Over the years, I’ve had my nerves scraped raw by Americans who flippantly ask the question, “Have you ever killed anyone?” The fact that those who ask completely fail to understand or truly care about the veteran experience has calloused my soul just enough to optimize the efficacy of humor as a deflection device and coping mechanism. Let my pain be your lesson and follow me to disgruntled depths!
Imagine you’ve stopped off at the gas station to grab a pack of smokes and are striking up a casual conversation with the attendant when he suddenly hits you with, “Hey, what was the worst thing you’ve ever experienced? Any recent deaths in the family? Any childhood or sexual trauma? No? Haha. Okay, well Kit-Kats are two for $1 if you’re interested.”
How would you respond to some stranger casually prying into the darkest moments of your life? If your knee-jerk reaction is to rip out their trachea and bugle their death song as they fade into the abyss, you might be a veteran. The first time a sniveling college kid asked if I’d ever killed someone, I completely fumbled my response. It was C-minus at best. I regret it every day. I’m better than that. It was my first time, and I just got a little nervous.
As the bloodthirsty, village-burning, baby-killing assassins that we American veterans (apparently) are, our response to this utterly tone-deaf question is important, and it’s our duty to rise to the challenge and represent our community when the time comes. Fortunately, I’ve worked up 10 responses any vet can use when asked the most astoundingly inappropriate question in the history of traumatic events.
Knock ’em dead!
HOW TO RESPOND TO “HAVE YOU EVER KILLED SOMEONE?”
1. Become visibly nervous, lean forward, and then whisper, “So you see them too?”
2. “Only the short ones.”
3. Note the color or feature of their shirt. “Only people in [insert their shirt color] … There’s just something about that color …” follow with dead silence and a disconnected gaze.
4. “Yup! Wait, you meant like in the war? Haha. Oh no, I was supply.”
5. “Not on purpose.”
6. Pull out a coin and stare at the individual. Actually, you’re not trying to stare at them, you’re staring into them. Gaze deeply into their very soul and hold the coin out until the tension in the room is palpable, then simply ask, “Heads or tails?” Flip the coin, catch it, and intensely stare at the palm of your hand without letting them see the coin. Shake a little bit for dramatic effect if you want. After several moments suddenly change your expression to light and happy, then inform them that they were correct.
7. Really emphasize the word “people” in this one — “What like people? No, I’ve never killed any people.” Do not elaborate. If they persist, make a loose reference to aliens, something like “We don’t know what they were” will work fine. End with “I’ve already said too much,” and walk away.
8. If they’re young, say, “Yes, and I was one short of unlocking the Chopper Gunner.” (They’ll get it.)
9. “With what?”
10. “I’ll only answer your awkward question if you answer one of mine first.” Then proceed to ask them one of the following:
Have you ever heard your parents having sex?
In 200 words or more, describe your last shit.
What’s the last thing you cried about?
Can you meet me in the bathroom and tell me if this rash looks serious? I can’t show you here.
11. Bonus answer perfect for post-pandemic dinner parties: “Only when we were hungry.”
In 1985, the Cold War turned 40 years old. Though the Space Race had been over for more than a decade by then, the competition between the Americans and Soviets for the domination of Earth’s orbit was intense.
Each side used spy satellites to track the military movements of their rival. The Soviet Union became so proficient at the use of satellites, it could launch many rockets into orbit, sometimes in a matter of hours.
The number of satellites the Soviet Union could produce and their ability to place them in orbit so quickly was considered a dangerous threat. Figuring out how to mitigate the threat of an object in low Earth orbit was the order of the day.
The F-15 carried an ASM-135 ASAT anti-satellite missile, a 3,000-pound, 18-foot-long projectile that the pilot would carry to the edge of space before firing at a target 345 miles above the surface of the Earth, moving at 23,000 feet per second.
They tested the tactic on P78-1, an obsolete American research satellite, in orbit since 1979.
