‘If it’s f—ed up in Afghanistan, it’s on us’: US veterans say Biden botched the withdrawal and should take responsibility for the ‘ongoing humanitarian crisis’

US marine with Afghan national army members
Former US Marine Michael Loyd with members of the Afghan national army in Afghanistan in 2012.

  • Biden has defended his handling of the situation in Afghanistan despite widespread criticism.
  • An ex-US marine said Biden is responsible for the fallout and the US should take accountability.
  • “If it’s f—ed up in Afghanistan, it’s on us,” he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Despite repeated calls and emails to US officials, Ed McCormick said he’s had no success getting his two Afghan interpreters, who fear retribution from the Taliban, out of Kabul.

“It’s already scary enough where daily I’m messaging both of these individuals and sometimes they take a little long to respond and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, are they still there? Are they still alive?'” McCormick, a US army veteran deployed in Afghanistan in 2008 for a year and again in 2011 for six months, told Insider. “Eventually they respond, but there’s a good chance that at some point they’re not going to, and you can only assume the worst has happened.”

Given President Joe Biden’s looming August 31 deadline to complete the US’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan – and the deadly attacks and escalating chaos at Kabul airport – McCormick is worried that his translators, who are awaiting their Special Immigrant Visa approval, won’t be evacuated in time. He said he would feel “horrible and then partly responsible” if they end up stuck in the country.

“I would feel like I failed,” McCormick, 47, added.

Biden has rejected pleas to maintain US troop presence in Afghanistan beyond the next five days to help transport Americans and Afghan refugees. At least 250,000 Afghans who worked with the US military remain in Afghanistan, according to estimates by The New York Times. And as many as 1,000 Americans are still waiting to be evacuated, per the State Department.

The Biden administration insisted that it can evacuate every American who wants to get out and expressed national security concerns over staying past August 31. The Taliban has threatened “consequences” if the US extends the deadline.

joe biden
U.S. President Joe Biden pauses while giving remarks on the worsening crisis in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House August 16, 2021.

McCormick disagreed with the White House’s assessment, adding that the US has leverage in this situation. “What can the Taliban really do?” he asked. The militant group swiftly captured Afghanistan and collapsed the US-backed Afghan government on August 15. But now “they’re trying to set up their government and they can’t get into an armed conflict with American forces,” he said.

“They need money from the World Bank. They need money from the UN. They need to keep the government going,” McCormick continued. “They’re not going to get that if they’re attacking civilians and US troops in front of the world press.”

‘If it’s f—ed up in Afghanistan, it’s on us’

Biden has dismissed the widespread criticism he’s received over the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan amid the US’s military withdrawal. He’s blamed his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, for emboldening the Taliban through his February 2020 deal to pull out US troops within 14 months. Biden has also pointed fingers at the Afghan government and military, claiming they lacked the “will” to fight the Taliban.

However, Michael Boyd, a former US marine who served in Afghanistan in 2012, said Biden needs to accept accountability of the fallout.

“The commander-in-chief is ultimately always responsible for the tactical situation on the ground,” Boyd told Insider. “The president is always responsible.”

“We’ve been there for 20 years,” Boyd continued, “So if it’s f—ed up in Afghanistan, it’s on us.”

US marine in Afghanistan
Former US Marine Michael Boyd in Afghanistan in 2012.

The 37-year-old veteran further pushed back on Biden, who’s defended his handling of the pullout and repeatedly said that no matter how the US left Afghanistan, chaos was inevitable.

“That’s BS, man,” Boyd told Insider. “This did not have to be a collapse.”

“What folks don’t understand is how the US military can really almost do anything,” he added. “Once you saw it falling, you could have stopped it.”

The US faces an ‘ongoing humanitarian crisis’

The US, working with the Taliban, has evacuated approximately 97,500 people out of Kabul since August 14, according to the White House. Afghan evacuees are being transported to military bases across the Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe, before being taken to various resettlement destinations, which includes the US for some.

But the US’s obligation to Afghanistan should go beyond a rescue mission, Boyd said.

“It’s going to be an ongoing humanitarian crisis,” he said. “We were there for 20 years. Why would we think that you just get to walk away?”

“As an American, we have a responsibility to the people until the end,” Boyd added.

