Here are the best military photos of the week - We Are The Mighty
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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

The 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Moody Air Force base, Ga., landed nine A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 30, 2012. The 75th EFS deployed approximately 250 Airmen and 12 aircraft to Korea as part of a routine theater support package. The A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft is designed to provide close air support for ground troops and can also carry air-to-air missiles.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek

Train to Survive

Airmen watch as an MH-60 Seahawk takes off during a jungle training course June 15, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Conducted by the U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division’s Lightning Academy Jungle Operations Training Center from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and supported by 736th Security Forces Squadron Commando Warrior cadre, students prepared a simulated patient for medical evacuation. During the course, they also learned survival skills, including land navigation and evasion techniques.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Smoot

ARMY:

A JMRC observer coach trainer team flies a UH-72A Lakota helicopter during Exercise Swift Response 16 at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, June 23, 2016. The exercise enhances the readiness of the U.S. Global Response Force to conduct rapid-response, joint-forcible entry and follow-on operations alongside Allied high-readiness forces in Europe.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Randy Wren

A U.S. Army UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter Crew Chief, assigned to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, scans his sector as the sun sets over Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), Wash., June 21, 2016. Four Black Hawks participated in day and night air assault training with Soldiers from 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Army photo by Capt. Brian Harris

NAVY:

SOUTH CHINA SEA (July 6, 2016) Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) wait on station as the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9) sends stores during a connected replenishment. Curtis Wilbur is on patrol with Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5 in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ellen Hilkowski

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 5, 2016) Chief Construction Electrician Daniel Luberto, right, and Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Andersen Gardner, assigned to Underwater Construction Team 2, Construction Dive Detachment Bravo (UCT2 CDDB), remove corroded zinc anodes from an undersea cable at the Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Hawaii.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Charles E. White

MARINE CORPS:

Marines with Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, approach a simulated enemy vessel during a visit, board, search, and seizure mission off the coast of San Diego, Calif., June 28, 2016. Although the MRF is capable of operating in land-based environments, its main role within a MEU is to conduct maritime operations, such as raids on gas and oil platforms, and enemy-controlled vessels.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

Lance Cpl. Nick J. Padia, a gunner, writes the words “War Pig” on a window of his humvee after reaching one of their objective points at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia, July 1, 2016. The Marines reached their first objectives during Exercise Hamel, a trilateral training exercise with Australian, New Zealand, and U.S. forces to enhance cooperation, trust, and friendship. Padia, from Chandler, Arizona, is with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force – Darwin.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III

COAST GUARD:

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Articles

22 female war heroes you’ve never heard of

Women war heroes prove that bravery and endurance are not reserved for male military personnel. Many women have served on the front lines, in the resistance, behind the wheel of convoys, in the cockpits of outdated planes, and in hospitals patching up the injured with little more than a standard first aid kit. Women and the war effort have always – and will always – go hand-in-hand.


The Night Witches of the Soviet Union took old clunker crop dusters and confounded the German air force. Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester found herself in the middle of an orchestrated attack in Iraq and turned the firepower back on the insurgents. The White Rose of Stalingrad took down numerous enemy aircraft and flew into legendary status.

Female war heroes also include the Dahomey Amazons, wives of the king who shocked their enemies with fierceness and audacity. Or the Vietnamese warriors of legend like the Trung Sisters and Lady Trieu, who thwarted the Chinese army.

The role of women in wars hasn’t always been clear or easy. Cathay Williams changed her appearance and fought in the Union Army as a man until her gender was discovered. But for a while, she fought in the Civil War along with other freed slaves. Then there’s the Polish spy who may have inspired two of Ian Fleming’sBond girls.

As we look at women in military history, there are myriad ways they serve. Women at home were working in factories making products for the war effort, but there were brave women who saw war up close. Some were able to share their experiences and become historians, teachers, instructors, colonels, and generals. Others faced poverty and lack of recognition for their war efforts.

There are millions who have served. This list of women war heroes sheds a little light on a few.

22 Badass Female War Heroes You’ve Never Heard About

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11 scary ghost stories, legends, and haunted military bases

The military profession can be downright scary at times, and that element has given rise to some of the best ghost stories and urban legends out there. Here are few of the most enduring classics from around the services:


1. F.E. Warren’s native tribes

Cheyenne, Wyoming is the home of F.E. Warren AFB, part of the USAF’s Global Strike Command and command of all U.S. ICBMs. But before Wyoming had the power to eradicate mankind, it had the power to eradicate Crow Creek Indians.

Fort D.A. Russell was built to help protect railroad workers from the local native tribes. They were undeniably good at it, massacring many of the Crow Creek, and for the last 100 years, people reported seeing uniformed cavalry troops patrolling the base at night to keep the natives at bay.

