescue injured or stranded sailors. For example, Frazier recalled a case in which a civilian sailor fell into the cargo hold of a freighter off the coast of Ireland. HH-60s lowered four PJs to the deck, which was pitching and rolling in 30- to 40-foot seas. Frazier managed the mission from aboard an HC-130, coordinating with the Pave Hawk crews and a Special Operations AC-130 gunship providing on-scene assistance. The PJs recovered the sailor, hoisted him up to the helicopter, and treated him en route to a hospital. “We do that all the time,” Frazier says. As a combat rescue officer, Frazier says he puts himself “at the point of greatest friction. That might be on the ground with the recovery team. That might be in tactical operations control working with HH-60s or 130s.” Or, he says, it could be in a joint rescue center that coordinates rescues for all the services. That’s just one level of command and control. For the Salang Pass rescue in Afghanistan, the Rescue Tactical Operations Center, Regional Command East Personnel Rescue Center and the U.S.​ Joint Personnel Rescue Center all played a role. Mission flexibility and the ability to respond quickly to changing situations are key. PJs typically ride aboard helicopters, which can land or lower them into inaccessible areas, then fly the rescued personnel back to a base. But HC-130s are faster, which can make all the difference when a patient is critically injured.


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In one incident in Afghanistan, Air Force Rescue forces were sent to help a coalition force member injured when his vehicle ran over an antitank mine near the Iranian border. An HC-130 from the 71st Rescue Squadron arrived 40 minutes ahead of HH-60s, so three PJs parachuted out of the Combat King from 3,500 feet to stabilize a severely injured patient until the helicopters could transport him to a field hospital. The PJs had to parachute onto a precise spot to avoid landing in a minefield. When the helicopters arrived, the PJs from the 38th Rescue Squadron were joined by two from the 66th Rescue Squadron. The patient’s right leg was amputated at mid-thigh, his left leg was shattered, his right arm was broken, internal injuries were probable, and he had multiple shrapnel wounds and a deep cut across his face. He also was conscious. The PJs splinted the broken limbs, packed the amputation site to slow bleeding, bandaged cuts, ran IVs and administered drugs before loading him on an HH-60 for evacuation, and continued treating him in the air en route to meet a surgical team on the ground in Kandahar. The patient most certainly would have died without that rapid intervention. n today’s fight, in Afghanistan and Iraq, all three of these weapon systems are stressed out there,” says Senior Master Sgt. Travis West, an HH-60 flight engineer and command superintendent. “We deploy for 120 days, reintegrate, retrain, then go again. [Isolated personnel] want Air Force HC-130s and HH60s to take them home.” The Air Force is upgrading its HC-130s to the new J model, contracting with Lockheed Martin Corp. to produce up to 11 HC130Js. The first came off the Marietta, Ga., production line in Apri 2010l, with delivery to the Air Force in September for operational testing. Other commands already use the upgraded J-model Super Hercules, which has numerous upgrades. The Air Force also is working on an HH-60 modernization program, which could involve a new aircraft. Equally important as up-to-date equipment is up-to-date training. “We plan for the hardest task out there, combat search and rescue under direct fire from the enemy to recover isolated personnel,” says West. The two-year training for would-be pararescuemen – the force’s



D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S u m m e r 2 0 11

PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon

Pararescueman Senior Airman Corey Farr of the 66th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron rappels from an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during operational training in Iraq.

front-line fighters, if you will -- includes Army Airborne School, an Air Force combat diver course, Navy underwater egress training, Air Force Basic Survival School, Army freefall parachute training, a 22-week paramedic course and, finally, the 24-week Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. In October the Air Force opened the $14.7 million, 32,000-square-foot Guardian Angel Rescue / Recovery Training Center at Kirtland, and a $10 million, 25,000-square-foot warehouse and logistics center. The 342nd Training Squadron,​ Detachment 1, operates the center, which includes two large training towers, a medical wing and state-of-the-art audiovisual training equipment. The new facility will allow the Air Force to graduate another 65 PJs per year. PJ training is “very technical and very dynamic,” says Senior Master Sgt. James Clark, pararescue functional manager for Air Education and Training Command. They learn both high-angle and low-angle rescue techniques, high angle being for rescues on glaciers or steep mountain terrain. They learn how to navigate in confined spaces such as collapsed buildings and use specialized equipment to clear space. They learn to parachute and dive and operate boats and all-terrain vehicles, and to use combat weapons and tactics in a recently expanded training course of study. And, of course, there’s the medical training, ending with paramedic certification. The number of annual graduates varies with the size and number of classes per year, Clark says. It takes a special person to become a Guadian Angel, he adds, “one that never quits, one that always looks to the right and to the left and thinks of them first, someone with courage, character and confidence and a willingness to sacrifice self.” J

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Technology provides an edge when failure is not an option


