Category: Military

Georgia Air Guardsman earns Purple Heart for Heroic Actions in Afghanistan


U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Franklin Wetmore, a radio frequency transmission systems craftsman with the 202d Engineering Installation Squadron, 116th Air Control Wing, Georgia Air National Guard, was awarded the Purple Heart medal on Sep. 13, 2020, during a ceremony at the Museum of Aviation outside Robins Air Force Base.

On Dec. 11, 2019, while Wetmore and his team were awaiting airlift to conduct a quality assurance inspection for the Defense Information Systems Agency, a nearby explosion shook a terminal at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, where they were deployed during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Although Wetmore sustained an injury during the explosion, he jumped into action and provided security as the base came under attack. He guided unarmed comrades between bunkers and another terminal, some of whom were civilian contractors and some who were just leaving the shower area. Prior to Army personnel arriving to take charge of security, Wetmore guarded more than 500 personnel who were hunkered down in the terminal. During the course of the attack, he held his position for approximately two hours with shots firing in the distance before medical personnel could be notified and attend to his injuries.

With Christmas around the corner, Wetmore shared how he was thinking about the holidays coming up during the days leading up to the explosion.

“I was thinking about family, food, and looking forward to the helicopter ride to a forward operating base in Afghanistan,” Wetmore said. “I am proud to serve and always wanted to be deployed to the tip of the spear. But this time, the enemy’s spear got me.”

For his actions and ensuing injury, Wetmore earned the Purple Heart, our nation’s oldest military medal. It is a combat decoration awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded or killed by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.

“I’m very honored to receive the medal, and I’m proud, but I wish I was never hurt,” Wetmore said. “I love America, and I go to deployed locations knowing I may never see my family again. America and freedom are that important. I am always ready and will always say ‘yes.’”

Wetmore’s actions downrange reflect his consistent service and dedication. Since November 2012, he has served in numerous capacities in the Georgia Air National Guard — primarily in the 202d EIS — inspecting, installing, and trouble-shooting radio and antenna installations for fixed and mobile radio communications. His work is key to establishing and maintaining communication systems and network connectivity in austere environments for U.S. and friendly forces.

“It’s an incredible honor to serve with Sgt. Wetmore,” said Col. Amy Holbeck, commander of the 116th Air Control Wing. “I’m proud of his selfless service and sacrifice on this specific occasion, but also of his continued commitment to serve this great nation.”

Blogs to Follow:

DVIDShub.net (September 2020)  Georgia Air Guardsman earns Purple Heart for actions in Afghanistan; Photo By Master Sgt. Nancy Goldberger

Technology Proliferation, Influence Ops May Be as Disruptive as COVID-19


The COVID-19 pandemic has been globally disruptive in nearly every facet of life. But other things may prove as disruptive in the future, said leaders of the military intelligence community.

One advancement that may possibly be as disruptive as COVID-19 is the revolution in information technology that’s available to everybody — not just the U.S. and its allies, Navy Vice Adm. Robert Sharp, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said during an online forum today with the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.

“It’s this revolution in remotely-sensed and geo-located data, which is available to everyone,” he said. “It’s available to us, but it’s also available to our competitors. [Also] the revolution in smart machines and artificial intelligence — once again, [it’s a] great opportunity for us, but it’s not only our opportunity. That’s the competition space.”

Another area of concern is something Sharp called “GEOINT assurance.” With the growth of open-source geospatial intelligence coming from multiple sources, it becomes less certain that the information can be trusted, he said.

“How do you have confidence in the ones and zeros that you’re using for making decisions based off of,” he asked.

Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, cited influence operations as the next possible great disruptor. Influence operations, he said, have a very low barrier to entry, enabling just about anybody to engage in them.

“We’ve seen it now in our democratic processes,” Nakasone said. “I think we’re going to see it in our diplomatic processes, we’re going to see it in warfare, and we’re going to see it in sowing civil distrust in different countries.”

Influence operations, he said, are all enabled by the proliferation of inexpensive technology that allows anybody with an agenda to get online.

“The great technology that’s enabling so much of what we’re doing is also that dual-edged sword that malicious cyber actors and others are being able to use to create doubt, or to be able to question authority, or to be able to … to spread messages that are far from true,” he said. “I think influence operations, just in general, will be for us one of the things that we’ll be dealing with not just every two or four years, but this is the competitive space that we’re going to be in as intelligence agencies and as our nation”.