Here are the best military photos of the week

The fun doesn’t end there. Warren is supposedly one of the most haunted places in Wyoming – maybe even America. The ghost of “Gus Quarters” is doomed to live on Warren AFB. Legend has it a man named Gus was caught in bed with an officer’s wife. To escape the angry husband, “Gus” jumped out of a second-story window, accidentally hanging himself on a clothesline – and becoming Jody for all eternity.

Troops on the base report unexplained doors and cupboards opening and closing on their own, believing it was Gus Quarters, looking for his pants after all these years.

2. Kadena Air Base’s haunted house

Building 2283 on Kadena is a single family home for field-grade officers that currently sits vacant, not because there aren’t enough O-5s at Kadena, but – legend has it – because the spectral samurai warrior that occasionally rides through the house.

Here are the best military photos of the week

Other sightings at 2283 have included a woman washing her hair in the sink, a curtain opening in front of a tour group, a phone ringing despite there not being a phone line connected to the house, and lights and faucets turning on by themselves (which would surely drive the samurai ghost father of the house insane thinking about the water bill).

Residents of the house have reported bloodstains on the carpet and curtains, as well as an unearthly chill in one of the rooms, the room where a real teenage girl was stabbed to death by her stepfather. Another account alleges a Marine Corps officer bludgeoned his wife in the house.

Here are the best military photos of the week

Conveniently, there’s a day care center next door, and both are across the street from an Okinawan Samurai Warrior’s tomb.

3. Fort Leavenworth’s dozens of haunted houses

Widely considered the most paranormally active site in the U.S. Army, Leavenworth has upward of 36 haunted buildings. One guardhouse, Tower 8 of the Old Disciplinary Barracks that was torn down in 2004, still stands. A soldier who committed suicide with his service shotgun inside Tower 8 will sometimes call the guard control room. Maybe for an aspirin.

After a prisoner uprising during WWII, guards executed one of 14 prisoners every hour but ran out of room on the gallows. So they used the elevator shaft in the administration building as an extension. Now soldiers report hearing screams from the elevator when no one else is around.

Here are the best military photos of the week

As novel as the idea of a centuries-old, haunted, and abandoned prison might be for ghosts, the most haunted area is called the Rookery. The building was once the base commander’s quarters but was turned into family housing – and people still live there.

The rookery is said to house a number of ghosts. “The Lady in White” was supposedly tortured and killed by local tribes while the soldiers were off-post. She screams and chases people she sees in the night. You don’t have to chase us, lady. The screaming was enough.

Also in the Rookery are Maj. Edmund Ogden, who is presumably in command of all the ghosts in the building (and died in 1855), a young girl named Rose, her nanny, and a young man called Robert. Rose whistles around the house while Ogden seems to just walk around all day in spurred boots. It said that Maj. Ogden once asked a team of ghost hunters to leave his house.

4. March Air Reserve Base’s hospital-turned-dental clinic

What is today a dental clinic once housed a children’s tuberculosis clinic – and in the basement below was a morgue. Some of the staff reported seeing apparitions of small children playing in the building at night or hiding objects.

Here are the best military photos of the week

 

One ghost is less than playful: A teenage girl has been reportedly seen walking around the hospital, her face sliced open, talking to herself and searching for the person who cut her.

5. The Kadena Chicken

The 18th Wing at Kadena sports a yellow patch with a chicken prominently featured with its wings in the air, seemingly surrendering. This urban legend has it that during the Korean War, the 18th Wing’s pilots abandoned their crew chiefs as the base was being overrun. The maintainers were then hung with safety wire by the enemy. The safety wire is still supposedly hanging in Osan.

This is a very old Air Force urban legend. Why would the Air Force keep the wire hanging? Aside from questionable decorations, a better reason not to believe this myth is that the patch has been around since 1931, when the 18th Wing was the 18th Pursuit Squadron.

6. Edgar Allen Poe on Fort Monroe

The famous poet died in Baltimore of a mysterious illness whose symptoms match those of rabies. While he was alive, however, he was stationed at Monroe as an artilleryman. Other ghosts said to reside at Fort Monroe include Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, and Chief Black Hawk.

Abraham Lincoln gets around in his afterlife. It’s good to stay active when when you’re 208 years old.

7. Bitburg Middle School’s ghost Nazis

The Bitburg School is run by DoD Dependents Schools-Europe. Bitburg Middle School was constructed in Bitburg Air Base’s housing in 1956, supposedly on the site of a Nazi airbase. It’s also consistently rated as one of the most haunted places in Germany, sharing that list with a pagan ritual altar and the Dachau concentration camp.

Here are the best military photos of the week

As if it weren’t enough to be full of ghosts, they’re also Nazi ghosts, which is way more frightening. Lights constantly flash on and off throughout the night, windows move on their own, and oh yeah: people are heard screaming at the top of their lungs throughout the building. Only at night.