By Rich Tuttle

armor. The sophistication of such systems allows an operator “to ignore threats or dangers or encumbrances that somebody not so equipped is constantly aware of,” says Dakota L. Wood, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think tank in Washington, D.C. They “make it possible to do things much more easily and effectively than their enemy is able to,” says Wood, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel studying the operational challenges of irregular warfare. A headset developed by 3M, for instance, integrates communications and hearing protection using a technology the company calls Talk-Through. With 3M’s Comtac Advanced Communication Headset, loud noises like gunfire and explosions are transmitted to the ear at safe levels while softer sounds like whispers or rustling leaves are amplified, says Tom Lavalle, a business development specialist at 3M’s Military Marketing Center in Indianapolis, Ind. 3M also makes hearing protectors for soldiers who don’t use a radio. One, called the Combat Arms Earplug, kicks in protection only when it’s needed. It uses a patented filter that allows a soldier to hear things like conversations and footsteps but dampens a loud noise the instant it occurs, according to Doug Moses, a 3M business development specialist and marketing manager. A “modular glove system” from Outdoor ​ Research of Seattle, Wash., is a set of five gloves that can be worn in layers in extreme Special SOF gear includes earplugs and headsets that amplify soft sounds while dampening gunfire and explosions.


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PHOTO: Courtesy 3M

.S. Special Operations Command uses the latest technology in just about every aspect of personal equipment for its small, clandestine teams, from headsets and gloves to backpacks, vision augmentation systems and body


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cold weather, or separately for a variety of other conditions. “It’s a collection,” says Mike Christian, director of government sales for OR. “You can take them from the desert floor in Afghanistan all the way to the highest peak there.” One layer is fire-resistant in response to the threat of roadside bombs. “We certainly knew how to make good, dexterous, tight-fitting, durable gloves, but were certainly introduced to some new materials,” including Nomex and Kevlar, to make the fire-resistant layer, Christian says. ​ ight sights, rifle sights, thermal sights and imageintensification goggles are all made for Special Forces by L-3 Communications’ Warrior Systems unit. The unit was formed after​ L-3’s acquisition of Insight Technology Corp., a long-time supplier of night-vision and electro-optical equipment with close links to the Special Operations community. Laser targeting and acquisition markers come from Northrop Grumman.


“Lightweight laser-designator rangefinders that we make are probably, outside of night-vision goggles, the most high-tech piece of equipment that a Specops operator carries all the time. It’s starting to become as common as your water bottle,” says Paul Cabellon, a Northrop Grumman spokesman. SOCOM’s Body Armor Load Carriage System (BALCS) is supplied by Mystery Ranch, a backpack-maker in Bozeman, Mont. BALCS features the latest fitting and stability technology, according to the company. Mystery Ranch, formed in 2000 primarily to work with the Navy SEAL community, has since worked with every tier of Special Ops, according to Mark Seacat, director of marketing. “We create everything, from light-carry three-day assault packs, which is probably our most popular pack, to concealed sniper rifle packs.” The Rapid Access Trauma System, or RATS, pack uses Velcro and colorcoding to allow a medic to quickly pull out just what is needed. Ceramic body armor is produced by Ceradyne Inc., of Costa Mesa, Calif. The armor is made of boron carbide, which Ceradyne describes as “the lightest technical ceramic material ... as well as the hardest,” second only to diamonds.   pecial Forces have almost always had special gear, but the level of sophistication grew after 1987, when USSOCOM was formed. One reason is that with all the money in one bucket instead of being spread around to special units in the individual services, it has been easier to develop and acquire the lighter, more durable and more technically advanced gear demanded by high-risk, high-payoff missions. Navy SEALs thus have ready access to gear more resistant than normal to corrosion, while Army special operators get lighter, more capable personal gear. If rifles and sidearms must be souped up, it happens quickly. Instead of a standard-issue 9mm Beretta pistol, for instance, Special Forces operators may prefer a Colt .45 with modifications like a unique trigger -- and have no problem getting it in a hurry. The service components within Special Operations Forces do make the greatest possible use of equipment provided by their parent services, but “the unique nature of SOF missions frequently drives different materiel solutions” among the services, Air Force Maj. Wes Ticer, a USSOCOM spokesman, says in an email response to questions. He doesn’t address individual equipment, but does say that “in the mobility area, the service-provided High Mobility MultiWheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAP) are often outfitted with specific command, control, communication and computer intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance suites to support specific SOF service-component branch requirements.” Such niche capabilities aren’t usually given to all U.S. forces because they are not required, and because they’re not cheap. The SOF community is willing to pay the price of high-tech individual

PHOTO: Chief Photographer’s Mate Andrew McKaskle


Navy SEALs use equipment that has low susceptibility to corrosion. Here, a member of SEAL Delivery Team Two (SDVT-2) boards one of the team’s SEAL Delivery Vehicles before launching from the back of the Los Angeles-class attack sub USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) during a training exercise.


