It’s not that I have anything against the good-natured jokes of April Fool’s Day, it’s just that I don’t believe anything for an entire day. Sure, you have your ridiculous ads from companies, like the McPickle burger from McDonald’s, but then there’s the ones that sound plausible until you stop and think about it for more than a second.
Tom Brady saying he’s going to retire? The dude still has four more fingers to go. Lockheed Martin saying they now have the technology to smell Space? That’s not how Space works. The Army announces that it’ll take the well-being of the troops into consideration and allow them to wear protective masks, under AR 670-1, in areas of with hazardous air quality? Good one.
At least there was a solid selection of memes to choose from this week! Enjoy!
(In all seriousness, the protective mask one is real — and it’s about freakin’ time.)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)
(Meme via I Am An American Soldier)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
It took me longer than I’m willing to admit to get that the left side was port and right was starboard.
And the only way I still remember it is because ‘left’ has four letters, and so does ‘port.’ Don’t judge me.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via 1st Civ Division)
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Screengrab via The Salty Soldier, Credit to Reddit user u/patientbearr)
The US military’s special operators are the most elite in the world.
Depending on the unit, special operators are charged with a variety of missions: counterterrorism, direct action (small raids and ambushes), unconventional warfare (supporting resistance against a government), hostage rescue and recovery, special reconnaissance (reconnaissance that avoids contact behind enemy lines), and more.
They’re also very secretive.
As such, it can be difficult to tell certain operators apart, especially since most units wear the standard fatigues within their military branch — and sometimes they don’t wear uniforms at all to disguise themselves.
So, we found out how to tell six of the most elite special operators apart.
Check them out below.
The yellow Ranger tab can be seen above.
(US Army photo)
1. Army Rangers.
The 75th Ranger Regiment “is the Army’s premier direct-action raid force,” according to the Rangers.
Consisting of four battalions, their “capabilities include conducting airborne and air assault operations, seizing key terrain such as airfields, destroying strategic facilities, and capturing or killing enemies of the nation.”
They wear the same fatigues as regular soldiers, but there’s some ways to distinguish them.
The first sign is the yellow Ranger tab on the shoulder (seen above), which they receive after graduating from Ranger school. But this tab alone does not mean they’re a member of the Army’s special operations regiment.
The black Ranger scroll can be seen on the left arm of the Ranger, right.
(75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist)
Soldiers don’t actually become 75th Ranger Regiment special operators until they finish the eight-week Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.
After finishing the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, they receive a tan beret and black Ranger scroll (seen on the Rangers left arm above) and are now official members of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Read more about Ranger school here and Ranger Assessment and Selection Program here.
The Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command emblem.
2. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC).
Founded in February 2006, MARSOC operators are rather new.
Consisting of three battalions, MARSOC operators conduct “foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, and direct action,” according to MARSOC.
Foreign internal defense means training and equipping foreign allied military forces against internal threats, such as terrorism.
MARSOC operators wear the same fatigues as Marine infantrymen, and therefore, the only way to tell them apart is the MARSOC emblem seen above, which is worn on their chest.
Unveiled in 2016, the emblem is an eagle clutching a knife.
A PJ patch can be seen on the operator’s shoulder.
(US Air Force photo)
3. Air Force Pararescue specialists (PJs).
PJs “rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile or otherwise unreachable areas,” according to the Air Force.
Consisting of about 500 airmen, these “highly trained experts perform rescues in every type of terrain and partake in every part of the mission, from search and rescue, to combat support to providing emergency medical treatment, in order to ensure that every mission is a successful one.”
And there’s three ways to distinguish PJs from other airmen.
The first, is the PJ patch seen on the shoulder of the operator above.
(US Air Force photo)
(US Air Force photo)
The Army’s Special Forces only wear their green berets at military installations in the US.
(US Army photo)
To be clear, the US Army’s Special Forces are the only special forces. Rangers, PJs, MARSOC — these are special operators, not special forces.
The US Army’s Special Forces are known to the public as Green Berets — but they call themselves the quiet professionals.
Like many operator units, they wear the same Army fatigues as regular soldiers (you can read more about the current and past Army uniforms here), but there are three ways in which you can distinguish them.