8. The USS Hornet’s 50-member ghost crew

The Hornet is the most haunted ship in the Navy. In 27 years, the ship lost 300 of her men to accidents and suicides. Tourists and sailors alike report strange voices and apparitions of sailors in (outdated) uniforms, roaming the halls of the ship. Radios and other equipment on the vessel are said to turn on and off on their own.

Here are the best military photos of the week

If any reader is interested in seeing the ghost crew of the Hornet, you can now pay to sleep aboard the WWII-era ship was decommissioned in 1970. Now moored in San Francisco, people can tour its most paranormally active areas.

9. Kadena’s (yes, again) Ghostly Gate Guards

The old Gate 3 at Kadena was said to be frequented by a WWII-era soldier covered in blood, asking for a light for his cigarette. That gate was eventually closed and a new one is being built in its place. Which is crazy, because he could easily solve a manpower issue. Would you approach a gate manned by ghosts? Me neither.

He might be looking for any number of Japanese soldiers who were once said to approach the gate in the 1990s. They approached so many times, it was recorded in the 2000 book “Ghosts of Okinawa.” The gate was closed because I can only assume it’s terrifying.

10. Guantanamo Bay’s eternal officer’s club

The Bayview complex at Gitmo was originally built in 1943 as the base officer’s club. Now there are four spirits who are there for eternity to occupy the upstairs Terrace Room.

A “woman in white” is an old woman with long hair and a long white dress. She sits in a chair and looks out into the parking lot. She also switches lights on and off when no one is in the club. It is said the woman lived in an apartment in the club until she was found dead in a bathtub there.

Here are the best military photos of the week

She has a decent view, though.

The wives of base commanders have also reported a man in khakis walking from the living room of the CO’s residence to the bathroom. In 2007, Paula Leary, who was in the house at the time said she believed the ghost just wanted to know there was someone else in the house. The area where the house stands was the site of Marine camps from 1901 until 1920, so it may not just be any khaki chief walking around, but a salty old Marine.

11. Helmand Province’s cursed Russian graveyard

The 2/8 Marines in Helmand reported figures speaking Russian at Observation Point Rock. They found graves at the site, a place in Helmand considered cursed by the locals because of the unending amount of bones that are constantly dug up there.

Here are the best military photos of the week

The Marines’ story is now an episode of SyFy’s “Paranormal Witness.”

“The Rock,” as it came to be known, was the reported site of Afghan mujahideen executing Russian soldiers during the Russian occupation. Because of the bones and the strange sightings, it soon became known as the “Haunted OP.” But it wasn’t just the Marines seeing or hearing things. The UK’s Welsh Guards who came to the OP before the Marines reported strange noises and unexplainable lights in their night vision.

A Rundown of Rumors:

  • The ghost of an airman suicide from the 1970s haunts the RAPCON. Occasionally crying is heard by airmen, and never civilians.
  • A USAF Security Forces airman at Ramstein AB locked himself in his closet and committed suicide. Now, his ghost locks unsuspecting airmen in their closets.
  • Warren AFB’s ICBM Museum also houses a ghost named Jefferey.
  • U.S. military bases have golf courses so they can be used as mass graves in the event of high casualties.
  • The clinic at Spangdahlem Air Base houses a ghost named Erich.

Listen to our veteran hosts discuss haunted bases and urban legends in the U.S. military.

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‘Vets Make Movies’ lets former troops express themselves with film

Here are the best military photos of the week
(Photo courtesy of LACMA)


On any given weekend, visitors to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art might notice a gathering of fledgling filmmakers behind cameras capturing some action or seated in front of desktop editing station assembling their footage into a coherent narrative.

And the sight of filmmakers hard at work might not strike passersby as unusual — after all, this is LA, home of Hollywood and the epicenter of the movie business. But this group at LACMA isn’t just any collection of potential Spielbergs or Bays.

Welcome to “Veterans Make Movies,” a three-year initiative focused on highlighting the veteran experience presented in collaboration with the Los Angeles Public Library. In 2013, LAPL launched Veterans Resource Centers within library branches throughout Los Angeles in response to the growing need for veteran support programs and social services.

Watch “Tacit Veritas” by veteran filmmaker Levi Preston:

The library identified the lack of an expressive outlet for veterans to share their perspectives about service or their unique coming home story to a wider audience of both veterans and civilians, so LACMA offered to develop a multilayered filmmaking program tailored to veterans’ personal, creative, and social needs, building on the museum’s ongoing initiative to engage communities through art and film. The program is free to students, in part due to the support of organizations like the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and The Safeway Foundation.

VMM is an 8-week curriculum that takes a group of 16 military veterans through a series of 3-hour workshops taught by artists and industry experts. The graduation exercise for each student is to create a 3-minute short film suitable for screening at the end of the session.

“These classes are designed to take somebody who’s never picked up a camera before and learn how to make a film,” says Sarah Jesse, LACMA’s associate vice president of education.

