At 222 feet across, almost 300 feet long, and 65 feet tall at its tail, Lockheed Martin’s C-5 Galaxy is the largest transport aircraft in the US Air Force. With a cargo hull 121 feet long and 19 feet across, the C-5 is a flying warehouse that can carry a combat-ready military unit or deliver necessary supplies anywhere in the world.
The C-5 has a cargo capacity of 142 tons, the equivalent of carrying two M1A1 Abrams tanks, six greyhound buses, or 25,844,746 ping-pong balls. Below, see just how awesome the C-5’s carrying capacity is.
The C-5 Galaxy absolutely dwarfs humans.
The engine alone is more than 7 feet across.
Even large helicopters are tiny compared to the C-5.
To ease loading and unloading, the C-5 opens from the nose and the tail end.
With four massive engines that each produce the force of 800 cars, the C-5 sounds amazing. (Sound starts about 0:30 mark.)
Chinook helicopters fit with ease.
Hauling an A-10 is no problem.
Fighter jets fit too!
Here comes the M1 Abrams.
Over 266,000 pounds of cargo and armored vehicles are loaded into a C-5 in Afghanistan.
Here the C-5 unloads an 81-foot boat for the Navy.
The C-130 is a big plane in its own right, but its fuselage fits easily inside the galaxy.
In times of trouble, when aid is needed on a huge scale, the C-5 is a welcome sight.
Pirates have returned to the waters off Somalia, but the spike in attacks on commercial shipping does not yet constitute a trend, senior U.S. officials said Sunday.
The attacks follow about a five-year respite for the region, where piracy had grown to crisis proportions during the 2010-2012 period, drawing the navies of the United States and other nations into a lengthy campaign against the pirates.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at a military base in the African nation of Djibouti, near the Gulf of Aden, that even if the piracy problem persists, he would not expect it to require significant involvement by the U.S. military.
At a news conference with Mattis, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said there have been about six pirate attacks on vulnerable commercial ships in the past several weeks.
“We’re not ready to say there’s a trend there yet,” Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said, adding that he views the spurt of attacks as a response to the effects of drought and famine on the Horn of Africa.
He said he was focused on ensuring that the commercial shipping industry, which tightened security procedures in response to the earlier piracy crisis, has not become complacent.
Navy Capt. Richard A. Rodriguez, chief of staff for a specially designated U.S. military task force based in Djibouti, said piracy “certainly has increased” in recent weeks. But he said countering it is not a mission for his troops, who are focused on counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa and developing the capacities of national armies in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.
Several other countries have a military presence on or near that U.S. site, including France, Italy, Germany and Japan. This reflects Djibouti’s strategic location at the nexus of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Mattis made a point of spending several hours in Djibouti during a weeklong trip that has otherwise focused on the Mideast. As a measure of his concern for nurturing relations with the Djiboutian government, he flew four hours from Doha, Qatar, and then flew right back.
At his news conference, Mattis praised Djibouti for having offered U.S. access to Camp Lemonnier shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“They have been with us every day and every month and every year since,” he said.
The U.S. rotates a range of forces through Lemonnier and flies drone aircraft from a separate airfield in the former French colony. U.S. special operations commandos are based at Lemonnier for counterterrorism missions in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.
During Mattis’ visit, elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, including V-22 Osprey aircraft and Harrier attack jets were visible on Lemonnier’s airfield.
The U.S. military presence has grown substantially in recent years, as reflected by construction of a new headquarters building, gym, enlisted barracks and other expanded infrastructure.
Djibouti has a highly prized port on the Gulf of Aden. The country is sandwiched between Somalia and Eritrea, and also shares a border with Ethiopia.
Mattis is using the early months as defense secretary to renew or strengthen relations with key defense allies and partners such as Djibouti, whose location makes it a strategic link in the network of overseas U.S. military bases.
Djibouti took on added importance to the U.S. military after 9/11, in part as a means of tracking and intercepting al-Qaida militants fleeing Afghanistan after the U.S. invaded that country in October 2001.
