How to talk to kids about war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to talk to kids about war

For anyone high school age or under, America has been at war since they took their first breath. Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, a conflict that is ongoing, it has been a nation at war. In this time span, American troops (and drones) have fought in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya, Libya, Uganda, and Yemen. To a kid, this is all very far away if they know about it at all. Such conflicts are only fleetingly headline news and barely make their way into pop culture (unless, of course, you count conflicts on galaxies far far away). But kids should know about war. Right? Is it a parent’s duty to tell them about the conflicts their country is engaged in? And if so, how much should we tell them?

It all depends on where a child is in their development. Parents of older children can engage in more complex conversations about the dangers and reasons for war, using their history lessons and entertainment as an entry point. But when it comes to a kid under the age of 7, things require a bit more finesse.


“The brain is rapidly evolving during growth and development, and it leads to very striking differences how kids understand these kinds of concepts” says Dr.Chris Ivany, a child and adolescent psychiatrist working in the Washington, DC area.

The conversation about what war even is needs to cater to a child’s understanding of the physical world while not resorting to metaphors that are either dangerously reductive – “it’s like when mommy and daddy fight” – or frightfully apocalyptic. It’s a conversation about life and death, politics, morality, and human nature. None of those topics taken alone are easy to convey to a child. Add them together and you’ve got a quagmire that needs to be explained in simple, non-terrifying terms.

That’s even tougher when parents seem to freak out about every new news item. The fact is, people have been freaking out about war’s representation in the media for generations. We’re only a few decades removed from Cold War anxieties that caused Boomers to duck and cover at the sound of an air-raid siren, and only about 30 years from the emergence of the current 24-hour news cycle, which came to prominence during the Gulf War. As we enter another period of escalation and deescalation with Iran, it’s on parents to try to calmly explain what’s happening in the world without leaving children shaking in their boots.

“Even more than the words that are spoken back and forth, the tone and way in which discussions like this happen between parents and kids are important,” says Ivany. “Kids pick up on worries and anxieties that parents may have. Parents (should) model the idea that there truly are hard and scary and bad things out in the world, but (also how) we get through them.”

Pop culture can help. Certain touchstones provide context, which is exactly what a child needs to understand the world around them.

“A 4-year-old seeing war presented in a Disney cartoon (like Mulan)… it probably doesn’t overwhelm him or her and then you can have a conversation about it. That same 4-year-old watching the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan is going to be overwhelmed and it’s not going to have the same effect,” says Ivany. “The exposure to the various points in pop culture or discussions in school, as long as it’s developmentally and age-appropriate it’s probably a good thing. Unfortunately, war is a reality and we need to understand it. If it leads to a productive discussion because it’s not an overwhelming topic, it opens the door for future discussions.

“As the brain grows and matures, you can have another discussion that’s more complex than when they were four. And they’ll do that because they feel like engaging you was helpful and not scary: You created a line of communication,” says Ivany.

That line of communication can lead to more productive discussions as a child ages and starts to understand the concept of war on a deeper level, touching on the reasons for war, the concept of morality and “just war”, and the ethical and moral aspects of conflict.

Still, war, even in abstract, is terrifying. That’s why it’s important to stress with children that they’re fortunate in that war isn’t immediately encroaching on them, ready to wipe them out.

“Kids tend to internalize and put themselves in the middle of things that logically doesn’t make sense, and that may result in fears that aren’t logical to adults: ‘If it’s on the TV screen, why wouldn’t it be at the door? If a missile can fly from Iran to Iraq, why can’t that missile fly to the suburb where they may live?'” says Ivany. “Especially in kids up to the age of 7, part of this conversation is a reassurance that they are safe, and this is not something that they need to be worried about on a day-to-day basis.”

As for kids with loved ones deployed, Ivany stresses that while conflict has its casualties, it’s essential that they understand, “the vast majority of soldiers come back just fine. Any time somebody is hurt it’s a tragedy, but most of the time people are safe.”

Simply having a conversation, to begin with, can be tough. But being open and honest is the key to helping assuage fears and anxieties about war. And, as with all things parenting, those conversations can evolve into larger lessons on life outside the battlefield.

“You can use conversations about serious things like this to help encourage growth and development in other areas,” says Ivany. “It can lead to a helpful discussion about compassion for other people, or it could become a launching point about speaking out about what’s wrong and to be able to take personal positions on things (like standing up to bullies). These conversations about war oftentimes provide an opportunity for other discussions that are helpful in kids’ development.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan pilots in U.S. Black Hawks are attacking Taliban fighters

Firing machine guns at Taliban fighters, reinforcing attacking ground troops, and scouting through mountainous terrain to find enemy locations are all things US-trained Afghan Air Force pilots are now doing with US Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The ongoing US effort to provide anti-Taliban Afghan fighters with Black Hawks has recently been accelerated to add more aircraft on a faster timeframe, as part of a broad strategic aim to better enable Afghan forces to attack.


The first refurbished A-model Black Hawks, among the oldest in the US inventory, arrived in Kandahar in September of last year, as an initial step toward the ultimate goal of providing 159 of the helicopters to the Afghans, industry officials say.

While less equipped than the US Army’s most modern M-model Black Hawks, the older, analog A-models are currently being recapitalized and prepared for hand over to the Afghans.