The Taliban’s takeover has brought uncertainty to Afghanistan, which has made immense gains since 2001 when the militant group fell. Afghan girls and women have been able to work and go to school – rights that were restricted under the Taliban’s last rule. The Taliban has tried to present a moderate stance since reappearing on the global stage, claiming they will guarantee the safety of Afghans and build better lives for them. But recent reports out of Kabul describing Taliban-led attacks against Afghans suggest otherwise.

“[Afghans] built themselves up,” McCormick said. “Is the Taliban going to allow girls to go back to school? That remains to be seen. Are they going to be able to go back to work? That remains to be seen.”

“That’s what’s frustrating to me,” he added. “That’s what’s gone.”

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Watch US soldiers fire artillery through the Army’s cool new night-vision goggles

Screenshot of a US Army video showing artillery fire through the lenses of the service's newest night vision goggles
A still image from a US Army video showing artillery fire through the lenses of the service’s newest night-vision goggles.

  • The Army has put out several videos of training seen through its new ENVG-B night-vision goggles.
  • One wild-looking video shows soldiers firing M777 Howitzers.
  • An earlier video shows soldiers firing machine guns and mortars as seen through the goggles.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Army has put out several videos in recent weeks showing the field of battle through the service’s new night-vision goggles, including one showing artillery fire.

The most recent video shows soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery, which is assigned to the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, firing M777 Howitzers at Yakima Training Center in Washington state.

The scenes in the video, which look like something straight out of a video game, were shot through the Army’s new Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B).

An earlier video showed, through the lenses of the ENVG-B system, soldiers from 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, conducting a platoon live-fire exercise including mortar and machine-gun fire.

The ENVG-B is an Elbit Systems of America product that the Army started fielding in fall 2019 at Fort Riley in Kansas as a replacement for the older monocular PVS-14 night vision devices.

Moving away from the traditional green of older night-vision systems, the newer ENVG-B offers a clearer picture of the battlespace.

An ENVG-B device on display at Elbit Systems.

Insider recently had the opportunity to test-out the helmet-mounted binocular goggles equipped with image intensified white phosphor tubes and thermal imaging, among other improvements to legacy night-vision devices.

In addition to the I2 technology and thermal, the goggles also offer an outline mode, which can be seen in the recent videos, and an augmented-reality overlay for better situational awareness.

Some of the different view modes for the ENVG-B
Some of the different view modes for the ENVG-B.

In the heads-up display, soldiers can see a compass and other digital tools, such as force tracking.

Using the Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK) software application, troops can mark friendly forces with a blue marker, enemy forces with a red marker, and unidentifiable persons or objects with a question mark.

John Ennis, a member of the Elbit Systems product development team, told a handful of reporters recently that “if you saw something on the side of the road that you thought was an IED or something, you could actually mark it [and] broadcast it out to your team.”

The markers are visible to all soldiers connected to the network on a personal Nett Warrior device on their vest and in their advanced night-vision goggles in an augmented-reality space. US soldiers can customize how much or little they see.

Vest with Nett Warrior device equipped with ATAK at Elbit Systems
A vest with Nett Warrior device equipped with ATAK.

The goggles can connect wirelessly to a soldier’s rifle through the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual for rapid target acquisition and more accurate shooting, even from the hip and around corners.

With a picture-in-picture setup in the heads-up display, soldiers can simultaneously see what is in front of them and wherever their weapon is aiming.

ENVG-B and mock weapon equipped with FWS-I at Elbit Systems
An ENVG-B and mock weapon equipped with FWS-I at Elbit Systems.

Soldiers can also transmit live video from unmanned aerial systems directly into the heads-up display.

One soldier who had the opportunity to try out the ENVG-B a couple of years ago described it as an “insane game changer,” stating in a 2019 Army release that “nothing else offers these kinds of capabilities.”

Although this technology is impressive, higher-end threats posed by near-peer adversaries like China and Russia, such as electronic warfare threats, mean that US soldiers have to be ready to go back to the basics if necessary.

Artillery fire through the lenses of the ENVG-B
Artillery fire through the lenses of the ENVG-B

“All this technology is great,” Jeff Lee, a member of the Elbit Systems business development team with a background in special operations, said recently.

