Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics - We Are The Mighty
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Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics

United States Coast Guard Lieutenant Junior Grade Nikole Barnes will be the first active duty female officer in history competing in the 2022 Olympics in Tokyo. Her journey to making it is nothing short of extraordinary. 

Growing up in the Virgin Islands led to a love affair with the ocean for Barnes. “I was in the water all the time,” she explained. Sailing was one of her passions and she was a frequent sailing competitor beginning at just 7 years old. 

Her older brother always had his eye on going into the Coast Guard but the military wasn’t for her, initially. “I was invited to attend the Academy Introductory Mission [at the Coast Guard Academy]. I told my parents I was just going to do it for them. I flew in the day after traveling from Croatia, I was at a youth world championship. I was tired and jetlagged. Then they started yelling.” After being screamed at, she headed into seminar after seminar about the mission of the Coast Guard and what life would be like. “I loved it,” Barnes said with a laugh. 

“I saw how the Coast Guard worked in the Virgin Islands and I learned a lot from my brother. I just wanted to make it safer on the water,” she shared. Barnes applied to the Coast Guard academy and attended a military prep school for a year in Alabama in 2012 before heading to the academy in 2013. 

During her time at the academy, she had her eye on the Olympics. “I was called into the Commandant of the Cadets conference room my senior year and I had two days to decide where I was going to go after graduation,” Barnes said. She was told that they wanted to see how good she performed as an officer and from there they’d consider letting her train for sailing in the Olympics. 

In 2017 she graduated from the Coast Guard Academy and headed to Florida. “I got stationed at Sector Miami at the Incident Management Division,” Barnes said. She spent a year getting qualified and on her off time, sailing every chance she got. In 2018, she received word that the Coast Guard was going to approve her to train full time for the Olympics. 

The pandemic would cause the Olympics to be pushed out another year and she was granted permission to continue training. “During COVID, I was able to be in there seven days a week to knock out qualifications and help with the COVID response. My command is very supportive,” Barnes Shared. 

In 2021, Barnes and her teammate qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. “I think that week was the best and worst week of my life. I was just not sleeping, throwing up and always nervous. But the moment we got on the water it was just amazing,” she said. “When we turned the corner for the finish I remember being relieved and overwhelmed, I just knew we qualified. I just knew deep down that we did it.”

From left, Coach Robby Bisi, Teammate Lara Dallman-Weiss and LTJG Nikole barnes

In the midst of making it through the trials and qualifying, Barnes was navigating through transfer season. She’ll be headed to the USCG District 7 Command Center in Florida this summer. She said that knowing if she didn’t make it to the Olympics she was still going to get to do her job as a coastie made it all worth it. “It wasn’t a matter of needing to win, it was a matter of wanting to win and to just be in it,” she said. 

Barnes will represent Team USA well as the first Coast Guardsman to make the team in any Olympic sport. It’s fitting that the military service which began with sailing vessels back in 1790 is sending one of their own to compete on the world stage for it. 

Putting her career as a Coast Guard officer on the back burner isn’t easy for her, even as she heads to the Olympics. “It’s always been a balance. I still struggle when I see my shipmates advancing in the Coast Guard or making big drug busts,” Barnes explained. “But I love this extraordinary opportunity and I am so grateful for the chance to represent my country.”

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6 Navy bombers that flew for the Air Force

The Air Force and the Navy have their own little rivalry going.


Granted, United States Navy pilots are pretty good in many respects, and so are the planes, but the Air Force claims they’ve got air superiority. So when they need to buy a plane from the Navy, it’s… awkward — especially when it involves bombers, something that should be the purview of the Air Force.

Here are six of the most…notable acquisitions the Air Force ended up making from the Navy.

1. Douglas A-24 Banshee

While better known as the SBD Dauntless, the Army Air Force bought a number of these planes. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that some were intended to help defend the Philippines, but the outbreak of World War II saw them diverted to New Guinea. Others saw action in the Aleutians and Gilbert Islands.

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A-24B Banshee, the Army Air Force’s version of the SBD Dauntless, at a base on Makin Island. (U.S. Air Force photo)

2. Curtiss A-25 Shrike/Helldiver

The Army Air Force got the SB2C — the notorious “Son of a [Bleep] Second Class” — during World War II. Joe Baugher noted that the Army Air Force never even bothered using them in combat, either exporting them to the Royal Australian Air Force or handing them over to the Marine Corps for use from land bases.