Watch “A Chaos Within” by veteran filmmaker Jason Fracaro:

Jesse explains that the basic premise of the course is that when it comes to the medium of film, “you can’t separate the technical aspect from the story aspect.”

The course starts with analysis of a wide variety of filmmaking technics “to give students a sense of how others have communicated,” Jesse says. That’s followed by reflective writing exercises that are then morphed into storyboards that guide the filmmakers as they actually shoot the footage. After that comes the extensive process of editing and post producing the work, arguably the most important part of realizing the artistic vision.

Jesse points out that an important part of getting vet students into the right frame of mind is creating the right atmosphere.

Here are the best military photos of the week
VMM participants work on post production. (Photo courtesy of LACMA)

“It’s a safe place where vets feel comfortable sharing experience,” she says. “It’s not a therapy program, but art-making is cathartic.”

Jesse explains that halfway through the second session the instructors, who are also veterans, feel like they have added to their knowledge of the military community as much as they’ve managed to teach the students about filmmaking.

“The vet experience is diverse and people can have a lot of different types of jobs in uniform,” she says. “We went into this thinking we were going to bridge the military-civilian divide but we’ve also seen a vet-vet divide.”

Jesse says the instructors have noted a camaraderie develop between the vets over the course of the eight weekends they spend together.

“They crew for each other’s films,” she says. “They help each other out.”

Word-of-mouth about VMM has quickly spread around the LA veteran community.

“We’ve had a ton of people apply,” Jesse says. “It’s catching on.”

Veterans can begin to apply for VMM’s winter/spring session starting October 15, 2016. Access the application here.

To watch other veteran-made movies created in the VMM program go here.

And if you’re going to be in LA on October 30, check out VMM’s celebration of Veterans in the Arts and Humanities Day. Television legend Norman Lear (creator of “All in the Family,” “One Day at a Time,” and “Maude”) will be in attendance to screen a collection of veteran films. For more information go here.

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These were America’s first African-American paratroopers

During World War II a company of service soldiers became the world’s first black paratroopers and then made history as smokejumpers.


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The paratroopers of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion get ready to fight a forest fire. Photo: US Army

It started in 1942 when 1st Sgt. Walter Morris, an E-5 who had taken responsibility for his company because no first sergeant was assigned to it, crafted a plan for improving horrible morale.

The men were assigned to the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, but were afforded none of the privileges other soldiers had and even lacked access to facilities that enemy POWs were allowed to use.

The men were assigned to cleaning the course after the white paratroopers finished training, and Morris simply had his men run it before they began cleaning. One day they were spotted making their way through the course by a passing general. The general ordered Morris to report to his office the next day. The general had received orders to start a black airborne test platoon that would soon become a black company and then airborne battalion. For his leadership of the service company, Morris was asked to become the unit first sergeant.

Morris and his men were officially re-assigned to the 555th Parachute Infantry Company, the Triple Nickles, in the final days of 1943. On Feb. 8, 1944, Morris and 16 others graduated Airborne School and became the first black paratroopers.

Here are the best military photos of the week
First Sgt. Walter Morris during pre-jump inspection for his first jump. Photo: US Army

The 555th quickly grew over the next year and Morris was sent to officer candidate school to become an officer so he could take another leadership role in what was now the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion.

Here are the best military photos of the week
The men of the Triple Nickle before a training jump in New Jersey. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

Unfortunately for the paratroopers of the unit, lingering racism kept them from the combat deployment to Europe that they were seeking.

They were instead loaned out to the U.S. Forest Service to defend the forests of the western states from Japanese incendiary bombs. The Japanese were floating thousands of balloons, each with four incendiary devices, across the Pacific to start wildfires in North America.

The Forest Service had decided to fight the tactic with “smokejumpers,” a new type of forest firefighter who jumped into the woods near the massive blazes and then created firebreaks to starve the flames of fuel.

Three hundred men were assigned to the mission, but only 160 were sent to Pendleton, Oregon for retraining. Between them all, they conducted 1,200 individual jumps and completed 36 fire missions in the summer of 1945.

Smokejumpers carried special “letdown” ropes to climb down from trees in case they were hung up on the high branches, and the men of 555th crafted special face protection by wrapping chicken wire around football helmets.

The war and the Army smokejumper mission ended in 1945, and the Triple Nickle was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where the famed 82nd Airborne Division was headquartered. Maj. Gen. Jim Gavin, “The Jumping General” who commanded the unit, was impressed by the black paratroopers and an early advocate of integration.

The unit trained and existed within the 82nd Airborne Division until Gavin ordered the men to an 82nd function in Dec. 1947. When the 555th commander presented his battalion to Gavin, the general ordered the unit fully integrated it into the 82nd as the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Brigade.

Here are the best military photos of the week

While the men regretted the loss of the Triple Nickles, they celebrated being integrated into a storied unit.