“We always want to be at the cutting edge all the time,” he continued, “but we always also have to remember our roots and be able to do things without all those capabilities in case it gets taken away.”

If the advanced ENVG-B features were ever suddenly not available on the battlefield, soldiers could still use the base night-vision capabilities.

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An Army sergeant who was filmed shoving a Black man has been charged with 3rd-degree assault

jonathan pentland wide
Jonathan Pentland (circled) is seen accosting and shoving a Black man in his neighborhood.

  • Jonathan Pentland was charged with third-degree assault on Wednesday.
  • Pentland, a sergeant first class, was filmed shoving a Black man in his neighborhood Monday.
  • The commanding general of Pentland’s base strongly condemned the behavior in the video.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A US Army non-commissioned officer who was filmed shoving a Black man in his South Carolina neighborhood earlier this week has been charged with third-degree assault, according to the Associated Press.

Jonathan Pentland, a 42-year-old sergeant first class, was arrested Wednesday and taken to the Richland County jail. It appears he has since posted bail.

Pentland did not immediately respond to Insider’s email for comment.

On Monday, a woman posted footage on Facebook showing a heated confrontation involving Pentland and a Black man in his neighborhood outside Columbia, South Carolina.

Pentland is seen yelling at the man, getting in his face, and telling him to get out of his neighborhood.

“You either walk away or I’m going to carry your a– out of here,” Pentland said at one point in the video.

It’s not clear from the video what prompted the confrontation, but near the end of the three-minute clip, Pentland’s wife accused the Black man of having “picked a fight with” one of their female neighbors.

In the video, Pentland repeatedly asked what the man was doing in his neighborhood. The Black man said he was just walking and that he lives in the area.

“I didn’t do anything to you,” the Black man said.

“I’m about to do something to you,” Pentland responded.

When the Black man tried to address Pentland’s wife, Pentland shoved him, causing the man to almost fall, the video showed.

“You’re in the wrong neighborhood motherf—er,” Pentland is heard saying. “Get out.”

Shirell Johnson, the woman who posted the video to Facebook, wrote that she stayed with the man until an officer arrived at the scene. She said the officer charged Pentland at the scene with malicious injury to property for slapping the Black man’s cellphone to the ground, which happened after the video stopped rolling.

Johnson said she was out walking with her best friend when they came across the two men arguing and stayed to make sure the Black man was not hurt.

“We circled back to get him out of that situation because we refused to see [him] go to jail or lying there dead simply because he was Black,” she wrote. “The only thing he did was be Black while walking!!!”

jonathan pentland
An April 14, 2021, booking photo of Jonathan Pentland.

In announcing Pentland’s arrest on Wednesday, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott confirmed that there were two other incidents involving the Black man leading up to the confrontation, but he said it “doesn’t justify” Pentland’s behavior.

“There was some other things that occurred that really doesn’t justify the actions of [Pentland],” Lott said. “None of them justified the assault that occurred.”

“It was terrible, it was unnecessary, it was a bad video. The young man was a victim, the individual that was arrested was the aggressor, and he’s been dealt with accordingly.”

Lott added that the Black man had “an underlying medical condition that may explain the behavior exhibited in the alleged incidents.”

Social media accounts associated with Pentland show he works as a drill sergeant at the Fort Jackson garrison, according to the AP.

The commanding general of the installation condemned the video on Wednesday, and said that the Department of Justice is looking into the matter.

“The leaders at Fort Jackson in no way condone the behavior depicted in the video posted recently,” Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle Jr. said in a statement.

“I remain deeply concerned for the members of our Army family, the young man and his family, and the tensions that activities like this amplify over time; please be patient as facts are determined.”

Protesters gathered outside the Pentland family home Wednesday night. Pentland’s family was evacuated from the home when protesters started to vandalize the house, the sheriff’s department said.

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Veterans of color say video of police pepper-spraying a Black Army officer shows that not even a military uniform is protection from police violence

A police officer uses a spray agent on Caron Nazario on Dec. 20, 2020, in Windsor, Va.
A police officer uses a spray agent on Caron Nazario on Dec. 20, 2020, in Windsor, Va.