One, is the green beret seen above, which they only wear at military installations in the US, and never while deployed abroad.
The Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Forces, or SEALs, were established by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.
Working in small, tightly knit units, SEAL missions vary from direct-action warfare, special reconnaissance, counterterrorism, and foreign-internal defense, according to the Navy.
SEALs also go through more than 12 months of initial training at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school and SEAL Qualification Training, as well as roughly 18 months of pre-deployment training.
And there are two ways to tell SEALs apart from other sailors.
The first is the SEAL trident seen above, which is an eagle clutching an anchor, trident, and pistol. The insignia is worn on the breast of their uniform.
Only SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman wear the Type II Navy Working Uniform.
(US Navy photo)
The other is their uniforms.
Only SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman wear the Type II Navy Working Uniform.
A Type II uniform is a “desert digital camouflage uniform of four colors … worn by Special Warfare Operators, sailors who support them, and select NECC units,” according to the Navy.
Delta Force operators in Afghanistan, their faces censored to protect their privacy.
(Courtesy of Dalton Fury.)
6. Delta Force.
The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, or Delta Force, is perhaps the US military’s most secretive unit.
A United States Special Operations Command public affairs officer told Business Insider that they do not discuss Delta Force operators, despite providing information about other special operator units.
“We are very strict with our quiet professionalism,” a former Delta operator previously told We Are The Mighty. “If someone talks, you will probably be blacklisted.”
Formed in 1977, Delta operators perform a variety of missions, including counterterrorism (specifically to kill or capture high-value targets), direct action, hostage rescues, covert missions with the CIA, and more.
Both units have the most sophisticated equipment and are highly trained in Close Quarters Combat (CQB), hostage rescue, high-value-target extraction, and other specialized operations. The difference is the extensive training SEALs receive in specialized maritime operations, given their naval heritage.
“Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, neither is better or worse,” the former Delta operator said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After the bodies of ten American airmen in their B-24 Liberator were found in the Mao’er Mountains in a remote area of central China, the local villagers did the most extraordinary thing: They banded together to dig an entirely new road to make sure those airmen could be retrieved and returned to their families.
In 1997, the remains of these World War II-era airmen were repatriated to the United States from China. The bodies were entombed in the B-24 where they died, at the very top of China’s tallest mountain, impassable by most. But Chinese farmers on the hunt for herbs came across the rusted sarcophagus in October 1996.
From that day on, it was the mission of the locals to get these ten airmen home.
The summit of Mao’er Mountain is not the easiest place to get to.
Some 52 years before they were found, the ten airmen were flying their second mission in complete darkness. They had just come from a successful raid against Japanese ships of the coast of Taiwan in August, 1944. They could not have predicted they were about to run into the 6,000-foot-tall mountain.
The crash spread debris across the mountain’s dangerous steep and slippery slopes, where it all stayed exactly as it landed for more than half a century before the two farmers came across the wreckage. When discovered, Chinese officials sent video and photo of the site to then-President Bill Clinton. In a show of gratitude for the United States’ wartime efforts, 500 locals of Xingan County banded together for two months to cut a path and dig a road to the crash site so the bodies could be extracted.
American C-47 carrying supplies for Chinese troops. Flying the mountains in China was dangerous for even the more experienced pilots.
By January, 1997, a team of forensics experts from the U.S. POW/MIA Office were able to traverse the mountain path the the site. It was still a treacherous climb, but the road made it all possible. Without the locals’ effort, getting the remains of the airmen back to the U.S. would have been nearly impossible.
“Fifty years ago these brave young men scattered their blood over this beautiful region,” Liang Ziwei, director of foreign affairs in Xingan told a group of assembled reporters.
Identified by their dog tags, they were indeed young – the youngest was just 19 and the oldest was only 27. Their families were notified and the remains sent to Hawaii for official identification.
Life in the military is fantastic, but being a lifer isn’t for everyone. One of the greatest pieces of legislative success for the veteran community was the creation of the GI Bill. It opened the door for countless veterans to finally spread their wings and get a leg up in the civilian marketplace, rewarding their service with a launchpad.
Because of the GI Bill, many civilians who went straight to college from high school have their first interactions with a veteran. And it’s a good thing. You’re both in school, so there’s some common ground — thus helping bridge the ever-growing civilian-military divide. However, not all civilians approach veterans with the best opening lines.
The following are questions and comments that make veterans grit their teeth almost immediately.
These dumb-ass discussions are made even better when no one but the veteran understands that they’re f*cking with everyone just to watch their reactions.
1. “You’re a vet. What’s your opinion on the war/politics/the latest hot-button issue?”
In a smaller, more intimate setting, it’s fine to ask us about our opinions on things. Hell, we’re kind of known for making 30-minute-long rant videos from the front seats of our trucks.
But putting us on the spot in the middle of a classroom discussion is not cool. If the conversation is clearly leaning to one side, you’re setting the veteran up to be the enemy for standing up for anything military related. Ask this question and you’re either going to get an extremely heated debate or a completely zoned-out vet.
Not everyone can get their dream job — but vets with the GI Bill are given a chance, and you’re damn right they’re going to try.
2. “Why are you going for X degree and not something in security?”
The great thing about the GI Bill is that it can be applied for any college degree course. If the veteran wants to get out and follow their childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian, an artist, or whatever — more power to them. They earned that right by serving their country.
Bringing up the fact that they’re going to be making far less money by doing what they love as opposed to doing what they did in the military all over again isn’t going to make that realization any easier.
The sad truth is that most veterans will keep their demons to themselves. Some random d*ckhead isn’t going to sudden change that.
3. “So, like, did you see some bad stuff over there?”
Ranger Up hit this one on the head perfectly. No veteran wants to talk about that kind of thing with some random stranger they just met. Either they didn’t and harbor some guilt over the fact that they didn’t share the same burden as many of their brothers, they’re dealing with very real, resulting stress in a highly personal manner, or they’re going to overload the curious civilian with the grim details they actually don’t want.
After months of friendship, a veteran might be willing to open up about what happened out there — probably over a beer or seven — but never when it’s said in a half-joking manner.
College life may be stressful, but have you ever had someone in your company lose a pair of NVGs in a porta-john? I thought so.
4. “Why are you veterans so…”
Offensive? Overly polite? Loud? Reserved? Drunk? This one is a catchall for the wide spectrum of awkward questions that lump veterans into a single box.
Veterans come from literally all walks of life, from every place in the United States (and abroad), and are made up of the same folks that make up the rest of the population. Pretty much the only unifying thread that can be accurately applied to every single veteran is that we’re comfortable in bad situations.
5. “It’s alright bro. You got back in one piece!”
Post-Traumatic Stress is called an invisible wound for a reason. Vets who live with the pain of what happened back in the day won’t easily show it and walk around wearing a happy mask around people they don’t know.
Just because that veteran made it back alright doesn’t mean that their buddy did, too. Even if that veteran wasn’t anywhere near the front line, saying something so ignorant trivializes the experiences of troops who didn’t have the same luxury.
Also, if you really want to get specific, a large percentage of the prolific killers who were in the service were kicked out before even serving a single enlistment. So…
6. “You’re not one of those crazy vets who’ll snap at any moment, right?”
Here’s a piece of news for you: If you compare the veteran population average to the civilian average in terms of homicides and other violent crimes, veterans are actually less likely to commit such acts.
In fact, veterans with combat experience who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress are, once again, far less likely to commit violent crime than the average civilian. So, no, I’m not going to snap — are you?
We may have taken a detour, but we’ll get there.
7. “I would have joined, but I came here instead”
The veteran you’re talking to signed up and now they’re in the exact same boat as you! Except instead of having student-loan debt, they’ve got a few more years of life experience on you.
The reason this statement bothers veterans is that there’s an underlying assumption here that veterans are uneducated or that they wouldn’t have been able to get into college without Uncle Sam’s help. Oh boy, is that wrong. Fun fact: The ASVAB, the test required by all troops to qualify them into military service, is actually much more difficult than the college SAT or ACT.
The absolute lowest ASVAB score that will allow you to enlist is 31, which means you must be in the 69th percentile of scores among the general population. When SATs were graded out of 1600, the 69th percentile was roughly a 950 — which gets you into about 2/3rds of all universities and colleges around the country.
Just keep in mind that if you mess with one of our sisters, she was trained to shoot at targets at a max effective range of 300 meters.
8. “You don’t look like a veteran”
Just like the “lumping all veterans in one box” comment, this one implies that there’s this singular build for all troops. Well, there are skinny troops, there are fat troops, and there are muscular troops. There are troops of every race, religion, and creed. It’s the uniform and hair-cut standards that make us all alike.
But as bad is this one is for most troops, it’s almost always flung at our sisters-in-arms. Even though women make up 17 percent of the U.S. Armed Forces, male civilians tend to act shocked when they learn that a female served. It’s belittling.
Maybe one day when I finally put that underwater basket-weaving degree to good use… maybe…
9. “You’re so lucky you got the GI Bill”
Wrong. And f*ck you. That’s not how it works. Luck had nothing to do with all the hard work it took to serve in the military the minimum of three years required to get 100% access to the GI Bill. Luck, in my opinion, is being born into a family where mommy and daddy can pay for everything — but that’s none of my business.
If you want to be technical, a lot of veterans still take out student loans to help make ends meet. The GI Bill pays for a lot, but it doesn’t pay for everything.
Mike Pompeo, the head of President Donald Trump’s CIA, and his nominee for secretary of state, just confirmed that the US killed hundreds of Russians in an intense battle in Syria in February 2018.
Asked about what steps Pompeo would take as secretary of state to hold Russia accountable for its interference in the 2016 US election, he said that more work was to be done on sanctions to send Russian President Vladimir Putin a message. But, he said, Putin may have gotten another, clearer message already.
“In Syria now, a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match,” said Pompeo. “A couple hundred Russians were killed.”
The US had previously only confirmed killing 100 or so pro-Syrian regime forces, but multiple outlets reported the number was as high as 300 and that the soldiers were Russian military contractors.
Russia has used military contractors, or unofficial forces, in military operations before as a possible means of concealing the true cost of fighting abroad in places like Ukraine and Syria.
The February 2018 battle was reportedly incredibly one-sided, as a massive column of mostly-Russian pro-Syrian regime forces approached an established US position in Syria and fired on the location.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Craig Jensen)
The US responded with a massive wave of airstrikes that crippled the force before it could retreat, and then cleaned up the remaining combatants with strafing runs from Apache helicopters.
Phone calls intercepted by a US-funded news organization allegedly captured Russian military contractors detailing the humiliating defeat. “We got our f— asses beat rough, my men called me … They’re there drinking now … many have gone missing … it’s a total f— up,” one Russian paramilitary chief said, according to Polygraph.info, the US-funded fact-checking website.
France 24 published an interview in February 2018, with a man it described as a Russian paramilitary chief who said more Russians were volunteering to fight in Syria for revenge after the embarrassing loss.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the Coronavirus pandemic that’s happening around the world. The effects of the virus have left military families scrambling, and not for reasons you think. With military moves being stopped, schools shut down, and redeployments halted, families are struggling to figure out a plan to prevail through yet another disaster.
Do you have an emergency financial plan in place for your family?
Having emergency funds for your family in times like this is crucial. Going forward, use these financial tips to help your family thrive during hard times.
Have three months worth of expenses saved if possible.
Have adequate insurance (travel, personal property, auto, renters, and home).
Save a small amount of cash every month (Separate from your normal savings).
Do you have an emergency childcare plan?
With the rising number of schools and daycare centers shutting down, having an emergency plan for your children is essential. After reading that most military families don’t have someone they can ask a favor, finding your village is now more important than ever. Because we assume our school-aged children would spend most of their days at school, we don’t really prepare for this not to be the case. Now, we have to prepare. Here are a few tips to keep your kids safe and entertained.
Have a list of drop-in childcare facilities or babysitters near your home.
Have written childcare instructions in your home for an emergency babysitter.
Sign up for a free online school subscription. Cato.org has an extensive list of online schooling options.
Do you have enough household products in case of emergency?
Many military families live paycheck to paycheck. Having a surplus of food and household items may not be an option. However, there are things you should always keep in your home in case of emergency, or in this case, quarantine.
Always keep one weeks worth of basic living essentials in your home.
Have a small supply of ready to eat foods on hand.
Don’t forget baby formula pet food. Many people overlook these items when preparing for a disaster.
Does your family have exceptional medical needs?
If you have an exceptional family member or members that requires medication, having necessary medical supplies can mean the difference between life or death.
Have a pre-written medical emergency sheet easily accessible
Contact your doctor for medication refills, if you are close to running out.
Have basic medical supplies on hand (cold medicine, bandages, pain relievers).
Being prepared eases the stress of any emergency, especially one that doesn’t have an immediate end in sight. Visit Ready.gov to learn more about how you can prepare your family for an unexpected emergency. Better to be safe, than sorry.
Also, check CDC.com for the most accurate up-to-date information.
An Afghan National Army helicopter carrying senior officials has crashed in bad weather in the western province of Farah, killing all 25 on board, a local official says.
Naser Mehri, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from the mountainous Anar Dara district in the morning of Oct. 31, 2018, heading toward the nearby province of Herat.
He said the copter crashed in bad weather. A Taliban spokesman said the militants shot it down.
Mehri said the passengers included the deputy corps commander of Afghanistan’s western zone and the head of the Farah provincial council.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi claimed the militants had downed the helicopter but failed to provide evidence. Defense Ministry spokesman Ghafor Ahmad Jawed rejected the Taliban claim of responsibility as “totally wrong.”
Meanwhile, a suicide bomber struck outside Afghanistan’s largest prison on the eastern edge of Kabul, killing at least seven people, including prison workers and security personnel, officials said.
Afghan Col. Mahmoud Shah oversees the transfer of more than 30 detainees from Parwan Detention Facility to the Afghan National Detention Facility in October 2008.
Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said that the attacker targeted a bus carrying prison workers early on Oct. 31, 2018. The sprawling Pul-e Charkhi prison houses hundreds of inmates, including scores of Taliban militants.
According to Abadullah Karimi, a prison official, the attack occurred near the prison gate where a number of visitors were waiting to pass a rigorous security check before entering.
Another five were wounded in the blast, the officials said.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
One of America’s longest-serving retailers is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. While this doesn’t mark the end of the 130-year-old retailer, it doesn’t exactly bode well for its future, either. With 700 just over Sears and K-Mart stores nationwide, the company is bleeding money it doesn’t have. Hopeful sources tell the Wall Street Journal that there will still be upwards of 300 stores open for the coming holiday season, but the company is a shadow of its former self.
The once-dominant retail sales company, first founded as a mail-order catalog in 1891, has been in a slow decline over the past decade.
(Wall Street Journal)
The company once sold everything, from dresses to appliances to even cars at one point. In fact, President Jimmy Carter even grew up in a shotgun-style house his family purchased through a Sears catalog. Hell, the company even sold cocaine and opium at one point. Try getting that on Amazon.
While anecdotes about Sears, Roebuck, and Company selling patent medicine are quaint, this was a company that was — for much of its life — ahead of its time. The story of the rise of Sears is almost the story of the American century — of the American dream.
An automobile offering from a 1909 Sears catalog.
In the months and years after the Civil War, communication and transportation technologies that were developed to help the Union fight and win the war were still on the cutting edge. While working as a railroad agent around the early 1880s, Richard Warren Sears purchased a collection of unwanted watches from a local jeweler and then resold them to his coworkers — picking up a big profit along the way.
He used this experience to start a mail-order watch business with a watch repairman named Alvah Roebuck. The duo moved to Chicago, a rail hub, and expanded their offerings to other jewelry. After selling that business, he moved away to Iowa but came back to the mail-order business shorty after. That’s when Sears and Roebuck founded Sears, Roebuck, Company.
They began to expand into the rest of the postwar United States. Not through brick and mortar stores, rather the company expanded the offerings in its catalog. Most importantly, they began to service the more remote areas of the United States, lending dependability and stability to the supply side of these remote markets — something local stores could not do.
Eventually, the company went public, survived the Great Depression, changes in ownership and direction, and by the 1930s, was opening stores in urban areas to respond to the American population moving closer to those areas and away from rural ones. The company still distributed goods to rural communities from its multi-million square foot warehouse in Chicago. Control over its distribution was one of the stores’ original keys to success.
Fashionable and functional.
Sears was the original “everything” store. Rather than sell the latest fashions or flash-in-the-pan trinkets, the original Sears stores sold reliable consumer staples at a lower cost. Socks and sheets aren’t sexy, but everyone needs them and the Sears Tower, then the world’s tallest building, was built on a foundation of consumer needs.
This is strangely also the foundation of Sears’ downfall. A company that had survived everything from the Panic of 1893 to the Great Depression and two World Wars would begin to lose sight of what once made it great and profitable. While Sears’ dedication to consumer needs helped drive American industry, helped develop suburban areas in the days following World War II, and even drive U.S. companies into Mexico and Canada, it began to lose sight of that foundation.
In the 1980s, the company expanded into credit holdings, stocks and financial products, even real estate. By the 1990s, it was no longer a price leader. Years of inflation in the 1970s and 1980s led to the foundation of similar department stores based on competing with companies like Sears through lower prices. K-Mart, Target, and Walmart fired the first shots that led to Sears’ decline. Amazon just put the nails in the coffin. Allen Questrom, a retired retail executive says 1985 was the year Sears made its first mistake.
“They took their eye off the ball,” Questrom, former head of Sears rival J.C. Penny, told the Wall Street Journal, referring to Sears opening the Discover Card brand. Other industry insiders say it happened earlier, when it purchased brokerage and real-estate firms like Dean Witter Reynolds and Coldwell Banker.
But by the time Sears decided to get rid of its financial holdings, it was too late. It survived the Great Recession, but its last profitable year came in 2010, posting losses of over billion since. Despite a further shedding and sales of unprofitable assets and an increased focus on what does work for the company’s remaining stores, the 70,000 employees left at the once-iconic retailer no doubt wonder if there’s anyone in the wings that could make Sears great again.
In an embarrassing moment for the Swiss Air Force’s demo team, the Patrouille Suisse squadron made a low-altitude pass over a yodeling festival when it was supposed to be making a commemorative flight honoring a local aviator a few miles away.
The Swiss aerial display team was expected to fly over an event marking the 100th anniversary of the death of aviation pioneer Oskar Bider in Langenbruck, but the team missed their mark by about four miles, flying over the nearby Muemliswil instead, The Aviationist first reported.
The obsolete F-5E Tiger II fighters flown by the demo team are not equipped with GPS, and the team did not have a man on the ground, as is often the case for these types of events. As the team was approaching the intended destination, the team leader spotted a festival area with tents and incorrectly assumed they were in the right place for the show.
The Patrouille Suisse.
Spokesman for the Swiss military Daniel Reist, local media reported, explained that the instruments in the aircraft flown by the display team are over four decades old. “Navigation is done with a map, a feeling and sight,” he said in a statement, adding that these aircraft are no longer suitable for combat and would never be used in a crisis.
“Unfortunate circumstances led to the mistake” the spokesman said. Switzerland’s Ministry of Defense said that the demonstration team had not had a chance to practice the maneuver prior to the event, explaining that the team was distracted, The Associated Press reported.
The commander of the Swiss demo team has apologized for the error.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
But back then he was just Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry, a civilian detainee. He was one of some 80,000 detainees who were held at one of four detention facilities throughout Iraq. They were a mix of petty criminals and insurgents captured in house raids over the course of the war.
It was the Iraqi government who released Baghdadi.
Eventually, the 2008 U.S. Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq would set the terms for closing the prison system and moving the detainees to Iraqi custody. The American government was primarily concerned with some 200 prisoners they deemed most dangerous.
Baghdadi was not one of them.
At the time of his release, Baghdadi and the others who were released were considered “low level” and not much of a threat. After his release, he gravitated to the insurgent group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which came to be known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in 2006. The Americans continued to systematically eliminate AQI’s leadership. In 2010, Baghdadi was promoted to a leadership position in what was left of the network.
No one really knows how Baghdadi rose in the ranks. When his name was revealed as one of the group’s leaders (which then started calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq), no one in U.S. intelligence knew any of their names. The seeds of what would become ISIS were sown.
The stunning photographs in this post were taken on Feb. 21, 2019, by our friend and photographer Christopher McGreevy.
They show a 461th FLTS F-35A from Edwards Air Force Base, at low level, on the Sidewinder low level route, enroute to the famous “Jedi Transition.”
While we are used to see some great photographs of the F-35s, F-16s, and many other types thundering over the desert in the “Star Wars” canyon, the rare snow days in California provided a fantastic background for these shots McGreevy shot from an unusual spot, deep in the Sierra Mountains.
As mentioned several times here at The Aviationist, what makes the low level training so interesting, is the fact that aircraft flying the low level routes are involved in realistic combat training. Indeed, although many current and future scenarios involve stand-off weapons or drops from high altitudes, fighter pilots still practice on an almost daily basis to infiltrate heavily defended targets and to evade from areas protected by sophisticated air defense networks as those employed in Iran, Syria or North Korea. While electronic countermeasures help, the ability to get bombs on target and live to fight another day may also depend on the skills learnt at treetop altitude.
To be able to fly at less than 2,000 feet can be useful during stateside training too, when weather conditions are such to require a low level leg to keep visual contact with the ground and VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.
Even a stealth plane (or helicopter), spotted visually by an opponent, could be required to escape at tree top height to survive an engagement by enemy fighter planes or an IR guided missile.
That’s why low level corridors like the Sidewinder and the LFA-7 aka “Mach Loop” in the UK are so frequently used to train fighter jet, airlifter and helicopter pilots.
And such training pays off when needed. As happened, in Libya, in 2011, when RAF C-130s were tasked to rescue oil workers that were trapped in the desert. The airlifter took off from Malta and flew over the Mediteranean, called Tripoli air traffic control, explained who they were and what they were up to, they got no reply from the controllers, therefore continued at low level once over the desert and in hostile airspace.
H/T to our friend Christopher McGreevy for sending us these shots. Make sure to visit his stunning Instagram page here.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
In April, 2015, the son of a New Jersey pizza shop owner left the United States. His destination was an Islamic State training camp in Syria. Shortly after arriving, he allegedly emerged in a video posted to social media, beheading Kurdish fighters captured by ISIS. Now, Zulfi Hoxha may be in command of ISIS fighters in the country.
How Islamic State fighters survive the onslaught from American, Kurdish, Syrian, Russian, Iranian, and/or Turkish forces is baffling to many, but Zulfi Hoxha has managed to stay alive through it all, even after the fall of the ISIS capital at Raqqa and the subsequent collapse of the terrorist “caliphate.”
Hoxha now goes by the name Abu Hamza al-Amriki, the last being a nod to his country of origin. He’s been seen in a number of pro-ISIS jihadist propaganda videos, doing everything from encouraging “lone wolf” attacks in the United States to actually beheading enemy soldiers captured in combat. At just 26, he’s being touted as one of the most dangerous recruiting tools of the declining Islamic State.
Only a few dozen Americans have left the U.S. to join international terrorist organizations. Hoxha is significant in that he is now a major propaganda star and is featured as a senior commander of the Islamic State forces. But since the apogee of ISIS’ rise to power in 2014, the group has lost the kind of success that would attract followers like Hoxha.
Having graduated from an Atlantic City, N.J., high school in 2010, youth like Hoxha saw ISIS in control of some 34,000 square miles of territory cut out of Iraq and Syria – a territory roughly the size of Maine. In the years since, the group has lost most of that territory, along with the prestige, money, and followers that kind of success attracts. In previous years, ISIS members like Hoxha were propaganda stars on social media, but after the worldwide effort to curb ISIS recruiting, jihadists are more likely to be found on dark websites than on Twitter.
Iraqi Federal Police hold an upside-down ISIS flag after retaking streets in Mosul.
Hoxha has had minimal contact with former friends and family back in New Jersey. He sent a message to one friend shortly after leaving the United States to tell him that he had arrived in “the Safe House.” He also told his mother that he was going to be training for three months. Now he is one of just a few Americans who rose to a leadership position in the Islamic State and other jihadist organizations.
Many of the others are dead, most killed by U.S. airstrikes.