“Everybody was crying,” former 555th paratrooper Charles Stevens told the Fort Jackson Leader. “I think we were crying for two different reasons. We were glad that segregation was leaving the Army and we were sad we were losing our Triple Nickle colors.”

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The making of ‘Range 15’ is even crazier than ‘Range 15’

“Nothing’s off limits.”


That’s a quote from one of the actors in Range 15, but it’s also the way the creators of the film live their lives.

And before you start getting all teary-eyed over it, know that it’s also the attitude they bring to their dark, effed up, and glorious comedic projects.

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For people who can relate to military humor, it doesn’t get much better than the veteran-produced zombie flick “Range 15”…until you find out they also made a behind-the-scenes documentary.

For those who haven’t seen “Range 15” (it’s for sale as a digital download at Amazon.com), it’s about some military buddies who have a wild party and find themselves tossed into the drunk tank. They wake up to the realization that the zombie apocalypse is in full swing.

Think of what follows as a threesome between “Team America,” “Zombieland,” and “The Hangover.”

Here are the best military photos of the week

According to a report by the Military Times, the documentary made its debut on June 30, 2017. The video, dubbed Not a War Story, details the making of the movie, which was filmed in 13 days — a balls crazy pace. The 80 vets who made the film, some of them amputees, had very little (if any) experience shooting feature films, but they didn’t let that stop them.

Here are the best military photos of the week

In the trailer, William Shatner, who plays an attorney in the film, strikes a very poignant tone as he recognizes the sacrifices many of these veterans have made. “You’re the fellows who altered your life to do the job,” he says.

Oh, and good news for Range 15 fans: Military Times mentioned that a sequel is reportedly in the works.

In the meantime, check out the trailer for Not a War Story and check out the film on iTunes Nov. 7, 2017.

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The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria launched its third strike in as many weeks on pro-regime forces inside a deconfliction zone around al Tanf, near a border crossing in Syria’s southeast desert.


Two US officials told CNN that the June 8 strike came after three vehicles were seen entering the deconfliction zone, and two of the vehicles were hit when they were 24 miles from the base at al Tanf.

Following that engagement, a US aircraft downed a pro-regime drone that was dropping bombs near coalition troops.

“The pro-regime UAV, similar in size to a US MQ-1 Predator, was shot down by a US aircraft after it dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by Coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS,” US Central Command said in a statement.

The “munition did not have an effect on coalition forces,” according to coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon.

US and other coalition personnel are at the al Tanf garrison, near the border crossing, to train local partner forces, who captured the area earlier this year. (US personnel and local partners repulsed an intense attack by ISIS soon after.)

The first such strike in the al Tanf area came on May 18, when coalition forces targeted pro-Assad forces “that were advancing well inside an established deconfliction zone” spreading 34 miles around al Tanf, US Central Command said in a release at the time.

The strike came after unsuccessful Russian efforts to stop the movements, a show of force by coalition aircraft, and warning shots.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Christopher Woody/Google Maps

Earlier this week, pro-regime and coalition aircraft both conducted strikes against opposition forces in the vicinity of al Tanf.

On Tuesday, Iranian-backed Shia militia fighters came under attack on the ground just inside the deconfliction zone boundary, according to CNN. In response to that attack, Washington and Moscow communicated on a deconfliction line set up previously. Russia shared a request from the Syrian government to launch a strike in support of the militia, to which the US agreed.

Hours later, pro-Assad forces were observed entering the deconfliction zone with vehicles and weaponry, including a tank and artillery, as well as over 60 fighters. The US then launched its own airstrike on those forces after they refused to withdraw from the area.

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An F/A-18F Super Hornet takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) for an aerial change of command ceremony. Photo courtesy of US Navy

The coalition said it issued several warnings before “destroying two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaging a tank.”

The US-led strike, carried out by a F/A-18 fighter, dropped four bombs and “killed an estimated 10 fighters,” according to CNN.

June 8th’s engagements add to a string of encounters that could lead to greater conflict in Syria between the US-led coalition and its local partners and pro-regime forces and their backers, Iran and Russia.

“The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them,” CentCom said in its statement.

“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near Coalition and partner forces in southern Syria, however, continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces,” the statement said.

The strategic value of the al Tanf area — through which a highway connecting Damascus to Baghdad runs — as well as the direction of events elsewhere in Syria makes clashes between coalition forces and pro-regime forces a continuing possibility.

ISIS’ eroding control of territory in Syria, and the likelihood that Kurdish forces — who’ve signaled a willingness to negotiate with Assad for autonomy — will soon take control of the area around Raqqa in northeast Syria make territory in the southeast of the country increasingly valuable.

Recent events in Syria indicate that “the United States [is] seemingly looking to cement a north-south ‘Sunni axis’ from the Gulf states and Jordan to Turkey,” Fabrice Balanche, a French expert on Syria and a visiting fellow at The Washington institute for Near East Policy, wrote recently.

