Tag Archives: Military

Man’s best friend, even while deployed in Afghanistan

Media_httptriblocalco_gzxmu

There’s a lot to his deployment in Afghanistan that Sgt. Tim Johannsen can’t discuss.

When he speaks to his stateside wife topics like where he’s stationed, his missions, and what the 23-year-old Army tanker is doing in a mountainous region where tanks can’t even travel are all taboo.

But security doesn’t prevent Johannsen from talking about is his adopted dog – a loyal mutt named Leonidas, who whines outside his bunk while he’s on mission and shelters with him as mortars fall.

The dog brings a touch of normalcy to an otherwise straining environment, Johannsen said in a phone interview from Afghanistan.

Story continues here: triblocal.com
Advertisements

Futurity.org – Should Marines be trained to meditate?

Silhouette of a soldier

Mindfulness training—the technique of bringing full attention to present experience and holding it without judgment or emotional engagement, and returning to the present each time the mind wanders—could offer soldiers protection from post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders. It might provide clarity of thinking needed for soldiers fighting in challenging and ambiguous counterinsurgency zones. (Credit: iStockphoto)

U. PENN (US)—Just as physical conditioning, weapons training, and fighting skills prepare soldiers for the rigors of combat, meditation practice may give them the mental capacity to withstand the trauma of war.

Amishi Jha, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is investigating how brain functions can be improved with exercises like stress reduction, mindfulness training, and long-term meditation practices.

Mindfulness training is the technique of deliberately bringing full attention to present experience and holding it there moment to moment, without judgment or emotional engagement, and returning to the present each time the mind wanders.

The clinical value of meditation practice for treating physical and psychological disorders is widely recognized, Jha says. There are more than 250 U.S. medical centers offering mindfulness-based stress-reduction programs.

To investigate the protective effects of mindfulness practices on soldiers, Jha and Elizabeth Stanley, assistant professor of security studies at Georgetown University, provided mindfulness training to Marines preparing for deployment in Iraq. Their findings were published in the journal Emotion and featured in Joint Force Quarterly, the advisory journal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The training was given to one group of 31 soldiers but not to a control group of 17. In the months prior to deployment, soldiers undergo intense training for physical endurance and mission-critical operational skills, as well as “stress-inoculation” training, which helps habituate them to the extreme mental rigors of combat.

During this period, Jha and Stanley provided the Marines with mindfulness-based mind fitness training, which helped them cope with the pre-deployment training and the stresses of leaving family to face the uncertainties of war.

The eight-week program used mindfulness exercises like focused attention on the breath and mindful movement. Participants kept track of the time they practiced the formal meditation exercises outside the classroom.

Jha evaluated the protective influence of the mindfulness training on working memory and the ability of Marines to regulate emotion. “Our findings suggest that, just as daily physical exercise leads to physical fitness, engaging in mindfulness exercises on a regular basis may improve mind-fitness,” she says.

“Working memory is an important feature of mind-fitness. Not only does it safeguard against distraction and emotional reactivity, but it also provides a mental workspace to ensure quick and considered decisions and action plans.”

Mindfulness training, the researchers suggest, could offer some protection to combatants from post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, and it might provide the clarity of thinking needed for soldiers fighting in challenging and ambiguous counterinsurgency zones.

“Building mind-fitness with mindfulness training may help anyone who must maintain peak performance in the face of extremely stressful circumstances,” Jha contends, “from first responders, relief workers and trauma surgeons, to professional and Olympic athletes.”

More University of Pennsylvania health news: www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/

Futurity.org – Should Marines be trained to meditate?

Silhouette of a soldier

Mindfulness training—the technique of bringing full attention to present experience and holding it without judgment or emotional engagement, and returning to the present each time the mind wanders—could offer soldiers protection from post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders. It might provide clarity of thinking needed for soldiers fighting in challenging and ambiguous counterinsurgency zones. (Credit: iStockphoto)

U. PENN (US)—Just as physical conditioning, weapons training, and fighting skills prepare soldiers for the rigors of combat, meditation practice may give them the mental capacity to withstand the trauma of war.