Many of the Afghan pilots, now being trained by a globally-focused, US-based aerospace firm called MAG, have been flying Russian-built Mi-17s. Now, MAG is helping some Afghan pilots transition to Black Hawks as well as training new pilots for the Afghan Air Force.

“We are working on a lot of mission types. We’re helping pilots learn to fly individually, conduct air assaults and fly in conjunction with several other aircraft,” Brian Tachias, Senior Vice President for MAG, Huntsville Business Unit, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

An Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter transports soldiers from Bagram Airfield over Ghazni, Afghanistan, on July 26, 2004.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Vernell Hall)

The current MAG deal falls under the US Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization. Tachias said, “a team of roughly 20 MAG trainers has already flown over 500 hours with Afghan trainees.” MAG trainers, on-the-ground in Kandahar, graduated a class of Afghan trainees this month. According to current plans, Black Hawks will have replaced all Mi-17s by 2022.

Tachias added that teaching Afghan pilots to fly with night vision goggles has been a key area of emphasis in the training to prepare them for combat scenarios where visibility is more challenging. By next year, MAG intends to use UH-60 simulators to support the training.

While not armed with heavy weapons or equipped with advanced sensors, the refurbished A-model Black Hawks are outfitted with new engines and crew-served weapons. The idea is to give Afghan forces combat maneuverability, air superiority and a crucial ability to reinforce offensive operations in mountainous terrain, at high altitudes.

An Afghan Air Force pilot receives a certificate during a UH-60 Black Hawk Aircraft Qualification Training graduation ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2017. The pilot is one of six to be the first AAF Black Hawk pilots. The first AAF Black Hawk pilots are experienced aviators coming from a Mi-17 background.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Veronica Pierce)

The MAG training effort is consistent with a broader Army strategy to arm, train, and equip Afghan forces such that they can continue to take over combat missions. In recent years, the US Army has placed a premium on operating in a supportive role wherein they train, assist and support Afghan fighters who themselves engage in combat, conduct patrols and do the majority of the fighting.

Standing up an Afghan Air Force has been a longstanding, stated Army goal for a variety of key reasons, one of which simply being that the existence of a capable Afghan air threat can not only advance war aims and enable the US to pull back some of its assets from engaging in direct combat.

While acknowledging the complexities and challenges on continued war in Afghanistan, US Centcom Commander Gen. Joseph Votel voiced this sensibility earlier this summer, stating that Afghan forces are increasingly launching offensive attacks against the Taliban.

“They are fighting and they are taking casualties, but they are also very offensive-minded, inflicting losses on the Taliban and [ISIS-Khorasan] daily, while expanding their capabilities and proficiency every day,” Votel said, according to an Army report from earlier this summer.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

Mattis tells NATO to pay its fair share

Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned NATO defense ministers in a speech that the “impatience Secretary Gates predicted is now a governmental reality” when it came to America’s share of the military burden of the alliance. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” he added.


According to a report by the European edition of Politico, Mattis was passing on a warning from President Donald Trump, who had been critical of the lack of defense spending by NATO allies.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis talks with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon during a North Atlantic Council meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 15, 2017. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

“Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance, and for the freedoms we inherited, which are now clearly threatened,” Mattis told the assembled ministers according to the Defense Media Activity. Mattis particularly mentioned the events of 2014, including Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine.

Mattis wasn’t only there to spank NATO for being defense-spending cheapskates, though. Referring to the alliance as “my second home,” he noted that NATO “remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the transatlantic community” in his opening remarks.

M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 during a gunnery range. The Soldiers are completing gunnery ranges before taking part in combined exercises with their NATO counterparts later this year. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)

In remarks welcoming Secretary Mattis, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg cited Secretary Mattis’s past service as Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, saying, “You made sure that NATO adapted to a new and more demanding security environment.  But NATO has to continue to adapt and that’s exactly what we’re going to address at our meeting today, how NATO continues to adapt to a new security environment.”

Stoltenberg also addressed concerns about NATO members paying their fair share, saying, “Our latest figures, which we published yesterday, show that defense spending among European allies and Canada increased by 3.8 percent in real terms in 2016.  That is roughly $10 billion U.S. dollars.  This is significant, but it is not enough. We have to continue to increase defense spending across Europe and Canada.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, front row, center right, and fellow defense ministers pose for a photo at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 15, 2017. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Politico noted that NATO has set a benchmark of 2 percent of GDP as the minimum size of a defense budget. An April 2016 report by CNN.com noted that only five NATO countries met that benchmark.

Articles

Russia just inked a deal that lets its air force stay in Syria for the next 49 years

Russian President Vladimir Putin has endorsed a bill ratifying a protocol to the 2015 agreement between Moscow and Damascus regulating the deployment of the Russian Air Force in Syria for 49 years.


The protocol signed by Russia and Syria in January 2017 regulates issues related to the deployment of the Russian Air Force on Syrian territory as well as related to Russia’s exercise of jurisdiction over its military movable and immovable assets on Syrian territory. It also covers the measures needed to maintain the operation efficiency of the Russia Air Force.

Under the protocol, the Russian Air Force are allowed to stay on Syrian territory for 49 years with an option of automatically extending that arrangement for 25-year periods after this term expires.

Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

The document, published on the Russian official legal information website, particularly says that the Syrian government is handing over a plot of land in the Latakia province, where the Khmeimim Air Base is located, over to Russia for its free use.

The bill ratifying the protocol was signed by Putin on July 27, according to a Kremlin statement.

It was adopted by the Russian State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, on July 14 and approved by the Senate five days later.

Russian military aircraft at Khmeimim Air Base, Syria. Photo from Russian Ministry of Defense.

The Russian Air Force was deployed to Syria on September 30, 2015, at the request of the Syrian government as part of the operation aimed at fighting terrorist groups. The group was stationed at the Khmeimim Air Base.

Most Russian troops initially deployed to Syria were withdrawn in March 2016 after Putin said that the objectives of the five-month anti-terrorist operation in Syria were “generally accomplished.” At that time, Russia said it would keep a military presence at the port of Tartus and at the Khmeimim airbase to monitor the situation in the region and observe the implementation of ceasefire agreements.

Articles

9 Ukrainian soldiers killed in bloodiest day of fighting in 2017

The United States is condemning an outbreak of violence in eastern Ukraine, calling it the deadliest 24-hour period so far this year.


Ukraine’s military says nine soldiers have died in the east where Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels have been fighting for more than three years.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says that five deaths were in clashes that appear to have been initiated by what she described as Russian-led forces.

Pro-Russian rebels shoot in the air at funeral of a fellow fighter killed in a battle for Marinka near Donetsk. Eastern Ukraine, 6 June, 2015. (Photo by Mstyslav Chernov)

Ten soldiers were also wounded and one was captured, according to the Ukrainian Ministry Defense. Two civilians were also reported wounded in Avdiivka on the morning of July 19.

Nauert said the US is asking the Russia-supported troops to abide by the terms of a ceasefire deal for eastern Ukraine that was signed in early 2015 but never fully implemented.

The US has called on those forces to allow international monitors to have “full, safe, and unfettered” access to the conflict zone, Nauert said.

Soldiers of Ukraine’s Internal Troops in riot gear and protesters clash at Bankova str, Kiev, Ukraine. December 1, 2013. (Photo by Mstyslav Chernov)

At least 20 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and at least 35 more have been wounded in the first 20 days of July, according to tweets from Liveuamap.

 

 

 

 

Articles

Russia just tested this ultra-fast ship-killing missile

Russia carried out the latest test of a new high-speed cruise missile last week as part of a program that is raising concerns in the Pentagon about the threat the missile poses to American warships.


The test of the Zircon hypersonic missile was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies, according to a senior defense official familiar with reports of the test. No other details of the test were available.

However, state-run Russian news reports say the Zircon can reach speeds of between Mach 6 and Mach 8, or between 4,600 and 6,100 miles per hour — enough to outpace any current missile defense interceptors.

Such high speeds pose dangers for Navy destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers currently outfitted with anti-missile defenses but that are not capable of countering the missile.

The USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrolling the eastern Pacific Ocean. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

Defense analysts said the test was probably carried out from a ground-based launcher near an area of the White Sea in northern Russia around May 30 — the date that Russian authorities issued an air closure notification for the region.

The Zircon has been billed by the Russians as an anti-ship cruise missile that media have said will be deployed on Moscow’s nuclear-powered missile cruisers. Production is expected to begin this year.

Vladimir Tuchkov, a military analyst, told the state-run Sputnik website that Zircon missiles will be deployed between 2018 and 2020.

“The Russian development of hypersonic weapons is clearly a very serious threat,” said Mark B. Schneider, a senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy and a former senior Pentagon official. The missile’s estimated range of up to 620 miles “would give it very great capability against defenses,” he added.

Hypersonic Missile | Lockheed Martin

Mr. Schneider said the Pentagon is “clearly well behind” in the race for developing hypersonic weapons, and that the problem is not technology but a lack of funding. China also is developing a hypersonic missile called the DF-ZF.

The Pentagon is planning a test this year of a missile called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon as part of its Conventional Prompt Strike program. That program until recently was dubbed the Conventional Prompt Global Strike and is seeking weapons capable of striking any location on Earth within minutes.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy Reserve gets first of new warfare instructors

Lt. Cesar Mize became the first Anti-Submarine Warfare/Anti-Surface Warfare (ASW/SUW) Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) in the Navy Reserve during a ceremony on Oct. 26, 2018. Capt. Joseph Cahill, director of Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC’s) Sea Combat Division administered Mize’s oath of office into the Navy Reserve.

“I’m thrilled to be part of this tremendous team of young officers raising the Combat capability of Naval Surface Forces,” said Cahill. “Cesar’s exceptional skills, qualifications, and experience as an ASW/SUW WTI make him a critical asset to the Nation. As the first Reserve ASW/SUW WTI, Lt. Mize will continue to play a vital role for our Navy and our Nation. He is the first of what will eventually be many ASW/SUW WTI’s who choose to continue to serve as reserve enablers after they transition from active duty.”


Mize served under Cahill’s command aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), completing a 5th and 7th Fleet deployment in 2018.

“It’s exciting that the Navy is investing in our tactical talent. I’m tremendously excited to join the reserve component of SMWDC,” said Mize. “The ability to surge a tactically lethal surface warfare force in wartime is critically important. This reserve force will continue to rigorously train, learn, and teach to be able to answer the nations call at a moment’s notice.”