Blogs to Follow:

Defense.gov (September 2020)  Technology Proliferation, Influence Ops May Be as Disruptive as COVID-19

VA Notifies Veterans of Compromised Personal Information


Hackers attempted to reroute medical payments from the VA, exposing information of 46,000 Veterans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Management today announced a data breach involving the personal information of approximately 46,000 Veterans and actions taken by the department to prevent and mitigate any potential harm to those individuals. 

The Financial Services Center (FSC) determined one of its online applications was accessed by unauthorized users to divert payments to community health care providers for the­ medical treatment of Veterans.

The FSC took the application offline and reported the breach to VA’s Privacy Office.

A preliminary review indicates these unauthorized users gained access to the application to change financial information and divert payments from VA by using social engineering techniques and exploiting authentication protocols.

To prevent any future improper access to and modification of information, system access will not be reenabled until a comprehensive security review is completed by the VA Office of Information Technology. 

To protect these Veterans, the FSC is alerting the affected individuals, including the next-of-kin of those who are deceased, of the potential risk to their personal information.

The department is also offering access to credit monitoring services, at no cost, to those whose social security numbers may have been compromised. 

Veterans whose information was involved are advised to follow the instructions in the letter to protect their data.

There is no action needed from Veterans if they did not receive an alert by mail, as their personal information was not involved in the incident. 

Veterans or Veteran next-of-kin that receive notification their information is potentially at risk from this incident can direct specific questions to the FSC Customer Help Desk to VAFSCVeteransSupport@va.gov or writing to VA FSC Help Desk, Attn: Customer Engagement Center, .P.O. Box 149971, Austin, TX 78714-9971. 

Blogs to Follow:

VA.gov (September 2020)  VA notifies Veterans of compromised personal information

DOD Official Outlines U.S. Nuclear Deterrence Strategy


There is broad, bipartisan support for the modernization of the nuclear triad, which includes bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and the systems that control them, a Defense Department expert said.

Robert Soofer, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, also said support is more divided for the creation of W76-2, which is a class of low-yield, tactical nuclear warhead that is different from those in the nuclear triad. An example would be a submarine-launched ballistic missile nuclear warhead.

To understand the divide over support for W76-2, one must have an understanding of the two schools of thought on the best approach to nuclear deterrence, Soofer told the Air Force Association Mitchell Institute’s Nuclear Deterrence Forum today.

Each school of thought has its advocates, including members of Congress, interest groups and think tanks, he noted.

The first school of thought is known as simple nuclear deterrence, sometimes referred to as minimum deterrence. The thought is that deterrence is best achieved with a limited number of nuclear weapons that, for example, could destroy a certain number of an adversary’s cities, Soofer said. The viability of the deterrence is created by an adversary’s fear of uncontrolled nuclear escalation.

The second school of thought is known as complex nuclear deterrence. This recognizes that nuclear deterrence can be more complicated, requiring an understanding of the adversary and various scenarios that could play out, he said. This strategy also pays close attention to the nuclear balance and places a premium on ensuring the survivability of nuclear forces that can threaten the adversary. 

The complex nuclear deterrence approach has been the basis of U.S. nuclear policy since about the 1960s, and it rests on presenting the president with a number of options and capabilities — particularly in a regional conflict — that would deter Russia’s nuclear use in any scenario, he said.

This is particularly important since Russia has expanded its nuclear capability, and has espoused a doctrine of limited first use, meaning the use of low-yield tactical nuclear warheads, Soofer said.

Having W76-2 capability demonstrates to Russia that the U.S. has taken practical steps to ensure that adversaries can derive no benefit from even limited nuclear use, he said.

There is a very high bar that must be met before the president, who is the only one who can order the use of nuclear weapons, will contemplate the use of W76-2 warhead, or any other nuclear weapon for that matter, Soofer said.

Having a range of nuclear weapons capabilities not only deters nuclear attacks, but it also deters large-scale conventional and biological and chemical attacks and reassures allies and partners, he said.

That is why the U.S. has not adopted a “no use first” policy when it comes to using nuclear weapons, he said, adding that circumstance for first use would have to be extreme, meaning to defend the vital interest of the U.S., allies and partners.