  • Police hold at gunpoint and pepper-spray a uniformed Black Army officer in a shocking video.
  • The soldier was not charged with any crime or ticketed for any violation.
  • Veterans of color said that the video shows that not even a uniform is protection from police violence.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A video of police officers holding a uniformed Black US Army soldier at gunpoint and pepper spraying him during a traffic stop in Windsor, Virginia is a troubling reminder that sometimes not even a military uniform is protection enough for Black Americans against threats of police brutality, veterans of color told Insider.

“Once you put on the uniform, it doesn’t erase the fact that you are a Black person in America,” Richard Brookshire, a former Army medic who co-founded and serves as the executive director of the Black Veterans Project, told Insider.

US Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, a Black and Latino health services administration officer with the Virginia Army National Guard, is suing two Virginia police officers, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, for aggressive actions taken during a traffic stop in December that started over a license plate issue but quickly escalated.

In video footage from the incident released late last week, two police officers can be seen shouting at Nazario with their guns drawn, pepper-spraying him, and physically striking him repeatedly as they force him to the ground.

At one point during the traffic stop, as the police officers yell for him to get out of the car, Nazario told them he was “honestly afraid” to get out, to which one officer responded: “Yeah, you should be.”

Mark Herring, Virginia’s attorney general, said on Twitter that “the video doesn’t show anything to justify how Lt. Nazario was treated,” adding in another tweet that Nazario showed “incredible composure.”

Nazario was not charged with any criminal wrongdoing or traffic violation, his attorney told NBC News. He says that the police violated his clients constitutional rights.

Nazario’s attorney writes in the lawsuit that the video footage is “consistent with a disgusting nationwide trend of law enforcement officers, who, believing they can operate with complete impunity, engage in unprofessional, discourteous, racially biased, dangerous, and sometimes deadly abuses of authority,” adding that Nazario, while in uniform, was a victim of this trend.

The town of Windsor, Virginia characterized the incident as “unfortunate” and announced Sunday that one of the two officers involved has been fired.

‘Deeply troubling’

“One of the things that probably stuck out the most to me was the fear in Lt. Nazario’s face and actions and voice because he’s realizing right from the get-go that even though he’s in uniform and he’s an active-duty service member, he is still at risk of suffering the same fate that many Black people have suffered at the hands of the police,” Jeremy Butler, a Navy veteran and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told Insider.

“He might have expected it if he were in civilian clothes, but the fact that’s he’s in uniform and this is the way he’s being treated by the police, it almost does not compute.”

“We have been consistently told this message of how much the country salutes our services and appreciates our sacrifice,” Butler said, but “what you see in this instance is that is not always the case.”

In the video footage of the traffic stop, Nazario can be heard multiple times saying “I’m serving my country and this is how I’m treated” with a tone of what sounds like disbelief.

The Black Veterans Project said on Twitter that such developments, while upsetting, are neither shocking nor surprising given the police violence that many Black service members and veterans have faced throughout US history.

“I thought it was deeply troubling,” Brookshire said of the video. “It reminded me, especially because he got maced and thinking about his eyes, of Isaac Woodard.”

On February 12, 1946, Woodard was pulled off a bus and beaten by police, who blinded him in both eyes, as he was returning home to his wife after the war. Woodard is just one of many Black war veterans who experienced such brutality.

“Wearing the uniform doesn’t protect Black people from racism,” Brookshire said, explaining that “this idea that black folks are somehow cloaked or protected because they are in uniform, because they serve in the military, or that somehow their skin color is not an issue once they join this institution is a farce and a misreading of history.”

Naveed Shah, another veteran of color and a staff member at Common Defense, argued on Twitter that what happened to Nazario is “another example of why we demand that #BlackLivesMatter.”

The country has been forced to look more closely at issues of racial injustice and police brutality since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died last May after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than 9 minutes. His death sparked nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.

The murder trial for one of the officers involved is ongoing.

But even as the US takes a closer look at problems that have long affected the country, there continues to be alarming incidents of police violence involving Black Americans.

“Even though I do feel generally overall that we are making progress,” Butler said, “there are still too frequent reminders that we have a very, very long way to go.”

The governor of Virginia called the incident involving Nazario “disturbing,” writing in a statement that “we must keep working to ensure that Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable.”