On Sept. 13, 1985, then-Maj. Wilbert “Doug” Pearson took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., bound for the edge of the the atmosphere. Once he reached 30,000 feet, he would have 10 seconds to fire his weapon.
The Smithsonian has actual video from the fight of then-Maj. Pearson’s F-15.
Flying at just above Mach 1.2, Pearson pulled up into a 3.8 G, 65-degree climb that reduced the speed of his F-15A to just below the speed of sound. He fired the guided missile at 38,100 feet. The 2,700-pound, three-stage missile used an infrared sensor to strike its target, hitting the one-ton satellite at 15,000 miles per hour.
Military photographers from all branches of the armed forces are constantly taking awesome shots of training, combat, and stateside events. We looked through the military’s official channels, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere and picked our favorites over the past week. Here’s what we found:
Tech. Sgt. Donnie McCorkle watches a C-17 Globemaster III land at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
A C-5M Super Galaxy sits on the flightline as Airmen clear snow Feb. 17, 2015, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Winter Storm Octavia dumped a total of four inches of snow on the base and throughout the local area.
SEMBAWANG, Singapore (Feb. 19, 2015) Culinary Specialist 1st Class Robert Parks, from Fostoria, Ohio, heaves a mooring line on the forecastle of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) during a sea and anchor detail.
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (Feb. 18, 2014) Cmdr. Ron Neitzke, Camp Lemonnier command chaplain, places ashes on the forehead of Chief Hospital Corpsman Alvin Cruz during an Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a Christian religious observance that covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday.
An Army Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), provides security for a mule carrying the Mk 47 grenade launcher during MULE Packing Training on Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 27, 2015.
Army Medicine researchers are investigating possible long-term effects of exposure to dust and other airborne particulate matter.
ARLINGTON, Va. – Sergeant Major Micheal Barrett, the 17th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, relinquished his post to Sergeant Major Ronald Green, the 18th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, during a ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Virginia, Feb. 20, 2015.
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina – Lance Cpl. Zachary Painter (left) and Lance Cpl. Reymond Kane, machine gunners with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and natives of Roanoke, Va. and Long Island, N.Y., respectively, simulate firing at an enemy during a gun drill at training area G-G aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 18, 2015.
A USCG helicopter stands ready as the sun sets on another day of service to nation.
USCG crew responds to 13 yr. old boy needing medical attention aboard cruise ship.
DARPA has a plan to implant a device in soldiers’ brains to let them communicate with computers and digital sensors.
The brain-computer interface would allow soldier to communicate with sensors to more effectively track enemies or sense the surrounding terrain. Photo: US Army PEO
The program is called Neural Engineering System Design. The device would be about the size of two nickels stacked together. If successful, the small device would represent a huge breakthrough in neural communications.
“Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” said Phillip Alvelda, the NESD program manager. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”
NESD would gather signals from the brain at a much higher resolution than is currently possible. Right now, devices which read brain waves are aimed at areas of the brain. Each of 100 sensors picks up the activity of tens of thousands of neurons, giving a vague picture of what the brain is saying.
The chip and sensors from the NESD program would aim to communicate individually with millions of neurons. This would allow prosthetics wearers to give detailed commands to their prosthesis, soldiers to receive information from battlefield sensors instantly, and for researchers to map the human brain in exquisite detail.
The road forward for DARPA and its research partners is a hard one. According to a DARPA release, it will require “breakthroughs across numerous disciplines including neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device packaging and manufacturing, systems engineering, and clinical testing.”
DARPA is looking for business and research partners for the initiative. Interested parties can find information at their website.
Salsa dancing and the military…it’s so crazy it just might work.
In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, Univision Communications Inc. and We Are The Mighty are teaming up to create a Salsa #InVETational, a dance competition for active duty servicemembers and veterans.
There are three reasons why this is actually pretty cool:
Servicemembers and veterans will be the main event as they compete alongside their dance partners, showcasing their best Latin dance moves for Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata and vying for 1st place prize of id=”listicle-2565272073″,000 in each category and 0 for 2nd place.