The U.S. has a long-term agreement with Djibouti for hosting American forces; that pact was renewed in 2014.
Over the past week Mattis has met with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Qatar.
The intensity of the housing market means that now more than ever, veterans and active duty service members are looking for the least expensive way to buy a home. Luckily for us, Paul Corbett, host of the online show “The SITREP,” produced by the VA New England Healthcare System, breaks it all down in the latest segment.
This video covers everything from how to apply, PCSing tips, credit scores and more. It’s a long and comprehensive video that lasts for almost two hours. If you’re interested in learning more about a VA loan, we’re covering the highlights here until you have time to watch the full video.
This year, the VA is expected to guarantee or close on 1.7 million loans, marking the second record-setting year for the VA. That means the VA expects 1.7 million veterans and active duty service members are expected to purchase or refinance their homes.
What is a VA Home Loan?
VA home loans were created in 1944 as a way to help World War II veterans coming back from the Pacific and European theaters buy homes with reasonable interest rates. Since 1944, nearly 30 million VA loans have been guaranteed through the system.
It’s important to remember this benefit isn’t just for veterans – it’s for any active duty, reserve, national guard personnel who met the service requirements. Surprisingly, only 14% of veterans nationally choose to use a VA loan.
Where does VA Home Loan money come from?
Contrary to what many assume, the VA does not issue money for a VA loan. Conventional lending institutions like banks and credit unions issue the funds. The VA guarantees 25% of the amount borrowed by the veteran. Imagine a veteran chooses to finance $400,000 for a home after certifying eligibility through the VA. Then the VA issues the lender a Certificate of Guarantee. The COG means that 25% of whatever the lender issues is covered. If the service member is not able to make payment or defaults on the loan, the VA will send a check to the lender for 25% of what’s borrowed. In other words, the VA is taking 25% of the risk for the lender. That’s one of the reasons why the VA has the best rates and the most favorable credit guidelines. VA loans don’t require Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), unlike conventional loans.
VA Home Loan borrowing limits + the Blue Water Navy Act
As a result of the Blue Water Navy Act, there is no limit on the amount of money a veteran or service member can borrow to purchase a home. That means eligible veterans, service members, and survivors who are fully eligible for a VA home loan no longer have limits on loans over $144,000. However, in order for this to be true, one of these two criteria must be met:
Never used your home loan benefit, or paid a previous VA loan in full and sold the property (in this case, you’d have your full entitlement restored), or
Used your home loan benefit but had a foreclosure or compromise claim (also called a short sale) and repaid us in full
First-time use VA Home Loan
You are eligible to use your VA loan as many times as you like. However, non-disabled veterans and active duty service members might be required to pay a funding fee and/or a subsequence use fee if you choose to use your VA loan more than once. Veterans with a 10% or more service-connected disability have no funding fees.
PCS and VA Home Loans
It’s entirely possible to retain ownership of a home, PCS, and use a VA loan to buy a new home at a new installation. There will be a subsequent use fee associated with this purchase because active duty Service members are not exempt from subsequent use fees. The one exception to this rule is if an active duty Service member has been awarded a Purple Heart. In that case, they are exempt from all funding fees in perpetuity.
Researching a VA Home Loan lender
If you’re considering purchasing a home, it’s highly recommended that you explore the VA Home Loan page, where you can look up quarterly, and annual lender volume reports. This will help you understand which lenders might be more amenable to VA loans. How to shop for a mortgage is equally as important as selecting the perfect house for you and your family. The more research you put into this part of the process, the better the result. You should look for a VA home loan lender who is familiar with military culture and understands your unique experiences as a Service member.
VA Home Loan Funding Fees
Funding fees are not out of pocket costs when you purchase a home. This amount is financed into the cost of the loan. For veterans with first-time use, the funding fee is 2.3% of the loan amount. On a $100,000 loan, the funding fee is $2,300, so the loan amount would be 102,300. Funding fees change based on how much money is being financed. If you choose to put a 5 or 10% down payment on the house, the funding fees will change.