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An A-25A Shrike in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

3. Douglas B-66 Destroyer

When the Air Force was looking for a replacement for the A-26/B-26 Invader as a tactical bomber, they settled on a version of the Navy’s A3D Skywarrior. However, the Air Force planned to use it very differently, and so a lot of changes were made, according to Joe Baugher.

The B-66 turned out to be an ideal electronic-warfare platform. One was famous under the call-sign “Bat 21,” leading to one of the most famous — and costly — search and rescue efforts in history.

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An EB-66E Destroyer electronic-countermeasures plane. (U.S. Air Force photo)

4. Lockheed RB-69A Neptune

The Air Force was looking for some planes for electronic intelligence missions around the Soviet Union and China when they settled on taking seven P-2 Neptune maritime patrol planes from the Navy, and designating them as RB-69As.

Aviation historian Joe Baugher reveals that the exact origin and ultimate fate of these planes is a mystery, probably intentionally so, given the top-secret nature of intelligence-gathering flights over China and Russia.

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One of seven RB-69A Neptune ELINT planes the Air Force acquired. (U.S. Air Force photo)

5. Douglas A-1 Skyraider

Joe Baugher reported that the Air Force found this classic warbird to be so suitable for the counter-insurgency mission in 1962, they took 150 A-1Es from Navy surplus. The planes were modified for dual controls.

In fact, the Air Force wanted the plane as early as 1949, but harsh inter-service rivalry (including controversy stemming from the “Revolt of the Admirals”) meant the Air Force had to wait to get this plane. It was a fixture on search-and-rescue missions during the Vietnam War.

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An Air Force A-1E Skyraider loaded with a fuel-air explosive bomb. (U.S. Air Force photo)

6. Vought A-7 Corsair

This is probably one of the most successful purchases of a Navy bomber by the Air Force. As was the case with the Air Force basing the B-66 off the A3D, they made changes to the A-7.

Most notable was giving it the M61 Vulcan and a thousand rounds of ammo. Yes, the Air Force gave the A-7 the means to give bad guys the BRRRRRT! The A-7s saw action over Panama in 1989, and were even used to train F-117 pilots. The A-7D was retired in the early 1990s with the end of the Cold War.

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Three U.S. Air Force A-7Ds in formation. Air Force Corsairs flew thousands of sorties with only four losses. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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SEAL, Purple Heart faker gets 4 years in prison

A man who pretended to be a SEAL has now landed in some very hot water stemming from the fish story he peddled for veterans benefits.


According to an August 2016 release from the United States Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Ohio, Kenneth E. Jozwiak of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was charged with unlawfully exhibiting a military discharge certificate, theft of government money, making false statements to federal agents, and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding. He pleaded guilty on Feb. 23 to all of the charges.

“This defendant’s lies about his service are an affront to those who saw combat and those wounded fighting on behalf of our nation,” said Carole S. Rendon, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “This defendant did neither, and falsely inflated his service record in an effort to get additional benefits.”

The 67-year-old Jozwiak claimed he had been awarded the Purple Heart on four occasions, and had seen combat as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam. The crimes he was indicted on carry a maximum sentence of 36 years in prison combined, but according to a May 18 Justice Department release, Jozwiak will serve four years in federal prison for conning the VA out of $2,289 in 2014.

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Members of U.S. Navy Seal Team One move down the Bassac River in a Seal team Assault Boat (STAB) during operations along the river south of Saigon. (US Navy photo)

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benedict S. Gullo prosecuted the case, which was handled by the Cleveland office of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General-Criminal Investigative Division.

The Stolen Valor Act of 2005 made lying about being awarded military medals a crime. The law was overturned in 2012 by the Supreme Court in United States vs. Alvarez in a 6-3 ruling. The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 made lying about a veteran status or awards for to gain benefits to be a crime.

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Chinese Navy may outnumber US Navy by 2020

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China’s carrier Liaoning | PLAN photo


Ongoing U.S.-China tensions in the South China Sea regarding Chinese artificial island-building are leading many at the Pentagon to sharpen their focus upon the rapid pace of Chinese Naval modernization and expansion.

While Chinese naval technology may still be substantially behind current U.S. platforms, the equation could change dramatically over the next several decades because the Chinese are reportedly working on a handful of high-tech next-generation ships, weapons and naval systems.

China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to a recent Congressional report.