“The challenge is that Iran and its proxies would very much like to establish some sort of land bridge from Iraq into Syria and they have had designs on this for quite some time,” a former Pentagon official told The Christian Science Monitor.

Capturing al Tanf and the nearby border crossing would allow Tehran to link Iraq to the Mediterranean coast through Syria, facilitating the movement of men and material.

But doing so would also isolate coalition-backed forces fighting ISIS and their special-forces advisers.

Intelligence sources have told Reuters that the coalition’s presence near al Tanf is meant to prevent such a route from opening.

“Initially, the United States and the coalition had planned this unconventional warfare campaign to pressure the middle Euphrates River valley and cut off [ISIS communications lines],” the former Pentagon official said. “Now, ironically, it’s not just threatening [ISIS], it’s also threatening Iran’s designs for the area.”

Russia has also become involved in the confrontations around al Tanf.

Earlier this month, coalition-backed Syrian forces attacked Shia militias that had moved down the highway toward the Iraqi border. They forced the militias, which are backed by Iran, to retreat, but Russian jets soon launched strikes against the coalition-backed fighters, forcing them back as well.

Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shia militant group backed by Iran and heavily involved in the pro-regime fight in Syria, has entered the fray as well. The group’s military-news unit issued a statement this week warning that the “self-restraint” it had about US-led airstrikes would end if the US crossed “red lines.”

“America knows well that the blood of the sons of Syria, the Syrian Arab Army, and its allies is not cheap, and the capacity to strike their positions in Syria, and their surroundings, is available when circumstances will it,” the statement said.

Observers have noted that the Trump administration would likely be much less hesitant about attacking Hezbollah in Syria. Given the web of alliances that now ensnare forces in Syria, such attacks would likely have broader repercussions.

“American unwillingness to confront Iran and its proxies in Syria, if obliged by circumstances, is a thing of the past,” Frederic Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and a former State Department liaison to Syrian opposition forces, told The Christian Science Monitor.

“And Moscow would now have to anticipate with high likelihood aerial combat with US forces should it elect to provide tactical air support to Iran and its proxies on the ground,” Hof added.

“Our people are gathering in the Tanf area right now, so a clash is definitely coming,” a Hezbollah unit commander in Beirut, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Monitor.

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Russia claims it killed ISIS leader Baghdadi in airstrike

The Russian defense ministry claims to have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a May 28 airstrike in Raqqa, Syria.


Russian forces in Syria launched the airstrike after receiving intelligence that ISIS leaders were planning a meeting in the outskirts of Raqqa.

“According to the information that is being verified through various channels, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also attended the meeting and was killed in the airstrike,” the ministry said in a statement Friday, according to the Associated Press.

In addition to several senior ISIS leaders, Russia estimates around 30 field commanders and 300 personal guards were killed in the strike.

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A pair of Russian Air Force Su-27 Flanker aircraft. (DOD photo)

The ministry claims it informed the U.S. of the airstrike in advance. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition, said he could not confirm the Russian report of Baghdadi’s death.

Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, questions the report as intelligence indicates Baghdadi was in a different part of Syria at the time of the strike.

“The information is that as of the end of last month Baghdadi was in Deir al-Zor, in the area between Deir al-Zor and Iraq, in Syrian territory,” Abdulrahman told Reuters.

Other high-ranking ISIS leaders killed in the airstrike include Abu al-Khadji al-Mysri, Ibrahim al-Naef al-Khadj and Suleiman al-Shauah, according to Russia.

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NORAD prepares to track Santa

We all know Santa’s making a list, checking it twice… probably with some help from the NSA. Meanwhile, North American Aerospace Defense Command is also making a list and checking it twice to ensure their considerable assets are ready to help ensure that Santa accomplishes his mission safely.


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An F-35 and F-16 fly side by side. These are some of the assets NORAD has available to ensure that Santa can carry out his Christmas Eve mission safely. (US Air Force photo by Jim Hazeltine)

This long-running tradition started by accident during the height of the Cold War. But it’s stuck around, even in the post-9/11 era. According to a 2008 Air Force release, the accident occurred in 1955, when NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense command, or CONAD, got a call from a kid. A newspaper had misprinted a phone number to allow kids to track jolly old St. Nick. Instead of the local Sears store, they got the operations hotline for CONAD.

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Col. Harry Shoup, the operations officer at NORAD on Dec. 24, 1955, answered a child’s wrong-number call and began the tradition of NORAD tracking Santa.(Courtesy photo from USAF.mil)

Colonel Harry Shoup was the director of operations on that Christmas Eve. Tracking Santa had not been something he’d prepared for or had been briefed to do. But when each kid called, he provided them Santa’s position, saving Christmas for the kids by assuring them that Santa was safe and on the job. The next year, CONAD did it again, and did so the year after that. When NORAD took over for CONAD in 1958, they assumed that Christmas Eve duty – and tradition – as well. In 2015, a DOD release noted that over 1500 volunteers helped carry out the mission.