Not only are state police investigating the incident at the direction of Gov. Ralph Northam, but the Virginia attorney general announced Monday that he is launching a civil rights investigation into the two police officers involved. He characterized their actions as “dangerous, unnecessary, unacceptable and avoidable.”

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston said Monday that Nazario “represented himself and our Army well,” stating that while he is proud of him, he is concerned by the video of the traffic stop.

The sergeant major offered an assurance that Nazario “is receiving the support from his leadership he needs during this time.” The incident is said to have given the soldier nightmares, The Washington Post reported.

Nazario’s attorney said Saturday that his client is seeking at least $1 million in damages to send a clear message “to officers that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

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Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot was thrown into an army field test – but it ran out of battery mid-combat

Boston Dynamics Spot Singapore
Boston Dynamics’ “Spot” robot.

  • The French army used Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot in a training exercise this week.
  • The exercise was to assess how useful robots like Spot would be in real-life combat situations.
  • Spot ran out of battery in the middle of simulated combat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The French military are testing Boston Dynamics’ famous robot dog Spot in combat scenarios.

French newspaper Ouest-France reported Wednesday that students at France’s Saint-Cyr military school tested five robots on Tuesday and Wednesday to assess their suitability for combat. Boston Dynamics’ Spot was among the robots.

Students tested the robots in three scenarios – an offensive maneuver at a crossroads, a defensive one during both the day and the night, and finally an urban-combat scenario. The students ran each exercise twice, once without the robots, and once with them.

One of the students who participated in the exercises said the robots offered some benefits in reconnaissance. “I was killed during the urban combat exercise without robots, but not the time when the robot had done reconnaissance,” he said.

But Spot was not without its drawbacks, the same student added. “Spot ran out of battery in the middle of combat,” he said.

Spot was provided to the French military via a French company called Shark Robotics. Boston Dynamics’ vice president of business development Michael Perry told the Verge the company was unaware of Spot’s sale to the French military.

“We’re learning about it as you are […] We’re not clear on the exact scope of this engagement,” Perry told the Verge.

Perry also said the company had strict rules forbidding customers from weaponizing Spot, but that this wouldn’t stop the military using it. “We think that the military, to the extent that they do use robotics to take people out of harm’s way, we think that’s a perfectly valid use of the technology,” he said.

Boston Dynamics started selling Spot to European customers in November 2020, four months after it went on sale in the US. Spot has been used in construction, healthcare, hospitality, and agriculture.

The New York Police Department also has a Spot robot, which it first deployed in October last year.

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A ‘cadre’ of soldiers has been suspended following a female soldier’s sexual assault allegations at an Army base in Oklahoma

fort sill army base
In this June 17, 2014 file photo, a vehicle drives by a sign at Scott Gate, one of the entrances to Fort Sill, in Fort Sill, Okla.

  • Soldiers were suspended at Fort Sill in Oklahoma following a report of sexual assaults.
  • The Intercept reported a female soldier accused 22 troops of being involved in the assaults.
  • Reports of sexual assault in the military have risen sharply in the past two years.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After a report of sexual assaults, a “cadre” of soldiers at Fort Sill in Oklahoma have been suspended while an investigation is carried out, the commanding general of the Army base said.

A female soldier at the base reported on March 27 that “she was the victim of sexual assault involving Fort Sill cadre members,” Major General Ken Kamper said in a statement Thursday. He said the allegations were immediately reported to law enforcement and investigators began conducting interviews.

“This soldier, who came forward with allegations of sexual assault, is absolutely safe,” Kamper said. “We’re proud of the courage she displayed in coming forward with these allegations.

Read more: 5 key lessons a retired Army sergeant picked up from his 34-year military career that have guided him as a successful entrepreneur

The statement did not say how many soldiers were accused or suspended, but a military official told The Intercept allegations were made against 22 soldiers and include multiple incidents of assault.

The official also told The Intercept investigators were looking into a video of one of the incidents that was being passed around the base, but a US Army spokesperson denied that investigators had such a video.

The group implicated in the allegations was “suspended from their normal duties” and “removed from any trainee environment,” Kamper said. They typically were involved in training new troops. The woman who came forward was a trainee.

Sexual assault in the military is an ongoing issue, with assaults rising sharply in the past two years, Insider’s Sophia Ankel reported.

As one of his first acts after being confirmed in January, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a review of how the department handles reports of sexual assault.