Amishi Jha, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is investigating how brain functions can be improved with exercises like stress reduction, mindfulness training, and long-term meditation practices.

Mindfulness training is the technique of deliberately bringing full attention to present experience and holding it there moment to moment, without judgment or emotional engagement, and returning to the present each time the mind wanders.

The clinical value of meditation practice for treating physical and psychological disorders is widely recognized, Jha says. There are more than 250 U.S. medical centers offering mindfulness-based stress-reduction programs.

To investigate the protective effects of mindfulness practices on soldiers, Jha and Elizabeth Stanley, assistant professor of security studies at Georgetown University, provided mindfulness training to Marines preparing for deployment in Iraq. Their findings were published in the journal Emotion and featured in Joint Force Quarterly, the advisory journal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The training was given to one group of 31 soldiers but not to a control group of 17. In the months prior to deployment, soldiers undergo intense training for physical endurance and mission-critical operational skills, as well as “stress-inoculation” training, which helps habituate them to the extreme mental rigors of combat.

During this period, Jha and Stanley provided the Marines with mindfulness-based mind fitness training, which helped them cope with the pre-deployment training and the stresses of leaving family to face the uncertainties of war.

The eight-week program used mindfulness exercises like focused attention on the breath and mindful movement. Participants kept track of the time they practiced the formal meditation exercises outside the classroom.

Jha evaluated the protective influence of the mindfulness training on working memory and the ability of Marines to regulate emotion. “Our findings suggest that, just as daily physical exercise leads to physical fitness, engaging in mindfulness exercises on a regular basis may improve mind-fitness,” she says.

“Working memory is an important feature of mind-fitness. Not only does it safeguard against distraction and emotional reactivity, but it also provides a mental workspace to ensure quick and considered decisions and action plans.”

Mindfulness training, the researchers suggest, could offer some protection to combatants from post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, and it might provide the clarity of thinking needed for soldiers fighting in challenging and ambiguous counterinsurgency zones.

“Building mind-fitness with mindfulness training may help anyone who must maintain peak performance in the face of extremely stressful circumstances,” Jha contends, “from first responders, relief workers and trauma surgeons, to professional and Olympic athletes.”

More University of Pennsylvania health news: www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/

Barbara Ehrenreich: 12,000 Drones, Lethal Cyborg Insects, See-Shoot Robots — How Machines Are Taking Over War

July 10, 2011  |  

LIKE THIS ARTICLE ?
Join our mailing list:

Sign up to stay up to date on the latest World headlines via email.

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.  

Last week, William Wan and Peter Finn of the Washington Post reported that at least 50 countries have now purchased or developed pilotless military drones.  Recently, the Chinese had more than two dozen models in some stage of development on display at the Zhuhai Air Show, some of which they are evidently eager to sell to other countries. 

 

So three cheers for a thoroughly drone-ified world.  In my lifetime, I’ve repeatedly seen advanced weapons systems or mind-boggling technologies of war hailed as near-utopian paths to victory and future peace (just as the atomic bomb was soon after my birth). Include in that the Vietnam-era, “electronic battlefield,” President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (aka “Star Wars”), the “smart bombs” and smart missiles of the first Gulf War, and in the twenty-first century, “netcentric warfare,” that Rumsfeldian high-tech favorite.

You know the results of this sort of magical thinking about wonder weapons (or technologies) just as well as I do. The atomic bomb led to an almost half-century-long nuclear superpower standoff/nightmare, to nuclear proliferation, and so to the possibility that someday even terrorists might possess such weapons. The electronic battlefield was incapable of staving off defeat in Vietnam. Reagan’s “impermeable” anti-missile shield in space never came even faintly close to making it into the heavens. Those “smart bombs” of the Gulf War proved remarkably dumb, while the 50 “decapitation” strikes the Bush administration launched against Saddam Hussein’s regime on the first day of the 2003 invasion of Iraq took out not a single Iraqi leader, but dozens of civilians. And the history of the netcentric military in Iraq is well known. Its “success” sent Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld into retirement and ignominy.