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Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS) personnel conduct training in preparation for Santa tracking operations at their headquarters in Rome, N.Y. on Dec. 11, 2016. Pictured from front to back, are: Sgt. Thomas Vance of the Royal Canadian Air Force, a member of EADS Canadian Detachment; and Master Sgt. Michelle Gagnon, Master Sgt. Lena Kryczkowski (standing) and Master Sgt. Shane Reid, all members of the New York Air National Guard’s 224th Air Defense Squadron. (DOD photo)

The official web site, www.NORADSanta.org, includes videos, games, music, and a gift shop. There is also a Facebook page for that in this era of social media. And yes, there are apps for tracking Santa on Windows phones, Android phones, and iPhones. NORAD says that starting at 2:01 AM Eastern Standard Time on Dec. 24, they will have video of Santa making preparations for his mission. At 6 AM EST that day, live phone operators will be available at 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to noradtrackssanta@outlook.com. And check out this video of the history of how NORAD got started.

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Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

Federal authorities are investigating dozens of new cases of possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at Veterans Affairs hospitals, a sign the problem isn’t going away as more prescriptions disappear.


Data obtained by The Associated Press show 36 criminal investigations opened by the VA inspector general’s office from Oct. 1 through May 19. It brings the total number of open criminal cases to 108 involving theft or unauthorized drug use. Most of those probes typically lead to criminal charges.

The numbers are an increase from a similar period in the previous year. The VA has pledged “zero tolerance” in drug thefts following an AP story in February about a sharp rise in reported cases of stolen or missing drugs at the VA since 2009. Doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff in the VA’s network of more than 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics are suspected of siphoning away controlled substances for their own use or street sale — sometimes to the harm of patients — or drugs simply vanished without explanation.

Drug thefts are a growing problem at private hospitals as well as the government-run VA as the illegal use of opioids has increased in the United States. But separate data from the Drug Enforcement Administration obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act show the rate of reported missing drugs at VA health facilities was more than double that of the private sector. DEA investigators cited in part a larger quantity of drugs kept in stock at the bigger VA medical centers to treat a higher volume of patients, both outpatient and inpatient, and for distribution of prescriptions by mail.

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Senator Marco Rubio calls for increased accountability of the VA medical centers to curb prescription drug abuse and theft.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., said AP’s findings were “troubling.” He urged Congress to pass bipartisan accountability legislation he was co-sponsoring that would give the agency “the tools needed to dismiss employees engaged in misconduct.” The Senate is set to vote on the bill June 6.

“The theft and misuse of prescription drugs, including opioids, by some VA employees is a good example of why we need greater accountability at the VA,” Rubio said.

In February, the VA announced efforts to combat drug thefts, including employee drug tests and added inspections. Top VA officials in Washington led by VA Secretary David Shulkin pledged to be more active, holding conference calls with health facilities to develop plans and reviewing data to flag problems. The department said it would consider more internal audits.

Criminal investigators said it was hard to say whether new safeguards are helping.

“Prescription drug diversion is a multifaceted, egregious health care issue,” said Jeffrey Hughes, the acting VA assistant inspector general for investigations. “Veterans may be denied necessary medications or their proper dosage and medical records may contain false information to hide the diversion, further putting veterans’ health at risk.”

Responding, the VA said it was working to develop additional policies “to improve drug safety and reduce drug theft and diversion across the entire health care system.”

“We have security protocols in place and will continue to work hard to improve it,” Poonam Alaigh, VA’s acting undersecretary for health, told the AP.

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A Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta, GA

In one case, a registered nurse in the Spinal Cord Injury Ward at the VA medical center in Richmond, Virginia, was recently sentenced after admitting to stealing oxycodone tablets and fentanyl patches from VA medication dispensers. The nurse said she would sometimes shortchange the amount of pain medication prescribed to patients, taking the remainder to satisfy her addiction.

Hughes cited in particular the risk of patient harm. “Health care providers who divert for personal use may be providing care while under the influence of narcotics,” he said.

AP’s story in February had figures documenting the sharp rise in drug thefts at federal hospitals, most of them VA facilities. Subsequently released DEA data provide more specific details of the problem at the VA. Drug losses or theft increased from 237 in 2009 to 2,844 in 2015, before dipping to 2,397 last year. In only about 3 percent of those cases have doctors, nurses or pharmacy employees been disciplined, according to VA data.

At private hospitals, reported drug losses or theft also rose — from 2,023 in 2009 to 3,185 in 2015, before falling slightly to 3,154 last year. There is a bigger pool of private U.S. hospitals, at least 4,369, according to the American Hospital Association. That means the rate of drug loss or theft is lower than VA’s.