How to apply for VA Home Loan + Documents needed to apply for VA Home Loan
Rick Bettencourt suggests asking around among the military community to find a lender. After you’ve selected a VA-approved lender, you’ll need to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). The COE proves you meet initial eligibility requirements for VA loan benefits. It also ensures the lender knows how much entitlement you can receive.
Next, pre-qualifying your loan amount can help you save time and avoid potential surprises. You’ll need to provide information about your income, credit history, and other information. A pre-qualification letter helps establish the price range for a home you can afford. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be approved for your loan.
You’ll need to gather a copy of your LES if you’re on active duty, your DD-214 if you’re a veteran, along with any relevant financial paperwork that establishes your income and marital status.
Credit score for VA Home Loan
The VA doesn’t require a certain credit score but having a higher score might mean better interest rates and loan terms. Private lenders that issue VA loans usually want to see scores between 580-660 to be eligible for a loan.
Three tips for first-time buyer with VA Home Loan
Rick says the best way to make the home buying process fun and enjoyable is to follow these three tips.
Have an honest conversation about the financial feasibility of making a home purchase. Having a candid conversation will help make sure that you and your family are ready.
Research various lenders that work with VA loans and make sure you select a good lender.
Make sure you have some money saved. Home inspections, escrow, and appraisal costs should all be prepared for ahead of time. Know what you can spend comfortably before you pull the trigger.
Watch the video for the complete conversation, which includes info about buying multi-family homes, waiting periods and more.
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:
A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fires flares during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve June 21, 2017. The F-15, a component of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, supports U.S. and coalition forces working to liberate territory and people under the control of ISIS.
U.S. Air Force Col. Peter Fesler, 1st Fighter Wing commander, looks back to his wingman during his final F-22 Raptor flight over Charlottesville, Va., June 21, 2017. The Raptor is a 5th-generation fighter jet that combines stealth, supercruise, maneuverability and integrated avionics.
Soldiers of the 100th Battalion donned Ghillie suits, June 18, 2017, in preparation for their mock ambush on opposing forces during their annual training at Kahuku Training Area.
An M1A1 Abrams from Task Force Dagger plays the role of Opposing Forces at Fort Hood, Texas, to provide the 278th Armored Brigade Combat Team with a near-peer opponent during the unit’s eXportable Combat Training Capability rotation May 30 – June 21. Task Force Dagger consisted of the 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion’s forces and was supplemented by units from five other states during the exercise.
The Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) is underway alongside the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) during a replenishment-at-sea. Kidd is underway with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group on a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) prepare to participate in an M9 pistol shoot on the ship’s port aircraft elevator. The ship and its ready group are deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.
Marine Special Operations School Individual Training Course students fire an M249 squad automatic weapon during night-fire training April 13, 2017, at Camp Lejeune. For the first time, U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Airmen spent three months in Marine Special Operations Command’s initial Marine Raider training pipeline, representing efforts to build joint mindsets across special operations forces.
U.S. Marines of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, exit a CH-53E from Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 772, 4th Marine Air Wing, MARFORRES, to perform a rehearsal for the Air Assault Course as a part of the battalion final exercise for Integrated Training Exercise 4-17 at Camp Wilson, Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, June 21, 2017. ITX is a Marine Air Ground Task Force integration training exercise featuring combined arms training events that incorporate live fire and maneuver.
A 25-foot Response Boat-Small boatcrew from Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu (91107) conducts a coastal safety and security patrol while escorting Hōkūleʻa, a Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe, back to Magic Island, Oahu, June 17, 2017. The Hōkūleʻa returned home after being gone for 36 months, sailing approximately 40,000 nautical miles around the world.
A member of the U.S Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard’s silent drill team waits prior to performing at a sunset salute program, Tuesday, June 20, 2017, at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. The team performed in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as part of the festivities surrounding Sail Boston.