Lt. Cesar Mize, left, shakes hands with Capt. Joseph Cahill, right, director of Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center™s (SMWDC) Sea Combat Division after being commissioned into the Navy Reserve and SMWDC™s Reserve Component, Oct. 26, 2018.

Currently there are five reserve units at SMWDC, corresponding to the headquarters and its four divisions. Mize is one of three reserve SWOs qualified as a WTI. The others are qualified as Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) WTIs.

While the three reserve WTIs earned their patches on active duty and later transitioned into the Navy Reserves, SMWDC is on track to expand WTI training and qualification opportunities to highly motivated reserve SWOs who demonstrate exceptional tactical skill and potential. SMWDC reserve component recently selected its first reserve SWO to complete the ASW/USW WTI course of instruction in 2019.

SMWDC is a subordinate command of Commander U.S. Naval Surface Forces, and is headquartered at Naval Base San Diego with four divisions in Virginia and California focused on IAMD, ASW/SUW, Mine Warfare, and Amphibious Warfare.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

China threatens family members at home to control people abroad

Anastasia Lin may never see her family in China again.

Shortly after winning the Miss World Canada title in 2015, Beijing deemed China-born Lin “persona non grata” — a powerful diplomatic term that effectively banned her from the country — because she was speaking out on the country’s human-rights issues.

But more problematic than Lin’s ability to enter China, is the difficulty her family have had trying to leave, which is being used as leverage to pressure the Chinese-Canadian actress and activist.


While in Australia in early 2018, Lin told Business Insider how her uncles and even elderly grandparents had their visas to Hong Kong revoked in 2016 in an attempt by authorities to silence Lin and punish her Hunan-based family.

“The day before I left, my mother told me that the police went into my grandparents home and took away their visa, their Hong Kong visa. These are 70 year-olds, and they took it away. They intercepted my uncle in the airport on his way to Macau, to Hong Kong,” Lin said.

Anastasia Lin speaks at the National Press Club on Dec. 18, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

“My grandmother told me … they took away the Hong Kong visa and they said very explicitly that it was because of my activities overseas and influence,” she said. “Since then, my grandparents have been getting routine police visits.”

Lin’s great-grandfather was executed in public during the Cultural Revolution “to warn the rest,” according to Lin, and the fear from that time has returned for her grandparents who are now subject to regular house calls by authorities.

“Later on my grandmother told me that the visits sometimes are with fruit and flowers but it was for the purpose of persuading them to persuade me to do less, to not do anything, and to convince me to be on the opposite side,” she said.

These weren’t the first threats and police visits Lin’s family received. Within weeks of winning her crown, security agents started threatening her father telling him that his daughter “cannot talk” about Chinese human-rights issues.

“My father sent me text message saying that they have contacted him telling him that if I continue to speak up, my family would be persecuted like in the Cultural Revolution. My father’s generation grew up in the middle of Cultural Revolution, so for him it’s the biggest threat you can make. It means you die, you get publicly persecuted,” Lin said, adding that her father “begged” her for a way for the family to survive in China.

Lin said it’s been a long time since she spoke to her father because their calls are monitored, but she learned recently his passport was rejected for renewal.

Lin is just one of many Chinese expats and exiles whose mainland relatives are used as leverage to try and control China’s reputation abroad.

Chinese President Xi Jingping.

Business Insider has previously reported on how relatives are contacted to try and control what their adult children are posting on social media while they study at foreign universities. And ethnic minority Uighurs, Tibetans, and other human-rights activists who have faced persecution have frequently said their family members are used as leverage to try and control their actions and speech overseas, with some even being blackmailed into spying for the state.

Family members of five Radio Free Asia journalists, including two US citizens , were recently detained in an attempt to stop their reporting on human-rights abuses against Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. One of those journalists is Gulchehra Hoja, who had more than 20 relatives disappear all in one day, in early 2018.

“When I heard my brother was detained, I [initially] chose not to speak up because my mother asked me, ‘Please I already lost you, I don’t want to lose my son too,” Hoja told a congressional hearing in July 2018. “We don’t want to put them in further danger because of our acts or any word against China.”

“My family haven’t been able to be reunited in 17 years,” she added.

The fear of this happening is also an effective enough tool to self-censor criticism, even if family members aren’t being directly threatened.

Square engineer Jackie Luo explained on Twitter what happened when the Chinese government closed down one of her mother’s WeChat groups here people in China and abroad would send hundreds of messages a day talking about social issues.

“They asked the person who started the WeChat group to restart it. He lives in the US now. But he won’t; he’s afraid. He has relatives in China, and if the government is monitoring him, then it may well be unsafe. They understand. This social group of 136 people — it’s dead now,” Luo wrote.

But when people choose to speak out, it can be harder for those still in China to understand.

“My grandpa [is] like, ‘Well why don’t you just give up, then you can come back?'” Lin said. “They think it’s that easy because the Chinese Communist Party promised them that if I don’t speak up, I will get to go back, but I know that’s not the case. I know usually if you don’t speak up you don’t have any leverage. They will just kill your voice completely.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Korea starts removing border defenses in promising peace drive

North and South Korean troops have started to disarm their heavily fortified border as part of reconciliation efforts between the nations.