The VA inspector general’s office said it had opened 25 cases in the first half of the budget year that began Oct. 1. That is up from 21 in the same period in 2016.

The IG’s office said the number of newly opened criminal probes had previously been declining since 2014.

Michael Glavin, an IT specialist at the VA, says he’s heard numerous employee complaints of faulty VA technical systems that track drug inventories, leading to errors and months of delays in identifying when drugs go missing. Prescription drug shipments aren’t always fully inventoried when they arrive at a VAfacility, he said, making it difficult to determine if a drug was missing upon arrival or stolen later.

“It’s still the same process,” said Glavin, who heads the local union at the VA medical center in Columbia, Missouri. The union’s attorney, Natalie Khawam, says whistleblowers at other VA hospitals have made similar complaints.

Criminal investigators stressed the need for a continuing drug prevention effort. The VA points to inventory checks every 72 hours and “double lock and key access” to drugs. It attributes many drug loss cases to reasons other than employee theft, such as drugs lost in transit. But the DEA says some of those cases may be wrongly classified.

“Inventories are always an issue as to who’s watching or checking it,” said Tom Prevoznik, a DEA deputy chief of pharmaceutical investigations. “What are the employees doing, and who’s watching them?”

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Hilarious Hoax: A drunken sailor didn’t use a raccoon to pass a breathalyzer test

A hilarious incident report involving a Navy sailor using a raccoon to pass a breathalyzer test so he could drive his car home  was passed around on the internet like wildfire this week, but … it was too good to be true: It’s all a hoax.


A few days ago, WATM noticed an image being passed around, purportedly from an incident report from Camp Pendleton police, telling the full story of what happened after a sailor left the bar in San Diego. Here it is:

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We were skeptical, though we read it and basically went all Ron Burgundy afterward (“I’m not even mad, that’s amazing”). It sounded quite unbelievable, and it also had a suspicious watermark in the background. The watermark reads, “Always Watching, JTTOTS,” the tagline and acronym for a Marine-focused Facebook page called Just The Tip, of the Spear.

Since it picked up steam and has hit quite a few websites — including making international news — journalists reached out to the military for comment on the incident (We’d love to know how these calls went). Here’s what they said:

“While humorous, it’s not real,” Eric Durie, spokesman for Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, told the New York Daily News.

“I called police records, and while they were highly entertained, they confirmed (the story) is absolutely a hoax,” 1st. Lt. Savannah Frank, a public affairs officer at Camp Pendleton, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

So this story may not be true, but we have a strong feeling a drunk sailor will someday be inspired to try this.

NOW A REAL STORY: Marine gets arrested for throwing drunken foam party in Air Force hangar

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Need to put some warheads on foreheads? There’s an app for that

I’m sure you are sick of hearing the phrase, “There’s an app for that!” Well, the Marines how have an app for calling in fire support – part of the new suite of gear for forward observers.


According to a Marine Corps release, the service soon will be issuing the Target Handoff System Version 2, or “THS V.2.”

Now weighing in at about 20 pounds, the THS V.2 will cut that burden in half. When the combat load of troops can reach close to 100 pounds, this is a significant relief to Marines on the move.

The THS V.2 gets this light weight by using commercial smart phones to replace the more conventional radio systems in the original THS. An app on the smart phone then allows Marines to call in fire support much more easily, and that will help minimize collateral damage.

The system even comes with a pre-installed “Start Guide” with a variety of tutorials for users.

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This fiscal year Marines will receive smart phones that make calling for fire support easier, quicker and more accurate. The Target Handoff System Version 2, or THS V.2, is a portable system designed for use by dismounted Marines to locate targets, pinpoint global positioning coordinates and call for close air, artillery and naval fire support using secure digital communications. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Laws/Released)

“With the new version, Marines will obtain a lightweight device equipped to provide immediate situational awareness on where friendly and enemy locations are, and the ability to hand off target data to fire support to get quick effects on the battlefield,” Capt. Jesse Hume of Marine Corps Systems Command said. Hume serves as the THS V.2 project officer.

“THS V.2 provides embedded, real-time tactical information with ground combat element units down to the squad or platoon level,” Gunnery Sgt. Nicholas Tock added. “If we are on patrol and we take contact from machine guns in a tree line, a satellite that passes over once every few hours is not going to help an infantry unit kill that target. THS V.2 is for that close combat.”

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U.S. Soldiers with Battery C, 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Task Force Al Taqaddum, fire an M109A6 Paladin howitzer during a fire mission at Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq, June 27, 2016. The strikes were conducted in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation aimed at eliminating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, and the wider international community. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

The system also includes a laser-rangefinder, combat net radio, and video downlink — but there’s another benefit. In addition to cutting the weight in half, the use of off-the-shelf technology cuts the price of the system in half.

Even the bean-counters seem to win with this.

Anyone picking a firefight with Marines, though, looks to be a sure loser. And that’s a good thing.