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PHOTO: Sgt. David N. Gunn

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Different styles of gear, including helmets and backpacks, can be seen in this photo of members of Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 of the 3rd Special Forces Group. They are surveying the Shok Valley in Afghanistan where they fought a nearly seven-hour battle with an insurgent force.

gear because the mission is so important, Wood says. “They have to succeed, and you want to be able to bring everybody back.”                OCOM is putting some serious money into individual equipment. The command’s acquisition and logistics arm has several program executive offices, or PEOs, to handle procurement -fixed wing, maritime systems, a support activity, rotary wing, special reconnaissance and SOF Warrior. PEO-SOF Warrior’s job is to “enhance lethality, mobility and survivability” in ground activities, according to the command. One of its responsibilities is the SOF Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements (SPEAR) program, which covers body armor, helmets, load carriage systems, backpacks, gloves, eye protection and communications headsets. All are “designed and developed to provide an integrated modular system for the SOF Warrior,” the command says. Another SOF Warrior individual equipment responsibility is the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) program, aimed at providing life-saving first aid in tactical situations. SOCOM’s combined fiscal 2011 budget request for SPEAR and TCCC was expected to be about $52 million, Ticer says. PEO-SOF Warrior, he says, fielded more than 29,000 items of SPEAR individual equipment during fiscal 2010 as well as nearly 3,000 TCCC operator kits and 400 TCCC medic kits. SOF operators are able cover a range of missions with their individual gear because it is both interoperable and modular, Ticer says. “This tailored-ability enables SOF operators to rapidly reconfigure their equipment and execute assigned missions in remote locations.” Because SOF operate in rugged environments, equipment reliability and maintainability is critical, he says, along with the ability to tailor



D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S u m m e r 2 0 11

equipment training and maintenance to those operational realities. Meanwhile, a range of research and development efforts are under way within PEO-SOF Warrior:​​​​​​ adapting digital multispectral technologies to improve night-vision capabilities; reducing weapon signatures; seeking lighter weight, more protective body armor; improving crew situational awareness by integrating sensors into mobility platforms; and reducing the weight of vehicle armor to improve mobility. ​ A big reason for the emphasis on new technology is that adversaries are constantly on the lookout for ways to offset systems in the Special Operations arsenal. Technologies of all kinds proliferate over time, meaning that “more actors get access to them,” says CSBA’s Wood. Technologies that give U.S. forces an advantage can find their way into the hands of groups like Hezbollah and Latin American drug traffickers. “If you’ve got cash you can buy just about anything these days, including high-end weapon systems,” Wood says. ​ pecial Forces gear is keyed to work with low signatures, and “darkness itself works to our advantage in general,” says one industry executive. “We try to provide gear that gives us the night as the edge, and a lot of it you’ll find strapped to their helmets or onto their rifles. ... Part of the whole trick is to try to do it in a manner that allows them to do their primary jobs as if it were during the daytime.” A related focus is “to make these things really, really lightweight” and able to run for long periods off small batteries. ​At the same time, each supplier has to understand how its system or device fits with those of other suppliers. 3M’s communication headset, for instance, not only has to plug into a variety of sources -- aircraft intercom, ground vehicles, portable radios -- but it must as easily as possible be worn with things like a respiratory mask, combat eyewear, helmet and nape band, and body armor. Not least of all, says 3M’s Lavalle, it must fit. “How can you ensure that any soldier -- man, woman, big head, small head -- can put this on and it works? It’s not an easy task.” And there are some problems that can’t be easily solved. Headsets, for example, will be hot in the desert. The relatively small size of the Special Operations Forces – just 12,000 are deployed around the world on an average day, according to the command – and their hallmark individuality is a natural fit with the small entrepreneurial companies that supply much of the SOF gear. “We invite these groups in and they bring their entire kit that they need to carry, and we’ll design an alpha prototype in usually three to five days,” says Mystery Ranch’s Seacat. “We either send it with them, or have it meet them back home, and then they go out and test it” and give feedback. Mystery Ranch also gets “satellite phone calls directly from Afghanistan,” Seacat says. “They’re usually calling to say, ‘Hey, thanks a lot, this is amazing stuff; other members of our group have seen it; we need to buy six more of these packs, like now.’ And then we send it straight to Afghanistan.” J



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SOF Survivability SPEAR sharpens Special Operators’ protective edge in battle

helmets, load carriage systems, protective combat uniforms and communications headsets, to name a few. The products are designed as an integrated modular system, says Ken McGraw, a command spokesman. ​T he Program Executive Officer for SOF Warrior Systems has overall responsibility for the program. Program management is handled by the program manager for SOF Survival, Support and Equipment Systems at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering (RD&E) Center in Natick, Mass. ​T he program structure is modular in the sense that each capability area is pursued on a separate acquisition path, according to a Natick document explaining the early stages of SPEAR. The idea was to make the products compatible and interoperable with current equipment as much as possible, with contingency stocks and emergency spares available through a depot or on order through production contracts. Lighter, faster, stronger and safer are key goals for SPEAR equipment. “Examples include a ballistic plate that is lighter with greater capability, a helmet designed for​​ increased survivability, or a communications headset that is more reliable under extreme conditions,” according to the SOF Warrior Systems Program Executive Office at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. The services’ research and development commands work on SOF-specific development needs when requested, but