In the same way, robot drones as assassination weapons will prove to be just another weapons system rather than a panacea for American warriors. None of these much-advertised wonder technologies ever turns out to perform as promised, but that fact never stops them, as with drones today, from embedding themselves in our world. From the atomic bomb came a whole nuclear landscape that included the Strategic Air Command, weapons labs, production plants, missile silos, corporate interests, and an enormous world-destroying arsenal (as well as proliferating versions of the same, large and small, across the planet). Nor did the electronic battlefield go away. Quite the opposite — it came home and entered our everyday world in the form of sensors, cameras, surveillance equipment, and the like, now implanted from our borders to our cities.

Rarely do wonder weapons or wonder technologies disappoint enough to disappear.  And those latest wonders, missile- and bomb-armed drones, are now multiplying like so many electronic rabbits.  And yet there is always hope.  Back in 1997, Barbara Ehrenreich went after the human attraction to violence in her book Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War In it, among other brilliant insights, she traced the beginnings of our modern blood rites not to Man, the Aggressor, but to human beings, the prey (in a dangerous early world of predators).  Now, in an updated, adapted version of an afterword she did for the British edition of that book, she turns from the origins of war to its end point, suggesting in her usual provocative way that drones and other warrior robotics may, in the end, do us one strange favor: they may finally bring home to us that war is not a human possession, that it is not what we are and must be. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Ehrenreich discusses the nature of war and how to fight against it, click here, or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

Barbara Ehrenreich: 12,000 Drones, Lethal Cyborg Insects, See-Shoot Robots — How Machines Are Taking Over War

July 10, 2011  |  

LIKE THIS ARTICLE ?
Join our mailing list:

Sign up to stay up to date on the latest World headlines via email.

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.  

Last week, William Wan and Peter Finn of the Washington Post reported that at least 50 countries have now purchased or developed pilotless military drones.  Recently, the Chinese had more than two dozen models in some stage of development on display at the Zhuhai Air Show, some of which they are evidently eager to sell to other countries. 

 

So three cheers for a thoroughly drone-ified world.  In my lifetime, I’ve repeatedly seen advanced weapons systems or mind-boggling technologies of war hailed as near-utopian paths to victory and future peace (just as the atomic bomb was soon after my birth). Include in that the Vietnam-era, “electronic battlefield,” President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (aka “Star Wars”), the “smart bombs” and smart missiles of the first Gulf War, and in the twenty-first century, “netcentric warfare,” that Rumsfeldian high-tech favorite.

You know the results of this sort of magical thinking about wonder weapons (or technologies) just as well as I do. The atomic bomb led to an almost half-century-long nuclear superpower standoff/nightmare, to nuclear proliferation, and so to the possibility that someday even terrorists might possess such weapons. The electronic battlefield was incapable of staving off defeat in Vietnam. Reagan’s “impermeable” anti-missile shield in space never came even faintly close to making it into the heavens. Those “smart bombs” of the Gulf War proved remarkably dumb, while the 50 “decapitation” strikes the Bush administration launched against Saddam Hussein’s regime on the first day of the 2003 invasion of Iraq took out not a single Iraqi leader, but dozens of civilians. And the history of the netcentric military in Iraq is well known. Its “success” sent Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld into retirement and ignominy.

In the same way, robot drones as assassination weapons will prove to be just another weapons system rather than a panacea for American warriors. None of these much-advertised wonder technologies ever turns out to perform as promised, but that fact never stops them, as with drones today, from embedding themselves in our world. From the atomic bomb came a whole nuclear landscape that included the Strategic Air Command, weapons labs, production plants, missile silos, corporate interests, and an enormous world-destroying arsenal (as well as proliferating versions of the same, large and small, across the planet). Nor did the electronic battlefield go away. Quite the opposite — it came home and entered our everyday world in the form of sensors, cameras, surveillance equipment, and the like, now implanted from our borders to our cities.