The issue was given additional attention last year after US Army soldier Vanessa Guillen was murdered at her base in Fort Hood, Texas. Guillen’s family members said she had told them she experienced sexual harassment, but was too afraid to report it.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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The Army is buying thousands of the ‘awesome’ new rifle that is fast becoming the sniper weapon of choice for the US military

A student of the Special Forces Sniper Course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School moves quietly while avoiding detection during a stalking exercise at Fort Bragg, NC, on January 27, 2011
A student of the Special Forces Sniper Course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, January 27, 2011.

  • The Army is buying 2,800 new Mk 22 Multi-Role Adaptive Design sniper rifles from Barrett Firearms.
  • SOCOM has also ordered this weapon, and the Marines have expressed interest as well.
  • The MRAD is a light, modular, multi-caliber rifle that offers extreme range and greater flexibility.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Army is buying thousands of a new rifle that Marine and special-operations snipers also want – the Mk 22 Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle.

The service awarded Barrett Firearms Manufacturing in Tennessee a five-year, $49.9 million contract for 2,800 MRAD sniper rifles under the Precision Sniper Rifle program, which also includes the Leupold & Stevens Mark 5 HD scope and sniper accessory kit, the Army said Wednesday.

The main difference between the MRAD and other sniper rifles is that it can be chambered in 7.62 x 51 mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum ammunition, giving the shooter greater flexibility without changing weapons.

“Army snipers will be able to conduct a barrel change and select calibers based on their mission operating environment,” the Army said in a statement Wednesday.

The new rifle is, according to the Army, “an extreme range weapon system that is lighter than current sniper rifles and includes features that will mask the sniper signature for improved survivability.”

Mk 22 MRAD rifle
The Mk 22 MRAD sniper rifle.

The Mk 22 will replace the Army’s bolt-action M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle from Remington Arms and the M107 Long Range Sniper Rifle from Barrett.

“It’s an awesome gun,” an experienced Army sniper told Insider last year. “I can tell you I never saw anything on that gun that I didn’t like. It shoots phenomenally well. What it does, as far as barrel changes and things like that go, is pretty exceptional.”

The Mk 22 is a “good gun coming at a good time that is going to increase efficiency and capabilities,” he said. “We’re excited about it.”

Special Operations Command was the first to express interest in the new modular, multi-caliber sniper rifle. In March 2019, SOCOM awarded Barrett a $49.9 million contract for the MRAD rifle through its Advanced Sniper Rifle program.

The command sent an initial production order for the new rifles to Barrett in November 2020 after the company completed production qualification and operational testing, meeting the requirements of the Department of Defense.

“We are pleased to have reached this milestone with the project and look forward to providing our warfighters with this highly capable platform,” Joel Miller, Barrett’s director of global military sales, said in a statement at the time.

The Marines has also shown interest in the weapon.

The Marines expect the new rifle to “replace all current bolt-action sniper rifles in the Marine Corps,” according to last year’s budget request.

In the budget documents, the Marines wrote that the new rifles offer “extended range, greater lethality, and a wider variety of special purpose ammunition.”

The Army said in its budget request that the weapon “increases stand-off distances ensuring overmatch against enemy counter sniper engagements and increases sniper capability.”

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Here’s what US snipers say they have to think about before they pull the trigger

An Army paratrooper points a weapon during sniper training at Pocek Range in Postojna, Slovenia
An Army paratrooper points a weapon during sniper training at Pocek Range in Postojna, Slovenia.

  • To be a sniper is to be an expert marksman at great distances.
  • Snipers consider their target, ballistics, and shooting position, knowing the first shots may be their best.
  • Several current and former US military sniper instructors told Insider about what it takes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

What do snipers think about before they pull the trigger? There are dozens of possible considerations that go into a sniper’s shot, everything from wind to an escape plan should things suddenly go sideways, current and former US military sniper instructors told Insider.

A sniper must be able to put accurate and effective fire on targets that may be moving at distances far beyond the range of regular infantry, which are trained to shoot at targets out to a few hundred meters. Snipers are trained to shoot targets possibly thousands of meters away.

To shoot at those greater distances, which sometimes requires pushing a weapon beyond its limits, snipers have to consider things like target selection and priority, size, distance to target, whether or not the bullet is lethal at that range, and, if the target is moving, target speed and direction.