The safety and survival of American civilians along with countless US military assets hinges, to some extent, upon the existence of a nuclear-armed, air-launched long-range stealthy cruise missile able to elude sophisticated enemy air defenses and threaten or strike targets deeply lodged in enemy territory, senior Air Force officials said.
At first glance, this concept could resonate as somewhat extreme or exaggerated — given the existing US “Triad” of nuclear weapons to include ICBMs, air-dropped bombs, and submarine-launched nuclear firepower.
However, in an exclusive interview with Scout Warrior, Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, said that the emerging Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, or LRSO, is intended to function as a critical element of the US military nuclear arsenal.
Along these lines, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff Missile with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare.
Therefore, in the event of major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack.
The Long Range Stand-Off, or LRSO, weapon will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, currently able to fire from a B-52. The AGM-86B has far exceeded its intended life span, having emerged in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, Air Force statements said.
Unlike the ALCM which fires from the B-52, the LRSO will be configured to fire from B-2 and B-21 bombers as well, service officials said; both the ALCM and LRSO are designed to fire both conventional and nuclear weapons.
While Air Force officials say that the current ALCM remains safe, secure and effective, it is facing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats, service officials also acknowledge.
“We’ve had cruise missiles for a very long time. The first cruise missile was the hound dog, so we’ve had cruise missiles since the 1970’s and what we’re doing now is developing a long-range standoff weapon for a modern A2-AD (defensed Anti-Access/Area Denial) environment. People write articles that say these weapons are destabilizing, but I don’t understand that. They’re not destabilizing when they’re protecting your nation,” Weinstein said.
In effect, the rapid evolution of better networked, longer-range, digital air-defenses using much faster computer processing power will continue to make even stealth attack platforms more vulnerable; current and emerging air defenses, such as Russian-built S-300s and S-400s are able to be cued by lower-frequency “surveillance radar” — which can simply detect that an enemy aircraft is in the vicinity — and higher-frequency “engagement radar” capability. This technology enables air defenses to detect targets at much farther ranges on a much larger number of frequencies including UHF, L-band and X-band.
Furthermore, Dave Majumdar from The National Interest writes that Russia is now developing a next-generation S-500 air-defense system able to destroy enemy aircraft at distances up to 125 miles.
Russian officials and press reports have repeatedly claimed its air-defenses can detect and target many stealth aircraft, however some US observers believe Russia often exaggerates its military capabilities. Nonetheless, many US developers of weapons and stealth platforms take Russian-built air defenses very seriously. Many maintain the existence of these systems has greatly impact US weapons development strategy.
Accordingly, some analysts have made the point that there may be some potential targets which, due to the aforementioned superbly high-tech air defenses, platforms such as a B-2 stealth bomber or services now-in-development next-generation bomber, the B-21, might be challenged to attack without detection.
A stealthy, high-tech nuclear armed cruise missile, such as an LRSO, may indeed in some cases be one of a very few weapons able to hold certain heavily defended or hard-to-reach targets at risk.
The U.S. Air Force has released a request for proposals, RFP, to industry for its Long Range Standoff, or LRSO, nuclear cruise missile program. Up to two contract awards are expected in 4th quarter fiscal year 2017, a service statement said.
A report in “Inside Defense” says the service intends to buy 1,000 new cruise missiles and expects the LRSO program could cost about $17 billion for the missile and its nuclear-capable warhead.
Along these lines, a report from “War is Boring” explains that the Air Force’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 calls for around $1.8 billion in spending on the missile during the next five years.
“There will be two versions—one to carry an updated W80 thermonuclear warhead, and another packed with conventional explosives for non-nuclear attacks,” the War is Boring report states.
The Air Force plans to start fielding LRSO by 2030.
LRSO to Keep the Peace
Weinstein made the argument that if, for example, the Russian military believed having an advanced nuclear cruise missile would give them a distinct advantage – they would be likely to pursue it. As a result, US deterrence strategy needs to ensure its offensive nuclear fire power can match or exceed that of any potential rival. This conceptual framework provides the foundation for why many US military leaders believe it is vital for the Air Force to have an operational LRSO.
