Army Unit from Alaska Gets to Train in Darkness in South Korea

I never thought of this before, but yes Army units from Alaska would have a very limited amount of time to train in darkness since the best months weather wise to train have a lot of daylight:

A soldier from 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, wears chemical-resistant gear while training at Rodriguez Live Fire Range, South Korea, Sunday, June, 4, 2017.

Six hundred U.S. troops wrapped up a monthlong training rotation to South Korea Monday with something in short supply this time of year at their home station in Alaska — darkness.

Soldiers from the Fort Wainwright-based 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment “Bobcats” spent May living and training at the 3,390-acre Rodriguez Live Fire Range north of Seoul.

“We’re here to build our lethality,” battalion commander Lt. Col. R. Blake Lackey said Wednesday.

That includes being able to operate day and night, the latter being difficult in the Alaskan summer, he said.

“This time of year we’ll be training at 1:30 in the morning and it’s still daylight,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Moore, 34, a recon team leader with the battalion.

“When it’s dark in Alaska it’s winter and it’s pretty harsh,” the West Palm Beach, Fla., native added. “So it’s really difficult to get after some of the more basic and fundamental [requirements].”

The Korea rotation has taken the unit “to a higher level of readiness we didn’t think was possible,” Lackey said.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the rest at the link.

Where the Majority of US Military Servicemembers Come From

For those who have served in the military these statistics are probably not surprising:

With an active-duty force comprising merely 0.4% of the U.S. population, this divide between the military and the rest of society is unsurprising. However, and despite the services’ continued efforts, two trends are making it harder to bridge the divide: increased regional and familial concentration within the armed forces.

Why should this disturb us? Because of its subtle impact on the most important decision our nation’s leadership ever makes — when to put young men and women into harm’s way. It also undermines the military’s need for public support.

First, the facts: Having a relative who served in the military has become a critical indicator as to whether an individual will even consider military service. Among veterans under age 40, 60% have an immediate family tie to the military, compared to only 39% of civilians. Of the new recruits joining today, approximately 25% have a parent who has served. As time goes on, this pattern isolates military service; it is becoming a burden borne by an increasingly small number of families.

Similar trends emerge when examining the regional makeup of the force. Places where the military has historical roots, including locations close to military bases, draw more young men and women into the service. So 60% of new military recruits come from the South and the West, with the South alone contributing 36.9% of all recruits, while the Northeast and Midwest remain underrepresented relative to their population of people aged 18 to 24. In fact, half of the states in the U.S. contribute more than their fair share, and half contribute less. Though the service academies receive nominations from all 50 states, they are only one source of military commissions, focused solely on officers. Geographically, the military today is simply not representative of the U.S. population, depriving the armed forces of the organizational strength that comes from diversity.  [USA Today]

You can read more at the link.

 

GMD System Successfully Intercepts A Threat Representative ICBM During Test

I think it is important to remember these tests are in a highly controlled environment, but I think without a doubt it does increase confidence in the only system the US currently has to defend against the North Korean ICBM threat:

VANDENBERG AFB, CA – MAY 30: A ground-based interceptor rocket is launched on May 30, 2017 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The rocket from Vandenberg successfully intercepted and destroyed a target missile in space – most likely above waters east of Hawaii that have been temporarily closed to all shipping. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The Pentagon announced that the United States on Tuesday tested for the first time its intercontinental ballistic missile defense system, a system designed to foil the types of missiles Kim Jong-un and North Korea have been looking to develop.

According to Reuters, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptor test took place today at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The test was a success.

“We improve and learn from each test, regardless of the outcome. That’s the reason we conduct them,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Tuesday. “The system that we test today is a developmental system that’s being flown for the first time and we look forward to understanding the results so we continue to mature the system and stay ahead of the threat.”

While the test is said not to be just about North Korea, the timing indicates that it has everything to do with Kim Jong-un’s recent ballistic missile tests.  [Atlanta Journal Constitution]

That is where many in the media are getting it wrong, these tests are planned out and scheduled years in advance.  The fact North Korea fired ballistic missiles recently as the Pentagon has said had nothing to do with the timing of the test.  Plus this system could not shoot down those missiles anyway.  GMD is only used to defend against ICBMs.  The shorter and medium range missiles that North Korea has been firing recently would be defended against by the THAAD and Patriot missile defense systems.

You can read more about this history of the GMD program at Defense News.

Korean Immigrant Becomes Commander of US Special Operations in the Pacific

A bad-ass Korean-American has taken over command of all US Special Forces in the Pacific:

Maj. Gen. Daniel Yoo speaks with a well-wisher after taking command of Pacific Special Operations during a ceremony at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, Friday, May 12, 2017. WYATT OLSON/STARS AND STRIPES

Maj. Gen. Daniel Yoo took command of Pacific Special Operations on Friday, becoming the first Marine to head a theater-level special operations command.

Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, described Yoo as “the embodiment of the American dream.”

“Born on the Fourth of July, in Korea, he immigrated to this country at a young age and the rest, as they say, is history,” he said during a ceremony at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii.