Special Operations Forces hone their skills and test out their equipment at exercises like Emerald Warrior, a two-week joint / combined tactical exercise sponsored by U.S. Special Operations Command to leverage lessons learned from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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PHOTO: Sgt. Jonathan Lovelady


pecial Operations missions aren’t like other kinds of military missions. Small, stealthy, highly mobile units operate in often harsh environments, without vehicles, perhaps without traditional support, for what could be days at a time. So it’s no surprise that much of their personal gear is as specialized as their missions. Special Operations Forces (SOF) gear has to meet requirements for all the services, since each branch has its own special operators. It also has to meet unique Special Operations requirements, including many that conventional forces would rarely need to deal with. Take maritime or amphibious operations. Gear has to survive being submerged, for example, utilizing coatings and materials that not only stand up to exposure to water but are able to operate at specific depths. This stuff is special, all right. U.S. Special Operations Command established the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Soldier Protection and Survival Systems program in fiscal 2009 to fund ongoing development of specialized personal gear for its personnel. Resources were shifted from another ongoing program element called Special Operations Tactical Systems Development, and from Weapon Systems Advanced Development. The gear is part of the SOF Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements, or SPEAR, consisting of the equipment worn or carried by SOF operators – body armor,

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SOF Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements (SPEAR) equipment, excluding service-common equipment, includes:

most of the SOF gear is modified government-off-the-shelf or modified commercial-off-the-shelf items, the PEO said in written responses to questions. Modifying off-the-shelf items allows the SPEAR program to leverage technological investments by services and industry, reduce cycle times, insert new technology more quickly, lower lifecycle costs and create greater reliability and availability, the PEO says. “The command is always looking for stronger, lighter, multipurpose soldier protection and individual equipment items.” SPEAR equipment, the PEO continues, “is developed with complete emphasis on Special Operations personnel and mission profiles, including operations in extreme airborne and amphibious environments.” New equipment is developed only as a last option. SPEAR objectives are stated in terms of threshholds and objectives, and used as part of the competitive source selection process for awarding contracts. If a user determines that a requirement has increased, the threshhold is adjusted. “One of the most influential (lessons) is the importance of user assessments as part of the down select and source selection process. Through user assessments, a piece of equipment can be evaluated for true form, fit, function and user acceptance. User assessments can expedite the fielding of SPEAR equipment and the identification of necessary improvements.” Overall, SPEAR focuses on improving three areas in personal equipment to produce a modular equipment system allowing mission-tailoring, enhanced survivability, and enhanced mobility while reducing weight, bulk and heat stress, according to the RD&E Center at Natick. Body Armor / Load Carriage Systems, known by the acronym BALCS,

An air commando from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., jumps from a C-130 Hercules during parachute training at Florida’s Santa Rosa Sound. SOF gear must adapt to wet or dry conditions.


D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S u m m e r 2 0 11

PHOTO: Master Sgt. Russell E Cooley IV

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Source: SOF Warrior Systems Program Executive Officer


A Special Forces team chief uses violet smoke to signal a helicopter to extract coalition forces from Gulistan district, Farah province in Afghanistan. His gear is specialized for SOF operations.

are one of four major research and development priorities. The goal is to provide better protection against present and future enemy ammunition, buoyancy and load-carrying capacity. The focus for the load carriage system is to provide modular options tailorable to different kinds of missions. So-called spiral development allows continuous improvements throughout the long development and acquisition cycle. In essence, the U.S. Special Operations Command continues defining its requirements during the development process, using feedback from the field, for example, or adapting the requirements based on evolving mission needs. Another R&D priority is SPEAR Environmental Protection, intended to allow forces to operate effectively in cold weather, steamy jungle environments, mountains, at sea, and anywhere else the environment tends to be harsh and difficult. The ability to transition seamlessly from one condition to another is considered critical. ​​P art of the environmental protection package is called Protective Combat Uniform Extremity Protection, including the Modular Glove System. Another section of the Protective Combat Uniform program addresses product improvements, including for flame resistance and reduction of weight and bulk. Next-generation helmet communications headsets are intended to allow reliable, seamless communication through a variety of networks, both SOF-specific and ones used by conventional troops across the services. It allows internal communication systems used by a SOF team from insertion through extraction. The helmet communication equipment was to utilize commercial off-the-shelf technology with modifications for SOF use. J