“If another nation believes they can have an advantage by using a nuclear weapon, that is really dangerous. What you want to do is have such a strong deterrent force that any desire to attack with nuclear weapons will easily be outweighed by the response they get from the other side. That’s the value of what the deterrent force provides,” he said.
However, several reports have cited a group of US Senators who are making the case against development of LRSO, claiming it would both be redundant, too costly and too “destabilizing.” The concern, grounded in nuclear non-proliferation sensibilities, maintains it could further inspire nuclear arms-race type provocations and introduce new, more threatening elements into the air-triad of the nuclear arsenal.
In addition, a report in The National Interest cites the Federation of American Scientists as saying that LRSO would be redundant, expensive and not necessary.
“The FAS believes that a new, stealthy and conventionally armed cruise missile, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) is a better and cheaper choice. “The new nuclear cruise missile will not be able to threaten targets that cannot be threatened with other existing nuclear weapons,” writes Hans Kristensen, director of the FAS’s Nuclear Information Project, according to the report from Mike Peck of The National Interest.
At the same time, the FAS statement does not seem to address the concern from Air Force leaders that a longer-range nuclear threat may, in fact, be necessary in today’s high-tech threat environment. The LRSO, naturally, is being engineered to launch both nuclear and conventional attacks. While many details and plans for the weapon are, quite naturally, not available for public discussion, it takes little imagination to point out that the LRSO is being designed to be much more capable than both the ALCM and JASSM-ER in terms of range, command and control technology and stealth characteristics.
Weinstein also reiterated that the existence of an LRSO will not destabilize decision-making regarding the potential employment of nuclear weapons. He emphasized that, despite the presence of an LRSO, nuclear weapons will only be fired by the President of the United States.
“The actual truism when it comes to nuclear weapons is that no one in the United States military releases nuclear weapons – nobody. The President of the United States releases nuclear weapons, therefore when we develop new capability based on the environment we’re in, based on defensive systems that other nations have, it doesn’t make us able to use them any quicker or any faster,” Weinstein explained.
The historic and somewhat iconic B-52, which is now bombing ISIS, will be among the platforms to be armed with the emerging LRSO; the idea is to equip the large bomber with long-range conventional and nuclear attack potential. The Air Force is now upgrading the platform with new radios, data links, avionics and weapons capability to ensure the older aircraft remains relevant and function for at least several more decades.
“You have to look at the history of it. We needed something that would go high and fast and penetrate to say – ‘well the world has changed.’ It goes low and we use it in conventional conflicts, and then we use it to fight ISIS and we use it to defend on a nuclear standpoint, and it’s a great platform that has many years left in it,” Weinstein said.
Air Force Statement: LRSO Acquisition
“The RFP identifies the contract requirements and proposal instructions for the LRSO’s Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction, or TMRR, phase. After receipt of industry proposals, the Air Force will conduct a source selection and award contracts to up to two prime contractors. The prime contractors will execute a 54-month effort to complete a preliminary design with demonstrated reliability and manufacturability, which will be followed by a competitive down-select to a single contractor.”
The Marine Corps is a very tough and flexible force.
But perhaps the most versatile Marine unit is the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment — a dedicated security and counter-terrorism unit that’s used for everything from guarding nukes to rescuing diplomats.
In fact, the more famous counter-terror units like Delta Force, SEAL Team Six, the Special Air Service or GSG 9 are young whippersnappers compared to the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment. Tracing its lineage to the 1920s, the Marine Security Force Regiment was around long before the SAS was a gleam in the eye of David Stirling.
When the Navy’s part of America’s nuclear triad is in port, it’s these Marines that defend it.
The Security Forces Marines get the task for one simple reason: America’s SSBN force may be safe when it’s out at sea, but when in port, it is vulnerable to attack. Not only that, the UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missiles are usually not on the submarines and represent a perfect target for those seeking to cripple the sea-based deterrent.