Also, this event is totally free for active duty military and veterans.
“Salsa dancing nights have long been enjoyed by active duty military and veterans alike not only for therapeutic purposes, but as a cultural connection within the military community,” noted David Gale, CEO Co-Founder, We Are The Mighty.
The arts are a powerful way for vets to heal after military service, and dance in particular adds the physical element we grew accustomed to on active duty. Dancing puts us back in our bodies, pushes our comfort levels, and connects us to music in very intense ways.
Hispanics have a longstanding tradition of military service to our country. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs 2014 Minority Veterans Report, Hispanics comprise 12.4% of Post-911 veterans with more than one million Latinos currently in uniform.
Learning about our American mixing pot makes us stronger, united, and worldly.
Plus, we’re talking about a culture that knows how to flavor its food, baby — and there will be plenty of it at the event.
The event will take place on May 12, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.
Military and veterans interested in participating with a partner must be at least 21 years of age. The next qualifying round is May 6, 2018, at Arjon’s International Club. Registration starts at 8 p.m. and the contest kicks off at 9:30 p.m. Five couples from each category will advance to the finals on May 12.
For anyone who cannot attend, you can help veterans in the San Antonio area by supporting the Lackland Fisher House, a home-away-from-home for the families of seriously ill or injured patients receiving treatment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio Military Medical Center or other medical facilities in the San Antonio Area at no cost.
Kaleth Wright is the incumbent Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. He is the 18th CMSAF and only the second person of color to hold the rank. In the 27 years preceding his appointment, Chief Master Sgt. Wright (obviously) lead an illustrious career. But in late November of 2016, something miraculous happened.
One day, in a manger, a legend was born. It was nearly Thanksgiving in the cold, far-away land of the District of Columbia when the story of the man who come to be known as “Enlisted Jesus” first took root. On the following Valentine’s Day, Chief Master Sgt. Wright took the helm and, almost instantly, began to rain down blessings upon the world’s greatest airpower.
There are countless reasons airmen shower Enlisted Jesus in praise, but here are three very real, very specific justifications for his quickly-spreading moniker.
Come o’ ye little children
Enlisted Professional Military Education overhaul
Rumor has it that one of the first items on the agenda of Enlisted Jesus was to free up the time and energy of his airmen so that they could better serve this great nation. His first, well-known, crack at freeing up that time? EPME 21.
The new system did not get rid of the requirement, but it did get rid of the Time-in-Service bit that automatically signed up service members according to how long they’ve been in uniform, regardless of rank, and too often stripped them of the chance to attend EPME courses in-resident.
Have you heard of his goodness?
(Air Force Nation)
EPR? Not for E-3 and below!
One of the most dreaded moments in many an airman’s career is Enlisted Performance Review time! Even if you’ve been blessed with a sharp supervisor and have recorded all of your accomplishments meticulously, it’s still going to give you a spike in cortisol. They get easier to do as time goes along, but those first few can be downright scary.
For the supervisor — especially the young supervisor — this time is a fiery trial of skill and fortitude. You have your supervisor, who is getting sh*t from their supervisor, who is getting sh*t from their supervisor, who’s getting sh*t from the 1st Sgt, up your ass to get this done on time, even if you’re early.
Now put together a new supervisor and a green troop. What does this combination yield come EPR? A stressed out, ineffective set of airmen.
Enlisted Jesus decided to kill that noise by removing the requirement for anyone who is promotion-eligible.
No, Enlisted Jesus likely didn’t make the call to bring the OCP and move away from that sage grey, tiger stripe getup so many of us loathe. Hell, he probably didn’t even have too much of say in that decision at all.
He has, however, been very vocal in support of them and is largely seen as the face and force behind them finally becoming the official duty uniform of the Air Force.
In boot camp, Marine recruits must endure a 54-hour training event under intense mental and physical distress.