The 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended to Congress that the U.S. Navy respond by building more ships and increase its presence in the Pacific region – a strategy the U.S. military has already started.

Opponents of this strategy point out that the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers, the Chinese have one and China’s one carrier still lacks an aircraft wing capable of operating off of a carrier deck. However, several recent reports have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say.

The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.

These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer slated to enter the fleet this year. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.

Furthermore, the Chinese may already be beginning construction on several of their own indigenous aircraft carriers. China currently has one carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning. It is not expected to have an operational carrier air wing until sometime this year, according to the report.

The Chinese are currently testing and developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.

Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.

The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.

China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.

The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.

While the commission says the exact amount of Chinese military spending is difficult to identify, China’s projected defense spending for 2014 is cited at $131 billion, approximately 12.2 percent greater than 2013. This figure is about one sixth of what the U.S. spends annually.

The Chinese defense budget has increased by double digits since 1989, the commission states, resulting in annual defense spending doubling since 2008, according to the report.

Some members of Congress, including the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., are advocating for both a larger U.S. Navy and a stronger U.S. posture toward China’s behavior in the region.

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This ship survived 7 torpedos at Pearl Harbor and went on to help crush the Japanese

The USS West Virginia was one of the hardest hit ships at Pearl Harbor but rose from the ashes to destroy Japanese forces in the years after that surprise attack.


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The USS West Virginia headed back to sea in 1944. Photo: US Navy

On Dec. 7, 1941 the West Virginia was struck by torpedoes launched from a midget sub and immediately began sinking. As it sank, it listed to port and each subsequent torpedo strike hit the ship further and further up its hull. The damage was so severe that the salvage officer said, “The damage on the port side … is so extensive as to beggar description.

At least seven torpedoes struck the ship and two bombs pierced the outer hull but failed to detonate. Knowing West Virginia was going down, the captain and crew counter-flooded the starboard side of the ship so that is would go down on its keel instead of capsizing. An oil fire raged through the ship for the next 30 hours, buckling the metal.

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The USS West Virginia burns in Pearl Harbor. Photo: US Navy

The captain and many of the crew died during the attack. Capt. Mervyn S. Bennion received a posthumous Medal of Honor for saving the ship while he lay dying from shrapnel that pierced his abdomen.

One of the men who carried the dying captain from the fight was Navy Cook Dorie Miller who then returned to the fight. He noticed an unmanned .50-cal. machine gun and used it to destroy three or four Japanese planes that were still attacking the ships. He became the first African-American to receive the Navy Cross.

Recovery of the West Virginia was a long process. Patches of concrete and wood were used to plug the damage and the ship was sent to Washington State for a full repair. Entire decks and much of the armor belt had to be replaced. When the work was completed in late 1944, the West Virginia was a state of the art battleship, more capable than it had ever been.

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The USS West Virginia during salvage operations. Photo: US Navy

The crew wasted no time in getting her back into the fight to achieve vengeance. The ship returned to Pear Harbor, fueled, and rushed into the Pacific War.

West Virginia pounded Japanese positions on Leyte during the Army’s Oct. 17 invasion of the Japanese-held Philippines. After nearly a week of their army getting destroyed by the American bombardment and infantry, the Japanese navy finally arrived in force and the Battle of Leyte Gulf began.

On the night of Oct. 24, West Virginia and three other battleships resurrected after Pearl Harbor spotted four Japanese ships approaching the Philippines. The Americans got the jump on them, sinking two battleships and a cruiser in a nighttime firefight. It was the last time opposing battleships fired on each other in combat.

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The USS West Virginia undergoes repairs on the floating drydock USS Artisan. Photo: US Navy

West Virginia left for some small repairs but returned and supported other operations in the Philippines until Feb. 1945.

In Feb., West Virginia joined the 5th Fleet in their invasion of Iwo Jima. The ship got to 5th fleet as the invasion was already beginning and began firing at targets onshore. It later headed to Okinawa where it again supported amphibious landings by Marines.

West Virginia was present in Tokyo Bay Sep. 2 when the Japanese formally surrendered to the U.S. It continued in active service until 1947 when it joined the reserve fleet. In 1959, it was sold for scrap.

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Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, now tweets about it

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On October 14, 1947, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.