‘We know what a bullet does’

There are also the ballistics – anything that affects the flight path of the bullet that could cause the sniper to miss.

Extensive ballistics knowledge is one of several key differentiators between snipers – expert marksmen – and other troops who are simply good shots, according to a former instructor.

“We know what a bullet does,” John Wayne Walding, a former US Army Green Beret who became a Special Forces sniper instructor after losing a leg in Afghanistan, told Insider. “A sniper has education on not just what the bullet’s doing but why it’s doing it. That is what sets us apart.”

There are both internal and external ballistics, he said.

Internal is everything happening inside the rifle and includes things like bullet size and weight, which affect to what degree a bullet will be impacted by the various external factors, and the barrel twist, which affects the spin drift of the round at greater distances.

External ballistics are everything happening to the bullet once it exits the barrel. Among the external factors that can affect the bullet’s flight path are atmospherics like wind, humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and air density.

Wind speed and direction, which can change suddenly and inexplicably, are particularly important because they account for most missed shots, US Marine Corps Scout Sniper instructor Staff Sgt. Joshua Coulter told Insider.

Snipers need to know wind at not only their position, but also at various points along the bullet’s path and at the target. To get a wind reading for the distant points, the sniper looks for makeshift wind indicators like trash, clothes on a clothesline, smoke, or really anything that might be blowing in the wind.

Other possible considerations may include the curvature and rotation of the Earth, the angle of the shot if the shooter and target are at different elevations, and anything, such as thicker vegetation, between the sniper and the target that might throw off the shot.

Snipers have to take most, if not all, of these factors into account and correct before they fire a shot to hit a distant target – with the knowledge that their first shot is likely to be their best chance at striking it.

There are electronic tools that snipers can use to simplify the process to determine things like range, gather atmospheric data, and generate a firing solution. Snipers try not to rely on these though, but if they do use them, they verify the data.

The much more important tool snipers have is their collection data on previous engagements, which contains detailed information on how the sniper, the rifle, and the bullet performed in certain conditions in the real, not digital, world.

“At the end of the day, the bullet is not going to lie to you,” US Army sniper instructor Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Jones told Insider.

“We really don’t need a lot of technology to be able to operate,” he said, explaining that “given a weapon system with an optic and data on previous engagements, we are pretty effective at doing our job as far as engaging targets goes.”

US Army sniper during a sniper competition
US Army sniper during a sniper competition

‘That is when you want to fire the weapon’

There are also marksmanship fundamentals like shooting position, trigger control, and breathing that the sniper has to take into consideration. Through training, many of these things will become second nature for a sniper.

The ideal shooting platform is one that is solid, stable, and durable, and the ideal shooting position is prone. That is not always an option in battle though, so snipers have to be prepared to work with what is available, Walding told Insider.

“Out in the real world, you’re shooting over a Humvee, shooting out of a window, on a rooftop, on a knee, standing, standing while moving,” he said. “There are so many alternate shooting techniques we run through because of the realities of the battlefield.”

A proper shooting position improves recoil management, preventing the explosion that violently forces the bullet out of the rifle from disturbing the sight picture and complicating follow-on shots.

For similar reasons, it is also important that snipers have good control of the trigger, applying pressure smoothly when firing, and have relaxed, natural breathing.

“You want to breathe as natural as possible,” Jones said, explaining that snipers wait for a “natural pause” in ther breathing. “That is when you want to fire the weapon,” he said.

Snipers also have to think about mission-specific considerations such as muzzle flash, lens glare on the scope if the sniper is shooting into the sun, and barrel blast that can blow out vegetation or kick up dust. Any of these things can affect concealment and give away a shooter’s position.

Stealth and concealment, though they are crucial sniper skills, are not necessarily required for every mission, but when they are, snipers have to be prepared for the possibility that their position is compromised by their shot.

It is critical that snipers have an escape plan, “a tenable egress route and sourced contingency assets and fire support agencies in the event their position is compromised post-shot,” Coulter said.

‘Somebody that can get the job done’

“There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” an Army sniper previously told Insider. That said, when it comes to the shot process, “everybody is going to have their checklist” that they run through, Jones said.