During the exercise, recruits will hike over 45 miles while taking on several obstacles that require strong problem-solving and teamwork. Every moment of the event is highly structured, planned well in advance, and done under strict Marine supervision. Toward the end of their days-long test, each recruit must negotiate one of the toughest hikes up one of the steepest hills in Camp Pendleton, best known as the “Reaper.” This is the final test before earning the title of U.S. Marine.
(Photo by Marine Sgt. Benjamin E. Woodle)
As darkness still blankets the recruits outside their berthing area, drill instructors blare their high-decibel horns to awaken those who are about to experience the Reaper. The young troops quickly pack up their heavy gear and begin the last 9.7-mile hike of basic training as they approach the 700-foot-tall hill.
As each recruit ascends the hill, the fatigue of spending days on minimal rations and little sleep sets in. Each of the recruits must now motivate one another to overcome the struggle and make it up the tall hill. This final hike pays homage to the brave Marines who willed themselves to the top of Mount Suribachi, securing the area from their Japanese enemy.
(Photo by Joe Rosenthal)
This final test of fortitude is just the beginning of a long career for these soon-to-be Marines, as life in the Corps is just as tough as the last 13-weeks they’ve endured. Pushed by an overwhelming amount of motivation, recruits surpass obstacles they didn’t know even existed before boot camp.
Recruits approach this final challenge, charging as hard as they can, screaming out war cries, and pushing their bodies beyond limits. Before they know it, they’ve reached their ultimate goal: becoming a United States Marine.
(Photo by Marine Lance Cpl. Mary Ann Hill)
Overcome with emotion, the young Marines open their palms to receive their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor from a once-demanding drill instructor, who now calls them a brother.
Check out Hard Corp Cadences‘ video below to witness this impressive final boot-camp test.
In the coming years, Washington, D.C.’s Pershing Park will be transformed as a memorial honoring the men and women who fought in the First World War is built, adding to where the statue of General John J. Pershing currently stands.
The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act established the World War I Centennial Commission, which was given the authority to build the memorial in the park. Over the course of a year, potential designs were submitted and voted on. In January 2016, the design, titled The Weight of Sacrifice, was chosen.
The designers, Joseph Weishaar, an architect-in-training currently located in Chicago, and collaborating artist sculptor Sabin Howard of New York, explained their vision:
The fall sun settles on a soldier’s etched features, enough to alight the small girl patting his horse. Above him 28 trees rise up from the earth, flamed out in brazen red to mark the end of the Great War. He stands on the precipice of the battlefield, surveying the rising tide which has come to call his brothers from their havens of innocence. The figures before him emerge slowly, at first in low relief, and then pull further out of the morass as they cross the center of the wall. They all trudge onward, occasionally looking back at the life that was until they sink back in and down into the trenches.
This is a moment frozen in time, captured in the darkened bronze form which has emerged from the soil to serve as a reminder of our actions. Along the North and South faces we see the emblazoned words of a generation gone by. 137 feet long, these walls gradually slip into the earth drawing their wisdom with them. Around the sculpted faces of the monument the remembrance unfolds. Each cubic foot of the memorial represents an American soldier lost in the war; 116,516 in all. Upon this unified mass spreads a verdant lawn. This is a space for freedom built upon the great weight of sacrifice.
The allegorical idea that public space and public freedom are hard won through the great sacrifices of countless individuals in the pursuit of liberty provides the original design concept for this project. A memorial and a park built to represent this truth should pay homage to the loss incurred in securing these freedoms. The raised figurative walls visually express a narrative of the sacrificial cost of war, while also supporting a literal manifestation of freedoms enjoyed in this country: the open park space above. The urban design intent is to create a new formal link along Pennsylvania Avenue which ties together the memorial to Tecumseh Sherman on the West and Freedom Plaza on the East. This is achieved by lowering the visual barriers surrounding the existing Pershing Park and reinforcing dominant axes that come from the adjacent context.