Starting on Oct. 1, 2018, Seoul and Pyongyang began removing all the land mines from the Joint Security Area (JSA), located along the 155-mile Demilitarized Zone separating the two countries.


The project will take place over the next 20 days, according to the South’s defense ministry. The move is part of the agreement reached between the South’s President Moon Jae-In and the North’s Kim Jong Un in September 2018 in Pyongyang, where they promised to halt “all hostile acts” against each other and remove threats of war.

Ri Sol-ju, Kim Jong-un, Moon Jae-in, and Kim Jong-sook during the 2018 inter-Korean summit.

The deal also calls for the removal of guard posts and weapons from the JSA. According to Reuters, the troops who remain will be unarmed. The JSA is the only point on the border where troops from both sides come face to face.

The two sides have already taken steps to cool tensions in the region.

Early 2018, South Korea removed its propaganda loudspeakers which it used to blast anti-Pyongyang messages along the border.

And North Korea symbolically moved its clock forward 30 minutes to align with its Southern neighbor in an act of unity.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

These fighters are doing the heavy lifting against ISIS

Older U.S. Air Force jets — including the A-10 Thunderbolt II, eyed in recent years for retirement, and the F-15E Strike Eagle — are leading the air war against the Islamic State, statistics show.


U.S. military fighter-attack jets, bombers and drones have dropped more than 67,000 bombs since the 2014 start of Operation Inherent Resolve, the Defense Department’s mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, according to information provided by Air Forces Central Command.

Notably, fighter-attack aircraft released more than three times as many weapons as bombers did, the figures show. Drones dropped the least of any category of aircraft.

Aircraft like “the A-10, F-15E, and F-16 are breaking their backs because they are the right platform for the job and providing the right function,” Brian Laslie, an air power historian and author of the book, “The Air Force Way of War,” said in an email to Military.com.

F-15E Strike Eagle as it refuels. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua A. Hoskins)

Weapons Released by Aircraft

U.S. aircraft have released a total of 67,333 weapons from Aug. 8, 2014, through May 16, according to the data. While the F-15E released the most, the F-22 Raptor — one of the most advanced stealth fighters — dropped the least.

Here are the figures for the 10 types of U.S. aircraft flying combat sorties: F-15E Strike Eagle, 14,995 weapons released; A-10 Thunderbolt II, 13,856; B-1 Lancer, 9,195; F/A-18 Super Hornets, 8,920; F-16 Fighting Falcon, 7,679; B-52 Stratofortress, 5,041; MQ-1 Predator drone, 2,274; MQ-9 Reaper, 2,188; AV-8B, 1,650; and F-22, 1,535.

Broken down by aircraft type, fighter and attack planes dropped a total of 48,635 weapons, or 72 percent of the total; bombers released 14,236, or 21 percent; and drones dropped 4,462, or 7 percent, according to the statistics.

 

Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff, a spokeswoman for Air Force Central Command, or AFCENT, cautioned that the numbers released by the command — which includes assets and actions under the Combined Forces Air Component Commander, or CFACC — don’t reflect the “entirety of kinetic activity in OIR,” such as assets belonging to coalition partners or other U.S. components, like the Combined Joint Land Component Commander and Special Operations Joint Task Force.

“The amount of weapons employed by each aircraft varies due to a number of factors, such as time in theater, types of missions (i.e. close air support, air-to-air, escort, interdiction, etc.), ordnance type, etc.,” Atanasoff said in an email last week.

F-15Es parked during Operation Desert Shield. (Photo by: Wikimedia)

‘Lion’s Share of the Work’

While the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets actually flew the most combat missions, the Air Force’s F-15Es dropped the highest number of bombs, releasing more than one in five of the total amount, according to AFCENT.

As the workhorses of the ISIS fight, the “E” model Strike Eagle is a dual-role jet with the ability to find targets over long ranges and destroy enemy ground positions.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, the gunship popularly known as the Warthog or simply the ‘Hog’, has released almost as many weapons, albeit with a special type of accounting. Every 100 rounds from the Hog’s 30 mm Avenger gun is counted as one weapon, Atanasoff said.

Laslie said he wasn’t surprised that commanders are turning more frequently to fighters and close-air support aircraft in the campaign against ISIS — an operation estimated to cost roughly $13 billion so far.

After the Vietnam War, the service has operated as “a much more tactical Air Force,” he said. “From El Dorado Canyon in 1986 [campaign in Libya], to Desert Storm in ’91 and the Balkan campaigns of the mid-to-late 90s, tactical assets have done the lion’s share of the work.”

A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52F Stratofortress drops bombs over Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo))

‘See the Airpower’

Atanasoff said the relatively lower strike number for the B-52 doesn’t mean the bomber isn’t as active as other aircraft, but rather that it simply hasn’t been in theater as long. The B-1 left the campaign in early 2016 and was replaced by the B-52 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein in February said, “You’re just going to see a continual rotation of both of those weapons systems.”

Col. Daniel Manning, the deputy director of the Combined Air Operations Center, last year noted the Stratofortress’ unique ability to stay airborne for a long duration.

“Frankly, we want our partners and the enemy to see the airpower [the B-52] has overhead,” he said at the time. “A B-52 encourages our partner force that we have their back. Being seen is actually a pretty good thing.”