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’12 AIR FORCE Preview

AF Special Operations Updated fleet, more commandos


By Lee Ewing

PHOTO: Master Sgt. Scott MacKay

he Air Force Special replace aging MC-130Es and MC- that were transferred to AFSOC two Operations Command’s aging 130Ps,” Andrew Feickert and Thomas years ago,” Lane says. “In addition fleet needs to be modernized Livingston of the Congressional to that, the Air Force is buying MQ-9 to meet operational demands, command Research Service noted in a March 28 Reapers for AFSOC.” The fiscal 2012 background report on SOF to Congress. budget request included 48 MQ-9 officials say. The ​ CV-22 Osprey tilt-wing Reapers for the entire service, the AFSOC wants to buy more AC-130s and MC-130s. The MC-130, in various transport aircraft augments the mobility maximum that manufacturer General forms, is used for missions such as troop fleet, Lane says. The Osprey can take Atomics could produce. The command’s Predators, and and cargo transportation, refueling off, hover and land like a helicopter and the larger and more rotary-wing and fixedpotent Reapers, will wing aircraft, airdrops, and be operated by Special psychological operations. Operations squadrons The plan is to upgrade to based at Cannon. the MC-130J model, says The units will have Col. William R. (Bill) increased communications Lane, the command’s “reachback” capabilities deputy director for plans, linking them with programs, requirements their forward elements and assessments, and overseas. eventually replace all 37 of The command’s third the older MC-130s. major priority is to bolster The MC-130J Combat its ability to help other Shadow completed its first air forces train against flight April 22, setting internal threats, primarily off five months of flight by increasing its numbers. testing by contractor The MC-130J Combat Shadow II, Air Force Special Operations ComAFSOC had more than Lockheed Martin. The first mand’s newest aircraft, sits on the Tarmac after its unveiling March 29 at Lockheed Martin in Marietta, Ga. MC-130J is slated to reach 12,000 active-duty Cannon Air Force Base, members as of this spring. N.M., in September, with the fleet has the greater range, fuel efficiency The Defense Department meets only replacing most of the 25-year-old MC- and speed of a turboprop fixed-wing half of the current demand for training aircraft. Its mission is long-range partner aviation forces, according to 130Ps. Meanwhile, a dozen W-model MC- infiltration, exfiltration and resupply the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review. 130 Combat Spears from Cannon are missions. The Air Force proposed Accordingly, beginning in fiscal 2013, being transformed into gunships buying six CV-22s in fiscal 2012 on the DoD plans to double its current capacity carrying the Dragon Spear weapons and way to a 50-plane CV-22 fleet. to provide such training. The initiative Other top command priorities include includes doubling the manpower of sensor package, a quick-fix alternative to waiting for upgraded AC-130J expanding intelligence, surveillance AFSOC’s 6th Special Operations and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. Squadron and purchasing light, fixedaircraft. Overall, AFSOC “is fielding the first To that end, AFSOC sought more wing aircraft. The squadron deploys of 72 planned MH-60M helicopters; is armed medium-altitude long-endurance small operational detachments similar on the path to recapitalize the gunship unmanned aerial systems, which can to Army Special Forces A-Teams. J fleet with AC-130J models; and the both see and strike targets. –Julie Bird contributed to this report. “We have a fleet of MQ-1Predators MC-130J program is on track to

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’12 ARMY Preview

Army Special Operations Rapid growth to continue through 2013


By Lee Ewing

PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Cruz G. Sotelo

he top priorities of the U.S. “to provide strategic options to the make long-term assignments possible Army Special Operations geographical combatant commanders without hampering the specialists’ career Command reflect its focus on and ambassadors across the spectrum of advancement. The command’s fourth priority, conflict,” Maxwell says. its premier asset, the soldier. While the options include “the Maxwell says, “is to be able to remain “The No. 1 priority is … recruiting, testing, selecting, training and educating capability to conduct counterterrorism, true to our commitment to provide the what we would say are the world’s finest to capture and kill high-value targets best quality of life for our families and our wounded warriors.” Special Operations The command places forces,” says Col. David strong emphasis on Maxwell, director of “enablers,” such as airlift, the Strategic Initiatives intelligence, surveillance Group at USASOC. and reconnaissance, and Rapid growth is planned logistics support forces. through 2013, when the Most of these resources last of five battalions are provided by the regular will be added, one for Army, some by USASOC. each active-duty Special For airlift, the 160th Forces Group. Special Operations “Our second priority Aviation Regiment at is to invest in the Army Fort Campbell, Ky., is Special Operations Force adding a company soldier as a system,” he of upgraded MHadds. “We are looking The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Ky., has 47G Chinook cargo to incorporate the best been adding a company of upgraded MH-57G Chinook helicopters. The helicopters. The command practices in training and command also is upgrading MH-60K/L Black Hawks to MH-60Ms. also is upgrading MHeducation, combined 60K/L Black Hawks to with cutting-edge technology.” The goal is to make the when and where needed,” others don’t the MH-60M model. To improve ISR, the command is soldier even more effective in missions involve combat. One is to provide ranging from direct combat to influencing psychological operations in support of the creating two companies equipped with populations through psychological host government. Another is to assist in the armed MQ-1C Extended Range / changing conditions that can give rise to Multipurpose unmanned aerial system, operations and civil affairs efforts. The training and education initiative insurgency and terrorism by enhancing the a variant of the MQ-1 Predator flown by will extend from initial qualification host nation’s governance and improving the Air Force, and provide a special troops battalion for each Special Forces Group. training to advanced military and economic conditions. As for sustainment, the command will To gain expertise, regional specialists civilian education. The Fort Bragg, N.C.based command established a partnership would remain in their assignments grow its group support battalions, which with the University of North Carolina for many years. The aim is to develop will bolster maintenance, medical and to educate soldiers in several skills, soldiers who are as steeped in regional forward supply distribution capabilities. To support the new U.S. Africa including languages, culture, leadership knowledge and expert in irregular warfare and negotiations, that special operators as T.E. Lawrence, the renowned guerrilla Command, the Army Special Operations need to help teach other nations defend leader known as Lawrence of Arabia. Command is adding a civil affairs The command is working with the Army battalion and a civil affairs company to themselves from internal threats. The command’s third priority is on new personnel policies that could each group. J