The raised form in the center of the site honors the veterans of the first world war by combining figurative sculpture and personal narratives of servicemen and women in a single formal expression. The integration of a park around and atop the memorial alludes to the idea that public space and personal freedom are only available through the sacrifice of our soldiers. Above all, the memorial sculptures and park design stress the glorification of humanity and enduring spirit over the glorification of war.
These themes are expressed through three sources: relief sculpture, quotations of soldiers, and a freestanding sculpture. The figurative relief sculpture, entitled “The Wall of Remembrance,” is a solemn tribute to the resilience of human bonds against the inexorable tide of war. The 23 figures of the 81′ relief transform from civilians into battered soldiers, leading one another into the fray. The central piece, “Brothers-in-Arms,” is the focus of the wall, representing the redemption that comes from war: the close and healing ties soldiers form as they face the horrors of battle together. The wounded soldier is lifted by his brother soldiers toward the future and the promise of healing.
The quotation walls guide visitors around the memorial through the changes in elevation, weaving a poetic narrative of the war as described by generals, politicians, and soldiers. The sculpture on the upper plaza, “Wheels of Humanity,” recreates the engine of war. These are soldiers tested and bonded by the fires of war to each other and to the machinery they command. For all of the courage and heroic stature they convey, each looks to the other for guidance and a signal to action. The bronze medium used throughout stands for the timeless endeavor we face in the universal pursuit and right of freedom.
They’re surrounded, targeted by constant bombardments and slowly strangled of supplies and reinforcements for months so fighters for Daesh (aka ISIS) might reasonably have abandoned Mosul and tried to slink off into the night.
That’s what happened June 2016 in the battle to recapture Fallujah, when Daesh fighters were relatively quickly routed, and hundreds were killed by U.S. aircraft when their fleeing convoy was spotted in the dark with infrared targeting systems.
Everyone in the anti-Daesh coalition hoped for a similar retreat by demoralized terrorists that would separate them from the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians still cowering in Mosul’s byzantine old city, on the west bank of the Tigris River.
But Daesh’s fighters are not abandoning Mosul, which, with the Syrian town of Raqqa, forms the twin-capitals of the self-proclaimed Islamist “caliphate.”
They are falling back on defensive positions prepared for two years in the densely congested side streets and alleyways of the old city, gathering Iraqi civilians close as they can as “human shields” and apparently preparing for a last, desperate stand.
“The toughest and most brutal phase of this war, and probably the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced or even read about in my 34-year career,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve says.
A veteran of six combat tours, Townsend calls the fighting in Mosul “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”
The tragic byproduct has been an alarming spike in civilian casualties, including a U.S. strike against a reported ISIS truck bomb on March 17 that may have collapsed a nearby building and killed as many as 200 civilians gathered there by Daesh.
On a recent trip near the frontlines of the Battle of Mosul, Townsend found a possible explanation for Daesh’s determination to stage an apocalyptic fight to the death in the old city.
“Every movement has a well-spring or some home turf where it finds support, and in recently talking to Iraqi and coalition commanders and listening to their intelligence assessments, I heard about neighborhoods supporting ISIS that I remembered from being a brigade commander in Mosul 10 years ago, when those same neighborhoods were sources of support for Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Townsend, speaking recently to defense reporters by phone from Baghdad.
If the Shiite-led Iraqi government fails to reach out to those and other neighborhoods and towns of disenfranchised Sunnis after the fighting stops, he noted, then Daesh’s expulsion from Mosul will likely prove a fleeting victory.
“What’s important after ISIS is defeated is that the government of Iraq has to reach out to these groups of people and make sure they feel like they have a future in the Iraqi state,” said Townsend.
A Pivotal Moment
With roughly three-quarters of Mosul recaptured and Daesh finally on the verge of losing its grip on Iraqi territory, the campaign against them is poised at an important inflection point.
Counter-insurgency experts have long understood that the actions of the Iraqi government and the various factions involved in the fighting the day after Mosul is recaptured will largely determine whether the group is defeated, or, once again, rises from the ashes of sectarian conflict.