And in many, but not necessarily all, cases, there is also planning before the mission.

Coulter said that ideally a sniper’s “ability to conduct a mission analysis prior to crossing the line of departure or taking the shot will allow them to occupy a brief position of advantage when relatively compared to the enemy, the terrain and current weather.”

Doing so increases “the odds of mission success,” he said.

And with practice comes experience, reducing the time it takes to run through the process. A trained sniper can put accurate fire on at least 10 targets in about 10 minutes. It is actually something Army snipers have to do to graduate from the program.

For the extreme long-range shots, the shot process can still take some time, as well as some math. A Marine Corps sniper previously told Insider about a shot he took in training that involved putting a bullet in a target 2,300 meters away. It took him roughly 20 to 25 minutes to plan the shot.

Although shooting is a very important part of what snipers do, it is only a part. Snipers also gather intelligence and provide overwatch on the battlefield. The role requires professionalism, reliability, capability, and maturity.

“Just because you can shoot doesn’t mean you can be a sniper,” Walding said, adding that “You’ve got to have somebody that can get the job done, and not every marksman can.”

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The Army and Secret Service are looking at extra security screenings for US troops who will be at Biden’s inauguration

A member of the DC National Guard gives directions near a rally at Freedom Plaza Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Washington, in support of President Donald Trump.
A member of the DC National Guard gives directions near a rally at Freedom Plaza Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Washington, in support of President Donald Trump.

  • The US Army and US Secret Service are working together to determine which troops participating in President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration need additional background screening, an Army spokesperson told Insider.
  • The move, which was first reported by Army Times, follows a request from Colorado Rep. Jason Crow, a former Army ranger, for a review of inauguration troops to root out those sympathetic to domestic terrorists, which is how individuals who stormed the Capitol last week have been described.
  • The Army spokesperson also said that the DC National Guard is providing additional training on reporting known or suspected extremist behavior to troops coming into the nation’s capital.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US Army and the US Secret Service are looking at additional security screening for some US troops expected to take part in President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week, an Army spokesperson told Insider Tuesday.

“The Army is working with the Secret Service to determine which service members supporting the national special security event for the Inauguration require additional background screening,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Army Times was first to report this development as security concerns rise after the Capitol siege by a pro-Trump mob and an FBI warning ta ht far-right groups are discussing days of “armed protests” ahead of inauguration.

News of the Army and Secret Service efforts follow a call between Colorado Rep. Jason Crow and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, during which Crow asked the secretary to have military criminal investigative units to look into “troops deployed for the inauguration to ensure that deployed members are not sympathetic to domestic terrorists.”

In a statement on the call, Crow, a former Army ranger, said that McCarthy agreed to take additional measures.

Crow’s concerns about domestic terror sympathies in the armed forces stem from the assault on the Capitol last week that included military veterans and possibly current service members.

Other veterans in Congress, such as Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, condemned military personnel who participated in the riots, saying: “In attacking the Capitol, the Congress, and the Constitution that they swore to protect, any current or former military members who may have participated have disgraced themselves and committed serious crimes against the People of the United States.”

The Army spokesperson who emailed Insider said that all US service members take part in the annual Threat Awareness and Reporting Program, which urges military personnel to report known or suspected extremist behavior.

The official said that the DC National Guard is providing additional training to service members coming into DC. There are already several thousand Guard members in the nation’s capital, and the Department of Defense is authorized to deploy as many as 15,000 troops ahead of the inauguration.

As for current members of the military that may have participated in the storming of the Capitol, the Army official said that this is being investigated.

“There is no place for extremism in the military and we will investigate each report individually and take appropriate action,” the spokesperson said. 

“The Army is committed to working closely with the FBI as they identify people who participated in the violent attack on the Capitol to determine if the individuals have any connection to the Army,” the official added. “Any type of activity that involves violence, civil disobedience, or a breach of peace may be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or under state or federal law.”

Talking with Crow on Sunday, McCarthy told the congressman that “DoD is aware of further possible threats posed by would-be terrorists in the days up to and including Inauguration Day and is working with local and federal law enforcement to coordinate security preparations.”

new FBI bulletin reported Monday warned of possible “armed protests” at the US Capitol and all 50 state capitols ahead of Biden’s inauguration.

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