Rarely do wonder weapons or wonder technologies disappoint enough to disappear.  And those latest wonders, missile- and bomb-armed drones, are now multiplying like so many electronic rabbits.  And yet there is always hope.  Back in 1997, Barbara Ehrenreich went after the human attraction to violence in her book Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War In it, among other brilliant insights, she traced the beginnings of our modern blood rites not to Man, the Aggressor, but to human beings, the prey (in a dangerous early world of predators).  Now, in an updated, adapted version of an afterword she did for the British edition of that book, she turns from the origins of war to its end point, suggesting in her usual provocative way that drones and other warrior robotics may, in the end, do us one strange favor: they may finally bring home to us that war is not a human possession, that it is not what we are and must be. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Ehrenreich discusses the nature of war and how to fight against it, click here, or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

Army Uses Radar to Spot Suicide Bombers From 100 Yards



Army Uses Radar to Spot Suicide Bombers From 100 YardsThe security at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel wasn’t nearly enough to stop nine suicide bombers from setting the place ablaze and killing 12 people last month. But the U.S. military thinks it can do better – by spotting treacherous individuals before they get close enough to cause serious harm. Meet the CounterBomber.

The Army just awarded Science, Engineering and Technology Corporation (SET) an up to $48.2 million contract for a machine that could spot bomb-toting individuals from afar. The Virginia-based company, owed by SAIC, has already sent the CounterBomber to over 40 locations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So just how does this $300,000 device catch would-be human explosions at a distance? Two video cameras automatically detect and track individuals walking anywhere near the system, within the range of a soccer field. Low-level radar beams are aimed at them and then reflected back to a computer, which analyzes the signals in a series of algorithms.

“We call it our ‘secret sauce,'” says Rick Thornton, the director of business development at SAIC. That sauce is apparently so potent it can spot signs of bombs or weapons hidden under someone’s clothing.

It does this by comparing the radar return signal (which emits less than a cell phone) to an extensive library of “normal responses.” Those responses are modeled after people of all different shapes and sizes (SET got around to adding females in 2009). It then compares the signal to another set of “anomalous responses” – any anomaly, and horns go off. Literally.

When the computer detects a threat, it shows a red symbol and sounds a horn. No threat and the symbol turns green, greeting the operators with a pleasant piano riff. Seem pretty self-explanatory? It’s meant to be.

“We built a system so anyone coming out of chow hall can operate it.” Thornton says. “As long as you’re not color blind, you can do it.”

For those worried that those piercing radar eyes might be seeing a little too much, the system doesn’t produce any quasi-nude images, à la TSA (privacy is apparently more of a priority for SET). And while Thornton won’t reveal any numbers, he claims the accuracy is much higher than the 40% false alarm rates of airport scanners. The system also detects more than just metal – which is good, since the insurgent bomb of choice is mostly fertilizer.

Even so, this is one of the many, many attempts the U.S. military has made to counter the burgeoning use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a major cause of soldier casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. They don’t just come strapped onto a suicide bomber’s chest, either – these make-shift weapons turn up in vehicles, buried underground, or on the roadside. Detecting a person-borne IED is just a small part of a much wider picture, one the Pentagon has poured billions of dollars into with only mixed results.

A human bomb-detecting radar contraption is a start, but this is one tough problem to solve. Secret sauce just might not cut it.

Photo: SET Corp

Army Uses Radar to Spot Suicide Bombers From 100 Yards

Wired.com has been expanding the hive mind with technology, science and geek culture news since 1995.

Army Uses Radar to Spot Suicide Bombers From 100 Yards



Army Uses Radar to Spot Suicide Bombers From 100 YardsThe security at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel wasn’t nearly enough to stop nine suicide bombers from setting the place ablaze and killing 12 people last month. But the U.S. military thinks it can do better – by spotting treacherous individuals before they get close enough to cause serious harm. Meet the CounterBomber.