The complex nature of the battlespace, combined with the anti-Daesh coalition’s sprawling nature, promises to complicate the transition from urban combat to whatever comes after.
The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is weak and has struggled to cope with the demands of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the fighting in Mosul.
The territorial demands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to the north, and possible acts of retribution against Sunni civilians by thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen to the west of city, cast a dark shadow over the aftermath.
A continued spike in civilian deaths by U.S. and coalition air forces could further alienate the overwhelmingly Sunni population of Mosul and surrounding Nineveh Province.
And hanging over the entire anti-Daesh campaign is the question of a continued U.S. presence in Iraq after the group is expelled, and whether that engagement can be leveraged to help achieve the long-sought national reconciliation among Iraq’s feuding Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni factions.
Perhaps no U.S. military officer of his generation better understands this difficult terrain, and the momentous challenges ahead, than retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan and at U.S. Central Command.
He is widely credited with crafting and executing the counterinsurgency doctrine that pulled Iraq back from the abyss of sectarian civil war in 2007-2008 and decimated Al Qaeda in Iraq.
“The military defeat of ISIS is only the first step. The much more challenging task is to use all elements of American and coalition power to help achieve political solutions that will avoid once again creating fertile ground for extremists, and thereby avoid the rise of ISIS 3.0,” Petraeus told [Breaking Defense] in a recent email. “Our success in that mission will determine whether the U.S. military has to do this all over again in five years.”
Sectarian Civil War
After U.S. and Iraqi military forces and the Sunni tribes of Anbar Province routed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) beginning in 2006-7, the remnants of the terrorist insurgency eventually went underground, only to rise Phoenix-like from the fires of Syria’s civil war.
That brutal conflict pitted a minority regime of Alawites, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, against a majority Sunni population.
Meanwhile, after the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, the Sunni tribes in western Iraq, which had turned against AQI in the “Anbar Awakening,” grew restive under the iron-fisted and openly sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who headed the Shiite-majority government in Baghdad.
A former AQI lieutenant named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had spent time in a U.S. detention facility in Iraq, realized that between weak Shiite-led governments in Damascus and Baghdad lay a swath of territory inhabited by millions of rebellious Sunnis.
From that strategic insight, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born, and in one of the most improbable military offenses in history, its terrorist army captured territory in Syria and Iraq and proclaimed a “caliphate” in land stretching between its twin capitals.
When the Obama administration reluctantly deployed aircraft and troops back to Iraq to defend a Baghdad government on the verge of collapse, it wisely used that leverage to help nudge out the sectarian Maliki and encourage the more moderate Abadi.
Since then Abadi has promised to lead “national reconciliation” by reaching out to Sunnis liberated from Daesh rule, and draw them back inside the government tent. He has often struggled, however, to control a fractious coalition government with many hardline Shiite politicians with close ties to Shiite Iran.
Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy and former senior Middle Eastern analyst for the CIA, worries about Abadi’s ability to bring the country together.
“I think Abadi is a very good man who wants what’s best for Iraq, to include a pluralist government, corruption reforms, and democracy. The problem is Abadi is not particularly good at building coalitions, and the Iraqi government is fragmented and paralyzed by this ongoing sectarian civil war,” he says. “Frankly, Nelson Mandela would have a hard time stabilizing Iraq at this point. So the United States needs to leverage the influence it has gained by helping fight ISIS to empower Abadi in his reconciliation efforts. And they must include limiting the activities of the Shiite militias.”
Reining in Militias
The key to Iraq’s future may lie with the Shiite-dominated militias called Popular Mobilization forces.
A number of these militias have direct links to Iran and they have been difficult for the Iraqi government to control. According to Human Rights Watch, Shiite militias involved in the battle of Fallujah last summer committed atrocities against Sunni civilians, including torture and summary executions.
In the operation to recapture Tikrit they reportedly burned hundreds of homes of Sunni civilians they accused of colluding with Daesh. If something similar happens after Daesh is expelled from the much bigger and more populous city of Mosul, the swamp of Sunni grievance is likely to rise once again.
Sheikh Jamal Al-Dhari is a Sunni tribal leader who has lost more than 70 family members in Iraq’s sectarian wars.
“The ‘Anbar Awakening’ showed that the way to defeat Al Qaeda is to work with the Sunni tribes, but our efforts to take part in the anti-ISIS fight have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Baghdad government,” he said in an interview.
Now Shiite-dominated Iraqi Security Forces and possibly U.S. airpower have inadvertently killed hundreds if not thousands of Sunni civilians in Mosul, he noted, and thousands of Shiite militiamen have captured Sunni majority villages to the west of the city.
“We fear that the use of excessive force will cost the lives of thousands of more civilians, creating hardships and hard feelings that will only set the stage for the next ISIS, or worse.”
To avoid Kurdish or Shiite forces fighting each other and mistreating liberated Sunni civilians, U.S. battle planners created separate corridors into the city.
“The U.S. military worked very hard to insure that neither the Peshmerga nor the Popular Mobilization forces would be involved in the close-in fight in Mosul, and that has been mostly successful,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.
“But the main reason we’ve seen civilian casualties increase is that ISIS is being much more aggressive in using civilians as human shields. Their backs are now against the wall in Mosul’s old city, and they seem to be preparing for a last stand.”
When the dust of battle finally settles over Mosul, the most important decision confronting the Trump administration will be whether or not to keep a residual U.S. force inside Iraq to continue advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces, and helping coordinate counterterrorism operations.
If the U.S. military packs up lock-stock-and-barrel and leaves once again, many experts believe it will only set the stage for “son of ISIS” to fill the vacuum.
“Only if U.S. forces remain in Iraq to secure the peace will we achieve a major military victory over ISIS,” said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
The U.S. can leverage that presence not only to empower Abadi’s national reconciliation agenda, he said, but also to eventually find a political resolution to the Syrian civil war.
In “On War” [ Carl von] “Clausewitz said that the art of war was using tactical victories to achieve strategic ends,” said Jeffrey.
“We need to use the victories in Mosul and Raqqa to achieve the strategic end of a stable Middle East that is not dominated either by ISIS or Iran.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jojie Arcega, a loadmaster with the 36th Airlift Squadron, pushes a practice bundle from a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 8, 2017, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Over the course of 12 days, members of OCD provide critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands, impacting about 20,000 people covering 1.8 million square nautical miles of operating area.
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stands by for takeoff Dec. 5, 2017, at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea during Exercise Vigilant Ace-18. Vigilant Ace gives aircrews and air support operations personnel from various airframes, military services and ROK partners an opportunity to integrate and practice combat operations against realistic air and ground threats.
Soldiers assigned to the 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, conduct a parachute insertion and foot march on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 5, 2017. The jump was part of a larger situational training exercise to test the Soldiers proficiency with combat related tasks.
Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, dismount an M-1 Abrams tank during training Dec. 6, 2017 at Smardan Training Area, in Smardan, Romania. The crews are required to qualify as a team if any member leaves or joins, or re-qualify every six months.
U.S. Navy Culinary Specialist 3rd Class James Washington, from Dallas, left, and Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Cole Sams, from Salem, Ore., lower the ensign aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as the ship departs Naval Air Station North Island, Dec. 6, 2017, in the Pacific Ocean. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a regularly scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific region routinely for more than 70 years promoting peace and security.
An MH-60R Sea Hawk attached to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70 descends to land aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The ship is in port Norfolk, Virginia, conducting routine maintenance after a seven-month deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.
Marines sight-in on a target with an M777 A2 howitzer during a direct-fire exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 4, 2017. The M777 provides timely, accurate and continuous indirect fire support, while having the capability to engage targets directly in the event of enemy contact. The Marines are with 1st Battalion 10th Marine Regiment.