Part of that effort includes the unit’s Recapture Tactics Teams. According to Military.com, these teams specialize in recovering materials, people, and property tied to the strategic inventory.
AmericanSpecialOps.com notes that they are called the CQB Team, and they are trained to act at the squad level.
According to its official webpage, the Security Force Regiment is also tasked with providing “forward deployed, expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces to support designated commanders and protect vital national assets” and “expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces, deployable from the United States, to establish or augment security as directed by the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command.”
The units sent in those cases are the Fleet Anti-terrorist Security Teams, and the companies in vulnerable commands are called FAST Companies. Platoons from a FAST company could be sent to bolster an embassy or consulate that has come under attack.
In 2012, those were the Marines called on in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack according to USNI News.
To see what FAST Marines can do, check out this video:
President Barack Obama announced that 250 more special forces troops would be sent to Syria to bolster U.S. efforts in the fight against ISIS. Their specific mission is not clear, but in neighboring Iraq, ground forces have provided fire support to Iraqi troops fighting to retake Mosul and have acted as advisors to Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command has conducted raids against ISIS in Syria, killing or capturing leaders of the terror group. In recent days, U.S. special operators were captured on video by France’s media outlet France24, as U.S. troops directed A-10 Thunderbolt strikes in support of Syrian Democratic Forces fighting to take the village of Shadadi from ISIS.
Shadadi is a border town that once served as the crossing point for ISIS fighter heading into neighboring Iraq. It was captured recently by Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units and Syrian Democratic Forces. The recapture took less than a week.
The video keep the men’s identities secret, but shows the gear used against ISIS in the battle for the town. The small group of operators are seen carrying Remington’s Modular Sniper Rifle, an M-32 semiautomatic grenade launcher, and equipment that allows for them to call in airstrikes, acording to Twitter’s Abraxas Spa, who describes their feed as an “all-source analyst.”
One operator is using the Mk. 4 scope on a tripod while another is marking objects with the LA-16 laser marker. The LA-16 will guide bombs to targets on the ground using the handheld laser.
The operators are also using a ROVER, Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver, which allows for troops on the ground to see a video feed of what aircraft overhead see. The Tactical ROVER-p can provide real-time imagery to a tablet.
A dramatic video released by the Saif Al Sham Brigades fighting in southern Syria shows an Islamic State guided missile ricocheting off a T-55 tank with a hard metallic smack.
It was close … seriously close. For whatever reason — a dud or a bad shot — the ISIS missile failed to explode. Had it, the blast could have blown up the tank, killed the crew and the rebel filming the incident. The camera operator, stunned by the blast, captures the tank backing off. The T-55 later returns and fires its cannon in a “shoot and scoot” maneuver.
The tank — almost certainly captured from the Syrian army — had no discernible “active protection” systems which can scramble a missile’s guidance systems. The ISIS missile was almost certainly captured … but the origin is unknown.
The Saif Al Sham Brigades is a Free Syrian Army group active in southern Syria and has appeared on lists of CIA-vetted rebel factions. Saif Al Sham counts itself as part of the Southern Front coalition of rebel groups, but this is a loosely-knit organization at the best of times.
The Front has also received support from Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It’s unclear if Saif Al Sham specifically has received any funding or weapons from any of these nations.
What the video does demonstrate is the intense pressure anti-tank guided missiles can put on armed combatants in the Syrian civil war. Despite failing to knock out the tank, which was quickly back in action, the close call was enough for the rebels to back up — fast.
Tank-killing missiles have proliferated so much, they’ve effectively halted armored breakthroughs and contributed to a five-year-old stalemate.
In a small area of Northern France, in a town called Seringes-et-Nesles, is a cemetery filled with soldiers who died fighting to keep France from falling to the Kaiser’s Germany during WWI.
The cemetery, Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, holds the remains of 6,012 soldiers in plots A-D, some unidentified, as well as a memorial to the almost 300 who went missing and were never found. There are many interesting side stories about this cemetery. Famous poet Joyce Kilmer is buried here. The tombs of the unknown are marked with the same epitaph as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
The most infamous stories, however, lie in plot E.