Laslie said, “GPS and stand-off weapons (and permissive environments) have kept the B-52 in the game, but it really is a tactical conflict in OIR.” He said bombers like the B-52 — though strategically useful — “aren’t really optimized for this mission set” in quick, one-off strike sorties.

An F-22 deploys flares. (Photo by: US Air Force)

Hunting for Intel

Similarly, the relatively lower strike numbers for the F-22 stealth fighter and the MQ-1 and MQ-9 drones may be attributed to the fact that they’re often used for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance to relay to other platforms and the Combined Air and Space Operations Center.

“We have refined our targeting process and become more efficient in layering our ISR to uncover targets that have made themselves available to us, which also has facilitated the number of weapons we’ve been able to deliver,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, told reporters last week.

Leaders have also “relied on the F-22’s ability to fuse information, understand where our friendly forces are,” to watch, and deconflict with multiple forces on the ground, he said.

At times controllers are using Reapers, Predators or both “combined in a formation” as a more efficient way of using their sensors, according to Lt. Col. Eric Winterbottom, chief of the Commander’s Action Group, U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

Remotely piloted aircraft are likely the first aircraft dictating “strike or no strike calls based off what we’re seeing” from the sensors, Winterbottom said in October. They’re an example of why officials ask for more ISR assets to ease pressure on manned aircraft and to minimize collateral damage from airstrikes.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the story behind the rise and fall of the Islamic State group

The Islamic State group, responsible for some of the worst atrocities perpetrated against civilians in recent history, appears on the verge of collapse.


After brutalizing residents living under its command for more than three years, the militants have now lost their self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa and are battling to hang on to relatively small pockets of territory in Iraq and Syria, besieged by local forces from all sides. Few, however, expect IS to completely go away, or for the bloodshed in the two countries and the region to end quickly.

Here’s a look at the Islamic State group, the rise and fall of its “caliphate” and what to expect next:

Under ISIS reign, the city of Raqqa was been turned into a veritable hell for its residents. Photo from Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.

A ‘Caliphate’ No More

IS, which emerged from the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq, began its spread across the Mideast in early 2014, overrunning the Iraqi city of Fallujah and parts of the nearby provincial capital of Ramadi. In Syria, it seized sole control of the city of Raqqa after driving out rival Syrian rebel factions.

In June 2014, IS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from where its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared a self-styled “caliphate,” a declaration tantamount to an earthquake that would temporarily redraw borders and shake up the entire region.

IS promised justice, equality, and an Islamic, religious utopia. But over the next few years, it terrorized people living under its control, systematically slaughtering members of Iraq’s tiny Yazidi community, kidnapping women and girls as sex slaves, beheading Western journalists and aid workers, and destroying some of the Mideast’s spectacular archaeological and cultural sites.

Yazidi refugees, many of whom were displaced due to ISIS activity. UK DFID photo by Rachel Unkovic

IS also attracted a motley crew of foreign fighters, mostly marginalized European youths and other foreigners who took up its cause. But it alienated mainstream Sunni Muslims, who found IS’ crude interpretation of Islam also spreading in areas far from Syria and Iraq.

Creating a territorial caliphate created a target, and an international anti-IS coalition soon took shape.

What’s Left

The United States launched its campaign of airstrikes against IS in Iraq in August 2014, and a month later in Syria. In Iraq, it partnered with government forces working with state-sanctioned Shiite-led militias as well as Iraqi Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga. In Syria, it partnered with local Syrian Kurdish-led fighters, the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Supported by tens of thousands of US-led airstrikes, these forces drove IS militants from one stronghold after another over the years. The biggest blow came in July when Mosul, long regarded as IS’ administrative capital, was liberated.

In Syria, IS appears to be heading for collapse as the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, and Syrian government forces, backed by their Russian allies, are attacking them in separate, simultaneous offensives.

A senior SDF commander on Oct. 17 said his forces liberated Raqqa from IS militants and would formally announce victory soon after clearing operations to remove land mines and search for sleeper cells. Mayadeen, a town in the heart of Syria’s Euphrates River Valley near Iraq’s border where the militants had been expected to make their last stand, fell to Syrian government troops over the weekend.

In northern Iraq, the jihadis no longer hold any cities or towns after their stronghold of Hawija fell earlier this month. Iraq’s army is now gearing up to fight IS in its last territory — the sprawling desert Anbar province stretching all the way to the Syrian border. In Syria, IS still holds the town of Boukamal near the Iraqi border and scattered pockets of territory in the east.

Popular Mobilization Forces move into Hawija. Photo from Dlshad Anwar of VOA.

Staggering Price

The destruction of IS has come at a devastating cost for both Syria and Iraq, and immense suffering for those who endured the militants’ brutal reign.

The fighting and airstrikes have pulverized once thriving cities, turning them into tragic vistas of crushed apartment blocks, flattened homes and collapsed roads and bridges. In Ramadi, Mosul and Raqqa, the scope of the damage is staggering.

Two weeks ago, the US-led coalition announced it has returned more than 83 percent of IS-held land to local populations since 2014, liberating more than 6 million Syrians and Iraqis in the process. At least 735 civilians have been unintentionally killed by coalition strikes, although activists and war monitors estimate the toll to be much higher.

Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.

The nine-month battle to liberate Mosul resulted in the death of up to 1,500 Iraqi forces. At least 1,100 SDF fighters were killed in the battles for Syria’s Raqqa and Deir el-Zour up until late September, according to the coalition.