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’12 MARINE CORPS Preview

Marine Spec Ops Command

Corps proposes big force-structure increase


By Thomas Day

PHOTO: Lance Cpl. Kyle McNally

and communications equipment requirements is in keeping ince its activation in February intelligence of 2006, the Marine Special equipment remain our top priorities,” with the Special Operations tradition. “They tend to look for off-the-shelf Operations Command, or a command spokesman, Maj. Michael MARSOC, has gone from a concept to Armistead, says in a written statement. equipment that will give them an extra The command has or is fielding more edge in successfully executing their the front lines. Last fall the Marines Corps than 100 pieces of equipment specific to missions today – not five years from now,” says John J. Young Jr., a senior conducted a force-structure review that Special Operations, he says.  fellow at the Potomac focused on the likely Institute and former security environment undersecretary of after operations in defense for acquisitions, Afghanistan end, notes technology, and logistics a March 28 report by under President George the Congressional W. Bush. “Special Research Service. Operations Command The review called for has become especially growing MARSOC by proficient at taking more than 1,000 from existing items, making its current force of minor modifications, about 2,500, including a and creating a weapon “44 percent increase in or system that provides a critical combat support clear edge.” and service support While the majority Marines. It is currently of MARSOC’s not known how these appropriations come proposed increases will Marines from Marine Special Operations Command pack up their parachutes after a High-Altitude, Low-Opening (HALO) jump at Camp Lejeune, NC. from the U.S. Special translate into additional HALO jumps, with the canopies open only a short amount of time, reduce the Forces Command capabilities and new chance of the paratroopers being seen by enemy troops. budget, they do get force structure and how support from the much these proposed Armistead would not specify the Department of the Navy budget as well. additions will cost.” MARSOC is also looking for If that happens, it likely would take SOF-specific equipment, citing secrecy place as the overall Corps is shrinking. requirements. About 80 percent of equipment to counter Improvised Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the MARSOC equipment, however, Explosive Devices, which have Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the is service-common, he said. “This responsible for the majority of U.S. troop Joint Chiefs of Staff, have recommended equipment covers the following deaths in Afghanistan. MARSOC is composed of three ​ areas: communications, shrinking the Corps by up to 20,000 functional engineering, general supply, motor battalions. The 1st Marine Special Marines starting in fiscal 2015.  As it looks toward the next fiscal transport, ordnance, and personal Operations Battalion is based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The 2nd and 3rd year, MARSOC will continue to outfit protective equipment.” MARSOC, like much of the battalions are at Camp Lejeune, N.C. itself with a foundation of basic Marine Corps equipment supplemented with Special Operations community, seems The command’s headquarters is at equipment tailored for the Special uninterested in big-ticket weapons. Camp Lejeune. J It has no aviation assets. The meatOperations community. –Julie Bird contributed to this report. “Special Operations Forces-peculiar and-potatoes nature of MARSOC’s

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Naval Special Warfare Priorities include watercraft upgrades


By Michael Fabey

PHOTO: Mass Comm. Spec. 1st Class Talley Reeve

or Naval Special Warfare, Warfare Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat priorities have included the James “mission completed” means (RHIB), and has also realigned funds Bond-like diver propulsion device, Hydrographic one thing -- maximum impact from canceled programs to fund Semi-Autonomous with minimum splash. Their funding and the development of a family of dry Reconnaissance Vehicle and a nondevelopment priorities are meant to do submersibles that can be launched from gasoline burning outboard engine. The Shallow Water Combat surface ships or specialized submarines, just that. (SWCS) program For its stealthy surface mobility according to a March 28 Congressional Submersibles ​ is a family of programs, the U.S. submersibles that Special Operations includes a new Command has said wet submersible it wants to develop capable of operating and further refine from existing drythe MK V Special dock shelters. It Operations Craft, would replace Special Operations the legacy SEAL Craft-Riverine Delivery Vehicle. (SOC-R) and “Future SWCS Patrol Boat-Light submersibles may (PBL). Naval Special be wet or dry Warfare is looking and can operate for more flexible from future large craft that provide a submarine shelters smoother ride. and/or surface “Current craft ships,” Adm. Eric have rigid hull Olson, USSOCOM form with passive, A competitive prototype contract will be awarded later this year for the Combatant commander, said shock-absorptive Craft-Medium to replace a Special Warfare version of the rigid hull inflatable boat, similar to the one shown here pulling up alongside the destroyer USS John McCain in congressional seats with damping characteristics that are after searching for boats set adrift by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March. testimony last year. USSOCOM platform-specific,” is still looking for the type of dry says Mark Pecoraro, assistant program Research Service report. One priority funding and budget item underwater operational capability offered executive officer and program science and technology officer for USSOCOM’S has been the SEAL Delivery Vehicle by the Advanced SEAL Delivery System Program Executive Office-Navy (SDV), which provides life support, Program (ASDS), which was plagued by Systems. They don’t offer enough of a navigation and communications for cost controversy and ultimately sunk by cushion, he said in a technology needs SEALs while carrying them to a drop- a 2008 lithium-ion battery fire in one of briefing. USSOCOM wants hull forms off point from a Dry Deck Shelter the units. “Wet vehicle performance is inherently and seating systems that mitigate short- (DDS). The current SDV-DDS system and long-term shock effects at sea-state requires too much manual effort, limited by the human factors associated Pecoraro says. The command wants an with diving,” Pecoraro said. He noted the conditions at relatively high speeds. USSOCOM plans to award a automated launch and recovery system ASDS construction cost was about $200 competitive prototype contract later requiring little or no operator input, he million, “approaching that of a warship.” The command wanted to get the unit cost this year for the Combatant Craft- says. Other major subsurface program down to about $20 million. J Medium (CCM) to replace the Special

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PHOTO: Courtesy of PEO-STI

The Engagement Skills Trainer hones soldiers’ marksmanship without expending any ammunition.