The objectives of the U.S. nuclear strategy are two-fold, he said. “First and foremost is to deter war, both conventional and nuclear; second, should nuclear deterrence fail, [is] to deter further nuclear use and hopefully bring the war to an end before the worst imaginable nuclear catastrophe unfolds.”

Therefore, the U.S. nuclear strategy doesn’t rely solely on massive and immediate attacks against an adversary, he said, though the U.S. maintains this capability to deter adversaries from contemplating a first strike against the United States. “Massive attacks would represent the failure of our nuclear strategy. Rather, our nuclear strategy as articulated in the [2018] Nuclear Posture Review calls for tailored deterrence with flexible capabilities, including an appropriate mix of nuclear capability and limited, graduated response options — something administrations over the last six decades have valued,” Soofer said.

In sum, U.S. nuclear strategy is one of resolve and restraint, he said. “Our limited use of nuclear weapons in response to a Russian or Chinese attack is intended to demonstrate resolve, convincing the adversary that it has really miscalculated when it contemplated the use of nuclear weapons.”

The strategy also communicates restraint, sending a message to the adversary that it has much more to lose if it continues down the path of nuclear escalation, he said.

Blogs to Follow:

Defense.gov (September 2020)  DOD Official Outlines U.S. Nuclear Deterrence Strategy

Two Special Operations Soldiers Killed in Aircraft Mishap


Staff Sgt. Vincent P. Marketta, 33, of Brick, New Jersey, and Sgt. Tyler M. Shelton, 22, of San Bernardino, California, died August 27, from injuries sustained during an aircraft mishap while conducting aviation training on San Clemente Island, California.

“The loss of Staff Sgt. Marketta and Sgt. Shelton has left a scar in this Regiment that will never completely heal,” said Col. Andrew R. Graham, commander of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). “Their level of dedication to the 160th SOAR (A) and their exemplary service in the Army is the embodiment of what it means to be a Night Stalker and a Soldier. Our priority now is to ensure the Families of our fallen warriors receive our complete support as we work through this tragedy together. We ask that you keep Staff Sgt. Marketta, Sgt. Shelton, their Families and fellow Night Stalkers in your thoughts and prayers.”

Staff Sgt. Marketta, a native of Brick, New Jersey, enlisted in the Army in 2011, as a 15T UH-60 “Black Hawk” Repairer. He was assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) upon completing Advanced Individual Training, and the Regiment’s extensive training and assessment program in 2012. He spent 18 months as an aircraft repairer in 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR (A).  In 2014, Marketta remained in 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR (A) for service as an MH-60M Crew Chief.

While assigned to 160th SOAR (A), Marketta deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and deployed multiple times to Iraq in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE.

He graduated from the Enlisted Combat Skills; Combatives Level 1; MH-60 Maintainers Course; Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape School; MH-60 Non-Rated Crew Member Course; the Basic and Advanced Leaders Courses; and the MH-60 Flight Instructors Course.

Staff Sgt. Marketta’s awards and decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross; Air Medal with V device; Air Medal with C device; Air Medal; Army Commendation Medal with C device (2OLC); Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal (1OLC); Army Good Conduct

Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal (Campaign Star); Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (Numeral 2); Army Service Ribbon; NATO Medal; Combat Action Badge; and the Basic Aviator’s Badge.

Sgt. Shelton, a native of San Bernardino, California, enlisted in the Army in 2016, as a 15T UH-60 “Black Hawk” Repairer. He was assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) upon completing Advanced Individual Training, and the Regiment’s extensive training and assessment program in 2017. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR (A) where he spent eight months as an MH-60M Repairer. In 2018, Shelton remained in 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR (A) for service as an MH-60M Crew Chief.

While assigned to 160th SOAR (A), Shelton deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

He graduated from the Enlisted Combat Skills; Combatives Level 1; MH-60 Maintainers Course; Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape School; MH-60 Non-Rated Crew Member Course; and the Basic Leaders Course.

Sgt. Shelton’s awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal (Campaign Star); Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon; Army Service Ribbon; and the Basic Aviator’s Badge.

Both Staff Sgt. Marketta and Sgt. Shelton will receive the Meritorious Service Medal posthumously.

For more information please contact the USASOC Public Affairs Office: elise.vanpool.civ@socom.mil, or call 910.432.6005.

Blogs to Follow:

Army.Mil (August 2020) Two Special Operations Soldiers Killed in Aircraft Mishap