In the three years since IS began building its “caliphate,” it has killed thousands of people, displaced millions, and worked hard on infusing children with extremist doctrine.

Shifting of Sands

The rise of the Islamic State group and subsequent wars and alliances to bring about its defeat has worsened political and sectarian fault-lines in Syria and Iraq.

Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

It gave unprecedented clout to Kurdish populations in both countries, unsettling their central governments, as well as Iran and Turkey, both battling Kurdish separatists within their own borders.

Under cover of the fight against IS, Iraq’s Kurds seized the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in 2014 — a move Baghdad has now reversed, moving into the city, seizing oil fields and other infrastructure in an attempt to curb Kurdish aspirations for independence.

The shifting and chaotic battlefields in Syria’s civil war, tensions between Kurds and ethnic Arabs, the presence of Shiite militias and government troops in predominantly Sunni towns and cities vacated by IS may lead to more violence.

In many ways, the fight over IS spoils and territories is only just beginning.

1st Lt. Matthew Chau, Border Team 3 OIC with HHS, TF 2-11 FA, stares out onto a mass grave site of the victims in the 1988 gas attack in Halabja on Jan. 12. (Sgt. Sean Kimmons)

Uncertain Future

All forces battling IS will have to remain vigilant even after they recapture the last militant-held territory. In some ways, they now face an even more daunting challenge.

Hisham al-Hashem, an Iraqi writer and analyst, estimates there remain 8,000 jihadis in Iraq’s Anbar who will melt away “like salt in water” to wait for the right moment to launch their next insurgency or suicide attack.

IS affiliates continue to carry out swift attacks in Egypt and Libya, where the group gained a foothold and which could be its preferred theaters of retaliations. Before it broke away from al-Qaeda and rebranded itself as the Islamic State, al-Qaeda in Iraq waged a years-long insurgency following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, pushing the country to the brink of civil war.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This defensive guard became a soldier after winning a Super Bowl

On Feb. 6, 2011, you could find Daryn Colledge celebrating alongside his teammates.

His team, the Green Bay Packers, had just defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25, winning Super Bowl XLV. It was his final season with the Packers.

The offensive guard has since become a different kind of guard.

In March 2016, after nine seasons in the NFL (with the Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins), Colledge enlisted in the Army National Guard.


He found that being a soldier would afford him the hands-on, active, team environment he was used to … and craved.

Now, you can find him on the back of a HH-60M Blackhawk Helicopter assisting combat medical specialists in transporting patients to safety.

Spc. Daryn Colledge, a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, assigned to 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment (Attack Reconnaissance Battalion), Task Force Panther, of the Idaho National Guard, assigned to 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), awaits take off for a training flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan July 28, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Steven E. Lopez)

Spc. Daryn Colledge, a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, assigned to 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment (Attack Reconnaissance Battalion), Task Force Panther, of the Idaho National Guard, volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. He serves as part of a medical evacuation crew — a mission that goes into harm’s way to save complete strangers when called upon, while on an airframe with no weapon systems.

“I wanted this mission, because I believe in this mission,” said Colledge. “I wanted to be a part of the mission that might get those unfortunate injured ones back home, help save lives and help bring some of them back to their families.”

Many things influenced Colledge’s decision to join the Idaho National Guard, such as his family’s military past and a brother who currently serves.

Colledge stated that the National Guard provided the opportunities he sought after while serving. His passion for aviation drove him to choose to become a blackhawk helicopter repairer.

Spc. Daryn Colledge, a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, assigned to 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment (Attack Reconnaissance Battalion), Task Force Panther, of the Idaho National Guard, assigned to 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), prepares for a training flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan July 28, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Steven E. Lopez)

“Joining the Army National Guard was a two part choice,” said Colledge. “First, I wanted to remain in Boise, Idaho, and second as a private pilot in my civilian life, I wanted to continue to fly in my Army career.”

After multiple flights and several qualification tests, he later became a blackhawk crew chief; a job with more responsibilities yet filled with excitement and new opportunities for Colledge.

“I could have gone the Army pilot route, but the crew chief side is too interesting for me,” said Colledge. “Crew chiefs have the chance to wear so many hats; mechanic, door gunner, assistant to the medics, conduct hoist operations and sling load operations. The constant change is a great challenge and keeps you working and honing your skills.”

As a blackhawk crew chief, Colledge was presented with the opportunity to join a medical evacuation crew while on a deployment to Afghanistan.

“His desire to serve was clear,” said Capt. Robert Rose, Company G, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, Forward Support Medical Platoon Leader MEDEVAC Detachment Officer in Charge. “His intent was never to seek glory through our mission, but rather to be in a position to help others.”

Colledge joined the MEDEVAC crew and rapidly became someone to emulate because of the teamwork and motivation he brought along with him.

U.S. Army Spc. Daryn Colledge, 168th Aviation Regiment UH-60 (Blackhawk) Helicopter repair student, practices routine maintenance during class at Fort Eustis, Va., July 28, 2016.

(Photo by Derek Seifert)

“One of things that comes naturally to Colledge is his ability to motivate and inspire others,” said 1st Lt. Morgan Hill, Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation Battalion (MEDEVAC) / Detachment Commander. “He’s a team player and thrives on working toward a common purpose.”

Colledge not only performed his duties as a crew chief, but also was able to lead his crewmates by example. As a former professional athlete, Colledge brought the insight of how to maintain optimal physical readiness, which is one of the most important aspects of being a soldier.

“One of his most notable accomplishments, besides his great work as a crew chief, was building a workout program that others in the unit could participate in as a group,” said Hill. “He was able to motivate his peers and superiors alike to stay physically fit and healthy throughout the deployment, even in austere environments, which was huge for maintaining unit morale.”

Colledge emphasized the fact that teamwork in the Army versus teamwork in sports actually tends to have many similarities, especially when it comes to being deployed.

After nine seasons in the NFL, you can Spc. Daryn Colledge of the Idaho National Guard on the back of a HH-60M Hospital Helicopter assisting combat medical specialists in transporting patients to safety.

(Idaho Army National Guard)

“The close proximity to each other, the bond built over a common goal, the joint struggles, working through things as a team,” said Colledge. “You create a bond, a relationship that you do not share with those who were not there. Those bonds can last a lifetime.”

Although Colledge established himself to be a proficient soldier, crew chief and teammate, at the beginning there might have been some challenges in leading an individual with his unique background.

“Spc. Colledge doesn’t hide his previous career, but he also doesn’t flaunt it,” said Rose. “He is much more humble than I initially imagined when I heard that I would be leading a Super Bowl winning former NFL player.”

“Ultimately, I was more concerned with the fact that he was a competent crew chief who was willing to learn and contribute to the team as a whole,” said Hill. “He never made anything about himself at any time and he always put the unit and its soldiers first.”

After nine seasons in the NFL, you can Spc. Daryn Colledge of the Idaho National Guard on the back of a HH-60M Hospital Helicopter assisting combat medical specialists in transporting patients to safety.


From Super Bowl champion to flying in the skies of Afghanistan, Colledge’s journey is a unique experience that some would ponder on the “why,” not having the need to volunteer years of your life to serve your country.

“Selfless service defines who Colledge is, he did not need to enlist,” said Hill. “He chose to serve for no other reason than to serve and give back.”

“Outside of deployment, to help and support the city and state that supported me through my days in college has been a special opportunity for me,” said Colledge. “I would have not been able to pay for college on my own and the chance to give back and serve that same community means the world to me.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former Pentagon chief warns against putting too much trust in generals to lead US through political fights

It’s no secret: America loves the legendary generals who have taken key positions of power in the Trump administration.


But the nation’s trust and dependence on these men to lead them through challenging political times may be misplaced, retired Adm. Mike Mullen said Thursday.

Mullen, who served as the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, said the way the nation is turning to these generals betrays a tendency not inherently American.

“I am increasingly — I’m not surprised, but I am concerned about the dependence of the American people on Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, John Kelly and Rex Tillerson,” he told an audience at the U.S. Naval Institute’s 2017 Naval History Conference in Annapolis.

(Adm. Mullin is a member of the We Are The Mighty board of directors)

Mattis, McMaster and Kelly — who serve as secretary of defense, national security adviser and White House chief of staff, respectively — all attained four-star rank in the military. McMaster remains on active duty.

“The question that I ask is how did we get here, to a point where we are depending on retired generals for the stability of our citizenry,” he said. “And what happens if that boulder breaks, first of all, and when.”

President Donald Trump has encouraged reverence for the generals in his administration, particularly Mattis, whom he has referred to by the nickname “Mad Dog” and praised on Twitter as a “general’s general.”

DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

Mattis, who was lionized by troops while in the Marine Corps for his care for his men and straightforward style, had been out of uniform for only four years when he was nominated to serve as defense secretary.

Congress passed a one-time waiver of a law requiring defense secretaries to have been out of the military for at least seven years to allow Mattis to serve.

In a congressional hearing held prior to the waiver vote, military experts advised that Mattis be confirmed, but warned the waiver should not be used again for a long time to preserve the tradition of civilian leadership of the military.

In the past, Mullen has been outspoken about the civilian-military divide and has publicly criticized the recent trend of general and flag officers becoming keynote speakers at political conventions and publicly endorsing candidates for president.

He reiterated these views Thursday, saying that while retired officers have the right to endorse, they do damage to the military by eroding its reputation for impartiality.

USMC photo by Sgt. Zachary Mott.

Mullen qualified that he knows Mattis, McMaster and Kelly, and called them “extraordinary individuals in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”

But he suggested it sets a dangerous precedent to turn to them as a focal point for national leadership.

“I have been in too many countries globally where the generals, if you will, gave great comfort to their citizens,” Mullen said. “That is not the United States of America. It may be temporarily now; I can only hope that it won’t be in the future. And despite each one of these individuals’ greatness, there are limits.”

In addition, he said, experience on the battlefield does not translate directly to leadership in the political sphere.

“When I walked into the Oval Office for the first time, that is an environment I’d never been in before, ever,” Mullen said. “… There is no reason these individuals, who are exceptionally good, had any better preparation in that regard. They are trying to figure it out as we go.”

Recent press reports, he said, have called the generals the “bulwark” of the administration.

“And one of the questions is, will that bulwark last, and what happens if and when it doesn’t,” Mullen said. “My own belief is, it won’t.”