Yeager, a West Virginia native, was a combat pilot during World War II, flying 64 missions over Europe. He claimed 13 Axis kills and was shot down over France. He evaded the Nazis on the ground with aid from the French Underground. After the war ended, he was one of the pilots to test-fly the experimental X-1 rocket plane, built by the Bell Aircraft Company specifically to attempt to break the sound barrier, something many thought impossible.

Many thought the drag from supersonic speed would tear an airplane apart until Yeager flew his X-1 over Rogers Dry Lake in Southern California. A B-29 carried his X-1 to 25,000 feet and then released it through the bomb bay, blasting to 40,000 feet and then to 662 miles per hour which is the sound barrier at that altitude. The rocket plane, nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis,” was designed with a .50 caliber bullet in mind.

The project was still classified however, and Yeager’s speed was not announced until June 1948. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975 with the rank of brigadier general. Yeager, now 92, tweeted this on the 2015 anniversary of his first supersonic flight:

 

NOW: The incredible story of the SR-71 Blackbird in 3 minutes

OR: The awesome A-10 video the Air Force doesn’t want you to see

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Check out an inverted F-35 firing off a missile to test performance under negative G forces

As the F-35 marches closer to full combat readiness, pilots test the jet in ever more challenging environments, most recently by firing a AIM 9x air-to-air missile while flying upside-down.


“This unique missile launch is a situation we don’t expect a pilot to be in very often,” read a release. Firing a missile upside-down is nothing new. Fighters have had this capability for decades, and the stealth F-35 shouldn’t often find itself in a turning fight with adversaries.

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Photo from F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office

But now they know that if they need to fire a missile while experiencing negative G forces and inverted, they can.

“We want to provide the maximum capability of the F-35 to the fleet to get them where they need to be for training and operational use,” said James Shepherd, the flight test engineer for the missile test at Patuxent River Navy Base. “This will ensure we meet our promises to deliver the most advanced fifth generation fighter in the world.”

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Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

No one has ever claimed that life aboard a U.S. Navy ship was luxurious. Even on the most advanced warships on the planet life can still be cramped. Though today amenities are much improved, the sailors patrolling the oceans in World War II had a much different life than their modern counterparts.


For one thing, the submarines of World War II were much smaller. Though only about 60 feet shorter than a modern submarine, the Gato and Balao-class submarines the U.S. Navy operated in World War II had a displacement of only about one third that of modern Virginia class submarines.

In that small space, the submariners — some 60 to 80 in all — had to store themselves, their gear, and provisions for 75 days.

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Real World War II galley attire: T-shirt and apron over dungarees. This June 1945 snapshot is of George Sacco, a cook and baker in USS Cod (SS 224). (Courtesy of the USS Cod Submarine Memorial)

Each crewmember had only about one cubic foot of personal storage space aboard the sub. Each crewmember also had a bunk, scattered throughout the many compartments of the boat, including in the torpedo rooms. As many as 14 men crammed into the forward torpedo room along with 16 torpedoes.

A submarine of that size simply could not fit all of the necessary provisions for a long war patrol in the appropriate spaces. To accommodate, the crew stashed boxes of food and other things anywhere they would fit — the showers, the engine room, even on the deck until there was space inside to fit it all.

Also read: 27 incredible photos of life aboard a U.S. submarine

There was one upside though. Because of the dangerous and grueling nature of submarine duty, the Navy did its best to ensure that submariners got the best food the Navy had to offer. They also found room to install an ice cream freezer as a small luxury for the crew.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time or space to enjoy that food. Most of the time the men were lucky to get ten minutes to eat as the boat’s three “shifts” all had to pass through the tiny galley in a short amount of time.

The serving of food was often times also dictated by restrictions on the submarines movements. Submarines were under strict orders not to surface during the day when they were within 500 miles of a Japanese airfield in order to avoid aerial observation and attack. In the early days of the war in the Pacific this meant just about everywhere as the Japanese were in control of vast swaths of territory and ocean.

This meant that the submarines stayed submerged during the day and only surfaced at night. In order to compensate, many crews flipped their schedules doing their normal daily routines at night. The crews called this “going into reversa.” This allowed the crew to take advantage of the time the sub was on the surface.

This was important because once the submarine dove after running its diesel engines for hours, the boat would quickly heat up. The engine room temperature could soar to over 100 degrees before spreading throughout the sub. Combine that with the 80 men working and breathing and the air inside could quickly become foul.

The men knew the air was getting bad when they had trouble lighting their cigarettes due to the lack of oxygen (oh the irony).