U.S. Marines conduct simulated village raids at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan, December 5, 2017, during the 3rd Marine Division Annual Squad Competition. The raids were a timed event in which the Marines had to hike and raid the village within two hours. The squad competition is conducted to test and compare each unit to see which is the fittest for combat. The squads are with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment; 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment and Combat Assault Battalion.
A Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew searches the Gastineau Channel in Juneau, Alaska, for two men in the water after their skiff capsized Dec. 6, 2017. Five people were aboard the vessel when it capsized, one of which was rescued by the Coast Guard and two were able to safely swim to shore.
Members of the Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba crew stand next to approximately 12.4 tons of cocaine Dec. 7, 2017, aboard the cutter at Port Everglades Cruiseport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba offloaded the cocaine in Port Everglades worth an estimated $378 million wholesale interdicted in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean between mid-October and late November.
About 35 local boat captains simulated swarming attack maneuvers in fishing boats rigged with machine guns while fighter jets, attack helicopters, and the A-10 “Warthog” simulated attacks from above in the Choctawatchee Bay, Florida.
The Navy was already aware of the threat posed to their large, multi-million dollar ships by small, cheap ships — but the January Houthi attack demonstrated the threat was even more acute.
The Air Force’s annual Combat Hammer exercise sought in part to answer the question of how the Navy would deal with a large mass of erratic attack craft — and that involved A-10 Warthogs firing inert 30-millimeter rounds at unmanned ships.
The exercise also included attack helicopters, multi-role fighter jets, and Canadian F-18s dropping simulated guided munitions.
“We evaluate precision guided munitions against realistic targets with realistic enemy defenses,” said Lt. Col. Sean Neitzke, the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron commander in an Air Force statement. “There are plenty of places in the world where low-tech adversaries can mount 50-caliber machine guns and rocket launchers on small boats for use against us. They could also use other types of shoulder launched weapons, all of which could be a threat to American assets.”
The situation described by Neitzke bears eerily similarities to the situation with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.
Patrick Megahan, an expert on Iran’s military with the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, told Business Insider that even without the Air Force, the US Navy has plenty of ways to counter the threat posed by Iranian-style swarm attacks.
“US Army Apache attack helicopters also frequently drill aboard US Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf for countering exactly this threat,” Megahan said of the swarming boats.
“This doesn’t include the Navy’s own Hellfire-equipped Seahawk helicopters or the Marine Corps’s very capable attack helicopter squadrons that maintain an almost constant presence in the waters off the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. In fact, two fully-load American attack helicopters would likely wreak havoc on an Iranian small boat swarm.”
One of the more important national security jobs in Washington, D.C. — Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for South and Southeast Asia — will be filled by a former Army officer with extensive foreign affairs and counterinsurgency experience, reports Breaking Defense.
Retired Col. Joe Felter, who now works at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, “led the International Security and Assistance Force, Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team, in Afghanistan, reporting directly to Generals Stanley McChrystal and and David Petraeus and advising them on counterinsurgency strategy,” his bio says.
According to Breaking Defense, he also performed counterterrorism work in the Philippines, experience that may be crucial in coping with the unpredictable populist, Rodrigo Duterte.
Mattis reportedly knows him well, so he’ll be able to reach out to him should it become necessary and has that extra credibility going in.
Felter’s nomination would mark the addition of another American soldier whose primary experiences are in counterterrorism, which, while sometimes global in reach, is largely confined to certain regions and rarely requires knowledge or experience of great power politics.
This new job does.
Felter’s new job copes with an immense swath of geography and enormous challenges:
South and Southeast Asia (SSEA): India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Diego Garcia, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Island nations.
He’s familiar with quite a few of the region’s hottest spots, having “conducted foreign internal defense and security assistance missions across East and Southeast Asia,” the Hoover bio says.
The Chinese will be watching Felter closely as he will be the lead in the Pentagon on India, Australia, Vietnam, and a host of other countries warily watching the rising Pacific power.