VIRTUAL TRAINING: It’s not just videogames and laser tag.

It’s the key to survival.


By Tony Mecia

here’s no substitute for battlefield experience. But those who design the training for today’s military say they’re getting closer. By harnessing new technologies, trainers say they’re much better able to simulate the stresses of war before actually placing fighting men and women into the field. The result, they say, is a better-prepared fighting force more likely to survive their first firefights, the deadliest time for any soldier. At the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., soldiers role-play through a mock Iraqi village called Medina Wasl, firing weapons filled with blanks and equipped with lightweight lasers. They know when they’ve been “hit” because they wear laser detectors. At Fort Benning, Ga., tank gunners and drivers can practice in a virtual Bradley Fighting Vehicle, surrounded by a 360 degree video screen. Some of the simulators have images that look like videogames, which look increasingly more realistic. But there’s a key difference. “Some people refer to what we do as just playing games, but we are not playing games,” says Fran Fierko, who oversees virtual training for the Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, 74

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Training & Instrumentation (PEO STRI) in Orlando, Fla. “We have soldiers’ lives in the balance.” Sure, some of the virtual training might look like souped-up videogames, and indeed, the military in some cases has adapted commercially available games for military use. But Fierko says the armed forces place a much greater emphasis on reviewing the performance during a training exercise, to learn from mistakes and acknowledge successes. And the situations that the technology can simulate often can’t be safely replicated in live training, such as driving tanks on black ice or up narrow mountain passes. Virtual training will never replace live training, Fierko says, but it offers plenty of advantages.   ilitary trainers talk of three main kinds of training: live training (real soldiers, real environment); virtual training (real soldiers, simulated environment); and constructive training (simulated soldiers, simulated environment – often for commanders to game out scenarios). Live training dates to the ancient Egyptians, and the idea of wargaming has been around for centuries, but the middle category – virtual training – didn’t exist until computers became widely


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(BELOW): The Engagement Skills Trainer includes numerous scenarios to improve soldiers’ shooting skills.

available in the 1970s and ’80s. And after Vietnam, notions of what constituted effective live training changed, too. “Back then, it was very flat – you were basically engaging little green pop-up silhouettes as you laid on your stomach,” says Ken Murray, author of Training at the Speed of Life: The Definitive Textbook for Military and Law Enforcement Training. “What’s the point in lying on your stomach shooting for marksmanship when marksmanship and gunfighting are two separate skills?” ​At the time, the U.S. was focused on a different kind of enemy, too. Much of the training emphasized the movement of tanks and troops in a conventional war, since the major threat was seen as Soviet expansion into Europe. After the Sept. 11 attacks, though, it was clear that the enemy had changed. The focus switched to training units as small as squads or platoons, with only a few dozen soldiers, instead of hundreds at a time. And their missions are more likely to require an understanding of communications and cultural awareness as opposed to simply raw force. “In the last five to eight years, a lot of the training focus and investment has been based more on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is a less sophisticated enemy but a very demanding environment,” says Michael L. Kelly, vice president of business development and strategy for Cubic Corp., a San Diegobased military contractor that supplies training systems. At the same time, Kelly says, technology was improving because of advances in computing power and graphics. As a result, training systems like Cubic’s Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 76

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(ABOVE): A soldier training at the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., uses the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) on a .50 caliber M2 machine gun atop an M1127 Stryker Reconnaissance Vehicle.

(EST 2000) are now able to greatly help a soldier’s judgment and marksmanship because they can replicate the weapons’ performance, and advances in graphics can provide more realistic scenarios. The system includes a high-resolution projection screen and can be programmed for a nearly endless variety of scenarios for multiple trainees to work on marksmanship and shoot/don’t shoot exercises. And the company’s MILES system – the lasers and laser-recognition devices in the fake Iraqi town at Fort Irwin – are far more advanced than the systems of a decade or two ago. “Nothing is as intense or stressful as real combat, but in general, these rigorous training regimens are preparing these guys when they go overseas into these environments,” he says. “The training environment is designed to put them under stress.” And while virtual training was once viewed skeptically, it’s now widely embraced by top officers. In some cases it even can be superior to live training, says David Rees, senior vice president and director of special projects for SAIC Corp., a McLean, Va., company that makes simulators for the military. “There are certain things that can be better done in virtual than in live, because in virtual, you can push to the limits of nonsurvivability,” he says. “There is no replacement for the hot, sweaty, muddy discomfort of being deployed in the field. But what the training does is makes sure that when you hit the ground in the field, you are better prepared and are getting much more out of the training than 20 years ago.” Not all the advancements are for dangerous work. Los Angelesbased Alelo Inc. has developed a 3D game to help improve language