To make matters worse, there was little water available for bathing and on long patrols most men only showered about every ten days or so. Laundry was out of the question. Because of these conditions submarines developed a unique smell – a combination of diesel fuel, sweat, cigarettes, hydraulic fluid, cooking, and sewage.

On older submarines, the World War I-era S-boats — often referred to as pigboats — the conditions were even worse. Without proper ventilation, the odors were even stronger. This also led to mold and mildew throughout the boat as well as rather large cockroaches that the crews could never quite seem to eradicate.

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The USS Grayback was one of the WWII submarines lost to enemy action during the war. (Photo: National Archives

If the conditions themselves weren’t bad enough, the crews then had to sail their boats into hostile waters, often alone, to attack the enemy.

Submarines often targeted shipping boats, but sometimes would find themselves tangling with enemy surface vessels. Once a sub was spotted, the enemy ships would move in for the kill with depth charges.

Of the 263 submarines that made war patrols in World War II, 41 of them were lost to enemy action while another eleven were lost to accidents or other reasons. This was nearly one out of every five submarines, making the job of submariner one of the most dangerous of the war.

A further danger the submarines faced was being the target of their own torpedoes. Due to issues with the early Mk. 14 torpedo that was used, it had a tendency to make a circular run and come back to strike the sub that fired it. At least one submarine, the USS Tang, was sunk this way.

Despite the dangers, American submarines performed admirably. In the Pacific, American crews sank almost 1,400 Japanese ships of different types, totaling more than 5.5 million tons.

They also rescued 504 downed airmen from the sea. Submarines also evacuated key individuals from danger areas, including the U.S. High Commissioner and President Quezon from the Philippines.

History: That time a surfacing Russian sub slammed into an American spy submarine

On special missions, submarines landed reconnaissance parties on enemy shores, and in a few cases used their 5″ deck guns to bombard enemy positions.

The bravery of the submarines was well-known in World War II. Presidential Unit Citations were awarded 36 times to submarine crews. Seven submarine skippers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions at sea.

American submariners in World War II set a tradition of duty and bravery that is carried on by American submarine crews today.

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The Pentagon and Silicon Valley are at odds over AI weapons

The Pentagon, via the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), is seeking $12-15 million to develop weapons which would select and engage targets without human intervention. The people who develop artificial intelligence think it’s possible that such weapons will exist within years instead of decades, including “armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria.” And those developers aren’t thrilled about it one bit.


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Neither was Captain America, but I’m pretty sure he took care of the whole problem.

Current AI technology is built on the premise of human non-intervention. For example, on Patriot missile batteries, the automated system will select and destroy a target unless the user opts out, which can have disastrous consequences, especially for friendly fighter pilots trying not to die from Patriot missile attacks, because the AI isn’t always as smart as we like to think it is.

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Willie sees you. Willie don’ care.

So with a current fail-safe system less secure than an iTunes gift card, why don’t American lawmakers and generals try to take a hint about the”AI Arms Race” from the most trusted, brilliant, and influential nerds who trying to warn us? Nerds like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Steve Wozniak?

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This pretty much sums it up.

The Defense Department says it’s to make the human more effective in combat. Because as anyone who’s ever lost their mobile phone knows, having all your numbers stored under names like “Josie Drunk Girl” and “Do Not Answer” makes your memory soooooooo much better.

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Technology!

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ANALYSIS COMPLETE

But the list goes on. According to Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, the new technologies the Pentagon wants to develop will allow commanders to identify and analyze enemy defenses.

Further technological innovations would include wearable electronics, exoskeletons, greater use of drones and manned aircraft working together, and mother ships that would send out mini-drones to execute military missions, all of which could incorporate AI.

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The announcement comes not just against the urging of America’s tech mogul community, but also amid skepticism from within the Defense Department’s own ranks, presumably until Deputy Secretary Work actually told a packed conference at the Center for a New American Security the DoD wants to be able to “kick the crap out of people who grew up under an authoritarian reign,” at which point, I imagine they erupted in cheers and then partied like a group of tailgating Buffalo Bills fans.

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Increased number of casualties among Afghan women and children

The number of civilians dying in Afghanistan’s protracted 16-year war dropped slightly during the first three months of this year, the United Nations reported April 27, but in a surprising twist more women and children are among the dead and wounded than in previous casualty reports.


The report blamed the hike in casualties among women and children on aerial attacks. According to U.N. figures, there were 148 casualties from aerial bombings in the first three months of this year compared to 29 last year. Casualties from unexploded ordnance, which seemed to claim mostly children, was also up slightly.

“It is civilians, with increasing numbers of women and children, who far too often bear the brunt of the conflict,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan in a release.

Although there was a four percent overall drop in casualties during the first three months of the year, the U.N. suggested the drop may be the result of Afghan civilians fleeing their homes. According to the report there is an unprecedented number of Afghans displaced by war living inside the country. There are another 1.5 million Afghans living as refugees in neighboring Pakistan.

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Afghan women and children come to a bazaar to sell home-spun crafts to help support their families through sales of Afghan souvenirs. (U.S. Army photos by Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Lawn, 1st Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs/Released)

The U.N. blamed 62 percent of the civilian casualties on insurgents while ordinary Afghans caught in the crossfire accounted for nearly 35 percent of all casualties.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are present in Afghanistan. They are fighting each other and Afghanistan’s security forces.

Earlier this week, a half dozen Taliban attacked an army base in northern Afghanistan in one of the worst attacks against the security forces, killing as many as 140 soldiers.

Also read: ISIS militants nabbed trying to escape capture by dressing as women

Meanwhile, the U.S. has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan. NATO ended its combat mission in the country in 2014, and the primary role of U.S. troops is now to assist and train, though increasingly the U.S. has been called in by Afghan Security Forces for support.

The report accused anti-government elements, without specifying Taliban or the Islamic State group, of intentionally targeting civilians.

“During an armed conflict, the intentional killing and injuring of civilians is a war crime,” Yamamoto said in the release. “Anti-Government Elements must stop this deplorable practice and everybody must apply- and respect – the definition of ‘civilian’ provided by international humanitarian law.”

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This ISIS-hating grandma takes her war on terrorism to a whole new level

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Photo from Wahida Mohamed Facebook


An Iraqi grandmother who leads a militia of 70 men fighting the Islamic State in the Salahuddin province to avenge the killings of her family members doesn’t mess around.

Wahida Mohamed Al-Jumaily, better known as Um Hanadi, started fighting al-Qaida in 2004 and later made ISIS the target of her war against jihadis. ISIS is responsible for the deaths of Um Hanadi’s first two husbands, father and three brothers, which she says justifies any means to kill them.

“I fought them, I beheaded them, I cooked their heads, I burned their bodies,” she told CNN.

Um Hanadi, 39, now says she’s at the top of ISIS’s most wanted list. Bombs have been detonated outside her house several times and she has received death threats from the group, including personal ones from leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“Six times they tried to assassinate me,” she told CNN. “I have shrapnel in my head and legs, and my ribs were broken. But all that didn’t stop me from fighting.”

Um Hanadi and her militia operate in the recently liberated town of Shirqat, located about 50 miles south of ISIS’s Iraq stronghold Mosul.

The force is backed by Iraqi ground forces in the area, which provides the militia with weapons.

“She lost her brothers and husbands as martyrs,” Gen. Jamaa Anad, commander of Iraqi ground forces in the Salahuddin province, told CNN. “So out of revenge she formed her own force.”

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This top secret mission kept the Nazis from getting Amsterdam’s diamonds

When Germany began its assault on Holland on May 10, 1940, the international community was not just worried about the lives of the Dutch people but also about the massive stocks of industrial diamonds in Amsterdam.


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The German invasion of Holland featured the use of paratroopers in costumes and Dutch uniforms. Photo: Dutch National Archives via Wikipedia

Industrial diamonds were used for many manufacturing purposes and the country that controlled the diamonds could create more weapons, vehicles, and sophisticated technology like radar.

That’s why two diamond traders in England, Jan Smit and Walter Keyser, offered their services to the British government. Jan’s father ran a large trading interest in Amsterdam and was friends with many more traders. Smit was certain that if he were allowed passage into and out of Amsterdam, he could get many diamonds out before the Nazis could seize them.

Approval for the mission went all the way to the new prime minister Winston Churchill himself. Churchill ordered a military officer to escort the two men and granted them the use of an old World War I destroyer, the HMS Walpole, to get them into the city. The Walpole had to thread a mile gap between German and British minefields at night under blackout conditions to get across the English Channel.