Officially Plot E does not exist. The 100-by-54 foot oval does not appear on maps, pamphlets, or on any websites. Ninety-six white markers the size of index cards, carrying only a small ID number litter the ground in Plot E, overlooked by a single granite cross. No U.S. flag is allowed to fly over it. The bodies are interred with their backs to the four plots across the street.
Plot E now contains the remains of 94 bodies. Across the street, unmarked, surrounded by thick shrubs and undergrowth, and accessible only through the supervisor’s office, the infamous fifth plot inters the “Dishonorable Dead,” Americans dishonorably discharged by the U.S. Army before being executed for crimes like rape and murder during or shortly after WWII.
With the exception of the infamous deserter Eddie Slovik (who was buried here after becoming the first soldier since the Civil War to be tried and executed for desertion – his remains have since been repatriated), each criminal faced the firing squad or the hangman’s rope for the murder of 26 fellow American soldiers and 71 British, French, German, Italian, Polish and Algerian civilians (both male and female) who were raped or murdered.
British murder victim Elizabeth Green (age 15) was raped and strangled by Corporal Ernest Lee Clarke (Grave 68) and Private Augustine M. Guerra (Grave 44). Louis Till (Grave 73), the father of American Civil Rights Icon Emmett Till, was hanged for his part in the murder of an Italian woman in 1944. Sir Eric Teichman was shot in the head by George E. Smith (Grave 52) in December 1944 after Smith was found poaching on his estate. Smith was hanged on V-E Day.
The Army executed a total of 98 servicemen for these kinds of crimes during WWII. While they were originally buried near the site of their execution, in 1949 they were all reinterred to where they are today.
“Bacha Bazi” – a.k.a. “boy play” – is a practice in which young boys are coerced into sexual slavery, sometimes dressed as women and made to dance. It was popular among the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in the years preceding Taliban rule. The centuries-old custom was abolished under the Taliban, a ban that carried a death sentence for those who broke the law. That ban was in effect from 1996 until after the 2001 NATO invasion when it resurfaced.
In Uruzgan province, in central Afghanistan, north of Kandahar, the custom affects many of the local police chiefs. It’s so deeply ingrained in the society there, Taliban insurgents use young boys coerced into the act in Trojan Horse attacks.
The boys infiltrate the ranks of the Afghan national police or are recruited by the Taliban with the promise of revenge. According to reports from Agence France-Presse (AFP), Afghan policemen say the boys are known to be commanders’ sex slaves and can move about freely. One teenager waited until all the policemen were asleep, then went on a shooting rampage. He allowed the Taliban into the base to finish off any survivors. Such attacks have been going on for two years. There have been many in the first six months of 2016, an indication of a Taliban tactic that seems to be working.
AFP reports all of the 370 Afghan police checkpoints have such sex slaves. The boys are recruited illegally and also used as fighters when necessary. Many policemen in Uruzgan will not work for a checkpoint that doesn’t have these young boys. Provincial governors have difficulty enforcing the laws against Bacha Bazi because the men jailed for it are needed to fight the war against the Taliban or because the leaders are complicit in the crime.
Though the U.S. Department of State considers the custom “culturally sanctioned male rape,” one U.S. Army Special Forces NCO, Charles Martland, was almost kicked out of the Army for trying to prevent the practice. Martland assaulted an Afghan police commander to prevent the commander from raping a young boy. He spent years in limbo before being allowed to stay in the Army.
Central government authorities are afraid to investigate local police commanders, considering the amount of power they yield. They fear the commanders will not allow anyone investigating them for Bacha Bazi crimes to leave their jurisdiction alive. When the UN raised the issue with the first Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his response was curt.
“Let us win the war first,” Karzai said. “Then we will deal with such matters.”
The Russian government-funded Russia Today (widely known as RT), produced a short documentary about the practice in early 2016.