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skills. In “Mission to Iraq,” the player communicates with avatars representing Iraqi citizens. Players who communicate correctly and appropriately earn the trust of the avatars and gain information to help them advance; players who make mistakes will find the Iraqis uncooperative and will not receive the information they need.   ilitary spending on training systems has become a big market for contractors. More than 200 competitors offer military simulation training, according to a market research report by Frost & Sullivan. While some of the companies winning the biggest share of the contracts are b​ ig defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp., plenty of smaller players also are vying for a piece of the simulation training market that Frost & Sullivan estimates at $6 billion a year. It’s a growing market, too. Frost & Sullivan estimates annual growth in the sector at about 2 percent. The lion’s share of the spending on simulation training goes through PEO STRI in Orlando, which assesses the Army’s training needs, awards contracts to private companies and works to introduce the technologies at bases throughout the world. Soldiers who deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan will have been trained on at least one – and maybe as many as 10 – different systems developed by PEO STRI, Fierko says. Going forward, one of the biggest focuses will be on integrating individual simulators together. Over the years, a lot of simulators were “stovepipe,” or isolated, systems unable to talk to one another, says Pete Marion, PEO STRI’s customer support executive. Now, platforms are being developed to allow soldiers in different places and on different systems to train with one another. That might mean that a tank crew in front of a projection screen at Fort Hood, Texas, could see a tank doing live training at Fort Irwin, Calif., and that a brigade commander at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, could direct them both as part of a training exercise. “I hesitate to say we’re seamless, but we’re a lot closer than we’ve ever been before,” Marion says. “…We are clearly training new tasks, and we’re doing that well, and we’re training traditional tasks better.” Other hot areas include rifle marksmanship, medical training and cultural awareness training. Training medics in particular has traditionally been difficult because there’s been no easy way to replicate major injuries. Now, though, the Army has started using Emergency Care Simulators (ECS) – mannequins that can be programmed with a variety of illnesses and injuries and can “live” or “die” depending on the care received. The simulators are in rooms that can be programmed to blare gunfire and release smoke to replicate a real-world battleground. Overall, Marion says he sees technology continuing to advance in ways that help soldiers be better prepared to ship out to those crucial first firefights. “The more realistic we can create the training environment, the more we can prepare them to encounter that,” he says, “the better.” J 78

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PHOTO: Max Ellison


PHOTO: Shawn Weismiller

The Vehicle Detection System belts on training vehicles like this M1127 Stryker Reconnaissance Vehicle at Barstow Marine Corps Logistics Base, Calif., need to be reset using a MILES Controller Device.

PHOTO: Courtesy of PEO-STI

The Army is using Emergency Care Simulators, mannequins that can “live” or “die” depending on the care given during training.

Training scenarios, which incorporate laser-recognition devices, are geared toward today’s insurgency-based urban battlefield.


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In Memory Of

Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Glen Shields December 30, 1939 - June 9, 1965

Born Dec. 30, 1939, in Port Townsend, Wash., Marvin Glen Shields graduated from Port Townsend High School in 1958. The summer before and after his high school graduation he worked as one of the first employees at the Mineral Basin Mining Development gold mine in Hyder, Alaska. Shields was drafted into the Navy in early 1962, completed Seabee training, and was assigned to Seabee Battalion STAT, Detachment 1104 in Vietnam. On June 9, 1965, working in intense jungle heat and humidity, Shields and eight fellow Navy construction workers were building a new airstrip for the Special Forces camp near Dong Xoai, 55 miles northeast of Saigon. The oppressive climate that drained both his physical and mental strength was nothing like the oceanic climate of his home in Port Townsend. Since the camp was still under construction, it lacked the earthen-berm perimeter and other protections of a completed camp. Dong Xoai, a district capital in the Phuoc Long Province, lay alongside a critical Viet Cong supply route from Cambodia into War Zone D and was protected by several hundred South Vietnamese troops. As the Seabees worked, 1,500 Viet Cong troops quietly gathered in the dense jungle before attacking at 11 p.m. The perimeter troops were overrun in less than 30 minutes, and the Viet Cong troops quickly launched a heavy mortar and ground attack on the camp. Despite suffering a gunshot wound early in the battle, Shields engaged

the enemy and ran from one defensive position to another, providing both encouragement and much-needed ammunition to his fellow troops. They still held the camp at dawn. Four hours later and despite suffering a second gunshot wound, Shields helped carry a more critically wounded man to a medevac helicopter, refused an order to evacuate, and rejoined the fight. After 14 hours of intense battle and greatly weakened by his wounds and blood loss, Shields volunteered to help the commander knock out an entrenched enemy machine gun placement with a 3.5-inch rocket launcher. As the two returned to their defensive position, Marvin Shields was mortally wounded. Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields, 25, left a wife, Joan, and a 1-year-old daughter, Barbara. He was buried with full military honors at Gardiner Cemetery in Gardiner, Wash. On Sept. 13, 1966, Shields was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Johnson for his selfless actions in one of the most intense battles of the Vietnam War. The battle resulted in two Medals of Honor, one Distinguished Service Cross, one Air Force Cross and numerous Silver Star Medals and other awards for valor. Marvin Shields’ name is etched on the black granite wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Panel 02E, Row 007. His other military awards include the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.

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A pararescueman from the 301st Rescue Squadron checks in from a forward-deployed location in Iraq during an Operation Iraqi Freedom mission. PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo


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