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
The HMS Walpole Photo: Royal Navy

During the transit, the Walpole almost struck another British ship sneaking through the darkness. Those on the Walpole would learn years later that the other ship was evacuating members of the Dutch Royal family.

Keyser and Smit arrived in the harbor just before daybreak and spent the day working with Smit’s father to convince traders to release the diamonds to the Keyser and Smit. From their landing at the docks to their trips around the city, the men were driven by a Jewish woman, Anna, who protected them from possible German spies.

Throughout the men’s day in Amsterdam, Dutch police and soldiers were attempting to root out pockets of German paratroopers wreaking havoc in the city. Across the country, German forces were quickly taking over and quashing resistance. Gunfire interrupted a few of their meetings.

The Germans made quick progress and occupied the entire country within five days. Photo: German Army Archives via Wikipedia The Germans made quick progress and occupied the entire country within five days. Photo: German Army Archives via Wikipedia

Many of the diamond traders were Jewish and could have bribed their way out of the country with their stocks and possibly escaped the Holocaust. Instead, they took the chance to get them away from German hands. Most of the traders even refused receipts out of fear that the Germans would learn how many diamonds they had prevented the Third Reich from getting their hands on.

While the men gave many of their diamonds to the English agents, the attack had come during a bank weekend and many were in safes that couldn’t be opened for another day or more.

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
Industrial diamonds are used in tools and manufacturing equipment because of their how hard they are. Photo: R. Tanaka CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia

Luckily another British agent, Lt. Col. Montagu R. Chidson, made his way to the massive vault at the Amsterdam Mart and spent hours breaking into it, even as German paratroopers forced their way into the building. He escaped with the diamonds as the soldiers forced their way down the stairs.

At the end of the day, Chidson escaped on his own while Anna rushed Smit, Keyser, and their military escort back to the docks just in time to rendezvous with the HMS Walpole. Smit carried a thick canvas bag filled with the diamonds and forced a tug driver at gunpoint to take them to the British destroyer.

Chidson’s diamonds made their way to Queen Wilhelmina while the diamonds recovered by Smit and Keyser were held in London for the duration of the war.

(h/t David E. Walker for his 1955 book, “Adventure In Diamonds” where he recounts much of the first-hand testimony of the men who took part in the operations to recover diamonds ahead of the Nazi advance).

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Freeze-dried plasma is now battlefield ready

Since hemorrhage is the leading cause of preventable death in combat casualties, Air Force Special Operations Command is improving access to blood products on the battlefield.


Freeze-dried plasma is one of them.

Plasma contains coagulation factors, which are critical to the clotting process in the body. These need to be replaced during severe bleeding, said Lt. Col. Rebecca Carter, the AFSOC chief of medical modernization.

Normal blood is comprised of roughly 45 percent red blood cells, 50 percent plasma, and 5 percent white blood cells and platelets.

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics

“The freeze-dried product is pathogen reduced and all white blood cells have been removed,” Carter said. “This greatly reduces the chance of a transfusion or allergic reaction.”

Carter said the typical plasma used in the U.S. doesn’t work well in a deployed environment.

“This liquid product requires freezing. Once thawed, it has a dramatically shortened shelf life,” she said. “The requirement to freeze and maintain this temperature makes the product impractical for battlefield use.”

Carter said preparing freeze-dried plasma is easy and straight forward.

“The kit comes with the freeze-dried product and, separately, sterile water for injection,” she said. “The medic takes the enclosed dual spike, inserts it into the sterile water and places the other end of the spike into the freeze-dried bottle while gently swirling. Then, the product will be available to infuse within three to five minutes.”

Before use, plasma is screened for infectious diseases, to include hepatitis and HIV, among others, Carter said.

“Each medical provider will be fully trained to administer it,” she said. “Personnel will decide if they wish to receive the product or not, if the circumstances happen to arise.”

Freeze-dried plasma isn’t brand new or experimental.

U.S. Army Special Operations Command was the first to deploy with freeze-dried plasma. Marine Special Operations Command and Navy Special Warfare Units are following suit, along with AFSOC.

The medical modernization team was crucial to this effort, said Col. Lee Harvis, the AFSOC command surgeon.

“They rapidly transform user needs from concept to development, equipping our medical personnel so they can provide the highest quality care under very austere conditions,” he said. “The instant a gap is identified, they investigate ways to field solutions.”

They strive for maximum utility with the smallest footprint, Harvis said.

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