Yoo is a career infantry officer who has led units from a rifle platoon to the entire 1st Marine Division. He previously served as director of operations for U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

Report Claims High Altitude Ballistic Missiles Can Defeat US Missile Defenses In South Korea

Once again people are confusing the term missile defense system with THAAD:

North Korea is believed to have designed its series of missile tests in a way that can beat THAAD and other U.S. missile defense systems aimed at protecting South Korea and Japan, according to a congressional report Thursday.

The Congressional Research Service said in a report cited by the Washington Times that the North test-launched missiles last year in flights precisely designed to avoid interception by rocketing them into much higher altitudes.

That was aimed at getting the reentry warhead to descend at a steeper angle and faster speed, “making it potentially more difficult to intercept with a missile defense system,” the CRS report said, according to the newspaper.

The North has also demonstrated an ability to launch a salvo attack with multiple missiles, it said.

“This is consistent with a possible goal of being able to conduct large ballistic missile attacks with large raid sizes, a capability that could make it more challenging for a missile defense system to destroy each incoming warhead,” the CRS report said.  [Yonhap]

First of all of course if North Korea masses enough ballistic missiles at one location and there is not enough Patriot and THAAD interceptors to shoot them down then ballistic missiles will get through.  This is not a missile defense problem it is a math problem.  The other thing people need to realize is if the Kim regime masses missiles in one location to defeat a missile defense battery that means it has less in its inventory to use in other locations.

Secondly there are different types of missile defense systems which THAAD is one part of.  Patriot is a lower tier system that cannot do engagement outside the atmosphere.  THAAD is a system that can do engagement outside the atmosphere to intercept missiles fired at higher altitudes as cited in the article.

When I get time I will have to read the actual CRS report because what the media claims and what is actually in a report are often very different things.

Scientists Claim THAAD Cannot Protect South Korea for North Korean Missile Attack

A group of scientists is claiming THAAD cannot effectively defend South Korea from ballistic missile attack:

Another scientist, David Wright, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program, said that a salvo of North Korean short-range missiles could overwhelm THAAD.

The 10 million people living in Seoul will also not be protected by THAAD, since it is being installed 125 miles south of the city. “It cannot engage missiles fired at Seoul, so it offers no additional protection of the city,” David Wright told the Associated Press.

“We have a layered defense systems, which is shared with the Republic of South Korea and Japan,” Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesperson, told Business Insider in response to whether or not Seoul was protected. “But we don’t discuss specific weapons systems.”

As it stands, US Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile defenses provide protection for Seoul, though it has similar limitations to THAAD.

One scientist was even more wary of THAAD’s capabilities. Harris’ statement about THAAD is “technically incorrect,”Theodore Postol, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said.”The THAAD interceptor is very easily defeated by either causing a missile to tumble end over end or by intentionally fragmenting a rocket into pieces.”

In the case of a saturation attack, or a large volume of missiles as Postol described, THAAD’s defense capabilities “can be expected to be very low, probably zero or close to that,” Postol said.  [Business Insider]

You can read more at the link, but of course if North Korea masses enough ballistic missiles at one location and there is not enough Patriot and THAAD interceptors to shoot them down then ballistic missiles will get through.  When it comes to Seoul, North Korea can already destroy Seoul with artillery why waste ballistic missiles by shooting at it?

It seems they would want to use their ballistic missiles to target areas further to the south that their artillery systems cannot reach.  Additionally as mentioned in the article THAAD is not the only missile defense system in South Korea with Patriot batteries deployed across the peninsula.  THAAD has never been sold as being a magic force field to protect all of South Korea, it is part of a layered missile defense system to protect the country.

Navy Special Warfare Unit Faces Investigation for Flying Trump Flag on Military Vehicle

I can’t remember an incident like this happening before, but it is a good reminder to troops to not display partisan political advertisements on military vehicles:

Steve Thompson was on his way to pick up some feed for his goat farm Sunday morning when he noticed an impressive-looking military convoy and started filming. When he neared the lead vehicle in the convoy, the 32-year-old Shepherdsville, Ky., man noticed something else: A large blue and white Trump campaign flag.

“I just thought it was just a bunch of military vehicles,” Thompson, who was driving near Louisville at the time, told the Lexington Herald Leader . “I was surprised because I figured you wouldn’t be able to fly anything on a Humvee other than an American flag.”

The Navy has since confirmed that the convoy was from a Virginia Beach-based special warfare unit.

Thompson’s video is one of two that have been circulating on social media this week, drawing both praise and outrage, and prompting the Navy to open an investigation into the flag-flying display. One of the Facebook videos showing the convoy was viewed close to 80,000 times before it was taken down Thursday afternoon – but not before unleashing a flood of comments.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

SBX Radar Leaves Hawaii to Track Any Possible North Korean ICBM

Here is the latest action the Pentagon has taken in response to any near term launch of a North Korean ICBM:

SBX image via Wikipedia.

The U.S. Pentagon has deployed a giant floating radar in anticipation of an intercontinental missile launch from North Korea, CNN reported Wednesday.

The sea-based X-band radar was deployed in response to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s claim in his New Year’s address on Jan. 1 that preparations for an intercontinental ballistic missile have “reached the final stage.”

It has a range of 4,800 km and is capable of monitoring most of China as well as the Korean Peninsula from Okinawa.  [Chosun Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but the SBX is used to support the US military’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system that has interceptors in Alaska and California that for defense against a limited attack from North Korea.