The Army just awarded Science, Engineering and Technology Corporation (SET) an up to $48.2 million contract for a machine that could spot bomb-toting individuals from afar. The Virginia-based company, owed by SAIC, has already sent the CounterBomber to over 40 locations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So just how does this $300,000 device catch would-be human explosions at a distance? Two video cameras automatically detect and track individuals walking anywhere near the system, within the range of a soccer field. Low-level radar beams are aimed at them and then reflected back to a computer, which analyzes the signals in a series of algorithms.

“We call it our ‘secret sauce,'” says Rick Thornton, the director of business development at SAIC. That sauce is apparently so potent it can spot signs of bombs or weapons hidden under someone’s clothing.

It does this by comparing the radar return signal (which emits less than a cell phone) to an extensive library of “normal responses.” Those responses are modeled after people of all different shapes and sizes (SET got around to adding females in 2009). It then compares the signal to another set of “anomalous responses” – any anomaly, and horns go off. Literally.

When the computer detects a threat, it shows a red symbol and sounds a horn. No threat and the symbol turns green, greeting the operators with a pleasant piano riff. Seem pretty self-explanatory? It’s meant to be.

“We built a system so anyone coming out of chow hall can operate it.” Thornton says. “As long as you’re not color blind, you can do it.”

For those worried that those piercing radar eyes might be seeing a little too much, the system doesn’t produce any quasi-nude images, à la TSA (privacy is apparently more of a priority for SET). And while Thornton won’t reveal any numbers, he claims the accuracy is much higher than the 40% false alarm rates of airport scanners. The system also detects more than just metal – which is good, since the insurgent bomb of choice is mostly fertilizer.

Even so, this is one of the many, many attempts the U.S. military has made to counter the burgeoning use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a major cause of soldier casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. They don’t just come strapped onto a suicide bomber’s chest, either – these make-shift weapons turn up in vehicles, buried underground, or on the roadside. Detecting a person-borne IED is just a small part of a much wider picture, one the Pentagon has poured billions of dollars into with only mixed results.

A human bomb-detecting radar contraption is a start, but this is one tough problem to solve. Secret sauce just might not cut it.

Photo: SET Corp

Army Uses Radar to Spot Suicide Bombers From 100 Yards

Wired.com has been expanding the hive mind with technology, science and geek culture news since 1995.

Spooks Get New Workout Routine… For Their Minds

The Caveman Ughlympics, the Cat-olympics, the E’lympics – seems like everyone has caught five-ring fever. Even the U.S. intelligence community. To prepare, it’s gotten a new workout routine from a very unlikely source – social science. To bring home the gold in the “Analytical Olympics,” intelligence analysts will have to embark on training regimen unlike any other. All in their head.

The mental workout routine was outlined in a recent report by the National Research Council, which suggests practical ways to apply insights from the behavioral and social sciences to the intelligence community. This isn’t the first time the government has looked to social science for advice – the controversial Human Terrain System project embeds researchers into combat units to improve understanding of local circumstances and cultural traditions. This report is a little different. Instead of sending social scientists overseas, it uses their expertise to consider the “critical problems of individual and group judgment” among analysts at home.

So what exactly are these problems, and how can social science help solve them?

Continue reading here: wired.com

Air Force’s Robotic Bags Will Pack Themselves

The Air Force is sick of packing the military’s crap. So it’s starting to contract it out — to robots.

The Air Force is responsible for lugging around the rest of the military’s gear. Pallets are the workhorses that crews use to get the job done. They’re flat planks that support cargo and allow it to be tied down, pushed along and generally moved around onto transport vehicles like the C-130.

Moving, stacking, and coordinating all those pallets takes a more than a few foot-tons of back-breaking work. So, a while back, the Air Force proposed building an “intelligent robopallet” that would do let the cargo load itself. The air service recently awarded contracts to two companies — HStar Technologies and Stratom — to start making it happen.

Hstar’s attempt at a self-packing luggage system, dubbed “i-Pbot” in Apple-style, would use omnidirectional wheels and hydraulic actuators to allow the pallets to move themselves around wherever they’re needed. The system would also feature a wireless sensor network to allow it to communicate with other pallets, to ensure efficient movement.

Stratom’s roboloader is based on the standard 463L pallet and will use an automated, guided vehicle to lug around up to five tons. It’ll also have a wireless network that allows it to phone home to a central command location and coordinate with its fellow roboloaders.

Pallets aren’t the only part of the military cargo and transport worlds getting mechanized as the Pentagon tries to save manpower — and trips to the chiropractor — in its logistical tail.

Cargo-carrying drones are already a reality. In the air, there’s the K-MAX helicopter drone which can carry three tons. On the ground, there’s BigDog, the robotic pack mule able to haul up to 300 pounds.

The Air Force and Marine Corps already are working getting their own airborne cargo drones, and the Navy wants to build software that would allow the cargo-bots to ferry the wounded by voice command, without the aid of pilots. The Israelis have been working on a robotic ambulance for years.

The military has also bankrolled the development of superstrength exoskeletons that can haul giant loads. Think Sigourney Weaver in Aliens.

HULC, or the Human Universal Load Carrier, is Lockheed’s offering in the supersuit category. It allows troops to carry up to 200-pound loads on a march and run up to 7 mph.  XOS 2, built by Sarcos and Raytheon and often compared to the Iron Man suit, allows users to bear enormous burdens, too, saving all kinds of back-breaking labor.

Of course, if the pallets loaded themselves, then the superhero suits would be freed up for more heroic duty.

Photo: U.S. Air Force/Flickr

See Also:

Air Force’s Robotic Bags Will Pack Themselves

The Air Force is sick of packing the military’s crap. So it’s starting to contract it out — to robots.

The Air Force is responsible for lugging around the rest of the military’s gear. Pallets are the workhorses that crews use to get the job done. They’re flat planks that support cargo and allow it to be tied down, pushed along and generally moved around onto transport vehicles like the C-130.

Moving, stacking, and coordinating all those pallets takes a more than a few foot-tons of back-breaking work. So, a while back, the Air Force proposed building an “intelligent robopallet” that would do let the cargo load itself. The air service recently awarded contracts to two companies — HStar Technologies and Stratom — to start making it happen.

Hstar’s attempt at a self-packing luggage system, dubbed “i-Pbot” in Apple-style, would use omnidirectional wheels and hydraulic actuators to allow the pallets to move themselves around wherever they’re needed. The system would also feature a wireless sensor network to allow it to communicate with other pallets, to ensure efficient movement.

Stratom’s roboloader is based on the standard 463L pallet and will use an automated, guided vehicle to lug around up to five tons. It’ll also have a wireless network that allows it to phone home to a central command location and coordinate with its fellow roboloaders.

Pallets aren’t the only part of the military cargo and transport worlds getting mechanized as the Pentagon tries to save manpower — and trips to the chiropractor — in its logistical tail.

Cargo-carrying drones are already a reality. In the air, there’s the K-MAX helicopter drone which can carry three tons. On the ground, there’s BigDog, the robotic pack mule able to haul up to 300 pounds.

The Air Force and Marine Corps already are working getting their own airborne cargo drones, and the Navy wants to build software that would allow the cargo-bots to ferry the wounded by voice command, without the aid of pilots. The Israelis have been working on a robotic ambulance for years.

The military has also bankrolled the development of superstrength exoskeletons that can haul giant loads. Think Sigourney Weaver in Aliens.

HULC, or the Human Universal Load Carrier, is Lockheed’s offering in the supersuit category. It allows troops to carry up to 200-pound loads on a march and run up to 7 mph.  XOS 2, built by Sarcos and Raytheon and often compared to the Iron Man suit, allows users to bear enormous burdens, too, saving all kinds of back-breaking labor.

Of course, if the pallets loaded themselves, then the superhero suits would be freed up for more heroic duty.

Photo: U.S. Air Force/Flickr

See Also: